A Life For A Life
As though I hadn’t been dead for 10 hours, my mood was at an unprecedented high as I came back to myself.
Listening to the house and discovering how quiet it was gave me the excuse to feel for Sookie.
Based on her comfort and calm, I assumed she was napping. Pleasing to say the least… even though she’d had my blood, I was still paranoid that something would happen during the day. Feeling that she was so close and resting contentedly put my mind at ease enough to shower and then trim the expensive highlights out of Pam’s hair just for fun.
I was bored waiting for the sun to set.
On top of needing to check on Sookie and Maggie, it was Monday night… I needed to discuss our plans with the Princesses of the house.
I found them all in the same place…
Maggie was in his co-sleeper… the poor boy was wearing pink pajamas. Apparently, Sookie hadn’t been exaggerating about ‘everything’ being pink.
Tina and Shelly were curled up around him, both napping peacefully as though they’d fallen asleep watching him.
Sookie was stretched out on her stomach on top of the covers, blissfully snoring into her pillow in a pair of jeans that she’d probably had a little party over putting on.
I couldn’t imagine anything more mesmerizing than the sounds of the four Humans I’d collected… I tried.
My pending discussion regarding attachments notwithstanding, I couldn’t have risen to a better state of affairs.
I lounged along the bed opposite Sookie as gently as possible, but still woke Shelly.
Her eyes lit up when she realized I was there and crawled over to whisper, “We’re still callin’ em Maggie.”
“I heard. Are we planning to sleep through Princess Day?”
She shook her head. “We been doin’ it. Paulette got breffist n lunch…” She nudged Tina to wake her. “We gotta talk.” Tina sat up, rubbing her eyes.
“What do we need to talk about?”
“Pwincess Day. It needs a new name.” Tina agreed with a sleepy nod.
“It can keep its name. Princess Day would still be for you two if Maggie were a girl.”
“Tha snot fair!” She’d given up whispering.
“He’s too little to participate. We can change Princess Day when he’s old enough. As tiny as he is, his demands will need to be considered no matter what.”
I was answered with matching scowls. So serious.
“Since he isn’t a princess, you’re thinking that we should make the day’s name more unisex, yes?”
“Good for either a boy or a girl.”
I offered, “Spoiling Day?”
Tina nodded. “That’ll work.”
“Good. Do you ladies have any ideas about what we should do tonight?”
They both nodded, but Tina explained, “It’s Maggie’s first. It should be for him.”
“Has he told you what he wants to do?”
They giggled at me and Shelly argued, “He’s jussa baby.”
“Then you’ve discussed his first Spoiling Day amongst yourselves, yes?”
Tina nodded as she scooted closer to me. “Mommy wanted to go earlier, but we waited for you. Maggie needs to go shopping.”
“Does he? I think those little pajamas fit him very nicely.”
Sookie’s eyes opened when they giggled that time so the girls stopped being ‘quiet’. “It’s pink!”
“I’m not sure I understand. What’s wrong with pink?”
“Pink is for girls.”
“It can’t be. I have pink clothing.”
I nodded. “A few shirts. Pam tells me it sets off my gorgeous eyes.” I batted my eyelashes, making them cackle.
Sookie stretched, arching her back and letting a slight moan. “Good. You can wear one when we take Maggie shopping so he doesn’t feel bad about being in a pink sleeper.”
“Not a problem… Has Maggie mentioned where he’d like to go to dinner?” It felt funny to ask since I’d asked so many times in recent weeks. Maggie had been dictating what Sookie wanted to eat since before they’d come to stay with me.
Sookie giggled, “The girls talked him into wanting Greek because they’re in the mood for saganaki.” They actually just wanted to see their food on fire, but it wasn’t like it made a difference to me.
“Greek for dinner and shopping for purple clothes…”
“Purple can’t be just for girls too.”
Tina rolled her eyes. “It is.”
“I’m confused. You wear blue all the time. Why do girls get to wear blue, but boys can’t wear pink?”
The scowl I was given before was nothing compared to the scathing look they gave me. Tina argued, “Cuz boys look like sissies in pink, purple and yellow.”
“It’s sometimes ok.”
“So what are the rules for sometimes?”
She opened her mouth to answer, but balked. “We’re gonna get ready.”
“You should ask Pam if she’d like to join us.”
The girls shouted in unison, “DIBS!” and started arguing about who’d get to call her.
“Ladies, Pam is downstairs. She’s too excited about Maggie to go home. She’s staying over for a while.”
