Chapter 16: A Little Hope

Nuclear Winter

Chapter 16

A Little Hope

**

Any normal family would have enough questions about a hidden pregnancy and clandestine delivery. Just considering the scattered details I knew about this situation in particular, there were volumes more for the Stackhouses to consider.

Just thinking about the fact that Hadley contacted Ricky for drugs made me wonder how far into her pregnancy she was when she contacted him… and if she ever put an end to her habits.

Why would Hadley return to Louisiana only to hide her presence from her family? Why did hearing about Tino make Corbett’s heart start pounding like a hammer?

More importantly, without being able to feel Sookie’s emotions, my primary concern was how this news was affecting her.

She’d been devastated by the news of her sister-in-law’s pregnancy and she hadn’t hidden that from me… But I wasn’t the only one waiting for Sookie’s reaction. While Corbett and Hoyt waited for more information from Ricky, Gawain and the boys watched Sookie with me.

Corbett growled, “She had another baby? Hadley had a baby and moved to Vivian and she didn’t call her kin? She called Tino first? Then you?”

Ricky shrugged. “I’m sorry y’all. I’d be pissed too. When she said she thought y’all would be pissed, I didn’t know she hadn’t been in touch. She kinda made it sound like y’all wrote her off… I thought it coulda been cuzza Tino and stopped pryin’. She asked me to run to Wal-Mart for her, not go diggin’ into her business.”

Sookie cleared her throat. “When did you see her, Ricky?”

“Yesterday morning… You know, she said she was going to keep it, the baby… but, since you got Vampire friends and all, you oughta get one of ‘em to glamour her. That ‘family gene’ skipped right over her. She can’t even take care of herself.”

Of course. It made perfect sense for Sookie to singlehandedly clean up all of Hadley’s messes.

Sookie sighed, “You said early, but fine.”

“Yeah. Just like three weeks. Still over six pounds though. Almost seven… Hadley looks like shit. Never seen her thinner… She ain’t right… I guess that isn’t at the top of your list of things to think about, huh?”

Sookie shook her head. “No. The last thing I’m thinking about is Hadley’s diet.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I smell what you’re cookin’. Sorry to be such a buzz kill. I’m gonna head out…” He stood and returned his chair to the table he borrowed it from. “Y’all need me for anything else or are you gonna try to get answers from Hadley?”

As Corbett demanded Tino’s address, Sookie snatched the keys from the table… As though she’d need them for anything

How easy it had been to take the keys from her only helped prove that her reflexes were suffering… Dancing was allowed (if not encouraged), but driving wasn’t.

She looked over her shoulder with an eyebrow raised and scoffed, “You can’t possibly think I can just go back to the flophouse…”

I wasn’t that dense.

I shook my head. “Of course not. You’d go out of your mind without anything to do… I’m sure you intend to go to the hospital, but you can’t drive. I’ll take you.”

“You? As attached as you are to the girls? You have a hard enough time staying objective when you don’t give a shit at all.”

That was just delightful.

“I doubt I’m as attached to them as you are… I’m not insisting that I’m your chauffeur, but you aren’t driving anywhere tonight.”

“So you wouldn’t mind if, say, Gawain toted me out to the hospital?”

Testing to gauge if I was opportunistic enough to use Hadley’s situation to continue fucking with Gawain?

“No, but I wasn’t going to volunteer someone else for the task.”

You’re curious about Hadley.”

“Since you never shut up, I’m sure I would hear the details regardless… My concern is that just a few minutes ago, you admitted to being drunk.”

“And if I kill myself, running off the road, you’re stuck shopping for another bond, huh?”

That wasn’t one of Sookie’s likable moments, but at least she wasn’t the simpering wreck I expected when Ricky first mentioned Hadley’s baby.

“No. If you kill yourself by driving while drunk, then I’ll take note of the hypocrisy of how you feel about your mother’s reckless behavior… and I’ll go to the hospital by myself and glamour Hadley to fill your position.”

“You just compared me to my mother and said I could be replaced by a junkie baby-machine.”

No I didn’t.

“You’re arguing to do something you’ve shown disgust for.”

“I’m not…!” She stopped herself and lowered her voice when she realized that even her father was watching our exchange. “I’m not arguing to drive… I’m… I’m trying to figure out… Nevermind. Thanks for offering to drive.”

**

Comparing her to her mother earned several scathing looks by the time we left Merlotte’s… and she stared at the side of my face while I drove to her father’s house and finally back to the flophouse…

I felt a spike of anger from her when I removed the keys from the ignition.

Before she could argue, I offered, “I doubt you want to go to hospital dressed for dancing and reeking of whiskey.”

“You’re telling me I need to shower and change into less revealing clothes?”

“No. I assumed you’d prefer to freshen up.”

She growled as she shoved her door open and stomped towards the house. “Do you want to pick my outfit and let you do all the talking too?”

I knew why her mood soured, but that didn’t mean she was allowed to designate me as her target.

I followed, trying to let myself be amused by her tantrum, and nearly had my nose broken by the door to her room when she tried to slam it.

I might have assumed it had been accidental if anything about her was apologetic… and I was beginning to feel like a fool for concerning myself with her reaction.

While she locked herself in the bathroom, I tried to amuse myself by living up to her expectations by choosing her clothing for her… but the entertainment came from realizing how ironic it was that she suggested I was the domineering one. She’d all but taken over my fucking Kingdom…

She yelled for me to leave her things alone from the shower as I rooted through her luggage and closet… purposely mismatching her bra and panties, choosing a shirt with a nauseating similarity to the one Merlotte had been wearing, finding a pair of brown corduroy pants that would make more noise as she added more attitude to her stride… and a pair of running shoes just because they had grass stains on them. The stains matched a pair of bright green socks I found.

She was already scowling, expecting me to be waiting, when she opened the door.

Her lip curled at the sight of the bundle in my hand. “Do you want me to look like a rodeo clown? The bra and panties don’t even match… You had to do that on purpose. I don’t own any singles.”

She also didn’t own anything simple or modest.

“What’s a rodeo clown?”

She rolled her eyes and brushed past me to toss everything onto the bed…

She shoved her feet into her pastel polka dot panties and yanked them up, then her pants, without taking her towel off.

“You’re lucky I don’t give a shit right now…”

She turned her back to me and tossed her towel onto the bed to put on her jewel-toned striped bra and plaid shirt.

“If you were to give a shit, would you be more hostile?”

She spun around while she was still buttoning her shirt. “I’ve got enough on my mind right now. I don’t have anything left for manners.”

Or concentration, it seemed. She’d missed a button.

I stepped towards her to fix the problem. “More than the obvious?”

It was actually refreshing to see that she could be rattled. I’d seen fury and melancholy, but only in extremes… Not devastated. Not furious. Not hiding in little chores or the oblivion of my mind.

Just rattled enough that she wasn’t herself… The gray area between the perfect image she wanted everyone to see and the pain she tried to hide from everyone.

She watched me correct the alignment of her buttons for a moment before huffing, “Like worrying about Daddy going after Tino.”

“Who is Tino and what is your father’s grudge?”

“Tino is the reason Child Services first came into the picture. Jenny had Shaken Baby Syndrome and Misty had a lot of healed fractures. When Hadley left him, and only because she didn’t really have a choice, Grampa took her and the girls in. Tino broke in and beat Grampa so badly he never really recovered. He took off and we couldn’t find him…”

“He injured Misty, Jenny and your grandfather and managed to escape the same fate as… Was it Darrell that Calvin took care of?”

“Yeah.”

“And you’re concerned Corbett will do something foolish…”

“Sort of. I’m not worried he’ll do something. I’m worried he’ll get caught.”

When I was finished with her buttons, I left her to finish dressing in search of the boys… but she ran after me when I didn’t answer her calls about what I was doing.

