Chapter 3 : The Compromise
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It's so hard to not be attracted to him like this, when he's all dominant, alpha male.
I need help. Serious professional help.
I'd wallow in my misery, but it's only me and Tommy handling the bar and this place is absolutely packed as usual. I manage to be the one who serves Louis, but only because, like in the café, he unofficially has his own spot at the end of the bar, just inside actually. So, he's out of the way of other people wanting drinks. Plus I know he always starts with a vodka and coke, so all I have to do is make it for him and hand it over.
We don't even have a chance to say hey; I watch his mouth hang open as I walk away and serve someone else.
He doesn't stay at the bar, he never does. He has friends here, people he doesn't have to share with his family because they all went to school together. The Weasleys don't know them, don't have to associate with them. I don't think they'd completely disapprove of vampires, considering they have werewolves in their family, but they're weary of Louis being around people they don't know. Which only makes Louis come here more; me working here would be perfect if he didn't think I worked too much.
He's a hard man to find in this place; I'm sure my place behind the bar is the safest place in the club when I look out at the masses of sweaty human bodies dancing and drinking. The vampires are easier to pick out if you've been here long enough - they move better, quicker, are a little more graceful. And once you actually know a vampire or two, their habits here, they're even easier to find. Vampires can be unpredictable out in the world, dangerous, but they don't have to be here, so they develop habits, things to tell us what they want or need. Even something as simple as where they are in the club - when they dance, it's to attract a human to them; being by the door and the bouncer is obvious; they're at their safest when they're sat along the walls, in the seating areas. They're not feeding, they're just drinking and having fun.
The staff look out for these things.
And there is only one vampire around who only comes here to have fun, who doesn't feed and only dances with one human. Oscar Hunter is a good guy, but a deadly bounty hunter, who knows everything about everyone, or can get that information as easily as I can get him a drink. He comes here on the weekends to unwind, to have fun. He's not a regular like others, someone who's here every night. He doesn't mingle with the humans as a rule, he barely talks to other vampires; he only talks to one person.
If I crane my neck, I can see Louis by his side. They're playing a drinking game of sorts from what I can tell.
They're going to be together for a while.
I go back to work, mostly ignoring him; I know he's safe with Hunter, in this club in general, but I can't help but keep an eye out every so often. I need to know he's okay for myself, that he isn't going anywhere.
I definitely need professional help when it comes to this man.
It's after two am when Louis comes back to me, more than a little tipsy but otherwise okay on his feet. The club is starting to empty, of humans anyway, and the vampires have either gone downstairs or are lounging around in the seating areas. Hunter has gone, he said good bye about an hour ago and left for home, leaving Louis with Archer and the others. They've left now as well.
I hand him a glass of water and start cleaning the bar while Tommy clears away the glasses dotted around. Because it's a vampire club, we're actually open until sunrise, but most humans don't stay the entire night and Ant hates leaving things a mess when it's now empty enough to move around, given that the number of vampires compared to the number of humans is quite a bit smaller.
Is it odd that I can say humans so casually?
"Enjoy yourself tonight?" I ask him once I'm done, moving to lean on the bar in front of him.
"Hmm, so glad I don't have work tomorrow," he murmurs into his glass, tipping it back to get the last drop. I refill it. "And how was your work?"
"Busy. You didn't have to come, you know?" He shrugs, he would have come no matter what I said, but then I remember what I told him in his apartment this morning and dig into my pocket. "Ah ha, your key."
"Keep it," he drunkenly insists, closing my fingers around the warm metal. "You have a better use for it than I do, given the amount of times I need to give it to you."
"We've talked about this," I mutter. "I don't -"
"You don't want it. You don't feel comfortable having a key to a place that isn't yours," he interrupts, snapping at me impatiently. "Well, you wouldn't feel uncomfortable if you agreed to move in like we talked about."
"We haven't talked about anything; you try, I dismiss. Stop bringing it back up and take the damn key back."