I thought they were going to hurt each other trying to race down stairs, but somehow they managed to make it without injury.
Sookie opened her mouth to say something, but I stopped her. “While Pam’s distracted, you need to know that I might’ve fucked with her head before we died this morning.”
“What did you do?”
“I told her that we talked, well partially, and she began berating me for my admittedly poor timing…”
“Wait. She knew?”
“She’s known all along. She’s been pushing me about when to say something…”
“Ok… So explain why you didn’t say anything sooner.”
“I wanted to, but my reasons were selfish and I didn’t want you to feel pressured. You can’t deny that you’ve had higher priorities…”
“That’s important enough.”
“What I meant is you had more pressing things to think about. It’s not as though the girls’ comfort, your health, Maggie’s delivery would wait. Keeping my thoughts to myself didn’t change how I feel about you. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because… well, I was worried it would screw things up. We love being here and spending time with you. I didn’t want to say something and fall flat. It would be awkward as hell.”
“Did you have a plan?”
“Nope. I was retarded about what to do. I was probably going to end up saying something to Pam. Something ‘grownup’ that would’ve equated to passing notes between classes.” And I’d have done the same thing, giving Pam a century worth of taunting.
“Now that we know better… What do we do about it?”
“Well… that’s a tough one. We’re definitely going to have to be careful so we don’t confuse the kids.”
“That goes without saying.”
“I… well… I’m already Yours and all… and since we… shit. This is awkward too.”
“It doesn’t have to be. Yes, you’re already Mine. We already live together. We’ll be conscientious to keep the girls from being confused. Everything else will come to us.”
“You make it sound easy.” It was easy. Every other facet of our lives was complicated.
“I think it is… Are you sure you’re feeling up to shopping tonight?”
She grinned at me with narrowed eyes. “Yeah, I’m up for it. Amazing what a little Vampire blood can do. I thought I felt good before… The girls were about a week old before I was so mobile.”
“Good. I have a surprise for you after dinner… Get ready.”
“It was for last night, but plans changed.”
“I’m not playing Hide and Seek with Weres tonight, am I?”
“Not a chance. Nothing needs to chase you and think it’s a game.”
Pam being the hilarious bitch she was, I just so happened to have a bright pink Polo shirt. She’d bought dozens that hadn’t ever been worn, just thrown away.
By the time I was done proving how ‘pretty’ my eyes were, Tina was running down the stairs to rifle through my closet for one of my many black Ts.
Pam held the baby while everyone ate their dinner, complaining every few minutes about how much attention newborns got from strangers. She might not have been so appalled if she’d been out with Sookie while she was still pregnant. Something about a woman being ripe negated the concept of personal space for most Humans.
Sookie forgave the ‘little old ladies’ for being melancholy. Either missing their own childbearing years or thinking about grandchildren they lived too far from to see more often was their excuse to a point.
But more often than not (that I’d seen anyway) Sookie told ‘bump gropers’ to get their own… The one exception that I witnessed was tolerated, only because Sookie heard the woman thinking about not being able to have children of her own.
Harmlessly curious as they were, Pam barely suffered more than a dozen women who’d waltz up to her and touch the baby. Either by caressing or smelling Maggie’s head or pulling his blanket away to see his face while inquiring about him…
Sookie snickered through most of her meal while Pam nearly bit a hole in her lip to keep from telling them all to fuck off… Sookie also let everyone assume Pam was Maggie’s mother, letting a fair amount of them congratulate Pam for looking so fit so soon after his birth. Pam was in hell and Sookie was having fun with it.
There wasn’t any way Sookie found to keep people at bay and she was sure that the old school tendencies to not take new babies into public was to prevent mobs instead of illnesses.
The only thing that Sookie had ever found to deter attention was nursing in public, but even that was 50/50 because it made some people uncomfortable and the mothers who’d nursed instead of bottle fed their babies would actually be so bold as to lift the blanket to peek at the baby.
Pam finally figured out a deterrent… While the rest of us laughed, Pam ran out her fangs to scare off a would-be baby worshiper… Sookie sang, “Jealous,” while she ate her dessert and started shopping for a false set of fangs to keep in the diaper bag when she was done eating.
Since we were enjoying an extra hour of early evening, Pam left for her own errands (someone needed highlights) while I took Sookie to her surprise instead of waiting until we were done shopping.
As we made our way along the driveway to one of my many houses, Sookie made no secret of how confused she was.
