I’d tried explaining, but it didn’t seem like her bedroom door was listening.
Trying to point out the hypocrisy of her reaction, because I’d witnessed how possessive Asa could be and I’d yet to cripple anyone for touching her, didn’t do anything but inspire another, “Please, just leave me alone so I can think.” I’d lost count of how many times she’d said it and was beginning to hope the weed had made her paranoid so I could wait for her to come to her senses…
She might not have had much experience with it (no more than I did), but there were other ways to be possessive than in ownership. The last thing she was, was pet material, and it was seriously pissing me off that she seemed to be ignoring how many times I’d actually said as much.
Of course, since I hadn’t been in the braid, just mind-fucked by it, I wondered if the version she’d visited had a skewed opinion because that Sookie was ‘just’ a working mother… That train of thought didn’t last long enough for me to return to my house. I wouldn’t have wasted the time on ‘just’ anyone. If nothing else, my lack of pets should have proven that. It should have spoken volumes that that version of Me was concerned enough about her children that He didn’t annul a prank marriage just for the sake of their opinion of their mother.
Why the fuck didn’t she know better!?
We’d been friends long enough that she should have known better than to think I shopped for pets. She jokingly called it ‘tag and release’ because she knew I fucked and fed from slag. When we’d been in London, she called me the ‘Magic Fisherman’ because my dinner threw themselves at me… The name stuck for long enough that I had a salvo of fish-themed gifts from friends for a few months.
I couldn’t decide which was worse… that she’d lumped me in with every other prick who had treated her like a trophy pet, or that they had gotten under her skin enough to make her question me.
In the hours, the impossibly maddening hours, between leaving her house and arriving at Fangtasia the next night, I’d only come to the conclusion that I needed her to be more levelheaded. I needed to explain to her specifically how the braid was fucking with me… that it only really encouraged something that probably would have happened eventuality without everyone’s braid testimonials. The braid opened a window, it didn’t install the fucking thing.
When I walked into Fangtasia the following night, I was passed by a man with a dolly piled with a plethora of ornately wrapped gifts that filled my office until it was nothing more than a narrow footpath to my desk. I’d arrived early in the hopes of catching Sookie before she started working, but she had too… Wedged into my office between mountains of proof that she was anything but a pet, she quickly blurted that everything was fine before we started fucking, but it wasn’t too late to go back. Just friends. This is too complicated. She’d been hoping for something casual and would have been okay with a place on my recall list, but… she was sure I’d understand that she wouldn’t be able to look at herself in the mirror if she resigned to being a pet. If nothing else, she needed to set a better example for her nieces and nephews, but proving Linda wrong about her was more incentive than anything.
Part of me was proud of her for standing up for herself, but it wasn’t as though I’d ever treated her like a pet. I was completely aware of how intelligent, independent and accomplished she was. Pets don’t have potential; they hold down sofas in apartments they don’t pay for and wait to be used.
But what the fuck was I supposed to do? Argue with her when Fangtasia was already filling with ‘early birds’? Try to explain that being Mine didn’t make her a pet anymore than Hadley was Shawn’s pet? If anything, it was the other way around in their case… How the fuck was I supposed to itemize the reasons why ‘just friends’ made my skin crawl without implying that her friendship was lacking? All while her barely legal day-guy was coming and going with gifts from her adoring fans?
I was completely gobsmacked…
And everything, everything, felt… wrong… from the second we left my office…
After just a few nights together, it shouldn’t have been too late.
It was too late…
For me, at least.
She seemed perfectly content to sit next to me and carry on without flirting and, to be fair, I was sure that only helped the façade that I was still forgiving her for optioning me… but it didn’t feel like the act anymore. It actually felt cold. Distanced. Uncomfortable.
After another spectacular performance, where she awed the Vampires of Louisiana, tutored her brother’s telepathy, and enthralled the King of Mississippi, we went our separate ways. She returned to her house on Lake Bistineau, and I did every fucking thing I could to think of something other than her.
The next night was worse. The Erica costumes were wearing on my resolve as it was, but as Brandon was tempered to her work wardrobe, it seemed like there was a shortage of fabric I hadn’t been made aware of. And that’s when Alcide began training too. I lost count of how many fucking times he had the chance to enjoy her whispering into his ear.
Fuck that it was instructional. Fuck that I was irrational.
I didn’t even care if she noticed how fucking jealous I was anymore. By then I just wanted her to realize I felt something. And I might have been pissed just because my fucking friends behaved as though nothing ever happened.
And it was another night I left Fangtasia alone… that time, I went to Cross Lake. I knew better than to think I’d do anything at home but piss myself off, so I opted to play guessing games instead, trying to find the house that could be hers since I knew Ryan had been leaving a fresh trail.
I didn’t even have that small victory… and I was shot at for trespassing.
At least I was still lucid enough to realize I’d brought that on myself.
