Saturday, January 2nd…
There I was, 29 years old and working on Saturday morning. I wanted to ignore the work that fell behind while I was out of town for the holidays, but I had absolutely no excuse when my social calendar was so desolate all of a sudden. It fucking sucked that over the past year, I’d been to more funerals than parties. My only real love interest had been the tiny little angel that killed one of my girlfriends and helped solve the murder of the other…
I’d forgiven Sookie for killing Debbie before I heard her actual reason because I knew she wouldn’t have done it without a good one.
When she called me after the civil war to tell me that she wanted to see me, I had to admit, I was hoping that it was going to be a ‘more than friends’ talk. We’d been through a lot together. We’d been attracted to each other since we met… I had even embarrassed the shit out of myself by kind of proposing to her. But… she wanted to mend our fences and be friends. I did the guy thing and thought that I’d be able to use that as ground work, but it didn’t take any time at all for me to see that she was in love with the Viking. And as much as I hated to admit it, we worked really well as friends. She was probably the best friend I’d ever had. What’s more is that being best friends with her, silly as it may sound, was the equivalent to having her as girlfriend or wife. The only difference was the sex or lack thereof. We helped each other not feel so lonely and had it not been for the fact that Janice wanted to be together given that it was our first Christmas since dad died; I would have spent it with Sookie. We had our talk on a Tuesday night and we either talked or saw each other every day since then until Christmas…
We had our own little game going to keep Sam off of her tail since he had a track record of prying every time she asked for time off and trying to weasel his way onto her dance card. Most nights when she worked the closing shift, I would go in with my laptop and work until she got off, waiting like a boyfriend would, and then I would sleep over at her house. Most nights that she had off, we’d go out and grab dinner, go to a movie and she’d sleep at my place… And going out of town together didn’t really make anything different except the scenery and business.
But when I saw her with Eric last night, it felt like a shot to the nuts. It didn’t happen fast enough though… At first, my dumb ass was happy for her. I knew she loved him. I knew she’d missed him.
I also knew, from the jump, that as soon as the business bullshit of the Nevada takeover was done, I was going to get pushed out of her life.
Once I was in the parking lot, that’s when it hit.
I felt like a twin who lost the other. I was sure that was probably going to be the worst breakup I ever had to go through and I wasn’t even dating her unless you ask the idiots at Merlotte’s.
Officially being with Eric would put a huge amount of distance between us. It was great while it lasted but there was no fucking way he would let her stay friends with me. Even if he could get past the posturing, politically there wasn’t a way for it to stay the way it was. His bonded couldn’t embarrass him by barhopping with a Were.
He was too smart to give her an ultimatum; he would’ve just gradually made it more difficult for us to hang out. Hell, that mother fucker put on one hell of a show at Merlotte’s; shaking my hand, joking about her exes, not even blinking when she suggested he go to the pack cookout.
But it wouldn’t be long. I just needed to get used to the idea…
I loved Sookie and wanted her to be happy. She wouldn’t let Northman get away with pushing me out of the way… She’d fight it… She’d fight it and it would make Northman assume there was more to our friendship… Shit would get ugly when it didn’t need to.
As much as I wanted to blame that on the fucked up standards of being a Supe, even human guys were suspicious of ‘the guy friend’.
The office was deserted because it was the weekend; the only sound was coming from the keys on my laptop. I’d been there for hours catching up and I jumped out of my skin when my phone went off.
It was my favorite little blonde.
“Hey Beb! What’s shakin’?” She was in one of her perky moods.
“Not much. Are you calling to cut bait on tonight?” Let me guess, the vampire forgot about a ‘meeting’, right?
“Wouldn’t dream of it, just the opposite. I need to catch up with you later around 4.”
“Eric wants me to deliver some catering for the cookout… as a thank you for my friend status.”
“He doesn’t need to do that.” He was up to something…
“Try telling him that. Between you and me, I think he’s excited to be doing something new. I imagine that life can get pretty damn boring after 1000 years.”
I laughed it off. If he was up to something, I’d find out soon enough. “What are you up to?”
“Headed to Shreveport right now to go shopping. I’ve been tasked to buy something slutty to wear to Fangtasia so he can show me off.”
“Doesn’t he usually send that troll Bobby for stuff like that?”
“He’s testing me.”
“Testing to see if you’re going to go nuts with his plastic?”
“I joked about him showing me off at Fangtasia. He wouldn’t trust Bobby to get me an outfit for that and he wants to see how ‘slutty’ I’m willing to dress.” I’d pay to see the look on his face. She wasn’t as shy as she used to be.
I heard her whispering to Amelia. “Sure. Meet us at Macy’s in 30 min.”
“You won’t find much by way of slutty at Macy’s.”
“He wanted me to get some things for him too and they have a Crabtree & Evelyn counter there. Besides, slutty depends on how you wear it.”
“Shit. Are you planning to give me a heart attack?”
The way she giggled answered my question. “I bet I could arrange one. The lingerie department at Macy’s is huge.”
I kept my growl to myself. She did that shit to me often enough that I knew better than to let her know that it affected me. She only ever made the flirt harder on me. “Something tells me that shopping with you today isn’t gonna be easy.”
“We’ll see, big guy. Besides whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you longer, right?”
I growled. I couldn’t catch that one in time. “Stronger, Sookie. Stronger. I’ll see you there.”
No sooner than I was on the sidewalk by the Macy’s entrance, I saw her coming up the lane of parking spaces. She leapt out of the Black Suburban that made her look like a midget and came running up to me for a big hug before Amelia managed to close her door.
My arms were still around her when she whispered in my ear. “Amelia thinks that it’s inappropriate that we’re friends now that Eric and I are a couple.”
“I gotta say, I’m surprised that Eric’s alright with it. I didn’t want to hug you last night”
“Fuck that. I’d kick his ass.”
“I bet he’d let you try, but don’t push it.”
“He promised me last night that he’d do his best to get along. I’m not asking anything of him…”
“That, by itself, is going to throw him off.”