“Whose house is this?”
“Why do you have another house in Shreveport?”
“I have 9 houses in the area. I’d live in one for a few years, but I’d move before my neighbors had the chance to realize I wasn’t aging. I kept most of them as safehouses. This is the first one I bought when I moved to the area.”
“Oh… that makes sense… but why are we here?”
“It’s the biggest of them. Six bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, 5 fireplaces, nearly 4 acres…”
She cleared her throat, but still giggled. “I meant why did we come here?”
I repeated, “It’s the biggest of them… living room, den, a much larger kitchen than the one at our house…”
“I’m gonna bite you.” She’d made the threat before, but since we had our spontaneous honesty, it stirred the imagination that much more.
“Eric, you…” She stopped to growl. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“Of course I will, but you have to wait until we’re inside.”
I parked the car in front of the garage and let her scowl at me while I took Maggie from the carseat that could double as a torture device.
Sookie tried to act like she was pouting while the girls and I waited by the front door… thinking that she held all of the cards was cute…
I had the children.
I coached Tina and Shelly to beg, shiver, warm their hands with their breath. They looked like a casting call for Oliver Twist.
She finally stomped over to me, arms folded and ‘furiously’ glaring like she would’ve hit me if I hadn’t been holding Maggie.
“Are you done pouting?”
“That was low.”
“You left children waiting in the cold, Sookie. Something needed to be done.”
“This better be good if you’re going to pull that.”
“Quit pretending. I know better than to think you’re actually upset.”
When I turned around to unlock the door, she slapped my ass, but she didn’t argue.
As soon as I flipped the switch to turn on the chandelier in the foyer, Sookie and girls gaped at the large Christmas tree set in the curve of the staircase.
Paulette had decorated the tree with nothing but red and gold ornaments and lights, and wound lighted garland around the railing of the stairs … She’d done well enough that Sookie was speechless for a moment. I’d call it picturesque since it looked like so many ‘Tis-the-Season television commercials.
The girls’ approval echoed through the empty house while Sookie nodded.
“Why don’t you ladies run upstairs. There’s a room set up for kids. Let me know if you can think of anything it’s missing.” They didn’t hesitate before they made a dash for the stairs.
It wasn’t until they were gone that Sookie said anything. “What… what is this?”
“You mentioned that you weren’t sure of what to do about Christmas since you were supposed to be hosting, but those plans were made before you moved.”
I shook my head. “No… This house is big enough that your brother and cousin’s families can all stay here for the holiday. Your father too, if he chooses. Since Lauren is planning to come for Thanksgiving and stay until Christmas so that Junior can have the extra coaching, she can stay here if you like. I doubt she’d be completely comfortable staying in Corbett’s tiny house for the whole month.”
“You’re kidding.” I might’ve worried that she wasn’t pleased if I couldn’t feel how excited she was.
“Since it’s on the lake, your brother and father can go fishing… There’s enough property that I can hide Christmas eggs.”
She giggled, “The girls will laugh at you the whole time… they’ll love it… What about you?”
“What about me?”
“You’re not talking about us staying here without you, are you?”
“Paulette’s going to ward the property so that you…”
“I’m not worried about that… I don’t want to stay here without you. Not at Christmas. You should be here… I know you could get home in like two minutes, but it would feel weird if you left for the day. There’s a light proof room for you, right?”
I’d prepared myself for several scenarios… including, but not limited to, convincing her that I wasn’t going to be put out by loaning the house to her family for the holiday which was why I didn’t just book a floor at a hotel… Having her insist that I stay with her family… that wasn’t one I’d seen coming. And I’d struggled to find a response for too long.
She nodded. “It’s settled then… I might let the girls sleep over here so they can spend more time with the cousins, but I’ll stay at the house with you…”
“No. Sookie, I did this so you can spend time with your family.”
“Maybe I’ll come over and watch Junior so Jason and Lauren can finish up some Christmas shopping…”
“Sookie, you should stay with your family… I meant for you to be able to have Merlotte visit too. Since it’s not my resting place, I don’t mind him knowing the location.”
“He’d be an ass anyway, but thank you… And seriously, you should be here… It wouldn’t be the same for me or the girls.”
“I’m not sure what difference it’ll make. I’ll be dead for the day and come over as soon as the sun sets. I doubt your family would take to the idea of a Vampire being dead in the basement.”
“Tough shit. It’s your house. Is it that you don’t want to die for the day around them?”
