After a few minutes I took a deep breath and stood. I couldn’t keep sitting, as much as I wanted to: not when Ben would be showing up in an hour and I needed to get clean. Sure, Sebas’ illusion made me look and feel clean — except when it decided to be dirty — but underneath I knew I was still wearing rags that were caked in dried blood and gore. It was purely on a psychosomatic level, since the glamour was masking the actuality of it, but I felt gross.
I stumbled into the bathroom and gave it a once over for any hidden cameras or peepholes. It would’ve been just my luck to get the warded room with purely mundane surveillance wired in! I didn’t see anything, though, so after a moment I started trying to strip.
Trying was the operative word. Every time I removed an article of clothing it either went immaterial when I discarded it– and suddenly I was still wearing it again — or it melted out of my hands and resumed its original appearance on me. After the first couple of tries I tried to just will it to disappear, since Sebastian had said it would go away when I wanted it to. That didn’t work, though, because while trying to remove it I’d realized that the best way to keep safe with Ben was to be ‘wearing’ something he couldn’t actually remove, right?
Finally, in a fit of frustration — I wanted to get clean, even though I also wanted clothes that would keep Ben from getting too successful with his seductions — I squeezed my eyes shut. I needed a way to make it so that I wanted the glamour gone, entirely. So I swallowed and resolved to go out and set the night stand alarm clock for five minutes… and keep resetting it until I managed to dispel Sebastian’s shape-shifting outfit.
I opened my eyes and turned toward the bathroom door, fully determined to put myself through that torture. Fortunately, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror before I got out there to set the alarm the first time.
Apparently, just the thought of it had been enough to make me determined not to be wearing that glamour any longer than possible: it was gone, leaving me looking like some sort of post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak survivor.
Immediately squicked out, both by the filth I was wearing and the realization that most of the caked-on blood and gore was mine, I hastily stripped. I didn’t bother throwing my clothes in a pile on the floor. They all went directly in the trash can.
And this time I’ll actually have to take care of those, or housekeeping is going to call the cops on me to report a murder or something, I thought. I felt a brief surge of guilt: Hans had done all of the cleaning for me at the house. Shit, I should have put up one of those ‘do not disturb’ tags.
I scrambled out into the main room. The do not disturb tag — a little doorknob hanger — was sitting on the provided dresser. Since there was no way in hell I was going to open the hotel room door while naked I just turned around and fastened the chain and made sure the lock on the doorknob had been pushed in. And then, because I’m super strong and two locks was not enough for any sane person, I picked up the dresser and stacked it in front of the door, too.
I figured that if housekeeping tried to get in through that, it should be enough for them to get the idea that I didn’t want to be bothered, ‘do not disturb’ sign or not.
Without the glamour in place I was feeling itchier and grosser by the second, so as soon as I had the door secured I bolted back into the bathroom. Then I closed and locked that door, too. And then turned on the shower, making it as hot as possible. I adjusted the temperature until it was as hot as I could stand — I wasn’t feeling masochistic at the moment, but neither did I want to pull punches in getting rid of the filthy mix of blood, dirt, grease, shredded skin, and sweat that caked my skin.
When I got into the shower it was blissfully hot. I closed my eyes and stood under the full blast of the water. I let it cascade over me for a minute, or two, or maybe fifteen. I don’t know. I just wanted as much washed off of me as possible before I started scrubbing, and I didn’t want to know what color the water going down the drain was while that was happening.
Unfortunately, having nothing to distract it meant my brain was free to run down its own tangential thoughts. Most of them seemed to focus on what exactly I thought was going to happen when Ben stopped by again, like I’d insisted. That part had me freaked out, because it meant that I wanted something to happen and I couldn’t deny it. But I was also thrown because Ben had been right: I wasn’t seeing anyone exclusively, so was there really a solid reason for me to be freaking out about wanting something to happen with him?
After spinning in circles on that until I gave up, I opened my eyes and started to scrub. I went through all of the available washcloths before I was done, and even then I didn’t feel entirely better. I also did the wash, rinse, and repeat steps on my hair twice — including doing the repeat twice, too. Only then did I turn the shower off and step out to towel off.
Freshly cleaned, shivering, and still at a loss about what I wanted from Ben — and not entirely certain how much more time I had — I rushed back to the bed to get into Emma’s clothes. Once again I was without panties, though I did steal a pair of Emma’s socks along with the pair of jeans and tee shirt. No bra, though: Emma’s wouldn’t have fit me, anyway. I felt a little self conscious about the lack of my usual padding. I almost wished I had Sebastian’s magic bra back.
It didn’t appear when I tried focusing on it, so I had to assume that Sebastian’s geas was well and truly dispelled. That was just as well, though, because I could not afford to let myself get distracted by playing with magic clothes. Maybe I should have tried to just make it all be a bracelet or something while I showered, so it would still be available now? But no: I had way too much stuff on my plate still, the most immediate of which — although not the most important, I knew — was what to do about Ben.