Atum’s arrival was my reprieve. When he finally came to Shreveport, the ice melted slightly. He’d strolled into Fangtasia, breaking the Erica façade to earn a genuine Sookie smile as part of his greeting. While the thralls stared at him with slack jaws, it seemed like I was the only one on the platform who wasn’t expecting him. I might have only been invited to Sookie’s house that night because of his visit, but I was willing to take whatever I could get.
Besides, as far as I knew, ‘just friends’ hung out.
I spent that night playing various games and catching up while Atum gave Sookie her new tattoo… Given that the design followed her spine from the small of her back to the nape of her neck, there were a handful of areas that were painful enough that she’d resorted to stalling whatever game she was playing to begin taking deep breaths… The vine of flowers along her backbone was ‘Sookie’, as Atum put it. Naturally beautiful and fragrant, liberated, persistent, resilient, vibrant… I couldn’t have agreed more, but I joked that he should add bees to the design because Sookie could deliver a sting even a Vampire could feel for hours… if not for three nights and counting.
The next night (as I was already welcome because of Atum’s arrival) I helped Sookie pack to elope while her phone was attached to her ear, confirming detail after detail with Connelly, Edward and Richard… After nearly relentless nagging on Pam’s part, because ‘Stepford wives don’t get married in Balenciaga suits’, Sookie had finally gone shopping for a wedding dress. She’d found a vintage lace Thea Porter gown that she described as ‘whimsically quixotic’ and decided it was old enough to claim it was an heirloom. Pam was proud of her victory, but I was proud of Sookie for not missing the valid point Pam was trying to make because she was usually just looking for an excuse to shop.
But the dress still fucked with me until Sookie put it in her luggage.
Fuck that it was part of an act. Fuck that I was irrational… Fuck that I knew it wouldn’t have been anything but textiles to me if I wasn’t being shut out.
My house seemed more boring than ever once Sookie left for New York. Fangtasia was so much worse that, in the few nights she was gone, and the bar was back to business as usual, I gave the employees their notice… Gawain went with Sookie, and Simza moved on to Texas to get into place as one of Newlin’s victims. And there was only so much time I could spend exploring Sookie’s property with Atum and the cats once we built a temporary pier for her new boat.
If the three nights she spent in New York weren’t mind-numbingly boring enough, the next week was so much worse… Knowing she was in Shreveport and needing to keep my distance while she settled into her ‘new house’ with her ‘husband’, made me want to kill something. Even taking Gawain to buy a Suburban so he could tow his playpen with him to Dallas didn’t help. The dealership was actually closer to Casa de Herveaux than my house.
It wasn’t just boredom. It took finding no joy in teasing Pam about her excitement over a Disney cruise to realize I just missed Sookie. Any other time, watching Sunglass Hut and The Disney Store appear on my bank statements would have at least been funny, but Sookie was keeping her distance from a ‘just friend’.
I fucking missed her.
After less than a week of spending so much of my time with her, I would have thought I’d be desperate for a break… And I hadn’t even had a Sunday supper to depend on… The family opted to skip Sunday supper because most of them had packing to do.
I fucking missed Sookie by the time she left for the cruise… I would have settled for the kiss on the cheek I used to get before she left town again. I’d gotten that even when she was with Asa.
It wasn’t much later that I began going mad… or as mad as I’d ever been.
Jealousy is a peculiar cunt. There isn’t any reasoning with her… None.
Pam sent me a link to an online photo album of the family’s tour of the zoo and aquarium… it shouldn’t have made me complain about how slowly the images loaded- fish and animals, nothing I hadn’t seen before- but seeing that Alcide was in the photos shouldn’t have made me throw my monitor either.
He wasn’t supposed to go on the trip.
He sure as fuck shouldn’t have been standing in the fountain at the entrance to the aquarium with Sookie sitting on his fucking shoulders…
I’m somewhat surprised my monitor lasted long enough to see as many photos as I did… I can’t even remember exactly what triggered my reaction… the myriad of photos of her riding his shoulders… the posed photo of Adele and her great-grandchildren where Sookie and Alcide were kissing in the background… the one of Alcide carrying her away, slung over his shoulder. Sookie knows how to fucking walk!
I’m almost sure the final straw was the reenacted spaghetti scene from Lady & The Tramp at Spaghetti Warehouse… it could have been something else, but the next thing I remember after the spaghetti scene was feeding, so Lady & The Tramp was my best guess. It wasn’t as though I should have risked retracing my steps.
I’d gotten as far as scrolling through the stored numbers on my cell phone so I could call Zee to schedule a massage- at least I realized I was coming unhinged- but while I was slowly working my way to the Rs for Rising Sun, it occurred to me that the video the children had watched on Christmas night mentioned that massages were available during the cruise… my mind went directly to Sookie’s massage techniques… and then Alcide’s benefits package.
That’s when I destroyed the first phone of the cruise.
I’d only just replaced it- my new phone wasn’t even fully charged yet- when Wyannie called me… She’d entertained the family during a port of call… Sookie’s new guard was more delicious than the last one. She wanted me to let Alcide know he was welcome in Trinidad when Erica became bored with him.
