Chapter 18: A Very Difficult Game Indeed

Alcide In Wonderland

Chapter 18

A Very Difficult Game Indeed

**

Friday continued…

If Sookie hadn’t thought to mention it, I’d have screwed the pooch when I picked up the boys… Their old school collected the kids not riding the bus in the auditorium, so I’d have parked and gone inside… Bon Temps School has a big enough driveway that the parents stay in the cars and the kids come out to them…

The ‘curbside pickup’ procedure gathered them all on the lawn of the school. Most of them were sitting patiently and waiting for their rides… but the ones who weren’t, needed to be restrained… with zip ties… and shock collars…

A couple of the little assholes had held up the line of cars by performing some bizarre reenactment of a Benny Hill chase scene… One of the teachers was doing her best to try to corral the two shits while their mother watched. I couldn’t decide if the woman needed to be slapped for letting them be so out of control or if she needed a fucking hug because she had to go home with them.

Jack and Carm were both watching with angry looks on their faces. I knew that it was because they’d been pissed at me for making them go to school instead of help paint… they made me promise to take them to the house right after school…

As Carm put it, “Don’t pass Go. Don’t collect $200. Go directly to the house.” And he annunciated every fucking letter of it too… How was I going to tell him no?

Jack slid his backpack off of his shoulder and handed it to Carm before he started walking over to the general area of the chaos… He stood there watching from close up for a minute until the bigger of the two kids ran by him…

I watched Jack lunge at the boy… probably older than him by two years and take him down like a fucking rag doll. The teacher was too surprised to know how to react and I was… I was… I was close to weeping.

It was a beautiful goddamn tackle.

I left the truck running to go make sure the kid was alright (and that Jack wouldn’t get suspended), but by the time I got to them the teacher was helping Jack up. He wasn’t putting up a fight or resisting at all. He did bark at the boy to ask if he was ‘done yet’ though…

**

I tried.

I did my damnedest to not smile, not laugh, not congratulate him once we got into the truck…

But being quiet about it made him worry that I was pissed…

And when he asked if he was in trouble, I broke.

I think the only thing I said to him that couldn’t be considered ‘gushing’ was that it probably wasn’t such a good idea to go after the bigger one…

…But I was even more proud when he explained that he’d done it on purpose… If he’d tackled the smaller one he’d have been hurt and Jack would’ve gotten himself in ‘real trouble’… Knocking down the bigger one wasn’t going to get anyone hurt… just get the line moving.

Even if I was having a hard time faking the little bit of concern I had… knowing that he at least thought things through made me feel a lot better.

…Made me wonder if he’s spending too much time with Sookie…

But still made me feel better.

**

I was teasing the boys, letting the truck idle up our driveway and getting yelled and whined at, when I got a text.

Had. “It killed me to lock up. Mind if I’m around when they see Jake’s work?” I hadn’t thought that she’d think anything of it… that she didn’t have something else to do…

“You could’ve stayed today.”

“Now you tell me!”

“Sorry. ”

Jack yelled at me. “We’re going nuts and… you’re texting!?”

“Are… you… going… nuts? I couldn’t tell.”

They both kicked the back of my seat.

I laughed at them, “Hadley just wants to know how you like the house.”

Carm whined, “Tell her we’ll never know because you’re being a butt!”

“A butt!? You’re being ornery!”

“I wanted to see the house all day.”

“Still… if you’re being this grouchy now, when we get back to the house, you should lay down for a bit. We’re going to the football game tonight and you don’t need to be such a cuss.” He definitely didn’t need to be shitty enough to pick a fight with Marnie or show his ass around Eric’s folks.

**

Just like Jack had done when he first set foot in our townhouse in New Orleans, they both barreled through the house at full speed. Like it was a race to tag into each room and leave again… Then they slowed down to actually look around…

I’d been worried that they’d run into a wall or a door… or each other so when they finally calmed down, we finally got the chance to check things out… and notice that there was a poster taped to the wall of most of the rooms…

Hadley.

She’d made one of her ‘renderings’ of each of the rooms that the boys had picked furniture for so they could see how everything would look… I guessed she did them instead of shortening her skirts last night.

I had my phone out to text her a ‘thank you’ when Carm ran up to me with a note. “It was on the fridge. What’s it say?”

“Jack & Carm,
I hope the posters help you picture your house a little better.
You guys have great taste and I’m excited to see everything get moved in for you.
In the meantime, I made cheesecake for the boosters to sell tonight.
What should I set aside for you? Chocolate or strawberry?
Welcome to Bon Temps, gentlemen. See ya tonight J
-Had.”

Really like her. Fuck that she’s hot. Fuck that she can cook. Hell, fuck that I can actually have a conversation with her that doesn’t end in me thinking of how to hide a body… She’s thinking of my kids.

Carm snatched the note out of my hand to run off to find Jack… with a huge grin on his face.

**

I sent her a text with the boys’ requests. “Carm wants chocolate. Jack wants strawberry. And thanks for everything.”

“You’re welcome. What kind do you want?”

“I get some?”

“Loaded. ;) ” The boys started ribbing me when I laughed and wouldn’t tell them why.

“Surprise me.”

“Are we still talking about cheesecake?” Oh… damn…

“You’re flirting.”

“Figured that out on your own, did you?”

“Nah. The boys told me.”

“OMG! You let them read your texts?”

“LOL. No.”

“ (_._) ”

“Did you just call me an asshole?”

:PText pouting… that was new.

“You know you laughed.”

“Still am, but you’re going to pay for that. See you later.”

**

It was like the little shit knew that it was something to rib me about, but on the way back to the house Jack asked how the helpers managed to paint all the way to the ceiling…

I didn’t think anything of telling him that most of the girls sat on guys’ shoulders… but Carm took the tie in…

“Who sat on your shoulders?”

Fuck.

‘Who says anyone sat on my shoulders?’ would’ve been a good reply… but it came to me just a second too late…

My precious children were already laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” came in stereo…

“Shut up.”

The laughing got louder… I was getting mocked by midgets.

“Keep it up. I’ll beat you.”

“No you won’t!” Still cackling their little asses off.

I moved the rear view to dead-eye Jack… “I’ll spread the word that you sleep in footie PJs with a stuffed unicorn.”

He narrowed his eyes and leaned over to whisper back and forth with Carm.

He sat up and the look on his face was too damn proud… “We’ll tell Had that we like her more than all of your other girlfriends.”

It’s a sad state of fucking affairs when an adult can lose an argument with an 8 year old.

Like it didn’t make me feel like a big enough retard to not have a comeback…

They laughed about it the rest of the way home.

**

There was a box leaning against the front door of the house…

It was shaped like one of Sookie’s guitar cases… I didn’t think anything of it, I just took it in and set it on the kitchen table while the boys grabbed a snack… And I toasted a bagel. I wasn’t hungry… Wasn’t even thinking about food until I’d opened the front door… The house had been filling with the smells of Cajun goodness for long enough that I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

“Daddy?”

I braced myself, figuring he wasn’t done teasing me about Had. “Yeah?”

“It’s for me.”

I had an oh-shit moment… the first thing that came to mind was that Ame was mailing their stuff to them.

“Who do we know in Boston?” No one.

“Boston?” I turned it around and the shipping label was made out to ‘Master Jackson Herveaux’… and the return address was MIT. “…This has to be Sookie’s handy-work.”

“Can I open it?”

“No.”

“Isn’t it a federal crime to interfere with someone receiving their mail?” Why couldn’t he be dumb?

“No more than it is a mastable offense to disobey a lawful order from your superior.”

He blew a raspberry at me and sat back with a grin on his face to finish his bowl of fruit salad… I already knew he was going to go over my head… straight to Sookie.

