So, good news, guys. This work is FINISHED. 20,000+ words are sitting safely in Word, but I've divided the story into four parts. I'm thinking I'll post a new chapter every three days, or as I see fit.

This work is rated M for copious F-bombs and sexy shenanigans between a college student and a hot fireman. Without further ado...

Pat Moretti could still feel the heat on his skin, still taste the ash on his tongue, and still hear the panicked cries of the toddler trapped in her room. As he guzzled water and watched the sobbing young mother clutch her traumatized child, his rush of adrenaline finally began to wane. His heart stopped going a mile a minute, and his breathing returned to normal.

If he had an addiction, it was fire - fighting it, that was. He never felt more alive than when he was seconds away from death.

"Good job today, kid," Chief Reilly said, slapping him on the back as he walked past.

Pat nodded his head in thanks, and gave up the hope that now, after almost ten years on the job, Ken Reilly would ever stop referring to him as "kid." He finished the last of his water and tossed it in a recycling bin nearby before boarding the truck. In the back, Dawson, Casey and Ramirez sat, rehashing last night's basketball game. In the driver's seat, O'Shea set the truck in motion.

"How's the kid?" Casey asked, running a dirty hand through his sweaty blond hair. The lieutenant had been Pat's cover when they'd gone in for the girl.

"Medics are treating her for smoke inhalation, but she should be fine," he said, a sense of relief flooding him.

"Think the mom's single?" Ramirez asked, his teeth shining white against his swarthy complexion. "She's kinda hot."

"She might be single when her husband comes home and sees half of his house burnt down," Dawson said. "All women belong in kitchen - except when they don't."

The men laughed, and Pat cracked a smile. The drive back to the house was a short one, and O'Shea navigated through the packed city streets with ease. The June day was clear and beautiful, and the wind had worked with them today, mercifully nonexistent. The truck was back at the house and parked in less than fifteen minutes.

As he disembarked, Pat could think of nothing better of taking a cold shower, except maybe devouring an entire pizza. Alas, it was not to be, as Melinda, the chief's secretary, walked towards him with a frown on her face.

"That woman is here again," she muttered, a hand resting on her ample hip. "You gotta tell her you just ain't that into her."

He was sweaty, dirty, and starving, and frankly, not in the fucking mood to deal with Sarah Addison right now. Just a couple more weeks, he told himself. He promised his mother he'd bring a date to his brother's wedding next week, and to renege would land him hours of guilt trips and passive aggressive comments about her lack of grandchildren and how he was going to die miserable and alone.

Thanks, Ma, he thought, as if Theresa Moretti had already been here and chastising him.

He followed Melinda to her dinky secretary's office where Sarah sat on the faded and ripped couch, a relic from the 70s. She was texting, her eyes glued to her phone. He paused behind the threshold between the office and the firehouse, and Melinda turned and shot him a venomous look.

Get her outta here, boy, she mouthed. Aloud, she said, "Sarah, suga, he's back."

Sarah looked up, her dark eyes narrowed. She stood, and her heels put her at nearly the same height as Pat, who was a couple inches over six feet. She flicked her long strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder. "Pat, we need to talk."

They'd been seeing each other the past two months. Sarah was an acquaintance of his sister's; the two had met in fashion school or whatever the hell Claudia did these days. There had been an instant attraction as Sarah was bubbly, fun, and sucked dick like her life depended on it.

When his dick wasn't in her mouth, however, she talked. A lot. Mostly about herself. It was a miracle if he could get a full sentence in.

He glanced at Melinda, who shook her head but continued staring at her computer. He sighed and scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, sure, let's. Come outside, though."

They walked back through the firehouse, O'Shea and Ramirez openly ogling her. She was quite a beautiful woman, all long, graceful limbs, pale skin and fitted clothing. Outside, her heels tapped against the pavement. Out of habit, Pat reached into his back pocket for his cigarettes, but as he lit one up, he caught sight of Sarah murderous gaze. He hastily put it away.