“He knows I love him… It might take a while for him to realize I can love you too, but if I have to, I’ll throw Pam in his face.”
“He loves both of us. I’d never ask him to choose…”
“That maker thing is different than friends though.”
“Yeah, but I can fire back with the fact that there’s different kinds of love.”
“And then you’ll pout until he pretends to let you win the argument.” She growled at me and knuckled my ribs, so I changed the subject. “Hey Amelia, how was New Orleans?”
“It’s nice that someone bothered asking… I had fun. How was your holiday?”
“I spent most of it worried that Sookie was going to get herself into trouble.”
“Gee. It’s not like she has a track record for anything like that. What? Do you think she’d do something stupid like jump in bed with a Vampire?” I’d been trying to be nice… Tray mentioned that she’d been moody and that he was sick of it. Sookie said that she’d been bitchy… I probably wouldn’t have cared if I wasn’t worried saying the wrong thing could get me turned into a fucking cat like Bob. Seriously.
“Sookie’s pretty good at watching her own back nowadays, but our little Telepath…”
She cut me off, “How about we just start calling her ‘universal remote’ since she can turn anything on.”
Really? Fuck her. “Sookie? Is this bitch for real?”
Sookie didn’t seem to have much of a reaction. “I’m sorry, Amelia. I didn’t realize how selfish I was being. I never asked if you wanted to come along and I’m sure Eric assumed you’d be up for shopping too. It won’t hurt my feelings if you strike out on your own to shop. I’ll call you later to check in, K?”
A smile appeared on Amelia’s face and she got bouncy. “Cool, see ya later, Sook, Alcide.”
What the fuck? Sybill? “I have to know what I just witnessed.”
As we walked into the store she explained, “She’s a little jealous right now since Eric and I are finally together and it doesn’t help that I didn’t know she was home last night until after we broke the kitchen table… then Eric woke her up screaming for help….” Of all the mental images Sookie caused, I didn’t need that one. I just shook my head. “Not like that Alcide, well yeah- we rocked the table apart, but the screaming for help was playful. I had his head covered with a pillow.”
“You realize he doesn’t breathe, right?”
“Giant jerk tricked me into sharing.”
I teased, “Feelings?”
She groaned, “Stuff. Property… Joined assets.” That would do it. He was lucky it didn’t make her reach for the ‘Bill stake’ I talked her into keeping in her nightstand.
I got elbowed for laughing.
Sookie bounced up for a piggyback ride and made me take her shopping for Eric first. Awesome. I loved the idea of shopping for the guy who was going to come between us…
She found clothes for Eric including some creepy, vampy shit for him to wear at Fangtasia. She found a couple things for Pam that were more milfy than vampy. She picked a bunch of stuff out for me and it got to the point that the cashier called us a cute couple. She did manage to find something slutty for her, along with some more practical and dressy stuff…
She needed the usual help in the shoe department. She made everyone in and around the lingerie department stare and/or drool. She needed to be coached through every penny she spent like Northman wasn’t loaded enough to cure the National Debt. Hell, she hadn’t spent enough to make me blink.
All in all, it was a normal trip to the mall with Sookie, except for who we were shopping for, counting that we opted to grab a late lunch afterwards.
I led the way to the little Mexican joint Sookie and I found while we were Christmas shopping… and en route, I decided to change tactics. Originally, I was going to raise the white flag and just let things happen and settle for what was left. Fuck that. I wasn’t going to lose my best friend without a fight. I had one chance to hang out with the two of them. If Sookie behaved, and I was sure she would with him there, we could pull it off and he wouldn’t see me as a threat. Vampires tended to annoy me in general, but he couldn’t be all bad. Not when he made Sookie so happy. If I could be friends with any Vamp, it would be him.
It was worth a shot.
Amelia’s attitude had seemed alright when we met up with her on the way out of the mall, but it started to deteriorate again once we were at the restaurant…
Sookie and I were just doing our usual. Sookie griped and pinched me for getting cheese dip in the salsa because I’m a ‘double-dipping bastard’, we shared an order of rellanos and ordered the Fajitas for two and a pitcher of beer…
Every bit of it pissed Amelia off and it only got worse when I asked Sookie about the club Eric had taken her to.
We were eating, occasionally looking across the table to watch Amelia stab her food harder and harder… watching her get pissy all over again.
Between her flautas and Quesadilla Loco, Amelia finally blurted, “I called my dad. My building is fixed. I’m moving home.”
Sookie pouted out her lip. “Oh honey, I’m going to miss you.” I couldn’t see how. I knew for a fact that Sookie hadn’t been spending any real time with her, not with everything going on.
“No, you won’t.”
“Of course I will. Why would you think I wouldn’t?”
“Because you are too busy flirting with every Supe in the area code to get your head out of your ass.” That bitch needed to be calibrated. Sookie’s spidey senses were working well enough that she picked up on how much her little ‘Single White Female’ was pissing me off; her hand went to my knee to calm me down.
“Wow. Ok. Sorry I asked.”
“Why? Does it bother you to hear that you should be embarrassed by your behavior?” I almost laughed. That bitch was doing a Vampire and a Were and the worst she had on Sookie was the assumption that she was doing the same thing.
“It bothers me that I’ve done something without realizing it to make you want to lash out at me.”
“Lash out? I’m not lashing out. I’m telling you like it is. You ruined Bill. You played Quinn. You’re using Eric. You’ve neutered him,” She pointed at me. Neutered? Really? “Pam would rather be with you than me. Calvin asked you to marry him. Sam even wants you to have his puppies!” She needed to shut her pie hole. She was talking too loud. And did she say ‘puppies’? I was ready to hit my first human female.
Sookie’s voice got icy. “Amelia, you are going to sit there and finish your meal without speaking again. When we leave we’ll run a couple of errands and you’ll stay in the car. When we get back to the house you’re going to call and have Marley come to get you and take you home. Do you understand?”