My third phone and second monitor (along with the keyboard and mouse) were ruined after Pam sent out a bulk text that said everyone was staying with Wallace in Houston until their flight to Shreveport the next night… Not that I had any business seeing the photos, but she’d sent a link to another online album.
Smiles and laughter and tanning and fun and food… swimming and rock climbing and beaches… sunrises and sunsets… dolphins and sharks and iguanas and turtles and tropical birds and flowers… bathing suits and eveningwear… posed photos with costumed Disney characters…
I should have been pleased that everyone seemed to have a phenomenal vacation… but jealousy took over…
It was annoying enough to see Sookie wearing the bikini I gave her while her husband gave her a piggy back ride on the beach…
But one of the twins had taken a photo of the other children piled on top of the inhabitants of a bed.
Sookie and Alcide were sharing a fucking bed.
While I was cataloging books to fill my free time, my whole fucking library and what books she had in her office, she was sleeping with her fucking guard.
While I was struggling to keep from calling Jason and Brandon (I even considered calling Linda a few times) to find out if they’d gotten any updates, she was sleeping with her guard.
While I was transcribing her potion and charm recipes into a proper book to replace her Muppet lunchbox full of index cards as a surprise for her, she was sleeping with her guard.
I fucking missed her, more than I’d missed Pam during our separations… and she was sleeping with her guard.
Never. Fucking. Mind. That she’d decided we were just friends.
I didn’t have a legitimate argument. I didn’t have a claim on her. I hadn’t argued against my shiny new pigeonhole because it had occurred to me that it made sense for her to want take things slowly after her breakup with Asa… because I assumed I wouldn’t have competition while she was on a boat full of married yuppies spoiling their ‘cunt-fruit’… because I didn’t want her to lump me in with her collection of overeager glory-whores who only wanted to claim her for what she could do… because I fucking wanted her to be Mine, not just add her to an inventory.
There was more fun in Pam’s mood for me to suffer the next night. They’d apparently found a way to kill the time until their flight…
And I was left monitoring Pam as she returned to me, using all of my willpower to let the limos I’d sent to the airport greet everyone instead of waiting for them only to pull Sookie’s ‘husband’ apart.
Sunday, that was a chore, but the plane didn’t land until four o’clock in the morning… Knowing that we had a long talk ahead of us, dawn would have interrupted, and more than likely at a bad time.
Monday, January 19, 2004
There wasn’t any fucking hope for me on Monday. I’d died at dawn still trying to think of a way to get through to her… and left my bed when I rose with every intention of making it clear that I had feelings for her… hopefully without needing to add that I’d nearly lost my mind.
Maybe not ‘nearly’… I actually checked on the weather in the Caribbean to evaluate the risks of flying out to the ship to meet them.
Her house was completely still when I arrived… In spite of the drizzling rain and cool temperature, it seemed like Atum had taken the cats into the woods for their nightly exploring.
I didn’t hear her heartbeat until I was on the stairs, following it slowly, just in case, because Atum wasn’t someone anyone should startle.
I found her sleeping… tucked into bed, bare shoulders with a glowing amber tan, and a puddle of blonde hair streaked from sunshine behind her…
I hadn’t been trying to decide how to wake her for long before she rolled towards me, knocking a book to the floor on the other side of the bed and cooing, “I missed you.”
Just to be sure she was sensing the right mind, I asked, “Did you?”
She pushed the blanket back and mumbled, “Yeah… get over here,” as she patted the vacant side of her bed.
It wasn’t just that she knew I was her company… but there was a tan line where her ‘wedding ring’ should have been…
I couldn’t think of a single reason why she would have made a point to remove it once she was home, but… that might have been because I really wanted to be wrong…
Two weeks of demented jealousy-driven mania, cured by a tan line.
It was a blanket rule that we weren’t supposed to listen to her when her eyes were closed. Insignificant topics weren’t the reason for the rule… It was things like the subject of her genealogy that could cause problems later… Procedurally, I should have declined the welcoming little pat on the mattress.
I could always use the insanity defense later.
I kicked off my shoes and slid into bed with her, and she didn’t wait for me to settle before she moved her head to my shoulder, strapped her arm over my chest and wrapped her leg around mine…
It was so bittersweet… She’d regret it when she woke, but… it wasn’t a friendly snuggle. It wasn’t until then that I realized the difference… cuddling before meant that my leg or ribs were used as a pillow…
She sighed, “I needed this for weeks.”
She wasn’t the only one.
“Did you have fun?”
She mumbled, “Yeah… tons… wish you went too though… but I think Pam had more fun because she didn’t have to worry about being teased.”
“I’ll need to tease her for wearing mouse ears for most of the cruise… Why did Alcide go?”
