While Sophie-Ann evaluated me and my demand, Andre showed his fangs.
I was not amused. “Shut your fucking mouth. You know I’m not intimidated by that shit and I’m not in the mood. Take your Pamprin and stay the fuck out of this. I want answers. Nothing more… And before you try to ‘put me in my place’, do yourself the favor of remembering the mountain of chores I’ve carried out in the many years I’ve been in service. She’s the one who’s so fond of throwing the word ‘family’ around. We’ve found ourselves in the unique situation of overlapping private lives and I’m annoyed to no end that I’ve been fed semi-truths.”
His fangs didn’t retract until he’d been given a long look from Sophie-Ann.
“Whispering is more polite.”
That got their attention. “More polite than what?”
“Telepathically communicating with one of your children in an effort to be guarded.”
“How did you come to the conclusion that…?”
“You know exactly how I came to the conclusion that you have a mental connection with your children. Sookie can hear it. Not what’s said, just that it’s happening. It registers to her as a hum that she’s only experienced in your presence… My turn.”
“What sort of answers are you referring to? I feel that I’ve been forthcoming.”
“Bullshit. You’ve been less evasive than usual, but forthcoming isn’t something you’ve ever been without extremes. We’ve known each other too long for that to work on me.”
“First of all, I want to know what Hadley’s ability is.”
“Ability?” Somehow I’d given the impression that I was going to entertain coyness.
“Yes, ability. Jason is affected. Hunter is affected. She wasn’t ‘skipped’. You had her as a human pet for 7 months… passive as it must be, she’s capable of something. I can’t imagine keeping her for any other reason.”
“You aren’t fond of her?”
“No. She’s tolerable under superficial circumstances, but only a lunatic would depend on her to do anything that wasn’t self-serving… And, still, I’m doing more explaining than you are.”
She found something amusing enough to laugh. “Hadley’s gift isn’t as much of an ability as it is a convenience. Even now that she’s a vampire she has a capacity for getting other breeds to cooperate… almost as though she was glamouring them. I’ve never had so much support from a Packmaster as I do right now. One could say that she’s wrapped around Hadley’s finger. In a word, I would call it diplomacy.” How sad… I wasn’t going to tell her that Sookie had the same talent.
“And now? As a vampire? Sookie mentioned that Hadley called an hour before sunset.”
“Now… she is on a vampire diet. She is on a vampire schedule, but to the best of our knowledge, she doesn’t die. She sleeps. She still dreams. She does it during the day because we have checked and she can’t be in the sun.” Unfuckingbelievable… More proof that she could’ve been caring for her child all along.
“She doesn’t have the acute senses though?”
“No. In fact, from what I hear, Sookie is a better vampire and you’ve yet to turn her.” Hiding how envious she was didn’t work out well for her. She practically had ‘jealousy’ branded on her face.
“And you wouldn’t by any chance be experiencing anything peculiar while you’re dead, would you?”
“Vampires don’t experience anything once they die for the day.”
“Such as, last night Sookie and I encountered ourselves. We spent a ‘full evening’ searching for each other and then hearing and explaining the differences in our realities since our first meeting. We did nothing more than return to our starting point, our bed, and we were discussing how we might ‘return’ when things seemed to reset on their own accord… and put us at the beginning of the evening.”
While Sophie-Ann gaped in my direction Andre’s surprised gawking was directed at her.
She might as well have already admitted to having a similar experience and I didn’t have the patience to wait. “Majesty? This isn’t something I intend to advertise. You, of anyone, should understand that I simply want some sort of validation.”
I’d never seen her more stunned and she actually ‘shook it off’. “The first time it happened to us… It was a normal evening, or so we thought. It started with a meeting with my lawyer and moved along to the tedious receptions… Bill Compton came to present his newly acquired pet… a telepath that he’d found when he returned to his homestead to sort out the estate after his last heir died… I’m sure you can imagine how many applications for her ability I could envision… I suggested a contract, but he wanted to barter for Salome’s area. Well… I’m sure you know better than to think I’d repay Salome’s loyalty with a termination over a human asset… After dismissing Compton so that I could ‘consult my advisors’, Andre and I decided to end Compton and hire Sookie once he was out of the scenario. He’d kept her a secret so we were quite excited at the prospect of attaining her services so easily… When we retired for the day, I’d sent for Hadley as I had the night before and we’d barely fed before Frieda entered my chambers to ‘begin the evening’.”
“That was why you sent Compton on the errand then? Because you knew he’d be greedy enough to keep her under lock and key as well as easily disposed.”
“In a manner of speaking… We had to search him out… at the time, Hadley was just a favored pet. We weren’t sharing any political plans with her. While we were waiting for Compton to relocate, we learned that Hadley was related to Sookie, that Bon Temps was a common thread and eventually put our plans to acquire Sookie on hold. This was nearly four years ago. Andre’s insistence was what spurned me to proceed and dispatch Compton… I’d intended to wait since we’d been hearing about Hunter’s possible gift. The marriage and treaty with Arkansas wasn’t something he’s been in favor of.”
“Understandable, but don’t put me in a position to agree with Andre… ever.”
She laughed while he snarled at me.
“So, you mentioned that it was the ‘first time’… there have been others.”
“Most notably was the night before Hadley delivered Hunter. I barged into my chambers to warn myself that I’d be burying them both just as she had if I didn’t have Hadley with me in my chambers. I summoned Hadley that night and I rose with just enough time to turn her. I blame the late sunset on her weakened state as a vampire. She’d been gone for several minutes.”
“She faired better than some… though I doubt that she’ll ever be independent of you… How often does this happen?”
