Home Sweet Home
The ride to the airport was anything but quiet. The children were excitedly discussing our destination with Ema, while Pam and Rosalie were offering commentary about each other’s ensembles, and Charlie jokingly lamented for American Football with Brandon… other than the hand shaped burn on his face, Brandon wasn’t showing any signs of his confrontation with his sister.
All the while Sookie curled around my arm and buzzed with pride and excitement.
It was her own… and it felt phenomenal.
Moreover, I expected for her to have a reaction to seeing the plane on the tarmac, but she seemed too delirious to care we were flying again.
The chatter and Sookie’s high spirits continued until the plane’s door sealed us in…
It didn’t take nearly as much time to load our things onto the plane as it did to settle the children down… Once the box full of snack items was brought on board, they excitedly began riffling through the contents to take their handfuls to the loveseat they’d claimed…
Sookie proactively claimed the other sofa for us by placing her purse in the middle and calling ‘dibs’ on her way to the restroom, and by the time she returned, everyone was watching the children discuss which movies they were going to watch.
Sookie unapologetically snuggled against my side until the plane was in the air and the Navigator announced that the plane would be landing in Eijsden with just an hour left before dawn. Sookie pouted as she complained about losing half of the night because of ‘stupid time zones’.
Brandon was anything but patient to get the answers he was promised and his sister’s remark only seemed to annoy him further.
Knowing his insistence would probably cause a lapse in his manners (not that he’d shown any earlier), I didn’t make him wait.
I looked at Sookie and asked, “Do you want to begin the explanation?”
She pinched her face together and hummed while she considered how to start and finally said, “Well, we have two Vampires, a satellite clairvoyant…”
Charlie bowed from his seat and offered, “Thank you.”
She giggled, “No prob… an automatic writer of unknown origins since Miss Ema seems Human to everyone so far except a telepath, four telepathic part-Faeries and… something as uncommon as a normal Human…” Rosalie offered a slight snicker at Sookie’s joke. “We’re on our way to Eric’s estate that’s protected by Weres, Shifters and a Witch. So I think everyone can agree that everyone is dealing with some strain of culture shock at this point, yeah?”
Sookie had everyone’s attention as Pam passed our commandeered laptop to me so I could cue up the proof Brandon would need to see.
Once everyone nodded, on the edge of their proverbial seats, Sookie continued, “You know the term ‘crossroads’… you know, betwixt and between… kind of a fork in the road… Well… I can tell you without a doubt that if Eric had decided to stay in Shreveport and renew His contract as Sheriff, Bill Compton wouldn’t have done what he did to Me because Eric’s path would have crossed Mine… We could have been bonded months ago and I’d have a contract with Sophie-Anne instead of a grudge. Hadley would have asked Me to raise Hunter. I still would have met Brandon because We were running in similar circles and Gran and Jason, and My friends would all still be alive…”
Brandon shook his head. “Sookie, how much have you smoked today?”
“A ton. I’m being completely straight with you though… and I’m not torturing myself or medicating with what-ifs. I know this is possible because a few nights ago, Eric died in Amsterdam for the day and I dozed off in my cell. When he rose, there was a Sookie snuggled up to him in bed and I woke up with another Eric watching over me… As bizarre as it seems, I saw Gran and Jason again. That was the first time I met Hunter. The other Eric healed my wounds and Gran fed me dinner while we waited for the other Sookie to bring this Eric from Amsterdam. They told me all about their life together… what would have happened if Eric stayed in the States.”
She paused, waiting for Brandon to say something, but his mouth was hanging open.
I explained, “I wasn’t sure of what to believe either. As old as I am, I’ve never heard of anything like this before. Sookie thought she was dreaming or hallucinating until after we left Their house.”
Brandon, Charlie and Rosalie were still somewhat frozen while the children enjoyed their iPod movies in oblivion…
Pam offered, “I thought Eric was fucking with me when he first tried to explain… as it turns out, I met Jason… well A Jason a while back. He skipped long enough to plant a kiss on me and then he disappeared. It wasn’t until Eric and Sookie came to Evansville that I learned there’s a version of reality where Jason and I are bonded, another version where He has a Human wife and a telepathic son… The skip Our Eric and Sookie experienced is how they learned about the other telepaths in the first place…Ema too.”
Sookie added, “And there’s a version of You who doesn’t have Julie. Something went differently for Him and He was planning a family with a Were named Ashley the last time They were heard from.”
