An Unlikely Advisor
Summary: Set between Living Dead in Dallas and Club Dead. Lorena has no power over Bill, a little TB touch, and so won’t be calling him to her. I just wondered what might have happened if their relationship had been left to run its course.
Spoilers: Up to book 3 – Club Dead.
Disclaimer: All characters owned by C Harris.
Status: Complete. Approx. 4200 words.
It had been a busy evening in Merlotte’s and was just starting to quieten down after the dinner rush. My brain was throbbing with the exertion of keeping everyone’s thoughts from knocking me on my butt and I just had to escape. Just for ten minutes. Perhaps I should explain that a little better, you see, my name is Sookie Stackhouse and I am a telepath. I hear every thought, wish and desire that runs through the human minds of the bar and grill that I work in. And it’s a living hell. My only respite is my boyfriend Bill Compton, a vampire, and my own solitude. His mind is blank to me and that was why I was attracted to him.
I made my way out the back door and sat unceremoniously on the concrete step. I was bone tired. More than that, really, if there was a state somewhere between exhaustion and death – that’s where I was right then. There were too many bills to pay and not enough hours for me to earn money to pay them. Since my Gran had died, murdered by a man who had a problem with vampire sympathisers, the family homestead and all of its financial burdens had fallen to me – a waitress. I looked up at the stars in the sky and begged a silent prayer. There had to be a break sometime. I prayed to God, to my Gran, to anyone who had ever loved me. I pleaded with them to give me guidance as to how I might untangle myself and have a little breathing space.
I heard the door open behind me and turned to find, fellow waitress and friend, Arlene Fowler peek out with a frown. Upon seeing me her expression changed and she smiled at me. I could read from her mind that she had been concerned as to where I had been hiding.
“Sookie! I was worried you’d ran off into the woods to escape!” She tentatively settled down next to me and placed a hand on my shoulder. “You’ll be happy to hear that there are only 5 customers left in there. Sam sent me to look for you to see if you maybe wanted to cut your shift short and go home.”
I sighed. Going home sounded heavenly but it also meant losing out on pay. “I’d love to go home Arlene but I just can’t afford to lose any pay or tips right now. My driveway won’t survive another winter and the boiler is making a strange noise, I think it’s on its last legs.”
“But you’re so tired honey.” I looked into her eyes and almost drowned in the concern she had for me. “You look so drawn and … it looks like you’ve dropped a fair few pounds. When was the last time you had a decent sleep? A hearty meal?”
Her distress at my physical state was almost ruined when I heard her thinking that if I wasn’t seeing a demon vampire who drained my blood, and probably kept me up all night worshipping Satan, I would feel better. Until I realised that being with Bill did keep me up later than I had usually stayed up in the past. And, as Bill was fairly disapproving of my eating habits, my meal schedule was extremely unsettled. The only thing incorrect with her thoughts was that Bill was a demon and we worshipped Satan.
Arlene grabbed me by the shoulders to turn my body towards hers. “Are you even taking vitamins?”
I turned away from her as much as I could in her hold. “I … I take some but I had to cut back on the iron because …”
Arlene looked confused as my voice trailed off but seemed to know that I wasn’t going to say anything else. How could I tell a woman who dislikes vampires that my boyfriend didn’t like the way the supplements made my blood taste? Even having every third night ‘off’ from Bill’s feeding, I was slowly starting to feel that it might not be enough for me now.
We both turned in fright as the back door flew open and an angry Sam looked down on us. When he saw our positions, he must have realised that we weren’t just out here gossiping and his expression changed instantly to one of question.
“Are you girls okay? Sook? Arlene? It’s just Charlsie is startin’ to get a little overwhelmed dealing with everyone on her own. I’d appreciate if you two could get back out to the bar.” We both nodded and stood to make our way back to work. As I was about to walk past him, Sam gently gripped my bicep to stop me. “Chere? Are you upset about somethin’?”