Amelia nodded like she was stoned and went back to eating her lunch.
Sookie looked at me with teary eyes. “I’m sorry, Alcide. I don’t know what’s gotten into her. She’s not usually like this.”
Who the fuck cared? “Did you just glamour her?”
“I think I might have.”
“How many new ‘gifts’ do you have? Boiling and freezing, two-way telepathy, telekinesis, premini…” It’d been counting them on my fingers, but she grabbed my hand to stop me.
“I don’t know.” She was too busy pouting to talk powers; she needed me to help her rationalize. That, I could do.
“Shug, she’ll come around. I bet she’s homesick and lonely since you’ve barely been home… or… was the kitchen table hers?”
She giggled, “Thanks.”
“Anytime. Besides… fuck her. I’m not neutered.”
She laughed loud enough to make the woman at the table next to us jump. “Way to focus on the important stuff… Sam does want me to have his puppies though.”
“And you did ruin Bill. That fucker’s a lost cause.”
She cringed. “Quinn was just a rebound though… I’m not using Eric, am I?”
“What do you get out of being with Eric? You don’t need his money because of… the thing. If it was sex, there’s a line behind him. You don’t need his protection because there’s a line for that too and most of them could do more than he can. You don’t need anything from him. You just love the asshole.” He was definitely on the receiving end of that relationship.
“Are you just giving me the friend answer?”
“No. I think that maybe Amelia is just pissed that you aren’t interested in jumping in the sack with her and Pam.”
She giggled. “Stop picturing it.” That wouldn’t be easy…
“You were the one who was talking about body shots with Pam while we were shopping.” Who’d evict 3 blondes with a sugar shaker and a bottle of Patron from their head? Not this guy.
She elbowed me and went back to eating… a few minutes went by and she started laughing. “Ok, ok, you’re not neutered. Keep it up and I’ll cure that thought of yours with some Quinn and Bill… together.”
All she had to do was say it, and I was picturing it. I dropped my fork. “Bitch!”
“You did that to yourself.”
“I’m gonna need a damn lobotomy!”
When I shoved my plate away, she started cackling with a mouthful of fajita. There was no fucking way in hell I was going to be able to finish my food when I was picturing those two assholes fighting for top.
‘Some catering’ my ass. Northman had ordered so much from Palisades that the stuff already lined up wasn’t going to be necessary. We split from the restaurant to take care of things, but I was still waiting for her to call and bow out of going to the cookout.
When I got home, I cleaned up a bit. Not that my house needed much. Sookie cleaned the whole place when she stayed over the night before I left for Jackson… instead of sleeping.
I wasn’t too worried since she wasn’t showing any signs of it getting to her. We’d fell asleep watching TV and I woke up a couple hours later to the smell of cleaner. I found her in my bathroom, scrubbing the shower doors. She had done everything but vacuum, and that was just because she didn’t want to wake me up. I finally got her to take a shower while I vacuumed and when the house was done we climbed into bed and went back to sleep… but she did sleep.
I put a few dishes in the washer and ran a load of laundry and then I set the alarm on my watch and laid down for a nap.
It was nearly dark outside when I got up… I got my shower and got dressed, grabbing an extra outfit just in case Sookie decided to dump ice water down my pants again and I headed on over to get things set up.
The whole time I was pretty sure Sookie was going to call to tell me something had come up.
As often as my phone rang, I was paranoid to look at the caller ID every fucking time.
The mood I rose to wasn’t pleasant. As long as we’d been keeping our distance though, the sense of how close Sookie was almost made up for how hurt and angry she was feeling. Because it had been so long since she’d had my blood, the distance between Shreveport and Bon Temps was an abyss… and rising to feel her in Shreveport meant that she was with Herveaux and that didn’t put me in the best mindset.
Although I was concerned about what caused Sookie’s low mood, it was too easy to enjoy how close she was while I waited for the sun to set enough that I could leave the cramped hiding place built by a Vampire pygmy.
Climbing out of the closet floor, I smelled the wolf again.
During the day, Sookie’s spare bedroom had become a staging area. The bed was stacked with neat piles of clothes and accessories… She’d found jeans, T-shirts, henleys and boots for me that I might’ve bought for myself, and then there were the items that I never would’ve bought because it was Pam’s job to dress me ‘for show’… there were three theatrical ‘costumes’ that were obviously purchased with Fangtasia in mind.
The pile of clothing and shoes in Sookie’s sizes was no less diverse, but the two dresses and matching shoes set to the side were confusing unless they were meant for Pam.
It was surprising that Sookie had bought so much, but since all of it reeked of Herveaux, I wasn’t pleased with Sookie’s spree for long.
Sookie and I had been kept apart for months and instead of taking her Witch shopping with her as I suggested, she’d turned back to the company of the Packmaster. The idea that she’d had him at the house, in the room where I rested, made me sure that he was going to be an obstacle.
As I inspected her purchases, I could hear the witch moving around upstairs, but there wasn’t a single thought to be overheard. That wasn’t common enough. That woman’s thoughts had been a chore to tolerate since she’d come to stay with Sookie. Her mind might as well have been wired into a bullhorn.
Most importantly, Sookie’s shields were ironclad as per the usual. There were too many things to be curious about…
Stepping into the hallway offered some relief. I actually stopped and went back into the room for a moment to be sure, but Herveaux’s scent wasn’t as strong anywhere else… He hadn’t been in the house at all during the day.
The sounds of heavy lifting were the only hints coming from upstairs and puzzled as I was about how the Witch’s mind had suddenly been muted, Sookie was my real concern.
As I reached out to pull back the shower curtain, I finally heard a thought from Sookie, a clue about her mood. “What did I do? To act like that? In public? Horrible. Nasty. I’m not using anybody… I don’t use people… Just jealous.”
To be honest, I was hoping she’d argued with Herveaux about being Mine. That would’ve made getting rid of him much easier.
In spite of her mood, she was smiling by the time the curtain was out of my way.
