The Away Team
My eyes weren’t even open before I realized my arms were around Sookie. Beautiful.
I was spooned up behind her, still on the couch. Confusion started to set in when I realized that light was starting to come in through the window.
We’d slept on the couch all night?
She found my hand with hers and hugged it under her chin. “Not quite.”
“Did your singing hypnotize me that well?”
She giggled sleepily. “Funny story.”
I kissed the side of her neck. “I’m listening.”
“Well, Ave Maria is a very successful lullaby, as long as you’re registered to vote. You and Alc were both out like lights before it was over.”
I laughed. “What about the boys?”
“After American Pie, Tiny Dancer and Moonlight Sonata they finally gave up the fight.”
“Think they were worried about court?”
“How do you see things going?”
“In Alc’s favor.”
“Care to elaborate?”
“Nope. Don’t wanna jinx it.”
I gave her a slight squeeze since a hug didn’t seem possible. “Good girl… So how hard did you try to get me to bed?”
“I didn’t. You were so content, I didn’t want to wake you.” Sweet.
“So you just grabbed the comforter and laid down with me, huh?”
“Uhhh, Cliff’s notes version?… Sure.”
I laughed. “What in God’s name did you do then?”
“You went right back into action, huh?” Such a brat.
“I did some housework, put breakfast together and turned the leftovers from dinner into chicken salad.”
She started laughing. “Is that a compliment or a complaint?”
I bit the back of her shoulder. “Both… If you’ve already done housework and breakfast, what’s left to do this morning?”
She rubbed back into me. “We’re pretty much at recess.”
Thank God. “What do you have in mind?”
“We could say goodbye to the bathroom. It’ll be gone by the time we get back to the house.”
“That might be a problem. All five of us using one bathroom.”
She giggled and pulled my hand up to her mouth, nibbling on the tip of my thumb. “We’ll manage. You’re the shower hog.” Breathing… nibbling…
“Am not. When you’re not with me, I’m in and out in 10 minutes.”
Using one hand to hold mine, she reached behind her to start stroking me… “When I am with you, you’re in and out… in and out… in and out… until the only word I can remember is ‘Eric’… in and out… until I can’t think of anything before I met you… in and out… until I’ve cum so many times my body grabs your cock so it’ll stay in me forever… in and out… until I need ‘in’ more than air and ‘out’ scares me…”
With every ‘in’ her hand rubbed down my dick, with every ‘out’ she stroked up, stopping to press into the sweet spot… her breath warming my palm… her teeth teased at every pause… Mmmm… Ffffuck…
“…If you’re trying to blame me for the water bill then I want the chance to defend myself… it’s not my fault that I get wet thinking about how good you taste… it’s not my fault that I can’t resist you… it’s not my fault that my hands feel empty without the weight of your cock in it… it’s not my fault that my ears ring at the way you grunt when you bottom out in my throat… it’s not my fault that my thighs crave how they feel when you’re between them… that my hips feel cold without your hands on them… that when you slap my ass, I throb. Mr. Northman. The long showers are your fault… Your heat pressing me into the cool tile… the water running over us… mixing together our sweat and cum… the echo of grunting, groaning, moaning within the hard walls… the splash when our bodies slap together… I’ll never get bored with the way you wear me in the shower… I’ll never shower alone again and not feel you with me.”
I waited, hoping she would keep talking… just hoping. I was already breathing hard into her back. My jaw hurt from clenching, afraid any noise might make her stop. My mouth was dry and my throat needed clearing… “Sookie?”
She whispered, breathed my name back to me… drawn out and hot against my wrist… Ffffuck…
“Go start the shower.”
I was hot on her heels and pulling off my shirt as I made my way down the hall.
Without a window, the bathroom was pitch black and when I found the switch to turn the light on, nothing happened.
I heard Sookie giggle from near the sink. “I stripped the bathroom already… Think we can manage?” Housework… emptying the bathroom for the remod. Shit.
“I might need some help.”
“I thought you’d ever ask.” There was something mischievous in her voice…
I felt her finger tips brush my arm and slowly trail up, sending goosebumps across every bit of my skin… her fingertips were the only thing in the room.
Her fingertips and the floor under me…
… to my shoulders…
I couldn’t hear her breathing.
… feathering across my back…
I couldn’t feel her moving.
…down my side…
Then… nothing. I was short of breath again.
…my belt opening… snaking out of the loops… dropping to the floor…
I wasn’t afraid to move. I was afraid moving would ruin it… this… fuck.
Nothing. No sound. No movement.
Her touch was the only thing anchoring me to sanity. Every time she pulled away, even briefly, there was loss. Ache.
…fingers into the sides of my jeans… pushing them down…
She pulled away again.
I could feel my heart hammering in my chest.
I could feel the steam building in the room around us.
Hot. Moist. Only around the tip of my dick.
Nothing anywhere else. Just her lips…
…then her hand…
Brushing down my stomach… along my shaft… squeezing the tip…
Gone again. I whimpered.
Seeing spots in a dark room.
…fingers… slow fingers…
On my ear… down my neck… shoulder… arm… tickling little circles… my hand…
She laced our fingers together, giving a gentle tug.
“Follow me, love.”
Small, slow, careful steps…
…stepping into the tub…
…still holding her hand…
…a nibble on my chin…
Her hand in mine. That was it.
Under the water, all I felt was her hand in mine.
That was all I felt until her other hand grabbed me.
Grabbed and stroked.
Not soft. Not a hint. No tease.
Hard and sudden. My knees tried to buckle…
…pulling and stroking…
Never breaking contact.
…working her thumb over the tip…
…slick, rhythmic, tight…
I let her hand go to brace myself against the wall.
…her leg slid up the outside of mine, drawing us together…
…rubbing the head of my cock against her clit…
I grabbed her legs and yanked her onto me, using the wall to hold her up while I pushed in.
Her arms went over my shoulders and she growled. “FuckEric…”
I grunted into her neck…
In and out…
She was gasping.
“fuckeric… fuckeric… fuckeric… fuckeric…”
…closing in around me…
The tighter she got the better ‘in’ felt and the more ‘out’ hurt…
Her back arched away from the wall. Her nails dug in. Her ankles locked together behind me.