I patted his hand where we connected and smiled wanly. “Just tired, Sam. Just tired. There just ain’t enough hours for me to earn enough to do all that needs to be done.”
Sam nodded and looked thoughtful. “You know, you’d get a hell of a lot more tips if you worked ‘til closing. Do you want me to change your shifts?”
It was tempting but if I worked until closing every night I’d never see Bill, or I’d be too tired to spend any time with him when I did see him. “No thanks Sam. Personal life and all that.”
Sam frowned and shook his head from side to side, as if he couldn’t believe that I’d turned down his offer. I went back through to the bar and saw to my tables, Charlsie jumped at the chance to finish her shift early and left Arlene and I to busy ourselves among the small group of customers. JB Du Rone came in just before I was due to finish up and greeted me with a hug. Unfortunately, Bill walked in just as we were separating and if looks could kill – JB would be hung, drawn and quartered right there in front of the polished wood bar. I knew JB Du Rone had always been sweet on me and every time he saw me, it was clear he wanted to do more than hug.
I made my excuses and went back to Sam’s office to get my purse from the drawer and threw my apron in the laundry bag that sat in the corridor. I knew Bill was right at my back the entire time and the fact that he hadn’t said anything, not even a ‘hello Sweetheart’, made me bristle. I was in no mood for his jealousy tonight. If anyone had a right to be jealous it was me, Bill spent more time staring at his computer monitor than me these days. The drive back to my farmhouse was silent, which made me even more annoyed. As I put my key in the door I felt Bill squeeze my hips with his hands and closed my eyes in irritation. I remembered the last time Bill had saw me with JB, I had asked him to be sweet. He was anything but. Not that I hated it, I enjoyed it a lot. It just wasn’t the type of experience that I wanted that night.
“Not tonight Bill.” I threw open the door and stepped inside the house. “You haven’t spoken a word to me so far and I know it’s because you’re annoyed that JB hugged me, but don’t think you can treat me like that and I’ll be willing to … to spread my legs and let you claim your territory!”
He looked surprised for a second before he composed himself and stretched out his arms. I let myself get drawn into his embrace and felt the ache in my head subside with his cool body and silent mind.
“I can tell you’re tired Sweetheart. Why don’t I draw you a bath while you get something to eat? I’ll even scrub your back.”
I smiled despite my lethargy. “If you could start a bath running that would be great. But I think it’s best if I scrub my own back.” His muscles twitched ever so slightly. “It’s just that I’m so tired, I don’t have the energy for … anything like that tonight.”
I felt his nose nuzzle against the side of my head. “You wouldn’t have to do a thing darlin’. Let me take care of you.”
Although the sentiment was a sweet one, it annoyed me even more. It was like he just didn’t listen to me. “No. I’m sorry we can’t spend some time together tonight, but I’m exhausted. Please.”
“You’re tired all the time Sookie. You’re working too much. You should cut back on your hours.”
I pushed myself away from him. “And then what Bill? Have my electricity cut off because I couldn’t pay the bill? Have cold showers every day because my boiler packed up and I couldn’t afford to have it fixed?”
“If something needs fixed, just tell me and I’ll pay to have it fixed Sookie. You don’t have to struggle, you just have to ask.”
I closed my eyes and clenched my fists. I didn’t want him to pay my bills for me but more than that I simply couldn’t ask him to pay out every time something broke down in this old place. I know he’s got money, he’s already given me a few expensive gifts and he gifted his distant relatives with a large sum recently. He even offered me a line of credit in the strip mall he owns – but that’s useless to me. I didn’t want a man who would shower me with pretties, I wanted a man who knew me enough to realise I didn’t need fancy clothes and fake nails. I wanted a man who would listen to all the complaints about the state of my driveway and offer to do something about it. I’m not so pig headed that I wouldn’t accept help from the man I love if he offered it … but Bill never offered.
“Just forget it Bill. Go home. I’ll call you at sundown tomorrow and let you know if I’m feeling better.”
