One Bouron, One Scotch, One Beer
There wasn’t an entire second before my hand was turning the doorknob and I was reaching for my gun as I crossed the threshold, just to see Sookie standing in the living room- playing guitar hero with a teenager. She was laughing when she turned around and noticed Alcide and I both standing in the foyer with our guns drawn, our faces somewhere between concern and embarrassment.
Sookie put her ‘guitar’ down on the couch and made her way over to me with an amused look on her face and I took her in. “Hey handsome. How was work?” She wrapped her arms around me. I hugged her to me. I hadn’t laid eyes on her yet today and she was sexier than I remembered. She was wearing a black tank top showing plenty of cleavage, painted on jeans tucked into knee high black boots with a really high heel. I was starting to realize that I do like her in heels just because it made our height difference slightly less absurd.
I breathed her in and she smelled like coconut today. Ungh. That’s new. “We learned a lot. We’re waiting for evidence to get processed though. How was your day?”
“I kept myself busy. Guys this is my cousin Hadley’s boy, Hunter. She’s working late tonight.”
As we did the Mickey Mouse roll call, the ‘boy’ shook hands with me and Alcide. This ‘boy’ was over 6 feet tall with the shoulders and arms of a boxer and the Stackhouse complexion. Tanned, blond hair, blue eyes.
Alcide joked with him. “Your mom won’t let you drive?”
Hunter smiled and Sookie gave Alc a thud on the chest. “Of course not. Neither will the STATE. He’s 14!” There wasn’t anything to say to that. We just stood there, mouths agape, eyes the size of softballs, staring.
Sookie started to giggle. “You think he’s big, you should have met his dad. He was bigger than both of you. My little Hunter is gonna be a monster.”
He snorted. “No ‘monsters’ in this family. Only gods.”
Sookie laughed at him and swatted his leg. “Alright ZEUS… Go work on your homework while I see to the kitchen.”
“I don’t have any.” He smirked at her and I saw little spark of Jason in him.
She folded her arms across her chest. “Excuse me? Would you like to revise that statement?”
He started to chuckle and I swear this kid’s voice was deeper than mine. “Maybe. What do you know?”
“I know that you’re the only blank in my grade book for your Constitutional theology project, due Friday. I know that Cogliandro is still waiting for your captioning project. I know that Marcus’s due date for the Tennessee Williams analysis is due on Wednesday. And I know that Quinn was bragging on you for being shit hot in practice today and that 2 of your little gigglers nearly clawed each other’s eyes out in the locker room after 5th period OVER YOU. If you have time for football and groupies, your ass has time for homework.”
Alc and I both started laughing and in a blink, she hit all three of us on the arm. “Boy, go hit the damn books before I start the rumor that you’re mom still tucks you in.”
His eyes went wide. “You suck.” He tossed himself down on the couch and yanked a laptop out of his backpack.
Alcide and I followed Sookie into the kitchen and sat down while she handed out beer. She sat in the chair next to me and put her feet in my lap and started nursing her beer. I was too happy to just be in the same room with her. I rested my hand on her thigh and let Alcide ruin the quiet.
“Has school gotten harder since I got done? Those didn’t sound like freshman classes.”
“Because they aren’t. He’s a junior; 2 years ahead, but taking a few college prep classes. No one knows he’s only 14 though. Shhh.”
“Your whole fucking family?”
She shrugged. “It’s in the genes, I guess.”
“Not in those jeans, nothing else would fit. I can’t believe you’d wear that around a bunch of horny teenagers.”
My eyes followed her lines from her ankles to her waist. No complaints here. Mmmm. None.
She laughed at him. “Thanks for the fashion advice. I wore a blouse over it butthead… Did you get colors from the wife yet?”
“Nope. I haven’t heard from her since this morning. I am gonna fly down though. Thanks for that tidbit. When she calls to give me my evening berating, I’ll ask again.”
We sat quietly for a minute. Doing nothing but… well, nothing. I wasn’t even thinking until Sookie’s phone started vibrating. Again and again.
She pulled it out and I watched her squint, scowl, bite her top lip. Then she yelled. “You jerk off! Everyone knows you’re a god damn Doogie Houser! Why play this game?”
I heard Hunter laughing from the living room. I looked over to be nosey. “What did he do?”
“He just emailed me and the rest of his teachers the whole semester’s worth of projects and papers.”
He walked into the room with a big shit eating grin on his face. “Just because I’m an uber freak doesn’t mean I have to look like a brownie hound and turn everything in early. Give me a beer.”
She raised her eyebrow at him and went to the fridge. I watched her reach in and pull one out. I couldn’t believe she was about to give a 14 year old a beer, never mind the way he ‘asked’… until she shook it like mad and tossed it to him. “Knock yourself out, sport.”
He caught it without effort and scowled. “It doesn’t look like you’re cooking anything.” He might as well have said ‘where’s my supper, bitch?’ with the tone he used.
It made me feel better when she started giggling at him. “If you keep it up, it doesn’t look like you’re going to make it to 15. Dinner is ready as soon as I feel like taking it out of the oven. I was waiting for your Mom. Be nice and I’ll put a word in with Taryn for you.”
He smiled at her and sat down. “How nice?”
“We’ll work a sliding scale. It all depends on how valuable you want that talk to be.”
Sookie’s eyes lit up. “Oh, then you are gonna be my bitch, Pea Pie.”
“Stop calling me that.” He actually blushed a little.
Alcide joined the conversation with a chuckle. “You’ve got the hots for my babysitter?”
“She watches your kids?”
Alcide smiled at him. “Yeah. She did the other night when we went out. My boys loved her. I need to call her since Ame won’t be here for a while.”
Sookie smiled at him. “No worries. I gotcha covered. I thought about it when Eric texted earlier. I’ll be your gal Friday for everyday stuff if you want, I can take them to school in the morning with me and I’ll be here if y’all get called. Jason’s bringing an extra mattress over to slide under your bed during the day so that you don’t need to fuss with the air mattress every night…” Sookie and Hunter were distracted by the sound of a motorcycle in her driveway.
Hunter looked aggravated. “What the fuck is Quinn doing here?”
“He’s bringing the enrollment packets for Alcide’s kids. And never you mind who comes to see me at my house, squirt. I have plenty of people keeping after me.”
Hunter glared at her and reshook the beer that Sookie had tossed him, with an evil smirk. He set it down on the corner of the table.
Sookie got up to go answer the door and Hunter’s eyes never left hers. She stopped behind me and gave my shoulders a squeeze. Oh God, it felt good… I looked up at her hoping she’d explain why he was being so testy.
“One of the exes I mentioned… It makes Hunter twitch that his coach and I have history.” I guess that was completely rational, as long as you’re 14 years old. I smiled at her and she kissed me just as the knock landed on the front door.
I got up to get the grownups a fresh beer and grab a soda for Hunter. I was eavesdropping again, and heard nothing until Sookie’s heels were on their way back to me.
He came into the room with an annoying bluster. “Savoy! Why are you drinking soda? You know that sugar isn’t good for you.”
Hunter didn’t look back at him, he just took a sip. “Because Eric thinks I’m too young for beer.” He twitched his eyebrow at me.
“Damn right you are.” He swiped the beer from the corner of the table and twisted the top of, spraying himself with head and making everyone in the room roll.
“You shit! I should bench you for that.”
“But you won’t.”
“Because I’m the best QB you have and you know damn good and well that without me, you’ve got a fat kid’s chance in a foot race of getting to state. Greedy asshole.” Oh my god! This kid has brass ones. My father and coach would have taken turns drilling my ass into the ground for that.
“You’re attitude is reason enough to lose.”
“Whatever. That shite might work for the dullard tools on the defensive line, but I already have my ride lined up without sports, sugar. Throw me off the team if I’m so unmanageable. Otherwise, shut your pie hole and be thankful that I fake a modicum of respect for you on the field. You’re on my time now, Johnny.” Still not looking at him and the way he said Quinn’s name was just shitty.
Sookie swatted him across the back of his head. “I told you to be nice.”
“Excuse me, exception.” He turned in his chair to face her. His look was completely serious. “When we made our arrangement, there were only three parties in the vicinity. I had a reasonable expectation of a limited spectrum of the contract. Furthermore, since Quinn wasn’t named specifically and I had no prior knowledge of his impending arrival, it would be reasonable for you to assume that I would continue with him as ever since he’s fucked my cousin and hit on my mother.” The only adolescent thing about Hunter seemed to be his emotional range. He had the body and mind of an adult.