…so tight, I couldn’t move…
…grabbing so hard, I didn’t have to move…
We were both holding our breath while her tense and release finished us both.
Cum and sweat.
The water was barely warm enough to wash by the time we were done and I was still out of it as we dried off.
I was pulling a pair of sweats out of our dresser when I realized Sookie was watching me.
She smiled when I looked up at her. “You alright?”
I smiled at her. “Other than being ruined, I’m great.”
“Ruined? You seem to be in perfect working order to me.”
“Except power outages will make me hard now.”
She pulled her lips in over her teeth, trying not to laugh at me.
“I’m trying not to.”
“No you’re not. You’re only trying to look like your trying not to laugh.”
She giggled. “I’m sorry.”
“No you’re not.”
She came over to me, still wrapped in her towel and put her arms around my ribs. “I won’t do that again if you don’t want me to.”
I started shaking my head. “I didn’t say that!”
“Then what are you saying?”
“I’m saying that was weird and confusing and fucking amazing.”
She put her face into my chest and laughed. “Makes you look forward to hurricane season, huh?”
“Fuck waiting. It makes me want to board up the windows now.”
She gave me a kiss and swatted my ass. “I was worried that it freaked you out.”
Yes… but in a very fun way… amazing…
Sookie was standing at her closet in a t-shirt and yoga shorts, planning her outfit for the day when my phone rang from the bathroom floor. She sang along, bobbing her head playfully. “Anchors aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh…”
Six o’clock here meant 4 o’clock there, so I couldn’t help but wonder… “Hey Dad. What’s wrong?”
“Shit. I didn’t mean to wake you… I told you it’d wake him up, Deb… We just got in and Deb wanted me to let you know. I was going to leave a message.”
“Smom told you to call?” I hit the speaker button and laid the phone on the nightstand while I made the bed.
“Well, I wanted to, but I was gonna wait until it was human time.” As opposed to ‘navy time’.
I chuckled. “We’re up. Why are you just now getting in? You should’ve been home before the news.”
“Snow in Denver. No visibility.”
“Oh. Bummer. Otherwise?”
“Otherwise, everything was good. Slept through Quantum Of Solace again. I don’t think I’ll ever see the whole movie.”
I chuckled. “I swear, it’s the score. It’s hypnotic.”
“No shit. Look, I needed to tell you something… I didn’t forget about Meme’s ring.”
“With everything going on around the house, I didn’t know how you wanted to handle things. I left it in the back of the top drawer of the high boy in the guest room. I didn’t figure Sookie was likely to trip over it that way.”
When Sookie heard that, she backed up a couple of steps and gave me an excited look. She stared at me for a minute, biting the corner of her lip and then… without warning, she took off like a shot, running to the front of the house.
“Shit! Dad! Sookie heard you. Gotta go!”
I ran after her, as fast as I could… god damn old house… fucking tight corners… “Sookie stop!”
When I got to the bottom of the stairs, she was smiling down at me from halfway up. “Why?”
“Because I say so.”
She giggled and took a step back so I took a step. “If I see it, will it spoil a plan?”
I shook my head and she took another step back… and I matched her. “We need to talk about it first.”
“Because I don’t know what you’re picturing. I don’t want you to be disappointed.”
“Why would I be disappointed?”
“Because…” Shit. I didn’t really know how to answer that. “If you don’t like it, I’ll make an excuse to Dad and get you something else.”
She lifted her foot to take another step… I followed. “Eric, why did Meme give you the ring?”
“I was the only grandson.”
Another step. “Boys give the rings, girls get them.”
I nodded. Then I blurted, “Sookie, it’s not a diamond.”
She smiled and we took another step. “Good. I had one already. It meant JackShit. Did your Meme like the ring?”
“Yes, but the story is why she liked it.”
“A story? REALY!?” Her eyes lit up and the step she took this time was faster.
I couldn’t help but smile at her. “Sookie…”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Did I ever show you my favorite jewelry?”
Fuck. Another step. “No.”
“It’s a pair of little stainless steel piercing studs. A heart and a star.”
“You’re going to tell me why, right?”
She nodded and we took another step. “Tara and I were 12. She’d been on pins and needles for weeks because all she wanted for her birthday was to get her ears pierced. That’s it. She told her mother that she didn’t want cake or presents or a party or a special dinner. Just an hour at the mall and the twenty dollars to get her ears pierced. She didn’t even spend the night before over at our house because she wanted to be home all day. So she wouldn’t miss the chance to go if her family was short on time. I expected a call from her as soon as she got home, but it didn’t happen. She fell asleep on the couch waiting for her parents to come home. They never did. Her mom and her stepfather went out of town without telling her and without remembering her birthday.”
“So where’d the earrings come from?” Another step.
“She walked the 8 miles from her house to mine the next morning. Tara didn’t even have the chance to explain. When Daddy saw that her ears weren’t pierced, he told us both to get in the truck. He took her to the mall to get them pierced. Mine had been pierced when I was a baby, so when Tara got some last minute jitters I volunteered to get my second set done. Neither of us could decide, so we got both and switched. We both had one star and one heart. Daddy held our hands while we had it done and then took us to the salon to get our nails and hair done. That was the first time Tara’s hair had ever been done in a salon too. And when we go out for her birthday every year, we wear them.”
“How much later did she come to live with you?”
“She never went back.”
“Over an ear piercing?”
“No.” Another step. She was close enough to reach the drawer and I was still at the foot of the bed.
“Another time. Focus.”
I laughed and took a much bigger step this time. “I was focusing. You were telling a story.”
“It’s your turn.”
“My turn to what?”
She reached for the drawer and I took another long stride. “Your turn to tell me why this ring is going to disappoint me if I don’t hear the story.”
I stared at her trying to remember the story. Making sure I had the details right… “My grandfather was in the Navy too. He was stationed at San Diego and some of his shipmates dragged him along to Santa Barbara over Memorial Day weekend. He didn’t really want to go, but he figured he’d end up driving up to bail at least one of them out anyway. He was sitting out on the beach with his friends when he saw my grandmother. Jeanette. She’d come down from one of the big houses with 3 small children to let them splash around. I’ll get Marnie to scan the picture Dad has. She was beautiful. Anyway, he watched her walk away until he couldn’t see her anymore and he spotted her as they were heading back. He was still watching her when she fell. He got up and started walking over to her, thinking she twisted her ankle. When he got to her, she was bleeding. She stepped on something in the sand. He ended up pulling a piece of glass out of her foot. He carried her home. Her family left France during World War II and she was working as a nanny for a family that lived on the beach. The parents were at a party so he helped her dress the cut on her foot and then sat on the deck until someone got there to help her with the children.”