"No," he growls angrily, shocking me more than he ever has. From the corner of my eye, I see Ant watching us curiously; he can hear us. But Louis still won't stop. "You won't touch your savings and you can barely afford your rent as it is without that money. You work too damn hard and you put too much away, all for a dream you're too scared to actually take."
I turn and walk away, only for Louis to grab my arm, moving to stand behind the bar with me. "Your lease ends next month, don't renew it. Move in with me, Frankie. If we split the rent, you still pay less than you do now."
"Did you drink so much to prepare for that?" I ask, biting my cheek to keep from saying more.
Louis shrugs nervously. "Maybe."
"Rehearse it, too?"
"Interesting." A grab his hand and push the key between his fingers; I can't have it. I just can't. "Go home, Louis. Sleep it off. I'll see you later."
"You're an arrogant dick, you know that!" he calls to my retreating back.
I don't get far; Ant has hold of my arm by the time I get to the other end of the bar, and with a firm grip, takes me upstairs to his and Sky's shared office. Sky isn't here, he's downstairs, so we're all alone. I open my mouth to apologize, sure he's about to lecture me on bringing my personal life to work. What comes out of his mouth really surprises me.
"Is what Louis said true? Are you struggling with your rent?"
"I've had money troubles my whole life, I think I can manage, Anthony," I mumble. Damn, I can't argue with this person. "Louis' been looking for excuses for me to move in again for two years now."
"Yeah, we used to live in an apartment with his cousin and her friend, but it was too crowded and the friend drove me crazy, so I moved out."
"And you didn't take Louis with you?" he asks, frowning. Why is he confused by this?
"No, I didn't," I answer simply, shaking my head. "Look, Ant, forget about what Louis said. I'm doing fine; I'm a bit short, but I'll figure out how to get the money. Maybe I can have an extra shift on Monday."
"You're not working on Monday, Frankie. You only work weekends as normal. Yesterday was an exception because Kendra couldn't come in," he scolds me, digging into his pockets. Seriously, he's, like, sixteen years old. Whether he's a vampire or not, how can I feel intimidated by someone who looks over ten years younger than me? Wait, why is he digging into his pocket?
"Here," he continues, opening his wallet and pulling out some Muggle notes. I step back, shaking my head. "Pride doesn't pay the rent, Francis. Take the damn money or move in with Louis."
"Why do you hate me?" I glare at him.
"If I hated you, you'd be fired," Ant shrugs. He puts the money in my hand. "Now get your paycheck for tonight, sort out your tips and go home. You look like you seriously need to sleep."
Full pay and less hours? I don't argue with that. I count the money he gives me first. "Wait, I only need forty," I say, holding out the other sixty quid to give back to him.
He doesn't take it. "Do what you want with the rest. Add it to your savings, buy yourself something, because we all know you deserve it; I really don't care, Frankie. But I'm not taking it back; if you try, I'll make you keep it."
It put it all into my pocket. "You're making the right decision. Now go home!"
"Yes, Sir," I salute him. I go back down, sort out my money with Tommy and say good bye.
I almost turn right to Louis' place, then stop abruptly just as my foot hovers above the ground and change my mind, turning left to mine. Going to him would have been the worst idea right now. For me anyway.
I managed to get a good few hours sleep, crashing on top of my bed the moment I was able to and sleeping in my uniform, shoes and all. I woke up to see that my alarm clock said it was noon rather than six and I remembered that I had turned off my alarm clock before leaving for work at the club. I don't work at Chloe's on the weekends, not as a rule, so I don't need the alarm. But I usually end up going there and helping out in the afternoons. Today was no exception; I got dressed and left my apartment, expecting Chloe to ask how work was, give me free food and get me to help out.
I was very wrong. Now I wish I'd stayed at home.
Chloe wasn't the only one waiting for me, you see. Molly is here, too. She bumped into Louis while she was out and she managed to get what happened between us out of him when she saw that he was upset. She came straight here and waited for me. I got here after lunch, when the masses of hungry people had left and the place had died down a bit. There's more people in the café compared to weekdays because less people work, but there's still enough that it would be unwise for her to shout at me.