Ema giggled, “And that’s why I drew y’all times two!”
I nodded. “And the scenes of us in various beds, among other things.”
Charlie cringed as he asked, “Is there any way to know what causes it?”
Sookie’s mouth was open to answer when Brandon blurted, “You can’t believe this! This is just insane… She’s been through too much… I can’t believe y’all! How could you humor her? She needs help!”
Sookie was expecting his reaction as much as Pam and I were. She patted my thigh and asked, “I have an idea. Will your cell phone work?”
By the time I was shaking my head, Pam had retrieved the satellite phone from its case and offered it to Sookie. “Who are we calling?”
“My guard. Brandon, what’s Alcide’s cell number?” Pam snickered as she sat down.
Brandon shook his head. “I’m not going to let you bug Herveaux… Sook, you need to talk to someone… I’m sure we can find a Daemon counselor or therapist so you can’t read their mind, okay? We’ll get you some help. I promise.” Given how aggressive he’d proven to be, it was actually endearing to see his reaction… her mental state was fragile. We’d established that much… but he wasn’t livid. The look on his face gave him away… he was terrified for his sister.
Sookie made a gimmie gesture and cooed, “Then humor the lunatic before she starts eating her hair. If I’m crazy then calling Alcide should be a wakeup call for me.”
He growled as he shifted to remove his phone from his pocket and read the numbers to Sookie.
She reached over to the laptop to type ‘Alcide’ into the search field to isolate just photos that included the Were while the phone rang through the receiver.
The same gruff voice I’d heard over the phone while I was still in Amsterdam answered, “Yeah, Herveaux.”
“Alcide, I know this is kind of a weird question, but this is Sookie Stackhouse… Do you by any chance remember me?” She held the phone out to search for the button to turn on the speaker so everyone could hear.
“Sookie Stackhouse? You’re the girl that went missing?”
“I am. Do you remember meeting me?”
“No… When would… fuck your timing. One of my employees was following the news like you were Baby Jessica. He just left town… When would I have met you?”
“Well, Gwen Roth called in some of your pack one night to give y’all a security job…”
“Fuck! THAT WAS YOU! I’m sorry… If I’d known, I would have said something. You looked like you could’ve been the girl in the missing posters, but…”
She sighed feeling sympathetic for the Were instead pain for her predicament… “I was much thinner and half of my face was covered with a bruise… I saw you trying to figure out if you recognized me.” Actually, she’d heard him thinking that she resembled the posters Brandon hung in the workshop and he was practically willing her to look up from her knees so he could get a better look at her face. He’d left assuming she wasn’t the same girl because no one could be broken after only a month.
“Shit. I’m still sorry… So what’s up? Why are you calling me?”
“I told you this is going to sound weird, but I kind of need you to confirm some things for me… Other than that night at the Holiday Inn Express, have you ever seen me before?”
“No.” Brandon gave Sookie a look that rang with I-told-you-so. He felt vindicated, but only because he didn’t realize how Sookie was going to prove her point.
“We’ve never been in a snowball fight together?”
“Um… I’m not sure it’s snowed enough to make a snowball in Shreveport since I was a kid. You alright?”
“Right as rain… Have you by any chance ever met Eric Northman or a little boy named Hunter?”
“No… Northman’s long gone. He’s a fucking legend. Hell, thanks to that bitch that took over as sheriff a few guys left the pack to follow Ravenscroft to Indiana… and I only know one Hunter. Lou Hunter. Went to high school with him.”
“Thanks Alcide. You’ve been a big help…”
“Wait one… you’re alright, right? You didn’t look too happy when I saw you… If I hear from Rousseau, I want to be able to tell him something.”
“I’m great, but Brandon already knows I’m safe now. He was worried about me because he’s my brother.”
The Were groaned, “Fuuuuuuuuck… If I’d know that, I’d have told him every fucking time I saw a tiny blonde!”
Sookie giggled, “I know, Alcide. Thanks.”
Brandon barely waited for Sookie to set the phone down before he asked, “Wakeup call, right? God, please tell me that was a wakeup call.”