**

I found Richard and Edward in the living room, dopey grins plastered to their faces while they watched television. Gawain was getting his entertainment from the boys.

Without looking at me, Gawain offered, “We might have lost them. ESPN is covering the MLB pre-season already… whatever that is.”

Fuck.

I knew better than to try to talk to them while they were watching anything baseball related… Francesca had been recording games for them since she first discovered VCRs, so I’d learned all too quickly that nothing said during a game was given any attention.

Both boys showed their fangs when I unplugged the television.

“I’ve heard you argue the pre-season is a tease and isn’t indicative of regular-season performance by the players…”

Rationalizing didn’t change their posture… I imagine it was just a good thing that they weren’t as devoted to football too.

“I have an errand for you. You’re likely to enjoy it… Do you remember the address Ricky gave to Corbett?”

Since the boys seemed to be trying to kill me with contemptuous looks, Gawain clarified, “The one for Tino?”

I nodded. “Tino was the first of Misty and Jenny’s abusers. When Hadley tried to leave him, he attacked Mitchell Stackhouse and fled the area. He’s a loose end and most likely the one Misty mentioned…”

Sookie closed her eyes and nodded. “He is… Tino’s why Jenny…” Sookie cleared her throat and didn’t finish her statement, but Gawain cringed slightly.

I continued, “Sookie’s concerned that her father will try to pay Tino a visit…”

Richard grumbled at the dark television, “If he can best a Shifter, why are we worried about a Human?”

“Because there could be witnesses to Tino’s comeuppance. It’s better that Corbett isn’t given the chance to confront him. Boys, you’ll take care of Tino. Gawain, you’ll make sure Corbett doesn’t leave his house. Take Jason’s minivan. Report any problems.”

That finally got Edward’s attention.

He retracted his fangs and asked, “To what end?”

The end. Finish him. Beat him to death and make it look like a burglary so you’ll have the fun of ransacking the house.”

“And what will become of the mother?”

Sookie sighed and shrugged. “She’ll find someone else to sponge from eventually. Even if she doesn’t realize she’s using her ability, empathy does have its perks. When she wants something, people want to give it to her.”

As Richard stood from where he’d been sprawled on the sofa, he snorted, “In short, you’ll be footing the bill until she finds another sugar-daddy.”

“Pretty much, yeah… It’s a constant in the braid too. No matter what, I’m stuck dealing with the result of her shitty choices. I’m luckier than most of them though since I have the girls instead of a stalker.”

Edward nodded as he stood up. “And then we watch baseball.”

**

Her moods still hadn’t come back to me by the time we reached the hospital after more than thirty minutes of silence.

Even when I asked if she was relieved her father wouldn’t be implicated, she only nodded.

The next time she spoke was when she asked the nurse in the emergency room for directions to the ‘Mother & Baby’ wing…

Admittedly, I hadn’t said anything either, but since I didn’t have the benefit of her emotions as a gauge I was curious.

While we waited for an elevator, I asked, “Why doesn’t your father like Ricky?”

She cleared her throat. “Daddy doesn’t approve of Ricky’s occupation… He always gave Ricky a hard time because he’s a ‘good kid asking for a shameful eulogy’… When the pain medication stopped working for Aunt Linda, Daddy resorted to herbal treatment. Ricky was cocky about it.”

“Cocky about your aunt’s illness?”

“No. That Daddy always said Ricky was too good to be a thug, but if it wasn’t for thugs like him Daddy wouldn’t have a backup plan.”

“Ricky fathered a child he doesn’t care for and your father’s problem with him is based on an ethic that a large part of the world laughs at.”

“Sort of… And it’s not that Ricky doesn’t care. He only started dealing on the side when his straight jobs weren’t enough to pay child support. He was 16 when Misty was born. He flipped burgers, pumped ice cream, mowed grass, took odd jobs… He never forgets birthdays or Christmas. He’s included Jenny from day one. Now that I have them, he includes Lindy. The kids have little accounts that he makes deposits to in lieu of child support. He really is a sweet guy.”

As we stepped into the elevator, I asked, “How does a ‘sweet guy’ find himself with someone like Hadley?”

“She’s pretty and older… they worked together at Dairy Queen for a while and he had a huge crush on her…”

“Hindsight… Now that you know she’s empathic, you know she was reciprocating his infatuation.”

“That’s our theory…” She took the first step when the elevator doors opened on the third floor. “But originally we thought it was creepy since she’d already slept with his father. French teacher at the high school. Lovely situation.”

I snorted, “It certainly isn’t boring… Maybe someone should write a book about it?

She actually managed to giggle. “Who’d want to think about it long enough to write that?”

**

As we pushed opened the doors to the ‘Woman & Baby Health Pavilion’, a nurse looked up from her computer screen.

She combined a saccharine accent with a cooed whisper, “Y’all missed visitin’ hours a long time ago.”

Sookie matched the tone enough to seem genuine. “I’m sorry. I know y’all bend the rules a bit for babies though. We just now flew in from the Netherlands. I wanted to at least try to see my cousin. She doesn’t really have anyone else and I hate the thought of her being on her own… Hadley. Hadley DeWitt.”

The nurse (Valina, according to her badge) gave Sookie a pained look and cringed, “Ohhhhh, I’m sorry… We only really fudge the rules right after delivery. I really can’t budge this late. We open our doors again at 7 o’clock though.”

Other than the fact that she wasn’t telling Sookie what she wanted to hear, Valina was relatively gracious.

Sookie moved to lean on the desk. “The longer story is that I’m in Louisiana on business and ran into one of Hadley’s exes. He’s the only reason I know she’s here because she didn’t contact her uncle in Bon Temps, her cousins in San Francisco or Shreveport… And she sure as hell didn’t call me because I’m raising her other two children. Her daughters have a little sister they’re going to find out about in the morning and I’m going to have news for them. I need to talk to Hadley and find out what she’s planning to do because it’s entirely possible that she hasn’t done the first thing to get ready to take a baby home from the hospital…” After a long pause, Sookie finished, “Are you with me, Valina? I have a family drama to defuse and the timer is ticking. I only have a few hours before the most intuitive little girls I’ve ever met wake up. I’m going to need to give them details about their sister.”

“Miss…”

“Sookie. Sookie Auers… If I’m not allowed in the room, could we compromise? Maybe wheel her down to the waiting room? Please?”

Irksome… to see Sookie pleading for anything. She was better than that.

I cleared my throat to catch Valina’s attention… Taking control and quietly explaining, “You’ll be leading us to Hadley’s room now.”

She nodded absently and cooed, “Of course I will, hon. Y’all just follow me.”

Her shoes squeaked as she led us down a long corridor, offering to stop long enough to point Hadley’s baby out for Sookie, but Sookie declined… She still hadn’t abandoned the numbness that was so annoying, so I could only guess that she didn’t want to see the baby in the hopes that she could remain objective.

When the nurse stopped at ‘Mommy Suite 5′, I continued the nurse’s glamour, “You misheard Sookie earlier. Hadley invited us to visit and explained we were traveling. Given that we’ve come all the way from Europe, you decided to make an exception to visiting hours. We’re very grateful for your generous spirit.”

As soon as I was finished speaking, I realized I’d been spending too much time with Gawain. It was probably the friendliest glamouring I’d ever performed.

**

I was just behind Sookie as she pushed open the door to Hadley’s room… There wasn’t much of a first impression to be made by the tightly curled ball in the middle of the small hospital bed.

The only thing of note was the fall of dark hair tumbling over the side of the bed. Split ends.

Sookie barely needed to clear her throat before Hadley stirred, rolling to her back and squinting.

When she realized she was looking at Sookie, she mumbled, “This isn’t a dream, is it?”