**

I shit in Jack’s corn flakes even more when I wouldn’t let him go upstairs to play drums… He argued that Carm could wear earbuds while he napped and gave me the ‘Sookie promised’ line…

He was still giving me an ‘eat shit’ look when I got out of the shower…

And when I was done starting a load of laundry…

And he shot daggers at me while I cleaned the dishes from our snacks…

What finally ended up pacifying him was sitting together on the couch and going through Sookie’s music files…

His iPod was syncing the 50 new songs when Jack bolted from the couch to the front window.

“They’re back!” Good. I was hungry and if dinner wasn’t going to be happening soon, the smell of it would push me to do something depraved… like finish off the shmear instead of rationing it to myself.

“Settle down. I’m sure…”

He was gone. Through the front door like the house was on fire…

Turd.

He was most of the way to harass Sookie before I was on the porch. “Jackson! Boy, if you don’t settle down…” There wasn’t any point… I had a full 0% of his attention.

He went straight up Sookie’s ass and I was hung up on the idea that he’d never greeted his mother like that when I had to laugh at him. When Jack started nagging about the box, she told him there was a pony in it and it took her all of 30 seconds to make him back down so that she could talk to me about whatever was in it.

**

Shaking hands with Eric’s dad was hilarious… Not that the guy said or did anything amusing… As a matter of fact, the guy looked like he might be turned off by the idea of having fun… but my prick partner had been calling Jack my ‘Mini Me’ since the first time he’d seen a picture of him and Eric looked just as much like his old man as Jack looked like me…

Smom though… she was completely fucking adorable. Short and pudgy… She had kind of a Minnesota Mrs. Claus thing going on… She looked like a batch of snickerdoodles waiting to happen… and instead of shaking my hand, she hugged me…

Marnie… She was smart enough to avoid eye contact.

I tried to take advantage of Sookie’s new hobby of forcing me to cook, but the best I got was being reminded about using a pot holder (again) to get the casseroles out of the oven and fire up the fryer…

**

I was coming in from moving the laundry over to the dryer when Sookie came into the kitchen… with Marnie… holding hands…

Paint fumes.

Had to be paint fumes.

I sat down for a cigarette and watched Marnie, Marnie start helping with dinner… After she’d watched everyone else pitch in the night before… she was actually doing something.

I couldn’t take it anymore…

“At the risk of being rude… What the fuck? When did we kiss and make up?”

Sookie smiled at me like she was surprised I waited so long to ask. “Between breakfast and painting.” While I was making out with Had… I usually hate missing shit…

“So… what? Better? Handled?”

Marnie winced… “I guess you could say that I’m waiting for something else to set me off. I have kind of a short fuse.”

“You don’t say.”

“I’ve been a real bitch… I’m sorry. I don’t realize I’m being horrible until…”

“Until you’re screaming like a banshee at children? Yeah… Great… So are you on more of a schedule now or can we still look forward to the spontaneous acts of insanity?”

“It’s still gonna be spontaneous… Sorry.”

“Damn! Sookie, do I get one? I want an excuse to do whatever the fuck I feel like doing and not have to worry about anyone else.”

She came over and kissed my cheek. “No you don’t.”

Fuck… “Alright. Why not?”

“Because she’s not a twat for twat’s sake… Marnie is manageable now that we know what’s going on with her.”

“You figured her out in a few hours while Eric’s been drawing blanks all these years?”

She grinned. “How fast did I have you pegged.”

I growled at her. “Fine. What’s going on then?”

“It’s an actual disorder. When she starts being a bitch, send her for a time out.”

“You’re fucking serious?”

They both nodded and Marnie looked like she was close to crying. “I really don’t mean it… I want to apologize to your kids too, if you don’t mind.”

I didn’t want to be an asshole about it… If she had a ‘real’ disorder and all, but… “Do you have any idea how fucked up a woman has to be to walk away from her kids? I’ve seen some crazy bitches fight and scream and stab and throw shit… I’ve been fucking bitten by a schizophrenic for trying to get her kid into an ambulance and my kids’ mother just walked the fuck out of their life after doing and saying God knows what to them since they don’t miss her… You can be as crazy and hateful as you want to be around the adults and we can take it, but the next time you act like that around my boys, there’s going to be a line to beat the shit out of you. That’s not a fucking threat either. Not only did I have to control myself, but I’ve had to talk Hadley out of clawing your eyes out twice now… You can be nice or you can be the last straw. Got it?”

She nodded, still cringing. “Did I say ‘I’m sorry’?”

“Yeah. I caught that.”

**

Once Eric led his folks into the kitchen to end their tour (and Sookie managed to con me into letting her spoil Jack with a keyboard that he was playing in seconds) I let the detail about traveling for Christmas slip… I didn’t realize it was a slip because it didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t have mentioned it yet… Even though they didn’t seem to mind, I spent a minute feeling like shit because I hadn’t known until I reminded myself that if Eric and Sookie weren’t lying, the folks would’ve known. Ha ha…

I texted Had… so that I wouldn’t start laughing at how hard it was getting for Eric to keep up the lie when he obviously knew jack-shit about Sookie’s apartment.

“Do you want a warning or do you want to be surprised?”

“uh-oh. How bad could they be?”

“CMC is uptight. Smom makes the Happy Days mom look like Andrea Yates though. Marnie is the issue.”

“Roger that. J She’ll love meeting my mom then. Oh hell, what now?”

“Your cousin ‘cured’ her.”

“Don’t text that tone to me. ;) How did ‘my cousin’ cure a case of cuntitis that severe?”

“IDK. Some fucking miracle. She apologized. She doesn’t realize she’s being a bitch until it’s too late.”

“That’s funny.”

“Not really.”

“Is 2. I’ll just use the same defense. ‘Sorry Marnie, I didn’t realize I was punching you until I was being fingerprinted’.”

“LOL. Are you going to behave tonight?”

“Probably not. I’ll try to remember my family manners though. Promise.”

“Family manners?”

“The Tao of Thumper: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

“Cute.”

“I try. Keep me posted?”

“No promises. I might put myself in a food coma tonight.”

“LOL. Pace yourself. Plan ahead for dessert.”

**

By the time I was done texting, Sookie and Smom had taken over the conversation about New York while CMC’s mouth basically hung open and Eric wasn’t doing much better at looking smart enough to tie his shoes.

I wanted to laugh at him for not knowing, but considering his reaction to the description of the apartment, Sookie may very well have decided to keep things to herself even if they had been together for a while…

He was more than a little thrown off at the idea of how much Sookie was worth… Knowing that the Stackhouses were loaded was one thing, but since they all lived in normal houses and acted like normal working class folks it was easy to ignore that not a single one of them had ever had to ‘wait until payday’ for anything. It was even easier to not think about bank accounts when you considered that not a single one of them acted spoiled…

Sookie’d probably been through a thousand dollars worth of groceries just since I’d started staying with them, but her dishes were Corell and her silverware was the same pattern my mom had…

It took me about thirty seconds to decide I’d kick Eric in his dick (for real) if he let it be a problem…

**

I felt like a heel when Sookie took off to get changed without eating… She helped me make plates for the boys and made sure everyone was all set to eat the dinner she busted her ass to cook and it hadn’t even occurred to me that all of the summersaults she was going to be doing would make a full stomach a bad idea…

But when she came back, I could’ve died laughing… God only knows how long my mouth had been hanging open while I processed her ‘cheer uniform’… I’d seen strippers in cheerleader costumes that wore more. Hell, for that matter… her uniform might as well have been Carm’s Under Roos.

Eric AND his old man were locked up (funny by itself), but I was dying to see how ‘Daddy’ was going to handle his little girl dressing like that in public, especially since he threatened to put Had in a nun’s habit that morning.

CMC got a solid kick from Smom before he went back to eating while Sookie was giving Eric the night’s game plan and as soon as Sookie was out of the room (with Eric on her tail- literally), Marnie gave me a nudge.