She groaned, “Wallace was paranoid… After he heard about what happened with the Queen, he wanted me to take Alcide just in case…” She sighed, “But it made sense, I guess, and the kids had fun making us fake ‘honeymooner’ poses… He’s great with them, but that’s because he’s just a big kid himself. And he was a good sport about being puked on. Archie and Tucker got seasick the first night… the smell was everywhere… Everyone but Gran crashed in my room that night… and we had the veranda doors open.”
I wasn’t sure I’d ever felt like more of an asshole.
I needed to sit down and look over the vacation photos without a suspicion-tinged mind so I could just be happy for them for having an enjoyable vacation… even if it was without me.
When I hadn’t said anything, Sookie asked, “What have you been up to?”
That was a matter for professional diagnosis. Withdrawal symptoms came to mind.
“I gave Fangtasia employees their notice.”
She cooed, “Awww… I was starting to like Ginger. She’s not so bad. Retarded, but sweet.”
“If it makes you feel better, Bill Compton is still mixing drinks horribly. I think he misses you. We should visit him before the bar closes.”
She snickered, “I’d rather watch a cat’s ass for worms.”
“That might be the most disgusting thing I’ve ever been forced to imagine.”
She yawned again, “I know better than that… I found my grimoire. That was very sweet. Thank you.”
“It wasn’t meant to be sweet. I was bored and my favorite show left town.”
She argued by repeating, “Sweet,” and then she yawned again. “I’m sorry… I’m just so… so worn out. Vacations are exhausting.”
“Then sleep. I’ll just entertain myself by cornrowing your hair.”
After another yawn she snickered, “Don’t let this coma fool you. I’ll put up a fight if I wake up looking like Bo Derek.”
Cute, but Bo Derek hadn’t ever been so lucky.
I was there for hours…
With nothing to do but listen to her breathe and wonder what she could be dreaming about, because I refused to think about how pissed she would be when she woke up snuggling with me- the friend.
After a while Atum’s return to the house gave me something to listen to. It sounded as though he was feeding the cats in the kitchen for a while… then it sounded like he stopped in Sookie’s office… He’d just started the water in Sookie’s tub when all three cats rushed into the room to leap onto Sookie’s bed with us.
When one of the adults began growling at me, the other two followed suit, so Atum asked, “What you do to her?”
I was still surprised by Atum’s sudden and liberal use of English, but not that it had been Sookie who fostered it… Her reasoning was that English is the new Latin, and she blamed the fact that America spends more money on global distribution of English speaking movies and music than on silly things like education. Even when he wasn’t with Sookie, he was practicing, and had been since before I left London.
I answered, “Dali’s a sore loser. We competed for a rabbit once and I won.”
He corrected, “Sookie.”
Me? What had I done to her?
“I haven’t seen her in a couple of weeks. I haven’t done anything.”
He chuckled, “Asshole. Both.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I ask her same question. She give same answer.”
Oh goody… one of the few times he decided to like riddles.
“What made you ask her?”
I growled, “You’ve been bored, so you’re toying with me.”
He chuckled again, “Perhaps.”
That was all the answer he gave before I heard him stepping into the tub.
“Do I get any hints?”
I had assumed his silence was meant to be translated as ‘no’ shortly before Ubasti began walking along my leg with her head held low as though she was thinking about pouncing on my face.
That would have been the cherry on top of the last couple of weeks… waking Sookie in the process of defending myself from one of her ‘whisker-babies’… even better… the adult cats moved as though they were getting into position too, crouching behind Sookie and leering at me over her hip and back.
“Atum, do they hunt as a pack?”
I was still waiting for an answer when Ubasti nudged Sookie’s shoulder with her head… Sookie rolled back slightly, just enough for the not-so-small anymore kitten…
By the time Atum offered, “In their bed,” Ubasti was vibrating against my side and cleaning her claws.
“What did you feed them? Ubasti’s breath smells like sewage.”
He chuckled, “Egg, fish, giblets.”
That would explain the smell. “Like I said, sewage.”
“She loves you.” I’d just been an empty lap and an idle hand while Atum was giving Sookie her tattoo, and if Gawain and Simza weren’t being used by the kitten’s parents, she probably would have chosen one of them since they were more familiar to her.
“If she loved me, she wouldn’t breathe giblets on me.”
She had an odd way of showing it… fucking me, freeing me, pushing me away, and then snuggling me.
“She loves all of her friends.”
He chuckled again, and it wasn’t his amused chuckle. It was his omniscient chuckle. “She does… with everything… but you are different.”
As it turned out, the universe had arranged to injure Sookie while she was working just so my friends could eventually taunt me with her emotions. The universe had expanded its repertoire to include long cons.
“Are you going to offer anything specific or just offer abstracts from the tub?”
“You are attached to her.”
“That’s never been a secret.”
“You love her?”
How the fuck was I supposed to answer that? I couldn’t even get a finite reading on what love fucking meant anymore… From what I’d seen of her experience with love, loving her meant that I’d rub her nose in things that can’t be changed, turn my back on her and leave her for other obligations, and betray her when things didn’t go exactly my way.
