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Hey guys! I’m really sick so I’m just going to keep this A/N short – unlike the chapter. Someone asked last chapter if 5,000 could get longer, well, I outdid myself.  There’s over 6,800 here, so hopefully that’s more than enough for a chapter? 😉 This one is Sookie heavy, girl has a lot of things to figure out. Hope you like it, and hit the review buttons and make my day! *curls back into bed*

 

EPOV:

 

The cab ride back to Sookie’s apartment was a quite one, there was a lot of awkward glances exchanged, and she was blushing on and off, though that could have just been the cold New York chill in the air too, for mid-October, I was surprised there wasn’t more snow.

Neither of us brought up what had happened at dinner though, and since lot of personal information was thrown my way at that dinner, as well as the oddly timed but rather epic blow job. I was now even more unsure of what my status was where she was concerned. It worried me. I knew I should address it, but really, how did I do that without sounding like a total idiot? We’d both surpassed the rigorous boundaries that the ‘agreement’ had set out, and we’d done so rather quickly, despite all protests to the contrary. The fact remained that I liked Sookie –real Sookie – and she had just given me a blowjob, women don’t blow men they don’t like, not unless they’re a hooker, and Sookie certainly wasn’t one of those.

So did that mean she liked me back? Or she just did it because… well I don’t know why because, but just because? Or was she just pissed at her family and wanted to be naughty knowing she might get caught? Was she just using me like the contract stipulated? I was slowly driving myself crazy with those questions, and by the time we got back to the apartment to see Emily sprawled out on her bed fast asleep, and the nanny shifting the twins to get them back to the hotel, I was even more annoyed. I tucked Emily in, and then went in search of the TV remote in Sookie’s bedroom. She was busy in the shower and while I had contemplated just barging on in there and taking care of both our business, I knew I’d probably get drop kicked if I tried it. So, I stripped down to my boxers, and laid back on her amazingly comfortable, humongous bed, and waited for her to come back. When she emerged from the shower she was in a big fluffy white robe, kind of like the ones you get in super fancy hotels, but I guessed she hadn’t stolen hers. She also smelled like coconut and some other kind of sweet smell, it was real nice. She smiled at me before she checked her phone, and then letting her hair out of the massive knot it was in on top of her head.

“Gran is almost at the lobby, I’m just going to let her in and get her settled, Emily still asleep?” Suddenly her tone was a little awkward, and it made me feel awkward too.

“Uh, yeah…Guess they were all pretty worn out.”

She nodded. “Judging by the massive pillow fort in my closet, I’d say yes. Thank God I moved all the really expensive stuff higher up. Be right back…”

I stewed some more, this was so not how I imagined this night going. In my head it involved a whole lot less clothing and lot more sexing. That wasn’t happening, at all.

I heard her talking with her Gran downstairs, in that hushed tone people adopted at night in a house with a sleeping kid, I like that at the very least they weren’t yelling. I assumed there would be yelling after all that was said and unsaid at dinner, but no. It was all very civilized. By the time she got back in bed I was half asleep, half watching the Late Show.

“Well, she’s back and pissed at Claudine, and a little at me too, but I’m hoping she’ll get over it. I talked to Li, she said the kids got on like a house on fire, and that Emily passed out just before nine, that’s her usual time, right?”

“Yeah, around that time, she wasn’t any trouble?”

“No, well, no more than the other two six year olds with her, I guess. But Li is like the zen nanny, I swear all kids just adore her. I pity her working for Jason though, he’s like Mr Mom, and not in a fun way,” she giggled. “God, we’ve so much to do, and undo at work tomorrow. Jason is screwing up more than he realizes, no one is working!” She rolled over the flipped off her light. Really? She wasn’t going to talk about what happened at dinner, at all?

“That’s it?” I said in the darkness.

“Um…” she turned to me, “what isn’t it, then?” she looked genuinely confused.

“Well, how about the fact that tonight happened, and you know…talk about it.”

She sighed turning in my direction now with her whole body, “Why? It happened, it’s over…? It’s not that big of a deal.” Lies were written all over her face. I wondered when I learned to read her like that.

