"So, how do you think Nix is faring with Jesse?"
Dayle's question was addressed to Kruise, who was chopping onions for the spaghetti we were making.
Our plotting session had lasted a couple of hours and none of us had thought about eating. Kelsey finally left about eleven, and since all of us were starving, it was agreed that a pot of spaghetti would help us get through the hours of waiting for Nix, who was supposed to call as soon as she got a chance.
I was grating the garlic for garlic bread, and I snorted a little at the question. "I hope Jesse rips her a new one, and then I hope she rips one for Jesse. They both need a really good slap in the head."
Kruise chuckled. "I agree with you." She stopped chopping for a minute and sighed. "When I saw those whip marks on her back . . ." her voice trailed off and she sighed.
Dayle reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. "I know. But, babe, she's a grown woman, and we have to let her make her own decisions."
Kruise nodded. "I know, but damn it's hard just hanging back and letting her go. She was doing really well for a while, not sleeping around, not doing drugs, not beating herself up."
"And then what happened?"
I looked at Dayle. "Then Kruise got attacked, we told Nix, she and Jesse fell in love, we helped you guys hunt down Star, and Nix left." I walked over to the stove and pouredthe grated garlic into the spaghetti sauce that was simmering on the stove.
"Oh." Dayle's voice was very soft.
"I still don't think I understand why Nix left. She said she needed time, but time to do what?" I turned to Dayle. "You're a vampire, explain it to me."
She was quiet at first. I moved to the sink and rinsed the grater and bowl, then put it into the dishwasher. Kruise finished with the onions and poured them into the sauce, which Dayle was stirring.
"I'm not sure I can really explain it," Dayle began. "Nix is -- well, for one thing, she's one of the oldest vampires alive today. I think there are only two or three that are older, and they live in Europe."
Kruise rinsed the knife and cutting board, putting them into the dishwasher as well, then came to the table and sat next to me.
"Is she really fifteen hundred years old?" I asked.
Dayle nodded. "She is. And sometimes that age really shows. You get her talking about things that she's seen or events that she's been through, and she gets pretty depressed." She smiled. "There's a saying that as you get older your memory gets shorter. I don't know if that's true or not, because Nix remembers everything. You just have to ask her."
Kruise tilted her head in thought. "But you have to ask her, right? If it doesn't come up, she doesn't think about it?"
"Yeah, that's true." Dayle's eyebrows drew together as she thought about it. "Maybe that's what they mean. It doesn't mean that you forget everything, just that you're able to segment the memory, and keep yesterday separate from today."
"Makes sense, especially if you're going to be among people that have only a tenth of your life span, if that."
Another nod. "Yeah. Anyway." She covered the sauce and came over to the table to sit next to Kruise."There are a lot of vampires of Nix's generation that don't really like being with humans. They take a few servants and they stay in large estates with just a few people, and they change estates every twenty years and fake their deaths. They prefer reading, or painting, or writing. They don't involve themselves in human affairs at all if they can help it." She shook her head. "During World War Two, they just kind of -- hid. Several went to Switzerland, a few went to other out of the way places. Very few actually tried to do anything."
"And a few fought with the Nazis."
She looked disturbed at that. "Yeah. I suppose a few did. But there were also those that fought against them, so don't hold Star's actions against us all."
I nodded. "Sorry. Didn't mean to sound like I was blaming you."
"I know. I guess I'm still sensitive on that part." She let Kruise run a hand across her cheek and smiled at her. "So. Nix." She frowned. "Nix likes people. Genuinely likes them. She gets angry when there's injustice, she hurts when she sees someone hurting. She really likes people, and most people really like her. She tries hard to please people, even if she says she doesn't care."
Again, I nodded. That did sound like the Nix I knew. "So, this thing with Tess must have really been hard for her. Knowing that she's the one that ended her mom's life, even if it was forced by someone else."
"Exactly. It wasn't that she needed to get away from Tess 'cause she was afraid of her, or get away from Jesse because she didn't love her. It was putting distance between the present and the past, so she could handle the memories." Dayle spread her hands in a helpless gesture. "After all, she had to deal with memories of some of the most painful parts of the last hundred years -- Chris's death, the fire where we almost lost Tess, and Nora's death. I don't think she would have stayed sane if she hadn't taken some time away."
And that made sense.
We were all silent for several minutes. The spaghetti boiled merrily away in its pot on the stove, and the small stereo in the kitchen played the classical guitar music that Dayle had gotten Kruise and I to love.
"Do you think we did the right thing, calling her back?"
Dayle looked at me and shrugged. "Right for who? Us, Jesse, or Nix?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. But, I have the feeling after seeing her eyes last night at Jesse's, that if anything would have drawn her back before she was ready, it would have been Jess. I haven't seen that kind of horror in her eyes since the day we found Chris."
Kruise sighed as she got up to check on the sauce. "Well, I'm glad she's back, and I'm hoping she can help Jess. I think, if we can get the two of them to just admit that they really do care, that both of them will be okay."