I only offered, “In my own way.”
“It sounded like a question.”
“Tell her what? That I love her even though, as far as she understands it, love is conditional and temporary? She’s already assumed that I think of her as a pet. That’s quite bad enough, thank you.”
He snorted, “Pussy.”
That was helpful. Yes, after two weeks of agonizing over how to unfuck the predicament Sookie and I were in, I was a pussy… I didn’t want to say or do anything that would push her further away. ‘Just friends’ was bad enough.
Sookie’s hand slid over my side and she cooed, “You’re frustrated?”
More than any other time I could remember.
“Atum fed the kitten swamp fodder.”
She snickered and lifted Ubasti to place her with the other cats.
Once she was firmly attached to my side again, she sighed, “You’ve got to be bored. Wanna go grab a book?”
“No… I might lose a digit trying to reclaim my place.”
She yawned, “There’s some in the nightstand. You know me.”
I did know her… and whatever had happened to make her shut me out had included reading into something I’d felt or done… or spending too much time focusing on something I didn’t say.
I couldn’t have been more content to just enjoy her warmth and try to forget how miserably unhinged I’d made myself for the past couple of weeks, but I thought it might make me seem less presumptuous if she woke with me while I was reading… At least, I knew I’d find it unsettling to rise and find someone watching me rest.
My choices were The Book of Urizen, Don Quixote, or Paradise Lost…
All first editions.
“Museum pieces in your nightstand?”
“What’s on your nightstand?”
Pieces of what used to be a phone charger and phone, but my volumes of Clarissa were scattered on my bed.
“Shhhhh. I’m reading El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote De La Mancha.”
She sighed, “Good choice,” and seemed to slip out of consciousness again by the time I carefully thumbed to chapter one.
Atum snorted quietly, “Assholes. Both.”
I considered blowing a raspberry at the prick. He was the one withholding what could have been valuable information from me… but… I had a good book and a delightfully warm bedmate…
I made my first rational decision in several nights and opted to enjoy the peace and tranquility while I could.
The best laid schemes of mice and men, go often awry.
I hadn’t planned to stay so late, but in my defense, I’d lost track of time before I found Sookie’s stash of books.
It wasn’t until Atum opened the drain in the tub that I realized I’d read most of Don Quixote… and more importantly, the sky was turning blue. I wasn’t in danger yet, but I definitely didn’t have time to drive home.
He snorted in Arabic, “See you upstairs. Don’t wake her when you leave the bed. You might be forced to talk to her.”
I was sure I’d told him how much harsher sarcasm was in Arabic… and that’s probably why he chose it.
I’d basically put myself in the position of needing to wake Sookie, just to tell her I’d snuggled with her for so long I’d need to stay in her guest room.
For some reason, I didn’t think, ‘I came over to argue with you about fucking your guard while I was being an awkward ass, but decided to snuggle instead. I’ll be dead in your attic for the day.’ would go over well.
I’d only just braced myself and slid my hand over her arm when she stirred and asked, “What’s wrong?”
She didn’t miss anything, even while she was sleeping.
“I let time get away from me. I don’t have time to drive home before dawn… I hope you don’t mind, but I need to stay in your guestroom.”
She sat up so quickly she startled the cats from the bed… and I realized I hadn’t braced myself enough.
I couldn’t have been more anxious while I waited for her to get her bearings… scanning the windows, the clock on her dresser, watching the cats relocate to the chaise…
If for no better reason than defending myself, I sat up and moved to the edge of the bed while I waited for her reaction.
She finally began rubbing her eyes and mumbled, “Twenty hours.”
“You slept for twenty hours?”
“Apparently…” Her chin puckered. “I wanted to talk to you… now you’re going to rest.”
“I still have a few minutes. Is something wrong?”
She let her head fall back and sighed, “Can I squeeze an apology into the next few minutes?”
An apology? I expected a debate.
“You could try… What are you apologizing for?”
She cringed and whimpered, “Freaking out and preemptively throwing shit into reverse… letting you believe bullshit because I was confused and was trying to read you… not admitting that the braid has been fucking with me since I was still in it when you were honest enough to admit that much…”
I was wrong… I thought I couldn’t feel like more of an asshole when I’d heard how inaccurate my assumptions had been about Alcide. Hearing she regretted how she handled things, and she hadn’t just dismissed my existence, made me feel worse.
She continued with a shaky voice, “It wasn’t fair, and it doesn’t matter if you’re indifferent or just don’t give a fuck anymore, but you at least deserve an apology.”
‘Freaking out and preemptively throwing shit into reverse’ seemed pretty self-explanatory…
‘Not admitting that the braid has been fucking with me since I was still in it’ wasn’t something I could really hold against her given that I couldn’t begin to verbalize it either…
Leaving the other item on the list…
“What bullshit did you lead me to believe?”
