Chapter 17: Merry Fucking Christmas

In The Dark

Chapter 17

Merry Fucking Christmas

**

Magnusson was sleeping on my chest, as had become the trend. It wasn’t as though he’d put himself there, but I’d been told he was inconsolable if he was put anywhere else for his afternoon nap… Even though I had the benefit of our recently (and marvelously) completed bond, I wasn’t completely convinced until Sookie made a video with her phone.

His hammock, his bassinet, his crib, the sofa, the study… Sookie walked with him, rocked him, bathed him, nursed him, burped him, changed him… He wailed at maximum volume until he was put on my chest.

Instant and complete silence.

I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face to fake a complaint. I tried.

I had just enough time to read the note Sookie usually left in my hand before my tiny ‘hood ornament’ opened his eyes to greet me with a grin…

Mag nursed at 3:30. His outfit is on the bathroom counter and nonnegotiable. Love you. S

Instead of the time we normally had while we waited for Sookie to join us, Junior, Tina and Shelly were pounding on the hatch to the room and ordering me to hurry because Hadley and her family had just arrived at Holiday House.

Nevermind that Hadley had been postponing her arrival… the day before yesterday became yesterday. Yesterday became today… and she was hours later than planned if she was only just arriving.

The first delay was due to last minute shopping, which might have been plausible if Shreveport didn’t have more malls than Fayetteville had schools.

The next delay was because packing had proven to be more difficult than Hadley anticipated… Lauren and Sookie were livid enough to shout ‘bullshit’ in unison as soon as the call was ended last night. Watching them pull Ashley into their indignant tirade and carry on for almost an hour proved to have some entertainment value for Jason, Brandon and me… and I’m sure Pam made notes of some of the insults that had been thrown around.

And as though the paltry excuses to delay hadn’t been annoying enough, Christmas was renegotiated as well.

Brian supposedly had to be back in Fayetteville for work on the 26th, so the Morse family was driving to Shreveport on Christmas Eve and leaving Christmas Day.

The usual family gathering was upended.

It was explained that normally a Christmas Eve consisted of a sizable meal followed by baking and decorating cookies ‘for Santa’, hanging stockings, and watching old Christmas programs in sleepover fashion…

And a Christmas Day consisted of exchanging gifts, another large meal, more baking to take Christmas gifts to the hospital (a tradition that started while Corbett’s sister was ill), followed by another gathering… this year would include Calvin, Beth, Lafayette, Ema, and the Simonettes followed by subsequent post-holiday recovery…

Thanks to Hadley’s delays and fuckery, the holiday was being condensed to a large dinner, baking, sleeping, gifts, breakfast and seeing the Morse family on their way.

One night.

Sookie was so sure that my suspicions about Hadley’s reluctance to spend the holiday with Vampires had been correct, she conceded when we went to bed by saying, “You told me so,” and then threatening to kill Hadley if she ruined the holiday for anyone… her exact words were, “I’ll bleed that bitch like she owes money to a Soprano.” Sookie was spending too much time with Pam.

Magnusson’s first Christmas, Sookie’s first Christmas as Mine, Brandon’s first Christmas with his father, Brandon and Ashley’s first Christmas together, Pam’s first complete Christmas since she was alive. Those had been reason enough for Sookie and Lauren to rattle with anxiety over striving for perfection…

And there was the added tension to ‘make this Christmas perfect’ since it was Tina and Shelly’s first Christmas without their father…

Granted, Merlotte’s funeral was three weeks behind them, but Sookie and Lauren took Hadley’s disregard for the holiday’s significance as a blatant reminder Hadley only cared about Hadley, no matter what.

Sookie was obsessing over making sure Christmas was perfect to distract herself from how Merlotte’s death affected her. We were worried the children hadn’t given us any hints they cared their father was dead since his funeral and she was burdening herself with guilt.

Sookie felt guilty for being relieved Merlotte’s games had come to an end.

She felt guilty scheduling his funeral after sunset because she knew he wouldn’t want it… but the girls wanted me there. Corbett had proven to be the tipping point in Sookie’s dilemma. He reminded her funerals weren’t for ‘the dead guy’… they were for the survivors.

She felt guilty, but she didn’t shed a single tear for him… the only crying she did was for his children. Six and holding since Crystal’s pregnancy was fabricated.

I had a few tricks up my sleeve, but I still rose anxious because of a Human holiday. I would have taken notes to ease making fun of anyone else last year, but this year I understood the urge to attain excellence. Sookie’s nerves had been rattled for days in preparation and it was only made worse when I tried to use our bond to help because it reminded her of why she was frazzled… And how unmoved the children were wasn’t helping either… To them it wasn’t the first Christmas since their father died. It was their first Christmas with me.

The word ‘bittersweet’ had been used all too often, but it wasn’t any less fitting for the wear.

Since Pam stayed in my room with me for the day, so as not to miss a moment of the festivities (or the action), we’d died discussing the myriad of details of our joint efforts towards ‘the perfect Christmas’…

The last thing she said was an attempt to lighten our mood. “You’re making up for being a Grinch McScrooge for more than three centuries… How the fuck are you going to top it next year?” She was too amused I’d made a large donation to an area ‘Cat Lady’ in exchange for hiring Bubba as helper… Giving him access to an all-he-could-eat buffet was how I baited him to sing for the family tomorrow night.

Magnusson and I had enough time to take a shower, ‘accidentally’ drop his green velour elf sleeper in the tub to be soaked, dress and make use of the lights from the tree Pam insisted we put in the saferoom… ‘We’ wrapped her in them before she rose.

She scowled at me to hide how funny she thought it was. “Did you have to plug them in?” Only because she’d get a little shock if she was lazy about freeing herself and tried to pull the wires apart.

I shrugged. “Mag’s idea. You can’t stay angry at him.”

**

As soon as I lifted the hatch to leave my room (laughing at the sight of Pam rolling out of her binding), Tina, Shelly and Junior launched themselves at me, strapping themselves to my legs and empty arm and yelling, “Merry Christmas,” like they had been for over a week.

The one difference to the scenario was that there were two extra children present. The two little girls stood by the archway with their elbows locked together and watched my attack quietly. They didn’t appear to be any more related to each other in person than they had in the photos I’d been shown. The taller of the two was Jenny even though she was younger by 19 months… bright blue eyes and long straight dark brown hair pulled into a pair of braids. Misty’s eyes were dark brown and her hair was blonde and so curly I could imagine brushes would give her nightmares.

