NOTE: The following chapter occurs TWO DAYS after the previous.
NOTE 2: A “Liberty Risk” is a Marine with a high probability of getting into trouble when on leave.
Thursday, July 7, 2011 • 0815 hours/ 8:15 a.m.
I smiled to myself as I poured cereal into my bowl. I was thinking about how—just the night before—Sookie and I had enjoyed sex in the very spot where I was now standing. I closed my eyes and pictured Sookie’s wide, welcoming legs, drawing me to her.
I felt my cock stirring. For the last two days, it had gotten quite a work out, but it—like me—still craved more. And there were more condoms.
A few more—at least.
Unfortunately, Sookie and I were out of time for the moment.
Sookie was on the phone with Hadley. From Sookie’s end of the conversation, I could tell that Hadley was just getting ready to leave her house with Jason, which meant that they were running about fifteen or twenty minutes behind schedule; they’d be at the farmhouse at about 8:45 a.m.
“Don’t worry about it,” Sookie said, even as she rolled her eyes at Hadley, who was known for always being late. “Jade’s already pushed Jase’s swimming lesson back until 10:30 a.m. anyway. There’s plenty of time.”
There was a pause as Hadley obviously kept on apologizing.
“No. It’s really fine that Jase has had only cereal this morning—really it is. That’s all we’re having anyway.”
A moment later, Sookie blushed bright red. “Yeah—uh—the ‘we’ is Eric and me—um Captain Northman and me.”
“Shh,” Sookie sounded a moment later. “I don’t need Jase findin’ out anything from you.”
She looked at me worriedly. “Let’s just say that he and I are . . . .” She paused for a moment. “We talked things out, and we’re in a relationship now,” she finally settled upon.
Again, she went beet red. “That part’s none of your business, Had. I’ll see you in about thirty minutes!” she said quickly before hanging up.
“Damned pronouns,” she muttered.
“What?” I chuckled.
“I said ‘we,’ so Hadley was able to guess that I was talkin’ about more than one person.”
“Do you mind her knowing about us?” I asked a bit pensively. Yes—Sookie and I had shared a lot during the last two days, only leaving the bed to eat and then to check on things at Merlotte’s the night before. Terry and Arlene had looked at us like they were suspicious about what we were doing with—and to—each other, but they’d not said anything.
Sookie and I hadn’t said anything either; I’d thought that was so we could make sure Jason was the first to know about “us.” Now—I felt some of my insecurities coming back, and I couldn’t help but to wonder if she was ready for us to “go public.”
“No. I don’t mind her knowing. Of course not!” Sookie assured before my thoughts could get too far afield. She sighed. “It’s just that she already knew that I,” she paused and blushed, “liked you—mostly thanks to Amelia’s and Tara’s big mouths.”
I gulped. “You talked about me—like that?”
She chuckled, probably at the petrified look on my face. “They guessed.”
Sookie came over to me and stroked my cheek. “I guess I couldn’t really hide how I felt about you as well as I thought I could.”
I bent down to kiss her.
She gave me a coy smile once we pulled away from each other.
“You know, Captain,” she said teasingly, “Hadley is still probably twenty minutes away.”
“Challenge accepted, Ma’am,” I said as I forgot about my cereal and picked her up in a fireman’s carry. I quickly got us to her bedroom, which looked like it had been ransacked, given how much sex had been had in there for the last 48 hours. I felt a little proud of the mess, but I didn’t dwell on that pride.
There was another condom to get through and only twenty minutes to do it in.
1230 hours / 12:30 p.m. • approximately four hours later
Sookie and I had decided to tell Jason that we were in a “dating relationship.” And we planned to keep our relationship at what she called a “somewhat casual” level, at least until I got back from Afghanistan.
I’d been worried by the word “casual,” until Sookie explained what she meant by that term. Basically, we were going to be “sneaking around” when it came to sex, but open about everything else. She wanted Jason to see us as just “dating” for a while; she figured that would be a better example for him. And we’d already decided that we’d have what Sookie called “proper dates” at least once a week. These would entail getting a babysitter for Jason or simply dropping him off to spend some time with Jessica; Sookie and I would go out for food and a movie or another activity. I had a feeling that sex would be involved in all of those outings, too.
I couldn’t say that I minded that.
To help Jason transition, Sookie and I had also decided that we’d keep up the routine of him coming to spend Friday nights and Saturdays with me. However, I’d also be spending the night with them on Saturdays and going to church with them on Sunday mornings, as well as spending the day with them.