“Awww. That’s sweet.”
I smiled at her. “Well, no one seemed to care that she was hurt so the next day he went back to check on how she was. They both went back to life after the weekend, and he wrote her a letter and asked how she was about a week later. A little while goes by and he gets one from her, thanking him for being so kind. They swapped letters back and forth for a few months before he asked if he could see her again and he started driving up every other weekend. The next Memorial Day weekend, he showed up to visit her with a long tube used for storing navigation maps with a bow around it. When she took the cap off, there was a string attached. Every couple of inches there was a note with just a word or two on each one. ‘One day I’ll give you the world, but for now all I have is my heart.’ At the end of the string was the key to the house he rented and the ring.”
Sookie’s chin puckered and she started crying. “That… It’s so… It could be a trash bag tie and I’d marry him!”
I laughed. “They eloped that night. About a year later my aunt Jolee was born. Then Jacqueline, Julia and Dad’s the baby. 4 kids in 6 years.”
“You’re killing me!”
I laughed and reached into the drawer taking out the box. “Promise, you’ll tell me if you don’t like it.”
Her eyes were on the box and I was waiting for the promise. She still had tears in her eyes when she looked up at me… and punched me in the shoulder. “Damn it! You could ghost write for Hitchcock. The suspense is killing me.”
“Eric… not that it matters because I would seriously wear a piece of string after that story, but I promise to tell you.”
I took a cleansing breath. Nervous as shit. My fucking hands were even shaking. I was edgy enough that it made me feel better when she started crying again as I dropped to one knee. “Alright then… Sookie Stackhouse, you’re perfect and it’d kill me to lose you. Will you marry me?”
She laughed through her tears. “You won’t stop stalking me though, right?”
I smiled back. “Of course not.”
She sat down on my knee and gave me a kiss. “Absolutely. I can’t wait. 36 days and a wake up.”
“You’re counting down?”
“You bet that sexy ass of yours. I’ve never been more excited. Now show me the ring I’m wearing for the rest of my life.” What a brat.
I opened the box and put it in her hand, watching her face. She looked… curious. She squinted at it as she took it out of the box. I watched her look it over, more examining it really.
“He MADE it?”
I nodded. “He used ‘hard solder’ because it’s mostly silver, but a few years later he bought jewelry grade wire.”
She smiled at the ring without looking up at me. “Is that glass? It looks like… Is this THE piece of glass?”
I nodded at her. Worried that glass was the last thing she’d want on her finger considering how many pieces she just pulled out of her body. But she started crying again… with a huge smile on her face.
“Fuck! I wish I hadn’t seen it now!”
“Because now the waiting will be harder. I love it. I really do… Don’t tell Tara, but our earrings just got bumped from the top of my list.”
I laughed at her. “You don’t have to wait. I’m still getting a band for you.”
“No you’re not. This is perfect. I’ll wear it alone.”
“Of course I am.”
“You don’t even want one of those… Shit, what are they called… that would go between two bands…”
“A jacket. No. Don’t want one. It would take away from the ring.”
“Eric, even without the story, this ring is perfect.”
“I love it.”
“Then without the story, tell me what you like about it.” Somehow her perspective on shit helps…
“For starters, it’s blue/green. Definitely a perk. I love the way the wires twist around until you can’t tell where they start and stop. And I love that it came from the beach. I love mermaid’s tears. I grab a few more every time I go to the beach.”
“Really? You’d rather have sandblasted soda bottles than diamonds or sapphires?” I knew she wasn’t preoccupied with fancy things, but… Engagement rings are supposed to elaborate. Right?
“Rationally… What’s the difference? Only time can make either. Emotionally… mermaid’s tears are uncomplicated. Simple and beautiful. They’re like fingerprints. All of them are different and the coolest thing about them, to me anyway, is that they’re spared judgment. Gems get rated and categorized and cut apart to ‘improve’ them. They’re stolen and killed for… Mermaid’s tears just are. No one judges them or complains that they’re ‘flawed’.”
I smiled at her. “You’re being too deep again.”
She giggled. “You asked for it… Sand is collected. Heated and purified. Forced into molds. When it’s no longer of use, it’s discarded and broken. It’s beaten and buried. And one day it makes its way to the surface and when you bend over and pick it up, you don’t think about all that. You don’t ask yourself about what it was a piece of, or who tossed it aside. You marvel at how the rough edges are smoothed away and that it feels heavier than it should. If you never found out its history, you’d still appreciate it.”
I smiled at her. Couldn’t help it. “I didn’t think I’d ever hear a philosophical perception about beach glass. Why don’t we like gemstones then?”
She giggled at me again. “It’s not that we don’t like them. We feel sorry for them. Mined and forged. Selectively graded and harshly appraised. Cut down and made to fit, made for show. Only brought out for special occasions and even then only until something better comes along. They’re the ‘first wives’ of the jewelry world.”
I laughed at her. “This is good shit.”
She gave me a kiss. “Truth be told, if the mood ever strikes you to buy jewelry for me, go with minerals and the ocean. Pearls, abalone, opals, ammolite… But this is perfect.”
She sat on my leg, staring into the ring for a few more minutes before demanding that I take it and hide it from her. Otherwise she’d obsess over it for the next ‘874’ hours.
I was closing the lid on my ammo case over the ring box when I heard Reveille being played on the piano. Loud and fast.
When I got to their door, all three Herveauxs were standing next to the bed, stretching and yawning. He flipped me the bird.
“Think it’s funny that she knocked me out?”
“Yes, but just because she got me too. Turns out, these two lasted 3 more songs.”
Jack laughed at us. “Y’all were snoring.”
Carm added, “LOUD.”
“I was not!”
Jack and Carm shared a glance and when they looked at me, they both seemed like they wanted to call ‘bullshit’. They grabbed their clothes and went to the bathroom to get dressed instead.