Not only did they look nothing alike, but there wasn’t a single visible Stackhouse trait between them.

“Have you spoken to them yet?” I didn’t have to specify to any of my magnets in particular.

Junior answered from his place wrapped around my leg as the spokesman. “Not yet. You do it!”

“How am I supposed to do that? You’re the telepath…” Jenny suddenly looked like she was going to be sick.

“You’re the boss.”

I groaned jokingly, “Are you planning to let me go or should I speak to them covered in little blond ornaments?”

Shelly giggled from my other leg, “Yous a tel’path tree!” Jenny showed another reaction to the word as I stepped closer.

When I stooped down, Junior and Shelly let go of my legs to attach themselves to my sides. “I’m Eric. It’s nice to meet you.”

They shot sideways glances at each other before Jenny answered, “You have a pretty house.”

“You should be sure to mention it to Sookie, Lauren and Pam. They’ve been ‘decking the halls’ for weeks.” Thanks to the shopping trip I thought Pam made, every room had a different fucking theme. For instance, the den we were in had been transformed into the ‘Victorian Village’. Since UPS and FedEx were daily visitors, I cringed every time I thought about how much more ‘damage’ Pam could have done if she hadn’t had a hissy fit and returned as soon as she heard she missed a skip… and of course, every night since then I teased her that there hadn’t been another.

“Who’s Pam?”

“She’s a very good friend of mine. She’s tied up at the moment, but you’ll meet her soon. How was your trip?”

“Good. Heater’s on the fritz so it was either too hot or too cold… You’re a Vampire.”

I nodded. “I am. What are you?”

Misty and Jenny traded looks again while the peanut gallery giggled. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I’m a Vampire and your cousins are mind readers. I suppose what I’m asking is, what’s really been causing the headaches your doctors can’t find a reason for?”

Jenny looked at Misty with her mouth hanging open…

I continued, “You see, Junior, Shelly, Tina, Brandon and Sookie are telepaths. Before they had more practice with their shields they would get headaches when they tried to concentrate in crowded places.”

Misty narrowed her eyes at her cousins until Junior, Tina and Shelly laughed, “Rice crispy treats and eggnog!”

Both of Hadley’s children lost their color.

“Do either of you remember a time when you couldn’t hear the thoughts of the people around you?”

Jenny pouted, “Never… some people are harder.”

“Have you ever mentioned it to you parents?”

Misty shrugged. “Um… Brian thought we were joking. Told us he’d take us to Vegas.”

Jenny sniffled, “Mom got mad. Said to get over ourselves ‘cuz we get plenty of attention.” Par for the course according to what we knew of other Hadleys. That bitch was in for a rude awakening.

“That won’t happen here. Sookie’s going to do what she can to help you before you have to go back to Fayetteville.”

They asked in unison, “Help us how?”

“Junior can tell you firsthand… Telepathy made him miserable until he learned a few tricks for using his shields. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that he found out about Sookie’s ability. They’re learning and playing, stretching their abilities. He can hear almost as little or much as he wants now.”

Misty gasped, “Really?”

Junior nodded. “But my Mom and Dad are cool ‘cuz Daddy’s special too. We could go back to California now that I got coachin’, but we’re staying here so I can be around others like me.”

Jenny sighed, “That won’t happen. Mom hates Louisiana.” Because a posh part-time ‘career’ at Wal-Mart’s photo-lab and a 1,600 square foot house on a slab were unique to Fayetteville.

Junior said, “And freaking out about meeting a Vampire.”

Misty and Jenny nodded as Hadley yelled from ‘Mrs. Claus’s Kitchen’ to ask if they were behaving because they were ‘too quiet’.

**

Misty and Jenny had an aversion to physical contact like Junior used to until a brief explanation from Shelly that ‘Vampire heads ‘r nothing’.

Once that was taken care of, they had no qualms against dangling from my neck to be carried to join everyone in the kitchen.

Hadley was guzzling eggnog and nearly choked, but Brian darted towards me reaching for the children. “Holy shit! Girls! Damn, dude. I’m soooooo sorry!

“Don’t be. This is normal…”

Brian looked shocked, stuttering, “I… I think it’s the first time I’ve seen them touch anyone.”

His wife made up for his awe by shrieking, “NORMAL!?

I nodded. “Jealous?”

Before Hadley was done gasping, Lauren joked, “Tough luck there. Sookie’s the only adult who gets Eric rides.” Whenever she wanted… clothing optional.

I shook my head. “Lauren, you haven’t forgotten our time together already?” She’d twisted her ankle while we were out shopping with the children… Considering the hell it was to park, she’d broken the record for longest ‘piggy back ride’ I’d ever given and the children were still resentful they were forced to walk while we finished our shopping.

Lauren laughed and blushed at the implication. “Oh, but that was special.

Jason barked, “Quit flirting with my wife! You’ve got your own pretty blonde.”

As I began shedding my load, I corrected, “One can never have enough pretty blondes, Jason. You think small…” I barely caught the apple Sookie threw at my head without dropping Tina. “I was referring to the children, dear.”

Sookie snorted, “Bullshit.”

From her perch on the counter (with Brandon leaning back between her knees) Ashley held her hand up, offering to relieve me of the apple. “No heckling, Sook. He’s right… I sure as hell don’t have a problem with the scenery… the verbiage leaves something to be desired though.” The couple blended into the Stackhouses effortlessly. Corbett had jokingly welcomed them to the ‘clan’ without having any way to know it was the proper vernacular for Faerie families…

Ashley caught the apple just before it would have bounced off of Brandon’s head and Sookie returned, “Foxy brunette would’ve been limited too though.” Hadley actually thought she was included in that descriptive. She was thin enough to look like she’d been on a hunger strike, her home-dyed hair was like straw, she’d applied her makeup with a trowel, and her fingernails were gnawed to the quick after they’d been painted… She was trashy and looked like she was shopping for husband #4 rather than attending a family gathering. Hadley wouldn’t be close to ‘foxy’ without a makeover from Pam. I couldn’t think of a single attractive quality about her.

Ashley shrugged saying, “Right, right. Fair enough…” and took a bite of the apple. Once she was done with her mouthful, she asked, “So, Hadley, how’d you and Brian hook up?”