Sookie sighed and turned the laptop around to show her brother a photo of a Sookie with Alcide, Adele and Jason. “Fraid not, Brandon. It was confirmation… These pictures were taken by other versions of Us. Keep in mind, Eric left the States while we were still little…” She clicked the mouse pad to show another photo… this one was of the snowball fight she’d mentioned. Pam was in the background with Jason…
“They have to be doctored…”
Sookie shook her head. “I’m seriously on the level, Brandon. Pam’s experienced one skip, and Eric and I have had one… It’s how I got away from Bill… How Eric knew I needed his help… The other Eric said they think it’s because of the Vampire plus Faerie thing. It’s the best they have to go on since Faeries and Vampires don’t hook up very often…”
“But we aren’t full Faerie.”
“Faerie enough to have inhuman abilities… It happened to a Jason after our Jason died. There are versions where Jason is still alive, and Daddy, and Hadley is still Human or Hadley’s completely dead… I’ve been turned too, if you can believe that…”
I couldn’t help myself. I asked, “What’s so unbelievable about that? You’ll make an excellent Vampire.” At the rate she was recovering, she’d be whole again in time for me to be anxious for Hunter’s adulthood.
While Sookie blushed and mumbled that I was sweet, Pam’s eyes widened… Yes, I’d said it aloud.
And contrary to some of the other Sookies, Mine liked the idea of being brought over… being strong enough to defend herself and practically indestructible. Go figure.
It took more than an hour before Brandon settled down enough to look through the photos and read the journal… Sookie giggled and told him to shut up (even though he hadn’t said anything) every once in a while because he was reading the unabridged version that included details of a sex life We didn’t have yet.
Since I’d had the same curiosities, I didn’t mind offering the occasional clarifying point… it seemed as though he was confused by the same passages as I had been when I’d read it the first time…
After a while, Charlie asked if we minded if he copied the journal to his phone… then Ema transferred the files to her laptop when he was done.
The rest of the flight was quieter than I would have imagined thanks to the on and off naps taken by anyone who breathed. Even Ema, Brandon and Charlie took breaks from reading (and re-reading) long enough to sleep…
Seven hours… and I’d been concerned the children would become stir crazy, but they’d barely been awake long enough to enjoy one of their snacks and use the bathroom… It was probably better since Saskia was planning to have an ‘American breakfast’ ready for everyone when we arrived.
As planned, the plane landed giving us only an hour before sunrise… After the short drive from the landing field to my house, I would have just enough time to introduce everyone to the staff before dying for the day. I was going to need to leave their tour to Dinh.
By the time everyone awakened, collected their belongings, and wrapped themselves into their coats, there was a modest audience gathered at the edge of the small landing strip near the cars.
The landing had the attention of the families on adjoining farms so there were 9 children, standing in a fresh dusting of snow to watch us file out of the plane.
By the time they were all home from school, all of Eijsden-Margraten (and possibly Maastricht) would know I was back… and I’d brought mysterious companions with me.
Hopefully the rumors would encourage the town to roll out the red carpet for Sookie.
As we rode through the center of town, I couldn’t decide if Sookie’s excitement was thanks to the children, at least in part, but it was intense enough I found myself pointing out landmarks with an unyielding grin.
Turning onto the tree-lined drive to the estate only added to the collective anticipation. Pam had been with me the first time I called the estate home, but she was the one who had the trees planted along the path. She grinned and offered an I-told-you-so when Rosalie likened the trees to a curtain veiling a surprise.
As expected, the only staff-member who wasn’t mustered along the fountain was Bastiaan and he was the one driving… but the surprise for me was that Klaasje was standing at the head of the line. When I emailed her from Evansville, she was still in Paris and didn’t have plans to return for another week.
The bright side… there wasn’t enough time before dawn for Klaasje and Pam to have a catfight.
If there was one thing I was aware of, it was that they both had very similar personalities… similar enough I was sure they’d clash.
Even better… I hadn’t mentioned bringing one ‘pet’ back from my trip… so anything she knew was based on what she’d learned from the staff.
Not that I needed Klaasje’s approval, but most of my company was Fae and I was hoping to give her the chance to prepare herself.
I watched her eyes bulge… I’m sure she was expecting to dutifully greet her returning King, but one individual at a time, the limo was sure to look more like a clown-car…
When I stepped out, her awed look became her more genial and unassuming smile, but by the time Sookie was standing beside me Klaasje looked like she was watching a train wreck. Maybe it was because of the way Sookie was wrapped around my arm. Maybe it was because Hunter had asked to be lifted as soon as Sookie was out of the car.