She squeezed her eyes closed and huffed, “Tyson… I should have set you straight right away, but I was trying to figure out why it was getting to you all of a sudden…”
“You let me think you fucked him.”
“No. We really hooked up, but I didn’t tell you to settle down because it really was just a rebound/availability thing. And the only defense I have is that I was… back to the braid… like I had something to prove, that we could keep things casual… I would have cocked it up even if we had talked about things…”
“It might have just been casual to you, but the rings suggest he feels differently.”
“Oh, he does… He’s making Tilda pay. She started teasing him as soon as I left London because of how bored he was all of a sudden. But between the backrubs and how many people he got to kill while I was sussing out his Lords, hell yeah, he was going to be bored again. He buys the most ridiculously hideous rings he can find…”
It was all a joke.
I sighed, “But the prank that was meant to make Tilda squirm became global. Did Gawain know?”
“Yeah, but Simza didn’t… so when he was bringing it up, it was to fuck with her… I promised I’d let you know he wasn’t fucking with you… that time.”
The joke explained why Sookie had said he wouldn’t be pissed that we were fucking… and just before she withdrew from me she compared Tyson to my recall list.
She whimpered, “I know I don’t have the right to ask, but you aren’t just relieved… what else is that?”
“I’d rather you ask than run away from me again… It’s probably embarrassment. I should have picked up on signs it was a prank, but I was too preoccupied by concerns about what his interest in you meant, and how far he’d take things. He doesn’t like hearing ‘No’… Is that why you were angry with Simza after she mentioned the rings?”
“No. I was pissed at the braid… you already said it was fucking with you and all it took was the presents to send you into free-fall mode again… you don’t get freaked out by overlapping recall lists. Simza and Gawain and Pam…”
“You assumed I was only bothered because you’re Mine in the braid… and I was confused.”
“Why not? I couldn’t be more confused… I’m still mind-fucked, and that’s all I fucking thought about for weeks.”
It felt oddly settling to know I wasn’t the only one.
“What are you confused about?”
She pulled her legs up and rested her forehead on her knees before rambling, “We’ve been friends forever… For every bit of the part of my life I care to remember, you’ve been my friend. Even when you were keeping your distance. Even when you were supposedly dead. Since I found you again… You’re the first person I ever really trusted… and I was afraid I fucked everything up by sleeping with you… We got along so great… and throwing it into reverse just made everything awkward…”
“If I’d had the chance to talk to you, before you left for New York, I probably would have cocked it up too… I was annoyed that you suggested I considered you to be a pet, insulted that you wouldn’t even listen to me… Have I ever treated you like a pet?”
She sniffled, “It was the possessive thing,” without looking up from her knees. “I was delusional enough to think you’d started thinking of me as more than Human, but… then the possession shit started coming up… the braid again… other Sookies live Human lives, not me… you don’t feel any kind of ownership towards your recall list… Pets. Pets are owned… and you already made a big deal about why I didn’t have any suburban ideals…”
I was already starting to see where she was coming from. It wasn’t as though she knew how I regarded pets I don’t keep.
She repeated, “Pets are owned. They don’t have potential.”
Did she think, after all the chances I’d had to argue her potential, I wouldn’t approve?
“Sookie, you’re going to make Gawain the most obnoxiously proud motherfucker on the planet. I think he’s an excellent choice. Why worry about that?”
She breathed, “Because he’s my failsafe.”
“If anything happens to me in the meantime, if it comes down to fangs or a casket, he’s going to do it… but he doesn’t want to risk killing me because he isn’t a Maker yet… I… I’ve been chickening out. Everywhere I’ve been, someone has offered to be my Maker, but… most of the time, the first thing to cross my mind is that I’d rather it was you. You know me, not just Erica. You know what’s important to me…”
I was going to be furious if she held how surprised I was against me.
“Most of the time?”
She took a deep breath and lifted her head again. “Yeah… sometimes I have to dig my nails into my palms to keep from laughing at their approaches. I’ve heard better pick-up lines at bars than some invitations I’ve gotten… I figured I could be a chicken shit for a couple more years, but… then the braid came along and started fucking with me, and it was like someone was playing mix and match with toys, and dropped a goddamn Vampire doll into the family dollhouse…” Her face turned and tears started streaking her cheeks. “And they’re a happy little family with a bedtime routine, and… And I’d just accidently fucked a version of my best friend and the guy I was hoping wouldn’t laugh when I finally got around to asking him to be my Maker…”
I needed her to stop crying… Even if her confessional was the closest she’d ever been to admitting that she was far more fragile than anyone else would ever see… I couldn’t stand it.
“I’m not laughing… When?”