"We were supposed to go to dinner last night," she said.

Were they? He quickly thought back and, yes, fuck, they were; he was an asshole. "Sarah, I'm so sorry - "

"I called you fourteen times, but your phone was off. I left three voicemails, though. Don't act like you didn't notice them."

He had noticed, listened to, and promptly deleted her hysterical messages.

"You know, Pat, I just find it funny that you always seem to 'forget' our dates, but are ready and rarin' to go when I invite you to spend the night." Her voice rose with each word, and the group of teens across the street outside the coffee shop turned to stare. "Is that all I am to you? A fucking booty call?"

Pat swallowed. Well, yeah, mostly. "Jesus, no, I - "

O'Shea, Casey, Dawson and Ramirez were huddled at the mouth of house, blatantly listening to Sarah rip him a new asshole. Even the probie firefighter, Evans, had the audacity to stop scrubbing the truck and step closer.

"The disrespect is real, Pat," she said through clenched teeth, stepping close to poke him in the chest and envelope him in a cloud of flowery perfume. "And I'm over it. We're done."

"Oh, damn," the probie whispered, and Casey took a sponge from the wash bucket and smacked him across the face with it.

Pat tilted his head back to look at the sky. "Shit, Sarah - "

She began to walk away, but turned around to face him after five steps. "Take a good look, Moretti," she said, swaying her hips a little. "This is what you just fucked up. You're going to be sorry."

She left him standing there. He expected to feel a vague sense of disappointment, loss, anything, but nothing came. When she'd turned the corner, he reached for his smokes and finally lit one up. Taking a deep drag, he turned back to the guys. They were all grinning at him.

"'Take a good look, Moretti,'" John O'Shea, a forty-five year old man, mimicked in a high falsetto. He rubbed his hands "seductively" over his large midsection. "'This is what you just fucked up.'"

Pat, Casey, Dawson and Ramirez burst out laughing, and the probie continued to spit the taste of dirty water from his mouth. When they quieted down, Ramirez wiped tears of mirth from his eyes. "Seriously, though, how soon is too soon to make a move? Cause I'd love me a piece of that tight ass."

Pat waved his hand in the direction Sarah had walked off in. "Hey, man, be my guest."

The guys dispersed, probably heading towards the kitchen. Pat finished his cigarette and stubbed it out under his boot, figuring a pigeon would come along and eventually choke on the remains. Scrubbing a hand over his face, he resigned himself to the fact that would be going to his brother's wedding dateless and disappointing his family once again.

You'd think by now they'd be used to it.

"Seven hundred dollars? Seven hundred dollars? How the hell are you gonna charge me seven hundred god damn dollars for a fucking cocktail?" the patron brandished his bill at her, his face going from a faint pink to a mottled red with each world.

Her feet hurt. Her back ached. Her head pounded. Her hair smelled like cognac cream sauce and old lady perfume. For the first time since her first shift, Anna Brzezinski considered the repercussions of bursting into tears on the serving floor. His Majesty's Pleasure was an upscale dining establishment located in the heart of Manhattan. It had opened the year previous. Business was positively booming, and not because of the outrageous prices.

School wasn't cheap, and neither was the rent in New York City. Her parents, Chicago residents, helped her where they could, but had warned her that if she wanted to go out of state, she would have to pay most of her tuition. After months of slaving at a coffee shop on campus, Charlotte Kelly, her roommate, had pulled a few strings and here she was.

Most days she didn't mind the snobbery, dismissiveness, and high maintenance attitude of the clientele. Her fake smile was always in place, her fake laugh ready to sound at the different variations of unfunny jokes sad, middle aged men made, their sometimes scandalously young companions fake laughing along with her. And, as it were, the tips were usually phenomenal.

But every so often, she encountered that soul-crushing client, that customer who seemingly forgot she was a person with real thoughts and feelings and emotions.