She shrugged and sat up to make room for me. “Amelia’s moving out.”
“You argued?” I stepped into the tub, but instead of sitting, I put my hand down to help Sookie stand. Her tub was so small I wouldn’t have been comfortable in it alone.
She sighed as she turned the showerhead on. “Not really. She’s being a bitch and I’m not sure why other than being jealous that I’m happy, but even that’s not like her.”
“She isn’t the envious type?”
“No… to be fair, we’ve barely seen each other. I’ve been so busy and even when I’m home, Alcide’s with me a lot.” I’d wondered if she was avoiding mentioning him.
“Does she not like him?”
“She’s kind of indifferent to him, but she thinks we’re together no matter how many times I correct her… Alcide can’t stand her though.”
“Why is that?”
“Because he’s too loyal… She’s never said anything to him because of who he is, but between the attitude she’s had around here and hearing what Tray’s been dealing with…. He had been faking nice with her for me though.”
“After the way she talked to me at lunch, he’s ready to rip her throat out.”
“In your defense?”
“Yeah… well, and she said I neutered him while she yelled about how Sam wants me to have his ‘puppies’. She was really close to making a scene.”
“And how does he feel about us?”
She half smiled. “He’d kick my ass if I told you.”
“So you have to promise not to say anything.”
“He’s pretty sure that you’re only pretending to be ok with us being friends until you can figure out how to put some distance between us.” Fuck. He was smarter than I gave him credit for.
“He told you that?”
“No. He thought about it a couple of times while we were shopping. He wouldn’t do anything to rain on my parade. He even helped me out because I don’t know anything about men’s shoes.”
“So you could say that he’s being a good sport about us.”
“Yes and no… He’s hoping it doesn’t take too long to prove that he isn’t a threat to what we have. He doesn’t want to put me in the middle of anything and he doesn’t want to get killed for being my best friend.”
“I told you that…”
She interrupted me with a groan. “I told you I wanted you to be honest with me. Don’t do that. Don’t deny that he’s right. I understand that you’re leery of him because you’ve heard rumors, but don’t lie to me and tell me that you aren’t suspicious of him. Even if you were in the practice of trusting people, every other man in my life has caused grief of some kind. I get that. I own that I have a bad enough track record that you feel like you need to look out for me.”
“I was just going to remind you that I promised that I’d try to get along. I wasn’t going to deny that I’m suspicious.”
“I’d like to point out that it’s very sexist of you to be so distrustful of him when other than generally disliking Amelia, you haven’t had any qualms about me living with a very pretty bisexual woman.”
“You aren’t bisexual though.”
“You’ve never been with a woman…”
“Until not very long ago, I’d never been with a man either. I’m surprised Pam didn’t tell you about Vegas weddings.”
“You did that with her?”
She answered me with a smirk and my imagination started making it hard for me to focus on the fact that Sookie had just admitted to foreplay with Pam… and at best, Pam only ‘hinted’ to it by saying that Sookie was different.
While we dressed, Sookie chattered about her day. As it turned out, Herveaux had volunteered to go shopping with her when she called him to make arrangements for the catering I’d ordered. He was looking for an excuse to avoid work because he didn’t enjoy the job of running H&S anymore than he liked how he came to own it. When I asked how Herveaux had transitioned into being Packmaster, Sookie used the word ‘seamless’… her opinion was that Alcide was a ‘people person’ rather than a ‘paper person’…
And then she changed the subject to talk about Pam and how the two of us had been keeping her too busy to shop… I’d been right about the dresses that seemed to be for Pam. They were a ‘thank you’ gift from ‘us’.
During the long drive to Ledbetter Heights, I tried to use casual conversation to encourage some kind of honesty from her since she’d yet to mention any of the trips I’d only found out about through Pam’s prying…
When I asked if she’d had fun in Jackson in an attempt to find out why she went, Sookie answered by explaining that it was ‘plenty of fun’ until she returned and Merlotte gave her grief about missing work during flu season…
When I mentioned that I didn’t know she was a football fan to get some information about why she’d gone back to Dallas, she rolled her eyes and blamed Jason for her interest since she’d always gone to watch him play…
When I jokingly asked why she went to Atlanta, as opposed to Rhodes to complete the miserable stroll down Memory Lane, she complained that her hotel room was so cold that she could ‘hang meat’ and that she was bitten at the Aquarium by a turtle at the touch tank…
All in all, Sookie was being infuriatingly evasive. Not a single thought betrayed her. Of all of her new strengths and abilities, her shields were bothering me more than the ones that could make her dangerously valuable.
She didn’t seem to be worried about what I felt through our bond… Every time she dodged giving me the answer I wanted, I could feel that she was annoyed, perhaps even disappointed.
She was leaving me with few options… She’d been changing the subject since I asked about Herveaux and I’d known all along that he’d been her travel companion.
Still keeping secrets meant that she hadn’t ‘changed’ or ‘grown up’ enough…
As I wedged the Suburban into the parking space along the curb, Sookie began feeling anxious.
“I don’t think so. Is there something you want to say?”
“They’re going to touch you.”
“I doubt that.”
She cringed. “I just now thought of it… They will… Weres are really physical. Handshaking, hugging…”
“I know that none of them will hug me.”
“A lot of them are going to hug me as a minimum.”
“I’ll shower as soon as we get to Fangtasia…”
I repeated, “How many?”
“I don’t know… Most of them. They’re just… huggers.” Her shields finally slipped enough that I heard, “He’s going to flip his shit. He’s going to flip his shit and make a scene because he’s not used to it… Vampires aren’t touchy-feely… I should’ve bailed on Alcide… God. Stupid. Stupid Sookie.”
“Then consider me ‘warned’.”
She bit her lip. “Really?” I certainly didn’t want to deal with the anxiety she was feeling the entire time we were there.
“It’s just friendly… Tray is definitely going to give me a big hug…”
“Tray being the Wolf that spared you from being shot by taking the bullet himself?”