As she pushed herself away from the mattress to sit up, the word gaunt came to mind.

Sookie shook her head. “I don’t guess you’re lucky enough for it to be a dream. I’m in town for a book signing… I ran into Ricky.”

Hadley’s chin puckered and she sniffled, “For a drug dealer, he sure does talk a lot.”

“You could say that… How long have you been in Vivian?”

Hadley tipped her head back to study the ceiling while she thought. “Hmmmm… Seven months, I guess. I broke up with the guy I was seeing and decided to come home. I was doing pretty good. I got an apartment and a job… But I ran into Tino…”

Sookie sighed, “And he promised he changed and he did a lot of growing up and was sorry for everything he’d ever done…”

Hadley whimpered, “Yeah… And I fell for it…”

“Your debit card is still getting used in Chicago, Hadley. What happened?”

“Tim, my ex… I guess he’s still using it. That shit.”

Fucking brilliant. She didn’t think to notify the person adding money to the account?

Sookie growled quietly and opened her mouth, but Hadley began backpedaling.

I’m sorry, Sook… I didn’t think about it. I’ve been takin’ care of myself for a while. Mostly clean for over a year now… even then just recreational stuff. Tino and me aren’t together or anything. We’ve just hung out a few times and he helped me find a car ‘cuz I was riding the bus… And I was planning to get in touch with Uncle Corbett, but… I lost the first job I had here when I started getting morning sickness. I had to quit my second one because the boss was handsy… Tino cost me the third job because he thought it would be funny to pretend to be my parole officer… Everything kept looking like it was about to fall to shit and I didn’t want Uncle Corbett to think ‘same shit, different day’…”

“You know you could have gone to him. He promised your mom he’d look out for you… You know I’d have sent you money if that’s what you needed… We both would have been happy for you to be doing so well.”

Hadley moped, “It felt kinda good to be taking care of myself. No bail-outs or hand-outs… It’s been rough, but I’ve been holding it together.”

Meanwhile, someone else was raising her children, but nevermind that.

Sookie sighed again, still feeling nothing, “Ricky said you’re planning to keep the baby… What do you need? Do you want to take the flophouse or should I find an apartment? Lily and Finn’s crib is still set up, so you don’t need one…”

“Sookie…”

“When are you being released? I’m going to need to go shopping…”

“Sookie…”

“We’re only in town for a couple of nights, but I can help while I’m…”

“SOOK! Stop… I called an adoption agency.”

“WHAT?”

“I can’t… I wanted to keep her. I really did. I still do, but… There’s always gonna be ‘some guy’… I’m never gonna keep my shit together, Sook. I’m an asshole magnet. After Ricky left yesterday, I got to thinking… I don’t want Hope to go through what Misty and Jenny did. I’m never gonna make it up to them… The agency said they do a ton of background checks…”

I finally felt an emotion that wasn’t my own, but it wasn’t Sookie’s…

And if I hadn’t known beforehand that Hadley was empathic, I would have been confused by the sense of remorse I could have choked on.

Hadley continued, “And don’t worry… This won’t happen again. I got my tubes tied…”

“Really? Me too.” Her tone couldn’t have been more bitter.

Hadley’s face contorted and she shook her head. “You… You don’t want more kids because you’re stuck with the ones I fucked up… Sook…”

“I’d have had more if I could, Hadley. The accident left too much scar tissue behind for me to carry to term… I’m not stuck with your kids. They aren’t a burden.”

Hadley swallowed and sniffled, “See… People like me can have a million kids and fuck up all of them… And good people like you and Allecks…”

Sookie shook her head and snapped, “Don’t even. It’s hard enough to keep from wallowing without having someone tell me how pitiable my situation is… You called the baby Hope?

Hadley cringed as she nodded. “Yeah… On account I was hoping I could get my shit together. Her new family will probably change it though… Folks like that probably have a list of names picked out already.”

“You can’t give the baby up, Hadley. Let me help you. Stay in Bon Temps…”

“Being in Bon Temps didn’t help the girls, or Grampa…”

Sookie squeezed her eyes closed and gnawed her lip while she seemed to struggle to find a resolution to a problem that seemed obvious to me…

She was still ruminating when I took her wrist and pulled her to hallway.

As soon as the door closed behind us, I asked, “What am I missing?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m assuming that you’re concerned that the child would be telepathic and raised by mundane Humans, yes?”

She nodded. “Yeah. I’ve met a few like that. Their childhoods are just as miserable as mine was, if not worse.”

“So I’m puzzled as to why you aren’t volunteering to take the baby yourself. It would make sense to keep the siblings together.”

“Skipping with a newborn, Eric? Are you high?”

“That would be a rational argument if you hadn’t agreed to bond with me while you were still pregnant.”

“I was using you.”

“How were you using me?”

“After a quick risk/benefit analysis, I decided skipping with an eventual baby could be dealt with later, but in the meantime, I was hoping your blood would help the pregnancy.”

I couldn’t feel anything and could still tell she was lying.

“Did that even occur to you the night we met?”

She looked down at the floor and shook her head. “No.”

Fuck…

“If I hadn’t been such an asshole, you’d have taken my blood that night… wouldn’t you?” The night before she miscarried. My attitude towards her… I had caused her miscarriage.

Her eyes welled and she growled against the lump in her throat. “We can’t undo it. We were both being stubborn. No point in dredging it up… especially not when we need an alternative to…”

“An alternative to what? Two months ago you’d have made arrangements to take Hope in just as you did with Misty and Jenny. While you were still expecting to have your own in August.”

“I get that this is an old-fashioned throw-back. Keep it in the family and all that, but…”

“It’s not old-fashioned when you just did that very thing with Misty and Jenny. This time you have a nanny.”

“Sort of…”

“I’m sure, since you volunteered me to serve as her guardian and she’ll be living in my castle already, that Ema wouldn’t mind tending to the children in the case of a skip.”

“You’re trying to talk me into taking an infant back to your house.”

“I’m as surprised as you are. I imagined this conversation going much differently.”

“Oh yeah? Do I want to know?”

“Given your track record of being determined to a fault, I pictured something that could be compared to a child asking for a puppy… promises to clean up after it and keep it from making too much noise…”

She swatted my shoulders and snickered, “You jackass.”

“That isn’t a secret… This isn’t about your image, is it?”

“No, I’d get a few questions during interviews, but a Young Adult author adopting a baby won’t make headline news. It’s not like I’m a preacher with a thing for prostitutes.”

“They’re always funny though.”

She snorted, “You’re horrible.”

I shrugged. “They’re hilarious and you know it… Especially when they weep apologies for their weaknesses…”

“Way to stay focused.”

“I am focused. Do you think I’ll notice an infant? You’re the pain in my ass. Flowers and meetings and raises for the staff…”

She rolled her eyes and huffed, “Gawd… You’re such a baby. And shut up about the flowers. You like them.”

“Fine. Candles… flatware… a Sibyl… surprises in general… an ex-husband, well, two ex-husbands…”

“Oh yeah, you make a great case for introducing an infant into this craziness… That agency Hadley called would disqualify me in a heartbeat.”

“And yet there are several things that can be hidden from an application… Would there have been any obvious disqualifiers for your mother… your uncle?”

She narrowed her eyes and growled, “Just had to get that last one in, didn’t you?”

“You can’t fault me for it. I finally found myself on the winning side of an argument.”

Granted, it wasn’t a debate she needed to have… I was almost sure she just wanted assurances that I wouldn’t make her miserable in her task…

But I still won.

**

Sookie led the way back into Hadley’s room and, without preamble, Sookie explained, “No adoption agency. I’ll call my lawyer. I’ll adopt her.”

