AN: This is probably the longest chapter I've ever written. In the beginning...there was drama. Or, sort of drama.
I stepped out of the train station with a buggy loaded down with luggage, a sleepy three-year-old bundle and no idea where I was going. All I knew was that I was in a new city where I didn't know anyone or have a place to live. Fuck. How did I get myself into this mess? I looked at the toddler in my arms. Oh yeah, I'm doing this because of her. I made it to the taxi stand to wait for the taxi I had called. I still had no idea about what I was going to do. All I know was that I needed to get out and see the city to look for inspiration. Good thing my parents gave me a rather large loan. The taxi arrived about five minutes later to my utter relief. My arm was starting to go numb. The trunk popped open before a short, stocky middle aged man climbed out of the driver seat.
"Do you need some help with all that?" He said to me. I gave him a blank look. Did it look like I was capable of lifting three suitcases and keep my grip on the toddler in my arms. The taxi driver rubbed the back of his neck. "Right, let me get those for you."
"Thanks." I let him deal with the bags while I got into the car. I sighed at the emptiness of it. I had specifically asked for a car seat. I placed my little girl beside so I could readjust myself and put my messenger bag at my feet. After that I cradled her in my lap. She looked so peaceful.
"Cute kid." The driver startled me. "So where to?" He started the car.
I chewed on the inside of my lip. "I'm not sure." The man was looking at me through his rearview mirror. "Can you just drive around for a little while before finding a nice hotel? Don't worry; I have the money to pay you."
"Hey, I wasn't going to say anything." He put the car in gear. "You came here all by yourself?" He was trying to make conversation. "What about your girlfriend, or wife?" He pulled out into the busy street. "You look kind of young to have a child, though."
I looked out my window. "Yeah, I came alone. Teagan's mother left us." I looked back at the driver. "And I'm not that young."
"Left you? That's gotta be rough." The driver nodded to himself. "My wife left me years ago, but she took the kids with her." I gave him a weird look. Why was he telling me this? "Anyway, I know this pretty decent hotel if you're interested. It's clean, friendly and cheap."
"Yeah, sure, that would be fine. You sure they would still have empty rooms at this time of day?" I asked.
"They should. There's always people coming and going there. How about after I give you the grand tour of the city I take you there?" I nodded. Hadn't I just said yes? We drove around for a couple of hours. Ruddy, as the driver told me to call him, took me to popular sites in the city. He told me histories of all the old buildings and even showed me where the good apartment buildings were. Teagan stayed asleep for the whole ride. Finally, he took me to the hotel.
"Can you help me get my bags into the lobby?" I asked.
"Yeah, sure." Ruddy nodded. When all that was done I paid him for the drive and added on a generous tip.
The girl at the front desk smiled at me. She was small and cute, with a mole beside her right eye. "You're just in luck." She said before I could open my mouth. "We've got one vacancy left and it's got your name on it." She smiled again.
I pinched the bridge of my nose. "There wouldn't happened to be any cribs kicking around, would there? But a room sounds fantastic." She eyed Teagan, smiled again and it unnerved me.
"I'll have to go check. We used to have one but it may have been tossed out." She rubbed her chin. "Just give me a couple of minutes to go find out." She didn't even wait for my answer.
I switched Teagan to my other arm. "Teag, when did you get so heavy?" I quietly wondered. I left my luggage sitting in the middle of lobby and sat in one of the chairs against the wall. I sighed. I waited in the lobby for several minutes. I watched other guests make their way back and forth across the room. A couple of odd looks came my way but for the most part, I was ignored. Teagan squirmed a little in my arms. She was waking up.
"Daddy?" She rubbed her eyes with her tiny fists.
"Yes sweetie?" Teagan sat up in my lap. She looked around her.
"Where we?" She turned her head to ask me.
"We're at a hotel. We're going to be staying here for a little while." I smoothed down her strawberry blonde hair.
"Why?" She had the same dark green eyes as me.
"Because we don't have any other place to stay." I told her. She knitted her little brows together. "Don't worry, honey. It will be our little adventure." I tapped her nose. Teagan giggled. I smiled at her. Teagan snuggled against my chest and fell back asleep. I waited in silence for the girl to come back. I had just begun tapping my foot when she bustled back into the lobby with that same blinding smile on her face.
"Tonight is you lucky night." Could she get anymore cheesier? "We still have the crib. I've had it sent our maintenance man up to your room with it. Then he'll be down to help you take you luggage up."