“That’s the one…” He was allowed. “The other guys that’ll hug me are more laid back… but… after that coup, word got around. I’m more than a ‘friend of the pack’, more like an honorary member.”
“They respect you?”
She nodded. “Yeah. You could say that. Some of them think I’m with Alcide and that he’s denying it because he’s supposed to add to the pack. They all know you own me though.”
“The line is blurred for them because of your friendship with Alcide?”
“Yeah. Weres gossip really bad… Let’s go meet the pack.”
I’d barely closed Sookie’s door behind her before that inbred Panther approached us. In an effort to avoid a hug like the one Sookie had gotten from Calvin Norris, I offered a handshake instead.
Moving on, I watched a handful of Weres greet Sookie from across the field by waving and/or whistling, but the next to greet her personally charged up to us fast enough to put me on alert.
She jumped into his arms and groaned as her legs dangled. Sookie didn’t have the opportunity to introduce us before his hand was out for mine. She hadn’t been exaggerating. “You’re the Northman, huh? Good to finally meet you, I’m Tray Dawson.” The ‘big hug’ I’d been warned about thought, “Fuck me running. I didn’t think he’d show up. Good on him.”
“I’ve heard of you too. A pleasure.” I might have actually been understating since he’d saved Sookie’s life…
He turned around and led the way with his arms draped over our shoulders… It was a very good thing I’d been warned.
His voice boomed in Sookie’s direction. “Let’s get you to the buffet. You’re getting too skinny, little girl. Don’t think I haven’t seen you out running. And if I can see you running by my house, you’re running too much!” Fuck. At least I wasn’t the only one to notice.
She giggled, “Alcide and I grabbed a late lunch, but if it’ll make you happy, I’ll drink some calories. Lead me to the liquor.”
“You got it.” He turned to me, “You know, I have to warn you, we gossip really bad… so everyone knows you’re here. Beware. The. Housewives. Once they see how pretty you are, there’ll be no dealing with them. You’d be good to keep your old lady in your lap!” Old lady? I’d almost forgotten how primitive Weres could be.
“That’s as good of an excuse as any.”
He snorted, “Poor you, right? Hey Sook, is there going to be something in my lap tonight?”
She sucked air over her teeth. “Um… Tray… Amelia’s packing. She’s moving back to New Orleans.”
“When did that happen?”
“Today. During lunch. Alcide should’ve told you. I’m going to kick his ass…”
“He’s been too busy. The Crosses have been trying to sell him on Ruby’s sister… She didn’t even call me.”
“That’s my fault. We kind of had it out.”
He looked over to me, then back to Sookie and started chuckling. “So she’s doing me and her Vampire girlfriend… and she pitched a fit thinking you’re playing the same game.”
She elbowed his ribs. “That’s exactly where Alcide went too…”
“Eh. Fuck her. If she doesn’t know you better than that by now…”
“I know, right?”
“Your sappy ass is still going to miss her though, aren’t you?”
“Sort of. She’s hasn’t been acting like she used to.”
“She’s still pissed at you about New Orleans.” When did she go back to New Orleans?
“She’s more put out that I ‘replaced’ her with Alcide… and maybe her father should’ve listened when I told him that I belong to Eric.”
“Did you have to break his arm?”
“After where he touched me, he’s lucky he got it back at all.” She leaned forward while we walked so that she could see me past the hulk between us. “I tagged along with Ame when she went down for renovation business… He grabbed my boob and when I told him to let go, he thought I was playing hard to get…”
“You broke him?” For touching her? That’s all it took?
She snorted, “Contrary to popular belief, I’m not desperate for attention.” I’d never thought she was. I’d just assumed that she didn’t have it in her nature to defend herself… she seemed to save heroic efforts for everyone else in her life.
Four more hugs were given to Sookie and I’d shaken those hands when I was introduced… even the hand of a young Were who was dared by his friends to hug her in front of me.
While Sookie and Tray waited for the bartender to make their drinks, I watched Herveaux. He looked around as though he knew Sookie was there somehow and was doing his best to politely get away from the conversation that was keeping him from finding her.
I wasn’t as fortunate as Sookie. Weres’ minds weren’t an open book to me. The ability was like it used to be for her. Unless the thought was about me, contact was the only thing that isolated their thoughts from their primal, knotted minds…
Since I already reeked of Were thanks to Dawson’s welcome, I had the idea to kill two birds with one stone… Tackling Herveaux would give me the excuse to make contact since he’d know better than to offer a handshake. And it could leave him thinking about me more… Everyone there could’ve been thinking about how Sookie’s ass looked in her jean skirt, but I wouldn’t have known unless they started thinking about what I’d do if I caught them staring.
As soon as Sookie realized what I was about to do, she was amused and worried…
I tackled him from behind, putting both of us on the ground and before he could turn around and see who’d surprised him, Alcide thought, “…I’m going to kick Sookie’s ass… good hit though…”Not only was he amused, but he thought he’d been tackled like that by Sookie… at her size? As soon as he managed to flip over and saw me, I was more amused, “…Great. He smelled me on her bed or some shit and now I get taught a lesson… This is going well… there goes hoping we could get along…” Her bed?
I let him pin me…
“…What the fuck is he up to?…”
I pushed him off of me and we rolled until I pinned him…
“…Maybe Sookie told him…” Told me what?
While we struggled over the next victory, he looked for her so that he could see her reaction to the wrestling.
“…This is what I get for getting my hopes up…” Hopes up for what?
The wolf was only giving me more to be curious about. I let him pin me again and when his eyes surged, I let my fangs down.
“…Fuck… poor Sookie… I know she wants her cake, eat it too, but he’s not going to be cool with that… I knew better…”
Another roll through the grass, this time deafened by the cheers of the gawking Weres rooting for their Packmaster until I won the turn.