Sookie had chuckled about sneaking up to my room every Saturday night in order to make sure that we both had plenty to confess about the next morning at church. Of course, she and Jason weren’t Catholic. Neither was I.
Sookie seemed so certain that Jason would handle the changes to our status well. But I still worried as we finished up the lunch Sookie had made for us—BLTs.
“Hey, Uncle Eric! Can you stay and play a game or something?” Jason asked.
“I—uh—well, Jason,” I stammered.
“Captain Northman and I have something we need to talk to you about,” Sookie said, taking the reins. I was very happy to follow her lead.
“Okay,” Jason said with some curiosity. “What is it? Oh, Wait! Are you puttin’ in a pool over here?”
Sookie frowned. “No. I mean—I’m still thinking about that one, Jase. We actually have something else—something important—to say to you.”
Jason looked a little disappointed about the non-pool, but also eager to hear what his mother had to say.
Sookie looked a little nervous, but I knew that I was more nervous. She took a breath, even as I held my own.
“Jase, I wanted to start off by telling you how much I loved your stepdad and your dad. I still love them. And I hate that I—that we—lost them.”
Immediately, Jason frowned, the sorrow of both of his losses bubbling up to the surface.
“I hate it too, Mom,” Jason said softly.
He looked down, but then wide-eyed as he looked at me. “You’re not leaving—are you, Uncle Eric?” A huge tear formed and immediately fell from his eye.
“No!” I said quickly. “I mean—you know I have to go away for a while to work. But I’m not leaving.”
“You’re not?” Jason asked, his lips trembling.
“No, sweetie,” Sookie soothed, reaching out to take her son’s hand. “It’s sort of the opposite. Uh—Captain Northman—Eric—is gonna be around more now because—uh—he and I have decided to start dating.”
“Dating?” Jason asked, looking confused. “Dating?” he repeated.
“Yes,” I responded. “Jason, I care about your mother very much, and she has agreed to be in a relationship with me—a—uh—dating relationship.”
“Like she’s your girlfriend?” Jason asked, looking from me to his mother. “And he’s your boyfriend?”
“Yes,” Sookie said with something akin to relief as Jason clearly grasped what we were telling him.
For about ten seconds, Jason smiled softly, seemingly happy with the news. I felt myself beginning to relax. But then he frowned deeply.
So did I.
“But you can’t date her!” he yelled out, looking at me. “You can’t!”
“Jason . . . ,” I started, not knowing what to say.
“You can’t date!” he yelled, turning to his mother, his voice still raised and now angry. He was gesturing a little wildly—as if he were scared.
“Jason Compton! You will not take that tone with me—with us.”
“You’ll ruin everything!” the boy accused, rising up to his feet so quickly and haphazardly that he didn’t get a solid position with his prosthetic. Before I could get to the other side of the table to help him, he stumbled and fell, hitting his chin and lower lip on the table. Immediately, blood began to gush from the lip wound.
Sookie was on her feet moments later. I helped Jason back into his seat as Sookie tried to look at the wound. Having seen a lot of busted lips before—and knowing that they could bleed a lot—I ran to the kitchen sink to wet a clean washcloth. I also grabbed a clean, dry dish towel and hurried back to Jason. By that time, he was crying, probably both out of fear at seeing so much blood and pain.
“Oh God,” Sookie said, her own eyes filling with tears.
“Can I see?” I asked Jason before sinking to my knees in front of him.
He didn’t look at me, but nodded. I quickly dabbed the wet rag onto the wound to see the size of the gash. He had a large bump forming on his chin, and there was a substantial cut on his lower lip.
I quickly covered the wound with the wet rag and then held the dry one over it.
“It will need stiches,” I said gently.
“Okay,” Sookie said, seeming to rally a little. “It’s okay, Jase. Stiches will fix you right up.”
“Eric,” she said, looking at me, “I’ll get my purse. Will you get him out to the van? And then drive us? I’m a little shaky.”
“Sure,” I quickly agreed, moving to pick up Jason.
“I can walk,” he muttered out, despite his wound.
The bitterness and anger in his voice—coming through clearly even though the rags that muffled it—hit me in the core. But it was a quick look that he gave me—one full of betrayal and disdain—that truly gutted me.
“Okay,” I told him, though I made sure that I was close in case he fell again or needed me to stabilize him. He didn’t.