“I know you do… Do I snore?”
“Like a fucking belt sander.”
I snorted at him. “I’m surprised you slept when chain smoking and pacing were available.”
“Me too, but I figure even if the order doesn’t pass, we might be able to set up some ground rules. Regular phone calls and planned visits. Something they can see coming. This out of the blue shit’s gotta stop.”
“You taking them to court?”
“No. They want me to let them know as soon as we’re done, but they don’t want to see her again. They say ever.”
“That won’t last forever though.”
“If she keeps acting like this it will.”
“If she keeps acting like this, they won’t have to see her.”
In the kitchen, things were like they were before the avalanche of drama landed on the house. Sookie was standing at the stove multitasking and the boys were arguing over who forgot to zip the bag of cheese closed. Alcide was watching them. And I was enjoying the buzz.
‘There isn’t a ‘back’ button…’. Moving on and not letting it get to them. Her unique perspective and music therapy sessions were going to get the three of them through this shit… I’ll be damned. I know it wouldn’t work for everyone, but it was working for them.
Sookie put plates with bacon, scrambled eggs, toast and fruit salad in front of the boys…
The plates she put down in front of Alc and me though… Colossal sandwiches. I have big hands, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick it up.
“Hon, is there anything NOT on this sandwich?”
She laughed and came over to me with a knife, cutting mine in half and then Alc’s. “I made bread last night.”
“And slaughtered a pig, robbed a garden…” I probably shouldn’t have been teasing her considering the size of the knife she had, but she can only kill me once, right?
“I was just going to make bacon and eggs, but I worked up an appetite… fresh cheddar jalapeno bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato, swiss cheese, horseradish mayo and fried eggs. Breakfast BLT. Eat before your yolks go cold.”
She didn’t have to tell me twice and Alc was already chewing by the time I was done teasing her. He moaned. The goon. Public food-gasms.
We were all hunched over our plates about halfway through our sandwiches (well, Alc was halfway done with his second) when our phones all went off with a text alert.
All of us stopped chewing. Frozen.
Sookie looked at us. “I’m NOT looking. Y’all draw straws or something. Nothing good ever happens when everyone’s phone goes off at the same time.”
Alc and I pulled our phones out at the same time and bit the bullet.
“I’m gonna miss breakfast. Shit came up. I’ll see you at the courthouse. FYI: Amelia got a lawyer. She’s asking for custody. Don’t sweat it though. She won’t get it.”
I set my phone next to Sookie so she could read the message and watched Alc.
“I get dibs on his breakfast.”
Not another word. Not about the text. The boys were still home. He stewed.
He stood at the front door and watched Hadley and Hunter take the boys to school and as soon as they were out of sight, he lost it.
“THAT FUCKING CUNT! SHE THREW THEM AWAY! SHE’S GOT NO FUCKING RIGHT!”
No shit. As pissed as I was for him, I tried to stay calm. “You’re right. She doesn’t and the judge will see through her lawyer’s bullshit.”
“What if he doesn’t? Depending on how old school the guy is, she could be covered in track marks and still get them! We’ve seen that shit happen.”
“That case came down to the lesser of two evils. You’re stable and she’s not.”
“That twat Octavia is behind this shit. She’s had it in for me since I knocked Amelia up and ended her little Club Buddy thing.”
I nodded. “She probably got the lawyer, but Amelia is the one asking for custody. You pissed her off and now she’s punishing you.”
His eyes got wide. “Eric, if she gets those kids, they’re going to go nuts…”
“Don’t do that. You need to calm down. We don’t know anything yet. We’ll know more in court. You know damn good and well Laf won’t just let anything happen.”
I nearly dropped to my knees and thanked God when I heard Sookie whistle and slap her leg from our room, calling us both.
Black leggings, black boots with a high heal, snug light pink sweater that covered from her wrists to her hips. She can manage sexy even when every part of her was covered.
She smiled when we filled the door and came over to take Alcide’s hand. “I’ve got the medicine that’ll cure your ills.”
“I don’t see how.” He was snarling. It wasn’t at her… But Amelia wasn’t here.
“Am I going to have to hit you again?”
He didn’t answer her, he just let her lead him over to the computer chair.
“Sit down and enjoy the show.”
“I have to get dressed.”
“Yeah, you do. But you need some ‘I-know-something-you-don’t-know’ so you can stomach the shit Amelia and her lawyer will hash up.”
She smiled at him. “A piece of brain candy. Something to think about when she starts being nasty so that you don’t flip out and go postal.”
“What could she say though?”
“That you’re a whore. That you’re fucking me. That you’re an abusive father. That you beat her. Have a drinking problem…”
“And your reaction will say more to the judge than her accusations. This isn’t going to be the same kind of court you’re used to. You’ll have to stay calm… This will help.”
She grabbed the remote for the TV and switched to another input signal and hit a button on her keyboard…
I sat on the side of the bed and watched a surveillance video… Jack crashing into Sookie… Carm climbing Alc instead of greeting his mother… her lunacy… his calm… Carm’s breaking point… Jack’s meltdown… the slap… The sound quality was even good.
When it was over, she turned the chair so he was facing her. “Feeling better?”
She giggled. “Daddy made me put them in when Bill bought the property next door. I forgot I have them until Daddy mentioned it last night.”
He smiled at her when she handed him a fistful of disks and then spun the chair and shoved it towards the door. “Keep that smile on and go get into your ‘grumpys’.”
I closed the door behind him.
She giggled. “You want a ride in the computer chair too?”
Funny. “No. It’s my turn to be handled.”
She laughed out an ‘excuse me?’ while I walked over to hug her. “I handled you first thing this morning… for over an hour, I might add.”
“So. You handled him three times. I’m jealous.” I even stomped my foot to add to the joke.
“Do you think it’s working? Wait… What did you catch?”
“Yes. It’s working pretty well… Uh, you played Reveille, reminding him of the Corps; when he had to be alert and calm under fire. You made those comfort food mountains… and you just reminded him of another father who looks out for his kids.”
“Ooooh, your catching on. Maybe too quickly.”
I didn’t trust the look on her face. “I missed something, didn’t I?”
She winked at me, dimples and all. Brat. I bent to kiss her and her hands fisted into my sweats. Mmmm. Fuck… “No time to play?”