“…She’s fucking smiling… the poor thing… whatever he’s up to… just cruel… putting on a good show… she’s going to be crushed eventually…”
I would’ve been close to having fun if I hadn’t been trying to get something more concrete from his dense head. His thoughts were ambiguous at best and the longer our sparring went on, the less certain I was about his friendship with Sookie.
I let him pin me one last time, knowing that Sookie was concerned under her seemingly cheerful façade.
“…Fuck this… I’m done… motherfucker’s older than dirt… if he isn’t grown up enough to be ok with his girlfriend having a guy friend… fuck him… I love Sookie too much to put her in the middle of more drama… Fucking hate being right sometimes…”
As soon as we were on our feet, that asshole hugged me. I didn’t have a choice but to return the hug because I was trying to put on a good show… he’d done it just to annoy me. I never had the chance to be pissed though… While he was slapping my back as though we were the best of friends, he thought… “…retarded genius… I wonder if it’s occurred to him that if I was a threat to him… I could have her, bond or not…”
He stepped back and I was stuck staring at him for a moment, hoping for him to complete his thought.
“…Knocking her up would option an 18 year lease on that girl’s loyalty… not everyone is a fucking prick… not everyone would fuck her over to get what they wanted…”
Not only was he right, on too many levels, but he made it sound as though he’d been fucking Sookie…
It seemed like the only things that came from my brilliant plan of wrestling with the Were was that I reeked of him… and was more suspicions.
Sookie called it ‘making rounds’. She greeted nearly everyone at the cookout alongside Herveaux, introducing me along the way, as though she served some sort of official capacity… as though she was his mate.
She chatted and laughed through anecdotes. She hugged and was hugged. All the while, the LongTooth Pack seemed to honestly respect her as one of their own… to the point that some of them thought of her as ‘Queenie’. Again, making me deliberate over the true nature of her so-called friendship with Alcide.
Once the salutations were out of the way, he ordered her to follow him to the buffet line. As he’d put it, she needed to put something solid in her stomach… I watched them both overload two plates with food until Sookie led the way to a grouping of chairs next to an outdoor fireplace…
Once I’d taken a seat, Sookie sat on my legs and not only ate the two plates she’d prepared, but it turned out that one of the plates her ‘friend’ had prepared had been for her as well. I’d never been in the habit of watching Humans eat, but I was relatively certain that stomachs weren’t that big… I’d seen a few.
While the two of them ate, they gossiped about everything from inter-pack romances and break ups to Alcide’s own recent falling out with his girlfriend. It confirmed that he had one… but irritated me all the more that he was single again… not that it would stop him.
I caught a few stray thoughts from him. He was irritated that Sookie mentioned Carla at all… His mind went back to being annoyed with Calvin Norris’s reason for paying a visit… He had the thought that I seemed ‘likeable’ when I wasn’t around other Vampires and blamed my position as Sheriff for why I was usually ‘frigid’… And he was genuinely pissed with Sookie for flipping the back of her skirt to show her bikini bottoms because she needed to ‘fucking behave’ so that I wouldn’t read into anything.
Still more questions.
I was almost positive that Sookie had taken her leave so that I could talk to her Were.
As soon as she wedged herself into the throng of dancers by the DJ, I took the opportunity…
“How much time have you been spending together?”
He thought while he finished chewing, “Here we go. That’s what I expected.” By the time he could speak, he looked constipated. “A lot. Most of our free time.”
“Has she been eating?”
I almost laughed when he thought ‘rewind’ and replayed my question to himself. “She eats like a fucking pig. She puts away more than me at every sitting. I don’t know where she’s putting it. You’re worried that she’s gotten thin?”
“Don’t worry about that. She’s packing on muscle. Her body fat percentage is at the floor; she’s all muscle. She’s strong as an ox too.” Explaining why he’d thought she’d knocked him from his feet.
“How is she doing it?”
“On her own. She runs and does sit ups and pull ups. She’s not doing any weight training or anything.”
“How far is her house from Dawson’s?”
“Mmm, about 10 miles, maybe more. Why?”
“He told her that he’d seen her running there.”
He chuckled, “That doesn’t surprise me. One night I got to her house and she wasn’t home yet so I went to Merlotte’s looking for her. Sam told me that Jason had gotten too drunk to get himself back to Hotshot and she’d taken him back. I figured she’d driven her car, but she when she came in, she’d driven his truck, hid his distributor cap and then RUN back to work.”
“Hotshot is nearly 20 miles from the diner!”
“Yeah, and she’s fast. Something is going on. I can’t put my finger on it, but until I do, I’m fine with pointing the finger at Niall.” She’d told him about Niall. I would’ve worried, but he’d been keeping her other secrets for her… and it didn’t escape me that he’d reached the same conclusion about Prince Prick’s involvement in her sudden surge.
I watched Sookie dance with possibly the ugliest boy I’d ever laid eyes on as I listened to his thoughts. “…At least she’s dancing with a f’ug so he can’t worry about that… I’m still going to kick her ass for ditching me… fucker’s not going to trust me until we have the chance to prove I’m not fucking her… or trying to… damn, this etouffee is good… Palisades is getting added to the lunch list… the girls in the office would dig it… remember to mention it… If she keeps it up, I’m going to have to hose down those boys… watching her… spank bank… fucking weird… I kind of wish he could read my mind… keep us from wasting a lot of time…”
That was more than sufficient… ‘hearing’ him think that telepathy would keep me from being suspicious, solved my curiosity enough. If I couldn’t trust his motives, if he had secret hopes of being with her, if he was at all embittered that I’d won her, he wouldn’t assume my being telepathic would help the situation at all.
No one with something to hide wanted to be within miles of a telepath. My time with Sookie had proven that much.
“She loves you.” I’d been quiet long enough that I’d surprised him.
“I know. I love her too.”
“Are you fucking her?”
His first thought, “If I was fucking her, I wouldn’t be playing nice. I’d be fighting like a motherfucker to keep her away from him.” He answered simply, “No.”
“But you want to.”
