A/N: This would have been a great story to post on Halloween, but I didn't have this idea then. I actually got this idea Friday. I got this done relatively quickly, eh?
Have a nice read! Review at the bottom!
No Really, He's Great!
My old roommate and friend Brandy had invited me to her apartment to play some cards with some coworkers of hers, and I had believed her, even when she said that her coworkers couldn't make it, and it would just be the two of us. I had just joked that she was trying to get in my pants, the both of us knowing that we were both in committed relationships. I guess that that should have been a sign to me, but I wasn't even aware that anyone thought there was a problem with me. (But as the conversation started, I actually wasn't all that surprised.)
"Jackie," Brandy started cautiously as she poured sweet iced tea into glasses. That second my nerves froze, because I may have been slow, but I wasn't that slow.
"Brandy, is something wrong?" I immediately asked. She furrowed her eyebrows as she finished pouring the tea, and then sat back, still not looking at my face.
"Jackie, is there something that you want to talk about?" she questioned. Now it was my turn to move my eyebrows.
"I don't know what you mean. Do you think there's something wrong? Did someone else tell you something?" I leaned forward, trying to get her to look at me. She sighed, and looked me in the eyes.
"I'm just, a little concerned, is all."
"About what?" She tilted her head and her eyes looked at the floor, as she didn't want to tell me.
"I'm concerned about your relationship with Levi."
"I don't understand."
"Well, it's just, when I see him, whether he's with you or not, it just seems to clear how… off he is. I mean, you met him at the bar you work at, and I just want to know if he has anger issues, or… if he's threatened you in any way…" she trailed off. I stared at her, eyes wide and jaw dropped.
"You think he's dangerous?" I laughed. My Levi? The very idea was ludicrous.
"When we had that double date a few weeks ago, I mean, he just scanned the room, the whole time! I'm not sure he even smiled." Wow.
"Brandy, believe me, Levi's not like that. He was just nervous, he wasn't used to the double-date thing, much less doing it in such a fancy restaurant," I assured her. I was a little irritated that she went to all this trouble to accuse my boyfriend of being any type of abusive towards me, but I understood where she was coming from. Levi had scanned that restaurant the whole time, and if he did smile, I must have been used to his miniscule ones that others were so attuned to. He didn't like shaking hands or hugging with people he barely knew, much less if he was just meeting someone for the first time. I thought that was ironic, given his job, but the more time I spent with him, the more I understood.
"Are you sure?" she asked, blushing and a little nervous. I smiled gently at her.
"Of course. I'm a bartender, I know how to screen people. I never would have given him my number if I'd gotten a bad vibe. I mean, he gave me a tattoo," I said.
"Oh yeah... he's a tattoo artist."
"Which means he's a clean person!" I said brightly. Now it was her turn to become confused.
At least I had cleared that up.
"Okay, yeah he's quiet and polite, but his eyes, Jackie! And all of those killers who did those school massacres were quiet!" I rolled my eyes. It seemed Brandy wasn't my only friend that had concerns about Levi.
Once again, I had been pulled into a conversation about my boyfriend. I was at work, and the other bartender I shared my shift with was giving out alcohol while approaching me about my relationship. Just last month it was Brandy, and now Ashley. Who was next? I know Levi wasn't a social butterfly, but he wasn't that bad. And I rather liked his unique eyes…
"Levi's not planning a mass killing, Ashley! He doesn't even have time to plan a such a thing, he's taken up more work at the parlor," I assured her. I thought about my poor baby, and how exhausted he was every night. At least he was getting more money from it. I know that actually might make him look grumpy, with those shadows under his eyes, but he was polite, and sweet. I mean, don't all the psychotic types end up being religious nuts who don't have tattoos, and don't drink- they just stay quiet and murderous?
"Look, I know you don't see anything weird about him, but…" she trailed off. I sighed.
"Nothing's weird with him. I promise, he's just so introverted and tired. He's a great guy, you just have to get to know him better."
"If you say so," she sighed.
I pursed my lips. Now, Levi wasn't just a good guy, he was a great guy. He was talented, he worked hard, and he was so attuned to my needs. He loved my pets, and he was very affectionate when we were alone. I mean, if my brother liked him, surely my friends knew that Levi was a safe guy?
I actually spent the rest of my shift thinking of something to get him for our six-month anniversary. Maybe a shirt that says "No really, I'm nice."