Sookie was standing between Quinn and Hunter and her face was painfully contorted to stifle her laughter, making it harder on Alcide, Hunter and me to not bust out laughing again.
I tried the diversion, holding my hand out and introducing myself, Alcide followed suit. It helped Sookie calm down enough to offer Quinn a dish towel to clean himself up. She popped Hunter’s shoulder and motioned for him to leave the room. “Your poon line has been going off like mad. Go call them back.”
He smiled and kissed her cheek on the way out of the room. Sookie apologized to Quinn for Hunter’s mood and offered him a seat. I was finally settled down enough to give him a once over. He was built like Alcide. About 6’3” and broad chested, just not as defined as my partner. Surely because Quinn didn’t spend 10 hours on free weights every week like he does. Alc easily has 40 pounds on him. Quinn’s dark hair was practically shaved and his eyes were a weird color, like blue and brown together. Purple mud. His khaki pleated pants and white dress shirt were now speckled with dark stout and he was having what could only be described as a hissy fit trying to erase the stains.
He took a seat and grumbled. “I don’t know how you deal with that little prick. He needs a man around to beat his ass for talking to people like that.”
Sookie handed him a beer that hadn’t been shaken. “Thanks for the tip Quinn. When I talk to his father, I’ll let him know you think that his talented, handsome, free spirited, hyper-intellectual son isn’t quite up to your standards because he isn’t knocked around enough. I guess Remy should have thought about that before he decided to vacation in Baghdad!”
“Shit! Sookie, I didn’t mean that and you know it.”
“Then don’t talk shit. That having been said, how ya doin?”
He started to shake his head and laugh. “I’ve been just great you crazy bitch. How’ve you been… since lunch?”
“I’ve been keeping myself busy. You get the verdict?”
“Yeah. You got the nod.”
She smiled and reached behind her and handed me a manila folder. I opened it and it was a list of all 8 of the female students in Bon Temps schools with a December 2nd birthday. I leaned over and kissed her, passing the folder to Alcide. He smiled wide and held his hand out for a slap.
Quinn gave her a dirty look. “You already printed it? You were going to do it anyway.”
Sookie shrugged. “I printed it just in case. It wouldn’t have been your fault if Eric came across it trying to help me find the water bill.”
“Do you respect any rules? You’re gonna end up with a reputation.”
“Whatever that means… Like I didn’t already have one.”
I started laughing. “You mean you don’t USUALLY wear red lingerie as a Halloween costume, entertain 3 counties on stage and dance with strippers?”
She pinched my leg under the table and Alc grumbled at me. “You know, I was behaving. I’d gone all day without thinking about that!”
The look on Quinn’s face was getting better by the second. I flipped a bottle cap at Alcide. “That’s because you’ve been having food-gasms all fucking day!”
She started giggling. “It’s nice to be appreciated… What do you want for breakfast big guy?”
The poor bastard was too excited to be asked and I immediately felt sorry for him. “I don’t know… I’ll have to be out of the house by 5, so don’t worry about it. Rain check?”
“Fine, but I’ll come up with something. You’ll need your strength.” She hissed at him, putting her hands up like claws and he started laughing, hard. “Ok, down to business. Where are the packets?”
As it turned out, Sookie had Quinn come over so that Alcide could fill out the enrollment forms as best he could and have Quinn request the boys’ records from the other school so that they could start as early as Wednesday. Slight differences in registration requirements from one county to another can be a bit of a pain when you aren’t on good terms with the principle. Quinn waived the need for a new school physical for Jack and lead test and made sure there was room in the pre-K class for Carm which technically had a waiting list.
As they were doing the paperwork, Hunter came back into the room and started rooting around in the cabinets for a snack. Sookie griped at him about ruining his appetite. He went over and pulled her chair away from the table a couple of feet and sat on her lap.
He put his arm over her shoulder and snuggled his head down on hers. “Please Sookie. Please. Please. Please. I’m staaaarving.” It looked completely ridiculous.
She laughed at him and hit his ribs a few times before giving up and tickling him. He bounced out of her lap like a shot.
“You don’t play fair.”
I knew the feeling… I reached behind me and into the fridge. I whistled at him as he pouted his way out of the room and tossed him one of the left over sandwiches from lunch. I barely saw him thank me with a nod before he dashed out of the room like Sookie would take it back from him.
She took a sharp breath to start her complaint.
I put my hand up. “Ah ah. Hush.”
I saw her tongue playing in her cheek behind an ‘oh no you didn’t’ grin. “You…”
I cut her off again. “Is there something nutritionally unbalanced about the sandwiches that you fed us for lunch?”
“Do you know how many calories it takes to maintain that much muscle?”
“So what’s wrong with him eating a small sandwich as an appetizer?… Part of his dinner?”
She was biting the inside of her lip. “Nothing.”
I gave her a shit eating grin and she scowled at me. “Don’t give me that look. I know you’re not really mad at me.”
She locked her eyes on mine. At first I thought we were having a stare down, but quickly recognized the look. She’d given me the same look before and I thought I had done something wrong and couldn’t have been further from the mark. Oh. God. Help. Me. She cleared her throat and raised an eyebrow at me before breaking her gaze. “Yes sir.”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Quinn and Alcide’s jaws drop. Quinn’s adam’s apple bounced a couple times before he managed to make any sound. “What the fuck was that?! I told you to hush once and you almost broke my fucking nose!”
Sookie’s eyebrow spiked up. She leaned back and crossed her legs, then her arms in her lap. Her posture was her refusal to answer.
Before Quinn had the chance to become argumentative, there was a knock on the door. None of us bothered to get up because we could hear all 220 pounds of Hunter thundering to the front door.
“Hey there, moose. What’s your momma up to tonight?” They appeared in the kitchen, smiling arms across each other’s shoulders.
“Hot date with inventory fuck ups.”
Jason’s smile melted away and turned his attention to Quinn. “Ain’t this cozy!?”
I almost missed that Quinn had tensed up. I put my hand out and Jason shook it again. Every time was less and less formal. The same for Alcide.
I watched Quinn’s eyes getting shifty as he registered that Hunter and Jason were both looming over him. He quickly made his excuse to leave and everyone smiled as the door closed behind him.
“That was good timing, brother. He had just spent the last of his usefulness.”
“A-Call the news that he was useful AT ALL. B- Timing, my ass! I had an inside man.” He slammed his fist into Hunter’s. “Now, scoot.”
Sookie smiled at him as she moved to sit in my lap to free the seat for Hunter. I hugged my arms around her waist.
Jason quickly gave us all a once over. “Why are y’all so damn quiet?”
Sookie shifted on my lap slightly, just enough to look like she was getting comfortable instead of that she was reminding me of where her ass was in relation to my dick.
“Not quiet, Jas. Just being mellow. We all had a long day.”
“Ok then, we need to talk…”
“Uh, Oh. What about?”
He took a deep breath and huffed it away solemnly. “Better by far you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad.” Jason faked a tragic face and pouted his lip out and Hunter and I started laughing right away, with Alcide close behind.
“Rossetti?! You’re going to quote an English poet to mask your whining that you didn’t get a burrito this morning?!”
He smiled at her, ear to ear. “Yup. What’s for dinner?”
“You pussy… Why not Beth’s line from Little Women about being forgotten? I’m sorry. I over slept this morning. And I made the ‘Monday Night’ for dinner.”
Jason and Hunter high 5ed each other as Sookie got up to start dishing out piping hot chili. The ‘Monday Night’ turned out to be the traditional Stackhouse family Monday Night Football gathering dinner. Chili, pulled pork sandwiches, honey BBQ wings, corn bread and cole slaw. Every bit of it was homemade and it smelled amazing. Jason jumped into action and grabbed a case of beer from the back porch and an armload of condiments from the fridge to take it to the living room and he sent Hunter and Alcide to get the ‘grown up tv’ from our room.
I got up and went over to wrap my arms around Sookie. She tilted her head up and kissed me. “I’m sorry. I figured we could watch the game. I didn’t realize it was going to become a party.”