"Sir," she said quietly, sweat beading on the back of her neck. She was aware of the many stares they were receiving, and the head waiter and manager's eyes boring into her. "The base of your cocktail is a 1979 Chateau de Ravignan Bas Armagnac brandy. The vanilla bean is Madagascan. It comes with a bottle of Dom Perignon. This is all detailed on the menu."

"There's no fucking prices on the menu!" he said, pounding his fist on the table with enough force to rattle the silverware. His Rolex glinted in the light.

The refined lady sitting across from him tittered, reaching a hand towards her throat to run her fingers over her pearls. "Well, of course there's no prices on the menu, Milton. That would be beyond gauche."

"Get me the manager," the man said.

When she didn't move right away, he turned to look at her.

Slowly, he spoke. " You think you can do that, kiddo?"

At her side, her hand clenched into a fist. She fantasized about grabbing this man by his shitty hairpiece and hurling him face first into the very cocktail that he was bitching about. She smiled. "Absolutely, sir."

Before she could turn, Céline Beaumont stepped up to the table, hands clasped behind her back. Her Armani suit was pressed to perfection, and diamonds dripped from her ears. She nudged Anna out of the way with a Jimmy Choo heel. "Is zere something I can 'elp you with, monsieur?"

"Yeah, I want the manager," he said, snapping his fingers.

Céline stiffened. "I am 'er."

"Then I want the owner."

"Still me."

The patron snorted. "All right, lady. This is ridiculous. I was just telling your waitress that the prices - "

Anna watched, her eyes wide as saucers, as Céline held up a perfectly manicured finger, cutting the man off. "Zeven hundred and thirty-five dollars for the cocktail, monsieur. Zero dollars to change your abhorrent attitude."

At the table next to them, a man Anna had recognized as a Yankees first baseman guffawed, his date bursting into giggles along with him. It picked up around their vicinity, until four tables were nearly hysterical. The man's face went purple as even his wife smirked from behind her hand.

"And, monsieur, do not forget to tip my waitress," Céline added, her smile pleasant. "Anna, table two needs more wine. Chop, chop."

"Yes ma'am," Anna said quickly, inclining her head.

She refilled table two's wine and cleared four's plates, asking if any dessert would be in order. An hour later, her last table was finally leaving. She hung up her black apron at twenty minutes to ten, making for a nine hour and forty minute shift. She quickly counted her tips and doled a portion out to the bartender, two busboys and hostess. She'd bring home a little over $300 that night, which was not her best, but also not her worst. Angry cocktail guy had tipped her fifty dollars on a near $2,000 check.

In the kitchen, she passed Charlotte, who was arranging drinks on a tray. "You done for the night?" Charlotte asked, brushing back a strand that had escaped her long red ponytail.

"Yep. Want me to wait up so we can binge more Supernatural?"

Charlotte stuck out her lower lip and looked down at her. "I don't think I'll be home until around two, and you look dead tired already. Get some sleep."

Anna smiled gratefully and dipped out the back door, the cool summer evening breeze a balm to her overheated skin. She took the pins and clips out of her dark hair and let it fall to just below her breasts, massaging her fingers through her scalp. As she waited for a taxi, she shamelessly stepped out of her cheap black heels.

She was home in twenty minutes, and Stanley, the front deskman, greeted her. "Hello, Miss Anna. Working hard? Studying hard?"

She grinned at him. "You've just described my life in four words."

He nodded his head sagely. "You just stick with it, missy, so you're not stuck behind some desk all night like me, twiddlin' your thumbs."

Anna rolled her eyes. "Stanley, this building would fall apart without you."

He wagged a brown finger at her. "And don't you forget it. Have a nice night, now."

She trekked through the lobby, shoes in one hand, bag in the other, and came to the stairs. Fuck that, she quickly decided, backtracking to stand in front of the elevator. Anna pushed the button and the doors opened immediately. Once she'd pressed the button for her floor, she closed her eyes and leaned back against the railing.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Upstairs, a paper due in two weeks waited for her, as did a worksheet of some ridiculous form of math, and her editorial piece on the outrage the Pro-Life students had caused on campus with their demonstration two days previous. Let's be honest, Anna, a voice sounded in her head. You and I both know you're going to sleep as soon as you brush your teeth. Procrastination was a bitch.

