Man To Man
I’m not sure why I felt the urge to spare Shawn from embarrassing himself, unless it was because any number of possible stupid questions he could have asked would re-ignite Linda’s panic, but I gave him an exit.
“Shawn, if I don’t leave the room now, I’ll become a walking handkerchiefs for those three… I’ve learned my lesson the hard way, but you’re free to stay.”
As the women laughed at me for leaving, Shawn followed me to the den closely and his mouth was already open to begin his questions when I turned around.
I started, “Hadley wanted to be the one to tell you, but we didn’t predict Linda’s reaction. She usually just calls me to rant about venders and inspectors. I expected my phone to ring, not my doorbell.”
“But Hadley told you first?”
“Accidentally. She called to speak to Sookie. I overheard… Linda only knows Hadley is pregnant. News of your relationship was de-prioritized.”
“But you and Sookie know.”
“No. This conversation is a hallucination brought on by your guilty conscience.”
He huffed, “Fuck man, it could be… She’s a 20-year old girl. Do you know how many guys I’ve known that I lost respect for? Nanny-fuckers, Erik, I called them nanny-fuckers… And now I’m being the king of all hypocrites, doing the same damn thing…”
“Were they fucking the nanny behind their wives’ backs?”
“Yeah, but do you think Patty’s gonna take this news well? Amicably-glamoured-breakup bullshit or not, I’m the first one to start dating again and she’s going to blow her stack.”
I chuckled, “Have your girlfriend, the empath, break the news.”
“You’re ‘Mr. Math’… help me out… What the fuck am I thinking?”
“You’re lonely because you’re recently separated from your wife and Hadley’s reciprocating that.”
He sighed, “I thought of that… That’s not it. And I’ve looked at her ability from every angle I can think of. We’ve even talked about it together.”
He slumped onto the sofa and stared at the ceiling. “I thought I might just be lonely and she was picking up on that, but I think about her when she isn’t around and we thought about it the other way too, but how the hell does someone get sucked in by the Stackhouses and still feel lonely? They’re like a happy-huggy-smiley swarm and they treat everyone like family. I’m not lonely, Erik. I’ve got my kids four nights a week and I’d have to try to keep my calendar free for the other three nights.”
I nodded and sat on the other end of the sofa. “Fair enough.”
He continued, “Then I thought about the kids. They love her to death. I thought she could be emitting that, I mean, you know how strong her thing is. But it’s not just when the kids are around… I’ll go as far as saying that I don’t think I’d be as attracted to her if the kids didn’t like her though.”
“Alright. Now that you exhausted the Human angles as though you’ve forgotten you’re a fucking Vampire, perhaps you’re simply hungry and want to fuck something.”
He shook his head. “We’re not like that… I haven’t fed from her and I don’t think I want to since every other guy she’s ever been with has used her. Bags and glamoured clubbers are fine. And we don’t just have sex every chance we get. We actually talk, or watch movies. I’ve been helping her paint the boys room over at Patty’s house because they want that mural she did at my house over there too… Then there’s the bigger picture.”
I knew where this was going and blamed Linda. Sookie had warned me… While the Stackhouses worked one day, Jason mentioned he was worried about Shawn’s breakup and since he was single, he wouldn’t have anything brilliant to offer to the situation (because being single was the only reason). Linda suggested telling Shawn to come to me. Not only was I fostering him, but I was once a ‘family man’ too. That little piece of advice was why ‘someone’ had been drawing dirty pictures (usually depicting bestiality) on the bathroom mirrors at Sandwich Island with grease pens.
I groaned. “I’m not a therapist.”
“Who else am I going to talk to? You’ve got Sookie so you can probably identify with half of what’s going on.”
“Pam. She has feelings.”
He laughed, “I won’t tell anyone you listened to me whine. Then I’d have to tell someone I was whining.”
“Fine. Go ahead then.”
“For a few nights after the whole Patty thing, I wallowed. I analyzed every damn second of our marriage, everything I could remember since we met… I came to the scary fucking conclusion that I don’t think we were ever in love. Don’t get me wrong, I still love her. She’s the mother of my children, and she was my best friend for years. Go ahead and laugh… I ended up talking to Gran.”
If he confided in Adele, why was I being targeted?
“If you told me you took relationship advice from Jason, I’d laugh… What did Adele offer?”
“That she was happily married to her husband until he died and she was in the same situation. They got married young. She loved and respected him, but if they hadn’t had kids, they wouldn’t have had anything to talk about. She said there wasn’t any shame in it, but the love of her life was her kids…”
“Hindsight should have a monitory value, but you and Adele aren’t the only ones who can make the same claim… Sookie mentioned you almost divorced. What was the reason for that?”
