I woke to the feeling of someone shaking my shoulder. Living alone for the last eight years had conditioned me to react less than favorably to being awoken by someone. At least it was less than favorable for the person doing the waking.
“Son of …” the voice trailed off.
It took me a moment to realize who was in my room and what had happened. As the haziness of sleep fully lifted, I realized I’d rolled over because of the shaking, and had swung one balled up fist at the intruder in my room.
Now Jason was standing in the middle of my room with his head tilted back and holding his hands over his nose.
Scrambling out of bed, I carefully pried his hands away from his nose to inspect. Thankfully, there was only a small trickle of blood, but I still felt terrible.
“I’m so sorry,” I apologized as I grabbed a discarded t-shirt from Merlotte’s to hold against his nose.
Jason carefully held the t-shirt under his nose as he looked at me. His eyes quickly averted again as he said, “Put some clodes on.” It took me a second to work out was his distorted voice was saying, and looking down I realized I had only been sleeping in a t-shirt and underwear. It completely covered me, coming down to mid-thigh, but I guess it was a little strange for a brother to have to see his little sister’s legs.
Still, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at his modesty while I pulled a pair of boxers on. I’d seen some of the outfits his “dates” wore, and I was far more covered than they generally were.
He carefully pulled the t-shirt away, and I was grateful to see that the trickle of blood had stopped. His reflexes must have been pretty good and allowed him to pull back and not take the full brunt of my swing.
“Shit, Sook, you’ve got a pretty damn good hook there,” he commented, tenderly probing his nose.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’ve been hit harder than that before, ‘course, not by my little sister. Don’t think I’ll be telling the guys that,” he laughed.
I was amazed at his good humor. I couldn’t imagine too many guys handling it this well.
“What are you doing here, Jason?”
He looked confused for a second, and then apparently remembered why he’d come.
“I was wondering if you’d found anything out last night,” he said, sitting on the edge of my bed. I guess it had been our Gran’s bed, but since it was the largest room on the first floor and had a bathroom, I’d decided to move into it instead of the one across the hall that I’d used as a child.
“Oh yeah, last night,” I muttered, memories from the night before flooding back. “Well, I guess I didn’t really find anything at Fangtasia. I think I’ll have better luck finding something out at work. Those are the people they were both around more during the day,” I said, carefully omitting the kind of company they kept at night.
“Oh, you didn’t find anything else out last night?” he asked dejectedly, his shoulders slumping. Even with my shields up and his thoughts blocked, I could still feel his despair. I let my shields slide slightly down and caught some of his thoughts. He was worried about losing his job since he’d been called in to the police station and missed some work.
Ignoring his question, I gently told him, “Jason, you really need to get yourself a lawyer. They can’t keep hauling you in for questioning and making you miss work if they’re not charging you with anything.”
I decided not to tell him about anything else that had occurred the night before. Jason had enough on his plate and I was used to handling things on my own anyway. I’d try to decide later after he left what I was going to do.
Something warm and furry wrapped around my ankle, and I looked down to see Tina rubbing and purring against my lower leg, seeking some attention. I picked her up and quickly looked around my room to make sure she hadn’t shredded anything. Not knowing what else to do with her last night, I’d brought her into my room, crossing my fingers that she wouldn’t tear anything up or need a litter box yet. Sighing, I was happy to see that everything seemed fine.
“You got a cat now, Sook?” Jason asked, looking curiously at the cat in my arms. I nodded. “Where’d you get him?”
“She just showed up on my porch last night, so I decided to keep her. I thought it would be nice to have a quiet roommate to keep me company.”
“You gonna call her Dolly too?” he asked with a grin.
“Dolly?” I repeated in confusion.
“Yeah, don’t tell me you don’t remember Dolly?” he asked in amazement.
“Who was Dolly?” I again repeated in frustration. Darned if I could remember any Dolly. I couldn’t remember having any friends growing up. Let-alone one named Dolly.
“She was your doll. You drug her around with you everywhere. You always said she was your best friend ’cause she didn’t think bad things about ya.” Jason must have seen the blank look on my face because he said incredulously, “I can’t believe you don’t remember her. You carted that doll with you everywhere you went. You were clutching her the last time I saw you.”
I shook my head. “I don’t remember any doll,” I offered apologetically. I’m sure I did have it when we’d been separated, but I’d learned pretty early on in the foster system to lose any attachment to objects. Until I’d been placed with Jeanie when I was 12, I’d kicked around all over the foster system. I’d never stayed anywhere too long, and objects tended to get left behind each time I’d been moved.
“I figured you’d have her forever,” Jason lamented.