The third time it happened, Levi was in the building. He had gone to the bathroom, and I was worried that the noise was overstimulating. He's been a little bit jumpy since we walked in. As he was becoming more distant from the table, my old college friend Whitney was staring at him and leaning forward. Her boyfriend Matt saw her doing so and rolled his eyes.
"Hey," she whispered. I almost smiled. She could be a bit of a ditzy blonde.
"Hey," I said quietly. She looked back, to make sure my boyfriend hadn't magically appeared behind your shoulder. Honestly, at least this time it was funny.
"So… how's Levi?" she asked, eyeing me and taking a sip of her drink.
"Levi's great!" I said, pretending to not know what she was hinting at. Matt started chuckling, and leaned back in his seat, watching Whitney be herself. We caught each other's eye and had to refrain from truly bursting out laughing.
"So you haven't noticed anything… off?" she questioned. I tilted my head, and pretended to be amused.
"Off?" She sighed, as if I were just too naive to understand.
"Yes, honey." Oh my God. "I mean, he's been kind of out of it all evening. His hands are shaking, and I think he's starting to sweat, which, eck. And he looks like he's about to go crazy," she whispered the last part. I widened my eyes and pretended to be surprised at that last comment.
"You think he's crazy?" She diverted her eyes, and shrugged her shoulders, like she didn't want to say it, but she had to.
"It's his eyes, isn't it," I said. She widened her own eyes and stared at me, before nodding emphatically. I sighed.
"You know, Whitney, you're not the first one to bring this up, and I have to say his behavior tonight didn't do anything to help him…" I wasn't sure of where I was going with this, but I had to make it good. 'Oh, wait a minute!'
"Then again," I started, sitting up again. "He does have this form of parasomnia, and he hasn't been sleeping well at all. He's been under a bit of stress lately, so I think he's coming down with something," I said. She gasped.
"Well that must be it! He's not crazy, he's just not sleeping well. That solves it!"
At that, I saw Levi coming out of the bathroom, and I held a finger to my lips, asking her to keep quiet, but I winked at the same time. Matt could barely contain himself, and it was really starting to affect me. I had a wide grin on my face as Levi came to sit in his seat again, and I kissed his cheek. He smiled at me, and I could tell he felt better. Whitney did a little "Oh, they're so happy!" pose, and Matt kissed the top of her head, because she really has made his night.
This whole night was awesome.
The fourth time was not so awesome. My workout buddy, James, was with me, and so was a new girl in our "group". Her name was Sophie.
James was good friends with Levi, and James was a pretty good judge of character. (Why he was such good friends with me, I had no idea.) I'm sure Sophie just didn't know that James and Levi were friends, because otherwise her thoughts on my boyfriend would've been just plain stupid. Well, more stupid than they already were, because didn't my friends trust my own judgment? I mean, honestly, how could they think I would let myself get into such a shit relationship?
We were at the gym where James worked as a personal trainer, and we had a semi-private area somewhat separated from the rest of the machines and people. I was finished with the machines, my workout almost solely was based on hand-to-hand combat. James had been just a gym buddy before, but now he and I pushed each other.
Sophie came into the picture when I met her at the bar I worked at. She had just broken up with her "meathead boyfriend" and wanted to get in shape, because she was tired of these guys she kept ending up with. I suggested she come with me to the gym, and we've been friends ever since.
This may be the first bump in the road of our friendship.
"Sophie, are you okay? You look upset about something," I said with full concern. Of course it had slipped my mind that she had seen Levi drop me off, but it had been a month since the last time anyone had said anything about him! Plus he'd been much more positive since that incident with Whitney. He even got a raise at work!
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just… worried, about something," she answered slowly. Something about that answer told me something was going on, but at the moment I was more focused on her.
"Yeah?" She sighed (and this time I started to get a hunch) and turned to me. She tilted her head, and I swear I could see sympathy in her eyes. Uh oh.
"So… your boyfriend," she said. 'Here we go.'
"Levi?" I said dryly.
"Yeah, Levi. Is there… are you okay? I mean, I saw you guys come in… and he kissed your collarbone… and there's a bruise on it…" Okay, this time, there was a little bit of something that might suggest abuse, but there was a simple explanation for that.