Hadley shook her head. “Sook… noooo… You’re already doin’ so much…”

“Yeah. I’ll manage. You know I just met Brandon. I don’t want that for the girls… Besides, the screening agencies are great and all, but no one knew Bartlett was a monster until we found out the hard way.”

We? The uncle who’d molested Sookie, had abused both of them?

If ever there was a missed opportunity for fair game.

“There was a time when Bartlett would have been taken to the middle of nowhere and hunted for sport.” I was finished before I realized I was speaking.

Sookie smirked, offering a wink that implied that was exactly what Calvin had done.

Hadley asked, “Is this your new guy, Sook?” Finally acknowledging my presence, but only to change the subject.

Sookie grabbed my hand and nodded. “Yeah. Sorry… Hadley, this is…”

I knew it was coming.

“My boyfriend, Eric.”

Hadley’s eyebrow went up. “Yeah. How’s Allecks dealing with that?”

“He’s not happy… He’s really jealous of how much the girls like him. We moved up north to stay with Eric, but Allecks would be just as jealous if we were still in Bern.”

“Y’all are living together?”

Sookie nodded. “Yeah. Eric’s got a big piece of property with stables. Plenty of room for riding and playing soccer… Plenty of room for a nursery too. Eric has a maid and I finally got a nanny because of all the traveling I do…”

“The girls like him? Well good on y’all… They never liked any of my boyfriends… then again…”

“Yeah… So… when are y’all getting released? I’ve got shit to do.”

“Really Sookie… Are you sure?”

“I’d spend the next 18 years worrying about her if you gave her up… I’ll take Hope.”

Hadley cringed and stared at her lap. “Cleaning up another one of my messes… They said as long as Hope’s jaundice improves, we’d get cut loose tomorrow afternoon. The 36-hours thing.”

“Alright. Then I’ll be back after I get some sleep. I need to get a few things for her… and you. We’re going home in a few nights. You’ll stay in the flophouse for a while until you’re back on your feet. I doubt we’ll use the house again before Easter.”

“I won’t stay… I’ve still got my place, and my job. I’ll just enjoy the visit. I’m really tryin’ this time, Sook.”

There might have been some chance she’d succeed in settling down once Tino wasn’t part of the equation.

Sookie nodded. “I know… Do you feel up to walking with us as far as the nursery so you can point her out?”

Hadley immediately pushed back her bedding and slid to the edge of her bed. “You can’t really miss her. The nurses say she’s the only ginger in the nursery… Do we have any red-heads in the family?”

Sookie shook her head. “Not that I know of… I take it the father isn’t a red-head.”

“No, brown hair, but he’s fair. I guess he could’ve had red hair when he was little.”

Sookie opened the door for Hadley and asked, “Is he going to be a problem? Does he know about the baby?”

“I’m not sure he remembers we dated… Between his family and his friends, I was just fries on the side. I was going to tell him, but he blew me off to go out with the guys.”

Sookie sighed, “That’ll make the adoption easier at least…”

“He was weird… he’d fight with his friends if they looked at me the wrong way, but when it was just us it was like he was bored with me.”

Sookie mumbled, “Boys will be boys,” but when we stopped at the observation window for the nursery her breathing hitched.

Completely swaddled in a pink blanket and cap, the only thing to identify the baby as Hope was a little wisp of orange hair peaking out behind her ear.

“She… she really does stand out, Hadley.”

Hadley offered, “Six pounds, fourteen ounces. Nineteen inches long. Only ten hours this time.”

Her beaming was annoying at best… Any animal could fuck… No more than Hadley had done for Hope, she might as well have been bragging about a stain on a mattress. It didn’t matter that the baby would be better off surrounded by Vampires with a mother who travels (for work and through plains of reality). Hadley would have given Hope to anyone.

Sookie probed, “So… I’m curious about the father… Tim, right? Did he say anything about not wanting kids?”

“He didn’t want any of his own. He said he liked being an uncle. His brother has kids. He liked spoiling them and going home to a clean house. It made his mother crazy though.”

Sookie offered, “Pushy parents are fun... Daddy asked about grandbabies when Jas called to say he was moving in with Lauren. And your mom did it to me since she was with Daddy when I called him to tell him I married Allecks.”

Hadley giggled, “Even when she was sick, she was always so pushy…”

It must run in the family…

The thought had barely crossed my mind before Sookie’s elbow bumped my ribs. “You can think it, but don’t say it.”

“Say what? That blonde hair…”

“I’m going to get you.”

“And blue eyes…”

“I know where you sleep.”

“Stubborn streaks that run deep…”

“You’re about to find out what a purple-nurple is.”

“They aren’t the only Stackhouse characteristics? They’re pushy too? Say it isn’t so.”

Sookie gave me a look to remind me I’d been warned and then pinched my nipple. Hard. And didn’t let go.

I had to struggle to hold my fangs back. Sookie hadn’t thought for a second that a purple-nurple would be a tease.

This is a purple-nurple?”

Sookie tightened her grip as Hadley explained, “Naw, she’s taking it easy on you. Poor Jason’s were always so bruised he looked like he wore pasties… Do y’all have something like that in Europe?”

I nodded. “Vorspiel.”

Sookie gasped and let go to swat my arm. “Pervert.”

“You’re the one grabbing nipples in public…” And chewing necks in restrooms…

And suddenly I was contemplating the combination of activities in the back seat of her car.

“It’s not my fault you have nipples of steel. Everyone else I’ve ever purple-nurpled nearly cried.”

I shrugged. “My apologies… Are you going to finish the job? The other one is jealous.”

Sookie was actually blushing when Hadley giggled, “Y’all are cute together.”

Sookie snorted, “We’re anything but cute… I drive him up a wall.”

I nodded. “She doesn’t know how to keep her hands to herself.”

Hadley nodded. “And don’t forget that she comes off as really controlling…”

Understatement.

“I’ve been helped to death.”

But she means well and has a great rack?

I was completely prepared to agree with Hadley when Sookie scoffed, “I know you don’t want a purple-nurple.”

Hadley winced and crossed her arms to protect her chest. “Shutting up now.”

“Good… So, Calvin kidnapped the girls as soon as we were off the plane…”

Hadley grinned. “Bless his heart. Your Momma should’ve treated him better.”

“Amen… Everyone’s called dibs on me and the girls for the next couple of nights… but no one knew…”

Hadley interrupted, “It’s okay… I wasn’t expecting y’all either. I’m sure y’all are busy. I’ll be really happy to get as much visitin’ as I can.”

“Alright, I gue-”

Sookie interrupted herself, stopping short and putting her hand on my chest.

She breathed, “Look,” and nodded towards Hope.

From what I could see, the baby wasn’t doing more than squirming, and not enough we could see her face yet. Nothing spectacular. Babies squirm.

While Hadley watched the baby as though Hope had done something remarkable, Sookie patted the center of my chest and mouthed, “You.”

What about me?

After a moment of struggling, Hope finally seemed content to rest once she’d turned her head to look towards the window.

More wisps of orange hair at her forehead, large alert eyes… full cheeks and a tiny mouth.

A red-haired Kewpie doll.

Sookie used her phone to take a few photos and Hadley finally offered, “I can buzz the nurse if…”

Sookie shook her head. “Naw. You need your rest and if I get my hands on her now, I’ll try to stay the night… Poor Eric couldn’t find his way back to Bon Temps alone… So, smothered pork chops and dirty rice for dinner? You look like you need some home cookin’ and I’m looking for an excuse.”

Hadley nodded as Sookie gave her a hug. “Sounds great. I don’t ever bother with real food ‘cuz it’s just me.”

There was no shortage of tasks Hadley couldn’t be bothered with…

It was infuriatingly confusing… Being disgusted by her past, being willing to accept that Hope’s best option was Sookie, and finding Hadley to be relatively pleasant.