Hadley was still preoccupied with me, so Brian offered, “I was managing at Wal-Mart while I was trying to find engineering work. Hadley got a job in the photo-lab a few months after I started. We started dating about a year later…” She’d applied to work at Wal-Mart because husband #2, the one she followed to Fayetteville in the first place, left her and she had to support herself and the girls. Sookie already told me the job was an attempt to find another husband. “What about everybody else? I mean, I know Jason and Lauren met in college. That’s about it.”

Ashley giggled at Brandon for taking a bite of her apple instead of answering. “I just bought my Wrangler, traded in my little Talon… I was leaving a friend’s apartment and I misjudged… everything. I backed into his car and busted his taillight. He didn’t even look at the damage when I knocked on his door to give him my insurance info… told me I could take care of it by buying him dinner.” The tiny witnesses in the room were why she ‘churched up’ the details… he’d told her she could make it up to him by taking her top off… and she didn’t leave his apartment until the next morning.

Jason volunteered, “Lauren ran me over… I was pledging…”

Lauren corrected, “Streaking.”

“And I’d been drinking…”

“Drunk as a skunk.”

“I stumbled…”

“Staggered.”

“She plowed right into me and I busted her windshield and dented her roof.”

Brian shook his head. “Jesus… how bad were you hurt?”

Jason winked. “Nothing a little TLC didn’t fix.” Lauren blushed again… Jason never saw a doctor.

Another interesting coincidence… the other Stackhouses’ meetings with their respective mates were more lust-at-first-sight… the fast-track… Even though Sookie’s separation and pregnancy were speed bumps, a plethora of other versions had proven we’d have followed the trend… All of the Stackhouses dove into their relationships quickly while Brian and Hadley’s meeting was lackluster.

Hadley poured another eggnog and struggled to lift herself onto the counter. “What about you, Sook? How’d you end up meeting a Vampire? Speed dating? Blood drive? Fiend of a fiend?” Cunt. Unfortunately, it seemed the ward against ‘ill will’ did nothing to prevent moody twats from causing trouble once they were on the property.

Sookie was just as riled by the way Hadley asked as I was. For that matter, Brandon and Jason gave her a dirty look too. Sookie growled as she answered, “Well, a couple months ago I found out Sam was cheating on me so I was looking for another job so I could leave him and not have to see him at work. Eric hired me to manage Fangtasia and we’ve pretty much been together ever since.”

“And a little time goes by and your cheating husband turns up dead, huh? What a coinkydink.”

Magnusson. Magnusson being in my arms was the only reason I didn’t go after her. It was one thing to assume I’d done something to Merlotte, but she’d blatantly accused me of murdering the children’s father in front of them.

Instinctively, Lauren came towards me, herding the children back so they wouldn’t get caught in the fray while Ashley, Brandon and Jason bolted to put themselves between Hadley and Sookie.

Ashley was the best match for Sookie’s strength. Bonded versus Were. Ashley was doing her best of holding her back while Sookie shouted, “As usual, you have no fucking clue what you’re talking about! Being a dumbass is fine, but you need to learn how to keep that shit to yourself! As a matter of fact, it’s EXACTLY what got Sam killed, you stupid bitch!”

Hadley spat, “I’m stupid!? You don’t think it’s fishy that you hooked up with a Vampire and you’re all of a sudden relieved of a messy divorce!?” I was sure, somewhere in her mind, Hadley was proud of herself for ‘solving’ the crime.

“I ‘hooked up’ with a Vampire and Sam lost his shit and killed another Vampire in front of a bar full of customers. Sam went on the run. Sam got caught. Sam tried to escape and got shot by a guard. Eric didn’t have anything to do with Sam dying. Eric didn’t have anything to do with what an idiot he was. If you keep it up, I’m going to knock your fucking teeth down your throat, you nasty bitch!”

Jason grabbed the back of Sookie’s neck to get her attention. “Sook, you’ve got to calm down before you say something you don’t mean.” He glanced towards the collection of children hiding behind me and Lauren to remind Sookie of the only reason she had to let Hadley live.

She jerked her head to look at them and nodded… When Ashley let go of her, Sookie moved away taking deep breaths that barely calmed her down.

Jason wasn’t done though. He grabbed a fistful of Hadley’s stringy hair and began dragging her towards me. She fought against him until he cupped his hand over her chin. One thing I’d learned about Jason Stackhouse was that he had a dormant streak of dominance, perhaps learned while being reared among posturing Weres… the same characteristic that caused him to fly from San Francisco to correct Sookie’s ‘mistake’. It didn’t appear often, but when it made it’s showing, he was impressive… and Pam joined us just in time to see it.

He stopped directly in front of me and growled into her ear. “Merry fucking Christmas, Hadley.”

“I was just joking.” Nice try.

“Then your sense of humor is for shit. Eric hasn’t done anything but help this family and unless you want me to toss your ass in that lake back there so that the rest of us can enjoy our holiday, you’re going to apologize for suggesting he killed Sam…”

“You’ve got to be kidding me! Even Brian wanted to go after one of my exes!”

Jason snarled, “That’s because you lied to him and told him Todd was rough with you when he actually ditched you because you cheated on him…” The ‘uh oh’ look took over her face and she started clawing at his arms. “That’s right, cousin. You’ve got too many skeletons in your closet to go throwing around accusations. The Chief here takes care of his family. He doesn’t deserve that shit. The kids don’t deserve having their faces rubbed in the fact their father just died. What you said is wrong. You’re just being petty… Get over yourself. You get plenty of attention. You don’t need to parade your bitch flag through town to get more. We’re going to have a nice, civil holiday because Sookie, Lauren and Pam have been working their asses off to give it. All you have to do is show up and be nice. Now. Apologize.

She barely managed to say, “Jason, you’re hurting me,” considering the grip he had on her face.

He shook her, tightening his hand in her hair to prove the point. “Then you have motivation. You’re past the point of saving face. You were in the wrong. Acknowledge it so we can get on with Christmas. Apologize.”

“I… Fuck. Sorry. Shit.” How poetic.

My fangs were cutting into my lip and I didn’t have to look down to know which two children were clinging to my legs. She wasn’t worth the acting required to ‘accept’ her empty apology.

Jason growled at her and shoved her away, telling her, “Not. Good. Enough.” He pushed her back, one thrust at a time, through the dining room… Calling back, “I’ll be back in a minute…” Lauren tried to go after him, but Jason ordered her to stay in the house without looking back.