"Oh, yeah. We were playing with my dog- Felicity- and she got me right in the chest. It actually didn't hurt at first- but then I woke up this morning and there it was. It was an accident." I think saying "it was an accident" only made it worse, and one some level, I think I knew that. Wow, I must actually be a masochist.
"Are you sure… Levi didn't do that?" I made a guttural noise.
"No, of course not! He would never," I said as sincerely as I could. She patted my arm.
"Okay," she said.
"No, really! Levi's a great guy! I promise!" She sighed, and then looked at James, who was setting up the punching bag.
"James! Could you come here for a second?" He looked up, and walked towards us, and I put my face in my hands.
"Yeah, sure," he said. I groaned. Really?
"James," Sophie started, "what do you think of Levi?"
"Jackie's boyfriend? Oh he's a great dude! He's the one who suggested I become a personal trainer!" he grinned. Ha, Sophie, ha!
"Oh." Sophie looked down and I could see her start to blush. Then she looked up and smiled sheepishly at me. Uh-huh.
That's right. My boyfriend is great, and I love him! Oh… Wait a minute.
"Stupid… can't believe… why the hell do they even… I can't fucking take another…" I grumbled as I walked into my apartment. Levi was sitting on the couch, making sketches, and Felicity jumped down and ran to greet me. I sighed, smiling as this Weimaraner became so excited that I was there with her.
"Babe, are you okay? Did something happen?" Levi called. I looked up at him- my wonderful, sweet Levi- and I couldn't help but melt a little.
Levi was 6'1, he was handsome, with just a little bit of facial hair. He had serious green eyes that were like hard candies. He had messy blond hair and a sleeve of tattoos on his arm, and several on his chest. He went to the gym, and right now he had a soft, affectionate gaze. I walked over and sat on the couch next to him.
"Five. Damn. Times. Five times my friends have done this," I grit out. He turned to me and asked what I was talking about, through an expression.
"Different friends of mine, for the past few months, have basically accused you of either being dangerous, abusive, crazy, dirty, or some combination of those, and I'm sick of it! I keep defending you, and each one of them insists! I mean, the last time was two and a half months ago, and I thought it finally became settled, but then Aubrey- fucking Aubrey, who I don't even like- got the other girls to be quiet, and then straight up asked me if they needed to be put in therapy. I mean, at this point, I'm not just insulted on my behalf, or your behalf. There are women out there who are actually being abused, and have actual shitty partners, and this bitch acted like it was a fucking joke!"
That may have been a little too much information to give him at once, but I was seething.
"Wait… your friends have been… they've been accusing me of hurting you? Of being dangerous? I mean, I get the crazy and dirty thing, but-" I shook my head.
"No. You shouldn't have to get it. You're smart, you're caring, you're ambitious, you're thoughtful, I don't know how I was able to get you! You are not crazy- you have anxiety, but so do I! The fact that they can accept that about me and not about you is ridiculous. And they think you're dirty because of your tattoos, which really pisses me off because we're in the twenty-first century for crying out loud! I mean, I love you, and you love me, and that's all that actually matters, but I'm done with putting up with this." He stared at me.
"You defend me?" he asked quietly. His eyes bored into mine, and I couldn't help but stare back.
"Of course I do. I love you, and I want everyone to know how great you are. We've been together for over a year now, and screw them if they can't see who you really are," I told him. He smiled, an actual smile with his actual teeth smiling, and he wrapped his arms around me, pulling me against him.
"I love you too, and I don't know how I got to be this lucky," he murmured. I exhaled, relieved at how he could calm me down by just doing this.
"You happen to be very good looking," I joked. He hummed against my shoulder, and kissed it.
It really didn't matter what they said anyway.
Levi hadn't known that Jackie's friends thought they way they did about him. He didn't know that it had gone on for more than half of a year. He certainly didn't know that she was so frustrated about it- to him, their relationship had just been a smooth ride. Jackie was a lovely girl, very funny to interact with and to observe, and she was just as thoughtful as she said he was.
And it scared him to think that so many of her friends (and Aubrey, an irritating coworker) were trying to tell her that there was something wrong with him. He knew that not only did his anxiety make him look bad- Jackie always apologized for taking him on those double dates- but the night Jackie finally told him what was going on, he couldn't even sleep. What if they convinced her that he was as bad as they said? What if she got tired of hearing all of this, and she left him? Then he felt bad for thinking Jackie would ever do that. Jackie had just said all of those things, and she was the first one to say "I love you".