I smiled even though she couldn’t see it. How many guys have a fiancé who accidentally has a Monday Night football party? “It’s fine. I wanted to turn my brain off tonight anyway. What better way to do it than to eat ‘man food’ and watch a football game with a beer and beautiful woman.”
“In bed early?”
I bent over and kissed her neck. “Definitely… Hunter seems like a fun kid.”
“He really is. All that ‘Bender’s Dad’ stuff is a family joke. He’s been ‘man of the house’ since he was Jack’s age.” I chuckled at the Breakfast Club reference. When I replayed Bender’s rant to myself, I remembered ‘Bitch, make me a turkey pot pie’. I get it now.
“His father’s vacation…?”
“Permanent. RPG hit his Humvee.” Fuck. There wasn’t much to say on the matter, especially since Sookie seemed gloomy just mentioning it. I kissed the top of her head and gave her a squeeze.
“Why’d you call Hunter ‘pea pie’?” Attempting to change the subject.
It worked… she giggled as she cut into the cornbread. “He started talking early, but we were the only ones who could understand him. His favorite thing to do as a baby was play peek-a-boo and once he could move around he would try to sneak up on people and he’d say ‘pea pie’ instead of peek-a-boo. It was adorable and now the little jerk is getting too grown up.”
“We were all adorable once. Even Alcide.”
She giggled. “He’s still adorable. Someone just left that dog out on a chain too long.”
Speaking of the devil… Alc walked into the kitchen holding his phone with a puzzled look on his face.
I snorted at him and backed away from Sookie, not wanting to rub his nose in the possible misery Amelia might have just fed him. “What are you guilty of now?”
“Uh… She called to tell me that the boys are all packed and that she is going to leave the paint up to me. She put the boys on to tell me good night and they are all kinds of excited to get here tomorrow. She sounded like… like she was… in a good mood.”
That would explain why he was so confused. Sookie clenched her jaw and looked uncomfortable in general. That confused ME. “So what colors are you thinking?”
“I think she’s setting me up. Every room in the other house is a different color. Red kitchen, yellow dining room, blue living room. She calls the bedroom eggplant… I’ll fuck it all up.”
“You’ll do fine.”
“You’ll help though, right?”
She smiled at him, but there was something ‘off’ about her grin. “Sure… You and Jas should go get that mattress out of the truck before it dews.”
He smiled at her and took off and as soon as he was around the corner, I took her by the hand and tugged her to the back porch.
“Ok, I know you weren’t lying about helping him chose paint colors, so what’s going on?”
She backed up and boosted herself onto the dryer, waving me over. “It doesn’t matter what colors he picks…”
“He already knows that. We’ll be helping them paint again in a couple of weeks.”
She shook her head and grabbed a handful of my shirt. A tell that she was worried about something, so it seems. “It doesn’t matter because I don’t think she’s moving.”
“Why would you think that?”
“Because no woman who would meticulously chose a color pallet for one house would leave those choices up to someone else for their next house, especially not a man she doesn’t trust. I think she’s walking away.”
“But that’s a good thing right? She hates him.”
“Even if I’m right… there are too many variables to throw a party just yet.”
“Is she letting the kids ‘visit’ with Alc before she takes them? Is she going to use Carm as a bargaining chip? Is she going to walk away from the boys or just her husband? And just because he said out loud that he wants to end it doesn’t mean that Alcide is ready for this.”
“We talked today. He said that he wasn’t sure he’d have the stones to leave her. Maybe this needs to happen.”
“I think it does, but he’s going to be in pieces if she keeps them from him OR he’s going to need a lot of help if she dumps all three of them.”
“Either way, he has us.”
“I’m feeling really guilty right now. I’m really worried that I might have caused all of this by butting in. If she takes off with those kids, I’ll…”
I put my arms around her and shushed her. “We’ll find out soon enough. There’s no sense in agonizing over what ifs. All we can do is wait. Besides, Lafayette will fuck her up in court.”
She laughed into my neck. Good. Mission accomplished. “Do you think we should tell him?”
“No. On the off chance that you’re wrong, we’d scare the shit out of him and ruin his excitement over getting the boys. This seems eventual. I’ll take the heat for not telling him if he’s angry. We’ve had a lot of what if conversations out of boredom.”
“Would you want to know if something life changing was on your front step.”
“Only if it was big enough that I needed to tie up loose ends.”
She giggled at me. “I guess you’re too practical to have a bucket list either.”
“It’s not that I’m too practical. I just don’t want for much. Not anymore. Do you have one?”
She smiled, broad and bright. “Not really. I travel a lot, and have a great life and the money to do whatever I want. Now that you’ve come along, I’m all set.”
I smiled. I couldn’t help it. She’d just confirmed that finding each other seemed to be what we’d both been waiting for. I leaned into her and kissed her. Her hands went to the back of my neck and lips parted, her tongue tickling my lip. I forgot the cold air and the house full of people and their complicated lives. That kiss swallowed us in a vacuum. Long. Emotional. Hungry. Then… interrupted.
“Well, shit! I was hoping to catch ya fighting, not making up!”
We pried ourselves apart and looked at Jason with matched confusion. “Why would we be fighting?”
“Alc said that you told her to shut up.”
I chuckled. “Yeah. That’s what Quinn heard too, apparently. I didn’t tell her to ‘shut up’.”
“You been with Sookie long enough to propose, and you ain’t told her to shut up yet?” He looked like I might as well have told him I was a black dwarf.
“What’d she do to ya?”
I smiled at her. “She shut up.” Sookie started laughing at the shocked expression on her brother’s face.
He chuckled and shook his head. “Well… y’all need to stop sucking face. Mike brought a file and dropped it off, Had’s itching to meet you and…” He started chuckling. “Mom and Daddy just got here too.”
My sides were sore from laughing when we made our way through the house.
My laughing attack flared again when Jason hugged Corbett and then ‘Mom’. I think Jason and Alcide had shared the joke ahead of time because a moment or two later everyone’s cell phones started going off. Alc had snapped a picture of the look on her face and sent it out. I saved it so that I would see it EVERY time she called me.
Pam decided to retaliate. She came after me, I assume, because I was the first to call her ‘mom’, therefore the ringleader. “So, Eric, how was the Bon Voyage Bash? Was the stripper entertaining?”
Her eyes went to Sookie, looking for her reaction, but Sookie was too busy chuckling at how ‘funny’ she is. I gave Pam my best shit eating grin. “The stripper was great. She turned out to be a friend of Sookie’s.”
Pam’s eyes narrowed. “Know a lot of strippers, do you?”
Sookie started laughing. “A few, but I just so happened to date that one.”
Corbett laughed at Pam’s fallen chin… “How is Frannie?”
“She’s great. She told me to say hi to everyone and that she still owes you one for Cancun.” The ‘debt’ in question sounded more like revenge than goodwill.
He chuckled. “I told her we’re even after St. John.” Pam was doing a piss poor job of hiding how lost she was.
“We’ll see. I hadn’t talked to her in a couple of months because of the phone thing, but she negotiated spring break into her contract.”
“That’s my girl! So she’s in for St. Marten?”
“She’s more than ‘in’! She bought her ticket the week we got back.”
I had questions-a-plenty about the list of fuck-awesome vacation spots, but the conversation was interrupted, for me anyway, when the bathroom door at the end of the hall opened. I had to do a double take. I knew, KNEW Sookie was standing beside me. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that I was looking at Sookie’s twin. The light in the hallway was off, but the similarities were there. Her hair was bright blond and just past her shoulders. Even in the dim light, I could see her eyes were light blue. She was wearing a snug, black v-neck sweater with jeans tucked into her boots. I looked at Sookie, then to the doppelganger coming down the hall and back again. She made eye contact with Sookie and smiled and the SMILE was even the same! How the fuck…?
At point blank range, there were subtle differences. Like with twins, they were very subtle. For starters, Hadley was a time machine, showing me what I’d wake up to in 5-10 years. I was not disappointed. At all. Hadley’s eyes were slightly grayer, her hips: not as round and she is an inch or two taller.
I said nothing as Sookie introduced me and Alcide to her cousin and they giggled identically when they caught us looking back and forth. They waited for one of us to say something. I was at a loss.
Alcide started laughing. “You sure you’re just cousins?”