“You said she works out twice a day?”

“Sometimes three. Running, yoga and weights. Why?”

“Just wondering… I hadn’t seen her close up. She should be a swimsuit model with a body like that.”

“She got sick of that kind of attention because of her mother.”

“She doesn’t sound very nice.”

“She’s bad enough that the sheriff warned Eric about what he’d be dealing with.”

Smom giggled at the idea. “I can’t wait to meet her… She can’t be as as bad as that….”

“I’m not sure when that’ll happen. Corbett sent her to live with her sister. He’d finally had enough.”

“Sookie said that ‘Momma’ would be at the cookout tomorrow though.”

“Oh, you won’t ever hear Sookie call Sheila anything but her name… ‘Momma’ is what Sookie, Tara and Jason call Corbett’s sister. Had calls Corbett ‘Daddy’.”

“Oh… That’s nice. At least Sookie had an aunt she could depend on to…” Smom was distracted by the sudden noises in the foyer…

“Mmm, please. Please, Eric… Please…” Sookie was moaning and whining like a phone-sex pro and I nearly choked on my food…

I knew damn good and well that she wouldn’t be doing anything that the boys could walk in on… since I was the only one laughing everyone stared at me. All I could do is shake my head for a minute… and Sookie was still going. “Not with my kids around… She’s just messing with his head. Mark my words, he’ll jump on the first chore he finds to keep him busy until the color goes back to his face.”

CMC gave a grunt. “Messing with his head, huh?”

“My guess… he let that uniform of hers get to him and she’s teaching him a lesson.”

**

Right again… Eric was as white as Elmer’s Glue when he finally came back into the kitchen and started a pot of coffee as his chosen chore.

Eric’s ass had barely hit his seat before his dad started back in to gather his Sookie related intel by asking what was ‘wrong’ with Sookie… It was funny to watch… I know Eric well enough that if the roles had been reversed he’d have pumped me for information, but he actually looked irritated that his dad was curious.

Marnie hadn’t waited for any cues. When she was done eating, she started rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher. Since everyone else was still eating, I helped her put away the food and make a plate for Sookie.

I was so full that it hurt to inhale my after-dinner cigarette and since Eric and CMC were shooting daggers back and forth at each other, I used the boys as my excuse to leave the damn room.

I was halfway down the hall when Marnie caught my arm. “Is it ok?”

“Is what ok?”

She stepped back and started to fidget. “If I tell your boys that I’m sorry about this morning. They didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not their fault that I’m a bigger bitch in the morning.”

“There’s no point if you’re going to turn around and do that shit again.”

“I’m trying. Sookie promised to keep me in check.”

I shook my head… I was skeptical as all hell, but I let her follow me back to our room anyway and the boys gave me a ‘the killer is right behind you’ look from where they were sprawled out on the bed enjoying their isobooth. They were watching Dare Devil…

Marnie sat on the side of the bed and started watching while I pulled warmer clothes out of the closet for the boys.

“Have you guys seen this before?”

Jack looked like he was scared to answer. “Yeah.”

She giggled at him. “I don’t usually like super hero movies, but I couldn’t resist this because of who’s in it. Joey Pants is fun even when he plays a bad guy.”

“Joey Pants?”

“His name is Joe Pantoliano… it’s just a nickname because his last name is a mouthful. Me and Eric used to have a list of favorite bad guys when we were little. He was one of them.”

“What was he in?”

“He was one of the Fratelli brothers in Goonies.”

“The one that sang?”

“Nope. He was the one that slipped because of Data’s slick shoes.”

Jack started chuckling, but Carm… well, Carm’s bullshit alarm was going off. “Are they making you be nice to us?” That’s my boy. My 8 year old was a sucker for a friendly face… but Carm was suspicious of nuns.

Marnie didn’t seem to mind at least. “Nope. After the way I acted this morning, I’m sure they’d feel better if I just stayed away from you guys.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because I owe you guys an apology. A big one. Normally, I’m mean as a rattlesnake, but I was even worse this morning and I took it out on you.”

“Why?”

She puffed out her cheeks. “Sookie says I have a disorder. Instead of… well, this morning a normal person wouldn’t have yelled like I did.”

“Sookie says our mommy has a detachment disorder. Said she’s afraid to let herself love anyone so she ignores them and pushes them away. Is that what you have?” Jack rolled his eyes at Carm just for mentioning Ame.

“Nope. I have self esteem issues so I treat people badly so that it doesn’t hurt when they don’t want to be around me.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah, well, it sucks for the people around me more than it sucks for me. I’m trying to chill out though. I’m trying to be nicer.”

“You’re doing pretty dood right now.” I glanced over my shoulder and caught her grinning at him… hate goggles. That had to be Eric’s problem. Marnie was actually ‘pretty’.

“So… Do you have any idea how much I owe you? I cuss a lot anyway, but I was especially bad yesterday.”

Before I could say anything, Carm jumped on the chance. “$115.” Damn.

I started shaking my head again. “Carm, you can’t run a tab like that. She gets a clean slate.”

He looked so pissed that even Jack laughed at him. “Fine, but I’ll be listening.”

She giggled at him. “I’ve been told… So, here’s the deal… I’m gonna be as nice as I can be and live up the cussing tax… but I need you guys to kick me in the shins or something if you catch me getting riled up for another hissy fit, ok?’

Carm shot a dirty look at me. “Is dat ok or are you gonna take the fun out of dat too?” Little turd.

“Nope. She says she needs it, so do it.”

**

Eric practically read my mind at the stadium… The damn place was worse than the Saints games we’d gone to, so he ended up putting Carm on his shoulders at the same time I lifted Jack.

And it seemed like it took forever to get the hundred feet to our reserved seats where Hadley was already waiting. She helped Jack off of my shoulders, then Carm from Eric’s and they barely let her introduce herself to Eric’s folks before they started nagging about their snacks. Eric’s dad was still staring at her when the boys climbed into her lap.

She made up little ‘snack kits’ in paper bags for them… “Turtle brownies and your cheesecake… and a cup for your hot chocolate.”

Jack gave her a high eyebrow. “How does cheesecake go into a bag and not get messed up?”

“When I make them for the boosters, I bake them in cupcake papers. You just peal it back and eat it like a candy bar.”

“What’s in the other bag and thermoses?”

“Those are snacks for the grownups.”

“More cheesecake?”

“Nope… Stuff that y’all wouldn’t like… Like chocolate chili truffles and dipped coffee beans.”

“Mine.” It slipped.

She laughed at me. “You’ll have to fight daddy for them.”

“I can take him.”

She snorted. “He keeps a knife in his boot.”

I heard Corbett start laughing behind me. “And I’m not afraid of doing time… Hey boys, did y’all inspect the house?”

They both started chattering away, tag team style and finally got introduced to Terry when everyone else went through another round of introductions…

CMC had no reaction when Jason (goofy nut sack that he is) kissed Smom’s hand and told her that he had a thing for redheads… but when he grabbed Eric and me by the ass, CMC looked up at the sky like he was hoping aliens would abduct him… I had a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ joke waiting on deck but Jason just made things ‘worse’ by sitting on Eric’s lap.

Eric started laughing at him. “Jason! I told you that you have to buy me dinner first!”

I almost made a Frannie/Sookie’s leftovers joke, but figured it would stir shit up… “You shouldn’t complain. At least he doesn’t use YOU. I’m always a bride’s maid… never the bride.” Smom reached over and swatted my knee while she snickered that I was ‘awful’… and Jason kissed my cheek so the boys lost it and laughed loud enough that they didn’t hear Corbett gripe at his retarded son.