**

As soon as Jason slammed the door closed behind himself, Brian began recanting. “I’m sorry guys. I don’t know what got into her… She didn’t sleep well last ni-“

I handed Mag to Lauren so I could lift Tina and Shelly. “There’s no excuse for what she said, but no one’s blaming you.” Of everything that had been included in my briefing about Hadley, the ‘nice guy’ description of Brian had been given by every member of the family. I was to too furious to waste any time blaming him for marrying a graceless bitch.

I paced, trying to sooth the girls… asking them if they wanted to talk only resulted in a pair of shaking heads while they clung to either side of my neck.

I knew I didn’t have to defend myself to them… they were my alibi. They were with me, had been since the moment I rose, when Flood called to tell me he had news. Merlotte had shifted to aid in his escape attempt and when he shifted back to Human form, the guard shot first and asked questions later. My hands were cleaner than I would have predicted.

Not that guilt or innocence had anything to do with how upset Tina and Shelly were. To have their father’s death mentioned as it had been was cruel… not to mention the situation ripped them out of their thrill from discovering new telepaths.

I’m sure the only reason I was calming down was for them, knowing that whatever they were sensing of my mind wasn’t helping.

I walked back and forth along the deck in the crisp air and monitored Sookie and Pam to be sure they weren’t provoked until Sookie joined us.

She’d steeled herself, shoring up her shields so effectively our bond became a nothing just before the door opened. I stopped so she could wrap her arms as far around us as possible and apologize to the girls for letting herself ‘explode’…

“I was already mad at her for being late… and then when she said they stopped on the road to eat, I got angrier… what she said in there was the last straw.”

The girls still weren’t talking. Since they weren’t hiding in my mind, Sookie and I were at a loss.

Sookie sighed, “I shouldn’t have called your father stupid… I’m sorry.”

Tina whimpered, “It was stupid…” At least it was something. “Eric taught kids to hide from Vampires an’ Daddy couldn’t hide from Humans.” Fair point.

Sookie rubbed their backs and pouted, “And I was stupid enough to help you with your shields. I can’t get anything out of your head to help me understand why you’re upset.”

Shelly muttered, “Not you. Jenny ‘n Misty.”

“You don’t want them… wait. Are they…?”

As I nodded, the girls joined me. “I told them most of their family reads minds and they tested the children…”

Tina offered, “They had rice crispy treats and eggnog for breakfast.”

I finished, “I told them you’d help. Once they heard about Junior’s progress, they’re excited for lessons.”

“More like ‘lesson’. How much can I do before they leave tomorrow?”

Tina finally took her face away from my neck and she was scowling. “None! Their mom wants to leave tonight and they won’t get any help!”

I growled, not at her, at the situation. “Is that why you’re so upset? You’re worried about your cousins?”

Both girls nodded.

That was something else to worry about. The dilemma about Misty and Jenny was a simple fix… The problem was after the confrontation in the kitchen, Merlotte was still the last thing on their mind.

“What do you want? Do you know what they want?”

Tina brightened slightly. “They… They want help. They like you. They like it here.”

I bent to put them down. “Go inside and visit. Tell them I’ll do my best to take care of it.”

As they trudged back into the house, Sookie complimented my flexibility since I was wrapped around both girls’ fingers.

**

I found Brian complimenting Pam and Lauren on the ‘White Christmas’ living room.

As soon as I entered the room, he offered, “Oh hey. Look, I know it’s not the same, but I’m really sorry about earlier…”

“Where is your wife?”

“Um… in the bathroom. Jason read her the riot act so she’s pouting. Corbett getting here is the only reason she got away from him.”

I nodded and pointed towards the front. “I need a minute with you.”

He looked worried for a moment, but he put the clear plastic ‘pillow’ full of artificial snow down to follow me.

I led the way to the blindingly over-lit front yard to join Jason and Corbett. Jason was ranting to his father about what happened and they both stopped when they noticed Brian behind me.

I gave Brian the chance to greet Corbett before starting, “Do you mind explaining the delay in your arrival?”

He stared at me for a moment before huffing, “Hadley didn’t want to come… this is my fault though. Hadley was at work when Sookie called to invite us for Christmas. I’ve been so worried about the girls… I thought it would do them some good to see family. By the time she got home the girls knew about it. Hadley tried to get out of it… I mean she lied about being broke and everything. She’s been bitching for days about how pushy Sookie was being… No offense… The girls were just miserable with headaches since the day before yesterday. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if they wanted to come because we’re supposed to be staying here and they don’t like being around people…” He folded his arms and smiled towards the house. “They seem alright though… Hopefully, Hadley won’t get us uninvited before we leave on the 30th.”

“The 30th? We were operating with the understanding you’re leaving tomorrow afternoon because you have to return to work.”

He scoffed, “No. No, I took off through the 2nd so we could visit some friends in Little Rock on the way back.”

Jason offered, “Hadley said your boss was being a dick about you taking off.”

Brian shook his head. “I… guys, I don’t know what the hell’s going on. She just… She hates it here.” That much was obvious.

Jason growled, “Maybe if she shut the fuck up…”

I put my hand over his mouth. “Stop. That’s not why I needed to talk to him… Brian, we know why the girls have been getting headaches. It’s a side effect of a family trait.”

“You know what’s wrong with them!? I’ve looked at their MRIs until I convinced myself I know what the hell I’m looking at!”

“There isn’t anything wrong with them… They told me they tried to explain, but you thought they were joking. They can read minds.”

He nodded. “Yeah… and when they’re old enough I’ll take ‘em to Vegas. Right. I remember that. We were in the car on the way to another appointment.”

“They really can read minds, Brian.”

He laughed, “Right, who’d they get it from?”

Jason and I pointed to Corbett at the same time.

Brian joked, “So what am I thinking?”

“That he’s screwing with you… That ain’t rocket surgery. I’m not a telepath though. Me and Linda’s Dad had something special going on. Sookie and Brandon and every one of the little ones can read minds. Brandon and Sookie used to get really bad headaches. Lemme guess, they’re worse when you and Hadley are fighting even if you aren’t yelling. They hate school and anywhere with lots of people. If they had their way, they wouldn’t leave the house much.”

“Yeah… but… You’re fucking with me!”