“Really? You normally go blowing your employee’s in restaurant bathrooms then?”

She blushed; at least I think it looked like a blush in the dark, “No…”

“So then it should be a big deal, it was a big deal to me.” I admitted quietly.

“I did it because I…wanted to. That’s all I got. It was an impulse, I don’t usually give in to impulses, so yeah I guess it was a big deal…” she mused.

“Okay…?”

“And, okay I get that it was a really, really weirdly intimate thing for me to do, considering.”

“And?”

I swear it was like getting blood from a stone.

“And? I don’t know, Eric. I’m not an impulsive person, and I’m not even really a blowjob person either to tell you the truth, but I guess I wanted to tonight, and I did, and that’s it.”

I’ll admit, it stung that it was just some silly fleeting impulse, I’d maybe wanted a little more than that at this stage, I guess.

“So, you were just…using me to curb your impulses, that’s…cool… I guess?” my tone told her otherwise, I’m sure.

She cocked a brow at me, “Dude, I gave YOU the BJ here. I mean all things considered I don’t really think that I used you at all. If anything, I was being nice…and you know slutty.”

“And that’s all it was?”

She shrugged, “I like you, Eric I do. I wouldn’t be here with you now if we didn’t mesh well, but we can’t get too involved… I mean I know that sounds dumb, two hours ago I had your dick in my mouth, but, you know what I mean? Right? Like, we can’t forget why we’re here doing what we’re doing. And any … attraction or fleeting impulses… they aren’t part of the deal.”

She couldn’t be actually serious, could she?

“Don’t you think we’re way past the point of invoking the contract, really?”

She rolled her eyes, “well if we were we just have to take a step back, I don’t want anyone to get hurt here, I’ve always said that, and if there are feelings involved, someone always gets hurt. That’s the last thing I want.” She said before turning away from me, and fixing her pillow to sleep.

I laid there in silence for a few minutes, knowing she was still awake, I said, “Not all guys you like will end up married to your cousin, Sookie.”

With that I turned and attempted to sleep, knowing that sleep would evade me that night.

 

SPOV:

Yeah I screwed up. I screwed up big time, see; I sort of fell for my assistant slash fake boyfriend when I really should have been worrying how to save my ass, and my job. Instead I was more into the idea of handmaking his little sister’s Halloween costume from my book of sketches; I was more interested in hearing about her day, and his, than I was to plan my own. I was more willing to blow him in a bathroom before we’d even had a real date than I was to blow a boyfriend who’d flown me to Venice first class to woo me, what the fuck happened to me?! I backtracked with Eric that night, and I paid for it in silence the next day. Thankfully though I was in meetings most of the day, some of which Gran sat in on, and Eric spent most of his day cataloguing with Lafayette or booking more meetings for the next month. We saw very little of each other when he got to work having dropped Emily off at school allowing Gran and I to ride to work together. There was a meeting with DVF people, and Gran had somehow convinced me that she and ‘Diane’ went back a long time and that she’d rather have a phone meeting with her instead, I let her go ahead, and after all, who was I to tell her no? It freed up my late afternoon, allowing me time to answer more emails than I thought humanly possible. I was going a little cross eyed by the time Eric came to the rescue. He seemed to do that a lot, I noted.

“Coffee, extra shot, chicken salad on rye, light mayo…Oh and these came for you from publishing,” he said emotionlessly handing over my late lunch and papers.

“Thank you…” I said, trying to get some eye contact out of him at least, but no luck. “Eric, wait.” I said before he got out the door, “Can you come in and close the door, please?”

He just glared at me, but did it anyway, “What? Did I forget something? Sophie has gone to –“

“It’s not about work, it’s about you and that face. The face you’ve had on since last night. Look I thought I made things really clear –“

“Yeah things were really clear, and they were fine, and then you went and sucked my dick and now I guess things are a little murky.”

Thank god for a sound proof office, I thought before I moved over to where he stood.

