JC called once a week from Spain to touch base with Sara. He sounded a lot closer than halfway around the world, and Sara felt more and more nervous every time he called, "So what’s the surprise, come on." She complained with a smile on his final call from the Barcelona airport.

"How fun would that be if I told you the surprise? I’ll be home tomorrow and I’ll take you then."

"Ooooh, you’re going to take me somewhere?" She laughed softly. "I have to work you know."

"I know, you told me you’re working a late day, right. Noon to eight?"

"Yeah." Sara nodded.

"Then that’ll be enough time. My flight gets in at seven fifteen, I’ve got some things to do first, but I’ll be at your house around ten." His voice crackled just a tiny bit as he continued, "We can grab lunch or something."

"Won’t you be jet lagged?" Sara asked.

"I’ll be too excited to see you to care." JC said softly. "I’ve gotta go, they’re getting ready to board our flight. I’ll see you in fifteen hours."

"Okay, be careful."

"I will." JC smiled and sighed, not wanting to hang up. "I’ll uh… I’ll see you soon."

"Bye." Sara whispered.

"Bye." JC said softly, then he hung up the phone and trotted across the waiting area to where Justin was flashing his boarding pass to the flight attendant. JC dug his out of his pocket and followed Justin down the boarding ramp where they took their seats in first class and settled in for the long overnight flight.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sara stood in her tiny bathroom and tried to get her curls to do what she wanted, but they were not cooperating. She frowned at her reflection, then immediately smiled. JC was going to be there any minute, and she could hardly wait to see him. It had been more than a month and while they had talked a lot during that time, she wanted to see first hand how well he was doing. She wanted to look in his eyes and see that he was being honest when he said he was doing well. But most of all she just wanted to let him know that if he was still interested, she was willing to try having a real relationship with him.

The knock on her front door came sooner than she expected; she dropped her brush onto the counter and trotted for the door. "Hi!" She smiled excitedly as she pulled the door open.

"Hey you." JC smiled slowly, as he looked her over. She hadn’t changed much since the last time he saw her, but he noticed that she seemed much happier than he ever remembered seeing her. JC was still for a minute, letting her image sink in before he wrapped his arms around her in a tight and friendly hug.

"H-how was Spain?" Sara asked as she hugged him back. She seemed almost surprised that she had missed something as small as hugging him, the feeling of his arms around her waist and the faint mountain air scent of his clothes.

"It was gorgeous." JC nodded and took a half step back. He held her hand lightly in his, now that he was back he didn’t want to let her go. If anything the month apart had intensified his feelings for her, and he hoped that it had the same effect of Sara. "I brought you some souvenirs and stuff, but I’ll give them to you when we get to the surprise. Are you ready to go?"

"Yeah." Sara laughed and grabbed her little sweater off the coat rack, then locked her door and followed JC out to his car. "So can I even get a hint?"

"You can ask three questions in the car." JC smiled over his shoulder and she noticed that he’d picked up a tan while he was away. Her heart did a little dance in her chest as he unlocked the passenger side door and waited for her to slide into her seat.

He went around to his side of the car and got it, then they were on their way. He glanced over at her out of the corner of his eye every few seconds, not wanting to stare, but unable to keep his eyes on the road. "So what’s your first question?"

"Umm…" She thought for a second and rested her elbow on the window ledge. "Are we going to some kind of a business or establishment?"

"No." He shook his head and turned onto the main road.

"Does it have anything to do with Spain?" She asked a second later, smiling slightly as JC’s eyes flickered from her to the road.

"No." He laughed lightly and turned to smile at her. "Have you ever been to Spain?"

"Nope. I’ve never been anywhere." She shrugged and looked out the window. They were headed north, toward Santa Monica and Hollywood.

"If you could go anywhere, where would you want to go?"

"Hawaii." She smiled slowly.

"You’ve never been to Hawaii?"

"Nope." She shook her head and turned to face a surprised JC. "There are people in America who haven’t been to Hawaii you know." She laughed and pulled a CD out of the armrest to open and close it nervously in her lap.

"I thought your parents traveled all over the place?"