Any other time or place and I’d have worried that folks would be wondering when the short bus would come to get us…

But no one seemed to notice…

**

The bonus entertainment for the night came in the form of Pam seething over the blonde, barely-legal mini-skirt who came over to say ‘hi’ to Corbett… from his lap. ‘Pimp’ must run in the family…

Pam didn’t rate an introduction or an apology for the pink lipstick that got left behind even if Corbett did have time before a cute little brunette came by to do the same thing… Damn.

It was hard to not laugh at how pissed Pam was. She glared at Corbett until he noticed and then he palmed her head to turn it around… That’s when I lost it.

I could feel her staring a hole into the back of my head and she mumbled something about ‘man whores’ sticking together…

Corbett returned the insult with a tool metaphor she didn’t get… ‘if you don’t have a Leatherman, your pockets end up full of useless crap’.

Hadley leaned over and whispered in my ear, “She has no clue that he just called her deficient, does she?”

“None.”

“The file?”

“The can opener. It works, but it’d be easier to use a stick of dynamite.”

She giggled in my ear. “That bad, huh?”

“She’s lazy enough that she doesn’t get in the way often.”

When she sat back, both of the boys were giving her a look… pissed that they weren’t in on the joke, so she came up with a diversion instead of telling them that we were making fun of my boss right under her nose. “You know, men… Y’all still have a room left.”

Carm started shaking his head. “Nuh-uh. We dot ‘em all.”

She pointed at me. Me?

“I’m fine with a mattress on the floor as long as there’re clean sheets on it.”

She rolled her eyes. “See what I mean… We’re gonna have to do something about that.”

Jack shrugged. “Now that we have a den, he won’t ever go in there.”

“Uh-oh, that’s what I was afraid of. I’m gonna need your help making him want to go to bed instead of crashing in front of the TV. Sofas aren’t meant to be beds, even ones as comfy as yours.”

Carm giggled. “You could put a big TV with his mattress.”

“Or… we could come up with something comfortable enough that he wants to be in his room anyway.” She pulled out her phone and started futzing…

The boys ooohed or cringed or laughed at whatever she was showing them, joking about which Disney Princess was more me for a while before they both said ‘that one’ at the same time. All the while, she’d kept the phone angled away from me.

“That settles it then.” She winked in my direction.

“I’m serious about not caring. There doesn’t need to be any fuss over a room where my eyes are closed most of the time.”

“No fuss, but you need a dresser, right?”

“I could just keep everything in laundry baskets in the bottom of my closet.”

“Ooooh… that’s an idea. How about upturned milk crates for your nightstands?”

“I was thinking about coaxial spools.”

“Even better. I bet we could find a big one for your TV too. It’ll save us from having to look for cinder blocks.”

“We can just put it on top of another TV.”

“This’ll be fun. I’ve never done a room in Whiskey Tango Chic. Want anything on your wall? Dogs playing poker, velvet Elvis, maybe one of those fiber optic skylines…”

“That skyline sounds good. Then I wouldn’t need any lamps. Just leave room for my gun rack.”

She giggled, “Putz.”

“That’s no secret.”

“I’ll do the legwork.”

“I’m not being lazy, I’m just fine with basics. Knock yourself out.”

“Really?”

I shrugged. “Yeah, but if I see flowers, it’ll be in the guest room before you can call for backup.”

“What about lace?”

I reached down and pinched her leg right behind her knee, making her jump and squeal. “Negative.”

“Daddy! He pinched me!” She was smiling when she stuck her tongue out at me.

Corbett laughed at her. “Yeah. Heard why too. You were asking for it.”

**

Hannah came by to trade an envelope full of IDs from her cousin for the boys. She’d barely asked if they could go down and sit on the sidelines with the squad before they were off Hadley’s lap and heading down the steps and Eric took off to check out the boosters’ table and concessions right behind them.

Since the boys seemed to forget I existed… “Is there a designated smoke deck around here?”

Had pointed to the visitor’s end zone. “You can go through the break in the fence to grab one.”

“You can’t though?”

She shook her head. “Nope. Too many eyes.”

“Is there somewhere you can sneak one?”

She looked like she was thinking about it for a minute before she turned around to look up at the press box… “Daddy…”

“I just saw Rene in the crowd. He’s not up there yet. I’ll run interference then us old men can go burn one when y’all get back.”

She smiled at him and kissed his cheek before she started climbing the bleachers and Jason was right behind us because he didn’t want to get left to smoke with the ‘old farts’…

She slid open the window (the one next to the ‘no smoking’ sign and full ash tray) as soon as we were inside and I looked out past the cameras and the sound board to see the whole field… It looked even crazier than it had when we’d been in the middle of it. “Nice sniper perch.”

“Good. Make sure Daddy doesn’t get into the snacks. How’d the rest of dinner go?”

“It went… Eric has no clue how to talk to his old man. They traded icy stares between questions… hilarious.”

She got sick of waiting for me to pull out my pack and started frisking me, and finally found them inside my coat. “He doesn’t seem bad, just severe.”

I laughed at her. “That’s an understatement… it explains a lot about Eric.”

Jason eyed me. “Meaning?”

“I was partnered with him for about a week before I looked up bi-polar disorder. That son of a bitch goes from stoic to Mr. Friendly in less than a second and can go completely ape-shit scary when he needs to and doesn’t need any time to recover… CMC, Smom and Marnie…”

Had laughed, “All rolled into one perfectly controlled package! That’s great… you’ve seen Sookie go off, right?”

“Last weekend she did the shit slinging with Sheila and went right into calming Eric down…”

Jason started nodding and I’m not sure what did it, but something made Had pull her hand back and punch him in his thigh… “You prick!”

He barely flinched, but he rubbed where the punch landed. “What!?”

“You know something!” I stepped back and did my best to not laugh… or get caught in the crossfire.

“About what?”

“You know damn good and well ‘about what’! How long have you known?”

He matched her pissy look. “How fucking long have you known?”

“You first!”

“Friday, alright? Damn!”

“The night you met him?”

“Yeah… You know damn good and well she’d have said something as much as she likes him. Besides… if they’ve really been together a year, she’d be bow-legged with the way they go at it.”

“Do you have any evidence?”

Other than him admitting it?

“What!?”

“Monday night, while you two were bitching about Hunter… He was too drunk… Asshole made it easy. What made y’all think into it?”

“For me, it was because Sookie let her Depo lapse by a couple of weeks… For Alc it was that Eric’s suddenly pussy whipped.”

He started laughing. “Ohhhhh… It’s gonna be nice to have co-conspirators… It makes inside jokes more fun.”

“Daddy’s got to know.”

I started shaking my head. “Wait, I gotta ask… Why would Corbett be cool with the getting-married-at-Christmas scenario if he knows they met on Halloween?”

Jason shrugged and looked at me like I was retarded for asking. “If we’re happy then Daddy’s happy. Right now, Sookie’s practically high… He won’t say a damn thing unless he sees something to worry about.”

Had giggled and nudged my arm. “Sounds like some other guy I know… If he hasn’t said anything yet, he won’t… like ever. He’s where secrets go to die.” I stuck my tongue out at her.

“What about Laf? Y’all were talking about it at Dirges last week.”

“He’s pissy that Sookie kept Eric a secret, but he doesn’t have anything concrete. They’ll slip eventually and he’ll nail her ass to the wall about it. Lawyer.”

Hadley slapped him, but he just laughed. “I promised I wouldn’t say anything… Y’all already knew.”

She slapped him again, this time laughing and he got his arm around her neck to start giving her a noogie…

I put my cigarette out and started to leave. “Rene’s already talking to Corbett and I refuse to be called as a witness when one of y’all gets hurt. C’mon.”

They didn’t let up… She was slugging his ribs (making me realize what Sookie meant by his pain tolerance) and for a second I thought about leaving them to it…

He was too busy licking his damn finger and sticking it in her ear to realize that I had gone over to stand next to him to start prying them apart.