I shook my head. “Pick a child, any of them, think that you want them to join us outside.”

“Why don’t you do it?”

“Because they can’t hear Vampires and I’m already convinced of their abilities.”

Jason added, “Eric’s kids have a better range than Junior, but I’m sure they’re all listening anyway.” Eric’s kids.

“How am I supposed to…?”

Jason cut him off. “Fine. I’ll do it. Who do you want?”

Brian rubbed his eyes and moaned, “Anyone with a stiff drink.”

**

While Jason tried to get the attention of one of the telepaths, Corbett and I watched Brian pace. He shook his head and muttered to himself…

He finally blurted, “Why are you telling ME? If this isn’t bullshit, then… they got it from Hadley… right? This is just… You’re messing with the ‘new guy’.”

“If we were just messing with the new guy, I would have glamoured you to talk like a mall Santa…”

Corbett chuckled, “Cain’t you do that anyway?”

Brian spun around when the front door opened quickly enough to look like he was trying to screw himself into the ground…

Misty came outside holding Pam’s hand.

She bashfully made her way towards us and stared up at me while Pam presented Brian with a mug of cider ‘with a kick’.

Misty cringed. “You told him.”

I nodded. “You told me he thought you were joking while your mother wasn’t pleased. Brian is the easier sell.”

She nodded and studied our feet. “Mom’s gonna to be mad. She hates Sookie…”

“Do you know why? Is it something that can be explained or apologized for?” If it was hostility based on childhood nonsense, Hadley needed to grow up.

She shook her head. “She’s jealous… Sookie’s parents split up and she got two dads out of it. Mom’s split up and she didn’t have any…” And an abusive, alcoholic mother who drowned in the bath was preferable to a loving mother who died of cancer as well, I’m sure. “Sookie graduated and went to Europe. Mom didn’t get to graduate…” Because Sookie graduated with honors and understood the concept of birth control. “Sookie went to college and Mom worked at Dairy Queen…” And kept a full time job to feed herself and pay her student loans. “Sookie married a guy with a business and Mom married a guy on probation…” It was Sookie’s fault Hadley was a bottom feeder? “Sookie breaks up with her husband and ends up with everything and Mom can’t get child support…” Sookie didn’t get much more than an extra responsibility of making sure all of Merlotte’s children were taken care of. “And now we’re here and Sookie’s rubbing it in that she’s got a rich new boyfriend with extra houses.” Yes. Hadley did, indeed, need to grow the fuck up.

“So the answer is ‘no’. Your mother’s jealousy is irrational because she hasn’t ever been slighted. She simply begrudges Sookie for having slightly better luck.”

Misty nodded. “Yeah. She wants to leave tonight… I want to visit. I don’t want to go home yet.”

“That would be why we’re talking to Brian. If you’re going to get any telepathic help, we need him to understand why you need it because he’s the more rational of the two.”

Pam leaned against Corbett’s truck and offered, “And why I glamoured your mother to help serve dinner and keep her mouth shut so she couldn’t cause any more trouble.”

Misty grinned. “Can you come home with us and keep her glamoured?”

“Sorry, shortie. You’d be on your own during the day. We only have a few hours to get her straight.”

Misty shrugged. “At least I tried.”

I offered, “Pam, it seems we’ve misunderstood the Morses’ itinerary. Brian doesn’t have to return to work until the 3rd.”

Pam rolled her eyes and shook her head, realizing that Hadley’s outburst was an excuse to be asked to leave.

After a few moments of awkward silence, Brian started shaking his head again. “This can’t be for real. They… No…”

Without prompting, Misty offered, “You can test me. I don’t mind.”

“What? Like pick a number?”

“Or animal or color… whatever. We aren’t lying. I swear.”

“Fine…”

Before he could say anything else, Misty answered, “Your uncle’s pocket watch.”

Brian’s arms went slack, dumping his cider on the ground and dropping the mug. His face lost its color and his mouth hung open. The rest of us might have laughed if it wasn’t so important he grasp the situation.

Pam cooed, “And what about me, shortie? What am I thinking?”

She shrugged. “Nothin’. Not even when I touch you. Junior says it’s ‘cuz you’re a Vampire.”

We nodded.

“Why are Tina and Ashley different?”

I fielded that question. “They’re special…” When her eyes shifted to look at Jason, I assumed he was letting her know we’d explain Weres later.

Brian suddenly blurted, “That’s the reason for the headaches!? Seriously!? I was afraid you were dying or something! Why didn’t you say something?

Misty shrugged. “We tried, Brian… Mom called us liars and… you thought we were joking. We figured you’d think we’re crazy…”

Corbett helped, “Which is exactly what happened to Sookie… Michelle put her in a nut-house for a while. All that taught Sook was to hide it.”

“FUCK! I don’t even care! They could breath fire! They aren’t SICK! That’s all I care about!”

Pam snorted, “Can we keep Brian and glamour Hadley to pursue the path of Buddha in Tibet?”

“SHIT!” Brian’s outburst made Jason and Corbett jump. “What’s it worth?” Lovely.

“Realistically, millions. Sookie’s using her ability as a security measure at Fangtasia though.”

He looked like he was going to be sick. “Millions… What about your kids? When they get older?” My kids.

“They’ll use it as much or as little as they chose. We’ve heard of a woman who used her telepathy to advance in the military and law enforcement.”

“Who would pay millions? Why?”

“We know for a fact some individuals, specifically those in the supernatural community, would kill to get their hands on a telepath. You’d be surprised how valuable a lie detector is in a business meeting.”

“Misty. Go inside.” He didn’t bother looking at her. When she balked, he barked, “Go. Now. Go inside and don’t say anything to anyone. Not yet. Got it?”

Jason grumbled, “What the hell is that about?” as Misty sulked her way back into the house.

Brain watched over his shoulder, and only waited until she reached the porch. “How long? How long does Sookie need to help them?”

Jason narrowed his eyes. “Mind explaining what crawled up your ass?”

“If Hadley finds out… Look, I’m not an idiot. I know I’m just her fucking meal ticket… And if she finds out those girls can pay her bills, Hadley’s going to turn them into sugar-babies. She’ll pimp the girls out for their ability and count the cash. The girls won’t ever get any help… Since Hadley pulled her little stunt, I could ‘let her’ talk me into leaving tomorrow, but suggest they stay here while we visit my friends. She bitches all the time about how she can’t get her exes to take them for visitation because she needs a break. Would a week be enough time for Sookie to help them?”

