After Melvin’s departure, the atmosphere in Megan’s apartment became decidedly uncomfortable. John holstered his gun, but didn’t say anything. I wondered if he was still shark-toothed behind his closed lips.
“John,” Megan interrupted the silence, “I think you should go, too. I don’t appreciate guns being drawn in my home.”
John scowled, but didn’t really argue. “That fae already tried to take ownership of Abigail once,” he told Megan. “I would seriously reconsider accepting him as an ‘ally.'”
I fidgeted slightly. Actually, Melvin had tried to claim me a few times, and succeeded once. I didn’t think now was a good time to make that distinction aloud, though.
After delivering his warning to Megan, John turned and nodded to me. “I won’t be far, sis. When you want a ride home just give me a call.”
I gave John a quick nod of agreement, and then he left. When the door closed behind him only Megan, Fumiko, the uncomfortable atmosphere and I remained. I shivered again. I hoped nothing — particularly Melvin — decided to jump John while he was out on his own.
Finally, Megan clapped her hands together to break the silence. “Well, that was awkward,” she said for all of us. “Who else wants to move on? Abby, come, have a seat. Take off your cloak and stay a bit.”
“Okay,” I mumbled. I shucked the cloak and wrapped my headphones in it — I’d taken them off when Fumiko had parked out front. I set the bundle down on the coffee table and sat on the couch. Megan moved next to her chair, but didn’t sit down. Fumiko lounged on the floor opposite me, past the coffee table.
“So, can I get you anything?” Megan asked.
I shook my head. “I don’t really get hungry or thirsty,” I answered. “I mean, I can eat, but I don’t ever seem to need to, unless it’s bl…” I trailed of and kicked myself mentally. Yeah, like that didn’t make things more awkward. Why didn’t you just politely accept something? I stared down at my hands. They were folded in my lap and wouldn’t stop fidgeting.
“I don’t know about you,” Fumiko said, “but I could use a glass of water. As long as you’re up?”
“Sure,” Megan agreed, and I heard her practically scurry out of the room.
The kitchen was nearby, but far enough to take Megan out of easy earshot. Fumiko sat up and put her elbows on the coffee table as soon as Megan had left. “Okay, Abby,” she said quietly. “Look at me. No, not the floor. Me.”
I forced myself to look up the rest of the way. Fumiko was pointing at her face, but she put her hand down when she caught my gaze.
“That’s better,” Fumiko said. She looked at me sternly. “Now stop acting like we’re all strangers here. Megan is still exactly who she always was, and so am I and so are you. You didn’t go all crazy vampire when Megan hugged you, and she isn’t going to accidentally do that to you again — we’ve practiced. Plus, I’ve already brought her up to speed on everything you told me, so you don’t even have to hide anything now.”
I swallowed. “Even Emma?” I asked.
Fumiko sighed. “Yeah, even Emma. So stop curling up on yourself like that.”
I felt myself flush. I was overwhelmed with relief, and gratitude — and horribly embarrassed by knowing how much that gratitude was deserved. “I… thank you, Fumiko,” I mumbled. “Thank you.”
Fumiko snorted dismissively, like it was no big deal. “I figure someone has to keep us all together,” she said, “and since I’m the least emotionally involved it’s my job to play messenger while you and Megan get your heads straight. Just… you two are going to have to start talking again, okay?”
I nodded fervently. If that was how Fumiko wanted me to pay her back, then I would do my best. I think Fumiko saw how watery my eyes were getting — despite my best efforts to blink them clear — because she abruptly looked away.
“Okay, good,” Fumiko said. “And preferably soon: I am really not suited to this emotional support and general go-between business.”
I wiped my eyes quickly while Fumiko was looking away. Before I could muster a response, though, Megan came back.
“Here you go,” Megan said while leaning down to hand Fumiko a glass. Once it was exchanged, Fumiko put it down on the coffee table and Megan sat down. It didn’t escape my notice that Fumiko hadn’t taken a sip first. I was forced to squeeze my eyes shut and blink a couple more times: had Fumiko just been making an excuse to get Megan out of the room so she could give me a pep talk?