Oooh. Intrigued. “On what?”
She yanked my pants down to my ankles and slipped around me, running out the door before I could pull them back up.
She fucking PANTS’d ME!
I yelled at the closed door, “How old are you!?”
She cracked the door and stuck her head in. “Old enough… nice ass.”
I tossed a shoe at the door and she was gone again. Brat.
I was still laughing while I got changed…
I heard her laughing from the living room….
She distracted me from being pissy about wearing a suit.
She snickered her way through tying my tie and straightening my ‘gig line’.
We saw Kevin standing out front of the courthouse right away. He was in uniform and standing on the sidewalk. Travel mug in one hand, cigarette in the other. He either had a very funny imaginary friend or he was playing with his Bluetooth that incidentally made him look like a Vulcan.
“Hey Sook! Rachel says ‘hey ho’.”
She held her hand out. “Gimmie that. I wanna hear why I didn’t get to dance with you Saturday night!”
“Aww. You don’t need to talk to her to know I was ‘misbehaving’.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her.
She started laughing and snatched the earpiece from his head. “I’ll purple nurple you, D&D. Watch yourself.”
He chuckled as she turned away and started chatting. “Not when I’m wearing the vest, Cherry.”
Alc gave him the high eyebrow. “Dungeons and Dragons?”
“Drunk and Disorderly. Long story.”
“Long story short then.”
“Don’t ever bet with a Stackhouse.”
There was no warning… Alcide started rolling… holding his ribs, laughing from his toes, too fucking amused to make fun of me any other way. Asshole.
He was allowed. Just for today.
Kevin looked confused and since Alc was still wheezing out his hysterics, I was left. “I lost a bet to Sookie. A piercing.”
He turned just in time to not spray us both down with coffee…. Now I looked like the driver for the ‘short bus’. Retards.
“What did you lose?”
“Sookie made you get a tattoo?”
He shook his head like a doctor delivering bad news. Shitshitshit. “CJ did. Ms. Pac-Man; Left Nut. Pretzel on the right.”
Nothing. I had nothing. I was fucked. No getting out of it. Shit.
Sookie came back and handed his Bluetooth back. She smiled at the hyenas, and then cocked her head to the side. “What’s wrong?”
“Kevin was just explaining his nickname… and that betting with any Stackhouse is a bad idea.”
She pouted her lip at me sympathetically and put her arm around my back. “You won’t hate me forever.”
Pouting like again…
…like a mother fucker.
Lafayette got to the courthouse with 3 minutes to spare. Giving us just enough time to get to courtroom number 5 and sit down.
Not enough time for Alc and Laf to discuss anything before Amelia was led in and placed in her seat.
She snarled at Alc as she was put on her side of the room, next to a lawyer in a nice suit with cowboy boots and her slutty friend.
There wasn’t a smooth part of Octavia’s body. Little rolls and cellulite everywhere. It was only accentuated by the fact that she dressed like Kelly Bundy.
Octavia looked more like a panelist for a ‘baby daddy’ episode of Springer.
Laf… he looked good enough that I said something, but he told me that I should buy suits that come with a blow job because I looked like I had a stick up my ass.
From our seat behind Alc and Laf, Sookie and I watched the ‘away team’ huddle together, frantically whispering and plotting.
Alc and Laf calmly went through the papers that Amelia had given him when she said goodbye to the kids.
Our attention was grabbed when a door behind the bench swung open.
A tall, thin brunette with glasses came through it, clutching a laptop to her chest and taking the clerk’s seat.
Followed by a deputy that couldn’t be much taller than Sookie, but weighed as much as me. His arms didn’t fall to his sides. They rested on them. He looked like a He-Man action figure.
“All rise. The honorable Judge Sarah Holiday Compton presiding.”
We all stood, Alc shot an alarmed look over his shoulder to Sookie when we heard the judge’s name, but she winked at him.
As the slim, salt and pepper haired woman took her bench, she banged her gavel and scanned the room, stopping at Sookie… 4 times. Her face was unreadable.
Then she started, directing her attention to Amelia’s lawyer. “Mr. Wybert. I understand that you are from the Dallas area.”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Have you passed the BAR in my great state of Louisiana?”
“No, your honor.”
She nodded without looking at him. “Then be warned. Your being here without proper credentials makes me question your professionalism and as such misconduct will be taken as disrespect and/or contempt. Are we clear?”
“Yes, your honor. Crystal. Thank you.”
She started shuffling through a few papers and spared a glance at Alcide and Laf. “Sweetness, I’m going to need your help so that I don’t ruin your name. Is it Her-VEE-Oh?”
Alc cleared his throat. “Yes, your honor.”
“Alright then, Mr. Herveaux has requested a restraining order to prevent Mrs. Herveaux from contacting the minors Jackson (age 8) and Carmichael (age 4). Mrs. Herveaux, explain how it is that your children ended up in his custody in the first place.”
“He transferred to Bon Temps and then took them with him.”
“Without your consent?”
Judge Compton didn’t seemed entertained, just annoyed. “Mrs. Herveaux, half answers won’t do anything but encourage me to get all of my answers from someone else. Did he have your consent to bring the children 350 miles from your home in New Orleans or not?”
“I let him. He told me he was going to come get them and I was afraid to tell him ‘no’.”
“Why were you afraid?”
“Because of how he gets when he’s angry.”
“Last warning about half answers. You are implying that you have a reason to be afraid of your husband.”
“He’s a killer.”
The judge started chuckling and flipped through the file. “6 years as a Marine, 3 as an Officer on the Dallas force, 2 as Dallas SWAT and now 5 as an FBI agent… Mr. Herveaux, would you mind taking your jacket off please?”
He stood up and took his jacket off and laid it over the back of his chair and stood with a bewildered look on his face. As the judge smiled at him and told him to take his seat.
“He could bruise you without thinking about it. Do you have any evidence or testimony?”
The judge rolled her eyes. “Mrs. Herveaux, do you have any medical or photographic evidence that he has ever caused harm to you or your children?”
“He broke Jack’s collarbone.” That fucking bitch! That was… Biting my tongue.
“Explain how that happened.”
Amelia stammered and so the judge looked at Alcide. “Mr. Herveaux, did you harm your son?”