"Getting them to admit that won't be the problem, Kruise."
"What will, Trey?"
"Getting them to admit that to each other."
She nodded grimly.
We finished dinner and still hadn't heard from Nix. Kruise and I kept looking at each other a little nervously. I don't know what she was thinking, but I was imagining all sorts of bad things happening.
The dishwasher was loaded and the table wiped down. The clock was saying past midnight, and I was starting to yawn a bit.
"Trey, are you staying tonight?"
"I wasn't planning on it, Kruise, but maybe. Dayle, would you mind? At least until we hear from Nix?"
She clapped a hand on my shoulder. "Trey, you're always welcome here. You don't even have to ask."
"Thanks." I stretched a little and sat in the recliner in their living room. "Do we sit up and wait for Nix, or try and get some sleep?"
Dayle looked at the clock. "She said if she didn't call us by two, I should call her. So, I'm gonna stay up and wait. You can catch some z's if you want."
"No, I'll be fine. I just didn't want to keep the two of you up."
Kruise carried her cup of tea over to the sofa and curled up in one corner. "I'm not sleepy yet. Babe, do you wanna watch a movie or something?"
"Actually, I was gonna go catch up on some email. Make sure everything was okay back in Montreal, and talk to a couple old friends. That okay with you?" She grinned and kissed Kruise on the nose. "Can I leave you and Trey alone together?"
Laughing, Kruise slapped Dayle's shoulder. "Brat. Of course you can."
They kissed, and I looked away.
"Call me if you need me." Dayle winked at me and headed for their office.
Kruise and I looked at each other.
"So, Kruise. Do you know how long it's been since Dayle's had a full night's sleep?"
She glared at me. "Don't start that again, Trey."
"Too late." I leaned forward. "Kruise, you have to make a decision. You can't expect her to only feed from you."
"Cause she'd drain you." There was a scowl forming on her face, and I could see the stubborness setting in.
"It's not going to matter if I --"
"No. I don't care how many iron pills you take, or how many multi-vitamins you swallow. Dayle needs more than you can give in that department."
She was fidgeting. "How do you know that?"
"Cause it was a long flight with Nix. I asked her all kinds of questions. It's what I do, you know."
"And you asked her about me and Dayle?"
"No. I asked her about how much they need, and how often. Not just the basics, like I asked Tess a long time ago, but specifics."
"What did she say?" Her voice had softened.
"She told me they need at least a pint every other day to stay in top health. If they don't have at least two pints a week, they start to show signs, like they don't heal as well as they normally do. One or less for an extended time, and the craving begins to set in. They don't sleep well, their appetites start to drop, and eventually they start to lose concentration."
Kruise didn't say anything, but I know that she was remembering the small amount Dayle had taken for dinner.
"When was the last time she fed, Kruise?"
"Three days ago."
"And before that?"
She frowned. "Almost a week."
I nodded. "She needs more, Kruise. You know that."
Her voice was very soft. "I know."
We sat there for several long minutes, and then she sighed.
"Trey, I just don't know what to do. I hate the idea of her being with another woman. It just -- I -- " She stopped, frustration evident in the lines between her eye brows.
"Go with her."
"Go with her. Go to the club, watch what happens, let her take you inside the room. Don't make this a 'you vampire, me human, you go feed while I stay at home and wait' kind of thing. Be there, right by her side."
She stared at me. "Are you serious?"
I shrugged. "Why not? I know
that when you were single you did a few threesomes. I know, you never really
enjoyed them cause someone always knelt on your hair." We both grinned at that,
remembering the drunken conversation where the subject had first come up. "Look,
think of this as something you
can participate in and enjoy as well. Ask Dayle if she'd mind you being there, helping her choose people, joining in the physical aspect."
"You mean, sexual."
"Whatever. Just don't look at it as something Dayle has to do alone, or something that is freaky, or as if it would be cheating on you. You know she loves you, Kruise, don't make her pay for that by starving."
It took several seconds, but she nodded slowly. "That . . . might help. I think I could do that." A little smile crossed her face. "Thank you, Trey."
"Sure." I shrugged. "Glad I could help."
"You wouldn't want to go with us, would you?"
I looked at her with both eyebrows raised. "You really want me there when you have a threesome with Dayle and watch her feed on someone else for the very first time?"
She hesitated, then grinned and shook her head.
"I didn't think so."
The two of us laughed for a minute, and I could feel the tension easing off just slightly.
"Now," Kruise said as she put her tea cup on the coffee table. "My turn to choose a subject."
"Okay. What else would you like to talk about?"
I glared at her. "I'm fine. Next topic?"
"Trey, I'm serious."
"So am I." I got up and walked to the porch door and looked out over the river. "I'm okay, Kruise."
"Right. So, when's the last time you had a full night's sleep?"
I said nothing. Behind me, I heard Kruise sigh and get up off the couch. Moments later she touched my shoulders and rested her chin on my head.
"Baby, you need to talk about this. What happened between you and Jace hurt, a lot, and you can't tell me it didn't."