Hadley snorted. “It’s complicated. My mother is Uncle Corbett’s sister…”
Sookie finished. “…Her father is Sheila’s brother.”
Then they spoke in unison. “Double cousins.”
Hadley continued and I was starting to get dizzy. “We have the same grandparents… without any in breeding. I swear!”
Then Sookie. “Genetically, we register as sisters. I don’t see it. It’s just because we’re dressed alike.”
Alcide started shaking his head. “Bullshit! You two even have the same voice. I need a beer.” He slapped my shoulder. “You shouldn’t drink. That hilarious bitch right there WILL have too much fun with this if you get tanked.” He laughed his way into the kitchen shaking his head.
Sookie started laughing. This laugh came with her wicked smirk, but the maniacal nature of it was ominous.
Her eyebrows bounced with her shrug. Then she walked into the kitchen with her arms folded across her chest. Hadley followed her and winked at me on her way by. Oh. Shit.
The buffet line in the kitchen moved at a snail’s pace, thanks to the ‘one plate rule’. Fill a plate, but no one gets seconds until everyone has had their firsts. I watched Jason, Alcide and Hunter stack food on their plate like a Jenga game and listened to the double mint twins. I had to take my eyes off of the ‘stack masters’ just to be able to tell who was saying what. Alc had been right about their voices.
They’d been talking about ‘the store’ which I’d have to ask about later.
“I got two very special trucks in today.” Hadley even crooned like Sookie.
“Oh yeah? What was so special about them?”
“Your tiles and glass from Claudine were on one and your sofas on the other.”
“No Shit!… Eric…”
“Yes ma’am?” My interest peaked…
“I mentioned the remod, right?”
“You mentioned some things.” Not a lie… Bigger hot water heater, desks.
She smirked, set my plate on the table and took my hand. “We’ve been so busy…” She dragged me down the hall to our room and shut the door. “With all the shit going on, I forgot.”
I was having a hard time not laughing at the look on her face. “You’re worried that new furniture will bust our secret?”
“No…“ She took a deep breath and started pacing. “Ok… This is me, this room, the music room. I bought what I needed when I moved in and just left the rest. The guest rooms and the living room stuff is Gran’s stuff. I’ve been busy with back and forth to New Orleans to meet with my publisher and vacations and the club… You’ve gotten a taste of how busy I am… This summer I finally got around to fixing the place up a little bit at a time. The kitchen, new floors, getting the porches redone so that no one would fall through, then the windows. So a couple weeks ago I went in and planned out phase 4. New paint and furniture for the living room and a whole new addition downstairs.”
“Ok… What kind of addition? Like a den?” I had to look confused; I was trying to figure out what the panic was over.
“Another bedroom so I can have the music room down here and an upgrade to our bath then fixing up the hall bath and extending the rooms upstairs. It’s just that… You said that you like our room the way it is and I planned all these changes to the house when it was mine and now it’s ours and… you’ve turned your life upside down to move in and on top of it all, I forgot to tell you. I’m sorry.”
I took her hand to stop her pacing. I was still a little queasy from the high fidelity split screen conversation between her and Hadley. “Settle down. What do I have to look forward to?”
“You’re ok with all this?”
“Why wouldn’t I be? What kind of sofas?”
“Dark blue suede. They’re really comfy even though they have sleepers. Once the game starts, you’ll see Gran’s stuff won’t hold up to many more game nights.” She seemed like she was calming down.
“And what are the plans for the bathroom?”
“Hadley is calling it a ‘brat-room’. A whirlpool tub and a big stained glass window. Separate shower. New cabinets, counter and sink. And a huge closet so that I don’t have to waste a weekend doing the summer/winter change over.”
I smiled at her. “The bigger closet will come in handy now… Is the tub big enough for two?”
She grinned back at me. “It’s big enough to do laps.”
I instantly had a mental slideshow of the fun we could have. Even if I had been bothered by the idea of remodeling, I would have been sold. “And the tile?”
Her smile got wider. “It was all Hadley’s idea. The floor is going to be sand mixed with cement and then sealed. The tiles are for the walls they’re little iridescent mosaic tiles in shades of blue and they’re going to go most of the way up the wall and it’s going to look like the beach.” I love the beach. One of the pros on my list concerning the New Orleans assignment was how close I’d be to the water. Surfing.
“I can’t wait to see it… So Hadley is an… interior designer?”
“But you two were talking shop about a store?”
Her face contorted until she looked like a Picasso. She looked scared, anxious… “Something else, I forgot to mention. You must be getting sick of this shit. Uh… Last year Bill’s father took a turn for the worse, ALS. I told you that he’d never made any secrets about how he felt about Bill. Well, his lawyers told him that Bill could be a prick and tie things up if Tom tried to leave me anything. So I got called in to meet with his lawyers and was told to bring mine without an explanation. So there I was, with Lafayette, trying to figure out what kind of bullshit BILL was trying to pull now and we walked into the office and there was Tom at the head of the conference table, in his wheelchair, he couldn’t even talk. So his lawyer told me ‘Mr. Compton would appreciate it if you would find it in your heart to hug a useless old fart.’ Of course, I did. Gave him the usual kiss too and when I stood up, his lawyer handed me a check for ‘services rendered’ then started to explain. By the end of the meeting, Tom sold me his estate for one dollar with a sweet little crooked smile. It included the small chain of furniture stores that had been in his family since the 1840’s. He knew that Bill would liquidate all the businesses and put a lot of folks out of work, so Hadley runs the Minden store and her Interior design business out of it. It was a nightmare having them re-filed with the IRS as nonprofit, but half goes to the ALS foundation the other half to Habitat for Humanity.”
“Holy shit, Sookie.” That’s all I had. Nothing clever or charming to say. Since her books were on the best seller list for kids, I figured that she had a nest egg, not a fucking estate.
“I know, I know. I’m sorry. I have a lot of skeletons, I guess.”
“It’s not skeletons… It’s just… daunting.”
“Are you freaked out that I’m loaded or that shit keeps popping up?” I didn’t know how to answer that without sounding like a complete shithead. Then it hit me…
I took a deep breath, realizing that it didn’t change anything. “Neither.”
“Nope. Over it. There was no way for either of us to tell our whole life story to each other in such a short time and there wouldn’t be any fun in that anyway. The money thing is a surprise but it doesn’t change anything.”
She looked skeptical. “You really can flip out if you want to. I’ll understand.”
I smiled at her. “I know you would… One of my psych profs preached that the three biggest problems a couple faces are in-laws, money and sex… Your family is great, mine is far enough away that it doesn’t matter and we don’t have to worry about money.”
“What about sex?”
“SOOKIE! Not now, we have company!”
She slapped my shoulder when she laughed and leaned into my chest. I put my arms around her and gave her a squeeze and for the second time in an hour, I’d managed to calm her down.
So help me god, we’d only been in the room for 10 minutes when there was a knock on the door. Hunter had been the sacrificial lamb for the mob of gluttonous eating machines. He’d been sent to give us ‘fair warning’ of their intent to break the one plate rule.
Sookie looked at me and snickered. “Lord of the Flies… I guess we’d better get out there before they start fighting over the conch and chanting ‘get the pig’.”
Sookie and I made our plates under duress. It was bad enough that she banished the trio of dietary black holes to the foyer until we were done. Laughingly, of course. This gathering seemed to be a pretty normal occurrence so the idea of what Thanksgiving would be like with these people was a little crazy.
There was seating for 6 in the newly rearranged living room. Sookie and I being the last to join the group, we took a spot on the floor next to the coffee table and ate. I went into ‘fly on a wall’ mode while I ate. The longer of the couches was occupied by Hunter and Alcide on the ends with a Jason splinter. He was the foothills between two mountains. Hadley sat in the arm chair while Corbett and Pam pretended to be comfortable at opposite ends of the loveseat. They seemed to prefer the idea of snuggling in the middle. It was funny to see a man in his early 50s, 6 feet tall and 35 years hard worked muscle, flirting.
I eavesdropped while Sookie and Hadley decided that the living room could be done tomorrow and the rest would need to wait until next week because of Smom and Dad’s visit being too soon to finish the project. Mentioning the visit gave Jason the chance to start planning a Stackhouse Party. Saturday for lunch. Corbett and Jason started planning out a menu that sounded more like a restaurant’s menu and then volunteered Sookie to make the desserts for ‘the whole fam damily’. I chose to ignore the suggestion that my parents might enjoy Dirges. At this point, God only knows what my father would like to do. Smom of course, would go with the flow as ever.