I have that in my favor.
"You're an idiot," she hisses into my ear. "I want to knock some sense into you. If it had been Lucy he told instead of me, your face would be black and blue."
"She can't reach my face," I counter uselessly.
"She'd find a way and you bloody well know it," Molly snaps quietly. I hate the fact that she can too much to admit that it's true. I settle for glaring. "Do not look at me like that. I will let everyone here watch a man like you get taken down by a girl."
"A man like me?"
"Tall, strong, fit and good looking." She shrugs her words off forcefully and I don't let myself smile; they're so not compliments. "Some people like that in a man, they think they're hard and tough and able to look after themselves in any situation. But I can change their opinion of you. I swear I'll do it."
"It's not me you should he apologizing to," Molly yells, her voice getting too high. She actually forces herself to calm, taking deep breaths. "We'll talk about this later."
The look on Chloe's face tells me she'll be joining in this conversation. I think about running away, but I know that Molly and Chloe will find me and I'll have to pay. So, I hide in the corner of the café and wait. Maybe it won't be so bad.
I want to kick myself. Maybe it won't be so bad? Ha!
I don't know why Molly stays, but she does for the whole time the café is open, sitting at the counter or doing my job of helping out when needed, while I sit in the corner like a small child who's been scolded and sent to his room. Which is about as accurate a description as it gets really.
I think I fall back asleep at some point; after spying on the customers and playing Alexa's game of Guess Their Story, there's not much else to do besides close your eyes. When I open them again, it's because I'm being prodded by Molly while Chloe closes up. I look down at the table when I hear a clatter to see a big chocolate chip cookie and a can of soda in front of me.
"They're not poisoned, are they?" I ask nervously.
"No," Molly answers a little sulkily. "Chloe made me give them to you because you haven't eaten since you came after lunch and that was four hours ago. The four of us are going out for food tonight. I'm paying and you have to come."
"Four?" I frown. "Please tell you me you invited Gabriella."
The look on her face says it all; that I'm stupid and crazy and she invited Louis.
"You really are an idiot, Francis!" she shouts, easy to do now that the customers are gone.
"Why am I the idiot?" I demand to know. "He's the one who ruined what could have been a good night by bringing that stuff up!"
She looks at me like I've slapped her, then like she wants to slap me.
"You've been together for over twelve and a half years, Francis! Don't look at me like that and don't even think of interrupting me." I snap my mouth shut and make me face look neutral. It's way too difficult to do the latter. "I think that after so long, Louis is entitled to ask what should be a simple question. But for you to just ignore it? To just send him away like you did? It was wrong and you know it. What is so wrong with moving in? You practically live there anyway, in fact you sleep in your own flat about once a week, sometimes not for the entire month. So why renew that lease? Why pay for a place you don't use and certainly don't want?"
"Because it's my own," is all I tell her.
"You hate it. I just don't understand you sometimes," she sighs, anger turning to sadness, and I feel forced to look away. Molly doesn't get sad, she gets angry. There's no other way around. There can't be. "You say you're not together properly, but you hardly ever look at another person, except that healer that comes in for coffee every weekday. And that is only after big family holidays when you feel required to remind people because that's when they're more likely talk about you two and your relationship. That big holiday just so happened to be Christmas last month. And you've never slept with another person. You love Louis, I know you do. So stop acting like a child!"
She stops to breathe and I take that moment to have some of my soda and bite into my cookie, only for something else to do.
"I love you, Frankie. You're my best friend. But I can't sit back and watch Louis get upset by you again," she murmurs softly. Then in a clearer voice, she continues and I know that she's been planning this talk for a while now. It sounds rehearsed. "I'm going to give you three options; one, you drop the pathetic excuses and you move the rest of your stuff and your admittedly fine ass into Louis' apartment, even if you take the spare room, because you're barely able to afford yours and he wants to help; two, give him a real reason not to, so that he understands what you're thinking, instead of ignoring him; three, walk away completely, because you leaving him would hurt him a hell of a lot less then what you're doing now and at least then I won't hate you for it."