"They did. They still do even, but I didn’t get to go. We’d go skiing every year when I was a kid, and we went to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, but that’s it."

"We’ll have to go sometime…" JC said softly. Sara blushed and knew that he meant when they were dating. They still had to talk about that, but Sara was anxious about asking without knowing where he was taking her. What if this was his way of breaking it to her? What if her making him wait, changed his mind? Out of nowhere a twinge of doubt nudged its way into her mind. Maybe it was too late…

Her stomach did a flip flop as she cleared her throat without answering him. "Are we going to a park?"

"Nope." JC smiled and said, "That’s three. No more guesses."

"That’s not fair." Sara smiled nervously as she watched the city brush by out the window.

They rode in silence for a while before JC cleared his throat and said, "I talked to Dr. Grayson this morning."

That took Sara completely by surprise, "You did?" She choked out softly.

"Yeah, I called her on the way to your house."

"Wh- why?" Sara asked nervously as she kept her eyes on the road.

"Because I haven’t talked to her in a while, and I wanted to get her opinion on what I should do."

"About uh… about what?"

"You were worried about starting a relationship, and I wanted to see how she felt about that."

"You asked her about me?"

"No." JC shook his head. "I asked her about me." He ran his finger over the steering wheel distractedly.

"What did she say?" Sara asked softly.

"She said we have an undeniable connection and it’s up to us what we do about it."

"Not very helpful, huh?" Sara chuckled lightly.

"Not very." JC agreed with a smile. "But I uh… I’m not sure what it is exactly, but I feel like we need each other in a non-needy way. Does that make any kind of sense at all?"

Sara didn’t respond with anything more than a slight nod as she faced the window. She knew exactly what he meant.

After another four miles of silence, JC turned up onto a dead end street and went halfway up, "Who’s house are we going to?" Sara asked as she watched the gated front lawns blend into each other.

"Mine." JC slowed the car down in front of a comparatively small Spanish style house with a three car garage off to the left.

"Yours?" Sara asked after a minute’s pause. She let it sink in for a second then said, "You bought a house?"

"I bought this house." JC turned the car off and got out to open her car door, but by the time he circled the car she was already out and staring up at the gate leading to the front walkway. "We’ll be recording in LA this time, and I’ve always loved California…"

"You bought a house? When did this happen?" Sara asked as JC passed her and held the gate open.

"It belonged to a friend of a friend, who decided to sell it a couple months ago. Well I wasn’t ready to buy anything then, but when I called a month ago it was still on the market." He shrugged. "So before I left for Spain I worked with my lawyers and bought the house."

"It takes months to buy a house." Sara frowned.

"Not when you have the money up front, and you know the guy." JC smiled and unlocked the front door to hold it open for her. "My mom was here helping to get everything ready with furniture and everything."

"You… how did you do this?" Sara stepped into the entry and looked around at the sparsely decorated, yet homey house.

"Most of this came from my old house in Florida, some of it’s new." He shrugged. "Come on, let’s take the tour."

"JC wait." Sara stopped as he took her hand with a smile.

"What?"

"You bought a house in LA." She said as a fact.

"Yes." He nodded and gave her a strange look.

"Because you’re going to be recording out here in a couple weeks."

"Yes."

"What about when you’re done recording?"

"What do you mean?"

"Are you going to stay here?"

"I bought the house." JC nodded. "This is where I live now." Sara’s mind spun through a million different thoughts, what did this mean for them? Was this going to be too close? What if it didn’t work out? Was he moving out here to be close to her? Why was she feeling smothered by that? She suddenly began to doubt her decision.

"Sara? What’s wrong?" JC noticed her growing frown and took a step toward her to squeeze her hand, "What’s up?"

"Nothing, I just…" She took a deep breath, "This is a lot."

"It’s not a lot, I just bought a house. People do it every day."

"I know, but this is different."

"Why?"

"I don’t know." She sighed and half frowned. "I feel like… like I went from nothing to whatever this is just too fast." Sara let go of his hand and bit her lip, "I don’t know why but as soon as you said you bought this place I felt like someone was sitting on my chest."