“Yeah, and that was my fault, and I’m sorry for fucking things up here, but I have a goal Eric and I can’t let this become a obstacle when it was meant to be the catalyst.”

“Right, eyes on the prize, nothing else matters.” He said, bitterly, and fuck I hated that tone from him.

“Look –“

“No, it’s fine, I guess I ‘misread’ the ‘situation’,” he finger quoted at me, “it’s fine, Emily and I will be gone in the morning, things can… finally get back to the way they were once Adele leaves, it’s fine.”

I wanted to stop him, to tell him that ‘no I didn’t want things to go back to the way they were, the way there were was not fun’, and yet I couldn’t because I looked across the hall to the conference room, and saw the woman that held my job in her hands, and I just couldn’t allow myself to get distracted again. The truth was I was scared of admitting what I thought I was feeling for Eric, and he was right; I held every relationship up to the one that hurt me most. The one that was flaunted in my face at every single family holiday, and I didn’t want to go through that again. But then I realized I was hurting him and myself by not just speaking up and admitting what I wanted. Ugh, I hated my brain right then. A huge part of me wanted to just tear up the damn contract and say ‘fuck it, let’s see where this goes’, but the other more realistic part of me knew that I had a job on the line, and not any job – my whole career, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to give that up for a ‘could be’ with my assistant.

My heart and my head were at war, and it was getting bloody.

 

EPOV:

Things were not fine, I was being a passive aggressive dick, and I didn’t even care to try and stop it. No, I’d been dealing with the weird looks, and the whispers and the rumours at work, while the Queen Bee sat in her office oblivious to it all, and still she gave me shit. She gave me bull-shit. I stormed back into the wardrobe where Lafayette was rearranging a pull for the next shoot in the morning, and he eyed me suspiciously.

“Baby, it’s only gays who hide in a closet.”

“I’m not in the mood, not now Lafayette,” I said pretending to be looking for something. Perhaps my balls.

“Oh, Puppy’s got bite. Tell Lala what’s up?”

“Go away…” I said searching through a rack of ties, maybe for one to use as a noose.

“Uh, I work here, so, no can do honey, what’s wrong? Trouble in paradise?”

I glared.

“Oh it’s all over the office, baby. You and Miss Boss Thang spending the night at each other’s place, her getting friendly with the kid, the Grandmother’s approval… it is like the Days of our Stacklives.” He smiled, “but I’m guessing reality is not what rumour would have us believe, yes?”

“Not exactly, I just… I don’t know what to do. I knew what I was getting into –“ I said, careful to leave certain details out, “but she’s just so…”

“Closed off?”

“Yeah, exactly, and I’m not sure if can find the pliers to open that seal up, you know?”

He nodded, “You like her?”

“Most of the time, yeah, but she’s different here, too different, and she still cares too damn much about what people think about her. I just feel kind of used, right now.” I almost pouted then I snapped myself out of it.

“Bitches be crazy, it’s why I like dick,” he grinned. “Well, that and I just really like my men manly. Look Eric, if you’s have a thing and it’s complicated, ride the wave and see where it goes. If you hit a wall, hop off, if you hit another wave, ride it harder.”

“You give really odd advice, you know that?”

“Yes, I do, now it’s five thirty. Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

I just nodded and grabbed my coat from the chair where I’d spent the day helping him.

“See you tomorrow?”

“As always, I’ll be here, fixing their messes… not getting their thanks…” he rolled his eyes.

“Thank you.” I said, meaning it. I couldn’t tell him everything but what I could tell him meant a lot.

I was still confused over the whole thing though, so when I went to collect Emily from Amelia’s, I took my sweet time. She wanted anything from me off the clock; she’d have to wait for it.

See, passive aggressive, dick.

“You want something to eat, Eric? We’ve got plenty here?” She said, dishing out spaghetti with a sauce that smelled amazing.

“Sure, we could stay.”

“Good, I made far too much, and I hate wasting it.”

“Taylor, Emily, dinner!” she called, and the girls came running from Taylor’s room.

“You not going back to Sookie’s place tonight then?” Trey asked, tucking into his food.