We were quickly in the vehicle. Sookie sat in the middle seat with Jason so that she could help him hold the rags tightly against his wound, and I was left alone in the front to drive.
I made sure to be careful, even as I felt a great pit forming in my stomach. Jason’s lip wound was not bad; I guessed that three to five stitches would be all that were needed. And he might need to get an X-ray to see if he had sustained whiplash—due to the force of his head whipping back when he’d hit the table. But he didn’t seem to be in any current pain because of that. What worried me more was his strong reaction against me and Sookie being together.
Was he angry at me? Did he worry that I would no longer have room in my heart for him if I was in a relationship with his mother? Did he worry about Sookie focusing less upon him if she and I were in a relationship? Or—did he just not wish for me to be with his mother? Perhaps, he deemed me unworthy for her.
God knows, I didn’t feel like I deserved either Sookie or Jason. Maybe he’d finally come to see that, too. Maybe he realized—in the moment right after his mother had mentioned the losses of his two dads—that I just didn’t measure up to them.
Maybe he was trying to protect his mother from me.
Maybe he was right to do so.
I’d been in a beautiful fantasy for the last two days, one in which anything was possible and where Sookie had talked me into believing that Jason would take the news of “us” with happiness. It had been the best two days of my life.
But all that possibility seemed to be over now—done.
I’d been revealed for being the fraud that I was. I wasn’t suited for them. I wasn’t suitable for anyone.
I shook my head, trying to put aside all my questions and worries and self-doubts. Clearly, it was the time to make sure that Jason was okay—not me. Indeed, I chastised myself for spending even a moment on my own selfish needs.
And I drove on.
1600 hours / 4:00 p.m. • approximately three and a half hours later
I just couldn’t figure out Jase’s reaction to finding out that Eric and I were a couple. I’d thought—with everything inside of me—that my son would be happy.
After all, he already loved Eric so much. And he’d loved it when we’d all lived together. He’d asked—more than once—if Eric could just keep living with us even after he had to report for duty at Bailey. Indeed, I knew that Jase had been a little angry at me when I’d told him that wasn’t possible.
In fact, one of the reasons why I’d suggested that he spend part of his Fridays and Saturdays with Eric each week was because of how attached he’d become to the captain. And he’d mentioned—many times—that he wished that Eric could spend more time at the farmhouse than just the Saturday dinners we all shared.
Now—as I watched Jase sleeping in his bed, after fighting to stay awake against the pain medicine for about half an hour—I found myself not quite knowing what to do.
Although Eric had driven us to the hospital and then waited with us in the waiting area, Jase had hardly looked at him. Indeed, most of the time, he’d not acknowledged him in any way. And the toll that had immediately taken upon Eric was a harsh one.
But I’d not been able to comfort the man that I loved; I had to focus on Jase. My son had cried a little as he’d been stitched up, and he’d cried a little more when the doctor said he couldn’t swim in the pool until a week after the stitches were fully dissolved. Through the ordeal, he’d let me hold his hand. However, he’d barely said ten words to me. But at least those ten were something—even if they were mostly just answers to my questions about how he felt.
Except for the one sentence he had clearly spoken, “I don’t want him there.”
Those words had been said when Eric tried to go with us into a curtained off area in the Emergency Room.
So Eric had waited for us in the waiting room.
He’d looked worried—tortured even—as we came out of the E.R. Still, Jase had said nothing to him. If anything, he’d ignored him even more fully. And he’d asked me to sit with him in the middle seat again.
On the trip to the hospital, Jase had been bleeding and had wanted me by his side because he was scared. On the trip back, I knew that he just wanted me away from Eric. God knows—I’d almost denied my son. But, seeing his swollen lip and pale face, I just couldn’t do it.
Sensing Jase’s mood, Eric had said nothing as he’d driven us home. Once there, Jase was exhausted, so he and I had just gone straight to his bedroom.
It was clear he didn’t want Eric in there either. And once Jase had settled in bed, he’d grabbed my hand, looking sad and a little scared that I might leave his room. So I’d stayed with him, grabbing the book we’d been reading together off the shelf. We usually took turns reading a chapter each at night, but I did all the reading as he simply looked at me.
Though he was clearly sleepy, his expression seemed to scream that I’d betrayed him in some way. I tried to keep my expression from showing my confusion and frustration with him, at least until he’d drifted off to sleep.