"Sara I’m not trying to pressure you into anything that you don’t want to do."

"I know, that’s not what I meant." She said softly. "I just felt trapped."

"We don’t have to stay here, come on." He reached for her hand again as he pulled the front door open.

"No JC." She shook her head. "I want to see your house, it was just kind of weird. I’m sorry."

"Don’t apologize. I want you to be comfortable here, you’re really the only friend I’ve got in LA." He smiled and shut the door as she sighed softly beside him.

She smiled nervously and took his hand as he led her through the main part of the house. Sara nodded and commented on the quaint house with four bedrooms and the same number of bathrooms. All of the big furniture was there, but it was missing the tiny knick knacks that make a house a home.

Sara didn’t say much as they walked toward the back of the house and through the small family room. JC stopped before he opened the back door, "Hey, honesty right?" He turned around quickly causing Sara to almost run into him.

"Huh? Yeah." He caught her off guard and she took a small step back.

"I know this is bugging you so here goes, one of the reasons I bought this house was to be closer to you. Not to force you into anything, but for my own sake. I want to have a relationship Sara, more than what we have now. And it’s not that I don’t love where we are, you’re the best friend and support I could ever ask for, and I don’t want that to change. But I also can’t stop thinking about you and what it would be like to know you felt the same as me. I know you’re confused or whatever and you want to get back on track and everything and that’s fine, I’m behind you a hundred percent. But we promised honesty and honestly Sara, I want this."

Sara blushed and nodded slowly, "I know."

"So why do I feel like you’re putting up this wall or something?"

"I’m not putting it up JC, it’s always been there." She said uncomfortably.

"No it hasn’t." He shook his head.

"I’m not used to this." She looked up at him with tears in her eyes. "Okay? I’m not. This is something you’re used to. You’ve had these feelings before and you know how to deal with them but – "

"I haven’t had feeling like this before."

"Yeah you have." Sara nodded. "I… I just don’t know what I’m feeling. I’ve hardly ever had friends, nevermind something like this JC. Before you got here this morning I was all prepared to jump face first into dating you, I was excited and nervous and all of that. But now… with the house and everything I’m just looking at it and going ‘Whoa!’ you know? I just barely know how to be a good friend, anything more and I’m clueless. That’s not fair for you."

"There’s no right or wrong way to act here." JC laughed lightly.

"I don’t want to push it away like I used to, I want to wrap myself in it, but at the same time I’m scared out of my mind because… it’s crazy." She frowned. "I want it, but what if…?"

"Sara your life is full of new things you have to try. You can’t keep saying no." He smiled.

Sara sighed and bit her lip again, "What if it doesn’t work?"

"What if it does?" JC raised his eyebrow. "Ah ha… see? Think positive."

"How come you’re the rational one now?" She laughed and shook her head as a blush creeped into her cheeks.

"Because I know you over think everything, and I hope that you trust me enough to know that I wouldn’t tell you you’d like something, when you wouldn’t."

"I trust you." Sara managed to say softly.

"Good." He reached up and slowly brushed a stray curl off of her forehead. "Man I’ve missed you." JC whispered and let his eyes trail over her face.

"I’ve missed you too." She nodded and met his eyes as her heart sped up.

"Can we try this?" He placed his hand on her hip and pulled her close.

"JC, I – "

"It’s a yes or no question." JC said softly.

"Those are my only options?" Sara asked sweetly.

JC frowned down at her with a confused look, "What were you thinking?" Sara licked her lips nervously and glanced down quickly then brushed her lips against his, taking one giant leap away from the old Sara.

JC didn’t respond for a second, letting the shock of her lips dissolve any nervousness he may have felt. When he came to his senses, he tightened his arm around her waist and brought his free hand up to the back of her neck, where he held her close to prolong the kiss she had initiated. He never wanted it to end, this first kiss from Sara.

When she finally took a step back he licked his lips savoring the last little taste of her, then asked, "Was that a yes?"

"I… I can try JC."

"You can do it." He tilted her chin up to face him. "Come on, we’re a great team."

"I don’t have any clue what I’m doing." She laughed nervously.