“I am, but I don’t really want to.”

“Hell?”

He asked and I kept my eye on Emily, she was in a whispered conversation with her friend, so I just nodded.

“In ways I never expected. Her Grandmother is a breeze, lying? Not so hard, it’s dealing with her hot and cold moods that I’m having a real issue with. It’s exhausting.”

“How so?” Ames asked, putting down a plate and a glass of ice cold milk in front of me.

“I just… there was a deal that we both agreed upon but we never really kept to it. Not really, not like I’m sure I would have with someone else, or if she’d done this with any of those other guys, I don’t think… I hope she’d not be like this with them.”

They both looked at me confused, and I didn’t blame them.

“I just think she likes me, genuinely… then the next it’s like I don’t exist and anything we’ve …done…” I raised my eyebrows, taking in code because of the kids, “never happened. And something pretty big happened last night, and then she just…ignored it, and I don’t know…”

“You getting whiplash from her changes?” Ames asked taking a polite bite of her own food.

“Yeah, I mean I never thought it would be simple, and I really did think we could both keep things in check for the sake of her job, but right now I’m really regretting agreeing to this, suggesting it, jumping in with both feet and all my hormones in tact.” I said and Trey just laughed.

“Dude, seriously, just because she’s hot doesn’t mean you have to be her Knight. She’s a big girl, I’m sure she’d be fine on her own.”

“Well, I can’t say I disagree. Eric, we’ve all wanted you to find someone, you know that, but we were hoping for someone a little less…high maintenance.”

“But that’s the thing, outside of the office, she’s actually human…”

“A human woman who’s messing you around like you’re her play thing, and that’s not cool either.”

“But I agreed –“

“And I’m guessing she made some changes to what you both agreed on, by the sounds of things she wasn’t doing anything against her will with you…was she?” Ames asked, clearly in code because of the two girls with very sharp ears sitting between us, eating happily.

“No, of course not.”

“And now that’s changed for her, and not for you?”

“Yeah, I think so. I mean it was stupid and maybe I was reading too much into it, but shit – stuff like that doesn’t happen to me, not lately, and not with women like her. I just, maybe I just jumped to quickly because it’s something that I want? Because …she’s good with the most important thing in my life,” I said in semi code, “and maybe I just wanted it to be real? When maybe I was just kidding myself in thinking someone like her-“

“You stop right there, Mr.” Ames said, slapping my hand like I was one of the kids with my hand in the cookie jar, “She is no better than you, and you are no less than her, just because she has money? That means nothing, not really. On the surface of things, sure, she has better threads and probably a better hairstylist, but being real she’s probably just as nuts as the rest of us. No better, no worse. So you stop that talk.” When Ames went into ‘mom’ mode she really didn’t break out of it. It was sort of adorable. Trey looked at his wife with awe.

“You’re both great, you know that?” I said acknowledging my friends and how I knew I’d be totally lost without them.

“We know,” she smiled, “but you’re pretty great yourself and in Queen Bit- Bee can’t see that, then that’s her loss, not yours.”

I sighed; my brain was really done over thinking this mess.

“It doesn’t really matter, her ‘problem’ leaves tomorrow so all showmances can cease, and things will just go back to the way they were. I think.”

“Except you’re all in love with –“

“Who are you in love with?” Emily asked, cutting off Amelia’s words.

“No one, eat up,” I said sharply.

“But Amelia said that –“

“I was joking, Em’.” Ames said with a smile, “Just joking around like I do, you know?”

“Oh. I guess?” she said, shrugging and Taylor went into whisper something to Emily and Trey chided her, “no whispering at the dinner table, girls.”

“Sorry, Daddy. I just…” both girls looked at each other and laughed, “Never mind.”

“Never mind, eh? When did these girls get secrets? Can someone tell me that?” Trey asked no one in particular. If there was one thing I learned from any of it, was that girls and then women, always had their secrets, and sometimes it fucked everyone’s shit up.