**

I couldn’t have gotten Sookie to the elevator soon enough.

I needed her to end my suspense by answering the questions I’d been saving.

She didn’t give me the opportunity… As soon as the elevator doors bumped to a close, Sookie grabbed my face with both hands. “That is probably the single coolest fucking thing in the history of ever!”

“You’re going to need to be more specific.”

“Hope. When she was squirming and worming, she was looking for you. She felt your mind.”

“That’s ridiculous. How would she know what she was searching for?”

“She wasn’t searching for you… Your mind kinda bumped into hers. She was focused on you, your mind. All of the sleeping babies in there and your bubble woke her up.”

“Did Lindy not react the same?”

“She reacted to Selma right away, but she was six months old at the time. We were shut ins for a while because I was laid up. And Mags liked Eric from the get-go, but he’d already been exposed to Him for a while since that Eric and Sookie got together while She was pregnant. Mags could probably sense Vampires before he hatched since babies are, at least somewhat, able to pick up on the world outside their mothers.”

Unbelievable.

“So while the doctors can confirm she’s healthy, you can confirm she’s telepathic, yes?”

She nodded as the elevator doors opened. “Incredible. I swear. When Sookie, the one that introduced us, said Eric is Mags’s favorite person, I was so curious… This is going to be huge.”

“How so?”

“Well, Brandon’s really interested because he’s planning on kids with Ashley. I didn’t meet Jason’s kids right away. The only real clue we got from Junior was that he couldn’t go to sleep while he was being held. And then when Finn and Lily were just a few weeks old, he started translating for them. Letting Jason and Lauren know what they wanted and whatnot…”

“Did you not pay attention to Lindy?”

Her jaw clenched and she shook her head. “I missed her first month for the most part. She went home from the hospital three weeks before I did. Even then I was on enough drugs to dope a horse… There’s plenty of us to wonder when it manifests or if it’s inherent.”

“And now you have an answer… Now explain Hadley.”

“What about her?”

“Were you over exaggerating because your history left you jaded or…”

Sookie’s eyes widened as she breathed, “Ohhhhhh… You want to know why she was alright.”

I nodded. “And why I can’t decide if I want to congratulate her for realizing she has less maternal instinct than a feral dog or dig a shallow grave for what she allowed to happen to Misty and Jenny.”

Sookie giggled, “Empathy is a funny little gift. It becomes advanced trigonometry in public. She probably won’t be as likable tomorrow night.”

“So explain the math.”

“She’s stoned, for starters. She’s cramping really bad so she’s on Percocet. But I’ll give her credit. She tried to avoid heavier drugs… So she’s at the hospital surrounded by new moms who just want what’s best for their babies. Whether they think it’s breast or bottle feeding, cloth or disposable diapers… that kind of thing…”

“Absorbing the ambient mood of best intentions made her realize she’s unfit.”

Sookie nodded. “You’re getting it… She’s disappointed in herself, but she really has been trying. When she pictured her apartment, it was clean. When she thought of Tino she was annoyed and angry… She thinks, and she’s probably right, that eventually, she’s going to end up with another dirtbag to fuck everything up. She wants to be forgiven. She wants us to like her. She wants a clean slate…”

“Hence my minimized annoyance.”

“Yeah… As soon as I said I’d take Hope, she thought ‘thank God’ on a loop. One of the reasons she didn’t call the family was because she didn’t want everyone to assume she couldn’t take care of things by herself. When she realized she couldn’t keep Hope, I was her first thought, but she didn’t want to burden me… She’s conflicted about everything right now. There’s a precious few Hadley’s in the journal who are awesome moms, but they had a grip on their ability and knew to stay away from bad influences… Anyway, she knows I’d kill anyone for hurting the girls and she knows they don’t want for anything. In her head, she’s being a good mother because giving them to me is why they’re happy.”

“Why not tell her she’s empathic? Surely, there are ways for her to be coached on her ability. Your brother could help since he seems to have some control.”

Sookie nodded. “Yeah. I’ve talked about it with the girls… They know that once Hadley gets a grip, she’ll want them back. They don’t trust her to keep her act together. Hadley burned that bridge. Our tentative plan is that once I’ve formally adopted them, we’ll tell her. They don’t want her to be able to win them back.”

“Fair enough…” As we walked through the emergency room doors to the parking lot, I asked, “How do you think her disposition will change once she’s at the flophouse?”

“Well, as long as Richard and Edward keep their distance, she’ll be alright until the girls are home. Hopefully Lindy and Jenny’s excitement over Hope will drown out Misty’s hostility.”

“Are you suggesting the boys have a strong opinion that could influence Hadley’s mood?”

She giggled, “Maybe a little… Since they’ve already decided to be their Makers and all.”

“You heard that, did you?”

She gave me a puzzled look. “They actually said as much?”

Uh oh.

“What were you referring to?”

“The jokes they were making last night in the kitchen.”

“Oh.”

She poked my side and shook her head. “Nuh-uh. Spill. What did they say?”

“Edward enjoys Misty’s cheekiness… Richard prefers Jenny. I’m sure it’s because she reminds him of Francesca.”

“They’ve gone as far as calling dibs!?”

And discussing how to nurture them once they’ve been brought over.

“Always preceding their claims by mentioning the girls’ wishes.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“I’ll discourage it if you’re adamant, but it seems harmless. They wouldn’t bring the girls over if they object. Francesca made them promise after the Revelation.”

Her eyes began to mist over as she shook her head. “No… Just… if you could ask them to stop joking about it.”

“It makes you uncomfortable, but you don’t want me to… I’m not sure I understand. One word to Francesca and she’ll command them…”

She shook her head. “Not that… I don’t want the girls to be desensitized enough to think it’s a little thing, like which shoes to wear…” She bit her lip when her chin began to tremble and climbed to her seat. “Everything is so askew for them… Mother is a dirty word. Father has no significance. Cousins are sisters, because that’s really where I am with them, a big sister… Maker is finite… If Edward and Richard are half as good to the girls as you were to Liz, then I’m gonna start thanking Gods I’ve never believed in that eventually they’re going to understand love and trust… Now get me out of here before I get so weepy I can’t make my to-do list.”

Granted, I was somewhat surprised when I thought Sookie was opposed to the idea. I knew better than to think she was opposed for the conventional fears… I assumed she might have been confused about details.

Instead… she showed an epic amount of understanding… and proved that the well from which her maternal instincts flowed runs deep.

Excited for two of her children to be brought over just to know they’d have a profound connection to someone.

I’m not sure how long I stood there, staring at Sookie before she snapped, “Heard that… Give me a few nights to level out over this. Eventually, I might be able to talk about it without leaking.”

**

While I drove back to Bon Temps, Sookie used her phone to make a list of the various errands and activities she needed to somehow wedge into her day.

She spent more time typing than thinking, so I couldn’t help but wonder if she was excitedly itemizing each and every item she’d need to care for the baby.

Pointing out that her emotions were a mystery to me proved to be a mistake… She’d shored up her shields when Hadley was originally mentioned out of habit of wanting to spare the children from her negativity.

As Sookie’s feelings came back to me, I very nearly drove into a ditch…

She was feeling a dizzying torrent of anxiety and optimism, abhorrence and approval… all mixed with her usual determination and arrogance.

When I joked that I preferred the numbness, she replied that I’d asked for it.

I opened the front door of the flophouse to see Richard standing in the archway between the foyer and living room in nothing but a towel, watching highlights of the Braves’ spring training.

He didn’t bother looking to see who’d just come in either.

Sookie set her purse on the table in the foyer, pushed her shoes off and placed them in the closet, went to the refrigerator and returned with a bottle of tea… and she sipped until most of it was gone before a commercial gave her an opening.

Sookie shook her head as she giggled, “You’re so funny. It’s just a game.”