It was almost amusing.
Bastiaan joined the short line of guards while I announced my guests…
“You complain about how boring it is here… Everyone meet Pamela Ravenscroft, Mrs. Rosalie Love and her son Charlie, Ema Oswald, Brandon Rousseau and his daughter Julie, and this is Sookie Stackhouse and her ward Hunter. Pam is my child and Sookie is Mine. Anything they want will be provided to them unless there is a serious risk to their safety. Understood?”
The staff nodded obediently.
“As for the personnel here at Kastel Eijsden, Bastiaan Andersen is the only Wolf on staff… which is most likely why he was sent to fetch us from the airfield…”
Gerrit bit his lip to contain his laughter while Bastiaan growled at his superior, but he was used to the jokes.
“That’s what I thought. If any of you see a black horse roaming freely, chances are good that you’re seeing Anja Pols, but she’s known to take the form of a hare when being more subtle is called for. Next in line is Miles Jeffries. Whatever you do, don’t wave anything brightly colored…”
The children began snickering when he snorted, “Don’t hate me for being formidable, mate.”
“I hate you for smelling like a rodeo prostitute… Next is Dillon Rutger. His shift depends on his mood. Lion, tiger, bear…”
I hadn’t realized I’d set her up until Pam gasped, “Oh my!” earning a collective chuckle from both sides of the greeting line.
“That was accidental… I was trying to avoid a C.S. Lewis joke… The last of the guards is the local Morph Baas, Gerrit Rutger. His preference is for raptors. He scouts the property from the air, usually as an owl, and on the rare occasion he needs to be more formidable, he opts for something with quick reflexes like a leopard… Is there a specific reason Swaantje and Jaya are missing from the muster?”
He beamed and nodded. “Yes sir… Jaya gave birth this morning. A boy…” One of the more annoying aspects to my hearing was that I’d overheard too many details of the selection process for the mother of Dillon’s first child.
“Why the fuck are you here? Go. See to your family…” I hadn’t needed to repeat myself. He was running towards the garage with Dillon just behind him before my mouth was closed. “Since Gerrit is leaving, Anja is the ranking Shifter on staff… The house staff consists of Dinh and Saskia Jung. They’ll be able to tell you anything you want to know about the property and the town… Last but not least, my Lord High Steward, Klaasje Van Baaron… My apologies for the brief introductions, but I need to show Pamela to her room before dawn. Dinh will be taking over as your tour guide.”
Dinh nodded and offered, “Saskia has breakfast prepared for everyone. We’ll start your tour after everyone has eaten, if it pleases.”
As everyone else followed Dinh and Saskia to the dining room, Sookie, Klaasje, Pam and I broke away from the group to find the light-tight basement level of the castle.
Klaasje only waited as long as it took for the group to be out of earshot. “When Dinh mentioned you were returning with a new pet, I wasn’t expecting for Humans to outnumber Unmenschlichen.”
“There is only one Human in company. Rosalie Love. The rest of the party are Human-Fae hybrid …” Klaasje’s gate slowed for a moment in her shock.
Pam added, “And we know nothing about Ema. Could we call the Pythoness just to rule out the idea that she’s an Oracle?” I couldn’t decide if Pam was offering discussion to give Klaasje a moment to recover from new information or if she was flaunting that she knew more than Klaasje did.
I nodded. “Of course. Why didn’t I think of that? I’ll tweet her when I rise.” Sookie snorted against my arm.
Pam laughed, “I missed you, you giant asshole.”
“I texted God, asking if she’s a prophet, but you know how he is about returning calls.” Sookie’s laugh became more of a giggle.
Pam snorted, “Oh, God forbid a King would know how to contact her caretakers. I was just asking.”
Sookie offered, “Not for nothing, but… if she is like Pythia, I think Pythia would do the contacting. Wouldn’t it make sense for her to know if another one was born? And… I mean that’s assuming Ema’s already an oracle. Poor Ema doesn’t have any control or focus. Maybe… being an oracle is something you have to work up to. You know, to think that all this time there hasn’t been another one is a little presumptuous… unless… Damn, I need to go back and read the epics… Okay… Ema’s body is Human, but her mind isn’t… is it possible that she’s reincarnated? If that’s the case, she could be a Druid Seer or a re-embodiment of Mimir…”
Pam whined, “Eric, shut her up. She’s making me feel stupid.”