Jason huffed, “A week would help… a month or two would be better. Junior cried when we went back to California even though we were coming back in just a few weeks.”

A month or two? Isn’t that a bit of an imposition?”

Jason looked at me as though I’d deny Tina and Shelly’s wants. I shook my head. “No. Lauren and Sookie work like a well oiled machine together… and we have a nanny. Could they miss the time at school?”

He thought about it for a moment before he shook his head. “You know… probably. Their teachers email a lot of stuff to us. They know the girls have problems, barely ask for doctors’ notes anymore. If I run interference, I could send their work to them… Most of January is snow days anyway.”

“Do you think Hadley would go along?” If it weren’t for the journal’s warnings about other Hadleys behavior, I would have been tempted to staple a gift tag to her and ship her to New Orleans for the Queen. Unfortunately, I couldn’t risk giving Sophie-Ann the key to skipping. I was lucky she hadn’t been visited already.

If I lie my ass off… We could probably get a few weeks out of it letting her think she’s getting a break… then I can have ‘car trouble’… we might get lucky and be able to blame a snowstorm or two.”

I nodded. “I’ll take it to Sookie to be sure she doesn’t mind…”

“And when I finally do come get them… glamour me. It’ll suck for Misty and Jenny, but… If I know, then Hadley could find out. I don’t want anything to happen to them. You’ll all know. That’s going to have to be good enough.”

Pam began sauntering back towards the house, singing, “It’s not too late to send Hadley to the Dalai Lama.”

**

Hadley was waiting in the foyer.

As I made my way to Sookie, she whined to Brian about wanting to go home because everyone in Louisiana is mean to her. Galling little twat.

I found Sookie standing in the kitchen with Brandon and Lauren… Exactly the audience I needed.

Brian whispered to his wife, “You didn’t make the best first impression. Relax. Be nice. Give it some time. Even if you don’t change your mind about leaving, I can’t make that drive home without some sleep.” Not bad as far as manipulations go… If I didn’t know better, I’d bet someone rubbed off on him.

In spite of wanting to eavesdrop, I whispered to Sookie, “Did you monitor any of that conversation?”

She gave a puzzled look and shook her head, Brandon followed suit and offered, “We’ve been staying out of heads so we won’t hear what the Bitchosaurus is thinking.”

“Corbett, Jason and I told Brian that Misty and Jenny are telepathic.”

All three of them widened their eyes and urged, “And?”

And… after he nearly cried because he was relieved from worrying about non-existent brain tumors, the poor bastard declared if his wife discovered their abilities, she’d exploit them. He wants to help manipulate Hadley so she leaves the girls with us to be helped… and he wants to be glamoured to forget they have abilities when he retrieves them.”

Sookie huffed, “Nice to know he doesn’t suffer any delusions about what Hadley’s capable of… How much time does he think he can buy us?”

“Definitely a week… Maybe as much as a month or two.”

Sookie shook her head. “That shithead will just think she’s getting a vacation… And imagine all the trashy clothes she’ll be able to buy with the grocery money she’ll be saving.”

“The ploy depends on her selfishness.”

“Are you sure you don’t mind, hon? Can you afford Spoiling Day for five kids with the way you go at it?”

“I’m sure I’ll manage.” Even if two extra children were a wrinkle in certain plans.

Sookie took a deep breath and sighed, “Lauren, what say you? I’m going to need your help.”

She sniffled, “You guys rock, you know that? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve got your back. Always.”

**

I offered to go to the den, calling the children for dinner was the perfect excuse to explain what was going to happen.

All eyes were on me the moment I stepped into the room.

“Your Christmas dinner is waiting…”

Tina and Shelly gave me a look that translated to ‘who the fuck cares?’ Dinner was the least of their concerns even if Lauren and Sookie had been cooking for days.

“What?”

Tina scowled and growled, “You. Know. What.”

“You should be careful, the Thanksgiving Fairy might hear how sour you’re being. You want your basket filled with pumpkins, don’t you?”

She did her best to keep from laughing, but she gave a giggle when the other children did. “C’mon… you’re being mean. Tell us.”

“I’m not being mean… I’m not sure I can trust you with any se-…”

Before I could finish, I was being chaotically assured by all five children they’d take whatever secrets I told them to the grave.

When I pointed, directing them to the sofa, Jenny and Junior’s heads collided in the hectic rush, but they suffered in silence.

They were rubbing their heads and wincing as I sat on the coffee table to face them.

When I began their explanation, I quickly blurted as much as I could in Cantonese before they all began waving their hands, cackling for me to speak in English.

I rolled my eyes as though it was an imposition and started over. “You’re all so very demanding… Alright, the secret we’re keeping is telepathy. Brian isn’t confident that Hadley will take the news well, but he is very serious about making sure Jenny and Misty take control over their abilities. He’s going to do his best to trick Hadley into wanting the girls to stay in Shreveport with us for a week. Once Hadley is gone, everyone will be free to coach, tip, and teach in the open until Brian returns to take them back to Fayetteville…”

The children swapped excited glances back and forth before they took deep breaths to yell.

I held my hand up to stop them. “Ladies, there’s a catch. When Brian comes to get you, he wants to be glamoured so he doesn’t know your secret. He doesn’t want to risk your mother discovering your abilities under any circumstances. You’ll be able to contact us as often as you wish, but once you’re in Fayetteville again, you’ll have to keep your secret for your own good… The good news is you WILL get help. Sookie was your age when she learned to use her shields. As soon as she was taught to control her gift, she stopped struggling in school. She stopped reading minds for 15 years. I have no doubt in my mind you’ll be much happier by the time Brain comes to take you home… And, of course, the invitation will be open for you to visit whenever it won’t interfere with your school schedule. For now, this is the best we can do.” When I was done, I half expected Tina to unleash a belligerent tirade about forcing Misty and Jenny to be isolated.

When she only nodded, I knew something wasn’t right…

“Misty… you listened to Brian’s concerns, yes?”

She nodded sheepishly. “I… I can’t just turn it off. I was listening to be tested and then…”

I shook my head to save her from feeling as though she needed to defend herself. “It’s fine… So the rest of you understand if Hadley discovered their ability, it’s possible Misty and Jenny could be taken advantage of. Our concerns aren’t that she could react like Michelle and put them in a hospital. We’re concerned that they could be forced to work as telepaths. Telepathy is a cheat in most cases and anyone willing to use a cheat wouldn’t be too ethical to pay a mother for the use of their child.”