He nodded sharply and gave me a small, cold peck on the cheek before turning and speeding off towards the cemetery. I sighed, wondering if I’d gone about that the right way. I tried to massage some of the tension from my shoulders as I walked through to my bedroom. I just wanted to sleep. I didn’t care that I stank of chicken and beer; I just stripped off my clothes, slipped on a nightshirt and was asleep seconds after my head hit the pillow.
My alarm woke me from a dreamless sleep. I groggily sat up and shambled to the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face. When I checked the time, I noticed that I wasn’t due to start my shift for two hours. I went to the kitchen to make a decent breakfast, only to find my fridge decidedly lacking in options. Frowning, I called up Jason, who confirmed that he had been by to ‘borrow’ some lunch the other day. I had been awake for less than ten minutes and already my day was shaping up to be a doozy.
I made do with the few strips of bacon I had left and some toast, hoping I would be able to get a few moments to eat during my shift at the bar. I was on my second cup of coffee and making my way around the kitchen cupboards to put together a shopping list when the phone rang.
“Hello, Stackhouse residence.”
Hey Sookie, it’s Arlene. Look, I can see how strung out you are. Sam could too, so I’m taking your shift today but don’t worry about the money.
“What do you mean don’t worry about the money Arlene?” I could hear the pitch in my voice increase with my heartbeat.
I mean, Sam is gonna pay you while you take a rest day. Did you know you’ve worked the last three weeks without a day off?
“Has it been that long? I really think I should call Sam about this …”
No point Missy. You just head on back to bed or lay out and catch some rays. You’ve been lookin’ a mite pasty.
I looked at my arms; they were a lot paler than they usually were. I sighed, knowing that even if I did go back to bed I’d just lie there and think about everything else going on in my life. “Okay Arlene, I have a few errands to run and I was wondering if I’d ever find time for them … tell Sam that I really appreciate this. And I really appreciate you stepping in and helping me out.”
No problem sweetie. You just take it easy today okay?
I hung up, completed my shopping list and had a long shower before getting dressed and heading to the Wal-Mart in Ruston to restock … everything. I had been so intent on working whenever I could, I hadn’t realised I was running low on so many things. Not to mention the state of the house. It could really do with a good going over but my energy pot only had so much in it. I loaded the bags of groceries into the trunk of my beat up Nova and got behind the wheel. As I turned the key, the familiar strains of the engine not starting filled my ears.
I closed my eyes and prayed to God, Gran and anyone out there who ever loved me and after the third try the engine sputtered into life. I breathed a sigh of relief and for the briefest of seconds, regretted giving away all of the money Bartlett left me. Just for the tiniest of moments, I thought how far that twenty thousand dollars would have gone.
Once I had gotten home and put away the groceries, I took the time to run a duster around every room of the house. Lord knows, it needed it. I dug out Gran’s recipe for fried chicken and dumplings and busied myself in the kitchen. I couldn’t remember the last time I cooked an actual meal. Not just a sandwich or a selection of breakfast foods. When I had finished eating I sighed. It felt nice to have a really full stomach and not that ‘I’ve eaten just enough that I’m no longer hungry’ sensation. I glanced at the time and noticed that, if I had been at work, I would just be leaving Merlotte’s right now. Considering what I had achieved during my day off, I was even more thankful to Sam and Arlene for giving me the time to catch up.
The sun was setting and casting a pink glow over the tree tops, another hour or so and I could call Bill. I wasn’t entirely sure where to begin apologising to him for the way I’d spoken to him the night before. Not only was he a vampire but he was a man and they all have needs, after all. I briefly wondered if he had found someone else to feed from since I had rejected him. Not that it was unusual, just as long as he didn’t do it from anyone local; I had no grounds to deny him. But it wasn’t really the feeding that concerned me; it was the other actions that went hand in hand with it.