“You heard her, Sookie. Stop reminding her that she doesn’t read.”
While Sookie giggled, Pam defended, “I do! I just don’t read recreationally. I can work and watch television at the same time. My way is more efficient.” Efficient/lazy. ToMAYto/toMAHto.
When I stopped at the door to Pam’s room, I was still shaking my head. “Your room. We’ll remove the bookshelves and have it wired for satellite… I’m sure you’ll want to see to replacing the drab furnishings though. It’s your room. Do what you want with it. Klaasje is next door and Sookie and I are across the hall.”
She raised an eyebrow. “How bad is it?”
“There isn’t a bit of pink or purple in sight. You’ll need to brace yourself.”
“Tell me you have wifi in this place. I’ll have to shop.” Of course. Nevermind that she had a new position as Lord Chancellor to think about. Interior Design was the priority.
I chuckled and kissed her. “I missed you too, you little brat.”
Her chin puckered and her eyes rimmed and the moment she realized I noticed, she disappeared into her room.
Sookie snickered, but I could feel how quickly Pam was distracted. A few seconds later she shouted, “Jesus Eric, am I being punished!?”
“No. I thought having Saskia do it for you would take the fun out of it. Start your list…”
As I turned to lead Sookie to our room, Klaasje all but stepped into my path.
I suppose I should have just been pleased that there hadn’t been any cattiness.
“Majesty, if I may…”
“There isn’t a need for formalities where Sookie and her family are concerned. Is there something pressing?”
Her lip curled slightly when she hesitated. “I… Have I done something to displease you?”
“Of course not. Why would you think that?”
The way she glanced at the door to Pam’s room was telling enough. Klaasje thought she was being replaced. “I was on assignment and you didn’t mention that you were planning to go to the States. I should have been in the Kingdom in your absence.”
“My trip was a whim. I managed the Kingdom via email. Your assignment was more important. What did you learn?”
“It’s unanimous among the professionals I spoke with that it would be detrimental to offer glamouring in a broader sense, but Brussels, Kiel and Paris showed a 100% short term success rate for the more crippling phobias and OCDs. There was further success with a trial of three children who witnessed the death of a loved one. They were glamoured to forget the recent event and showed an immediate improvement.”
Sookie breathed, “That’s sooooo cool.”
Given that there were only a few minutes left before dawn, I gave Klaasje a nod as I reached for the knob for my room. “I’m sure you’ve already drafted the literature to propose a larger trial.”
She nodded. “Yes, of course.”
“I’ll read it when I rise… We’ll have a lot to discuss. I’m sure you’re just as curious about my travels.”
She nodded again and took a step back, finally catching on if not pacified by hearing I wasn’t keeping anything from her.
As soon as I closed the door behind us, I lifted Sookie and carried her to the bed.
Her chin trembled. “Thank you… for everything.”
“While I’m dead, you should unpack your things… Make yourself at home. Do you think you’re ready to run errands alone?”
She considered it before shaking her head. “No… not quite. I can’t think of anything I need though.”
“You need to eat. You’re missing breakfast.”
She nodded. “I know. I’ll head up in a few minutes… I wanted to tell you Klaasje’s terrified, has been since she saw Pam get out of the limo.”
“I mentioned that she’s needed fostering, yes?”
“Just let me know if I can help. It’s going to be tricky for you to make sure Klaasje doesn’t feel like you’re inching her out and make sure Pam doesn’t feel jealous. Especially since you don’t want Pam to know certain details.” As opposed to Sookie feeling a certain amount of jealousy of her own… I couldn’t help but be impressed that Sookie was coming to terms with her place in my life. I was concerned about two centuries old Vampires posturing to prove their significance and there wasn’t a hint that Sookie felt threatened in any way…
“Then it’s a very good thing I have you as an ally… How long did it take your brother to calm down?”
“He’s riled again because I came with you instead of joining everyone for breakfast, but his reactions are getting milder… I really do feel robbed. The night was too short.”
“You’ll have me for 16 hours tomorrow night. I’m sure I can think of a way to bore you.”
She giggled, “I doubt that…”
When I began to feel the nagging pull of dawn, I positioned myself on my side… chuckling as Sookie slid back against me to make sure ‘we fit’…
The last thing she did before I died was kiss me and promise to be waiting when I rose.
The last thing I did… I felt a pang of guilt for wanting her to stay with me.