"You hate me?" I ask, my voice a whisper. Of all the ways I thought this conversation would go, this was not one of them.
"No and I don't ever want to," Molly admits. "But sometimes you just make it too hard to like you, like you're pushing everyone away. That is what I hate."
"I'm sorry," I say. It's all I've got to say right now, but it's absolutely sincere.
"It's not me you should be saying that to," she points out, pushing her dark hair back and twisting a strand around her finger, like she does when she's run out of things to say and wants to end an uncomfortable conversation. "Look, what happens between you and Louis is between you and Louis. But he's my cousin, my family, and I won't see him get hurt. So, think about what I said. And don't do what I did again, or you'll wish it was Lucy talking to you by the time I'm through with you. You may be my best friend and a good deal taller than me, but I can still kick that fine ass."
"You keep saying that."
Molly gives a half shrug and a small smile. "I had to reassure you that you have at least one redeeming quality. There'd be two if your accent hadn't faded."
"Well, I'm glad it's my ass. God forbid it's anything to do with my personality," I joke weakly.
"Finally, something we agree on today," she plays along.
We both look up when the door opens, expecting Louis to walk through the door if he's been invited to dinner and the girls are still here.
"Hey, so where are we going?" he asks. Then he sees me. "Okay, good bye."
"Louis, turn around," Chloe insists, her back against the door, so he can't get out unless he moves her.
Molly and I share a look and she nods encouragingly. "Louis. Baby, please." He watches me sceptically and I can't blame him when I was a dick last night. "Please."
Cautiously, Louis walks over, attempting to sit across from me, but Molly stretching her legs out over the two chair forces him to sit by my side. Once he's settled in his seat and I know that he won't move away, I give Molly a look.
"Right, I'll be over there," she says, pointing at the counter and walking away.
"I'm sorry about last night, I was a jerk," I start quickly.
"Yeah, you were."
"I didn't mean to upset you or hurt you, it's just that -" I pause and frown. I can't remember the last time I actually had to explain myself to another person, especially to Louis. He usually just knows. "I know I don't use my apartment often and I don't really like it, but it's all mine, you know? I don't have to share it or wait for things. I got it myself and I feel like if I can keep doing that, I can make things better."
"I get it," he murmurs eventually.
"You want to," I correct him. "You have a big family, but they weren't strangers. I was okay when I had nothing of value because I had my mother. But I hated living in care, Louis. I hated not having things because kids who didn't even know me didn't like me and took it, I hated not having my own space. And my foster parents were great when they came along, but I could never get over that. I want to make something of myself, even it's a crappy apartment. I need that. That's why I moved out the first time."
"I understand," he says again, stressing it a little. "But I don't want to see you hurting yourself because of it. You're not sleeping properly, you work job after job, but you can't afford everything. And you won't let me help you. There's a difference between independence and stupid pride."
"Then we'll compromise," I say, hoping I don't regret what I'm about to do. "I've got the money to pay for my last month, with money to spare. If I can't keep that up and I can't afford to renew my lease for March without taking some out of my savings, you can move my stuff into your apartment."
"Really?" he asks, wide-eyed in shock. "You'll move in with me?"
I swallow thickly and nod. "Really."
Louis runs his hand up my cheek and through my hair to grasp the back of my head lightly. "You really are a stubborn git, you know that?"
"I know, I don't know why you put up with me."
"Because I love you," he says like it's obvious, then pulls me forward to kiss me. I barely hear Molly and Chloe's finally; it's only been a day and I feel like I've been deprived of him forever. "We're okay now, right? All is good?" I nod, trying to lean in again. "Good. Because tomorrow is the last Sunday of the month."
The last Sunday? The monthly Weasley dinner!
A/N: Hey, guys! New chapter posted. I hope you've missed Frankie as much as I have and I hope you don't have to miss him as much any more. :)
Please let me know what you think. :D
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