"Hold the doors, please," a deep voice sounded.

Her eyes flew open, and she leapt forward and stuck her arm through the closing doors to prevent the action. The fireman from across the hall who'd just moved in last month nodded in thanks as he stepped in. All at once, Anna could feel her heart beat faster and the flush rise in her cheeks. She remembered the first time she'd seen him and how he'd smiled at her, how she'd nearly melted into the cheap carpeting in the hallway. She and Charlotte had spent the entirety of his move-in creepily staring out the peephole as his well-built coworkers helped him settle in.

They'd made excuses to leave the apartment, taking turns getting their mail when usually just one of them would. Charlotte had even gone as far as to wash their front door as she flirted with a Hispanic fireman, leaving Anna in hysterics on the other side.

He - damn it, she'd forgotten his name - was dressed casually in jeans and a blue plaid button down. He'd rolled his sleeves to his elbows, showcasing tanned, muscled forearms. His short black hair was messy, as if he'd been running his hands through it all day. God, he was so fucking handsome. His face was all angles from his sharp, clean-shaven jaw to his straight, Patrician nose. His eyes were a dark, chocolately brown, enviously lashed. And oh, Christ, those lips. "Fuck me."

"I'm sorry?" he asked, turning sharply to look at her.

Oh. Oh, no. "I - uh - fuck me. Fuck me, I've had a long day," Anna stuttered, and turned to look straight ahead, unable to meet his eyes any longer.

To her amazement, he chuckled. When she glanced up at him (she came up to about his chest), she saw his eyes twinkle. He knew. He so knew.

"Yeah, I feel you there. Hey, aren't we neighbors? Anna, right?" He held out a hand.

She almost, honest to God, squeaked. Anna cleared her throat and shook his hand. His touch was warm and strong, and his palm was rough and calloused. "Yep, that's right. Er...?"

"Pat. Chicago Fire Department, huh?" he asked, gesturing at her worn messenger bag emblazoned with the logo. "That's practically treasonous. I'm hurt."

Anna laughed. "My dad's been on for thirty years. Battalion Chief." The elevator dinged as it reached the fifth floor, and the doors opened.

She dropped his hand before she decided to hold it forever, and he gestured for her to go first. He raised his dark brows and gave a low whistle. "Thirty years, wow."

"So, you're FDNY?" she asked, and almost cringed. Obviously, dumbass.

"Almost ten years."

That probably put him around thirty, she guessed. Nine or so years older than herself. They reached their respective doors, and she grabbed the key from the front pocket of her bag. When she tried the lock, she noticed her hands were shaking. Jesus Christ, girl, get it together.

"I'm guessing you're a student?"

She nearly dropped her key. When she turned around, she saw that his door was already open, but he leaned against the frame, lazily watching her. His eyes, half hooded, made her stomach somersault. "Yep. Yeah. I mean, I'm taking summer classes right now, but I'll be going into my last year at Cornell in the fall."

"What are you majoring in?"

She couldn't believe he was still talking to her. She couldn't believe she was still actually forming words at this point. "Communications, with a focus on Media."

He smiled. "Really."

It wasn't a question. "Yes," she bristled, narrowing her eyes and readying to defend her decision.

Pat didn't mock her, question her, or patronize her. He simply nodded. "That's cool. I'll let you get in, though, it's late."

"Oh. Yeah, thanks. Enjoy the rest of your night," she said, still half in customer service mode.

"You, too, Anna," Pat said, the door clicking shut behind him.