“When did this happen and how?”
“A year ago March, we went to a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Carm was sitting on my shoulders and when Jack stumbled in front of a float I knocked him out of the way because there wasn’t time to put Carm down and keep him from getting run over. He landed on the side of a cooler.” He left out that when he couldn’t get a hold of her on the way to hospital, he called me to help him with Carm and I watched him and Jack apologize back and forth at each other for over an hour.
“Where was your wife that she didn’t try to help?”
“At home. She didn’t want to go because we aren’t Irish.”
The judge laughed that ‘everyone is Irish on St. Paddy’s day’ and then got back to business. “Tell me, Mr. Herveaux, how did you become separated?”
“That’s a bit of a long story.”
“That’s what we’re here for. Start wherever you’re comfortable.”
He nodded. “We dated for a while, about 6 months, and we got married when we found out she was pregnant with Jack. We moved from Dallas to New Orleans when I was assigned to the field office there. That’s when things started to go downhill. It got to the point where we hate each other. I was transferred to the Shreveport office on November 1st. She drove up the next day (Saturday) to meet me to go house hunting. We found a house and then Sunday we drove back to New Orleans so that I could get what I needed to go back to Bon Temps and she was going to pack our New Orleans house and her and the kids were moving up in about two weeks. The day after I got back from New Orleans (Monday), she called and complained that the boys were underfoot while she was trying to pack, so I offered to bring the kids up to solve the problem. The next morning I flew down to get them and when she drove us to the airport, I finally told her that I wasn’t happy and asked for a divorce. When we unloaded, she handed me separation and custody papers.”
“Separation and custody papers? Do you have them?”
“Yes ma’am.” Laf held out the file to the bailiff and we waited for what felt like a week while she sorted through and read it all.
Finally, “Mrs. Herveaux?”
“You had your name taken off of the joint bank accounts. You had a lawyer draw up papers of intent to divorce and you relinquished your parental rights and responsibilities. You even wrote a letter to your husband explaining that you don’t like being a mother. These papers were notarized in early October. Care to explain why you suddenly want the children that were so insignificant to you a month ago.”
The judge reclined back into her chair and stared. Waiting.
“I… I… I… was giving up. I wasn’t happy. I was miserable. He’s been cheating on me for years and when I realized that he was sleeping with her, I changed my mind and decided to fight.” Her lawyer cringed.
“Sleeping with whom?”
“Her! Sookie Stackhouse.”
The judge’s eyebrow went up and, I swear, it looked like she was trying not to laugh. “Miss Stackhouse?”
Sookie cleared her throat as she stood up. “Your honor.”
“In what capacity are you here today?”
“As a friend of the family and a character witness, ma’am.”
Sookie nodded. “Alc is my fiancé’s partner. When they were transferred, he was invited to stay at our house in the interim. The invitation was extended to the children. They are staying with us until their things arrive from New Orleans.”
“I see. And you said that you were a character witness.”
“When Alc mentioned getting custody of the children, he was concerned that he was kind of lost on how to do the more utilitarian aspects of taking care of them. I’ve been helping the three of them adjust, learn how to cook and do laundry. He’s an eager student; very patient.”
“Have you ever seen him be rough or abusive with the children?”
“No ma’am. Nothing outside the realm of horseplay.”
“Do you have reason to suspect he’s ever been abusive?”
“No ma’am. He’s one of the best Dad’s I’ve ever seen.”
The judge smiled back and forth between Sookie and Alc. “What have his lessons included?”
“Separating laundry, and general housekeeping. Time management, like having the boys chose their clothes for the next day while they’re getting their pajamas to save the time in the morning. He’s been getting cooking lessons. Although, he’s decided that ordering takeout is much easier than making his own spring rolls.”
The judge snickered and mumbled ‘amen’. “And he’s catching on well?”
“Yes ma’am. Better than he thought he would. The three of them are very proud of each other. The boys have been enjoying the cooking lessons with him.”
“And you’re confidant that he will be able to tend to the children once they move to their own home.”
“More than confidant. Absolutely positive.”
“And what is your opinion on how he has handled the separation in regards to the children? How are they handling the distance?”
“His biggest concern was telling them. When it came up, the boys relieved him by already having a grasp of what was going on around them and were accepting of the new family status. They were only minimally confused…”
“Sorry, how so?”
“They wanted to know if I was going to be their new mom. They have a typical archetype ingrained. They were sure that Alc would be shopping to replace Amelia until we explained that there was a such thing as single parents.”
“Thank you.” Sookie sat down and I took her hand and gave it a squeeze. I don’t think Alc could look more grateful. “Mrs. Herveaux, it seems that I know what I need to know up until last night unless you have something to add.”
“She’s lying. She’s sleeping with my husband. I’ve known since I met her.”
The judge rolled her eyes. “Do you have anything to add other than accusing her of sleeping with Mr. Herveaux?”
“You aren’t even going to ask her?”
“I don’t have to. First of all, I’m the judge. Me. Not you. Secondly, once you serve a man with papers, he’s free to roam. Finally, you’ve all but admitted that you didn’t want your children until you were jealous of her presence in their life. So I’m sure you are jealous enough to accuse him of infidelity regardless of proof.”
“He’s an asshole. He’s always an asshole and now that he’s around her, he’s in a good mood.”
“You’re in a court of law, not a bar. The next curse will earn you a fine…” Judge Compton started writing and didn’t look up as she explained. “Perhaps you’ve never known someone with cancer. Once it’s gone, they feel alive again.” Oh shit! “That’s exactly what a bad marriage is, ma’am. A cancer. If untreated it will spread to everything and eventually kill you… Mr. Herveaux, could you explain what happened last night?”
“Eric and Sookie had left the house for a while. I was making dinner with Sookie’s father’s help when she called. They passed Amelia on the highway. I called Mr. Reynolds to let him know that her visit was unwelcome when Jack started flipping out.”
“I had my hands in a chicken so I had Jack hit the speaker button. When he heard Sookie ask if I wanted to stay put and deal with her or leave the house and lay low until she was gone he started yelling that he wouldn’t see her. That he’d run away. That he’d use his piggy bank to hide from her. Sookie had to talk him down.”
“And what was Carmichael’s reaction?”