“No. There’s a bolt on the door…”
“I’m just a little surprised… I didn’t figure you’d be so adamant. It’s not as though I’m emotionally involved in holidays.”
“I know. Pam told me that you’ve been teasing her for years… Thanks to the internet, the cat’s out of the bag about Christmas anyway.”
“Oh really? How so?”
“Even if they won’t admit it, the church just rigged Christmas as a way to overshadow pagan holidays and draw more followers. Excellent advertising. If you want proof, ask a kid what a Solstice is and he won’t have a clue, but he’ll name all 8 of Santa’s reindeer.”
“Pam’s going to hate that I’m not the only one.”
“It’s not the religion thing that keeps us celebrating. It’s the chance to get together. Calvin starts every holiday blessing by thanking ‘Whoever’s listening’.”
“You’re toying with me because Pam told you how I feel about modern holidays.”
“No. I’m letting you know that if I hadn’t been timing contractions, I’d have been rolling on the floor when you were screwing around with the girls about holidays yesterday. It made me miss Booby because I had the image of him dressed as a turkey and hiding candy canes all over the house.” It could still be arranged.
“How do you celebrate then?”
“We just visit until Christmas Eve. Then the adults go nuts to play Santa. The kids wake up on Christmas morning…” Which I’d miss.
“I’ll be dead…”
“Not with this family. Daddy’s such a putz that he wakes everyone up at four, if not earlier… The kids open all their stuff from Santa, then Lauren and I make a big breakfast…”
“Hadley doesn’t help?”
“Um… oddly, reading in the journals that other Hadleys were Vampires’ pets made me want to laugh. It’s probably the only meal she can’t fuck up…” That was definitely worth a chuckle. “We usually crash for a while after breakfast and then start putting dinner together. We open the rest of the presents afterwards. You wouldn’t miss anything but naps and cooking with the way we do it, but we’d miss having you here.”
“You’re serious? Your father broke a sweat when he met me.”
“Again, tough shit. He’s like that around all new people. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather spend Christmas with… besides, the best Christmas gift of all will be bragging rights. I’ll get you to celebrate Christmas.”
“You think so?”
“Oh, I’m sure of it. Wait until you get drunk from the smiles on the kids’ faces while they rip open their gifts.”
“Then I’ll stay here too.”
She squealed, “Really!?”
I nodded. “As long as you don’t squeal like that again. Are you sure it won’t be awkward for your family?” Not that I gave a shit about their opinions, but I understood the concept of shit rolling downhill. If the Stackhouses were too uncomfortable, it would ruin the holiday for Sookie and the children.
“Hadley and Brian will just ask stupid questions, but they’ll do it behind your back.”
She giggled and came over to give me half a hug and jokingly told Maggie he was in her way. “It’ll be fine… and Lafayette will help you make fun of them all. He comes to Christmas dinner. And when it’s all over, you’ll know why Humans get drunk on New Years instead of visit with family.”
“You should’ve stopped while you were ahead. Before, I didn’t expect you’d want me to stay. Now I’m thinking of a reason to go out of town.”
“No, you aren’t. Look at it like a social experiment. Like observing animals in the wild. I love my family and I still have to pretend I’m watching the Discovery Channel once in a while.”
“I should make Pam stay too.”
“Of course you should. It’ll be the first family Christmas she’s had since she died.”
“I was thinking along the lines of having backup…”
“And a partner in crime… This is awesome. Thank you. I’ll call everyone in a bit. And you’re right about Lauren staying with Daddy. He’s a slob and it would’ve driven her nuts to stay with him the whole time. She was only willing to do it for Junior.” One of the many reasons Pam and I had declared Lauren our favorite Stackhouse. Once Jason apologized for his initial overreaction, he seemed completely tolerable, but… first impressions and such…
“Good. Having someone stay in the house will make it easier to spot forgotten incidentals. Paulette mentioned that she most likely missed a few things that were less obvious. And Lauren will be able to help you finish decorating.”
“That’ll be fun. I’ll have to get my stuff out of storage.”
“Are you ready for a tour?”
She nodded her head and looped her arm under mine, but just as we reached the bottom step Sookie’s phone rang.
It was the annoying techno ringtone I’d asked her to change so I wouldn’t start hating Lafayette just for calling.
Sookie giggled as she answered, “Hey baby! I’ve never felt better and the little man is 100% too. Are you finally waking up after being at the hospital all night?”