“I didn’t get to hold onto much of anything, Jason. I got moved around so much that it was too hard to keep track of stuff,” I gently explained. I could see Jason struggling to understand just how different our circumstances had been. He’d only been with two families in his years of foster care, while I’d lost track in the earlier years. Sometimes I only stayed for a few weeks or months, though my record was just five nights. Jason had been lucky to know the stability in his life of living with one good family for most of his years of foster care.
Jason’s face was drawn together in confusion. “I guess I figured you’d at least remember your favorite doll. It’s hard to imagine you not remembering her. I figured you’d forget about me before you’d forget about her.”
I sat beside Jason and wrapped my arm over his shoulder. “I might have forgotten about my doll, and I’m sure a lot of other important stuff, but I remembered what really mattered. I remember you and me swimming or fishing in the pond at home. And I remember mama yelling for us to come in for dinner when we were playing in the woods. Those are the memories that really matter, Jason.”
He nodded, but didn’t say anything and seemed deep in thought. I looked at the bedside clock and saw that it was a little after noon. Jason must have dropped by on his lunch break. Trying to lighten his mood, I stood and told him, “Come on, Jason. I’ll fix you some lunch.”
I had fixed a few meals for Jason as he helped me with the roof or other things outside, but I still laughed at how his eyes lit up. Jeanie had made sure to teach me to cook before I’d moved out of her house, and she’d been a great cook. I hadn’t had much opportunity to cook since I left because it just didn’t make sense to go to the effort for just myself, so I was enjoying cooking for Jason and even his buddies when they’d been over to work on the roof.
His eyes already looked brighter as he asked, “Can you make fried chicken again?” I’d made fried chicken when they’d worked on my roof and they’d eaten every scrap of chicken I’d made. I’d have to remember to write or call Jeanie and thank her for giving me her recipe.
“I don’t think there’s time to make fried chicken, but how about I make you some pork chops and potatoes.”
“You got any of those biscuits,” he asked excitedly. I’d have to remember that he was a bachelor and used to pizza and beer. Anything else was gourmet cooking.
“I’ve still got a few left over out in the kitchen,” I laughed.
I quickly pulled some clothes on and made myself presentable in the bathroom before meeting Jason in the kitchen. I was setting about frying the pork chops and potatoes on the stove when Jason surprised me by wrapping his arms around me and pulling me into his side.
“I’m so glad you’re back home now, Sookie. And I wanna thank you for helping me out with this mess. You’re a good sister,” he whispered into my hair.
I hesitantly wrapped my arms around his side, unused to and uncomfortable with the physical closeness to anyone. It took a lot of effort to keep my shields in place with the physical contact, but as I took in the slightly musky and earthy smell of my brother, I knew I couldn’t run away from here. No matter what it took, I’d have to work something out with that vampire. I couldn’t give up my first chance at family in almost 19 years.
I had to figure something out.
The late shift at Merlotte’s was shaping up to be one hell of a night. When I’d stopped by the night before to talk with Sam, I knew things had gotten heated between us, but apparently Sam’s raised voice had been heard by someone, and news quickly spread that I was going to Fangtasia with vampire Bill as the locals called him. The locals loved gossip, and me heading to a vampire bar was too juicy to keep quiet.
My head was pounding from trying to keep the thoughts out, but I could still hear their hushed whispers. I wanted nothing more than to tell them all to mind their own business, that I had only been trying to help Jason, but of course, I couldn’t say anything.
I was stopped filling a tray with sodas for one of my tables when Arlene slide up beside me. Mostly I tried to be polite to her, but I also avoided being around her when I could. Her deception and fake kindness with everyone just irritated me.
“I thought you were smarter than to hang around with those bloodsuckers, Sookie,” she tsked.
I ignored her, and continued filling my glasses.
“If you ask me, a different kind of girl like you should stay away from that dead meat and find yourself a nice, normal man. Maybe you’d seem less strange to folk,” she continued with her hands on her hips.
Between the headache, Sam’s silent treatment, and all the whispering, I was fast losing my last nerve.
“Well Arlene, I don’t remember asking you, and I don’t think anyone else did either. So keep your opinions to yourself. I hear your taste in men is questionable at best. Besides, I’ve known humans that were just as bloodthirsty as a vampire,” I told her, swinging to face her with a glare.
She huffed and twirled around without a word. I just wish her mind had been silent too.
“You tell her, Sook,” Lafayette grinned as I stopped by the kitchen to grab my basket of chicken strips. “She’s always sticking her nose in other people’s business. You get yo’ own, girl.”
I smiled kindly at his friendly nature, but ignored his assumption that I was into vampires. Lafayette was kind to me and we were sort of kindred spirits in Bon Temps. I was the strange girl who had moved back to town, and he was probably the only openly gay black resident in the area. And one look at Lafayette was all it took to tell he was gay. I liked him a lot because he was so nice to me, and I could care less about who he slept with, but he wore more make-up than I ever did, and actually looked darned good in it. It was enough to make a girl jealous.