“You two are about 25 years too old for this shit.”

I managed to get between them and they kept slapping at each other around me…

Jason laughed from behind me. “Had won’t knock it off. She’ll just keep hitting me.” Jack ass…

“Get the hell out of here. I’ll hold her off long enough for you to go hide from a girl by your Daddy.”

“Promise?” He reached around me to slap her leg so I had to move to stay between them when she tried to return the hit.

“Not if you keep that up… get out of here now, or I’ll hold you down so she can spit in your eyes and give you Indian burns.”

Her eyes lit up like she thought I’d actually do it and before I could look to see if he was taking me as seriously as she had, I heard the door open and then slam shut… He flipped her off on his way back down the bleachers too… So very grown up…

“Why is it that I keep finding myself refereeing when you’re around?”

She pulled the ponytail holder out of her hair and started smoothing out the damage her jackass cousin had done. “Because you’re a party pooper?”

Because you have a hair trigger.”

She giggled at me. “That too… but that time you were defending me.”

“You were beating the snot out of him. I was defending him.”

She giggled and grabbed my hand when she kissed my cheek. “You’re right. It’s funnier when you tell it.”

**

I’d already spotted the boys on the way down the stairs and they were completely eating up the attention they were getting from the squad.

When Had and I sat back down, Pam wasted no time. As soon as the older guys left, she started in. “Hadley, did you do something different to your hair?” I had to assume she was reading too much into Had’s hair being down… like we’d have done anything with Jason’s supervision?

Had rolled her eyes and gave me a look… She completely understood how much I loved my boss. She leaned back and bent her finger so that Pam would meet her halfway… “I did, but I have to ask… Are you here as a Fed or a friend of the family?”

“A friend of the family, of course.”

Had smiled at her like she’d gotten the answer she wanted just before she reached back to pinch the inside of Pam’s thigh… The squeak Pam let lose definitely got plenty of attention from our ‘neighbors’. “Jason wrecked my ponytail while we were horse-assing so I had to take it down… Quit instigating.”

I was biting my lip to keep from laughing too hard. It wasn’t so much the noise she made, but Had pinched high enough that Pam looked… inappropriate with her hand over her boo boo. “What the hell? What would you have said if I told you I was on business?”

“That I’m not prepared to make any statement without my lawyer present.”

Pam almost laughed. “You’re actually worse than Sookie.”

“I’m actually the same as Sookie, just an earlier model year. Between ’76 and ’82 the body got shorter and the headlights got bigger.”

“Damn… Even when you Stackhouses aren’t talking about cars, you’re still talking about cars. You all need help.”

“You’re the one that drives the Volvo. I’d say you’re the one that needs help.”

“There’s nothing wrong with Volvos.”

“There’s nothing wrong with having huge pores and a pasty complexion either, but I’m glad I don’t have that problem.”

I almost bit through my tongue when Pam gasped.

Had turned back around so that she could unleash a wide, catty grin and gave me a wink…

Pam got shut the fuck down at her own game and it was beautiful.

**

In a matter of just a few minutes, Terry, Corbett and CMC came back from their smoke break, Eric had come back and handed out Eagles hoodies and Ts to his family, Sookie had come back and sat on his lap and then Had moved to sit on his lap to whisper back and forth. The last one to join the party was Kenya… All three of them sat on his legs and he almost blended into the group like ET blended into the closet full of stuffed animals…

I was trying to figure out why the hell CMC would be giving Eric the stink eye when Jason got my attention. “Where’s the fucking fairness in the world?! We’re a sexy couple of mother fuckers! How come he gets all the bitches?” Uh… because he isn’t related to 2/3 of them and hasn’t already dated the other one, tard.

“Probably because they can sense our true feelings for each other.”

The girls started laughing at Jason and then moved… Kenya went and sat on Jason’s lap… but Had came to sit on mine.

It was all in good fun, but it was still a bad idea…

“It was getting crowded over there.” All it would take was for one of the boys to look back and I’d never hear the end of the jokes.

“Lucky me.”

“Do you want me to move?” Absolutely not… I just didn’t want the boys to notice.

“No, you’re fine.”

She grinned and leaned against me. “Good. You’re warm.” Not fine. Not fine… Considering that we were all stacked up, I wasn’t concerned that anyone would read into her being in my lap…

Hadley smelled like chocolate and coffee and she was just too damn comfortable… I hadn’t even needed to move… She sat on my thigh with her legs crossed between mine… it was like she fit there.

**

Had and Sookie were just starting to talk about passing out snacks before the game started when Quinn came by… He rolled his eyes at me and/or Had before he got Sookie’s attention.

When Sookie took off with Quinn and Eric right behind her, Had was watching just as clueless as I was… They talked calmly for a minute before Sookie looked like she lost her nut…

She came unhinged and started yelling in his face… She was loud enough that I saw dollar signs in Carm’s eyes, but not loud enough that we could hear her from where we were. “What the fuck?”

Had shrugged. “No telling.”

Corbett mumbled from behind us, “I think I heard her say something about singing.”

Had nodded. “That’d do it after the way he acted earlier.”

We were all watching when Sookie elbowed the hell out of Quinn’s ribs on her way back up towards us and she seemed completely fine when she leaned over to grab one of the blankets she had Eric bring with us. “Had, I need your clothes for a few minutes, please… Sorry about that, Smom and Dad. I’ll explain later.”

Had snorted even though Sookie was already walking away. “You are planning on loaning me yours, right?”

I hadn’t even realized that I’d gotten used to Had being on my lap until she wasn’t anymore…

When Had came back, she was wearing Sookie’s sweats and sat right back down on my lap. “My warm spot’s gone.”

“It’ll come back. What’s the story?”

“Daddy heard right…”

She was interrupted by the PA… “Tonight, the National Anthem will be sung by the heart and soul of Bon Temps School, Sookie Stackhouse. Please rise.”

That would explain Sookie’s melt down.

**

Now, I’d heard more than my fair share of anthems… between playing baseball and football from 3rd grade to graduation, then the Corps, then being a cop… more than my fair share

Sookie was easily in the top 5…

The stuff I’d already heard her sing hadn’t done her voice justice.

As soon as Sookie was settled back into Eric’s lap, Had leaned over to giggle in my ear, “Who was that you were talking about? The one that goes ‘ape-shit scary’ and doesn’t need to recover?”

I laughed back. “We already established that there are two of them.”

She very seriously crossed herself and whispered a prayer to herself while she bent over to start digging into the bag of ‘grownup snacks’…

She’d brought a pack of lidded to-go cups, 2 huge thermoses and a stack of containers full of sweets… She leaned back to Smom and quietly told her the options of sweet, unsweet or hot chocolate ‘with a kick’…

Then she ran through a list of our ‘cream’ options; all of them artfully disguised in actual creamer cartons… Bailey’s, Kahlua or straight whiskey… there was actual cream, but no one opted for it. I was about to joke about having booze at a high school football game being illegal when Kenya stopped by to get a cup of Had’s ‘special hot chocolate’…

And the truffles (most of them were made with liquors) and chocolate covered espresso beans were devoured with extreme prejudice. The cheesecakes didn’t last until halftime either…

It wasn’t just me either…. When we weren’t yelling and cheering while the Eagles brutalized and embarrassed the Braves, we were stuffing our faces with homemade chocolates.

The boys only bothered themselves with me once during the whole game… they were perfectly content to ignore that I was there until they needed to make a bathroom run right before halftime.

By the time the game was over, Eric and I had pockets full of surrendered IDs and all of the visitors had gotten to be annoying… I would’ve been just fine to watch the game…

The cheering routines were impressive too, but the game blew me away… I’d seen less exciting Bowl games… and it only took the first quarter to realize how Hunter’s ego was such an issue… His arm was a damn cannon and I’d bet a nut that he’d end up with a Heisman Trophy if he played in college.