“He suggested that I call 9-1-1 so that they could come get her for trespassing.”
“Yes ma’am. They’re both very concerned that she might try to take off with them. Legalities were mentioned to help calm them down.”
She nodded thoughtfully. “Ok. Walk me through what happened when she arrived.”
“Ma’am. If I may, Sookie has surveillance cameras.”
She smiled. “Yes, she does. Did you get the incident in its entirety?”
He nodded and held a disk out for the bailiff.
The clerk loaded the disk as the lawyers were called to view the recording.
We listened to the 20 minutes or so of footage, some of it twice as she rewound to listen more closely or be appalled by what she saw. Her clerk and both lawyers watched the monitor from behind the judge’s chair.
The judge sent the spectators on their way and started writing again. War and Peace from memory apparently. Forever… and ever. Damn.
“Mrs. Herveaux, do you care to make any explanations for your actions?”
“I went to see my sons. I talked to them on the phone the night before last. Alcide was listening in and he’s turned them against me. They act like they’re afraid of me. Carm called me the boogie man and told me that he hated me. My friend Octavia Fant was with me when I called. She heard the whole thing.”
“What did you hear Ms. Fant?”
“The first thing Alcide did was tell her that someone was listening to the call. Then he rubbed Ame’s nose in how happy the kids are in Bon Temps. That Alcide’s girlfriend was spoiling the children and not disciplining them. Then Carm called her the boogie man and Jack told her that if she came to see them she’d ruin something.”
“Mr. Herveaux, is it true that you had a witness to your conversation?”
“Yes ma’am. Mr. Reynold’s suggested it, so when she called I had my partner listen in.”
The woman looked directly at me. “Do you have a name?”
I stood up… fuckshitfuckshit. “Yes ma’am. Eric Northman.”
“Mr. Northman, in your opinion, was Ms. Fant’s description of the conversation accurate?”
“Only in the loosest sense. She inflamed the facts.”
“Then clear it up for me.”
“Alc told her that someone was listening in just as he told you. Because his lawyer recommend it. She asked how the boys were doing and he didn’t rub anything in. He stated plainly that they were enjoying their new school and what they’ve been doing with their time…”
“What have they been doing with their time?”
“As Sookie said, they’ve been spending time in the kitchen. That’s been the source of a lot of bonding for the three of them. Carm likes to help Sookie with cheer practice after school and Jack flirts with the girls in the stands. Their teachers are both very impressed with how quickly the boys have adjusted to their new circumstances. And Sookie and some of her family have been helping to teach the boys how to play music. They play almost nightly and it’s very therapeutic for them.”
“I heard a couple buzz words. Do you have a background in mental health?”
“I have a degree in Psychology from Berkeley, but I specialized in criminal psychology.”
She was writing again. “Thank you. Continue.”
“As for his ‘girlfriend’ spoiling them and not disciplining them… Carm mentioned that Sookie had taken them shopping, but they spent their own money on a video game and Carm did brag that no one had yelled at them since they got there.”
“I see. How are the children disciplined that you’ve seen?”
I shook my head. “They’re really well behaved children. I’ve never seen it take more than a stern look from Alc to get them to behave. When Jack gives Sookie lip, she calls him a ‘little butt’ to let him know he’s not being nice and it straightens him right out.”
“So you’ve had 2 little boys living under your roof with you for over a week and they’ve never done anything that would warrant a trip to the corner or a grounding?”
“I assume that you have prior knowledge of the children. Have you noticed any changes in Carmichael and Jackson since they left Amelia’s care?”
“Carm has always been very introverted. Shy to a concern. Over the past week, he’s begun coming out of his shell. He joins conversations without prompting. He socializes with people outside of his peer group such as adults and older children without the anxiety he used to have. His sense of humor is starting to come out and he makes his wishes known. An example would be that before he wouldn’t express a preference or curiosity and now he’s got no qualms voicing that he wants a different salad dressing or prefers one shirt to another…”
She was writing like mad and a smile would creep out and fade away once and a while.
“…Jack has relaxed. Before he was relatively tense. Because of his learning disability, school was never a topic he enjoyed discussing. Now he nearly bounces as he heads off for school and spends most of dinner rattling on about his day. As it turns out, he’s a bit of a flirt and enjoys the attention he gets from girls during football and cheer practice. On Saturday, he was showing off. During cheer practice, Sookie’s cousin was over and they had a large audience as they played music.”
“So in your professional opinion, their dispositions have improved.”
“Yes, and the phone call seemed to be quite a set back for them.”
“Carm’s speech impediment had waned, but after the call, it became more noticeable again. Jack on the other hand, seemed haunted emotionally. He spent the better part of Tuesday on Sookie’s lap seeking comfort.
She nodded and thanked me, letting me take my seat. Thank god. That was the most fucking nerve-racking testimony I’d ever fucking given.
“Mr. Herveaux, is that more accurate?”
“And what of your son’s attachment to Sookie on Tuesday?”
“Jack was clinging to her like a colicy infant. He only left her lap when she needed to get up.”
“What improved the situation?”
“When she had to leave for an errand, he was given a task to fill the time until she got back. He made a veggie tray and mixed dip to snack on during the movie Sookie promised him. He seemed alright until Sookie called to warn us.”
More writing. She looked up from time to time with a blank expression on her face.
“Mrs. Herveaux, have the two of you come to an amicable division of assets?”
“Your divorce. Have the two of you divided the property?”
“I have my car, he has his and we rented our house.”
“What about the household goods?”
“Mr. Herveaux, what of the furniture and incidentals? Do you have any requests?”
“uh…” Clearly confused. “No ma’am. I’ve told her she could have the community property type stuff… furniture… I want to buy new things anyway.”
She nodded and did some more writing, then tore a sheet from her legal pad and handed it to her clerk to ‘check the math’ and asking if Lafayette had a divorce settlement written up.
With the sheet, divorce papers and after more writing, she rocked back in her seat. Her fingers were laced together across her stomach and she swiveled to look at Amelia.