 

 

SPOV:

As I sat at my dining table with my Grandmother, as she regaled myself, Jason and Crystal with tales of her day ‘back at work’ I found myself zoning in and out. Eric wasn’t answering my texts, so we’d just started dinner without them, and forcing me to make lame excuses as to why they weren’t there. I was frustrated as hell with the whole damn situation, both professionally, and especially personally.

“Sookie?”

“Hmm?” I said, looking at her, “Sorry, just a lot on my mind… you were saying?”

“I was asking how you were, you’ve been really quiet today, and we never did get a lot of to ‘hang’ today,” she said with a smile, “I do like Lafayette, he’s a nice boy.” Clearly he’d taught her that today, too.

I smiled, “yeah he is…I um, yeah I’m fine just a little distracted and tired, I’m sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry for, I’m just glad this dinner has gone by without incident.”

“Yeah, dinners minus Claudine and the stick up her ass will do that.” I said and Crystal snorted.

“I am sorry for the way she talked to you, but you have to admit –“

“I know, I baited her too, I know, I can’t help it though she just brings out the uber bitch in me. She was way out of line though.”

“She was, and I’ve talked to her and she was really apologetic.”

“Yes, to you. She likes to kiss your ass, surely you see that.”

“Sookie –“

“Oh, Gran, I’m brash, you know this, stop pretending to be shocked by it.”

She pursed her lips, “Sookie I’m just saying you could be a little more…civilized.”

“In my own house? I’m pretty sure I can be whatever I want, thanks.” I said, lifting my plate to take it too the kitchen. I’m sure I had the makings of some pretty strong margaritas in there.

She came in after me, like I assumed she would.

“Sookie, I never really remember you being this…angry at the world. What happened to my lovely Sookie, the one who saw the good in everyone, the one that just wanted to make the world beautiful with her designs, and her knowledge, and her sparkle? Hmm?” she asked softly taking my face in her hands, looking into my eyes as if the answers were in there somewhere.

“She grew up, she got real.”

She shook her head, “No, she got hard. Weary of the world, I hate that the world did that to you. I hate that perhaps I did that to you. Putting you in your position so young, maybe I should have retired later, given you more time to adjust…” she said, as if these things were on a guilt list in her head, and maybe they were, I knew I had one.

“I adjusted just fine.”

“No, you didn’t, Love. You’ve become cold, and distant and detached. I mean you’re still you, inside, I see it when you’re with that little girl. It’s like with her, you’re all the things she thinks you are, and it is almost as if the light inside you comes back out…I miss that light in my Granddaughter, I’d like her to find it again.”

“Which is why you issued me with the ultimatum, right? I don’t get you. You say you want me to find balance, you want my light back, and you want me to do this, that and the other, and Gran, honestly? Its bullshit.”

“Sookie!”

“Well, it is. What does dating have to do with my ability to do a job? Unless I’m a hooker, it means nothing to the job, and I can do the job – you know that. I’ve made us millions, I’ve built the brand up, I’ve –“

“Darling you don’t need to list your accomplishments to me, I’m well aware of all of them and I couldn’t BE any prouder of you.”

“So then why…?”

“I don’t want you to wake up forty and alone. You deserve better.”

“Claudine isn’t alone, that doesn’t mean she’s happy, Jason isn’t alone that doesn’t mean his marriage is rock solid either. You’re alone, and you did just fine.”

She rolled her eyes, she knew I was right.

“I just want you to love, you have so much of it in you and you deserve to be loved just as much, is that a better way of saying it? Sookie, you do the job better than anyone I could possibly hire, but I just don’t think…”

“Think what?”

“It’s not what you love, be honest.”

I was flabbergasted, “Are you kidding? Are you actually kidding me?!”

“I found six books upstairs…”

“It’s a library, that’s usually what you find there.”

“Don’t sass me! Your books, Smarty pants. Books filled to the brim with sketches, material, designs, and ideas! Ideas gone unseen because of your ‘day job’. I got to thinking, and I remembered this was never what you really wanted. When you were a kid, you were going to be the next big thing, you wanted to design the dresses the princesses wore, and you wanted to be the hands and the name behind the dresses. Not the name behind a magazine that showed someone else’s dresses, or a cosmetics line. Be honest.”