“And I’m thinking we make a cute couple, ya know? But- No. That’s not how my Eric rolls. Mine’s the über-bachelor… We’ve been friends long enough it would be weird if we tried to hook up anyway… Friends- after all this time, Pam’s still his friend. She loves him more than anything. That’s what I want. I want a Maker I can trust forever. I’ve always been able to trust him even when he was lying to me- as fucked up as that is- and it doesn’t matter how fucking perfect Your hand looked on Her shoulder. That’s not me. That’s not us… and fuck the ancient Welsh yenta for planting seeds… and even though we fucked, everything was okay until Tyson came up… and you wouldn’t talk about what was going through your head, so I couldn’t tell if you were thinking ‘sloppy seconds’ or if you were thinking I was pulling a Girls-Gone-Wild now that I’m single or what… but it clearly didn’t matter because I’d obviously fucked everything up by trying to start something casual… I don’t…”
When she finally trailed off and took a breath, I pushed, “When do you want me to bring you over?”
She whimpered, “How fucked up is it that I’m jealous of my alter-ego? She has her shit together and my personal life is a fucking train wreck!”
It wasn’t… business and politics were relatively cut and dry… the grey area in personal matters was too vast.
She sniffled, “What?”
“When? You said you wanted to get your ducks in a row. You said you were going to stall for a couple of years. When do you want to be brought over?”
She looked as shocked as I’d felt when she first mentioned it.
After staring back at me for moment, she asked, “Ideally?”
“Since Gawain is already your emergency backup, yes. Ideally.”
She sniffled again, “I was thinking I should probably finish the world tour first. I know the game will change once I have fangs… A few years. I just want it to be a good time to take a break. One Me who was turned needed to be in seclusion for a couple of months. Sensory overload. I don’t want to leave anyone hanging when it could take me a while to adjust.”
As fragile as she was, she was still thinking about the spoiled bastards who should have just considered themselves lucky she existed.
“I wouldn’t have said no if you wanted to be brought over tonight… Now that that’s settled, do you want to discuss my mind-fuck? It might make you feel better.” If nothing else, she’d realize she wasn’t the only one.
She choked, “Settled?”
I nodded. “I would have been honored to have a place lower on your list of potential Makers.”
She shook her head. “No. I know you’re a sucker for tears. Don’t just-”
I wasn’t a sucker for tears… I could completely disregard most of them.
I interrupted, “My answer won’t change when you stop crying…”
“That isn’t what I wanted to talk about though. I didn’t want to shove all this shit down your throat. I just wanted to apologize for what a bitch I was… and…”
“You’re apologizing for reacting poorly to being overwhelmed. I’m accepting your apology…”
“Just because it’s almost dawn?”
I shook my head. “Because I’ve been confused and frustrated to the point of madness for weeks, and it seems that an explanation was the cure all along… Thousands of dollars worth of property damage, only to find out that we were both practically lobotomized by the braid…”
She gave me a tragically amused face. “Property damage?”
“Cell phones, computer monitors, mice, keyboards, my steering wheel, my office door, the back door to Fangtasia- most of the doors I came in contact with, actually– a few windows, a gas pump, a cellular tower, my patio furniture is now kindling…” And then there was the matter of the bullet holes in the side of a Range Rover.
She snickered, but the tears started flowing again. “I’m so sorry.”
“I’ve missed you since you left me in the hot tub… I spent several nights hoping for a chance to speak to you privately, hoping you’d realize I hated that you shut me out… and I spent most of your cruise thinking you were punishing me for being possessive of you by fucking your husband… It hasn’t been my best couple of weeks… The braid was fucking with me because of how quickly my thinking changed since we have been friends for so long. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said my only concerns about being with you involved the complications of being ‘a friend of the family’… Sookie, you said you’d go to London if you had to choose something permanent. Granted, I was already beginning to think of you as Mine, but I felt possessive and protective of you. I followed you to London in the first place because I know Tyson. I didn’t want you to get into any trouble. If I’d known Tyson wasn’t legitimately pursuing you, I would have enjoyed being part of the prank…”
She hid her face against her knees again and sobbed, “Now I just feel worse… but I couldn’t…”
I continued, “Hearing that there are other versions of us who are much more than friends didn’t make me consider your potential as a pet. It made me wonder about what I was missing. It doesn’t matter if They’re suburbanites with children or single professional gamblers, They’re still You at their foundations. If other Sookies were My pets, it only would have been a protective technicality because those Sookies weren’t in a position to have their own Terracotta Army. There isn’t a single pet-like quality about you. You’re just Mine.”
She whimpered, “You say that now…”
I might not ever be able to understand why hearing how much more confused she was than me made me feel calmer after two weeks of irrational hell. It was as though I needed to hear her mind-fuck to help me understand mine… as though we were both holding pieces to the same puzzle.
“But I was thrown too… Every fucking line was blurred. We started thinking about one another differently. We’re guilty of pigeonholing one another instead of realizing there was plenty of room for more…”
She suddenly scurried from the bed to leave, so I blocked her path.
“Don’t run from me. Just explain…”
She groaned, “Fuck my bladder,” and shoved past me. “Be right back.”
Twenty hours of sleep… I almost laughed.
I might have been lucky enough to have ten minutes left before dawn by the time she was finished. Even though she didn’t seem to waste any time in the bathroom, I was still eager to continue our conversation.