Another split answer. “Always have, but I don’t roll like that… shit’s gotta stop… me, I get… not trusting Sookie, bad idea… it’ll break her fucking heart… why the fuck should he care though… he could just blame me when he crashes and burns like Compton blames him…” but he spoke as though he was admonishing a child, “Who doesn’t? But, she’s in love with you and I like being her friend. Sex isn’t the only thing she has to offer.”
I turned my attention back to Sookie, who was then dancing with a pair of hormonal teens… I left Herveaux to worry about it.
I actually felt ashamed of myself… well, as ashamed as I was capable of. The feeling was probably close to ‘remiss’. I hadn’t realized that’s what I’d been doing. I hadn’t realized that I’d been suspect of her by extension. Of anyone, I could trust Sookie…
Granted his scent was everywhere in her house, but there wasn’t the faintest trace of cum downstairs… I’d assumed the worst, that they could’ve been fucking in the yard.
I’d been to his house, having felt that Sookie was in Shreveport. Instead of finding them doing anything to make me mistrustful, they were on his sofa laughing at a movie… Since they’d been laying under the same blanket, I’d assumed that I either missed catching them or that it hadn’t happened yet.
And in all of her travels, I couldn’t track down where they were staying. Hundreds of hotel searches and none of them had a Herveaux or a Stackhouse staying with them. I’d assumed that they were carefully hiding their relationship.
The more proof I didn’t have, the more wary I became and… not only was it unfair to Sookie, but it was madness, a mental trap I’d set for myself, being too used to games I played myself (and often) that I knew Sookie didn’t play.
It was a relief to be wrong for once. Usually, being right meant that ‘life’ as I knew it was going to fall to shit around me…
Part of me wanted to think that Herveaux’s nearly constant exposure to Sookie over the past weeks had given him some practice at guarding his thoughts, but I didn’t get that impression. His mind seemed just as primal as Weres ever were. It seemed, honestly, as though I could trust him to be around her.
Telepathy had finally, after more than a year, finally served a fucking purpose.
After Alcide and I rescued her from being dry-humped from both sides, I watched her play some sort of memory based drinking game. She’d had enough before the game that I’d started counting… as I thought back, she’d had 11 drinks the night before, but I hadn’t tasted the slightest hint of it when I’d bitten her…
She’d already had 5 drinks by the time she was done eating her dinner. I wasn’t smelling it in her pores, it didn’t seem to be affecting her motor skills or speech… she was laughing hard enough that she and Alcide were losing the game because of time penalties alone, but she… she seemed fine. Herveaux was drunk. He was drunk enough to be sweating it and losing focus…
It was peculiar to say the least and oddly enough, her fun was contagious. I realized shortly before the game was over that I wasn’t annoyed or bored. Sookie’s mood had made Dancing With Wolves (I knew that’s what Pam would call it) enjoyable.
When their drinking game was over, the winner challenged Sookie to a ‘keg stand’, only supporting my frat party hypothesis.
“Eric, could you hold his legs for him?”
“Lover, who will hold yours?”
I let a chuckle slip when I overheard Alcide’s thought. “I got a better question. Who the fuck’s gonna hold her hair when she barfs? 15 drinks in a body that size… fuck… hope Eric’s got Scotch Guard in his Burb…” One word had rolled into the next… even his thoughts were slurred. The Packmaster had matched Sookie drink for drink and he was swaying…
Sookie giggled, leaning into my chest. “Sexy, what makes you think I need someone to hold me up?” The fact that her Were needed to be held up and he was firmly planted on his feet.
Alcide stared as she put both hands on the keg in front of her, blatantly showing off by that point, and kicked her feet up to rest on the support beam to the shelter.
The challenging Were shrugged, shaking his head as he followed her lead and Alcide nearly fell over when he bent down to start the taps for them.
As the growing crowd chanted ‘chug, chug, chug…’, I waved Dawson over to take the boy’s legs so that I could tease Sookie. Win or lose, it was a drinking game that couldn’t be taken seriously and I worried that when her body finally realized how much she’d had to drink, Scotch Guard wasn’t going to help.
“Lover, this isn’t very ladylike. You’ve drawn quite an audience.”
She grinned with the hose between her lips.
“I heard someone suggest they talk you into a round of smiles. He was being vulgar. What is ‘Smiles’?” I’d seen a variation of it played in Fangtasia and had to stop it so that I wouldn’t be charged with running a brothel.
As soon as Sookie’s competitor gave up, Alcide reappeared in my line of sight. He was right behind Sookie with a pitcher of ice water. “…This’ll teach ‘er to dump ice in my shorts…” When he realized I noticed him, he cringed. “…fuck… I don’t want to push my luck…”
If he was retaliating, I couldn’t begrudge him… not if I was honestly going to try getting along. And if nothing else, she’d thought ‘ice snipers’ was fucking hilarious when she told me about it the night before.
I smiled and gave him a wink and judging by the look on his face, he was expecting anything but my consent.
As soon as he started pouring Sookie began shaking her head to have the hose removed from her mouth, but I took my time, letting the water get all the way to her chin before removing it for her.
She gasped, yelling through her laughter, “Alcide! You ARE dead!”
I laughed from the second she dropped her legs and wrapped them around Herveaux’s neck. The look on his face was priceless, not to mention, the ice in her skirt was suddenly soaking him.
She made an impressive move, sitting up and knocking him off balance… he staggered back into the grass before falling flat on his ass.
After the initial stun from the tumble wore off, they began wrestling.
My first thought went back to thinking they’d been hiding something, but when he first thought she’d tackled him earlier, he’d thought that she told me… something… my assumption, again, wasn’t flattering. But watching them, specifically how quickly Sookie moved and managed to pin him… That must’ve been what he was thinking about. The two of them had been sparring… maybe an effort to strengthen Sookie. He had convinced her to get a gun. Another defensive measure.
The two of them traded off, turn for turn and it didn’t seem that he was letting her get by with much. She was practiced and calculating. She was also besting the Packmaster in front of his whole pack while they cheered on, regardless of who won each round.