“I’m appalled with your behavior last night, Mrs. Herveaux. What’s more, I’m horrified at your children’s reaction to your visit. I watched an 8 year old launch himself into the arms of a woman he’s only known for a couple of weeks and a four year old avoid contact with you. You did rant and rave and curse and inflame the situation on your own. Judging by the reactions of the children you have abused them. Emotionally and physically. You didn’t even bother to deny the allegation of slapping Jack to punish his father…
…As such, I’m awarding sole legal and physical custody to their father, Alcide Herveaux and passing the restraining order for a term of six months. You will not be permitted within a thousand feet of them, their home, their school, Mr. Herveaux’s office, their church or Miss Stackhouse’s home. You will be permitted to call once each week to speak to them as the children are comfortable. At the end of the term, you may feel free to re-petition the court to lift the restraining order providing you show proof of mental stability in the form of full psychological screening and treatment. Otherwise, Misters Herveaux and Reynolds and I will enjoy a quick ‘how do’ while I renew the order…”
I watched Amelia’s face. Her mouth was open. Eyes wide. Nothing but shock.
The judge looked over to Alc with a very pleasant, almost sweet, smile. “Mr. Herveaux, I trust that you will continue your re-education. Normally I would suggest that you seek some psych support for your children, but you already have better than money can buy…”
She stared at the ceiling. “Under normal circumstances, a period of one year must pass before a couple with children can dissolve a union. However, in light of how detrimental the statutory period could be for the well being of the family in question, I’m choosing to dissolve the marriage, overriding the full separation period. This will be a ‘no fault’ filing. Since you own no property of substantial value,. Mrs. Herveaux, your vehicle is worth $25,000 more than his and you claimed half of the savings account and you haven’t been working, so in all fairness you should consider yourself lucky to get anything.”
It was Alc’s turn to be slack jawed. Seriously, park a hummer in his mouth, SLACK-JAWED. I was smiling from ear to ear, and Sookie was too.
The judge eyed Alc. “Mr. Herveaux, while we’re here, would you like for me to formalize your name change to ‘Stackhouse’?”
He laughed. “No ma’am. The adoption isn’t final yet.”
Mr. Wybert stood up, immediately getting the judge’s attention. And not in a good way.
“Your honor, I want to move that you recuse yourself and allow Mrs. Herveaux a change of venue.”
“Based on what, Dallas?”
“It seems that you are prejudiced towards the position of Mr. Herveaux based on his relationship with Ms. Stackhouse.”
She laughed, but not pleasantly. “Sweetness, I am always prejudiced to the parent with their children’s best interest at heart, not to mention the parent with some self control.”
“For the record, will you state your knowledge of Sookie Stackhouse?”
She stared at him, almost tauntingly. “For the record Miss Stackhouse divorced my ex-husband’s son. For the record, my personal and limited knowledge of Sookie Stackhouse isn’t the concern you should have. Perhaps you might have been better prepared and spared yourself the embarrassment of this conversation if your client had given you a complete answer rather than simply stating that her husband was living with a ‘woman’. Sookie Stackhouse has been the county’s Teacher of the Year for 3 years now. She has served as guardian ad litem no less than 6 times over the last year alone. She is the counselor for Bon Temps School and you, sir, would have done well to find that out before you took the client to your left. You can bump your billable hours by appealing my ruling, but given Miss Stackhouse’s credentials, it won’t help your client see her children any sooner. Sookie is who the county calls when we can’t tell who’s on the level. I’d also like to point out that my record shows that I usually swing in the mother’s direction.”
His chin dropped to his chest and as he sat down Octavia and Amelia started their shit fits. The lawyer was doing his best to calm them down.
Octavia, in all of her infinite wisdom, decided that she needed to be heard from. “That’s not fair! She puts up with a lot from him.”
The judge’s gavel was already in her hand and she was giving Octavia a frustrated look when Amelia stood up. “He’s a son of a bitch…”
“He’s a pain in the ass.”
“He’s grouchy and he all but abandoned us for the bureau. He tells me that he spends the night on Eric’s couch but he’s spending it with someone else. I have the right to be angry.”
The judge huffed. “We’ve been through this already. Mr. Herveaux, have you ever strayed from your marriage?”
“No. I spend the occasional night in a hotel or work late to avoid her though. I’m not the one who cheated.”
Amelia actually quaked. Her mouth dropped past where should be humanly possible and the quake looked like the beginning of a seizure. Talk about a bomb. The cheating bitch just got a ‘fuck you’ pie in her face. It was spectacular.
The judge tilted her head to the side curiously. “Mr. Herveaux, why didn’t you mention it earlier?”
“Because it has nothing to do with the boys.”
“No sir. It certainly does not.” She banged her gavel and whispered to her bailiff on her way out.
Kevin toted Ame over to criminal court for her arraignment while Sookie was hugging Alc, congratulating him. She was burning a hole into the back of Alc’s head as she walked by.
The bailiff approached and told Sookie that the judge wanted to see her in chambers so she told us that she’d meet us outside.
It was surreal, even for me, as Lafayette explained that once the new decree was written, the divorce would be final within a couple of weeks.
Lafayette left us to get back to the office. As it turns out, Amelia wasn’t the only shit storm to touch down last night.
We pealed out of our jackets and loosened our ties. Alc plopped his relieved ass down on the bench out front and lit a cigarette.
“Did you know?”
I shook my head and sat next to him. “I asked Sookie how confident she was this morning. All she told me was that she didn’t want to jinx anything.”
“I guess I could’ve ended up with a different judge.”
“Doubtful. Did you catch the clerk’s name?”
He shook his head.
He started laughing. “Kevin’s girlfriend? That bitch stacked the deck.”
“That seems to be the case.”
“I was worried that I’d lose them.”
“I don’t think that’s a problem with Sookie in your corner.”
“Another reason to not piss her off.”
I laughed at him.
When Sookie joined us, she looked like she’d been crying.
She shrugged and sat down between us, putting a hands on our knees. “Tom’s not doing well. Pneumonia for the fourth time this year… So, how’s our mood?”
Alc laughed. “Your statue just got much bigger.”
She giggled. “Nothing wrong with taking advantage of home field advantage… So we should go home to change. I can pack a lunch so that you can go visit the boys for lunch.”
“Thanks. What are y’all doing?”
Sookie looked at me and licked her lips, then back to him. “We’re going to the mall.” Nonononono! Fuck fuckfuckfuck.
Alc started laughing. “Change of plans. I’m going to the mall with you. I want pictures.”