He scowled, “Take that back. It’s an art. You try throwing a ball over 80 miles per hour hundreds of times in succession.”

“Been there, done that. I played baseball from the time I was 5 until I was 18. I pitched. Spring and Fall Ball. My brother is on scholarship for baseball right now. Even he’ll tell you it’s just a game.”

“The half-breed? Cheater.”

Sookie giggled, “I’ll make sure to do a signing in New York so I have an excuse to take in a game. I’ll let you know exactly how many of your precious Yankees are cheaters. I can tell you off hand that three are Weres… handsy Weres. Met them at a literacy benefit when the last book came out.”

He looked like he was going to cry. Supernaturally enhanced players were responsible for why the boys weren’t football fans.

“No. If you tell me, you’ll spoil the whole sport… You seem back to normal. How did things go at the hospital?”

She huffed, “By the time we got there, she changed her mind about keeping the baby. She’s going to be released from the hospital tomorrow and she’s staying here for a few nights. Then I’m taking Hope back to Eijsden with me.”

“You!? How did you get talked into taking another one of her unwanted children?”

“As opposed to letting a telepathic baby be raised by Humans? I tried to talk her into keeping it. She’s doing well enough that she could manage for a while, but the only thing she’s sure of right now is that she’s an asshole magnet. The baby is better off with family, with her sisters, with someone who understands her ability, with someone who can protect her…”

“With the Sookie annex of Children’s Village.”

Sookie shrugged. “In the telepathic wing. Hope’s only 24-hours old and she woke up just to inspect Eric’s mind. I can’t guess about where that puts her talent on a scale, but it doesn’t matter. Hadley can’t help her as much as Lindy could.”

He waved his hand dismissively and almost lost his towel in the process. “Yes, yes… telepaths together and all that. Tell me she had her cunt sewn shut.”

“Close enough. She had her tubes tied.”

“Not good enough… Eric, can you be talked into giving her to Clovis as a neighborly gesture?”

I shook my head. “We aren’t interested in having her so close.”

“So we’re waiting for her to OD?”

Sookie offered, “Actually, she’s sober. She’s been smoking, but other than that…”

“Ricky said she wanted something he didn’t carry. Tino’s place reeked of Vampire blood.”

“She asked for it when she bought weed from Ricky, but it was for Tino… Speaking of that cocksucker, how’s he doing?”

“Bloody mess, he is… screamed that the Rattrays gave him until next week to come up with the money he owes… and asked for his mommy.”

Sookie’s giggle was just evil as she kissed his cheek. “Awesome. Thank you… Daddy would have gone off half-cocked and he would’ve been too upset to be careful. I owe y’all one.”

“One each or do we have to deliberate on how to use it?”

She gave him a wide grin. “I know y’all could’ve handled it alone, but it’s a big enough deal to me that you get one each.”

“Good. We’ll take Misty and Jenny… Nothing against Lindy, but…”

Before he could finish, Sookie walked away with her throat clenched.

The look on Richard’s face was priceless. She might as well have hit him.

As soon as she closed her bedroom door, he breathed, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.”

“Give her a few nights.”

“Uh, a few nights to what? There are a lot of forks in that kitchen.”

Keeping a straight face wasn’t an option.

“She thought you were joking before. Apparently Gawain didn’t translate that part of the conversation from the plane.”

He whined, “Only if the girls want it… How mad is she?”

“She isn’t. She’s happy for the girls to have the opportunity… I suppose grateful would be the best way to put it.”

“So… so she just walked out because… not because she wants to stab us… she’s verklempt?

I nodded. “She only asked that you not mention it flippantly around the girls because she doesn’t want them to take their potential lightly.”

I was surprised Sookie hadn’t made fun of me; I’m sure I looked just as idiotic.

“You look like a stroke victim.”

“Brother and I were making jokes… hoping to gauge Sookie. We thought she’d be…”

“She’s Supernatural and Human, coexisting between both worlds. She appreciates more than I give her credit for.”

“Full of surprises, that one… Are you and Gawain going to fight over who gets to bring her over once you’ve both fucked her?”

Not funny.

“Where is Gawain?”

“Oh! The transparent change of subject… He’s milling about. I’m sure he knows you’re back. He’s just enjoying the weather…”

Edward emerged just in time for me to lose Richard’s attention when the commercial break was over… leaving me to quickly reiterate the details of my visit to the hospital so Richard could explain what Edward missed of spring training…

Once everyone was updated… I was idle enough to be bored.

That was a new problem.

**

I found Sookie lying across her bed on her stomach, studying the screen of her laptop in an interesting little pajama set…

She mumbled, “Are they going to tease me for being a sap about it?”

“No. They’re too preoccupied by praising your open-mindedness… I thought I could call Dinh for you once you have a list of things you’ll need for Hope.”

She grinned and nodded, but after a moment she bit her lip. “I… I can’t think of anything really.”

“A cradle?”

“Well yeah, but that’s not really a… I was thinking the girls would want to do that… The thing is, anything Hope needs for the next few months will be needed now. Clothing and bottles and little stuff like that. I’m going to have to get all of that in the morning.”

“Fuck… You have a crib here, but you’ll need something in Eijsden until you can go shopping.”

“Between the carseat and pram, she’ll be fine… Ohhhh… He could definitely get the ball rolling on a pediatrician. I’d like Hope to be seen as soon as possible. If he can find one, I can have Hope’s records sent from the hospital.”

“Does he need to be Supernatural?”

“Not for as diluted as she is. I know the hitches involved anyway.”

I nodded. “Stockpiles of milk? Do you want him to clear the room next to yours? I’m a little bare for suggestions. Things were very basic the last time I had anything to do with children.”

“It’s really sweet of you to try, but things are pretty basic for me too. Feed ‘em. Clothe ‘em. Clean ‘em. Love ‘em.”

“No spoiling?”

“Fancy little outfits are about as far as I go… And I’m going to look for hammocks while I’m out tomorrow. Apparently, it’s the only place Mags will sleep unless Eric’s holding him.”

“Dinh can look for one.”

She nodded. “Even if I find one here, a second wouldn’t hurt… In the meantime, I’m just browsing. Planning to order some things if they catch my eye. Just killing time until I’m calmed down enough to sleep really.”

As annoying as it was that I was without something to fill my time until dawn, at least I wasn’t the only one.

I left, explaining that I’d be back… found Edward still standing where I left him even though his brother had dressed and sprawled out to occupy the sofa… and returned with my laptop.

Sookie smiled and pushed herself up, offering a plug adapter and pointing towards the bedside table which was hiding a power outlet.

I spent eight minutes giving Dinh his short list of chores, and by the time I hung up Sookie had already placed a large order to a company named Gymboree.

Sookie let herself giggle when I set my phone down.

“Maybe I should have held the baby while I had the chance. Between Saskia and the girls, I might not get to hold Hope before she learns to walk… Does Saskia not realize how good your hearing is?”

I couldn’t help but be impressed by how heightened Sookie’s was.

“She usually just holds her breath when one of Dinh’s errands interests her. Perhaps she thought thousands of kilometers would diminish the cell signal.”

Sookie smirked, “Perhaps you’re about to learn that all bets are off when it comes to babies.”

“How so?”

She snickered, “Babies make perfectly sane people forget their manners… So what are you up to? Working a little before dawn?”

“I was going to help you shop.”

“Uh oh… You’re bored too? Idle hands are the devil’s playthings. It’s probably a bad idea for both of us to go on a clicking spree… Do you have any good movies on your computer?”

“Like porn?”

She slapped my leg and snorted, “Like something calm. I’m trying to settle down so I can get some sleep, remember?”

“Porn can help you relax.”