When the two of them were done, he slapped her ass hard enough that the sting echoed through our bond, but she showed no reaction to it. For that matter, when he carried her back over to me, her lip was bloodied and she was smiling and giggling without seeming to notice.
I didn’t want to focus on the fact that she was hurt, even if it was mild, I didn’t like it. “Sookie, when did you learn how to spar like that?”
She was smiling ear to ear. “Alcide wrestled in high school and college. He showed me some holds and escapes and he even set me up with some guys to spar with that wouldn’t take it easy on me.”
Alcide shrugged. “Yeah, I had to pay some guy’s ER bill. She broke his nose. Russell laughed his ass off though.” As drunk as he was, he realized he slipped. “Fuck me… Sookie’s gonna kill me… he’s not supposed to know about Russell…”
Not only did she scowl at him, but Sookie’s thoughts were just as telling. “Gonna kick his ass for blabbering… I still needed to wait to tell Eric… I won’t lie to him but he shouldn’t know yet…”
More clues… more to think about… their reason for being in Jackson hadn’t been to be seen partying, drinking, dancing… it had been political in spite of Sookie’s distaste for the craft. What’s more, it would explain why she’d been avoiding the topic of her trips while we’d been on our way to Shreveport. She wasn’t hiding what she was doing with Alcide, she’d been up to something. Russell, obviously… Dallas meant that she’d been in contact with Stan Davis… Atlanta meant she’d been in contact with Nanesmond and given that vampire’s reputation, I was surprised that she wasn’t already challenging me for Sookie.
In an effort to avoid talking about it, she towed both of us to the dance floor…
She was testing me. I was sure of it.
She danced between us, even if the Wolf was more than awkward about it, for the remainder of some trite remix… then Herveaux excused himself when a slower song started playing. He didn’t look well.
Once the song was over, Sookie took my hand in search of Alcide. I could feel her concern and started to question why she wasn’t drunk like he was. She was as sober as she had been before she started drinking and it didn’t seem possible. There was a time when a couple of drinks gave her giggling fits.
We found him in the chair he’d been sitting in while they’d eaten their dinner… completely unconscious. He was sweating the tequila he’d been drinking and Sookie was doing her best to hide how panicked she was.
She tried patting his hand…
She tried prodding his arms…
She tried slapping his face…
And if I didn’t know better, I’d have thought I was worried myself.
Nothing worked until she made a fist and raked it over the center of his chest.
He winced, making me wonder about the technique, as he cracked his eyes and plastered a retarded grin on his face. Somehow Sookie helped him out of the chair in spite of their weight difference and helped him to his truck, stopping along her way to kiss my cheek and ask me to follow them in ‘our Burb’.
Her anxiety about his health rattled me every minute of the drive to his house.
I helped her get him into his house, watching her use her own key to unlock the door, smelling her presence everywhere between his front door and his bathroom and I had to keep myself from falling into my old habits of distrust.
She felt no shyness about stripping his clothing… Stop it. Weres aren’t shy and it wasn’t as though she was enjoying any part of her task.
She tossed her boots and jacket into the corner of the bathroom and stepped into the tub with him… Stop it. He wasn’t able to stand on his own. She was using her newfound telekinesis to keep him vertical.
Once he was conscious again, she left him alone so that he could ‘barf’, as he’d put it, privately and she began moving through his house to tend to his needs, know it as well as she knew her own house… Stop it. They’d both already admitted that she’d been spending time at his house.
She’d done everything from starting a load of his laundry to placing a bucket and medication within his reach. When she seemed to be done, we sat and waited… and Sookie’s scent wafted from his bed…
Not only was it Sookie’s scent but the smell of cum was with it… Stop it. He’d had a girlfriend until recently. I didn’t have any proof that it was Sookie’s cum I smelled because it wasn’t recent enough. That reaction was harder to control. Much, much harder to ignore.
His shoulder bounced off of the doorframe as he staggered out of the bathroom and his eyes crossed when he tried to focus on us while we stood up. “Thank you. Both of you.” It seemed like it was the only fucking thing going through his mind at the moment.
Sookie hugged him and kissed his cheek and, again, he was still just appreciating that he’d been taken care of.
Sookie cooed, “That’s what friends do. Now get in bed.”
I sure as hell wasn’t going to hug him again. I ignored the urge to laugh at him when it took him too long to make contact with my hand to shake it. “She’s working for the Shifter tomorrow night. I’m going to sit at the bar and annoy him with my existence if you want to join me.”
The first thing he thought was, “When is it not fun to fuck with that asshole?” He laughed, “I’ll see you tomorrow night then.”
Sookie huffed, “Oh! Fabulous! Why not take Pam too!”
I raised my eyebrow, imagining the countless possibilities. “Then we could use the foreign language paranoia to our advantage. Very clever. Herveaux, any second languages?”
“Right now? No… by tomorrow night I might remember some French and Italian.” Good enough.
“Pam and I speak both… Should I alert Quinn and Compton anonymously that Sookie is working so we can make even teams? 3 on 3?”
Sookie punched my side and growled that we were running late as I let her drag me to the front of the house.
Alcide laughed and slurred, “What? We aren’t allowed to have any fun?”
She jokingly shouted back, “Not THAT much fun!”
“How do we know what ‘too much’ is?”
“I’ve told you, if the cops get called, it’s too much fun.”
“And I’ve told you, if the cops get called you’re doing it right.”
She locked the door and slammed it behind us as we left, but she was trying not to laugh.
“Sookie, I’m going to have to agree with him.”
She rolled her eyes playfully. “What did I get myself into? I’m surrounded by trouble makers.”
“If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle ‘black’, I don’t know what is.”
She opened her mouth to argue, but shut it again and laughed, knowing full well that she might be worse than all of us.
“What was that? Silent agreement?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Yes, it was.”
She narrowed her eyes and huffed, “The best you’re going to get out of me is a ‘maybe’. Let’s go show me off.”