And he loved her. Levi had never met someone who treated him like Jackie did. When he was done having an anxiety attack over this mess, he had an idea- a great idea.
Jackie liked hosting Halloween parties- anything for an excuse to play "This is Halloween" and other classics for a bunch of other people. One of their first dates was her Halloween party, and he spent most of that time smiling at her as she did things that any hostess would do. He helped her, just to spend more time with her. (It wasn't really a date, actually, he just spent time with her the most.)
She had to host the same party again, with more creative treats and decorations. This time, since they were already an item and he spent most of his time at her apartment, he was playing his part as "Host No. 2" and he psyched himself up for it.
Jackie picked out a couple costume. It was Austin Powers and Felicity, the girl from the second movie of the Austin Powers trilogy, and the dog Felicity's namesake. (He hated his own costume, but how could he hate hers?) Felicity the dog was dressed as Dr. Evil, and he had to admit, it was pretty funny. She didn't care for the bald cap though.
Within one hour of the party starting, he was the perfect host. He smiled (in a way that didn't freak people out, Jackie assured him) and made conversation. He laughed (in a way that didn't freak people out, Jackie assured him on that too) and someone even said he was charming. Charming! He didn't get much time with his girlfriend, but that was okay, because he was still psyching himself up, and remaining calm. He needed to stay calm.
When the party was in full swing, half of the apple cider (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) was gone, several cookies and brownies had been eaten, and "This Is Halloween" had played three times. Jackie put the song in the Halloween playlist twice, and only her sister, James, and himself knew it. People were all over the front half of the apartment, and he thought maybe someone went to the guest bedroom and he didn't want to go near there because he was afraid of what was going on and it was not his problem. (Oh God, his thought were starting to become run-ons. He needed to do this before things got out of hand.)
He was near the the door of the apartment, and he saw Jackie talking to her sister. He cleared his throat.
"Can I get everybody's attention?" he called out over the music. Most everyone within a ten foot radius heard him, and he was glad. Jackie looked at him, silently asking why he was drawing attention to himself. As soon as he had people's attention he was asking himself that question.
"I am here tonight, because my girlfriend, Jackie Parker, is kind enough, and amazing enough, to host this party. She, for some reason, also trusts me enough to help her even though I am probably the last person anyone would ever think to host anything." There was laughter. "That's not all that I wanted to say though. This isn't a toast, although she certainly deserves one." I stepped closer to Jackie, who looked utterly lost on what I was doing.
"I love Jackie Parker with everything I have, and over the past few months, some people have challenged her feelings for me. When she told me about this, I was afraid that she was going to say she finally agreed with what they were saying about me. She didn't though- she just told me that she loved me, and nothing would change that. I'll admit, my anxious side was still scared, but it made me realize something important.
If you love it, put a ring on it." Now at this point, a lot of people gasped. If Levi hadn't been sweating in places he didn't want to be sweating, he would have laughed. Jackie glanced for a split second at someone who did, and she almost did laugh. But she was ultimately captivated by him. Levi got down on one knee.
"Jackie Parker, I, Levi Morgan, love you. I love you, you love me…" and because he couldn't help it, "now will you make us a happy fam-il-y?" Now she let herself go into a howling fit of laughter as she went down and threw herself at him.
"Levi! Oh my goodness you're amazing, of course I'll marry you!" Everyone started cheering, but he couldn't hear anything because screw everyone else. He was listening to Jackie's laughter and praise of him, as well as the sound of blood rushing in his brain.
"This was perfect, and hilarious, I can't believe you would do this! You quoted fucking Barney! This is the best thing you've ever done!" she laughed. She started kissing all over his face, and her costume sleeves tickled his face. Was he grinning? He couldn't tell.
When the two of the finally stood up, people finished clapping, and then one by one the patrons started congratulating them.
The best part, the best. Fucking. Part, was when each one of the girls who told her that there was something off about Levi, came up, and said they were wrong.
"Wow, he's actually really great!" (The best part was also Jackie's sarcastic as hell expression when they said so.)
And that's how you get your girlfriend's friends to stop saying shit about you.
A/N: I'll be honest, I was inspired by this book I just finished called Geek with the Cat Tattoo written by Theresa Weir. I've read her other books, under her pseudonym Anne Frasier. I recommend you read Girl with the Cat Tattoo first.
Anyway, please review!