"You don’t have to." He shook his head and laced his fingers through hers, "Come on, you’ll love the back yard." JC smiled and opened the tall sliding glass door. He showed her around his large backyard, then worked their way back around to the front of the house and back into the front entryway where they started, "So what do you think?"

"It’s nice." Sara nodded and shuffled her feet. It had been a weird morning, and she wasn’t quite sure how to act anymore. JC covered his mouth as he yawned and almost lost his balance. "Sheesh, you must be really jet lagged. I’ll let you go take a nap."

"No, I’m okay." JC insisted, reaching out to steady himself with the wall. "Let’s go get some lunch or something."

"JC, you’re half asleep." Sara smiled and shook her head. "I need to go run some errands and things before work and stuff. Give me a call later tonight if you’re up and we can talk."

"I’ve been gone for more than a month…" JC began to complain, but was stopped by another yawn.

"And you’re exhausted." Sara smiled and reached for his hand. "If you’re up later, give me a call, otherwise I’ll come by in the morning before work, okay?"

"Yeah." He nodded and lightly ran his fingers over her palm; he wasn’t quite ready to let her out of his sight, "You’re okay?"

"I’ll be fine." Sara nodded.

"I’ll see you tomorrow." JC hugged her close and brushed his lips across her cheek.

"Get some rest." She laughed and met his eye, "See you tomorrow." She turned around and opened the front door before she could stop herself, and left him standing in his entryway alone.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sara knocked on JC’s front door the next morning before work with a bag of bagels in one hand and a cardboard cup holder with coffee in the other. She waited for a few seconds and almost knocked a second time, before JC pulled the door open.

"Hi, sorry, I wasn’t sure if I heard the door or not." JC smiled and took the coffee from her.

"You look more rested." Sara smiled and followed him to the kitchen where she set her bag down on the counter.

"Yeah, I slept really good last night." JC held the coffee to his nose and sniffed, "This smells great, I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed coffee. They only drink tea over there in Europe, and what little coffee I could find was horrible."

"This is the good stuff." Sara took the other cup and sipped carefully. "I’ve only got a few minutes though, I’ve gotta go to work."

"Okay." JC picked up the bag and nodded toward the sliding glass door, "Let’s eat outside." He pushed the door open with his foot and Sara led the way to the opposite end of the porch where she sat on the white washed swing. She sat with the bag of bagels beside her and took out a dark brown one. "Whole wheat?" JC asked.

"Chocolate chocolate chip." Sara laughed and took a bite.

"For breakfast? Ugh." JC laughed and pulled the bag onto his lap as he sat in the chair across from her. "What else do you have in here?"

"There’s a blueberry, an onion, I think there’s a cinnamon raisin one in there, and an everything bagel."

"You must be hungry."

Sara shrugged, "I figured you probably didn’t have much to eat around here."

"I don’t." JC laughed and took the blueberry bagel out. He took a bite and leaned back in the chair to watch Sara rock the swing gently with her toes.

"So… what are you doing after work tonight?" JC asked.

"I don’t know, probably nothing." Sara shook her head and gently kicked back, sending the swing into motion.

"Wanna go grab something to eat?"

"I usually eat at work." Sara closed her eyes and tilted her head back as the swing rocked back and forth. She took another bite of her chocolate chip bagel and chewed slowly.

"Hey." JC whispered as he stuck his foot out to stop the swing. "I’m asking you out on a date."

Sara opened her eyes and looked at him smiling at her, "Oh." She blushed quickly, then started the swing again.

"So…?"

"I’d love to go grab something to eat." She smiled and closed her eyes again. "So will this be our first official date?"

"Yep." JC laughed lightly and watched her swing, her hair falling over the back of the bench.

"Are you going to pick me up and meet my parents and everything like that?"

JC paused for a second, and smiled at her innocence. "If you want."

"You don’t have to meet my parents. They’re impossible to impress and they’re out of town anyways."

"Again?"

"They’re never here." She shrugged.

"I’d like to meet them though."

"Ha, no you wouldn’t." Sara laughed out loud and dragged her feet on the tile patio to slow her swinging. "They’re really not that great."