Clearly, I was even worse at the emotional support stuff than Fumiko was. And in no way deserved a friend like her.
I bit the inside of my bottom lip. ‘Or Megan.’ The thought had been tacked on automatically, habitually. It was almost instinctual for me to think of Megan as a wonderful person, my best friend, someone I didn’t deserve to have in my life. But the truth was: I hadn’t really considered how our relationship was going to change and I didn’t know if any of that was true anymore. This whole time I’d been too busy freaking out about just the fact that it would.
“You know what,” Fumiko suddenly said. “I want some chips.” She scrambled to her feet before Megan could get out of her chair. “No,” she said while gesturing for Megan to sit. “I can get them. You two figure out what we’re going to watch once all the ‘holy crap, can you believe what happened’ talking is done, okay?”
I gawked, unwilling to believe I was being abandoned like this so soon after Fumiko had let me know she’d been willing to broach the hard subjects with Megan. I felt myself start to panic a little as Fumiko strode out of the living room. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I could feel Megan’s emotional turmoil as she found herself trapped with me, too.
Or… maybe it did? I always did better around Emma when she was being shy and uncertain. I’d just never imagined that Megan could be socially off balance. Not when all I had to contrast was how she acted and, well, myself.
“Um,” said Megan. “Do you even want to watch anything, Abby?”
I almost laughed instead of answering. For once in my life, Megan was just as anxious as I was, and I incontrovertibly knew it. “Hell yes,” I exclaimed. “Everything I own went up in the apartment fire. Do you have any idea how bored I’ve been?” Bored except for, well, pretty much everything. But I had seized the initiative and my autopilot was loathe to let it go.
There was something weirdly liberating in knowing Megan was off balance. I wasn’t as embarrassed about being a spaz in front of her because I knew exactly how erratic her emotions were behind her serene expression. This time I did laugh — although I was laughing in reply to Megan’s emotional response since she hadn’t had time to make a verbal one. She was just so relieved. And surprised. And…
Before Megan could say anything, I got up and walked over to her chair. I threw my arms around her, which shocked her all over again. I had to admit: I was surprised at myself, too. I would never have imagined myself initiating an unsolicited hug… at least, not before Hans and Emma had started stretching my boundaries out of shape. It probably helped that I could feel how lonely Megan was, and how she wasn’t worried about losing a meal ticket or about whether or not I’d ever date her — she was just afraid of losing her friend.
And it probably didn’t hurt that I was sliding into that ‘sweet spot’ of being just dead enough to feel emotionally balanced, external stressors aside. Or maybe I just felt more balanced because of the insight I had into Megan: the majority of any anxiety is founded in uncertainty, but I didn’t have to worry about what Megan was feeling. I knew.
“Hey,” I said. “I know it’s gotten weird and stuff, but we’re still friends, right?”
Megan hugged my arms. I heard her sniffle, but felt her relief, which was a relief to me — otherwise I would have thought I’d done something wrong.
“Right,” Megan said tearily.
“Good,” I said. “I’m glad we both know that. Especially since, well, we do have a lot to talk about. I mean, I know you haven’t really changed. And I know that Fumiko hasn’t. But whatever she wants to think, I have. I’m still myself when I’ve fed, but the rest of the time… not so much.” I grimaced, but Megan couldn’t see that. It was so weird that I was the one holding her. “And I have to be honest: marathoning an anime tonight would be a bad idea. I’m already a little on the peckish side. But as soon as I figure out what I’m going to do about that, I would totally like to borrow some of your books. I promise to bring them back tomorrow night.”
Megan twisted around a bit so she could actually face me. “You could feed from me, you know.”
I froze. Then I swallowed, because the offer had made my fangs jab me in the lip. I let go of Megan and straightened. “Um. I don’t know,” I hemmed.
“I offered this morning,” Megan said. “You didn’t accept, but you didn’t say no, either.”