She giggled and took my laptop to browse… after a minute, her eyes lit up. “Ooooooh. You have portable Twilight Zone.”

“You’re a fan of a show that old?”

God yeah. Blame Calvin… You up for a few episodes?”

When I shrugged, pleased by the change of plans (at least I knew what I was doing when it came to watching television) she left the bed.

“Cool. I’ll be right back. I’m going to grab another drink. Get comfy and pick an episode. Anything but the Talking Tina episode. That doll gives me the heebie-jeebies.”

“The possessed doll upsets the girl who just told a Vampire to get comfy on her bed.”

She giggled, “I know right,” as she opened the door… a few seconds later, she laughed, “Oh my God! There had to be a commercial break long enough for you to go put pants on!”

Edward didn’t respond, so Sookie’s little feet pounded up the flight of stairs and into the room just over hers. She was still amused as she returned to the first floor and demanded his towel.

The washer opened and closed… Then the refrigerator…

She caught the boys’ attention by saying, “Roger Maris was a fraud…” then she giggled, “Just kidding. I wanted your attention to say goodnight. Thanks again.”

She sat next to me and took her computer to begin typing, asking which episode I’d chosen… I’d kicked my shoes off and leaned back against the headboard…

“I hadn’t gotten that far. Did you think of something else?”

“Just ordering flowers for Hadley. She responds well to being pandered to.”

In the amount of time it took me to decide on an episode, Sookie had ordered an arrangement and moved her laptop to the dresser.

For Sookie, getting comfy meant scooting over until her side was flush to mine and laying her head on my shoulder.

It took her less than a minute to identify the episode as Nothing In The Dark and cooed that Robert Redford made Death beautiful…

But it was the last thing she said until the episode was over… She was completely content to watch the show without offering any commentary and sniffling to make fun of herself for crying at the end. Apparently, it was sweet that Death didn’t want Wanda to be scared. His job would have been easier if he hadn’t taken the time to make her understand.

She chose the second episode, Five Characters In Search Of An Exit, explaining it was one of her favorites and ever since she’d begun using her ability again, she took the theme of the episode as a metaphorical view of Supernaturals… The characters were safe in the confines of their insulated circle, but the outside world couldn’t have been more oblivious…

And yes, she did cry again.

Thanks to the fresh perspective, it was almost like watching a new show…

We were watching The Hunt when Sookie started to slip… Her breathing deepened and her body leaned against mine as she sagged.

With the spring-training ridiculousness happening in the living room, I opted to stay where I was… I continued watching several episodes, entertaining myself by trying to guess how Sookie would take each theme and how it would make her cry.

By the time I needed to leave Sookie for my lightproof room, she’d snaked her arm over my stomach and curled her leg over mine… It made my exit without rousing her a major feat.

**

I’d only just settled on my own bed, when Gawain finally returned from the aimless wandering he was prone to in spring.

“It’s a tease to only be here for a few nights. I can’t believe the temperature. It’s February.”

“Sookie mentioned that winter is an out of town relative for this area. It only makes short visits. They enjoy prolonged summers instead.”

“It’s easy to see why other versions of You chose Shreveport.”

“I didn’t exactly… Liz chose Los Angeles. I’ve heard there’s no weather to speak of. Just warm and dry. From there We went to New Orleans for business interests. Our being there made LeClerq anxious enough to offer a Sheriff’s position. Those Mes chose Shreveport because it’s as far away from the weak little cunt as possible.”

“That sounds nice too… I wandered too far away to hear what happened at the hospital. By the time I was close enough, I could only hear baseball and Twilight Zone.”

“Hadley decided to put the baby up for adoption by the time we arrived. Sookie says she’s behaving responsibly enough to care for the baby right now, but Hadley has had the sudden dawning that it’s probable she’ll relapse. Sookie tried to convince her cousin to keep the baby, going as far as offering to help support them, but eventually, Sookie decided to take the baby.”

“Sookie’s taking another of Hadley’s children?”

“It’s either that or letting the baby be placed with strangers by an agency… Since Hope has already shown that she’s telepathic…”

What!? How?

“We were at the observation window and Hope awoke just to turn her head and focus on my mind.”

“So early? Did the other children show signs so early?”

“Not that anyone knows of, but it isn’t unlikely. Sookie’s ability was hindered by medication when Lindy was a newborn… But Lindy was only a couple of months old before Sookie began keeping notes. It’s what inspired the Notorious books.”

“That’s phenomenal… And you’re going to have an infant under your roof.”

“It will be easier to communicate with the baby than the boys at the moment. Sookie fetched pants for Edward because he was quite content to stand in the foyer in nothing but a towel.”

“And they’ll wait until the very last second to go to their room…” He tossed his shirt into the corner and flopped onto his bed. “So… Sookie…”

Lovely.

“You have no idea how happy I am to discuss Sookie… with you… while I’m trapped just before dawn.”

“Have you completed your bond yet?”

Fuck… I’d completely forgotten about it. Between the news of the baby and thinking about preparing it slipped my mind.

“No.”

“Is she having second thoughts?”

“Not that she’s mentioned. We were distracted.”

We’d have to complete the bond before our meeting with Isobel. I wasn’t going to take Sookie anywhere near strange Vampires unless I could stake my claim officially.

“Would you mind elaborating on what happened in the restroom at the bar?”

“Sookie used the toilet and then the Shifter cornered her.”

Very funny. I meant when you were together.”

“Why did you not just read her mind?”

“I did. She was thinking about the two of you fucking, but the details were off.”

“Her thoughts must have wandered.”

“You’re such an asshole. I know you were just trying to irritate me.”

“Not true. Sookie was using me to avoid Hoyt’s, albeit passive, advances. Irritating you was just a bonus.”

“Right. I’m sure feeding made that point to the oblivious Human who didn’t notice more than you’re slightly better looking than Allecks.”

“I’m much better looking. Uncultured redneck.”

Of course you are, princess.”

“Thank you.”

He rolled to his back and chuckled at the ceiling. “Fine. Even if you aren’t in a sharing mood, I am… I’ve noticed a few things.”

“Anything you’d earn a cookie for?”

“Maybe… You like her.”

“No. Sorry. No cookie. I would have told you that.”

“You enjoy having her… You enjoy her company… You aren’t annoyed by the children. You didn’t hesitate to go to rest with her. Your mood didn’t even change when you explained that you’d be taking yet another child back to Eijsden with you… You aren’t just tolerating her. You’re trusting her.”

“It isn’t trust when one can feel how genuine a person’s actions are.”

“Right… I suppose you don’t want to hear how she thinks of you.”

“Am I going to regret trusting her?”

“No… You know, I really am noticing a huge difference in your disposition.”

“Back to that? I’m not getting high on Faerie blood, asshole.”

“Faerie blood or not, something’s finally changing. You’re finally coming back to life, my friend, and we have Sookie to thank for that…”

I opened my mouth to call him melodramatic, but he held his hand up.

“Don’t say a word… Sookie’s bringing my old friend back. I respect her too much to just fuck her. You care for her… She’s yours.”

Mine.

Last Chapter   Story Home   Next Chapter

38 thoughts on “Chapter 16: A Little Hope

  1. Wonderful worth the wait I love that the princes want to turn the girls but we have to find one for Lindsay. Maybe Gawain will when she grows up. Keep it in the family so to speak.

  2. wow, so much going on in that chapter. Atleast Had made a good decision for once. I also loved Eric and Gawains man-to-man talk, especially the “she’s yours”. AWESOME

  3. Loved it. Good to see Hadley at least trying to do the right thing although i bet she slips back into her usual bitchiness again. Glad to see Gawain has realized how much Sookie means to Eric (or is coming to mean) and I bet Eric finds himself Hope’s best buddy like Mag’s does. Too cute!