**

Smom and Had were bagging up our garbage when the girls brought Jack and Carm back to me… their faces were covered in lip gloss from where they’d been kissed ‘for luck’.

I didn’t even realize I was laughing until Jack gave me an angry look and asked why…

“Uhhh… That’s interesting war paint you’ve got there.” Hadley started giggling.

“What are you talking about?”

“Your faces… Y’all are wearing more makeup than the squad.” By the time I was done, Had was holding out a little mirror for them…

While he checked himself out (and got angrier) I whispered to Had, “If they weren’t so busy flirting, they’d have looked at each other by now. Dontcha think?”

“You might have a bigger problem than me.”

“I blame your kid. This wasn’t a problem before.”

She giggled. “Sorry…”

She stopped herself when Jack turned around to bark at one of the cheerleaders, “See if I let you kiss me anymore!”

She bent down to start whiping the lip marks off with the cuff of her sweatshirt. “Awww. Jacky… don’t be mad at us. What if we promise to wash them off from now on?”

“We’ll see.”

She laughed and gave him another kiss. “Thanks, handsome.”

That was it. I turned away and covered my mouth… I was fucked. I couldn’t do anything but laugh even though I was sure that Depo was in Jack’s future…

And I almost missed that the little turd gave the girl a ‘good game’ slap when she turned to leave…

Had bit her lip, but she lost it when the rest of us did… and Eric was laughing his ass off even though he was to blame for that one…

God only knows how many times he’d done the same thing to Sookie around the boys…

**

We waited for Hunter and Sookie to get done with all of their post game stuff since there wasn’t much chance of getting out of the parking lot anytime soon anyway… So the Northmans got to meet most of the town since nearly everyone made it a point to come by and say hello to Corbett, including the damn mayor. It only proved that Lafayette hadn’t been exaggerating by saying that the Stackhouses were royalty. And Smom had the chance to talk recipes with Had… Meanwhile, CMC stayed quiet and watched everything happen around him.

I half expected the boys to crash in the car on the way back to the house… But they were still wired from the desserts and hot chocolate. When we got back, they bolted out of the truck and ran to the front porch to remind Sookie that she promised to go upstairs with them…

She fumbled with her keys and was barely using her right hand until I took them from her to unlock the door. She didn’t give me the chance to cancel ‘band practice’ before she told the boys to get their showers while she ate her dinner.

Since Eric was putting away the blankets and cushions, I put Sookie’s plate in the microwave for her… She’d disappeared down the hall, hopefully to take something for her arm… The back of her hand was swollen enough for me to notice.

Sure enough she washed a pill down with her tea while she watched her plate spin in the microwave.

She opened the microwave with her left…

Took her plate out with her left…

And then picked up her fork with her left…

It was pitiful enough that she was struggling to eat with the ‘wrong’ hand, but she acted like if she stopped moving, she’d be asleep right away…

The whole fucking scenario was sad… I preferred making fun of ‘robo-Sookie’.

**

CMC was the first one of us to think of something to talk about since we were all staring at Sookie while she ate…

Eric rolled his eyes as soon as his mouth opened…

“So those guys that you mentioned earlier, that had scouts crawling all over the area. Who are they?”

Sookie smiled even though she was trying to eat. “The guy I was yelling at is John Quinn. He went to Arizona for school. Wide receiver… he was all set for pro until he got tackled from behind and herniated 3 disks late in his senior year. Remy Savoy, the Quarterback’s father was wooed by every college in the PAC 10 but opted for the Corps. My brother went to UPenn and told the NFL to fuck off. He went to Australia for a season and played pro Rugby for fun when he was done at Wharton. And JB went to Texas for School. Linebacker like Remy… First round draft pick. That was a big year for the Eagles. Undefeated all the way.”

“JB? You mean… JB DuRone?! He went to school here in Bon Temps?” Um… no. No fucking way… I wanted to kick myself in the ass for not putting it together before… Bear. JB… Bear was Jean Batiste DuRone… Uh… Sookie fucking dated a Super Bowl MVP. Oh. My. God.

“That’s what his Wiki page says.”

I started to laugh. “Fuck him. He was responsible for half the shots I took last week.”

“He was having a hard time with his new knee, but I’ll tell him you said hi.”

“You still talk to him?”

“All the time…” She started giggling when her phone started ringing even though she had to put her fork down to answer it. “…Hey JB! You’re ears must’ve been itching. I was just talking about you… Well technically my friend was talking trash. He says ‘fuck you’ because you got him drunk on Monday. Me too.” She looked up at me. “He says hi… Aww, how bad?… Ok… Oh! We stomped the shit out of them! Their cheerleaders cried… No I’m fine, just on Empty… Be safe. I’ll see you tomorrow, bye.”

Never-fucking-mind that I’d just been called out for talking shit about a guy who could snap me like a fucking twig… The look on Eric’s face was priceless… He had no idea. None.

“Don’t do that when you meet him. It’s creepy…” I didn’t even realize my mouth was hanging open. “…He put himself on the disabled list for the week. He’s coming home to see his mom and visit the family.”

My partner gave himself away… he didn’t know… the ‘high school boyfriend’ stories were relatively anonymous… Thinking about how I managed to connect the dots made me grasp that most of my info came from Had… She’d called him JB and Bear… I’d only realized that they were the same person because of a Facebook message she’d left for ‘Bear’… I was going to choke to death trying to not laugh that Sookie had gone to the Caribbean with a Dallas fucking Cowboy while Sookie and Eric were supposedly a couple… I couldn’t help it… “So if he played ball with Jas, how are you still in touch with him?”

She raised her eyebrow at me, knowing damn good and well I sniffed that much of her bullshit out. “Because he was the best boyfriend I had before Eric.”

Perfect…

That lying mother fucking partner of mine looked like he’d been sucker punched…

I was so calling Had.

**

Marnie went upstairs to make sure her stuff wasn’t in the way and I took a pit stop in my room…

“I didn’t wake you up, did I?”

“Nope. How’s Sookie?”

“She’s hurting bad enough to eat lefty, but she’s about to go upstairs with the boys.”

She snorted. “That’s Sook. You’ll get used to it… What can I do for you?” Talk about loaded questions…

“You can accept my apology.”

“What for?”

“I might have had too much fun just now.”

“Oh… do tell.”

“Eric didn’t know who JB is.”

She started laughing. “You asshole! That was definitely a group activity! How’d he take it?”

“He’s going to fester for a while. All he knows is that THE ex is going to be visiting tomorrow. He’s shitting bullets.”

“It won’t be as fun as you might think… I’m sure Sookie will explain things to him later… And I think I’m going to keep some fun for myself.”

“You know something I haven’t noticed yet.”

“I know a lot that you haven’t noticed yet.”

“Now that’s just stingy.”

“You got your fun, I’ll get mine.”

“Wait, you aren’t surprised to hear that JB is going to be in town.”

“No. I just got off the phone with him. He’s dying to meet the guy that took Sookie off the market.”

“Uhhhh… Sookie’s been talking to him about Eric, but not the other way around?”

“Probably not as much as he’s been talking to the rest of us… Momma and JB have been blowing up my phone all week.”

“How come she hasn’t been around?”

“She’s been in Michigan on business for two weeks… and she’s pissed about missing so much.”

“I know the feeling. I missed a lot when I was in NOLA on Tuesday. When will she be back?”

“She’s coming straight from the airport to the cookout tomorrow. She lands at 3. I’ve already talked to her too. I had to tell her how the game went.”

“Who else have you been spying for?”

“Just Momma and JB… Hey, I’m gonna let you go I’m getting anther call and I’ve got to get out of the tub. I’m starting to prune… Talk to you later.”