My mood slightly lifted by Lafayette, I grabbed my basket and delivered them to their table.
It was only an hour from closing and a lot of the patrons had cleared out. Jason was still at a table with a couple of his friends, having decided to forego an evening of female companionship in light of current suspicions. I was at the bar filling a pitcher of beer for their table and turned around to see Bill sitting in my section.
After delivering the beer, I struggled to keep the polite neutral smile on my face as I stepped up to Bill.
“What can I get you?” I politely asked.
“Can you sit for a moment and talk?” he asked, indicating to the chair across from him.
I remained on my feet. “What do you want, Bill?” I asked, dropping the pretense of politeness.
“I simply wanted to speak with you. Couldn’t you have a seat so we can talk?” he pressed.
I didn’t answer and instead turned away. Bill’s hand shot out to clamp down on my wrist. I swung back with a glare, but knew better than to try pulling my arm back. If he wanted to hold me there, I wouldn’t be going anywhere. But my narrowed gaze and pointed look at my wrist seemed to get through to him. He quickly dropped it.
“I apologize again. I simply wanted to apologize for my behavior last night and explain my actions,” he demurred. “It was not my intention to offend you.”
I’m sure it wasn’t, but that didn’t change things.
“Doesn’t matter. I don’t care what your excuses are. Actions speak louder than words,” I told him before turning away again. He let me this time.
It was kind of like abusive husbands in my mind. Sure, they were sorry after what they’d done, and always apologized or tried to explain why it wasn’t their fault. But to my way of thinking, it just didn’t matter. There was no excuse for that kind of behavior, and I didn’t want to hear whatever excuses they had. Excuses were just that and to me, they didn’t make up for all bad behavior.
Sam had witnessed our interaction and had reached for his bat under the bar. I was glad to see that he had my back even if he was upset with me. I was also glad that he hadn’t rushed in to take over just because Bill had grabbed me.
“You okay, cher?” he did asked when I made my way back to the bar to get drinks for another table.
I smiled gratefully. “I’m fine, thanks Sam.” I was glad he was talking to me again. It was strange to be relieved by such a little thing. I wouldn’t have cared in the past if my boss hadn’t been talking to me. But with Sam, it was different.
Those that were still in the bar had stopped to watch my interaction with Bill, but I was glad to see that they were slowly getting back to their own conversations. I’d gotten a bottle of TrueBlood from our new shipment and silently dropped it off at Bill’s table. I knew I should have felt guilty about not even asking him what type he wanted, but I just couldn’t feel guilty about it right now.
The locals remaining in the bar carefully watched him from the corner of their eyes, but Bill remained in his seat, slowly sipping his bottled blood.
My head was still pounding from keeping my shields up. There had been too many thoughts focused on me for me to try wading through them in an effort to clear Jason, but I hoped for a better chance tomorrow. It just took too great of an effort to partially lower my shields to catch thoughts of specific people.
Finally, my conscience caught up with me. Carefully sitting on the edge of the seat across from Bill, I told him, “Look, I just wanted to thank you for taking me to Fangtasia last night, even if we didn’t find anything, I still appreciate it.”
He leaned forward and whispered in a low voice, “What are you?”
I rolled my eyes. At least I was thankful that Eric hadn’t said anything to him. “I’m a tired barmaid,” I answered, and walked away to begin my end-of-the-shift work.
I was dog-tired when I pulled up to my house. My feet ached, and my head was still pounding. I had taken some aspirin Sam had given me at the bar, but it hadn’t kicked in yet.
My situation with the vampire still wasn’t resolved, but I hadn’t really had the chance to think it over at work. I’d have to get up a little earlier tomorrow and put some thought into it. The vampire, Eric, had given me two nights, but hell, who knew when that clock started ticking, or even if he could really be taken at his word.
All I knew was I needed to come up with some sort of plan. I didn’t want to cut and run after becoming friends with Sam and trying to reopen a relationship with my brother, but I’d survived for 26 years by doing what I had to. But cut and run would have to be a last resort.
My hand was just reaching for the doorknob to the backdoor when I felt a weight press against my back and my head slam forward against the door.
A/N: I’m trying a new look for the site. Let me know what you think. Like it, love it, hate it, want the old one back, what? Or if you have something you’d like to see different, let me know. There’s things I like about this theme, but it doesn’t let me have all of the tools up on the right like the old one, and instead puts them on the bottom. But maybe that’s not a big deal. Let me know though!
Oh, and let me know what you think of the chapter!