I nodded. "Thanks. Do I pay upfront or…when I'm checking out?" I got out of the chair and walked over to the desk. Teagan, in her sleep, wrapped her small arms around my neck.
"That depends on how long you're planning on staying." The girl said. She tinkered away at the computer behind the counter before handing me my door key. "You can tell me in the morning what you're planning to do. Don't worry about it for tonight. You look like you need some sleep. Your room is 204." As she said that a young man walked in. "Oh, Grant, you got the crib set up all right?"
"I think so." Grant's voice was gruff. "You're going to have to check it over, though." He looked at me.
"Okay." I nodded to both of them. I took one suitcase while Grant took the other two.
"Have a good night." The girl called after me.
The ride in the elevator was awkward. Grant kept looking at me and Teagan in a weird way. I was trying to look everywhere but at him. It was hard because he was so big. We walked down the hallway in silence with Grant walking in front since he knew where he was going. He unlocked the door and kicked it opened for me. I walked past him. I felt him watching me.
"Well, thanks for your help. I can do the rest from here."
Grant shrugged. "Whatever, I'm just doing as I'm told."
"Ah huh. Well, you did a terrific job. I don't mean to be rude, but, I've had a long trip and I want some sleep." I had already placed Teagan in the center of the queen size bed and walked back over to the door. I took the suitcases from the giant and put them the other one. "Have a good night." Grant shrugged again and left. I shuddered. I eyed the door for a moment then after realizing the employees of the hotel had universal keys I threw the bolt across the door. I turned around, took a good look at the room and shrugged. It wasn't half bad. I got a decent bed with two bedside tables, a decent looking television, and a table with all the mandatory hotel information on it. I didn't bother looking at the bathroom. The crib was set up in the middle of the room. I circled it, testing the corners and joints. It was old but in good condition. There was a little pillow and blanket resting on the small mattress. I cracked my knuckles. A crib in the middle of the room is not a safe idea. I dragged the crib off to the side to where I wouldn't trip over it.
Teagan made a small noise in her sleep as she rolled over. I hated to do it but I had to wake her up. I had to brush her teeth and get her changed into her pyjamas. I fished through one of the suitcases for our toiletry bag and her My Little Pony nightie. I found them at the bottom. I sat on the edge of the bed. The mattress dipped and Teagan rolled in my direction. I gently poked her in the stomach. "Teagan, time to get up." I poked her again. Teagan giggled. "Wakey, wakey sillybear."
"But I'm seeping, Daddy." Teagan yawned.
"Not anymore. I need to get all your teefies brushed. And you can't go to sleep in your clothes." I sat her up. "Don't fall down on me, okay." Teagan nodded sleepily. I quickly took off her clothes and eased the nightie over her head. I picked her up and took her into the bathroom. I just as quickly brushed her teeth. I kissed her forehead and put her in the crib. I tucked the blanket up under her chin. "Night angel." I kissed her forehead again. "I love you."
"Wuv woo, Daddy." Teagan yawned.
Being tired myself I got ready for bed. I had just closed my eyes when I heard a tiny voice. "Daddy?"
"Can I seep wif you?"
I grinned. I guess I didn't actually need the crib at all. "Of course sweetie." I got out of bed and plucked her out of the crib. We were settling under the blankets when a sudden thought came to me. I'd have to have Grant take the crib away. Great, just what I needed. I cuddled Teagan to my chest. I wasn't looking forward to seeing Grant again but I didn't want the crib getting in my way. I sighed deciding to worry about that in the morning.
The next morning I got the both of us ready and down to have breakfast around ten o'clock. I stopped by the front desk to apologize for the inconvenience but I wouldn't be using the crib. I hoped by telling someone early then Grant would be in and out of my room before I got back. Teagan and I ate a small breakfast of oatmeal and fruit salad. It was a sunny day so I figured it would be best if we walked around the city for a little while, to try and get to know the place.
We walked up and down streets without really knowing where we were going. I was carrying Teagan now but she was getting cranky. If I didn't find something for her to eat then I knew a tantrum was on the way. I saw that were was a park at the end of the road. We hurried to it. I let out a sigh of relief. There was a small ice cream parlour with our names on it. Within a few minutes I had Teagan gaily making a mess of her baby coffee flavoured ice cream cone. I had an army of napkins at the ready for when she was done. Her chubby little cheeks were smeared with the light brown treat. I smiled fondly.