JC shrugged, "Still…"

"Someday maybe." Sara nodded.

"What time do you get off tonight?" JC changed the subject and put his feet on the swing beside Sara.

"Six thirty."

"Do you want me to pick you up at work?"

"I’ll need to change my clothes and everything. Why don’t I just meet you here?"

"Okay."

"So tonight’s my first date." Sara said a minute later as she squished up her nose in a funny half frown half smile.

JC stared at her for a second, how did Sara get through high school without a single date, she was cute and smart, that just didn’t make sense. "Well I’ll have to make it memorable."

"It will be." She smiled and stood up. "So much for a nice leisurely breakfast, huh? I’ve gotta get going."

"You won’t be late will you?" JC glanced at his watch, she had been there for only fifteen minutes.

"No, I’ve got a half hour." She smiled and looked over her shoulder at the gate leading to the front of the house. "So I’ll uh, see you tonight."

"Yeah, I’ll make dinner reservations for seven thirty, will that give you enough time?"

"That’s fine." She nodded.

"Great." JC smiled and reached for her hand as he leaned in and kissed the corner of her mouth quickly. "Have fun at work."

"Oh yeah tons." She rolled her eyes and released the latch on the gate. "Bye." She waved over her shoulder as JC watched her walk down the side yard to the driveway, and hop in her little car. He kept watching with his hands in his pockets until she backed out and headed down the hill to the main street.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sara showed up at JC’s house at a quarter after seven that night and rushed to his front step, "I’m sorry I’m late." She said, slightly out of breath when JC opened the door.

"Don’t worry, you’re fine." JC set his alarm and stepped out of his house. "The restaurant isn’t that far from here."

"Okay." She sighed with relief and followed him out to his car. He drove her to the bottom of the hill and parked behind a little hole in the wall Italian restaurant that looked like something out of one of the "Godfather" movies.

They were seated at a quiet table off to the side and were served a glass of wine while they read the menu from front to back. "Wow, this all looks really good." JC said quietly as he turned back to the front page.

"Hey…" Sara looked around cautiously, then frowned at JC, "Where’s your security team?"

"Hmm?" He looked up from the appetizers.

"When you were on the road you couldn’t walk outside without a guard at your side." She said softly.

"Oh, well I don’t think I need it right now."

"But… where are they? I mean, all of a sudden you don’t need them?"

"They’re on call. If we go somewhere for an appearance or some other big event they’ll come with us, but for now we’re on our own."

"Do you feel safe?"

"Yeah." JC laughed. "Now that the tour is over and we haven’t been in the spotlight for a month or so, the hoopla is kind of dying down. And not many people know I live in LA now so I should be left alone for a little while longer."

"Doesn’t it just feel weird though? Being without them?"

JC shrugged, "I guess. A little."

"Kind of like being out of Wycroft." Sara smiled. "I know I was half paranoid for the first couple weeks out."

"Yeah." JC nodded in agreement and laughed. "Kinda like that. But I like it. I feel normal for the first time in a long time."

"Really?" She glanced at his shirt covered arms and raised an eyebrow at him.

"Really." He said softly, noticing her quick eye movement. "I think I needed this break from everything, to kind of snap me back to reality. The guys need it too, so when we get back together next month to record we’ll all be able to sit in the same room together and not feel weird."

"You’re not going to see them for a month?" Sara asked, completely taken by surprise.

"Well, I’m sure I’ll see them. But not for work or anything. We don’t start recording for another couple weeks, but I’m going to see Chris next weekend. We’re working on an outside project together, so I’ll be seeing him a lot."

"Is that what you guys do with your time off? You work on other projects?" She smiled and closed the menu in front of her.

"Yep."

"You guys need a vacation. A real vacation where you don’t do anything at all that even remotely resembles work."

"I just got back from a three week real vacation to Spain."

"True." Sara nodded. "You need more vacations like that."

"I agree." JC laughed and shut his menu as well. "We’ll get another week or two off before our new tour."

"You’re already starting a new tour?" Sara gasped. They’d just finished, how could they be expected to do that again so soon?