As Hank Williams, Jr. sang All my rowdy friends are coming over tonight… Sookie took our empty plates into the kitchen and came back with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a stack of shot glasses. She explained the game was like a cross between a football pool and a drinking game. There was a $20 buy in to pick your team and final score and every time your team fumbles, throws an incomplete pass or gets flagged you drink a shot. Passing out was a forfeit. We were pretty split. Hadley and Pam decided not to play so that they could drive home. Corbett, Jason and I went with the Falcons. Sookie, Hunter and Alcide picked Dallas.
The first half of the game was a complete train wreck. Neither team deserved to be televised. The Falcons earned me 5 shots in the first half and Dallas served 7. I was glad I was only going to lose $20.
At half time, Corbett called out “HALF TIME DISHES!” Jason, Sookie and Corbett all but staggered into the kitchen. I heard something break and then hysterical laughter. A second later Sookie’s boot was tossed into the foyer, then the other, followed by more laughing. One of them was pants pissing rolling. Another was hissing. I wanted to get up and go make sure Sookie was ok, but I figured that if something was wrong they wouldn’t all be laughing like hyenas. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we all hadn’t been drinking before the game started.
I was just ‘off’ enough to not notice my phone ringing. Alcide had to kick me.
Shit. It was my father.
“Hey dad! How ya doin’?”
“Are you drunk?” I didn’t realize that I sounded so bad off.
“Getting there. We’re watching the game and…”
“You’re watching football at a bar when you’ve got a pretty girl at home? Boy, what’s wrong with you?”
I started laughing. “Dad, it’s fine. I AM at home. Sookie’s dad, brother, cousins… they do a thing for football on Mondays. She made chili and wings…”
“Well, I guess that’s why your sister keeps calling her perfect like it’s a problem.”
“And everybody else. Alc keeps punching me.”
He actually laughed. “Well, I needed to talk to you about our visit. We can come into Barksdale on a MAC flight on Friday but the soonest return is Tuesday morning.”
I wish I’d have thought to move the phone before I yelled for her. “Sookie!”
She yelled from the kitchen. “ERIC!”
“My dad’s on the phone!”
She came into the room giggling, but steady. “They’re still coming right?”
I smiled at her. “Dad wants to know if we mind them staying on until Tuesday.”
“That’s cool. I’ll tell Quinn to get a sub for Monday too. Let them know we’re a family of five.” She plopped down on the arm of the couch and leaned against Alcide to hold herself up.
I started laughing. “Dad? Did you get that?”
“I got it. Who are the other 3? We don’t want to impose.”
“You’re not imposing. The other three are Alcide and his boys. They’re hanging their hats here until the new house is ready.”
“If you’re sure… Deb’s been packed since this morning. She can’t wait to see you.” Typical dad. Passing the emotional buck off to Smom. Why he couldn’t say he was looking forward to a visit was beyond me.
“We’re excited too. Her family is planning a meet and greet for y’all on Saturday and everything.”
“That sounds nice. So they’re friendlys?”
“You can’t get more friendly than this family. They’re really fun.”
“It’s nice to hear you like this… You sound happy. Half lit, but happy.”
“Beause I am. Really.” Both of them…
The line was quiet for a minute. “I was starting to think… Nevermind.”
“I just thought you were going to stay locked in that head of yours forever.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I know I sounded defensive.
“Nothing. I know it’s my fault, but the only person you ever got attached to was Deb. I guess it was because you knew she wasn’t gonna go anywhere.”
Choke. Did… my… father just… yes he did. My father just said something… perceptive? There were too many gawkers. I didn’t want to rip off an emotional band aid in public and say that moving every four years kind of taught me to not get attached. To people or things. I can’t remember the number of times I had to go shopping for new clothes because my stuff had been lost in a move.
He snapped out of whatever profound chasm he tripped over quickly. “Shit, kid. I’m sorry. Retirement’s killing me. Deb’s had me watching every psych and crime drama on TV since you started college. Now that there’s no duty days or underways, I can’t get away from them. I’ll leave being astute up to you.”
Shocked. This was the deepest fucking talk I’ve ever had with the man. “It’s ok. Thanks Dad.”
“We’ll call when we land. Love you.”
“Yeah. Love you too.”
Ok. Now it was my turn to stare at my phone like it was alien to me. What. The. Fuck.
Sookie came over and squatted over my legs. “You’re sexy and all, but confused is not your color. What’s up?”
“He must be dying.”
“He must have found out that he’s dying. He was… nice.”
“A horrible man could NOT have raised you.” She smiled and kissed the tip of my nose.
“Funny. I could have sworn it was you complaining about being forced to play all those sports. Did Smom sign you up?”
“No he did.”
She bit her bottom lip and hummed thoughtfully. “So he missed a lot of games, huh.”
“Only the ones he was underway for.”
She leaned in and whispered in my ear. “Maybe you two assholes should actually talk to each other while he’s visiting instead of waiting for a lightning bolt to fix 18 years of nothing in common followed by 8 years of being too stubborn to admit being wrong about each other.”
When she leaned back, her eyebrows were raised knowingly. “Shut up.”
She smiled at me and stood, fading towards the kitchen.
It took me half a moment to realize how right she is. I yelled after her. “You’re a bitch! You know that, right Corky?!”
“Yes sir, I do. I love you too!”
Fully aware that I was not fit to contemplate my relationship with my father, I zoned out to commercials and replays of all the shit the Falcons had fucked up to get me to the state I was in until halftime was over. I heard Jason make his presence known by stumbling over Alcide’s feet and calling him Colossus. Then Corbett came back in and sat next to Pam who seemed tragically bored. Then Sookie came back and quietly laid on the floor, using my leg as a pillow. I rested my hand on her hip and grinned down at the back of her head, hoping that the Falcons did better in the second half because if I had much more to drink, I wouldn’t be able to get her to bed. We’d both be flooring it. I looked her over again.
I’m glad I did. ‘Sookie’ was wearing boots. The jeans were snug, but not painted on. It was a nice try though. I waited, figuring there’d be more to the ‘get Eric plot’.
It only took a few more minutes for the Falcons to get flagged again. Suddenly, I was staring down ‘Hadley’s’ sweater/cleavage with a shot glass stuffed in between. I pulled the sweater down and grabbed the shot glass in my mouth, tilt, swallow and then grabbed ‘Hadley’ by her hair and shoved her mouth to mine for a long, hard, tonguey kiss that she moaned into. I heard Alcide laughing behind me, then Hadley sat up and Hunter and Jason both started oscillating between ‘whoa’ and ‘hey’. I let her up for air and she smiled at me and hit my shoulder.
“How’d you know?”
“You thought to switch shirts, but your boots got tossed. Give me some credit.”
She smiled and kissed me again. “I’ll get you eventually.”
“Probably, but not tonight.” I swatted her ass. “You’ve had your try. Go change.”
She grunted at me and strutted away. “Yes sir.”
Hadley smiled at me before she got up. “Not bad, new guy.”
Hadley disappeared down the hall to get back her sweater and I went back to watching the game. Sookie had earned two more drinks while she was gone. Eventually they came back. There wasn’t any mistaking them this time. Sookie came back in a pink tank top and shorts pajama set. She walked up and kicked my legs apart and settled back against my chest after taking her shots. I took two more, but by the time Dallas had another ‘oh shit’ Sookie was asleep.
I would have been perfectly happy to sit with her like that, on the floor between my legs and curled up against my chest, but the Falcons had other plans. Inside of 5 minutes they earned me 3 more shots. I figured there was no sense in both of us sleeping on the floor. I managed to get my feet under me one at a time while she was still leaning against me. I scooped her up and carried her to bed. She never flinched except to mumble ‘love you’ when I tucked her in and kissed her forehead.
I came back through the room, to go to the kitchen and Jason and Corbett were locked in a heated whispering debate that stopped when Jason saw me. I tried to ignore the look I was getting from both of them and went to grab a water. When I came back, they were doing it again. Then it stopped.
“You’re making me paranoid.”