Sookie was worried and confused. No more than I’d been exposed to Lafayette, I was sure he was incapable of single syllable answers. “What’s wrong?”
“Well, I dragged my beautiful ass out of bed in time to get to work… ‘Course, everyone wanted to see pictures of my baby and his momma… askin’ bout how things went for yaz’.”
“They always do. Why weren’t they asking the father of the year?”
“Apparently he blew up at folks before I ever got there. Terry said it was ugly… any ho… I was on break and showing my pictures to Hoyt and JB. Sam was getting his flirt on with that lawyer, Portia… she bailed on him to see the pics…”
“She would. She’s been complaining about not finding a suitable husband so that she could have her own before her eggs dried up.”
“Oh, sweetness, I know. Sam wasn’t wearing happy pants today… flipped his lid and said he’d kill the next mu’fucker to say your name…”
Sookie groaned, “Good God. What an ass…”
“Sook, I luz ya, but if you don’t stop interruptin…”
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry. Go ahead.”
“Most er’body left… but… ‘bout half hour later, some Vampire came in, sat down at the bar… and asked for you, but he asked for Sookie Stackhouse.”
Sookie gasped, “Is he dead!?”
“Oh yeah, sweetness, he’s all over tha floor. Damn they make a mess when they go.” Within 24 hours of his child’s birth… the universe had a bizarre sense of balance.
“What? The Vampire? Sam killed the Vampire?”
“He been keeping a stake behind the bar since you turned him out… Baby, he went nuts… he murdered a Vampire with Bud here.”
“He just killed a random Vampire!?” No. The Vampire wasn’t random if he had her name.
Sookie stared at me, speechless. To be fair, I didn’t think Merlotte had it in him. If it hadn’t been a hate crime, I might’ve been impressed.
I held my hand out, silently asking for the phone… Sookie was too flabbergasted to do anything but shove it into my hand and start pacing.
“Oh, hey sweetness, you heard I got off early tonight and want to take me out, right?”
“Sorry. My dance card is full. Who was the Vampire?”
“He ain’t even get to introduce himself. ‘Course, the Sheriff was here so we was all herded out to the parking lot… someone’s going through his car, and I’m sure they scooped his wallet out of that mess…”
“Bout Sam’s height, dark hair and eyes…”
“Did he have any kind of accent? Facial hair? Long or short hair?”
“Short hair, clean shaven… you wanna talk to a cop? Since you’s the Sheriff, you might be able to get it out of them.”
It took a few minutes of listening to Lafayette whistling to get someone’s attention and finally saying that he had a bomb strapped to his chest before anyone paid any attention to him. The man who finally acknowledged him told him to stop making trouble as he approached. And Lafayette explained the Vampire in charge needed to know about the murder.
“Eric Northman, Sheriff of Area 5. To whom am I speaking?”
“Detective, I need to know the identity of the Vampire Merlotte murdered.”
“I can’t release that information.”
“I could have Lafayette give me the license plate number of the car belonging to the deceased and get the information that way, but then you could kiss my ass if you ever need help with an unruly Vampire. The choice is yours, but reciprocity is in your best interest.”
“Recipro… What the hell…?”
“Give and take, you Podunk oaf.”
“Oh… How do I know you are who you say you are?”
“The same could be said for me. I have to trust that Lafayette gave his phone to someone who can help me notify the ended Vampire’s Maker.”
“Um… ok… the Vampire’s name was… hang on…” He heaved into the receiver for a moment before he blurted, “William T. Compton.” Fuck. FuckFUCKfuck.
“Thank you. That’s all I needed. Is there any information you need from me?”
“What do we do with remains? We’re not exactly used to this kinda thing.”
“Bag him up as though he’s medical waste. I’ll have his Maker contact you.”
“Oh. Um… okay…”
I was still holding Maggie and I was too close to killing something… I hung up on the idiot and stopped Sookie’s pacing to hand the baby over to her.
She stared at me while I started pacing…
“Eric, sweetie, what’s wrong?”
“Well, if we keep it from the girls that their father is a murderer, then we’ll only have to tell him that he died.”
“The Vampire he ended has a Maker. She’ll kill Merlotte… That isn’t even close to our biggest problem though.”
Her eyes were already starting to mist when she asked, “What is?”
“He ended Bill fucking Compton… Compton was in Bon Temps, asking for you…”
She looked like she was going to be sick. “The Queen knows.”
I didn’t have to confirm it, not that I had time…
I had to keep her from falling on Maggie when she fainted.