“A rut. A giant fucking rut. We’d been trying for kids for years. No luck. I finally ended up getting a job with better insurance. The old carrier didn’t cover infertility. We knew something was up, but we couldn’t afford the testing without draining the savings. It would have been counterproductive since we were saving for a house for a family. The problem was an easy fix… but… getting pregnant with Tammy fixed our rut. We’d been fine ever since… The kids gave us something to talk about.”
I chuckled, “Adele is probably the wisest Human you’ll ever meet.”
He snorted, “No shit… so Dr. Gran decided that with everything that happened with our parents’ nuclear divorces, we were just kids who needed someone to commiserate with. She says we married our ‘safe-place’. No argument from me. We went through a lot together. I mean, we literally ran away from home every weekend for nearly a year and stayed in her hippy-uncle’s old junked-out Winnebago just to get away from the shit at home. My parents would get drunk and scream at each other, but her parents would get drunk and scream at her… I don’t have to be happy about why we ended up splitting, but it could be worse.”
“And now you’re a nanny-fucker.”
He pulled a disgusted face and shook his head. “Fuuuuuuuck… You know what, I know a guy… One of the kids on Tammy’s soccer team, his parent’s split up because the dad ran off with the babysitter. I’m going to hunt him down and ask him what the fuck guys like him were thinking. If it’s the same thing as me, I’m gonna need you to kill me. For real. I DO NOT want to be a member of that club.”
I chuckled, “I can tell you what they were thinking, but you aren’t going to like it.”
He groaned, “Consider me braced.”
“They were thinking they wanted to fuck something young and pretty.”
I snorted, “You were warned.”
He stretched his legs out and crossed them at the ankles and studied the tops of his shoes for a moment before asking, “Were they thinking how great it is that she knows something about him that would scare most people, but she liked him anyway?”
“I know I should really be working on being a Vampire, man, but… she treats me like I’m normal, like everything about what I am is right as rain even if I’m not quite there yet. I know for a fact Patty wouldn’t have proposed a toast ‘to moderation’ when I didn’t need help feeding. My schedule, my diet… Hadley hasn’t passed any kind of judgment or acted like anything about me is weird. She’s great with the kids. She keeps up the babysitter act for Patty… At first, I was just looking forward to the Revelation, you know, but Hadley makes me feel alright the way things are now.”
Fuck him and all of his parallels.
“And you feel like that when she’s miles away, yes?”
He dropped his head back and growled. “Yeah… As soon as I wake up, I’m thinking about her. Checking my messages, wondering what she’s been up to, thinking of an excuse to see her… We were trying to keep things light because everything is so complicated for both of us, but that lasted all of a week. I’m fallin’… hard.”
Fuck him again.
“It’s the family. You saw her reaction to learning Vampires are real… It’s because of what they are. For the most part. I’m still wondering about Adele’s excuse.”
“So… thanks for listening, even if you were useless.”
“I’m ‘Mr. Math’. Pam has a spare bedroom just for her feelings.”
“Feelings and an evil streak. You’re the one that knows how to keep a secret. I’m not telling that mouth anything… How much math is involved in this?”
“The simplified Human version is that you enjoy each other’s company. Seeing as how you’re both consenting adults, your relationship with Hadley is no one’s business but your own.”
“I guess there’s a complicated Vampire version, huh?”
“There is… We’ll start with the fact that you’ve been fucking someone for five weeks. I’m using a faceless model for this point because it doesn’t matter who you were fucking. Did you think I’d help you hide the body? You’re aware enough of traps to avoid certain pitfalls, but you knowingly put yourself into a position to reach bloodlust.”
“Ummm. The first time, I was okay. I’d just fed… I was going to tell you, kinda imply it was with a random girl so I could get your take and advice or whatever, but Hadley warned me not to say anything around Sookie because she’d know I wasn’t being completely honest… I couldn’t ever get you alone. So I tried calling you, but you asked if it was a matter of death and death because you were busy…”
Sookie. Blow job.
“So the next time we got together, I hadn’t fed that night. That was a problem. I got really close to biting her and it scared the shit out of me. I sucked down a couple of pints and calmed right down. So… I figured I kinda had a plan in place. I’ve been drinking a couple bags a night even when I don’t really want it, just in case. The last thing I want is to hurt her. I would have said something to you sooner if it stopped working, but I figured since it wasn’t broke…”
At least there was a semblance of logic being used.