Corbett slapped at Jason’s arm and told him to sit down and shut up. Pam had heard their conversation and gave me a pleasant smile, like she was letting me know it wasn’t something to worry myself with. I took advantage of the empty seat and raced Jason to his vacant spot. We’d matched each other drink for drink since we were both idiot enough to pick the same team. It was probably the ugliest race ever. I tripped over Alcide’s feet and Jason tripped over Hunter’s coming from the other direction and gravity helped me to win, putting Jason in my lap. Well, he was half on my lap, half on Hunter’s. He was laughing as he tried to wedge his ass in between us and I scooted over.
Alcide started laughing at me. “Eric, I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”
I started laughing and laid my head on his shoulder. “What would you do if I told you that I know where Sookie hid dessert?”
“I’ll be your bitch. What’d she make?”
Falcons fumble: another shot.
Cowboys got flagged making it happen: another shot.
“German chocolate cake.” Mmm, the coconut.
“What are you waiting for?”
I faked a sniff. “It hurts that you’re just using me…“ He started laughing. “It’s in the microwave.”
I nearly got whiplash when he jerked out of his seat as him and Hunter made a crazed dash for the kitchen. I scooted into his spot, Jason into Hunter’s.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “There really a cake in there?”
“Does it matter?” I turned and pulled my knee up onto the couch, leaning back.
He started laughing hysterically. He’d been the one I heard in the kitchen that sounded like he was gonna water his shoes. He gave me a high 5 and slapped my shoulder.
It sounded like there was a scuffle going on in the kitchen under the grumble of laughter coming from Hunter and Alc.
Hadley yelled at them on her way in to break it up. “Boys! If you break that cake plate, I’m going to beat someone’s ass! It was Gran’s and I’m not wearing my ‘hide a body’ shoes!” I laughed at how she even regulated like Sookie does.
When she disappeared into the kitchen, I heard two solid thuds and heavy footsteps scattering. Hunter ran into the room and leapt over the back of the couch to hide between Jason and me. And the second his ass hit the cushion we heard a loud crack as the old couch splintered apart and collapsed in the middle. In an instant, we were piled together on top of Hunter. Jason and I had bounced our heads off of each other as we fell to the middle. We were all three laughing too hard to feel anything. Corbett and Pam turned around and joined in. I’m sure we looked ludicrous. Hadley stood over us holding the cake and serving plates with a frustrated smile on her face.
“Daddy, can’t you make them behave?”
Falcons off sides: another shot.
“Sorry, angel. Boys will be boys. Besides, it was getting tossed in the morning anyway.” Mr. Silver Lining had our backs!
“I know that, but these four are like babysitting.”
Jason started laughing. “Welcome to Sookie’s world.”
Alcide put his hands out and hoisted Jason and I out of the dog pile at the same time. Then Hunter. Alcide and I took the couch and put it out in the yard and when we came back Jason and Hunter were on the floor at the coffee table with glasses of milk and SLABS of cake. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? Alcide and I shared a look and climbed down. The four of us sat around the table and chowed until Hadley started cackling.
“Daddy! Look! They’re reenacting Thanksgiving 1985!”
He turned and looked. He was laughing as he got up and went around the corner. I heard his boots go up a couple of steps. He came back with a framed picture and held it down and pointed everyone out. There were 4 kids on the floor around the same coffee table with glasses of milk and pumpkin pie and a slightly older girl curled up in the arm chair. “Hadley’s still there. Jason’s in his spot. Then Claudine, Sookie and Claude. Complete with the token Kerry.” He nudged Alc when he said ‘Kerry’.
I smiled at the picture, then him. “Token Kerry?”
“Kerry is Irish for black haired. I had a friend in school, like brothers really. His folks died and my Momma and Daddy took him in, so we were raised together all three of us. Me, Dermot and Linda, Had’s momma. Claude and Claudine are twins and being tall with blue eyes is the only thing they have in common. He’s muscular and kerry; she’s all skin and bones and blond. He’s graceful, got a mind for business, and friendly as can be. She’s klutzy, artsy and shy. It’s always funny to see them together.” And he ended up doing the same for Tara. The whole family takes in strays. Charity must be in their genes too.
I looked over the picture, now in my hand. The girls all dressed in pretty little holiday dresses, the boys in little suits with ties. Hadley and Sookie might as well be twins. Hadley was just an age progression of Sookie. For that matter, when they were younger, Jason and Sookie favored each other A LOT.
Dallas fumbles: Another Shot.
“Hey Jas, You were cute when you were little. What happened?”
He smiled at me and rubbed his nipples with pointed fingers. “Oh, you know you want to… get… with… this!” He arched his back and blew me a kiss. I started laughing. This family was fun before, but they were crazy cool with a few drinks in them! I swear, I felt like I was partying with friends like I did in college.
I kicked him under the table. “I have seen a lot of shit and THAT is going to haunt my dreams.”
He laughed and turned his attention back to the picture. “Notice how happy we all are?!” I looked back down at the picture and they were all grinning so wide that you could count teeth, even missing ones. “That was the year we all got chicken pox at the same time. We all cleared up just in time for Sheila and Hadley’s father to get it. The happiest Thanksgiving on record because we didn’t have to wait for the Dellahussays to get pissed and leave before we could have fun.”
I chuckled. “So the ‘Mary Sunshine’ thing runs on the Dellahussay side.”
Hadley chimed in. “You think Sheila’s bad, you should have met Howard. Cancer was too good for that asshole.”
Wow. I grabbed for something to say. “Maybe we should have a small wedding?” A joke. Sort of. That was on the long list of things to talk about if we ever had a moment alone.
Jason joked back. “Don’t worry about it. Kenya told me that she’d float us crowd control ammo for the wedding in case Sheila or Karen decide to show up. They’re the last two.”
“What about Bill?”
“See, I was thinking… I played ball with the butcher. I bet we could get him to start putting lead or arsenic or heroine in his groceries. Just to fuck with him. Sookie made us promise not to kill him.”
I knew he was mostly joking about drugging him. Ok, I hoped he was. But we’d been drinking enough that I had to let it slide. “Why’d she make you promise?”
“Because, she’s meaner than me. I just want to read his obit. I don’t care how it happens. She’s got two reasons. Says that after what he’s done to her, Laf and Lorena, he needs to live long enough to want to kill himself. He deserves to be alone. Pathetic. Destitute. She wants time to knock him off his high horse. Me? I hope he gets cancer of the cock and has to have a prickectomy.” It was the dumbest thing I ever heard of, but I couldn’t help myself. Alcide and I both lost it. My sides hurt again by the time I calmed down.
“So what happened with Lorena anyway?”
“That abortion he made her get, caused an infection and she didn’t notice it until she was septic. She can’t have kids. If that’s not bad enough, she always loved kids. Always wanted kids. She was in med school when it happened. She’s a pediatrician in Shreveport.” That would be the ‘price’ Sookie mentioned. I was waiting to hear one, ONE good thing about Bill.
I just shook my head. “What’s Sookie’s other reason for letting him live?”
“Karmic balance. For there to be amazing people in the world there HAS to be skid marks.” He shrugged.
“I told her she’s too deep sometimes.”
“That’s why you love me. I’m shallow like a rain puddle.” He wiggled his eyebrows as we took ANOTHER shot. FUCKING Atlanta!
“Corbett, why aren’t you retarded yet?”
“Because after years of conditioning, my liver doesn’t recognize whiskey as a problem. Take another shot, ladies. We just got flagged again. Roughing.” He held out his shot glass for a refill.
Alcide snorted at me as I choked back another mouthful. “You only have another minute of play left. Cry baby.”
“Cry baby? I’m still not as shitfaced as you.”
“So. I’m not whining.”
In the last minute of play Dallas got flagged for roughing. Another shot. I started laughing at him.
With 5 seconds of play left, Dallas fumbled. Another shot. Alcide gave Hunter a dirty look. “You need to age up. If Sookie can’t hang any better, I don’t want to be the only Dallas Drunk.”
He pointed at Hadley. “She’s the buzz kill. If y’all really cared, you’d have said something earlier. She might have let me have a beer. Shit.”
Alcide gave him a chuckle. “If we end up at Dirges Saturday night, you want to ‘babysit’?”
Hunter flashed the Stackhouse smirk at him. “You bet. I bet we could have lots of fun.”
Hadley looked suspicious. “What are you two up to?”