I thought he was cute. No, I’d thought he was attractive, in that ‘I’m a sexy vampire’ sort of way. I guess I can’t laugh about Twilight moms anymore, I thought dryly. But what could I do about it? Waiting to decide until after he was there in front of me again was not an option: I needed a plan, or my autopilot would do whatever it did best. It would find out what the most horrible thing to say or do was, and then say or do that.
God, I wish Megan were here right now, I thought. I could have really used her feedback. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option: we weren’t even in the same world, and I couldn’t take her away from Emma. Not and still claim to care about my girlfriend, anyway.
Fortunately for my ability to plan I had an entire half a week of experience with dating to fall back on, now. If we’re dating? If he wants to date? Crap, is this just about blood for him? Or sex and blood? Or sex and blood and maybe possibly open to something emotional developing eventually? I had just offered Ben my blood without even knowing him, which had to mean I was the vampire equivalent of easy. I certainly hadn’t made him work for it! On the other hand, that stuff Ben had said about if I wanted someone who understood me to the depths of my soul….
Well, hell: that was practically romantic, assuming it wasn’t just calculated to make me swoon, roll up my sleeves and offer up my veins again.
Okay, I decided. Step one: find out if he’s even interested in dating, or just looking for a good time. And then? Make out with Ben.
If he was interested in dating, that was. I wasn’t interested in fooling around with someone just for the fun of it… right?
Yes, I told myself firmly. Megan might be able to have sexy fun one night stands, but that’s, like, Megan level advanced stuff. You need to stick to the basics, Abigail.
Okay, so if Ben wanted to maybe date I would totally make out with him. And I was okay with that. I was, dammit! And if he didn’t, I would probably not make out with him. Probably. That was the plan, anyway.
And if he wanted my blood..?
He said he wouldn’t force me to give it, or force his on me, I reminded myself. The memory of how good it felt taunted me like a siren song, but I made myself be strong. So no blood. Not yet. Not until I know what’s going on, and not in the day time. The sun is up and we’re vampires! Neither of us can really afford to let the other drain our aura — not when we have no way of knowing if we’ll need that to stave off the effects of the sun.
Although, Ben had donors in the hotel so maybe he could… No! Be strong about this, Abigail! You are not going to suck anyone’s blood unnecessarily. It’s creepy and gross and dangerous and a really bad habit to get into. And if all Ben was into was blood, then I would know that there wasn’t enough there for him to be decent dating material, and it would be that much more important that I didn’t let anything go on between us, because I was not going to be that kind of vampire.
I sat down on the bed, then laid back and stretched out so I could see the clock. Ten minutes left until all my plans went out the window and I blurted out crap on autopilot regardless of what I decided I wanted. Why am I so fucked up?
It wasn’t a good question, because it brought immediately to mind the popped seams in my soul — the seams that had been torn open and stitched up by someone else, who knew how long ago. I shivered. I need to talk to Dad. Not just to make sure he was okay, but to see if he remembered anything about when I was growing up that might correspond to having my soul torn open. This isn’t going to work, is it?
I wasn’t even sure what ‘this’ was — my relationship with Emma, my friendships with Megan and Fumiko, Hans and whatever was going on in that article John had turned up, my whole immortal life… With each additional option I found myself getting more and more tense, more and more wound up. I’d barely realized it at the time, but I had relaxed in the shower. Probably without even meaning to: the water pressure had been good, and pounding hot water would do that. Now, though?
I’m not cut out for this. Whatever this is. God, I’ve screwed things up for so many people, so badly, already. Hans… how old had Linda implied he was? And he hadn’t lost control of his wolf and infected anyone else until he met me. And now Megan was stuck taking care of an entire kingdom and being a witch’s familiar, whether she wanted to be or not. Emma had almost died. Daniel had died. So had Mr. Salvatore and Lewellan, though I was oddly not as upset about them.
Probably because I was a psychopath.
It was kind of twisted, but there had been times that I’d been glad I was afraid of everything. Times when I was pretty sure that the only thing preventing me from being a remorseless, vicious murderer, rapist, and all around criminal was the fact that I was too chicken shit to follow up on some of my more messed up ideas. The fact that I didn’t feel guilty about killing Lewellan, or Mr. Salvatore, or Archarel, sort of underscored that point.
My ‘vampire self’ was still me. Just me looking at life through a different emotional lens.
I shivered then and turned away from the clock. Five minutes. Five minutes until the next shit storm. And why did it have to be five? Five minutes was the traditional length of the alarms that gave me nightmares. And there was no telling when Ben was going to actually come and knock on my door, which injected just the right amount of uncertainty to make me stop thinking about the slippery slope of psychopathy I was sliding down and start twitching on the inside with anxiety. The fact that I couldn’t hear anything from outside the warded room made it just that much worse: whenever he did knock on the door, it was going to be a surprise.
I couldn’t handle that. After less than ten seconds of thinking about it I bolted out of the bed. I ran to the door and pulled the dresser back into the room. Then I unfastened the chain, opened the door, and stepped out into the hallway to wait.