"No, not till next year. We have to record the album still and plan the tour and everything." JC tilted his head and smiled, "No more work talk, what are your plans for next weekend?"

"JC I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow, nevermind next week." Sara laughed and shook her head. "Why?"

"I’m going to San Francisco to meet with Chris and our project leads for ChildPrint and I was going to see if you’d like to come."

"To San Francisco?"

"Yeah." JC smiled as the waiter came to take their order. They told him what they wanted and picked at the garlic bread he brought out for them. "So…?"

"I’m not sure if I can afford to spend a weekend in San Francisco right now." Sara explained softly. She had been trying to make it on her own without her parent’s help, and her job didn’t pay that much.

"I’ve got that covered, I just need to know if you’d like to go." JC smiled and reached across the table for her hand.

"JC you don’t have to pay for a tr – "

He cut her off with a laugh, "That’s one of the perks of dating me." He raised an eyebrow at her and smiled, "Mini vacations and free dinners, really… you can’t go wrong."

"I’ll have to check with my work, but it uh, it sounds like fun." She smiled uneasily.

"You don’t have to go if you don’t want." JC said quickly. "If you're not comfortable with that I mean."

"No, I… it’s okay." She took a sip of her wine and smiled. "I’m just worried that I won’t be able to get the time off." It was only a half lie. She was indeed worried about that, but she was also worried about spending an entire weekend in another city with him.

"I hope you can." He squeezed her hand reassuringly.

"Me too." She relaxed a little and took a deep breath. "So… tell me about Spain."

JC spent the next half hour telling her all about his trip to Spain and his adventures in Barcelona with Justin and some Spaniards they met there who volunteered to show them around the city. Sara listened with a deep interest and took bites between laughs and comments. "You’ll have to show me your pictures when you get them back." Sara said as JC took her hand and swung it back and forth.

"I got them back today." JC said softly as he wove through the cars in the parking lot to get to his car.

"Already?"

"One hour photo places are my new best friend." JC laughed and unlocked her door, then went around to the driver’s side. "Do you want to come over and see them?"

"Yeah, I’d love to." She nodded, feeling the slight effects of the wine she had before and with dinner.

"They aren’t in a book or anything, but you can flip through them."

"That’s fine." She sunk down in the cool leather seat and watched out the window as he drove her back to his house.

JC got the stacks of pictures from his room then came out with a thick wool blanket under his arm. "Let’s go out back and look at them, it’s a gorgeous night." He smiled and held the thick glass door open for Sara. She walked out across the patio and down to the grassy lawn where he laid out the blanket and dropped onto his stomach. She slowly laid next to him and adjusted her skirt, then rested her chin in her hands and watched as JC sorted through the pictures.

"This is our hotel from the outside… and this is the view from our room. See that there? That’s the cathedral that’s about a block up the street, we could see it from our room and every morning the bells would wake us up. It was amazing." JC smiled and scooted closer to Sara on the blanket.

"It’s beautiful." Sara whispered as she carefully set the first set of pictures aside. He handed her the second set and watched over her shoulder as she looked through them. JC had a dozen little stories to go along with the pictures. From the little old lady selling hand made wallets, to the children playing in the canals.

"That’s the little market place just west of the center of the town." JC laughed lightly, "That’s Justin trying to bargain with the guy for one of those pull overs."

"Did it work?"

"I don’t think so. He ended up getting like six of them though."

"For souvenirs?"

"Yeah." JC nodded. "Oh hey! That reminds me. I never gave you your gifts." He jumped up and crossed the lawn to the back door, then disappeared inside for a few minutes. When he came back out to the blanket, he carried a small bag with him. "Here you go… I didn’t wrap them or anything."

"That’s okay, you didn’t have to get me anything." Sara blushed in the half darkness.

"I wanted to." He sat indian style beside her and smiled as she opened the gift bag. She pulled out a small stack of post cards and flipped through them silently, "Those are a lot better than the pictures I took, and I forgot to take your address with me, so pretend I sent those to you." He smiled as she turned the cards over and read the messages on the back, written as though he was going to send them that day.

"Thank you." She smiled and reached back into the bag.