Teagan beamed at me. "Daddy?" She held her melting cone up to me. "It nummy."
"Anything that tastes like coffee is nummy, Teag." I informed her before taking the sticky cone from her and licking it. Teagan giggled. As soon as she was done I wiped her face clean. I didn't want any of that getting on her clothes. Well, any more getting on her clothes. I took her into the park; we walked around until Teagan found a sand box which she automatically jumped in. I took a seat on a bench a few feet away. I chuckled; watching Teagan happily made piles and piles of little sand hills and then promptly smashed them. While Teagan was busy doing that I thought about how lucky I was to have her. I briefly wondered what her mother was doing now but that thought soon left me. Dawn had her chance with Teagan and completely blew it. I shook my head. I didn't want to think about that right now. I was more concerned about finding an apartment, getting a new job and finding a good daycare for Teagan.
I was so engrossed with watching Teagan play around in the sand that the sudden appearance of a coffee cup in my face almost made me jump out of my seat. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." A faceless voice from beside me. I looked up to see a man about my age grinning at me over the cup of coffee in his other hand. "You looked like you needed a coffee." I lifted an eyebrow but he didn't budge. He had light brown eyes and light brown hair and he was still holding the coffee out to me.
I finally took it from his hand. "Uhm, thanks."
"Mind if I sit?" He indicated to the empty space beside me.
"No." I took a sip. He was watching me. I took another sip.
"Did I get your order right?" He asked while both his brows disappeared under his hair. "I wasn't quite sure, but you look like a cream and sugar guy to me."
I gave him a funny look. "Cream and sugar guy?" He nodded. "Well, you got it right. Where did you get it? I didn't see a coffee shop anywhere."
The still nameless man hooked his thumb over his shoulder. "There's one behind the ice cream shop. It's pretty small so it's easy to miss."
"She's cute. How old?"
"Thank you. Teagan's three." I answered.
"Teagan? That's a nice name." I nodded. This was awkward small-talk. "So what about you?" He asked.
"What do you mean, what about me?" He sighed but it sounded more like a breathy laugh to me. "What?"
"That was me trying to get your name."
"…Oh." He looked at me expectantly. "It's Joss."
"That's an interesting name. It's nice though."
"Eh, I'm not that fond of it. It's short for Jocelyn. I don't know why my mother decided to curse me with a feminine name." I drank some more of my coffee. It was pretty good.
"It's not that bad but I can sympathize though. My mother gave me a feminine name too."
He nodded. "Yeah. I'm Quinn. It's nice to meet you." He smiled at me.
"Likewise." I couldn't bring myself to smile back but I was still polite. Quinn wasn't that bad. He definitely wasn't creepy like Grant except his smile unnerved me a little. "So uh, what brings you to the park?"
Quinn was sipping his coffee, watching Teagan smash another sand dune. "Just killing time. I don't have to be home until later this afternoon." He shrugged. "No one is home; anyway, it was kind of boring."
I nodded. "So what, does your wife work and are you the stay-at-home-dad?" I didn't mean for it to come out as cocky sounding as it did.
Quinn snorted. "God no." He held up his left hand. It was ringless and absent of even the slightest indentation of a ring ever being present there. "I run a house full of exchange students. They're all at school right now." He sounded amused. "There wasn't much to do there so I just decided to take a walk."
"And buy a random guy a coffee?" I arched an eyebrow. "Not that I really mind, actually, this is a very enjoyable coffee." Teagan squealed as she destroyed her biggest sand dune yet.
"You weren't random." Quinn said. "I wanted to get you a coffee, after I made sure no girlfriend was going to come back and, I don't know, lop of my nuts of course." He must have seen me cringe because then he brought his eyebrows together. "What, no girlfriend?"
Damn. I shook my head. "Nope. Teagan and I came here by ourselves." I don't know why I was telling him this. After I said that I saw that Quinn's whole demeanour changed. "We got in yesterday afternoon."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Quinn sounded genuinely apologetic. "If you need any help getting to know the city or just anything, really I'll gladly do that."
I bit the inside of my cheek, mulling it over in my head. After a few silent moments I answered. "Are you sure? I don't want to burden you."
"Burden me?" Quinn asked. "How would be you a burden to me?" I pointed to Teagan. "Oh whatever, I don't mind that."
"Really? I guess if you really don't mind then it would be okay." I said slowly. "It would be nice to know someone in the city." Quinn smiled at me. "And I suppose you aren't that bad."