“ Gran, I was sixteen I also thought I was going to be a ballet dancer before that, and a pilot before that. I had a lot of pipe dreams.”

“Well, unless you’re flying planes in your spare time, I’d wager to say that this ‘pipe dream’ is still very alive, if the dates on those sketches are anything to go by.”

It was my turn to roll my eyes.

“I just wonder what you’d be if you had the freedom to … be yourself.”

I raised my brows at her, “I’ve seen you in the office, and I’ve heard the rumours, the nicknames. The Ice-Bitch and others that I really don’t care to repeat? My Sookie is no ice-bitch.”

I just shrugged.

“If I don’t meet your grand expectations, what are you going to do? Give my job, my career, to Claudine?” I asked, and I honestly felt all of five years old.

“It’s not about expect-“

“That’s exactly what it’s about! I’ve been jumping through hoops for you, and you don’t even know what you want, do you? Just because you aren’t happy with the way my life is going you feel the need to interfere.”

“That’s how you see it?” she asked a hurt tone to her voice.

“Honestly, yes. I was happy enough before all this mess happened, just getting on with things and now… everything is fucked up.” I thought of Eric, and then Emily, and I really was fucking everything up.

She nodded.

“If that’s what you think, I won’t be interfering anymore. And I’ll have made my decision by Thanksgiving. You know, that big dinner I have every year for my family, the one for the past six years, you’ve avoided?”

“It’s just a bigger version of what happened last night. Can you really blame me?”

“I’d like it if you came this year, and I’d like Eric and little Emily to come too – providing they don’t have other plans?”

“Gran, I really want to leave them out of this mess as much as possible okay?”

“He’s your beau is he not? I’d think he’d want to come?”

Internally I cringed.

“I’m not making any promises.” Because being honest with myself I’d be surprised if Eric ever spoke to me again.

“The little dress upstairs? I take that belongs to the girl?”

It was in my closet, and I had it hastily tacked to a sewing mannequin, she’d asked me the other day to make her, her Halloween costume. She wanted to go as a Fairy, with wings. I may have had a pattern for something whimsical in my portfolios; I did a little adjusting and some material sourcing at work. It was our secret, and I wanted to keep it that way until it was done. Eric was already prickly about her ‘dressing up’ in my clothes; he’d probably have a period if he knew I was making her a dress out of vintage silk.

“I’m just making her something for her school Halloween party, that’s all.”

She nodded. “You’re attached to them, aren’t you?”

“As you said, he’s my boyfriend, they’re a package deal, shouldn’t I be attached?”

“I guess you’re right, dear. I’m going to go say goodnight to Jason and Crystal, if you’re making cocktails, I’ll have one.” She smiled, and yet again I realized we’d talked ourselves in circles and nothing got resolved.

Great.

Just as Jason and Crystal left, Eric and Emily arrived.

“Hey Sookie, Hey Sookie’s Granma.” Emily said arriving like a little hurricane letting go of Eric’s hand and dropping her backpack on the couch. Eric stood awkwardly shoving his hands in the pockets of his jeans.

“Hey, we had dinner at Amelia’s,” was all he said, and Gran looked at me, then back to Eric.

“She’s Emily’s babysitter,” I said.

“Well, she’s more of a friend who also happens to have a daughter Emily’s age, they’re best friends so they like to hang out a lot, so Ames agrees to look after Emily after school when I work.”

“So, Emily’s babysitter.” I said again, in a harsher tone. I didn’t know why I was mad at him, why was I mad at him? Because he didn’t come to dinner? That’s just sad, I thought, I was mad and I didn’t know why, but I was pretty sure my anger was aiming at the wrong person when I aimed it at Eric.

Grans eyes widened and her eyebrows rose, sensing the tension, she spoke up in a cheerful voice, “Emily, how about we go upstairs and you show me your new dress, huh?”

“Shh!” Emily said but took Grans hand anyway, looking back guiltily to Eric as they took the stairs.