Anna slumped against her door, resting her forehead on the cool wood just under the shiny metal that dubbed it 5C. Without some hot fireman there to set her aflutter, she was able to unlock her door with her eyes closed. She stepped inside the apartment and let her bag fall by the mat where she and Charlotte kept their myriad of shoes. She hopped out of her hose and unzipped her black pencil skirt as she walked to her tiny room, big only enough for a twin bed, her nightstand, a dresser and a barely-there closet.

Anna sat on her bed as she traded her thong for boyshorts. She left her shirt off, trailing her fingers across her shoulder. Her eyes drifted shut almost without her consent, and suddenly Pat was there behind her, sweaty and dirty from a fire, his mouth hot against the side of her neck. His calloused hands firmly cupped her breasts, kneading and caressing. When his thumbs tweaked her nipples, Anna's sigh ended on a moan.

Her eyes popped open. As her breathing returned to normal, Anna frowned. Damn, she needed to get laid.

It was nearly midnight when Pat poured himself a nightcap, two fingers of whisky. The windows in his apartment gave him a prime view of the front sidewalk below, and he liked to watch the nightlife. Normally he was invested, but as he sipped the flavorful liquor, his mind wandered to his neighbor across the hall.

Anna. He'd never been particularly fond of the name, and he'd never really noticed the woman who held it. In the elevator, though, she'd garnered his attention fully.

"Fuck me," she'd whispered, probably on accident.

And fuck him, now he wanted to. He'd taken his time to peruse her while she'd blushed and looked away from him, noted the generous curve of her ass and hips in her fitted skirt, the slight roundness of her belly and the deep cleavage her white button down had presented. He noticed things he usually didn't, too, like that her long, straight hair was the color of mahogany or her adorable button nose. And her eyes, such a light blue they were almost gray.

She was tiny, too, just barely up to his chest without the heels she'd carried, and he'd nearly forgotten how much he got off on that. He imagined lifting her by that plump ass, digging his fingers into her cheeks while he wrapped her legs around his waist. He'd hold her against the nearest available surface - wall, fridge, it didn't matter - and fuck her college girl brains out.

So ensconced in his thoughts was Pat that he just barely noticed the leggy strawberry blonde stalk across the street. His budding erection died instantly. Sarah. From her left hand hung a wooden Louisville slugger. "Oh, Jesus Christ," he muttered, tilting his head back and swallowing his remaining whisky.

Placing his glass in the sink, he cursed the day he had given her a key. He could hear his father now. "Well, son, why did the bitch have a key?" "She gave world class head, Dad." "Atta boy." And then his mother would smack them both upside the head.

Gritting his teeth, he made a split second decision. He opened the door to his apartment, locked it behind him, and slipped his own key into the pocket of his basketball shorts. At the end of the hall, the elevator ominously lit up. Floor 1...Floor 2...Pat knocked loudly on the door of 5C once, twice, three times.

When no one answered, he glanced towards the elevator again. Floor 3...Floor 4...he knocked three more times.

"God damn, I'm coming," Anna growled from inside. She flung open her door and gazed blearily at him, taking in his basketball shorts and...nothing else. Because he wasn't wearing anything else. She spoke on a yawn. "This feels like the beginning of a porno, Pat." Her eyes widened when she realized what she'd said, and suddenly, Anna looked wide-awake.

"Not quite," he said, smiling slightly. As the elevator chimed, he brushed past her into the apartment, reaching over her head to close the door.

He paused for a moment to take in the simplicity of the space. Much like his, the green-painted kitchen and living room were one, and he surmised that the doors further down in the hallway led to the bathroom and bedrooms. When he turned to face her, Anna was giving him a What the fuck? kind of look, as she had every right to.

He sat on the armrest of her couch. "You're most likely saving my skull, so thanks."

Anna crossed her arms over her chest, not that he could see anything in the oversized gray t-shirt she wore. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Pat lifted his chin, keeping his voice low. "If you look out your viewer, you'll see an attractive woman standing outside my door with a baseball bat."