I turned on the TV and sat down with a glass of tea but found myself unable to concentrate on any of the words and pictures flashing across the screen. Is this what it was always going to be like? Every time I was too tired to … accommodate my boyfriend I’d always wonder if he was getting what he needed from someone else. Could I really live like that? And all those ‘business trips’ to New Orleans, what was he getting up to there? Not long ago he’d made a big hoo-ha about me smelling of Eric when I asked him to go to that damn orgy with me and I’d pointed out that he could have smelled like 6 other women. He never denied anything. I could feel my jaw start to hurt from clenching my teeth together and closed my eyes, trying to relax.
I was angry that Bill could have been doing Lord knows what with any number of women but it was completely unacceptable if another man even hugged me. Just as well Bill hadn’t seen the way Eric had kissed me those few times. If ran my fingers across my lips remembering how it had felt to be kissed by the Viking Vampire. In all my days, I don’t think I’ll ever be kissed like that again. My eyes snapped open and I chided myself for thinking about kissing another man – that just made me angry all over again. Maybe it would be for the best if I didn’t see Bill tonight, not with the mood I’m in. The sun hadn’t completely set, so I took the opportunity to call Bill and leave a message for him. I let him know that I was fine but still very tired and was going to have an early night. I also let him know that I would call him the next evening to talk to him. I puffed out my cheeks once I had hung up; I really hoped he would leave me alone tonight. He had the habit of turning up on my doorstep when things didn’t go his way.
Deciding that a bath might sooth my troubles, I started to make my way to the bathroom but was stopped by knocking at the front door. I checked out of the window and saw it wasn’t quite full dark, so it wouldn’t be Bill. I opened the door to find Arlene on the other side.
“Hey Sookie! Did you have a good day off?”
“Um … yeah actually I got a few things done. No sunbathing though, unfortunately. Come in, would you like some tea?”
“No thanks, I got something better.” She waved a bottle of cheap wine at me. “I was supposed to work closing tonight, so I had already arranged for a sitter. I thought maybe you could use someone to talk to.”
“Talk to? About what?” I ushered Arlene into the living room and sat down on the sofa.
“Well.” She sat next to me and started taking off her cardigan. “Face it Sooks. You ain’t … happy. Everyone at the bar has noticed the change in you. We just want our old Sookie back.”
“Of course I’m happy! I’m just tired is all.” I saw Arlene’s eyebrow twitch. She might not have academic smarts, much like myself, but she knew when to call bullshit. “I’ll get you a glass for your wine.”
I wandered through to the kitchen and rinsed and dried a wine glass. As I was wiping the towel around the stem, I realised this was Arlene’s olive branch. We hadn’t been close, like best girlfriends kind of close, but we’d always shared our little issues. And if Arlene knew about anything, it was relationship issues. I stalked purposefully back through to the living room and put Arlene’s glass in front of her before sitting next to her.
“You know what? I think maybe I do need to chat a little about things.” I chewed on my bottom lip, trying to put my feelings into words. “How do you know if the guy you’re seeing is a good boyfriend?”
Arlene snorted. “Oh honey! I wouldn’t know, but I can tell you plenty about bad boyfriends!”
I nodded. “Okay, so, how do you know if you have a bad boyfriend?”
“Well.” She sighed and puffed out her cheeks. “I had this one guy, I did everything for him. I fed him, I kept him happy in the bedroom, I listened to him and … at the end of the day, I realised he didn’t do anything for me.” She shrugged. “But there are too many men like that.”
“He was using you?”
“Oh definitely!” She snorted. “Another time, I had a guy who wanted to tell me how to dress, how to do my hair, how to talk, when to talk and it was just awful. But we’re not here to talk about me; we’re here to talk about you.”
I thought about what Arlene had said, Bill had a few of those bad traits. I felt sick, it was one thing suspecting that your boyfriend wasn’t perfect and actually finding out he had some really shitty personality defects.
“Arlene, you know me and Bill have been together a while now.” She pursed her lips together and nodded. “He’s my first boyfriend, ever, and I … I feel like he doesn’t get me.”