“Wouldn’t it hurt you, though?” I protested. Not that it hadn’t hurt Emma and Hans, but for Megan it could be worse — being drained was the only way to permanently destroy a fae.
Megan shook her head. “It would only be fair: you’d be taking back what I stole from you, right?”
Now I wished that I didn’t have Megan’s emotions in my head, because I knew her offer was honest. I started to pace. Had Megan’s offer been influenced by the fact that she was my first blood? Would drinking her blood again strengthen the link between us? Was she even aware of it?
“I’d like to,” I whispered. “I can’t think of anything I want more.” Megan was fae; my curse was adapted to her. That, I was sure, was why her blood was so incredible. Like Melvin’s. I stopped pacing with my back to Megan. There was something that Fumiko couldn’t have brought her up to speed on.
In the kitchenette, Fumiko had stopped moving around. It was pretty clear she was listening in. I wondered how uncomfortable she was with where the conversation had turned… especially since she had told me that she wasn’t willing to be one of my donors, herself.
I pivoted so that I was facing Megan, but I couldn’t bring myself to actually look at her. I kept my head ducked and my eyes averted. “The thing is, Megan,” I said, “I already have taken your blood. Yours was the first I ever tasted.” I looked up, but not at Megan. I started pacing again. I had to get this out, so I started talking in a rush.
“You were unconscious,” I said. “I had just come back, and I’d torn down the curtains to let the sun in on Mr. Salvatore. But I was burning up, too. And then I realized what had happened, and you were there, and there was blood on your cheek from where he’d struck you, and…”
“Oh, Abigail,” Megan whispered.
I talked over her. “I’m sorry. I took your blood without asking, and… and I wanted to do more. To do worse. I could have killed you, except then Mr. Salvatore freaked out and attacked me, and then Hans was there, and…” I couldn’t hide the anguish in my voice. Even with my emotions muted, I was horrified by the memory of wanting to kill Megan; to slit her throat and let her life’s blood course down mine.
“…I wanted to kill you, Megan,” I said roughly. I needed her to understand just how bad I was. “I wanted to slit your throat and let your life’s blood course down mine.” I heard Fumiko swallow in the kitchenette. I could feel Megan’s eyes on me. And I hadn’t even gotten to the worst part.
“And that’s not even the worst part,” I said. I turned around and made myself look at Megan. “You were my first blood,” I said. “And that means that when I came back from the dead, your soul was what let me start to be alive again. Part of your soul will always be with me, Megan. Right now? I can feel your emotions. You can’t even keep me out of your home: I’ll always be able to come in, whether or not I have permission. On the one hand, I have a craving for your blood. And on the other, I think this bond is all that kept me from killing you this morning.”
I took a deep breath. “I want your blood, Megan. I do. But I don’t know if taking it will make this connection worse, make my craving stronger, give me more influence over your emotions, or what. It could do anything. And… You’re a fae. I’m a vampire. We’re immortal, Megan. Do you really want to be stuck with me forever? When I’m your kind’s mortal enemy? Literally your mortal enemy — the only way for you to die now is for a vampire to drain you completely.”
I stopped. I could have kept rambling, but I knew I had to give Megan an opportunity to answer. Anything I could have said at this point would have been just a futile effort to delay hearing that response. I could hear Fumiko’s heart pounding away in the kitchenette — I thought she might possibly be as anxious for Megan’s answer as I was. Oddly, Megan’s heartbeat hadn’t changed. It gave me no insight into what she would say.
“You’re in my head,” she said. “So you already know my answer.”
My heart pounded. I’d been doing my best to ignore Megan’s emotions. I didn’t want to violate her privacy any more than I had to — and I was afraid of what I’d find there. But now that she’d brought them up, invited me to look… I couldn’t ignore them.
I felt the blood drain from my face.
Megan stepped toward me. I wanted to shrink back, but I was rooted in place. She wrapped her arms around me and pulled herself close.
“Forever,” she agreed, and I knew that she had never in her life been happier than when I’d asked that question, even though I’d meant for it to be rhetorical.