“You said you haven’t been feeding from her. Have you tasted her blood?”
He nodded. “I’m still getting used to my fangs.”
As though it was that simple.
“Did you have a reaction to her taste?”
He nodded. “Yeah… That’s something I was going to ask about. She tastes a little like A-negative, but it’s off. Is she AB-negative?”
I growled and called for Sookie, making Shawn wait since I refused to be an idiot without company.
Sookie came around the corner with a raised eyebrow. “What did I do to deserve all three names?”
“You were right… Shawn, repeat what you just asked me.”
He looked at her with wide, confused eyes and explained, “I just asked what blood type Hadley is because I caught her lip on my fangs. It’s kind of like A-negative. I thought it might be AB-negative.”
“I’m going to guess you weren’t so tempted you got carried away.”
He shook his head. “I was fine.”
Sookie giggled, “Did I get called back here so I could throw a party for being right or because my punishment is telling him?”
I shrugged. “Both, but you should have two parties. One for being right about Hadley’s blood and one for being an excellent Vampire.”
She giggled again and danced on her way to sit on my lap.
Shawn chuckled at her and asked, “So what were you right about?”
She was smiling from ear to ear as she took a deep breath. “Well, we were discussing concerns about you tasting Hadley’s blood. We were worried you’d be like a fat kid on a cupcake, but I had the idea since you’re so young, your palate isn’t as honed as Erik’s, so you might not have a Hungry, Hungry Hippo moment. I love that I’m right by the way.”
“Ummm thanks, I guess. So that was it? She’s got a rare blood type?”
Sookie shook her head. “No. If she tasted sort of like A-negative, then that’s what she is… but…”
She turned to look at me so I shook my head. “You tell him. I’m grading you. If you keep at the rate you’re going, I’ll bring you over as my replacement so I can retire.”
She snorted, “How would that work? Then I’d be busy with family and Sheriff stuff. No time for fun.”
I loved, more than the scent of sunlight, when Sookie playfully idealized any scenario where she was a Vampire… There was no way she was oblivious to how promising the concept was to me either.
“Good point. I’ll bring you over and then you’ll never get tired again. We’ll just ignore the Area.”
She wiggled her eyebrows at me and turned to Shawn. “I was there when Erik told you to stay the hell away from Faeries because on a good day they’re conniving, backbiting and arrogant… He told you their scent is intoxicating and their blood is like Vampire heroin. He warned you that he narrowly escaped a couple of scrapes with Faeries and he was much older and stronger than you are now. Bad news all around, those Faeries. Remember that?”
Shawn nodded. “Yeah. It’s pretty hard to forget something like that. Faeries being real? Yeah… Says the Vampire.”
She snickered, “I know, right… So, we’re Faeries. Part anyway. Aunt Linda is, and my daddy was, a quarter. Hadley, Jason, Brandon and I are an eighth. That’s how we have the abilities we do… Our scent and blood are watered down too, but not enough that it would slip by the notice of a Vampire.”
He shook his head. “That’s so bizarre. I get a difference, but…”
Sookie cut him off by blurting, “OH! Erik, he was smelling it while he was Human too! He knew Brandon before he was turned. The jar-candle condition… That could be another point in his favor.”
The ‘jar-candle condition’ was the same thing as ‘pot roast syndrome’. When a jar-candle is lit or a pot roast is placed in the oven, the scent of melting/cooking fills the immediate surroundings slowly, thereby tempering anyone in the vicinity to the aroma. However, if a subject leaves the affected area and returns later, or a new subject is introduced to the area, the fragrance is easily noticeable.
I nodded. “He could have been numbed to it slightly. Very good point. Feel free to dance again.”
She giggled and swatted my arm. “Not now… So yeah, that’s a big thing to consider before feeding from Hadley and why Erik put out the word about us being his. I mean we’re pretty much Vampire candy… So I proposed that you do a taste test while Erik can supervise and I can make sure you aren’t having a reaction…”
I added, “Because I also warned you that Vampires can go mad from taking Fae blood.”
He shook his head. “Not now. You’re not talking about while she’s pregnant, are you?”
Sookie snorted, “Do you know how many rounds of blood-work they do when a woman’s pregnant? A couple of mouthfuls aren’t going to harm either one of them.”
It was a good thing Sookie knew that. As far as I knew it was a matter of guesswork.
“I didn’t want to feed from her before, I’m sure as hell not going to do it while she’s pregnant.”