“New dress?” he said, pissed, more pissed that he was already which I thought would have been hard to top.

“It’s nothing…”

“Really? So why is Emily shushing Adele then?”

“Oh for fuck sake, Eric. It’s a Halloween costume, it’s hardly Parisian couture!” I said stomping back into the kitchen, I really needed that cocktail.

“Again, that’s not the fucking point, Sookie. The point was you lied about it, you encouraged my sister to –“

“I did no such thing! She asked me the other day when the kids were playing when she saw my sketches and dresses in the closet, and I agreed. It’s a tiny project and I thought it would be something nice for the kid, so fucking sue me!” F-bombs all over the place, thank God she was out of earshot.

“You didn’t think you should…. I don’t know ask me first?”

“Actually no, because it’s just a dress, a pretty white dress, it’s not like I’m putting her in fishnets and hooker heels.”

He just laughed,“You still don’t get it do you? You don’t get to make these decisions, I do. You’re nothing to her.”

Low blow, asshole, low fucking blow.

I just glared at him, “Nice. Real nice. Actually, it was meant to be a surprise for you, douche. She told you she was going as a tiger, but she was going as a fairy instead and wanted to surprise you at her class Halloween party. Because she’s a sweet kid, God fucking knows how she’s genetically connected to YOU.” I said storming off into the living room, still cocktail-less.

Damn it.

I went a little nuts with the cushion plumping, but hey, at least they were something I could fix.

Unlike my damn life choices.

We played nice for Emily that night, and in part for Gran, though she knew something was up and said nothing, once we got Emily to bed at nine, all I wanted was to fall into my own and sleep for a week, but when I did, he wasn’t there. Instead he was on his way out of the room with a pillow.

“I’m sleeping on the couch,” he said, grabbing the throw blanket at the foot of my bed.

“It’s not really necessary for you to sleep out there, you know? It’s a big bed.”

He shook his head. “Not big enough.”

Another kick the gut, he was getting really good at those, “fine, be a child, see if I care,” I spat out making him turn to me and get dangerously close to my ear, so close I could smell the soap from his shower.

“Hey, think about it, at least this way the lie is cemented, real couples fight all the time, so you’ve sold your lie, and she’s bought it. Mission accomplished, right?”

I couldn’t look at him right then, not because he was wrong but because he was so right. I had done what I’d set out to do, and in the process I’d ended up fucking up my life more than I’d imagined possible. I’d hurt him, I’d probably hurt Emily now too, and I was hurting… and all for what? A job? And Gran was right, it had always been what I thought I NEEDED, and then said I wanted. But was I confusing the two, still?

I didn’t sleep much that night, tossing and turning, my brain not willing to shut up even for a second. Nagging thoughts, revisiting old choices, old conversations… How I’d reacted to Eric who had just taken from my actions what any man would and then I shut him down? How could he not be bitter? I was throwing out more mixed signals than a Lindsey Lohan drug test. No, things had to change, and I had to be the one to change them. I had to take back control and figure out what I wanted from my life, and who I wanted in it, and it started with the guy on my couch.

 

*******

 

I looked at the clock, and it was four seventeen. I knew sleep wasn’t gonna come unless I stopped going around in circles in my head, and actually tried to resolve my inner turmoil. So, I got out of bed, and padded silently down the hall, avoiding a sleeping Tina at the top of the stairs, and made my way down to the living room. Eric was sprawled out on the couch, one leg inside the blanket, and one leg outside, his arm stretched over his eyes, all bare torso and shallow breathing. I didn’t want to wake him, but I had to.

I poked his arm, and he grunted.

“Go back to bed, Em…it’s not morning yet.”

“Eric?”

“Em… please sleepy time, its dark.”

“Eric, its Sookie.” I said louder, and it made him wake up, removing his hand he squinted at me.

“Ugh, what time is it?”

“Um, just after four.”

He squinted again, and looked at me as if I was nuts. Hell, maybe I was.

“What… is something wrong?”

“No, I just … I needed to talk to you.”

“And it couldn’t wait four more hours?”

“No…”

He sighed, and opened his eyes fully.