Quinn laughed. "Aren't that bad? I haven't heard that one in…well…I've never heard that one." He scratched the back of his neck. "I kind of feel like I'm pushing myself on you."
I grinned. "You kind of did what with suddenly shoving a coffee in my face." I finished the rest of my coffee and tossed him a snug look. A smirk appeared on his lips. "But that's okay, I mean, if the coffee wasn't good then I would have definitely said no." Quinn snorted which made me laugh. While we sat there laughing Teagan decided to come over to us. She crawled up on the bench and into my lap.
"Daddy?" She asked, her big eyes staring up at me. "Who dis?"
I kissed her forehead. "This is Quinn, honey." I pointed to the man next to me. "Quinn, this is my daughter Teagan."
Quinn smiled at her. "It's very nice to meet you, Teagan." He held out his hand.
Teagan looked at him, then his outstretched hand and then me. Her eyes were wide. I nodded, smiling. She shyly placed her hand in Quinn's. Quinn gave it a little shake. Teagan giggled before hiding her face in the crook of my neck. I gave Quinn an apologetic look. He shrugged it off.
"So what did you two have planned for the rest of the day?" He asked, picking at the knees of his jeans.
"Not much, we were just going to walk around, probably get lost and then call a taxi to get back to the hotel." I answered. "Why?"
Quinn shrugged again. "I dunno, I'm not doing anything spectacular today so I just thinking that we could hang out, I guess. I could show you to all the good places to go." He looked out across the park. "It's just a thought, if you weren't doing anything."
The bubble of excitement in my chest surprised me. I was happy that I had met someone and now I didn't even care how it happened, I was just glad that Teagan and I didn't have to walk around alone. I looked at Quinn – he was still gazing out infront of him. He looked just like an ordinary person, even if he did go around buying random men coffee. I still thought that was a little bit on the creepy side of things. But still, there was nothing wrong with him. He seemed very likeable and I felt myself already developing a friendship with him. I cuddled Teagan closer to my chest.
"I would like that." My statement caused Quinn to whip his head around. "What? Don't look at me like that! I'm being serious." Quinn raised an eyebrow at me. "No one likes being in a new city without at least one person familiar."
He gave me a soft look. "That's true. How about we do something now."
"Now?" I asked, surprised. "Like as in right in minute?"
Quinn lifted a brow. "What other now are you thinking of?" He took the now empty coffee cup from me and tossed it into the nearby trash can along with his. "There's no time like the present, they say."
"Who's 'they'?" I retorted. I maneuvered Teagan more comfortably in my arm so I could stand without trouble.
"Who knows." Quinn shrugged. "Probably some important people sitting in a room discussing very important topics." We walked down the gravel path to the entrance of the park. "How about we just take a walk."
"I could have done that on my own, you know." I looked over Teagan's head at him, smirking.
"But it wouldn't be nearly as fun." Quinn grinned.
"I'll be the judge of that." I heard him snort under his breath.
I had to admit. It was more fun having someone who knew the city show Teagan and I around. We had been walking and talking for nearly three hours. Teagan was snoozing in my arms and my stomach was starting to growl. Quinn stretched his arms over his head and made a contented sound. "I think it's about time we had something to eat." He said. I looked at him. "What would you like, Chinese? Japanese? Italian?" I arched an eyebrow. "What?"
"Nothing." I shook my head.
Quinn scrunched his eyebrows together. "Okay. So what do you want to eat?" He was watching me, waiting for my answer. I didn't know what to do. A small smile was on his lips. I averted my eyes. "Is something wrong?" He asked. When I shook my head I heard him chuckle. "Are you embarrassed because I'm asking you out to dinner?"
"What?" I whipped my head around. "No, of course not!"
"Then why is your face red?" He asked, pointing at me.
"I'm not blushing!" I protested, but my face was indeed starting to get hot. If Teagan wasn't in my arms I would have crossed them. Quinn smiled. "Okay fine, let's just go somewhere quick and easy." He only nodded. So on my first real day in the new city I went to dinner with another man.
AN: Okiee, there it is. Ruddy was sweet, creepy smiling hotel girl was far too smiley. Grant is definately creepy. Quinn is wonderful. Maybe forward, but wonderful nonetheless. Teagannnnnnn you get those sand dunes. You get them good. And Joss, if Quinn's buys you more coffee, don't hesitate. Just take it while cause it's free!