"I didn’t know if you collected anything, so I figured if you did it’d be one of those." JC explained as she pulled a small silver spoon and a magnet from the bag.

"I don’t collect anything, but I guess now’s a good time to start, huh?" She laughed and set them on top of the cards.

"There should be one more thing in there." JC said as he tried to look in the bag.

"There’s more? JC, you really didn’t have to do this." She shook her head but reached into the bag. She pulled out two small boxes and looked up at JC expectantly, "Two more?"

"Oh yeah, I forgot about that one." He smiled as she rolled over and sat indian style beside him. She slowly lifted the lid of the first box and her jaw dropped almost to her knees, "Do you like it?" JC smiled.

"It’s beautiful." Sara carefully lifted the stained glass box out of the casing. "Oh JC, it’s gorgeous… thank you." She gently lifted the delicate top and ran her finger over the leading between the colors. There was a barely recognizable flower design on the top and the inside was lined with deep blue velvet.

"You’re welcome." He smiled proudly, glad he had made the right choice.

"I know just where I’m going to put it." She smiled and set it back in the box that it came in, then reached for the final gift. She tore the tape holding the top on and set the box top on the blanket beside her post cards, then lifted out the crumpled tissue paper and set it aside. "Oh…" Sara whispered with a small gasp. "You really shouldn’t have JC…" She took the thin gold chain out and held it in her fingers. A small gold medallion hung from the end with a "S" etched on the front.

"I didn’t know if you’d like the pendant or not, but if not we can always take it off."

"No, I love it. Thank you so much JC. Really… you didn’t need to get me gifts." She held the necklace in her hand as she leaned over to hug him tightly. "Can you help me put this on?" She handed him the separated ends and lifted her hair as he scooted around behind her. He clasped the necklace then lightly ran his finger over her hairline just above the clasp. The simple motion sent chills up her spine and she let her hair fall over his hand.

"It’s getting late." Sara said softly as she leaned back on her hands to stare up at the star filled sky. "I should get going."

"You don’t have to leave." JC looked over at her in the pale light from the porch.

"I have to work tomorrow." She sat forward and brushed the grass off her hands.

"I mean you don’t have to leave, you could stay here." JC said softly. He squeezed her knee through her skirt and rested his cheek on her shoulder.

"Not on a first date I can’t." She laughed softly and shrugged his cheek away. She stood up and pulled him to his feet, then held his hand and pulled him back into his house and to the front door. "Say good night like a gentleman, and I’ll call you tomorrow."

JC swung her hand gently, then placed one hand on the small of her back and slowly pulled her closer, "Good night Sara." He said in a voice just above a whisper.

"I had a really nice time tonight."

"So did I." He smiled and brought his lips within an inch of hers. "Do you kiss on a first date?" His playful eyes met hers as he smiled.

"What if I said no?"

"Then I’d have to be very ungentleman-like." His breath tickled her lips as he gave a short, soft laugh. JC’s lips brushed over Sara’s so softly that she wasn’t sure if they actually touched. Any uncertainty she had disappeared as his hand on her back pulled her closer and he kissed her again.

JC reluctantly took a step back a minute later and licked his lips quickly, "Drive careful."

"I will." She said softly as she slid into her car and slowly backed down the driveway for the second time that day. She tasted the light minty flavor of his gum the whole way home and couldn’t stop smiling as she climbed into bed a half hour later.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Hey." Sara smiled as she sighed and fell into the seat across from Dr. Grayson. It was after ten the next morning, but Dr. Grayson was just finishing her breakfast at her desk.

"Well hi there Sara. You know, you spend more time in my office now, than you did when you were staying here." She smiled sweetly and brushed the crumbs from her pastry off of her desk. "What’s up?"

"We went on our first date last night." Sara bounced her feet up and down and tried to stop smiling.

"I’m assuming by the look on your face that it went well?" Dr. Grayson smiled and sat back in her chair.

"Yes! It went really well. I mean, it was kind of like just hanging out with him, but different. You know?"

"I know."

"And he asked me to go to San Francisco with him next weekend."

"Wow… that’s a big step."