Jenny whimpered, “Does Sookie cheat?”

“If what Sookie does is considered cheating, it’s as respectable as cheating can be… She listens to the thoughts of my customers to make sure they’re old enough to be there, they haven’t had too much to drink, they aren’t planning to hurt someone… tasks of that nature. Because she can’t read Vampire minds, she can’t help me to cheat in my dealings with Vampires often. When she does, it’s voluntary and usually no more than telling me if I’m being lied to. Sookie is an adult though. She’s free to make her own choices…”

Junior chuckled, “Eric wants to retire, but Sookie likes working at Fangtasia… Can we go eat now that we know the secret?”

I nodded. “By all means.” The boy inherited his barnyard feeding habits from his father and grandfather.

Tina and Shelly followed Junior’s wake towards the dining room, but Misty and Jenny didn’t budge… in fact, they were staring at me.

“You have me at a disadvantage. I can’t read your mind.”

Jenny tried, but her attempt to smile was dismal. “You… what if we don’t want to go back?”

“Unfortunately, you aren’t old enough to make that choice. You should be more positive. Sookie knows what she’s doing. Junior has progressed in leaps and bounds.”

She cringed. “We love Brian… but… Mom’s…”

When she paused to sigh, Misty took over. “Mom’s cheating on him again and she’s going to break up with him… We don’t want to go back if we won’t be with Brian and we can’t be with telepaths.” Merry fucking Christmas, Hadley.

I shook my head. “I can talk to Sookie… she might know something I don’t about the legalities, but I’m sure you aren’t old enough to make that choice…”

Misty opened her mouth, balked for a moment, then started, “If you… If you can…”

Jenny finished, “If you can glamour Brian to forget we can read minds, can’t you glamour Mom to give us to you instead?” The proof it could be done was in the journals. Glamouring couldn’t negate a Human’s true nature… metaphorically, glamouring couldn’t install the door, just open it.

My mind drifted back to the journals… Lanier was always a serial killer. Compton was always inept. Pam was always a brat. Sookie was always manifest. Hadley had yet to prove she thought of anyone but herself. Glamouring her to leave the children in our care for Hadley’s benefit would be child’s play… Hadley would jump at the chance for a ‘fresh start’ with her new lover. She would be free to pursue whatever she felt motherhood prevented. Misty and Jenny would be free to have a childhood without a revolving door of jaded stepfathers.

What the fuck was I supposed to tell them? Even if I was doing my damnedest to avoid thinking about how desperate Sookie would have been to get away from her mother, I was failing.

As soon as Sookie heard, and I’d have to explain, she’d melt…

She’d want me to glamour Hadley’s daughters away from her…

The frightening part was, she wouldn’t have to ask me twice.

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48 thoughts on “Chapter 17: Merry Fucking Christmas

  1. Holy collection of telepaths Batman! Figures that this Hadley would prove to be as self-centered as the rest of them! I hope it works out for the best for them:)

    Thanks for the fabulous chapter and I can’t wait to read whatever else you’ve created!

  2. OHHHH, that was fantastic. I love the open mindedness of this Eric and the strength of character that Sookie shows. Hadley needs to disappear and let Brian have a part in those girls lives, they have been lucky to have him. Stupid twat does not even begin to describe. Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas to you and yours, may it be sooo much better than the Stackhouse/Northman clans is turning out to be. A

  3. Merry fucking Christmas indeed. She has a way of spoiling even the best moment by her very presence. Brian is a sweety thought. :-) ty ty ty for posting this. I was starting to go through withdrawl. lol And chrcking to see if I’d missed an update every few days.

  4. Wow, LOVED IT!!! Those poor girls with Hadley as their mother. I can’t wait for Sookie to get a hold of them and help. Brian seems like a great guy who knows who and what Hadley is…

    Thanks for the early Christmas present!

  5. Brilliant! Loved it! The Bubba surprise plan is great, I’m refusing to let the kitty buffet image stay in my head and just focusing on how excited the whole family will be. :-)

    Ill will ward vs Tzatzelworm, I mean, Hadley …good loophole!

    This crew plus the nanny and Ema…the girls will have a much better life If they get their Christmas wish.

    It might be a rough Christmas for them, but this was a perfect gift for us. Thank you!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!!! 

    • Those last three box-character-things should appear as: a Christmas tree, a present and a snowman. If it failed just use your imagination, please.

  6. Merry Fucking Christmas, indeed!! I feel so bad for those girls! Hadley was worse than I imagined =( Brain is a godsend and I feel in love with him when he was happy that the girls weren’t sick…you gotta love a man like that ;)

    Thanks for the great chapter and I can’t wait for those other chapters :D

  7. Once the holiday season is over, the Holiday House needs to be renamed Telepath Towers !

    Favourite bit – everyone referring to Shelly,Tina and Mags as ‘Eric’s kids’. I wonder how long til they are calling him dad…

    Merry Christmas to you and your family, thanks for another year of great stories.

  8. Hadley is a bitter and sad person. It is sad that her childern do not want to be with her. I am sure that Eric and Sookie will love those girls a lot and give them a blessed life. I think that Eric is a telepath magnet. I think if he gives Hadley some start over money and glamours the shit out of her she will leave the kids with them. I would love to see Eric offer Brian a job and let him stay in contact with the girls…..Maybe a nice guy like him will be a good fit for Ema. Merry Christmas and thanks for a wonderful chapter.

  9. What a great early Christmas present! So so appy to see a new chapter. This was a bittersweet one indeed. Those poor kids. I vote for Hadley’s untimely death too! This is the most bitchy ever . . . Well not really but there are kids involved. How sad is it that Brian cares more or hem than their own mother. Bitch! Hope ou have a wonderful Christmas.

  10. Glamour her, hell, I was going to suggest he drain her and throw the body to the alligators in the swamp (just toss some marsh mellows on top to make sure they have a nice holiday meal)..Brian will be a much better parent for them…loved this chapter (you even threw in a Bubba/cat reference, made me laugh)..This is still my most favorite universe…

  11. Another satisfied customer!….It’s been a great fanfic year, the Multi-Verse is brilliant and I thank you for putting these stories out there for all us crack heads.