She got a unified ‘nothing’ and I started laughing. Alcide the wingman!
Hunter stood up and declared himself the winner of the pool. The little turd had even guessed the points within 3, so Alcide couldn’t complain. Us grownups started pulling our plastered asses out of the floor.
“Hunter Savoy! What are you two talking about?”
“You heard him! He asked me to babysit. You want details, ask him… Damn!”
“Fine…” She stepped around the table and stood inches away from Alcide. “What is babysitting code for?”
He smiled at her. “Babysitting tends to be a common vernacular regarding short term child care on an irregular or part time basis.” Hunter, Jason and I started laughing.
“Wiseass! Who would he be watching?”
“My 8 and 4 year old sons. Jackson and Carmichael.”
“Who are where?”
“At the moment, they’re in bed in New Orleans. In the morning I’m going to go get them from their mother.”
“Do you mind explaining why my son wanting a beer made you segue to him being alone in a well stocked house?” She was as in his face as she could be without standing on something to make her taller.
“It DIDN’T. Your son wanting to break ABC laws reminded me that we might be going to a BAR. There aren’t a whole lot of stones in that path, honey. I’m too smashed to be Machiavellian.”
Jason and I were leaning on each other, bent over laughing. Hadley looked like she was trying to save face, thinking of something to say to cover that she was embarrassed for jumping to conclusions.
Pam jumped into the conversation, trying to diffuse things. “I thought you were fucking with me. She’s really letting you get them?”
“They’re a pain in her ass. She wants them out from underfoot.”
Pam’s eyes grew. “So all three of you boys are staying here? Until next week?”
“Well then, I’ll have to cancel the strip-o-gram house warming.”
His eyes lit up. “I wouldn’t mind seeing Amber again… Just send her on over after the boys are in bed.”
Pam raised an eyebrow at him, deciding not to dig deeper. “Well, then… I guess we should get out of here.”
She started pulling Corbett to the door. Jason decided to stay over in the upstairs room and ‘Mom and Daddy’ left.
When Hunter went to the bathroom, Jason grabbed me by my shirt and tugged me into the kitchen, leaving Hadley and Alcide in the living room still standing chest to chest.
“I like them together. What’s up with the bitch wife?” He yelled a whisper at me while he pulled leftover wings out of the fridge. He dropped them on the table and plopped down in the chair.
I didn’t realize he had an opinion of Amelia. “Why do you think his wife is a bitch?”
He huffed. “Same way I know my sister ain’t been seeing you longer than a week.”
Too drunk to recover. My face gave it away. Fuck.
“Don’t worry, your secret’s safe, I haven’t said anything to anybody. I could fucking tell right away, she’s different. Daddy might suspect though… Back to his wife…” He made a big hurry up gesture.
I sat down and huffed. “The only reason he’s with her is the kids. She’s treated him like shit for years and he’s over it but he’s too good to do the leaving. He’s looking for a window, but Sookie thinks Amelia’s about to leave him.”
“Because she’s sending the kids to stay with him ‘so she can pack’ and told him he could pick the colors to paint the house.”
Jason’s eyes lit up and he smiled ear to ear as soon as I mentioned the paint. Am I the only one who didn’t think anything of paint thing? Fuck. “What’s up with him asking Hunter to babysit?”
“Hunter has a thing for the actual babysitter. He’s helping the kid out.”
Jason started laughing. “Nice. They’re bonding already.”
I chuckled. “You have a plan?”
“First of all, Hunter’s gonna be happier about his mom dating if he gets his hands on some tit, so we need to get your folks to go SOMEWHERE. If Hunter’s ‘busy’, then we can get her to tag along.”
“I don’t know. He won’t cheat on Amelia.”
Jason smiled from behind his 5th wing. “Then we’ll play it by ear. Maybe, we get lucky and they flirt? I’m fine if they start small.”
“You’re a busy body.”
“In the genes.” He winked. “How’d y’all meet then?”
“Halloween night, I went in to the shop looking for you or your dad. We traced some emails back to your ISP. When you two weren’t there I asked her if she could tell me where I could find a hotel so I could come back in the morning. She brought me here, then took me to the party just to have something to do.”
He rocked back in his chair and laughed with his head back. “Trick or fucking treat! Nice! Anybody else know?”
“Nobody. That’s funny? Why the fuck aren’t you suspicious?”
He was still laughing as he shook his head. “Sookie and me are wrong about people once in a while, but the other one will catch it. We both like ya, AND Daddy… There ain’t nothing to be suspicious of. How’d you end up engaged?”
“The first fucking thing out of my retarded mouth when I saw her in that costume was ‘marry me’. Then she introduced me to Tara and Sam as her fiancé as a joke. It snowballed.”
“So it ain’t real?”
“Oh, it’s real. Only took me a few hours to ask seriously… What’s your story? How is your sexy ass single?”
He bat his eyelashes at me. “I’m waiting on true love.”
“Saving yourself for marriage?”
I got the smirk. “I’m seeing a couple of girls. Nothing serious though. They’re fucking bobble heads.”
“I know what you mean. The last girl I dated called me to come over and set her microwave clock three times in a week. The one before, tried to give her iguana a bath and drowned it.”
We both laughed. “I had one end up in the hospital from carbon monoxide poisoning because her favorite song started playing after she pulled into her garage.”
We were both laughing like idiots. He got up and grabbed a couple of beers and sat back down. “They were hot as hell though.”
“Yeah, but when they aren’t smart enough to know how dumb they are, it’s scary.”
“Amen.” He clinked his beer against mine. “To Darwin.”
Alcide walked in with a disappointed look on his face. “That’s what you’re up to? Assholes. I can’t believe you’d leave me out.”
Jason kissed the air between them. “I was just trying to make you jealous. You forgot all about me when Had started flirting with you.”
“They just left. I’m all yours. Hunter wanted to stay over, but we’re… unfit in our condition.”
Jason rocked his chair back, beer in hand. “Eh, she’s a little protective over him. She’s better than some I’ve met.”
Alcide grabbed himself a beer. “So, why is it that we hate ‘Principle Quinn’?”
Jason started laughing evily. “That prick! Ooooh. I hate that guy so bad. Every fucking year at the school carnival I take the day off just so I can get him in the dunk booth. Me and Remy and him were really tight for a while. He’s the chapter between Frannie and Bill in Sookie’s story. He’s a social r’tard. Sookie broke up with him just because it wasn’t working out. She only dated him because she was bored anyway. But us guys still hung out. Anyway… it was about 2 years after Remy died. Hadley was with us all at Dirges and they had been talking. Not dating. Not fucking. Just talking and he got drunk and started groping on her. Her and Sookie had done what they did tonight, accidently dressed alike and he was torn up worse than we are… Hadley stormed off and Quinn went after her. He finally caught up to “HADLEY” by the stage and grabbed her and kissed her. Sookie pulled away as fast as she could, but Bill had already seen it. He played it off like he understood the mix up and when they got home that night, he fucked her up.” No details. No details. Please God. No details. “She had to get Sophie to do cheer practice for a month until the marks went away. Wore long sleeves around us so we wouldn’t know. But Quinn knew all along because he had to line up a sub for Sookie for the first few days because she couldn’t get down the stairs of their house and did jack shit. I was his best friend and he didn’t tell me that Sookie was fucked up. He was Remy’s friend and didn’t respect the man enough to keep his hands off his widow. He’s a fucking Cro-Magnon ignoramus. A waste of perfectly good oxygen.”
“Did Bill ever get anything back on that?”
“Oh yeah! Me and Daddy beat him down. We didn’t know that it had been going on because it was a bruise here or there and she does all the climbing and tumbling and whatnot with cheering. We strapped him to the hood of the truck like a deer and drove him out to the middle of nowhere and beat him until he stopped moving, and we never touched his face. Just like he did Sookie. He tried to press charges, but Bud told him that it was impossible because we were at his place that night playing poker. He never knocked her around again.”
I smiled at him. “Very nice… What was that shit earlier with the whisperfest?” I had a feeling it had something to do with me and Sookie.
He smiled at me and bent over to take off his shoes. “I’ll show ya, c’mon.”
I got up and followed him down the hall while Alcide made a mess of himself with leftovers.
He went back to our bedroom door. “Ever since Bill, nobody can touch Sookie when she’s sleeping. She wakes right up. Watch.”