I softly shut the door on my way out of Jase’s room. I looked around for Eric and worried that he’d gone until I saw his van—the very one he’d purchased so that he could transport Jase and me when we were both wheelchair-bound—in the driveway. I breathed a sigh of relief and went upstairs. I stopped in my room first, but he wasn’t there.
When I got up to the third floor, I found him sitting on his bed with his face in his hands. His bag was sitting next to him.
I looked quickly around the room to see that everything of his had been packed. In fact, the room looked spotless—as if no one had stayed in it for months. The only things left behind were the copy of Wuthering Heights on the nightstand and the child monitor he’d gotten in order to listen for Jase’s nightmares when he lived with us.
He looked up at me, his eyes speaking of sorrows I couldn’t even imagine.
“I think I have to go,” he said with an odd mixture of firmness and uncertainty in his voice.
“Eric, I don’t understand why Jase is behaving as he is, but I don’t want you to go. I think we need to all talk together—as a family—once Jase gets a little sleep.”
A large tear seeped from Eric’s eye. “I don’t deserve a family.”
“Eric, how can you say that?” I asked him. “Why would you think even that?”
“It’s what my father told me—when I was around Jase’s age.”
“Your father was wrong.”
“Jason looked at me tonight in a way that made me certain that he does not want me to be with you,” he whispered.
“We need to figure out why that is, Eric. We need to talk with him.”
“I can’t live with it if he hates me,” he said, another tear slipping from his eye. “I can’t hurt him. I love him so much.”
“I know,” I said, moving closer to him.
“And I love you,” he said.
“I know.” I was standing right in front of him now, between his slightly open legs.
“I feel like I have to choose,” he whispered. “I feel like—no matter who I choose—my heart will break, and I will hurt one of you.”
I put my hands onto his shoulders, rubbing them a little. “You won’t have to choose. We’ll talk to him again, and he’ll either tell us why he’s so upset, or he’ll just be told that he has to get used to us being together.”
“I can’t make him unhappy, Sookie. I can’t force myself into his life this way—if he doesn’t want me to be there. I should go.”
“Please, Eric, I need you to stay, and so does Jase—even if he doesn’t know it right now. We need to learn what’s going on so that we can understand how to fix it.”
He shook his head in denial, even as I moved my hands to cup his face and raise it up so that he was looking at me. “Eric, I love Jase, but he is not going to dictate who else I love.”
Again, he shook his head, and his voice shook too as he spoke. “He looked at me like he hated me tonight, Sookie. He looked at me like I always wanted to look at my father, but was afraid to. My father always punished me—whenever I did anything he didn’t like. I won’t punish Jason by forcing myself to be more to him than he wants. I can’t have him hate me.” Another tear fell from his eye. “Even as I’ve gotten older—even after my father died—I couldn’t feel any love for him, Sookie. I don’t even feel enough for him to hate him. I feel nothing but indifference for him. And I resent my mother for never putting me first. I don’t want Jason to ever feel resentment for you or for me. It would,” he paused, “break me in two.”
“And giving us up? That wouldn’t break you in two?” I snapped back, taking a step away from him and feeling hurt over the fact that he seemed so quick to be giving up on us. “Because it would break me, Eric, and I’m fucking tired of losing the people I love, especially when I don’t have to!” I added angrily.
He looked up at me, clearly confused and torn. In fact, he looked to be in agony. And—suddenly—I felt very selfish.
“I don’t know what to do,” he whispered. “I can’t do anything without hurting you or him. If I could only hurt myself, I would do that. Please believe me that I would! But I just can’t see a way to just do that. Can’t you see? This is all my fault. I’m not meant to be here. I’m not meant to do this. I don’t know how to do it without you or him hating me.”
I went to speak—to try to find something to say that could make either of us feel better—but I was interrupted by Jase’s yell over the child monitor.
I looked at Eric uncertainly. “You should go,” I told him.
He shook his head. “He doesn’t want me, Ma’am. Not right now.”
The use of “ma’am” hit me like a blow to the stomach, just as another yell from Jase hit me like a blow to the heart. I turned and hurried down to my little boy’s room, not knowing at all what to do beyond that.
A/N: I have a feeling that some of you will have been surprised by Jase’s reaction here. Any speculations about why he had such an extreme response? I promise that there is method to my madness. In the meantime, I just feel bad for everyone involved.
I hope you will leave me a comment if you have the time & inclination.