"That'll be $13.53," the attendant said and Brian reached for his wallet.
"Keep the change," he said, handing over a twenty.
"Are you sure?"
Brian nodded as he moved towards the driver's door. He was itching to find Nick and a few measly dollars weren't worth the wasted minutes. Opening his door, he hesitated and turned back to the attendant. "Hey, we're heading out to Rocky Point," he called. "You know it?"
"Sure. Five miles down this road you'll see a turnoff on the right," came the reply. "It's signposted; you can't miss it. Turn there and follow the road right out to the point."
Brian called a 'thank you' over his shoulder as he sank into his seat and closed the door.
A piece of toast between his teeth, Nick pushed the front door open with his foot and carried two steaming mugs of coffee out onto the porch. Hannah looked up as the screen door slammed and reached for the mug Nick held out to her.
"Thank you," she said, setting the drink down on the step and pulling Jack into her lap. "Look at you... You're covered in dirt."
Jack squirmed against his mother and Nick watched Hannah try to brush the grime from his clothes.
"Just let him go, Hannah - you're fighting a losing battle," he said as he sat down beside her. "He's already filthy."
Hannah sighed and let go of her son. Jack grinned at Nick who smiled back as he popped the last of his toast into his mouth. Hannah looked from Nick to Jack and back again, an eyebrow arched suspiciously.
"Don't think I don't see what's happening here," she began, a finger pointed squarely at Nick.
"What are you talking about?" he asked, reaching for his mug.
"You're making me the bad cop."
Nick arched an eyebrow back at her.
"You know... Good cop, bad cop," Hannah continued. "Mom says 'no', Dad says 'yes'..."
Swallowing a mouthful of coffee, Nick looked at her.
"I like the sound of that," he said quietly.
"Good cop, bad cop? I wasn't talking about role playing, Nickolas."
Nick rolled his eyes as he put his mug down and turned towards her.
"I meant 'Dad'," he replied. "I like the sound of that."
"You want me to call you Daddy?" Hannah teased, resting her hand on his thigh.
"Give me a break, Parker," Nick sighed, not removing her hand. "I think you should stop calling me Nick when Jack's around. I'm his Dad... That's what he should be calling me."
Hannah pulled her hand away and picked up her coffee. Nick kept his eyes on her as she watched Jack play on the lawn.
"Hannah? What's wrong?" he asked eventually.
"I just... I mean... I think he should be calling you Dad, too," Hannah replied hesitantly.
"So why are you pulling your how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-get-out-of-this face?" Nick asked.
Hannah leaned back against the porch railing and sighed.
"I just don't want him getting too attached before we've sorted out how we're going to make this work," she said carefully. "I mean, you live on the other side of the country and you've got recording and tours and everything. You've got other commitments, Nick."
"Hannah, come on. Are you serious? None of that is as important as you and Jack..."
"No, Hannah," Nick said firmly. "There are no 'buts'. I've told you already, this is it for me. I'm not spending a single night away from the two of you. We're going to find a way to make this work. So are you going to let my son call me Dad or what?"
Brian signalled as the turnoff to Rocky Point came into view. In the passenger's seat, Howie gave up trying to refold the road map, cramming it into the glove compartment instead.
"Guess we won't be needing that anymore," he said, slamming the compartment shut.
"Face it, Howie, it wasn't much good to you, anyway," Brian replied, setting his jaw as he braked and turned to the right.
Howie cast a sidelong glance at his friend. Brian's usually open and friendly face was a picture of stony determination. Gripping the steering wheel, his knuckles were white. Sinking back in his seat, Howie said the silent prayer for restraint Brian hadn't.
Hannah chewed her bottom lip thoughtfully. Nick's question hung in the air alongside his declaration of commitment.
"Not a single night?" she asked.
"Not a single night," Nick repeated, shuffling closer to her on the step.
"And how are we going to manage that?"
Nick slung his arm around her shoulders and pulled her towards him.
"Easy," he replied. "Move out to LA with me."
Hannah laughed and Nick, taken aback, moved away slightly.
"What's funny about it?" he asked with a frown. "I'm serious, Hannah."
"I know you are. But I don't think you've thought it through very well," Hannah replied, giving his hand a squeeze. "Where would we live? And all of my family is out here - Jack's family is out here. What about my parents?"
"What about us, Hannah? We owe it to ourselves to give this a proper shot. We owe it to Jack," Nick said evenly. "If you're really not sure, keep the apartment in New York. I'll pay the rent. You can move home anytime you want. But we have to give it a shot."
Hannah sipped her coffee and looked at him. She might have been pulling her how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-get-out-of-this face but it was no match for his please-don't-kick-me-when-I'm-down-face. And Nick knew it - he'd used it on her the night before.
Jack crawled up the steps and clambered across the porch towards his mother. Nick watched as Hannah took him in her arms and got to her feet.
"Okay," she said to Nick. "We'll come to LA. But I'm keeping the Brooklyn apartment - for a while at least."
Grinning, Nick stood up and kissed her on the cheek.
"This is going to work out great, Hannah, I promise," he said, ruffling Jack's blonde hair. "You hear that, little man? You're coming to California."
"I'm going to shower," Hannah said with a smile. "Here, Jack, you wait with your Dad. I'll be right back."
Bundled into his father's arms, Jack watched as Hannah disappeared inside. Nick bounced his son on his hip and grinned.
"Make a note of that, Jack. I'm your Dad. Can you say 'Dad'? 'Dad'?"
Jack laughed and Nick smiled down at him. The sound of a car turning into the driveway pulled his attention away from his son and Nick looked up as a black Audi A4 parked behind his rented Explorer. Holding Jack close to his chest, he stepped off the porch and crossed the lawn slowly. The driver's door opened and Brian stepped out, totally expressionless as he slammed the door shut behind him.