It was a good thing we were by shoes because I abruptly needed to sit. My pulse and breathing both raced – Hans clearly remembered this morning. So did I. I clamped down viciously on my nascent panic attack, determined not to freak out in front of Emma.
I’ve always had an overactive libido. I mean… it has to be overactive, because if other people generally thought about sex as often as I did then there was no way society would have made the subject so taboo, right? So I knew that was something wrong with me. I wanted Hans to take me and I wanted to take Emma – although I was a lot more unclear on how that would work. But I felt godawful guilty about it with both of them. Guilty, bad, dirty, contemptible, slutty.
It didn’t help that my fantasies always had a dark hint of passion gone out of control, bondage and helplessness, consent ignored even if it would have been given freely. It helped less that I hadn’t known Emma much more than a day, hadn’t known Hans much more than three. I felt that the content of my fantasies was ample proof of the kind of sick, horrible person I was – and if I took advantage of Hans or Emma before they had a chance to realize that about me it would mean I was greedy and manipulative, too.
“Are you okay?” Emma asked.
I blinked. I’d sat down on a little bench and was staring down the isle of shoes. “I’m fine,” I lied on reflex. “I just keep re-realizing the enormity of everything that’s changed in the last few days.”
Hans stood behind me. His large hands covered my shoulders and massaged gently. “It will take time to adjust,” he said, “but you will. It will get better.”
I tried to take some comfort from Hans’ assurance. I knew he must have gone through some major life changes when he became a werewolf, so I knew he spoke with authority.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t stressed about being a vampire – not right now, anyway. And I just couldn’t imagine an uncertain, inexperienced, virginal Hans fumbling with his emotions and at the cusp of his first time.
…actually, no. Now that I was thinking about it, I was totally going to add that in as a facet of my Hans/Mr. Salvatore slashfic.
I twisted my head around to look up at Hans and smile. “I know,” I said. “Thanks.”
I wanted to talk to Megan. To share the new development in my slashfic with someone who would appreciate it. To have my best friend soothe my nerves and bolster my confidence. I felt like I hadn’t talked to Megan in ages. Normally she would have been there for lunch, and we would have either spent the evening hanging out or she would have called to share how her evening at the club had gone.
If I could tell Megan about Hans and Emma she would… Well, two days ago I would have known I could count on Megan to encourage me to go for it. Now… now I knew that if I went to Megan for relationship advice it would just hurt her. She was my best friend and I knew she would support and encourage me – but the whole time she would be concealing hurt and personal grief that I wasn’t with her.
I didn’t know how to cope with that. I didn’t even know how to start. I could make myself believe Hans and Emma were into me now. Especially since I’d gotten to practically read Emma’s mind. But Megan had been my best friend for years. Despite the irrefutable evidence to the contrary, Megan had to know me well enough to know I wasn’t worth crushing on.
I sighed. I felt weirdly lonely despite the presence of Emma and Hans. I wasn’t ready to talk to Megan yet. But even if I could figure out how to keep her safe from myself, safe form the fae, and find the courage to talk to her again it wasn’t going to be the same. Now that I knew how she felt about me, I wouldn’t be able to look at her the same. I would know it wasn’t just friendship behind her encouragement and support. And there would be hunger underlying everything I did when I was around her. Once she knew I was literally a blood-thirsty monster, she probably wouldn’t be able to look at me the same, either.
I blinked tearily down the aisle of shoes. I felt like I had lost my best friend. Even though Megan didn’t know about me yet, even though Megan thought I didn’t know about her crush; even though I was trying to come to terms with my vampirism… our relationship could never be the same again.
“I’m fine,” I reiterated. More for my own sake than anyone else’s. I got up and found some sneakers in the same brand, style and size as my old ones. I added them to the front of the cart without bothering to try them on. “Alright,” I said. “Clothes and then home.” I bit the inside of my lip. I didn’t want to feel lonely, but I didn’t think I could lean on Hans the way I used to lean on Megan for comfort. I didn’t know him well enough. Our relationship was still too new and intimidating, and even though I had fallen apart on him once I didn’t want to push it if I got weepy again.
“Hans,” I asked, “Would it be okay if Emma stayed over? As late as it will be when we’re done, I wouldn’t want to make her drive home tired.” I wasn’t worried about Hans driving us home, though. I was pretty sure that since he was a werewolf he had to be nocturnal.
“It’s your home too,” Hans said. “I have no objection to your having guests. Or to making a larger breakfast.”
I managed to smile. I turned to Emma. “Stay over,” I said. I wasn’t sure if it was an invitation or a command. I didn’t know why it hadn’t come out as a question. My relationship with Emma was even newer than my relationship with Hans – but it was also less intimidating. Or, at least, Emma was.
Emma’s face lit up in a smile. “Okay,” she said without hesitation.
I breathed out. I didn’t know how I expected the evening to go. Hopefully it would work out. Shit, Mr. Salvatore’s place only had the one guest room. Maybe I could convince Hans to take the master bedroom and let me have the guest room loveseat. I would not be able to sleep in Mr. Salvatore’s room – but I really didn’t want Emma to spend the night in his bed, either.
At least Emma had her overnight bag ready. That would make things a little easier.
I led Hans and Emma toward the clothes department.
“Any preferences for breakfast?” Hans asked Emma as they followed behind me.
“What, like a cereal?” I heard her ask back. “Anything chocolaty works for me. Or toaster pastries. Those were pretty much a staple in college.”
Hans made a strangled sound of protest and started suggesting things that actually had to be cooked.
I turned at the edge of the clothes department. “I’m going to start grabbing stuff while you two sort this out. Wait here?”
Hans and Emma agreed. They returned to their discussion and I strode through the racks of garments like a woman on a mission, rather than one who was second guessing everything.
I’d originally planned to buy a week’s worth of clothes. On reflection, I didn’t think my bank account could handle that. I decided to get the real basics – socks, panties, bras – the stuff I would be way too squicked out to buy from a second hand store. Pajamas, because I needed them for tonight. A pair of jeans and a tee-shirt for tomorrow.
Tomorrow I would see if I could find a thrift store that was open late enough for me to visit. There had to be internet access somewhere I could use. Or maybe I could get Emma to ask for a list of stores from Katherine.
I went back to the cart. Hans had gotten back with some groceries and was waiting patiently beside it. Emma was idly browsing garments on a nearby rack.
I pretended I wasn’t horribly self-conscious about buying bras and underwear in front of my boyfriend and girlfriend. Why hadn’t I looked for any that were lacy or sexy or… well, I did have some nicer ones at Megan’s still. And the outfits she’d bought me last night! And I had a key to her place, just like she had one to mine – or used to.
If I went over there tonight, I realized, I wouldn’t have to worry about running into Megan. She was at the hotel with Fumiko and Katherine, after all. That was good. It would take some of the stress of off needing new clothes, and I didn’t really want to have to wear second hand things all the time, anyway. That was just squicky, if you didn’t know who’d had them first.
Relieved to have a sort-of plan, I waved over to Emma. “Okay,” I said. “I think I’m done here.”