I hated the idea of disturbing her but I was too interested (and buzzed) to stop him. He moved around the bed quietly enough that I couldn’t hear him and squatted down next to her as she slept. He brought his hand up and had barely brushed hers and she lurched back drawing in a startled breath. When she saw who it was, she asked how she got to bed and he told her and said he was just checking on her before he turned in, then kissed her cheek and came out.
I followed him back down the hall. “Told you. Give her a few to get back to sleep and I bet she doesn’t move when you get in. Tell me I got ANY reason to be suspicious of you.”
She made me feel better just being in the room with me. Knowing that we might share that secure feeling, floored me. That was all there was to it. We were each other’s security blankets. “She doesn’t sleep a lot. Is that normal?”
The surprised look on his face as he sat back down got my attention. “How much sleep are we talking about?”
“Friday about 3 hours, Saturday not at all, but slept on me in the car for a couple of hours. Then last night maybe 2 hours.” That sounded right.
“She’s got this thing, always has. When she’s in a good mood she doesn’t sleep. It’s not like insomnia where the person wants to sleep and can’t. It’s like she doesn’t want to miss the good mood? Does that make sense?” I nodded and I noticed that Alc was starting to do touch and gos in his seat. “It’ll correct itself. She’ll sleep for 8 hours to get a full recharge and go back to power napping. She only sleeps for an hour at a time when we’re on spring break.” I reached over and slid Alcide’s beer away from him so that if he crashed to the table he wouldn’t meet his end because of a beer bottle.
“Y’all go every year?”
“Yeah. Sookie had just gotten her driver’s license when we went off to school…”
“Wait… she was 16 when she left for college?” When she was raped?
“Yeah. She’s July, right before the cut off. I’m October, right after it. So even though we’re 3 years apart, we were only two years apart in school for a while.” His eyes rolled around while he remembered. “I got mono in 2nd grade and missed enough school to get held back. So when she got to 1st they realized how far ahead she was and we started 3rd grade together. Then we both finished 2 years ahead.” Fucking wow. “Anyway… Daddy had all but adopted Sam because him and Tara started dating in high school. We’ve been friends since freshman year. Anyway, Sam went to school at Purdue, I was at UPenn, Sookie at Vanderbilt and Tara was still a junior. So then the rape, then Lafayette getting attacked and we spent those 2 months in Tennessee with Tara and Sam flying up every weekend. Then we went into withdrawals so Daddy decided to take us all somewhere for Spring Break so that we could see each other. The first year was Nassau and we had so much fun surfing and partying, we made a tradition of it.”
I was smiling ear to ear. I was actually excited. I hadn’t had the time to do anything like that in years, and you’d bet your ass I’d make sure I’d be able to do this. “Who all goes?”
“The stock is Daddy, me, Sookie, Tara, Sam, Lafayette, Frannie only missed one year. Hadley stopped going when Remy died, but we keep trying. We’ve had a couple tagalongs. Lafayette brought a boyfriend once. I took a girl once. JB went with us the last couple of years. This year, you’ll go. Maybe even take Alcide with us. That fucker right there could use a tan and a girl gone wild.” Note to self: Who is JB?
“You’re a chatty fucking drunk, Jason.”
“So. You’re still sitting there. What does that make you?”
I laughed. “Easily entertained. Bill and Sookie were together for 4 years… He never went?”
“Nope. Now ask why.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Why?”
“Because he was told in writing that if he went, he wouldn’t come back and if he tried to keep Sookie from going, he’d regret it.”
He smiled wider than I had ever seen before. “Me, Laf, Daddy, Sam and Remy. Remy’s the one he was scared of though. Remy was the wild card that went out and handled things while Daddy and I tended to Sook.”
Smiling. “What did he do?”
“He may or may not have snuck up on him and violated him with a foreign object and then strung him up between two light posts out front of a church. There might have been ‘I raped a 16 year old girl’ written on his back and chest. There might have been a hundred or so little roach clips attached to his body in very uncomfortable places. And he might have doused him with a bucket of water and left him overnight in Seattle in November. But… since there’s no proof that he did anything but fly out of that airport, there’s nothing the law can do.” That would explain his ‘scaredy skat’ moment when he met Alc. I’d have fun telling him about that later.
I needed to remember to go pay my respects to my new hero. Fuck. I was so glad that Bill didn’t completely get away with what he did that I just smiled.
“And yet, Bill is still brain dead enough to still fuck with Sookie? I don’t get it.”
“What did he say to you? To make you punch him?”
I cleared my throat. “He said ‘she does her best work in alleys’.”
“That mother fucker!” Alcide jumped. “You didn’t shoot him?”
“I found out that she was raped then you told me it was him then Laf let it slip that he beat her… all in one day. I had Alc lock up my gun.”
He laughed. “It would’ve felt good to see it. Party Pooper. You know you’re famous now right?”
“Yeah I’m starting to get that. Sam’s receptionist and a witness both gave me pat for it. The local cops were treating Alc and I like family today too.”
He stood up and slid his chair in. “They’re gossips. You put him in the hospital, you pulled a gun on him, you broke a beer bottle over his head. Shit like that… You need help moving him?”
“No…” I leaned over and put my mouth next to Alcide’s ear, making my voice deeper and adding a lisp. “Hey sailor, you wanna party?”
Alcide jumped to. He looked up at me and growled, taking a clumsy swing and I dodged it. “You fucker. I’m going to shoot you for that one day.” Jason was leaning on the table and laughing too hard again.
“Well you’re too fucking heavy to carry for fun, lard ass! Go to bed.”
He stood up and scowled at me. “Mine or yours?” He jerked his hand backhanded me in my dick. Not hard. But I felt it. In my hair.
I punched him in his thigh while I was bent over and grunted at him. “I’m telling Sookie.”
“You go right on ahead and tell Sookie that you were fucking with me in my sleep. See how much sympathy you get.”
“I wasn’t fucking with you. I was trying to keep you from falling out of your chair, you lush.”
“Uh huh. What did you try before you went all tranny pre-op in my ear?”
I started laughing. I was too buzzed to think of anything.
“Just what I thought. Two weeks is a long time to be playing games this early.”
“Was that a gauntlet?” Ooooh. Prank war!
“Rules. Sookie is a bystander, not a helper. And you cause it, you clean it up.”
“I agree to your terms. Goodnight.”
I watched him stagger out of the room and heard his door close.
I straightened up and Jason was shaking his head at me. “You left him a lot of loop holes.”
“Yeah, but I left a lot for me too.”
Almost midnight… I used the desk chair to sit and take off my boots and undress, not wanting to disturb Sookie. I was undoing my belt when I realized that I hadn’t UN-dressed myself in 3 days. Drunk retarded smile. I grabbed a pair of sweats from my drawer and left them on the foot of the bed before I slid between the sheets carefully and spooned in behind her.
I laid my arm on her side.
I hugged my arm around her waist and pulled her close.
She let a slight grunt and snuggled back into me.
The feeling of being safe with someone and the awareness that I did that for Sookie too… Phenomenally, unfathomably, impossibly perfect.
I quickly fell asleep and had a fantastic dream…
Sookie woke up and rolled to me. Her mouth met mine and we kissed like the kiss we had on the porch. We touched each other softly and held each other close. I ran my fingers through her hair and she drifted her fingernails down my side, making my pulse quicken. She reached between us and ran her fingertips over cock, the tickle began a throbbing. Never breaking the kiss, she lifted her leg to my side and I rolled us over. Sookie pushed down onto me and slowly moved her hips, back and forth… Like floating in tandem…
She was quiet as her breathing started to tremble, her pace steady as that sweetness little by little closed down around me. Silently rapt together. Struggling to keep the dream. Holding on with both hands so my mind didn’t wander into less magnificent territory. Nothing else would do. This was the best dream I’d ever had…
Her body clung to mine, her arms bound under my shoulders… my hands exploring, gliding over her back. Her body began to vibrate, feeling her pulse and mine… feeling nothing but this. Tensing… holding back… fighting to stay…
Her quiver… coaxing… pulling… she breathed into my mouth as her body arched away from me stealing her victory and breaking me. Wrapping my arms around her… a cruel shiver reminded me of the dream I couldn’t hold on to and my brain let her slip away into a fog of inferior nothing…