"Well he’s going up for work kind of, so I’d just be tagging along. But we’d get to spend a day sight seeing."

"That sounds like fun." Dr. Grayson nodded slowly.

"I think I’m going to like this whole boyfriend thing. I used to be totally anti-girly things. I’d make fun of those morons in high school talking about how they loooove their boyfriends, and how they’d just absolutely die if they broke up. I mean, that was just pathetic. But now look at me." She laughed lightly and blushed. "I mean, I don’t think I’m like that, but it’s a weird feeling to be sitting there just barely touching him and feeling like he knows exactly what it means when I look at him."

Dr. Grayson’s eyes danced as she laughed and tucked her silvery hair behind her ear. She took her glasses off and set them on her desk, then leaned forward and said, "I knew you two were something special from the get go. I’m glad to see that you’re actually happy for once, but Sara you need to keep in mind that these things… relationships like this, they don’t always last forever." She said cautiously.

"I know." Sara nodded.

"And with him being in the business that he is… that’s only going to make it harder."

"I know." Sara nodded again. "But he’s got the next couple months off basically. They’re going to be recording here in LA, and working on individual projects."

"Don’t get me wring, Sara. I’m happy for you two, I really am. And I wish you the best of luck. I just don’t want you to get too wrapped up in this."

"I’m not."

"Okay." Dr. Grayson smiled and nodded slowly. "How’s JC doing by the way?"

"He’s doing good." Sara looked up quickly and spun her ring around on her finger. "He’s actually talking about going public."

"Really? With his stay here?"

"With everything." Sara squinted her eyes quickly, "But maybe JC should be talking to you about this."

"I’d love to talk with him, can you have him give me a call?"

"Sure." Sara sighed and leaned back in her chair to really look at Dr. Grayson. The older lady hadn’t changed a bit since the first time Sara saw her almost two years earlier. "That’s not the only reason I came here though." She said softly.

"Oh?"

"I need some help." Sara immediately dropped her eyes to her lap and picked at her fingernails.

"What can I do for you?"

"I want to go back to school. I’ve been helping out the kids here and everything, and I’ve been talking with you for so long… I think I want to do this."

"To go into counseling?" Dr. Grayson’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

"Well…"

"I think that would be wonderful." Dr. Grayson smiled and tried to contain her excitement. "Really, Sara that’s just a beautiful idea. I think you’d make a great counselor."

"But I don’t even know where to start. I mean, I graduated high school but that was something like, five years ago."

"That’s okay, I didn’t start college until I was almost thirty." Dr. Grayson smiled and reached into the cabinet behind her. "I have some information on UCLA around here somewhere, that might be a good place to start."

"A university?" Sara frowned, her courage dropping lower at the thought of attending an actual university.

"Well they don’t sell degrees at Wal-Mart you know." Dr. Grayson smiled and placed a thin college brochure on the desk in front of Sara. "Why don’t you take this home and look it over, read about the different majors and required classes. You can come on back next week sometime and if you’d like me to help you out there, I’d be more than happy. I’m good friends with several professors there, and I’m sure we can find a way to get you in."

"I got good grades in school." Sara nodded.

"I’m sure you did, you’re a bright young lady."

"Do you really think I can handle it?"

"I think you can handle just about anything." Dr. Grayson smiled and stood up in front of her desk. "I hate to kick you out hun, but I’ve got a new student coming in in about ten minutes and I’m going to need to prepare."

"Oh, okay." Sara stood up slowly and reached for the door. "Thanks Dr. Grayson." She hesitated at the door as the doctor smiled at her. Dr. Grayson had become more of a mother figure to Sara than anything else, and for a split second she wanted to hug her. Sara shook the thought from her mind and turned to leave. She stopped with her hand on the door, "Hey Dr. Grayson? What’s your real name?"

"My real name?"

"What do your friends call you I mean?"

Dr. Grayson laughed lightly and slid her hands into the pockets of her starched white jacket. "Sonya."

Sara nodded with a slow smile, "See you later Dr. Grayson."

 

 

On to part 3…

 

Copyright 2001, Amy Lynn