Fuck if I needed to hear that. I have no idea how long I stared at my phone trying to shake that mental image…

**

Sookie was showing how much her wrist was bothering her and still let the boys talk her into an extra song… As much as I liked watching them play, as fun as it was for me to see them so happy, I would’ve sent them to bed without if she had given me the chance…

Every time I opened my mouth to suggest that they skip or postpone practice, she cut me off… she was bound and determined to not disappoint them…

It was sweet enough that I almost stopped worrying about her… I was glad to see that I wasn’t the only one though… Eric was hovering like her old wrist injury was life threatening.

The boys were trying to get settled into bed while I made sure they didn’t wreck the bathroom when I was tapped on my shoulder.

Sookie was standing right behind me with a pill bottle. “The goddamn thing is ‘child proof’. Do you mind?”

I took it from her and opened it. “You over did it, big time. Can you take another one so soon?”

She shrugged. “One usually works, but I can take three when I have to. I’ll be fine.”

“How often does it get this bad?”

She managed to giggle and hand the bottle back to me. “See for yourself…”

It made me feel a lot better to see that she’d filled the prescription 7 months back. “It’s just because of being a stand in?”

“Yeah… during practice I can wear a brace and I’m fine.”

“That’s good to hear… Did I miss something? What’s up with CMC?”

She rolled her eyes. “I know… from what I can tell, what I’m hoping anyway… I think he looks pissy when he’s curious or surprised.”

“You think that’s all? I mean, him and Eric… It’s like they hate each other.”

“I can tell you one thing for sure… what they do hate about each other is their own worst qualities. Can you say ‘projection’ and ‘repression’, boys and girls? I thought I was going to have to break his fall when the old man mentioned being proud of him.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “I feel for Smom… stuck between the two of them all these years. She must have the patience of Job.”

“… And an awesome sense of humor… I’m going to hit the showers. Can you tell my Northman that I’m in the market for a Black & Tan?”

“Giving him something to do so that he can limit his interactions?”

She smirked at me. “If you tell him I mentioned it, I’ll deny it, but you’re much better at spotting that shit than Eric is… I might have to get rid of you if you keep it up.”

I smiled at her. “So… It’s a bad thing that I know you’re calling Eric ‘Northman’ when he’s mirroring his father.”

She giggled and walked out. “Calling him ‘Junior’ might actually get me hit.”

**

Eric looked like he was happy enough to shit ice cream when he was given a chore, but as soon as he was done passing out drinks he locked up again…

Until his phone started going off… He had the damn thing out of his pocket before the chiming stopped… It was just an email alert, but it was all the shithead had to avoid unwanted eye contact with CMC.

I figured I’d play along. “Anything important?”

He was frowning at his phone. “Email from Bubba about the apartment.”

“Bad news?”

“No… Just an update on what we need for the place and some errands Sookie gave him… There’s a link, but my phone… fucking… How can I have a goddamn Flickr app and not be able to go to Flickr?”

I pulled my phone out. “Forward it to me, you big crybaby. Maybe mine will follow the link.”

He flipped me off. “Fine… It’s sent.”

So help me, I tried… “Flickr officially sucks. Go get your laptop.”

He snarled at his phone. “The fucking thing… I shouldn’t need to use a laptop… goddamn it… There’s principle attached.” The longer he tried, the more hilarious he got.

“If you keep it up, you’ll break your cell and you can replace it with one that likes Flickr.”

Smom giggled at him… He was starting to look retarded… And he knew it.

**

Thank God for Sookie.

Not only did she look a hundred times better when she joined the group, but she was actually smiling a real smile instead of the fake one she’d had since she met up with us at the game.

“What are you pouting about, Northman?”

“Bubba emailed us a link to an album of apartment photos and my phone doesn’t like Flickr. You look like you feel better.”

She nodded at him and the grump actually smiled at her while she took a sip of her drink. Maybe he should’ve taken a nap before the game. Damn. “So, what did Bubba report?”

“That dishes and linens are definitely needed and he’s already made arrangements with the nursery, Hard Rock… and who is Joseph?”

“Jesus’s stepfather.” No wait. She just slapped us with the smart ass answer and we all lost it… Even CMC.

It took Eric a minute to recover. “I beg your pardon for the confusion… Which Joseph might Bubba have been referring to?”

She took his phone from him. “Joseph is a musical… Andrew Lloyd Weber… There’s about 50 kids on stage as a chorus. I thought with the way the boys are getting into music, they’d like it. Jesus Christ Superstar would be over their heads… So Joseph is the next best thing… even if it is Old Testament at Christmastime.”

While Smom did a little happy dance in her chair, Eric shot a look in my direction. He had the wrong guy if he was looking for someone to whine to… I knew for a fact that Sookie was right about the boys having fun since I’d taken my mom to see Joseph… and just about anything else that went through the area.

I could think of a lot of things I’d rather have been doing, but I’d definitely had worse afternoons…

When Eric was done acting like a giant bitch (most of it was a joke) she dragged him to the living room so that he could finally see what Flickr had to offer…

**

‘Apartment’ my ass.

Hadley had called it a penthouse and it was still bigger/more impressive than I pictured it…

I’m pretty sure the living room was bigger than the whole first floor of Sookie’s house…

It had really high ceilings and the windows went all the way up…

View of Central Park…

Balcony…

Guest suites…

It was the kind of place that you only see in movies…

It was absolutely insane… and I was glad the boys had already turned in because even I was getting excited about spending Christmas in New York City.

The boys would be jazzed just to know that Sookie and Eric were planning on bunking them with Hunter.

**

When Sookie finally got sick of getting the stink eye from CMC, she apologized for being worn out as her excuse to bail out…

And since she mouthed ‘IDs’ to me on her way out of the room, I waited an obligatory minute before using work as my exit strategy…

I stopped in my room long enough to change into some sweats and grab my laptop and then Eric caught me in the hallway and called me an asshole…

I have to admit that I saw how shitty the situation was for him… I got to go hang out with Sookie (even if it was for work) while he was stuck with his cranky father.

Sookie already had a mountain of IDs and her laptop on the bed when I went in. “Eric may very well shoot us both for ditching him.”

She grinned and reached under the pillow and pulled out their guns to take out the magazines… “We all have our crosses to bear.”

“Figure the dad out yet?”

“Yeah. He needs to thank God my hand hurts… I might have punched him in his cranky grill if I got one more ‘fuck you’ look.”

I laughed at her and sat down. “Nothing?”

“Nothing concrete. I’ll get his ass tomorrow. I’ll own him by close of business.” I didn’t doubt it in the least.

“Love Smom though.”

“No shit, right? She’s just huggable! She reminds me of Momma.”

“Really? If I had to, I’d picture Had’s mom with a shoulder holster and boxing gloves.”

Sookie giggled. “She has those too… She is Daddy’s sister after all.”

“What does she look like? Her wedding picture isn’t up in the hall.”

“Had took it down after Gran died. We look like her… Momma’s taller though… Bitch is in her 50s and still has legs like a Rockette.”

“When you say you look like her…”

“Yeah. ‘Fraid so. Don’t tell Eric though. It was fun to see his gears lock up when he met Had… This’ll be even better.”

That much alike?”

“She doesn’t even look old enough to have a 34 year old daughter… Howard did her over so bad once about 10 years ago she had to see a plastic surgeon. She barely looks 45.”

I started laughing. “Your gene pool is one for the record books. You know that, right?”

She cleared her throat and cut her eyes at me while she sorted through IDs. “You say that like we don’t know exactly what Jack will look like in 20 years.”

“I’m starting a betting pool when you and Eric start having kids. Considering how much he looks like CMC, the odds will be split on who they’ll look like.”

“He doesn’t look that much like his dad. It’s mostly the mannerisms… the clenched jaw is probably throwing you off.”