    Thank you for the encouragement with the banners and especially for writing some of the BEST SVM FANFIC.

    Merry Christmas! :)

  12. Wow, those poor little girls. Yeah, I think Hadley could easily be glamoured to give them up if she’s convinced it’s for her benefit. I hate to think what would happen to them if she exploited them. It wouldn’t be long before unscrupulous vampires just drained Hadley and kept the girls. Maybe Eric could glamour her into getting her tubes tied, too. And Brian is so nice. Those girls are lucky they got a step-father who has their best interests at heart. Thanks for another great chapter and I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas.

  13. I feel so bad for those girls. What kind of life have they had that they want their mother to give them up? I really want Eric to glamor Hadley into giving up those sweet babies, and maybe they can keep Brian as well since he obviously loves those girls. I know Sookie will take the girls, I just wonder how they will handle having so many kids. Thankfully Sookie has Lauren to help, and it seems like Ashley is fitting in with them as well. Not to mention Auntie Pam getting two new little girls to spoil. Eric sure has the magic touch with all the ladies, and baby Mags as well. But who wouldn’t scream for Eric if they had the chance to sleep on him as opposed to anything else?

  14. Thank you for a wonderful gift! I didn’t think we would get any updates before Christmas and was so excited when I woke up this morning to this awesome chapter. I don’t care how you do it but Hadley needs to go and Brian needs to be kept around, he is fab! Hopefully when Hadley gets glamoured, they remember to keep her away from NOLA, that would be very, very bad. Merry Christmas to you and yours, I hope Santa is very, very, very, exceptionally good to you as you have been so good to all of us this year you deserve it.

  15. awesome!!! glamour,death…. whatever just get those girls away from Hadley! :-)

    I love how you explained Sam’s story line – glad he’s out of the picture.

    With all the telepaths in his retinue – how big a target will Eric become?

  16. This is for sure my favorite skip, I just love their dynamic. God, is there a version where Hadley isn’t a selfish bitch??? Those kids deserve way better

  17. Hadley is bitter because she lt life happen to her rather than try to affect her life. Pursuit of Happiness in the constitution means equal opportunity, not equal outcome.

    Anyway, I think Hadley would jump at the chance to leave the girls. I hope that Brian can still be a part of their lives even if Hadley leaves him for the next life-loser.

    Wow! Any way that Adele can make a jump? She has six grandbabies and is batting a thousand percent in the telepath world series. That woudl be just wonderful –if she gets to spend time with all of them. Pretty Please? Can you make it work even though she’s not bonded to a vampire or a telepath?

    Pat

  18. So glad to see the update, and I just love Eric with all the kids, the whole family has a great dynamic until Hadley joins the picture, I guess she needs a long vacation. It’s so sad that her girls know that she’s cheating on Brian and things are not safe for them. Hope it all works out for them.

  19. What a great chapter. It is so worth the wait. I so hope Hadley is glamored into letting the girls stay. Brian seems like such a nice man. Itwould be nice to see him stay in the girls lives.
    I hope your holiday is very merry and full of happiness.

  20. Love. Can’t wait to see what happens with the girls. Sookie is so much better than Hadley!
    Happy Holidays!
    Cheers, Balti K

  21. Thanks for the update!! It was awesome. Eric is so the Hero to all the little mindreading part fairy children. Hadley should be drowned in the pond. Thanks for such great characters and stories!!!

  22. Poor babies, i feel sorry for those little girls… i agree with them that Eric should glamour Hadley into letting Sookie keep them, glamouring Hadley to leave Brian and Brian moving to Shreveport to be part of the famiy with the girls but word to the wise, get Hadley fixed or we will have another child to take care of down the line. I think this family is turning out to be a great group of people and Gran needs to have a picture of all of them together as a keep sake since she doesn’t skip…. Yes Eric is definetly a Telepath magnet…. looking forward to the next chapter i am sure we have so much more of this verse to read and hear about… ohh almost forgot Pam is becoming a great part of the family, walking out with Misty in tow and calling her shorty i am sure she will be called Pammy or aunt Pam before they go back home. until then my best Kristie

  23. “He wailed at maximum volume until he was put on my chest. Instant and complete silence. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face to fake a complaint. I tried.” God, Eric’s family moments get me every time. I love that without prejudice, Mag is free to love any being. He must be like Sookie, liking the cool side of the pillow, since he likes to sleep on the cooler-than-any-human Eric. I love that Eric loves him back, without using so many words, and is filled with pride that Mag prefers him.

    And Hadley the bitch rears her ugly head. What a disappointment. To be so self-centered that you could only look at your children and see how they could better your life rather than the other way around … *sigh* I just can’t fathom it. How did she ever snag someone as good as Brian? I loved Pamela Thornton’s idea that he become Ema’s main squeeze. He would be, what … 10 years older than her? But at least he could be around the girls and stay part of the family.

    Just how self-centered do you have to be to accuse your host of murder in front of the murderee’s children, when they obviously love him? I wanted to pound Hadley into the ground, although fear can make people do stupid things. I loved that all the adults in the room went into battle formation, like they planned it beforehand. Why is it people forget that children have ears too and can be deeply scarred by what they hear? I’m glad “Eric’s Kids” (I wanted to kiss Jason for calling them that) shrugged it off and were more worried about the bitch’s children than she was.

    Thank you so much for writing this wonderful story. I’m so thrilled you continued it, and hope there is more to come. I missed saying “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Birthday” to little Vaughn, so I’m going to say “Happy New Year” now before I miss my chance. Love ya!

  24. Yes, I am slowly getting back to my reading. I’d say this is my favorite multi-verse story but I think that every time I read one. LOL. Well, Sam and Bill are dead. Quinn hasn’t shown up. It can’t get much better than that. Oh wait, if Hadley were dead. Ugh.

    Thank you so much! I’m glad Misty & Jenny are going to get help. Poor Brian.

  25. Eim i am confused by this statement, it is made when they first start talking to Brian about the girls
    ” Me and Linda’s Dad had something special going on. ” Linda’s dad? not sure what you mean……
    Kristie

  26. My heart breaks for Misty and Jenny in every story we meet them. I think it would be awesome if Brian became a local :). The girls obviously love him.
    Dang I want to slap Hadley.

    Have to admit that, Pam wrapping in Christams lights, fantastic… The fact they were turned on, Brilliant!

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