She cocked her head to the side and curled her feet underneath her. “He doesn’t get you in what way?”
“Well, I’m tired but he still wants … y’know. And I’m dirt poor but he says I should cut my hours so I can spend more time with him. He expects me to be there for him whenever he wants me but when I want him he’s too busy with his computer.” As if saying things out loud was a magic charm for tears, my eyes filled and I started to sniffle. “And the worst part is that, when I’m too tired for making love, I can’t trust that he isn’t getting that from someone else.”
“Oh sweetie!” She came over and wrapped her arms around me. “Have you tried talking to him about it?”
I shook my head. “No. I’ve tried talking to him about things in the past and it just turned into an argument.” I remembered all those times when I’d told Bill about things I wasn’t happy with and his big reply and comfort was that ‘He was vampire’, like I should excuse him from doing anything that hurt me because he didn’t have a heartbeat. “He gets real jealous too. The other night when JB hugged me, Bill was ready to spit.”
Arlene patted my knee and got up from the couch, I heard her clatter around a little then she came back with another wine glass. “Sounds like you’ve got a bonafide Asshole, Sookie. Drink up sweetie, its kerb kicking time!”
“What?” I blinked and took the glass from her. “You think I should break up with him?”
She slurped at her wine and nodded. “It’s the only way to really tell, Sookie. If you break up with him and you tell him why you’re breaking up with him, he has two choices.” I sipped from my glass and nodded, awaiting her sage advice. “He can change his ways to get you to take him back or he can walk away and leave you to your life. It’s win-win.”
“What if he says he’s changed his ways and I take him back, but he hasn’t changed at all?”
“Then he’s a double-asshole, a complete prick and you’d be a stupid bitch to put up with it!”
“Bill isn’t like that!”
“He’s a vampire, Sookie! They lie, they cheat, they take and take and take and what do you get out of it?”
I sat back in shock at her words. What did I get out of being with Bill? I got orgasms and I got the silence of his mind. I also got company, sometimes, when he was in town and I wasn’t working and when he didn’t have computer stuff to do. I also got lethargy, exhaustion and the sense that I wasn’t good enough. Arlene was watching me put the pieces together; Bill got a hell of a lot more out of the relationship than I did. If I stayed with him, how far would it go? Would he ignore me for weeks at a time then show up for sex? Could I sit at home, knowing he was away on business and feeding from other women for however many more years I was alive? I thought about all the thoughts I’d heard over the years. All those girls being judged because they stayed with a man that just used them, all those girls who had the town whispering behind their back because they took back a man who cheated on them, all those girls that were pitied because they smiled as their partner made them feel like shit again and again. I didn’t want to be one of those girls.
“He does take more than he gives but I don’t want to be alone.” I started sobbing then and Arlene tried to comfort me. “I won’t find another boyfriend if I break up with him Arlene.”
“Now that’s just trash, Sookie! Look at you; you’re a very pretty girl with a bright mind and a sassy mouth.”
I shook my head. How could I tell her that I couldn’t be with a normal guy? How could I tell her that vampires were my only dating option? I had asked myself, what seemed like years ago, if love was worth the pain. Back then everything between Bill and I was new, exciting and constantly interrupted by vampire business. Now that there was no vampire business, it seemed like we had very little to talk about. The honeymoon period was over. I thought about my future, for the first time in a long time, I imagined myself twenty years down the line. Haggard, skeletal and with no self esteem, waving as Bill left for another trip. Another jaunt to feeding and lord knows what else from young, willing women. I had always thought I had a lot of self respect, and I wasn’t about to lose it for a man, vampire, that didn’t have the decency to ask me how my day had gone.
“I guess being happy and alone is better than being with someone and feeling miserable.”
Arlene clinked her glass against mine. “Finally! I thought you’d never figure that out!”
Now all I had to do was explain my decision to Bill.