Anna stared at him before slowly turning. She walked up to her door and, to his amusement, stood on her tiptoes in order to see out the peephole. As she did so, the edge of the shirt rode up, exposing the bottom of, well, her bottom, encased in tight black micro shorts. He almost groaned aloud.

"Oh. Okay, yeah, that's happening," Anna said.

Pat lifted his eyes to a more respectable place, the back of her head.

"She's knocking on your door. Oh my god, she just turned around. Oh, wait, she can't even see me. So who is she? An ex?"

Pat shrugged, even though she wasn't looking at him. "Not totally. We'd been seeing each other a couple months but she broke things off with me earlier today. Er, yesterday, I suppose," he said, glancing at the clock on the kitchen stove. "She did tell me I'd regret it."

"Pat, open the...flucking door," he heard Sarah say, her voice so loud it nearly echoed.

He and Anna both jumped. Sarah's words were slurred and a little slow. She was drunk. The knocking turned to pounding, and despite this, Pat sighed in relief. At least she didn't have the key.

"I think she has a key," Anna said. "Did you give her a key?"

He closed his eyes. "Fuck. Yes."

Anna snorted. "Idiot."

Indignant, he opened his mouth to counter her assertion, but then there was shattering glass and splintering wood. He knew both sounds well. Pat stood up and crossed to the door in two long strides.

"Holy shit," Anna breathed. "I - you - we should probably call the cops or something."

"Let me see," he said impatiently, barely able to restrain himself from shoving her out of the way.

"Um, you probably don't actually want to."

Nevertheless, she stepped aside, coming down to rest on her heels. He took up the position, squinting with one eye through the viewer. Sarah had left the door to his apartment wide open, and occasionally she came into view, swinging her bat to knock the lamp off the stand by the couch or to further cripple his beloved coffee table.

"Son of a bitch," he sighed.


He shook his head. "No fucking way. I just moved in here last month. I can't be the one to have the cops called to the building."

Anna looked at him incredulously. "Pat, if you don't, someone else will. What's her name? Here, move."

"What the hell are you doing? It's Sarah. You can't go outside."

Anna waved her hand. "Get back. Get back into the kitchen. I speak drunk girl. It's fine."

Pat watched, his mouth hanging open, as she opened the door fractionally and slipped out. Once it closed, he practically mashed his face up against the peephole. Anna cautiously crept across the hallway, and, as she did so, seemed to wave off a concerned neighbor with a charming smile and a warm giggle.

"Sarah? Sweetheart?" she called from the threshold of his apartment.

He saw the woman in question come into view, brandishing her bat. He watched in amazement as she and Anna exchanged words, ending with Sarah handing over the bat. Anna held out a hand that Sarah took. They were both in the hallway, almost out of view, when Sarah spoke, her speech still slurring.

"Fucking men. Worsssssht."

"Totally," he heard Anna reply.

Minutes later, Pat stepped back as Anna opened the door to her apartment, shaking her head. "What in the world did you do to that poor woman?"

He ignored her question and asked his own. "What in the world did you do to her?"

Anna narrowed her eyes. "Talked to her like she was a human being? And I told her that someone had called the police so she'd better bounce before they got here. You should - you should, uh, take a look at your apartment."

Grimly, Pat crossed the hall to survey the damage, and god, damage there was. Thankfully, Sarah hadn't beaten in any of the walls or smashed through the windows. He'd get his deposit back when he moved out eventually. The shattering glass had come from the ugly vase centerpiece his Aunt Marie had given him last Christmas, so no loss there. His coffee table, however, was a goner. Splinters and chunks of wood decorated his living room. His reading lamp was toast. Fragments of glass dusted his couch. HIs fridge had taken a few dents.

And...No. Oh, sweet merciful Holy Spirit, no.

His fifty-inch mounted plasma screen TV was utterly ruined, sparking and nearly split in half.

"That sucks," Anna said.

That fucking did it. Pat reached for his iPhone, somehow untouched on the kitchen island. He dialed his cousin's number.

"Romano," a groggy voice answered.