"I'm over it."
She sighed. "I know you. You don't just get over things. You hide them until they drive you loony, then you either come talk to me or you mope around until I come talk to you."
Knowing she was right, but not wanting to admit there was anything wrong, I shrugged. "So?"
"So, this is one of those times I'm coming to talk to you." She squeezed my shoulders. "You've been too quiet. You haven't been writing as much, not even in your journal. And Dayle may have taken a small portion of food tonight, don't think I didn't notice how little you ate. You love my spaghetti, and yet you barely had any."
"I had two pieces of garlic bread."
"No, you had one. You just cut it in half so it looked like you had two. I was watching."
She was right again, and I hated it. I turned around and pushed her arms off of me. "Well, stop it. I don't need anyone hovering over me."
"I'm not hovering, I'm trying to figure out what's going on with you."
I snorted. "Yeah? Well, when you figure it out, that'll make one of us."
"What do you mean?"
A sigh. "I don't know. Nothing. Never mind."
"No, what do you mean?"
"Kruise . . ."
"Trey, you've never had trouble talking to me about anything. Now you won't even admit that Jace's leaving hurt you. You didn't cry at the airport when she left for LA, you didn't show any emotion when you told me the two of you had broken up. Nothing. Why are you holding back on your emotions?"
There was nothing I could do but sigh and shrug. "I'm not."
"Yes, you are. We know each other much too well for me not to know when something's bothering you. Why don't you just tell me what you're feeling--"
"Don't you get it?" I turned back toward her. "I can't tell you what I'm feeling, cause I'm not feeling anything." I tossed my hands in the air. "I haven't cried because I can't feel any pain."
She blinked. "But I've seen you get angry."
I laughed, harshly. "Yeah, anger is easy. It's always a friend. But there's nothing else. I can't feel any other emotions." Suddenly I was just tired. "There's . . . concern for Jesse, and for Nix. That's about it. Other than that, I can't feel much of anything." I turned back to the window.
Kruise was silent, but I felt her move up behind me again.
"Sometimes I wish . . ."
Her arms slipped around me and hugged me. "What? What do you wish?"
I sighed, leaning back, finding a little comfort in her arms. "Sometimes," I said softly, "I find myself wishing Star had squeezed just a little bit harder."
She went stiff with that, and I heard the slight gasp as she drew in a breath.
"Trey . . ."
Whatever she was going to say was broken off by someone banging on the door.
Kruise turned me in her arms. "You stay right here, got it?"
I nodded, too tired to do anything else.
Dayle had come from the office and she was half way to the front door. Kruise beat her by a step, and when she opened it, Nix was there, snow on her shoulders, and her hair blown about by the wind. Her eyes were very large.
"Is Jesse here?"
All three of us stared at each other, then back at Nix.
"She wasn't at the vamp club?" Kruise asked.
"Oh, she was." Nix pulled her jacket off and came in, her movements short and jerky. She dropped into the recliner and leaned forward, her elbows on her knees, her hands covering her face. "Dammit, where the fuck is she?"
Dayle knelt in front of her and Kruise and I moved automatically to the couch.
"What happened, Nix?" Dayle asked the question softly as she put a hand on her friend's knee.
Nix took a breath and then told us about the confrontation at the club, how she'd interrupted the ritual, how Shelby had forced things with Jesse, and how Nix had taken over the club.
"So, got things straightened out there, had Maz and Lista take those girls home, and made sure everyone knew I was in charge. Then I went looking for Jesse." She sighed again. "I went to her place, I went to the bars she normally goes to, I went to the Janx, I even went to my place thinking she might have gone there looking to yell at me, and then I checked her place again." She leaned back in the chair. "I can't find her, I'm out of places to look, and I'm out of energy." Looking around at all of us again, she sighed once more. "I'm batting zero tonight."
Kruise shook her head. "No, you're not. You got her away from Shelby, so maybe she'll start thinking again."
"Maybe." Nix's voice was soft. "But where the hell is she?"
A shrug was all she got. "Beats me. But she has a few places she goes when she needs some room. She probably just needs some time to think, and doesn't want to be disturbed." Kruise looked thoughtful. "She goes back to work tomorrow. I can go make sure she shows up, and try to talk to her."
Dayle shook her head. "You can't, babe. You've got that meeting at the theater tomorrow, remember?"
"Oh, damn, forgot that." She bit her lip.
"I can go."
The three of them looked at me.
"What? I can talk to Jesse." Kruise raised an eyebrow, but Nix and Dayle nodded.
"I think it's a good idea. Trey talks to Jesse, then checks in with us to let us know what's what." Dayle looked over at Nix. "We'll find her. Don't worry."
"Want a drink, Nix?" I asked. I knew I wanted one.
"Sure. Scotch, please. On the rocks."
"Right." I headed for the bar, and found Kruise at my elbow.
She leaned in and whispered in my ear. "Our talk isn't finished, Trey."
I sighed. I had been afraid of
End Part Six
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