  4. Loved it. even when Eric and Sookie have their differences. It’s more like their on a different chapter but still the same page. A lot different than when they first met. I agree with Gawin She is bring his old friend back.

  5. i am a little disappointed, i wanted the baby to be Hunter =( i am happy that Sookie gets to keep her though…and how little Hope reacted to Eric :D i think that Eric is really going to bust out of his shell because of the baby alone.

    awww love how Richard & Edward are fighting over the girls. but i think that if Misty does go over, she is going to pick Eric as her maker. hands down!

    omg, Richard & Edward’s reaction to baseball is just too funny. cute even. i loved that Richard almost cried after finding out that 3 Yankees are Weres. haha
    you know if anyone wanted to kill them, they just have to put on a game…i don’t think they’ll feel the stack :o j/k
    favorite quote for the is chapter: “Uh, a few nights to what? There are a lot of forks in that kitchen.” LOL

    thank freakin’ gawd, Gawain finally got through his thick head! She. Is. Eric’s. thanks for the update…it was worth the wait :)

  6. I love the idea that they might all be telepathic vampire family one day … that would be so awesome!!!

  7. This was a great chapter once again. I have a huge smile on my face right now and it is all because of you.I love how the Princes, Gawain and Eric are rallying around Sookie and the girls. What a great support system.They are all becoming a very unconventional family. I am glad that Gawain realizes that Sookie is bringing Eric back to life. Now a new baby into the mix. The vampires have not been trusted to be around babies so it will be great to see how they react to little Hope. I can understand why the girls are waiting to tell Hadley about being an empath. I hope that one day she will be able to have a happy life. Heck this verse is so full and yet there is so much you have left to tell. Eric has yet to meet Isobel. I am looking forward to more.

  8. Terrific chapter. Nice to see a slightly different Hadley too. Great to see Gawain realising how Sookie is changing Eric for the better. The ending was perfect and really made me smile :)

  9. This MONSTER of a chapter really should get 20 stars out of 5!! For a few different reasons. First, because it is such a long chapter, just like I like them. Second, thank goodness Gawain finally released that Eric and Sookie have a true connection. And Yay for Hope!! That poor baby did not need to be left with that crazy twat! I’m hoping at the very least that it will help Sookie heal from or maybe keep her mind off her miscarriage. Nothing and no one will ever take the place of the baby she lost, but hopefully Hope can take her to the next stage of grieving or healing, wherever she is in the process.

  10. I don’t think this Eric is even aware how much Sookie has changed him for the better. I wonder what Gawain picked up from Sookie’s brain while she was cuddled up with Eric. Apparently, it was enough to make him back off. Very interesting. This Sookie is so strong that I find it fascinating when she chooses to let Eric take the lead or help her. Can’t wait until Isobel. I have always loved her character.

  11. I already love little Hope. I’m glad Sookie is taking her. How could she not when the baby is a telepath. Love Gawain and Eric’s talk. Gawain needs someone. When Hadley isn’t messed up she’s sweet. She needs someone who can keep her on an even keel all the time. Since the Ratray’s are dealing V, I’d say the VIC (vampire-in-charge) in the area needs to know. I wonder if they actually killed Tino or just really roughed him up. Excellent chapter as always.

    Sounds like you’re nearly overwhelmed. I hope all goes well with your move. As much as I hope for more of any of your stories, I understand why they must be delayed.

  12. Oh, thank the gods! So glad Sookie is taking the baby. Even if Hadley were clean, it’s too likely she’d relapse and let someone hurt Hope. At least she recognizes it.
    Love the interaction with Gawain at the end. It’s good for someone other than Sookie to call Eric out on what’s obvious to everyone but him.
    Best of luck with all the RL changes. I can’t imagine trying to pack up and move a family of 8. Good luck!

  13. Such a wonderful chapter, don’t know how you do it! Can’t wait to see Hope’s effect on Eric! Love the brothers little baseball addiction, too funny. Gawain’s revelation at the end was the best…good luck with getting resettled.

  14. I love Gawain. He just a hard ass looking out for a friend. Misty seems Jen on becoming vampire but Jenny might benefit from being less vulnerable to those who would abuse her. Tino got off light.

  15. Looking forward to them completing the bond, and getting those adoption papers signed ASAP!! Suspecting Hadley may be exposed to a change in mood – Ratrays?- and try to pull a fast one to extort some more cash/perks. Such a shame they can’t inform Hadley of her condition. As crappy as her behaviour has been, I can’t help having some sympathy for her situation. If anyone had any right to claim they couldn’t actually help feeling/doing something, I guess it’s Hadley. :(
    Glad Gawain finally clued in…now it’s just up to S/E to figure it out. Thanks!!!

  16. A little ginger baby. I wonder if her attitude will be like her flaming hair :-) My late hubby was a redhead. He was of Irish/Italian descent and both his parents had dark hair. The gene must have skipped a generation because out of 5 kids, three had red hair. Love the name “Hope” I can’t help but think of Terri Botta’s story, “Hope is A Thing With Feathers”…..

    Sigh….I’m glad you’re staying within our fair Commonwealth. Are you staying in the Dahlgren area or coming further north? Would love to meet up with you and any other Brats that live in VA.

    Just lovin’ this story….
    Pat

  17. what a great chapter! I’m so impressed that you can be surround by such chaos in your RL and yet your writing remains exemplary! Your version of Sookie is my role model for life and after hearing that you have a family of 8 I guess that she is reflecting much of the wonderful author! Good luck on your move and I Hope ;-) that you’ll fit SOME writing into your days of packing and the like!

  18. loved the chaper glad that Sookie and Eric are taking Hope from Hadley and that Hadley was smart enough to get herself fixed, hopefully its irreversable, Major announcement of Gaiwan letting Eric know that Sookie is his and that Gawain will back off. The changes in Eric are immense and i see more happening……. until the visit from Hadley and the baby being brought home. my best Kristie

  19. I have to say that I let out a little fangirl squeal. Besides that, I can’t wait to meed Hope officially in the story and see how she reacts to Eric! I hope she acts like Mags!

  20. thank you for a great chapter, love that it was long and some things seem to be getting settled on a good track. I’m sure Dinh and Saskia will be very excited about having a baby in the house, and it may change Selma’s opinion of Sookie with Eric. I love that Edward and Richard are wanting to take charge of Misty and Jenny, funny.
    Hope your move goes well, it’s always a major pain packing and moving and I can’t even imagine it with 6 kids. You have to be supermom. Best of luck.

  21. oh I missed you so much. Three chapters how wonderful. It looks like Eric is starting to feel something. Will they finally see what every other Eric and Sookie sees?

  22. Thank god! I was worried that there was goon to be a Eric, Sookie, Gawain love triangle that was going to leave me disliking one of the characters, which would have sucked cause I love them all!

  23. I finally got the time to read this and was REWARDED with the chapter. It ended and left a huge smile on my face. Thanks

    -mags

  24. Very good. Sookie and Eric are so good together even when they’re not together yet. I love Richard & Edward.

  25. Of course Sookie’s Eric’s, I can’t imagine he’d actually allow Gawain to be with her. I love how Sookie was sprawled out on him, she’s so comfortable with him. The pic I dreamed up of them together was so cute. Little hope is only going to bring them closer. Can’t wait.

    Take your time, we’ll still be here of course sending gobs of moral support. I’m mentally helping you pack that box in the kitchen with all the bowls and that one pot. ;-)
    There are these clothing boxes you might want to look in to. You take your clothes from the closet still on the hangers and hang them in the box just like that. No folding or wrinkling. Easy as 123 and a hell of a time saver.

  26. Wow. Excellent chapter. Glad to see Hadley is making at least SOME responsible decisions. And thoroughly enjoyed the chat at the end between Gawain & Eric.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s