I explained, “That’s your prerogative, but I still need some indication you won’t kill her. I promised to mentor you, but I promised to protect the Stackhouses as well. If this was anyone else, and testing you ended badly, I’d simply educate you as to how multi-functional Little League Baseball fields are, but no risks will be taken with Hadley’s safety.”
He scoffed and sat back. “I don’t like it, but if that’s what I have to do… I think it’s her, by the way. I think she’s how I don’t lose it. Pam made a joke that Hadley was my Maker, but when I got to thinking about it, she went to Glamour with us when I went to feed.”
“We considered that. We also considered it could be a gift. Not all of them are as blatant as mine.”
He shrugged. “I was thinking about going to Glamour without her, but I haven’t decided if I want to know yet. At this point, it could just be I’m thinking Human enough that I don’t want to be so personal with someone, even if they’re glamoured.”
Sookie sighed and asked me, “Are you finished with the Vampire mentor speech about keeping secrets?”
I nodded, curious about why she asked. “A brief reminder that I don’t enjoy repeating myself would be wise.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Since Shawn’s an orphan because his Maker ignored you, I think that’s a good idea…”
Absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
She turned to Shawn and began, “So now you need the Stackhouse reaming.”
He cringed. “Uh oh.”
“Yeah, uh oh. There’s nothing a Stackhouse hates more than a secret… It used to be skinny people, but Gran fixed all of those with pie… Shawn, secrets killed my daddy. Secrets kept us from Brandon his whole life. Secrets gave Hadley a lifetime of regrets… I’m not saying we aren’t nosey, because I’d get struck by lightning, but we aren’t judgmental. No one in this family is going to judge you for y’alls age difference as long as you’re good to Hadley. We’re just going to be happy for y’all. Once everything settles down from the baby news, y’all should say something.”
“It’s just so fucking complicated… Even if you throw our ages out, Linda’s had my blood. I’ve known Brandon long enough I remember his first date.”
She rolled her eyes and slid from my lap, snorting, “Jackass. You’re already family… I’m goin’ back to the trenches, boss. Hadley’s trying not to dance with ghosts, but it’s getting hard for her.”
“I think the mention of nursery décor should do the trick.”
As soon as she was out of earshot, I scoffed, “I’d like to take this moment to point out Sookie just proved age means fuckall. Nanny-fuckers ruin marriages and disappoint their children for ignorant and vacuous trophies of misguided arrogance… Are you still confused or should I make flash cards?”
He nodded. “I’m hung up on Human shit again, huh?”
“Yes, you are. Recently propagated Human shit, at that. Age, race, status… if it weren’t for taboos what would the gossips do?”
He chuckled as Sookie walked into the kitchen and lamented, “If only we knew someone with the ability to predict ‘boy or girl’ ahead of time, we could start quilting now.”
Linda gasped, “A forest! We can paint the nursery now and wait for the ultrasound before adding birds and flowers or foxes and snakes!”
I couldn’t help but smile at the woman, even if she couldn’t see me.
Shawn shook his head and scoffed, “And then they find out the father is a newborn Vampire in the middle of divorcing his widow.”
Hate. My. Job.
“I know, I know… They’ll be… ‘fine’ with it.”
“Don’t make air-quotes. It’s bad enough when Humans do it… You aren’t the father.”
“If… Then who is? How can you be sure?”
“Unfortunately, Hadley doesn’t know. The baby was conceived while she was still unaware of her ability. I’m sure you’ve heard about some of the behavior she was prone to before her gift was explained to her… And I know the baby isn’t yours because Vampires can’t breed.”
I rolled my eyes and grumbled, “We’re going to ignore the fact that you were fucking Hadley, while feeling guilty about her age, when you were under the assumption you could impregnate her, yes?”
“That’s complicated. The reason Patty and I had a hard time having kids was me… When I heard Hadley’s pregnant, I felt like shit because I hadn’t thought about it… I thought being brought over fixed me or something… Everything else got stronger. It’s not like Leland did a whole lot of sharing… I took a memorable shot to the nuts in high school playing basketball in gym class. I could barely walk for a couple of days. Turns out the guy basically gave me a vasectomy.”
“It’s a very good thing there are nuts on TMI sandwiches.”
That was supposed to be his cue to shut the fuck up, but he raised an eyebrow and continued, “The doctor figured since it was an old injury, fixing me surgically was iffy. It was ‘easier’ to go with in-vitro… But that meant they had to use a needle to…”
That was it. I left.
Yes, I preferred a room full of weepy women.
Shawn was smart enough to stay in the den while he finished laughing.