"I'd like to report a break-in, detective."

Thirty minutes later, Detective Enzo Romano stood in his pajamas with Anna (who'd pulled yoga pants on) and Pat, surveying the damage. He took each of their statements, scribbling in his notepad. He was a stocky father of two in his late thirties, his mom's nephew by her older brother.

"I'll get a warrant for her arrest when I go into work in - " He glanced at his watch. " - five hours. Sucks, cuz. Anything else I can do for ya?"

"Nah, I think that about covers it. Hey, man, don't mention this to my mother. I don't want her to worry."

"Yeah, sure, absolutely."

"Thanks for coming out."

"Fuck you, Pat. Don't ever call me at one in the morning again. Nice meeting you, Miss Anna."

"Likewise, Detective Romano," she laughed as he left.

"I'm really sorry, Anna. I didn't know things were gonna get this intense," Pat said, running a hand down his face. "Thanks for granting me sanctuary, though."

She looked exhausted. "Hey, no problem. Try not to piss off any other psychotic fashion designers, will you? I don't know if I can take another one. I should get back. It's been quite an adventure, Pat, so thanks for that, I guess?"

As she turned to leave, he almost called her back. He bit his tongue at the last second. What the hell had gotten into him? He watched as she paused near the doorway, surveying the various family pictures he kept on the vanity. She took in a sharp breath.

"Is that Michael fucking Moretti? Like, founder of Business Insider, Michael Moretti?"

Pat stepped closer until he was looking over her shoulder. The picture in question was of him and the old man at last year's Met Gala, decked to the nines in three-piece suits. Pat's had cost him an entire paycheck. He nodded. "That's Michael fucking Moretti."

"How do you know him? How did you meet him?"

Pat snorted. "He was present at my conception."

Anna's mouth fell open. "Michael Moretti is your father?" she whispered.

"As of the last twenty-nine years," he said seriously.

"Holy..." Anna stared at the picture again. "I have this paper, this paper that I'm supposed to write. It was assigned on the first day of one of my classes and it's due in two weeks and I haven't even started it and this professor is such a hardass like you wouldn't believe, like no one's ever gotten an A in his class, but to do this paper on Moretti would be...holy shit, I'm sorry, I'm totally babbling."

Pat nodded, impressed at all the words she was able to fit in one breath.

"I'll go, I'm going now," she said. "For real. Goodnight, Pat."

"Goodnight, Anna," he inclined his head.

Around two in the morning, he was finally able to calm his racing mind and banish the last lingering thoughts of her. His eyes were just drifting shut when his phone rang, startling him. He looked at the caller ID and groaned.

"Ma. 'M sleepin'."

"Oh, my boy!" Theresa Moretti cried, her Jersey accent still thick even after a couple decades. "Are you all right? I heard someone beat you with a baseball bat! You need me to come over?"

Jesus. "No, Ma, I'm fine. Everything's fine. I don't know who told you - "

"Your Auntie Marie! She got off the phone with Enzo just minutes ago and rang me. Do you know what the hell it's like gettin' a call at two in the morning like that?"

"I'm sorry, Ma, I really am. Listen, I got a pick up hockey game at ten tomorrow morning. I need some sleep."

"Are you eating enough? You sound hungry."

"What the -? Ma, I'm not hungry, I'm exhausted!"

"Well all right, then, you don't have to yell!"

"I'm not yelling!" Pat yelled.

"Yes you are!"

"Goodnight, Ma!"

"Wait! You're bringin' a date to your brother's wedding next week, right?"

"Yes," he said automatically, knowing it was the only acceptable answer. Fuck.

"Aw, yay! Tell me her name."

"Er - Anna." Fuck.

"Oh, pretty, I like it. Very simple, very timeless. She Italian?"

"Ma, goodnight."

"Okay, okay, goodnight. Love you, asshole."

Despite himself, Pat grinned. "Love you, too.

A/N: Thank you so much for reading! Hope you enjoyed.