“I’m sorry,” I said quietly.

“Don’t be.”

“No, I need you to hear this; I need to say this to you,” I said standing from my seat on the coffee table, to pace. I paced when I was nervous. “I really don’t know when my priorities got so fucked up, maybe when I started working at the company, maybe even before that. But for a long time all I cared about was making money, making a good reputation and succeeding in business.” I sighed, shifting back to my spot on the table, “and I really don’t know how to get back to me, to what I need for me. I know I need to apologise for everything, you’ve been so…accommodating to me and my crazy ass ideas, and you’ve let me into your life even when you didn’t need to, and I had no right to be there. And you’re right, really, in reality

I’m nothing to her… or you, and in a few weeks she’ll forget all about me and move on. And its how things should be,” I sighed, “I can’t be doing this. Stepping on your toes like this, it’s not right. She’s your kid, your call. After tomorrow… you won’t have to worry about me interfering, again. I bitched at Gran tonight for doing the same in my life, and I should know better… We made a deal and you stuck to it, I didn’t.”

He sat up and pushed the blanket off his legs, our knees now touching.

“You stuck to it, and you did this amazing job of half convincing my Gran that I was normal.” I laughed, nervously. “And I’m the one that fucked up. I pushed us across lines we weren’t ready for. And for that I’m sorry.”

 

He held his fingers up to my mouth, and I looked him in the eye before he spoke in a gruff still half asleep voice.

“Stop. You haul all the blame, and I’m just as much at fault here, let’s face it Sookie, we’re both stubborn as fuck, we bash heads more than bulls in a field.”

I smiled, it was true.

“But things are messed up here, and I’m not sure how to get them cleaned up. I didn’t mean what I said before, I was just pissed off, and I knew it would hurt you…” he sighed, coming closer and sitting on the couch beside me, “I’m hurt, and I wanted to hurt you. Okay? I took your reaction after what happened at dinner as this huge personal rejection, and my head just got all fucked up and I wanted to get even? It was stupid… You know she adores you, and I need to …accept that too. For a long ass time it was just us two, and now you’ve kinda taken a spot over…”

I shook my head, “I’m just her new play thing, and you’re the security blanket, ya know? The thing she couldn’t ever do without? That’s you…so please don’t worry about me taking your place, as if that were even possible.” I rolled my eyes.

“I know … I know, it’s completely illogical.”

I nodded, before he laid his warm hands on my now cold knees.

“I think we both just need to…step back. Things have gotten so fucking screwed up for both of us, and you have a lot of things you need to figure out for yourself after tomorrow…” he said running his hand through his hair, “we maybe just need some distance to try and figure some stuff out.”

I nodded.

“Eric, I’m sorry if I hurt you. You know I never –“

“I know, we both have nothing but good intentions here, Sookie, I just think we both need to avoid paving our way to hell with them.”

I smiled, “well if you figure that one out, please let me know.” I ran my own hand through my hair, over and back. “Eric, I really don’t know what I’m doing here. All of this…”I looked around my excessively lavish apartment. It was more than I needed; it was more than most people needed, in truth. “These last few days, a lot of things have been thrown at me, and I’ve done and said a lot of questionable shit were everyone else is concerned, and selfishly I thought that it was okay, but none of this is okay… any of it. And I need to make some changes, before I end up hurting you, or Emily, or anyone else I care about again. I can’t go on like this.”

“No, you can’t and neither can I. I like you, Sookie; I think that much is obvious. When you’re relaxed and real, you’re amazing. You’re fun and funny too which I wasn’t expecting. And…” he took my hands, “you have this huge heart in there that I know is full of amazing things. You just need to figure out what you want.”

“Do you know what you want?” I asked, carrying on our whispered conversation.

“I think I do, I just don’t know if it exists,” he said rather ominously but I nodded anyway, sure I’d figure out a way to make things right. I started by taking his hand and leading him back upstairs, and we spend the rest of the night taking comfort in the security of sleep in the arms of each other, in the hopes of find a solution, one that hopefully involved each other.