I was about to wish her luck in getting a picture of Eric’s mother, but Eric finally came into the room… seething.

He stomped to the dresser and started changing. “You assholes bailed on me!”

Sookie looked sorry for him. “I’m sorry, your dad looked like he was getting into a bad mood. He was giving me dirty looks.” I guessed that the sugar coating was due to Prince Charming’s fabulous mood.

“He was… He’s having a hard time believing the change in Marnie.”

“Well, I think there’s a club forming for that. They know she’ll slip a little… right?… once she’s away from us. She’s just identifying us as her savior. I told Smom already.”

“I told him that, he suggested that they leave her here.”

“Oh! Wow… K. There’s the asshole you were telling me about.”

He growled and tossed his boots under the desk… it was probably the first time I’d ever seen him not put something away neatly.

“You know… I bet I could find her a job…” He looked like he wanted to puke. “…I don’t mean to live with US… but if your dad is going to be a putz, it would set her back. Taking care of herself would be a boost for her too.”

Not only did he ignore the suggestion, but he changed the subject.

It took nearly an hour for them to stop glaring at each other, but eventually they got their heads out of their asses…

I wasn’t about to get in the middle of that shit… because that’s exactly where I would end up being. I could see why Sookie would suggest looking out for Marnie and I could understand why Eric wouldn’t want her around…

I started going cross-eyed from looking over IDs at about 1, but Sookie pushed us through until we were done. Fucking bully.

It was 2 before the last of the IDs had been anal-retentively cataloged and I couldn’t have left the room fast enough…

I was afraid that I’d get called back.

I was so bleary that I nearly ran into CMC in the hall when he was coming out of the head…

I got a dirty look of my very own, but I was too damn tired to give a shit…

I’m pretty sure that I made it to bed on auto-pilot.

 

NEXT>>

27 thoughts on “Chapter 18: A Very Difficult Game Indeed

  1. I love the interaction between Had and Alc, just love it, and all of them knowing about the timeframe secret is so funny. Hope you are doing well, I have no suggestions for avoiding being tired, sometimes you just have to go with it and sleep. Thanks for the update, I was getting ready to go into severe withdrawal.

  2. You are so fucking fabulous that I can’t even gather my wits enough to compliment you nicely. Thank you so much for the update. I love seeing things from Alc’s POV, but every time I read AIW, I want to re-read S&S again and it’s a never ending circle of near torturous awesomeness.
    Congratulations again on the new addition to the family and I hope things go well for you if we don’t hear from you again soon.

  3. I LOVE Alcide!!! I love the flirty texts with Hadley. I love how he is with his kids. I love how he told off Marnie. I love his rapport with Sookie – they are already like siblings. I love that Jason, Hadley and Alcide now know that they all know… And I love reading Alcide’s ‘understanding’ when he sees Eric get blind sided.

    I also love how he takes care of Sookie!

    Don’t ever apologize… you are so good to all of us. Each chapter is a gift!

  4. LOL, I was heading to bed… Glasses were halfway off my face and everything and this was at the top of my inbox. Sleep? What’s sleep? This is more important. Loved this chapter and always look forward to more.

  5. This was great!

    Don’t worry about the wait. As much as it pains me to admit it, some things in life are more important than me getting my dose of fanfiction. Take care of yourself, I’m sure things are especially nuts right now!

  6. really love this story bw had and alc, keep up the good work and dont worrie about us waiting to long we are not going any were. look after ur family x

  7. I really love this chapter. Alc and Had are adorable. I can’t wait for them to finally be together. Us readers aren’t going anywhere and we will still be here when life decides to calm down. (If that happens for you let know how. ;-))

  8. It continues to be great to get another perspective and more background on my favorite story. It is hilarious, you are so talented. Thank you so much.

  9. Thank you Goddess of fanfic! We are humbled by your greatness! Sorry for all the angst and impatience for new chapters. It’s your own fault, they’re just so darn good!!Love the H/A texting,have to reread some S&S to remember why CMC is giving all those hateful looks. Thanks again. ;D

  10. Every single chapter, you have one line that sticks with me, one thing that makes it into my every day vernacular. From “voluntold” to “Where were the dingoes when I needed them?” to today with “She looked like a batch of snickerdoodles waiting to happen”.

    Take your time. Look, the truth is, if it takes you 1 week, or 1 month, or even 1 year, to get the next chapter out, we have no choice but to be patient. That sounds awful, I know, but my point is, getting upset about it doesn’t change anything, for us, or you, and I know this sounds horrible, and I’m sorry. Written word is so much harder than spoken, since you can’t get tone of voice and facial expressions, but I mean this in a *good* way: if you try to force it, you’re going to A-get writers block, B-stress yourself out, which isn’t good for you, or the baby, or your other children, or your husband, or C-both. So relax. We aren’t going anywhere. And I think we all, or most of us anyhow, understand that life just…gets in the way sometimes. I, for one, never really understood how you do all you do anyway. I’m a single mom, with a full time job, yeah. That means no help, BUT.. I only have ONE kid, and I have enough trouble finding time to double check her homework, let alone time to write as often as you do. Trust me. We KNOW. And please, know that it isn’t my intention to be rude. (if I could, I would mail you Philly stuff to make you smile. Soft pretzels. Cheesesteaks. Peanut Chews.)

    Every chapter, I think “This is my favorite so far”. You get me everytime.

  11. *starting to revive* *things are getting lighter* Love Alcide and Hadley.

    A good author is always worth waiting for. Do what’s best for you and your gang. We’ll be here.

  12. Thank you thank you thank you! Just got home from a horrible day at work, fought with my idiot of a boyfriend (thinks I shouldnt smile so much at my customers). Then to add to that an old knee injury is acting up, in general a horrible day :( but then I looked and there it was an update!!!!! Made my weekend, on the other hand take all the time you need and all the best luck with your life :)

  13. Have I told you I love Alcide? I love Alcide. Like, I really love Alcide. Seriously, if I couldn’t snag him, I’d want to set him up with my sister just so I could be related to him in some way. He’s freaking awesome and I just love him and Hadley together. That scene with him, Had and Jason smoking and laughing at E&S was awesome! Laughed hard.

    Don’t even worry about being late with chapters! We love every one and RL is busy.
    Take care, E

  14. Delightful as always. I love the relationship developing between Hadley and Alcide. And you have such a way with words “a batch of snickerdoodles waiting to happen” is adorable. You rest when you need it. As much as I love your stories, you take care of your own needs first. I’ll appreciate the stories when you get around to writing them.

  15. Excellent chapter. Thanks so much for the update!! I love having Alcide’s POV to get those tidbits that we missed when Eric wasn’t in the room. And I love seeing Alcide & HAdley’s relationship develop. I agree with many of the other comments, as much as I have missed your stories since your last update, You need to take care of yourself first. I will certainly still be here waiting for the next update….whenever it comes!!! Take care and thank you for your fabulous writing!

  16. Thank you for writing such fantastic stories! Even when I close my laptop the memories linger… I was watching some New Kids on the Block video’s on MTV and it made me think of your music room shenanigans :-)
    I do understand you need time and energy and inspiration to write but next chapter will be the handling from hell chapter with Franny and Jason and Alcide and Hadley and I can’t wait!

  17. LMAO! MAN! I guess Eric was just too busy mooning over Sookie to notice everything else going one around him! LMAO… I’m actually feeling bad at the way Pammy is being treated even thought she deserves every bit of it :D
    ROFFLMAO! I FUCKING LOVE THIS CHAPTER! IT’S THE BEST YET! I CAN’T WAIT FOR TOMORROW NIGHT AT DIRGES!

  18. Love Had and Alc! Man, not looking forward to the Frannie games.
    An outsiders perspective on daddy Northman I funny lol. Seeing Sookie boggled is also amusing!

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