I waited at the doorway to her bathroom, listening while she quickly brushed her teeth and washed her face (both tasks were just as understandable as her need to use the toilet after sleeping for so long and crying nearly hysterically), but what surprised me was that when she returned to me, she was wearing a robe…
The pale pink silk of the kimono looked incredible against her skin, but… she’d never been modest.
She looked much calmer as she started, “I’m not going to hold you to anything. I don’t want you to feel obliged. I’d rather you changed your mind beforehand than regret anything down the road… Okay?”
“If you’re talking about me being your Maker, I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t intend to follow through… I don’t have much time left…”
She cringed again. “I’m sorry. I meant to wake up earlier and call you so we could talk… Unless I have Vampires around to steal some peace from, I don’t sleep right… Pam was the only one onboard and she was a few decks away.”
“You were going to call me?”
“Yeah… I couldn’t just walk into Fangtasia, and I didn’t want to show up at your house… Not after…”
“Not after you stormed off and ‘threw shit into reverse’?”
She nibbled the corner of her lip and whined, “Yeah… I think I might be developing a track record… I’ve done this to you before.”
I took her hands and began inching towards the steps to the guestroom slowly. “No. The last time you overreacted, you actually kneed me in the balls, but then let me talk to you again within a matter of hours. This time, the metaphorical knee followed by the extended silence, was much worse… You’re more vicious than you were a couple of years ago.”
She pouted, “I should…”
“You should talk to me… Next time, just knee me in the balls to get it over with. I’m not a fan of ‘reverse’.”
She was giving me a confused look when we reached the steps.
I didn’t begrudge her for needing to sleep, but I would have killed for more time.
I urged, “But what?”
She nibbled her lip again before starting, “Just… you said you’d… but you and Pam… and…”
If I was filling in the blanks correctly, I had to assume she thought my promise to bring her over negated my attraction in her.
In the interest of time I translated, “You assumed this would be ‘either/or’, yes?”
She whimpered, “Well yeah… Those… they always peter out. Then you’d be stuck with me.”
“If at some point we lose interest in one another, which could happen in a few centuries, but I wouldn’t bet on that, then it would be mutual…”
“Or you’ll get sick of me before then and not want to…”
I needed to start an official shit list… The top of the list would include the King who’d told her he’d get bored with her, her family members who managed to ingrain that children were the only reason anyone would want her, and the honorable prick who did the ‘right’ thing by abandoning her for his pack.
Knowing she could use the ladder under the ottoman to leave once I died, I lifted her to my shoulder and carried her to the attic.
I closed the hatch and carried her directly to my bed while my old friend chuckled at me from the comfort of his. At least he was sprawled on his bed so the pony walls would give Sookie and me a modicum of privacy.
I settled on the side of the bed, holding Sookie to my lap… and completely ignored the fact that Atum was just a few feet away.
“It kills me that you’re so insecure about how I look at you…” She hardly glanced at my mouth when I let my fangs down. “I’d want to bond with you regardless, but it seems like you need help realizing I don’t just want a piece of Erica Weiss… I want Sookie Stackhouse, complete with the monsters under her bed, the alter-ego in her closet, the overlapping circle of friends, and the suitcase packed for her next adventure… minus the tears. Could you stop doing that?”
She snorted out a laugh and rested her head against the side of my neck. “Your fault.”
“Will it always be my fault?”
“No. It was all me downstairs… but now you’re being sweet.”
Atum chuckled, “Sweet on Sookie? The saying is right?”
Yes… the saying was right, and so was the implication.
I scoffed, “Of all the fucking times for you to pick up a saying… much less say something at all… You’re usually a fucking statue of stoicism…”
I didn’t finish complaining because Sookie moved to pinch my neck with her teeth…
It might have been the fastest I’d ever forgotten what I was saying.
She gave a little nibble and breathed, “He probably picked that saying up from Alice…” Miles’s sister? “But who knows what all those texts say? He’s really careful to delete them all.”
Atum’s growling almost didn’t register given the way Sookie giggled while she worked my neck.
I was already starting to feel it, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep her to myself all night… she’d need to go home to her husband eventually…
But I didn’t have a legitimate complaint… I’d gotten the explanation I wanted all along.
I knew what she could do to me, how long she could draw out the path from my neck to my mouth…
I leaned back, positioning myself so I could just enjoy her for the few moments I had left, sliding my hands under her robe to follow her thighs…
The weight of dawn was slowing me down by the time her lips met mine…
Another second and I would have warned her she was about to find herself kissing a corpse…
And then I tasted a flash of her blood…
She pulled, tugging my bottom lip between her teeth, taking enough time for me to feel like the sun had changed its mind…
She looked down at me as though she was waiting for something, letting a smirk develop before breathing, “Fuck dawn,” and leaning over for another kiss…
The way her blood tasted mixed with mine…
It was the last thing I remember with any clarity.