“Now that she’s a vampire it’s less frequent, but we’ve had more than a few occurrences. I’d say a dozen. I’ve had several scenarios… alone, with Hadley, with Andre, we had the experience where we seemed to go somewhere else, where we were visited and the one time where it seemed like a precognitive dream that we later understood was seeing another version of possibility. We’ve met ‘ourselves’ and we’ve been surprised as well as seemingly expecting of the ‘visit’. It throws us every time… The only true constants seem to be Hadley’s presence and that we always find ourselves in a different version of ‘now’ as opposed to something as laughable as time traveling and such…Tell me, how different were your two realities?” Hearing that it happened to her too somehow didn’t make anything less surreal.
“While I assumed the responsibility of helping Sookie exonerate Jason in the interest of keeping a vampire related serial killer out of the news in my area, Compton made no effort to assist. We decided that he must’ve been isolating Sookie… Her only known family was Jason, Adele and Bartlett… He killed Bartlett, planned on letting Jason be convicted on circumstantial evidence by doing nothing to help Sookie’s cause and allowed Rene Lanier to kill Adele, if not arranged for it himself… That Sookie isn’t confident in her ability and was clinging to the certainty that Bill was her hero even though he’d gone to New Orleans to vie for an official position as Area 5’s investigator leaving her to be attacked.”
They both started laughing. “I sent flowers, did I not?”
Oh, sweet triumph… “You’ve already ‘been there, done that’?”
She nodded. “The ending of that saying is about getting a t-shirt, yes? Andre and I were ‘with’ Andre and I and Hadley of course when Sookie called last night. Was it ‘this Sookie’ I spoke to?”
“Yes it was. Two Sookie’s, two mes and a knob.”
“No. Just the one. Why do you ask?”
“Because… well, Andre has been along… and… you might want to talk to Pamela. When she and Hadley returned to feed after their attack, she mentioned that she’d been suffering from occasional bouts of what she could only describe as déjà vu… It was why she was watchful of the so-called donors that night. She might be affected and not realize how.”
My first thought was that I’d make Pam pay for keeping something so conversation worthy quiet, but I knew that if she had tried to mention it, I’d have been laughing at her before ‘déjà vu’ was out of her mouth… even if she wasn’t confused by it herself, I’d have made it impossible for her to explain it… “I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to discuss it with her eventually.”
“Do you feel as though I’ve been adequately forthcoming now?”
“I do. I’ll most likely contact you if it happens again. Not only do you seem better ‘traveled’, it might behoove us to compare notes for future reference.”
“I’ve kept a diary. I reread it every time we have another episode. It’s as full of questions as it is testimony. I’ll make a copy and have it ready for you the next time you’re in New Orleans. The wedding, I believe.”
“Most likely. Considering Sookie’s sudden popularity, we’ll be quite busy until then.”
“We need to discuss that in the near future. The details of your new status, that is.”
“My status as Sookie’s master is hardly worth a discussion since it’s official and public.”
The two of them shared a look that grated my last nerve since they seemed to be ‘pausing for dramatic effect’. “We actually have an abundance to discuss. Such as, whether you want to keep Area 5 as our Lieutenant.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“My current Lieutenant will be leaving a vacancy when he becomes King. You would be the obvious choice even if you weren’t already in the position of owning the state’s most valuable asset… considering the copious amount of travel in your future the extra authority will offer a few additional luxuries and leave no room for question as to how seriously we’d take an act against you and yours.”
“Lieutenant?” I’d been less shocked to see a second me.
“Of course, but that’s a conversation we can have at another time since tonight has been deemed a ‘family affair’. Now would you mind being forthcoming about why Hadley is so distressed?”
Since I was still stunned by being offered the position, there was no point in trying to sugarcoat anything… “That would be my fault. I already knew that she isn’t fond of… ‘hard truths’. I let her know how disgusted I am that she didn’t bother to tell Hunter anything about his new situation. The child reads minds and had no way of settling himself with any hints from the three of you. He was surrounded by completely silent strangers, one of them being his mother and was given nothing. She behaved with cowardice and I have no tolerance for that trait.”
“He’s frightened of you?”
“No. All it took to set him at ease was hearing that he wouldn’t be my meal.”
“He shied from Andre immediately.”
“Have you looked at him? He’s revolting.”
She laughed and eventually rolled her eyes at how ‘offended’ Andre was.
“I’m sure she’s unhappy that I told her family about Faeries as well. The fact that it’s just as much their ancestry as it is hers aside, with Hunter to consider, Sookie’s new recognition and the incident last night, they needed to be informed.”
She shrugged slightly as though she was completely satisfied with my motivation for admonishing her child. “Very well then. Since we’re all quite well informed, we should join the party, yes? The smell coming from your house is divine.”
The three of us entered the kitchen to find that Sookie and Hunter had yet to come upstairs and when Hadley snarled in my direction, Adele and Sophie-Ann inadvertently slapped one of her legs in unison. The two of them shared a look and a quick laugh as Pam nominated me to ‘retrieve the mind readers’.
Nearly complete silence was waiting for me downstairs. Nothing other than two sets of relaxed heartbeats and breaths.
Hunter was sitting on the edge of the bed with Sookie kneeling at his feet… His eyes were closed until I pulled out the desk chair and sat down.
“Where did you go?”
“Only as far as the driveway. I had Andre and Sophie-Ann come inside to join us.”
“I lost you.”
“You followed my ‘bubble’?”
He snickered. “Not far.”
“Did you feel it coming back?”
He nodded bashfully. He was still unaccustomed to being free to talk about ‘it’.
“Can you tell the differences between us?”
That nod was more vehement.
“Are they the same kind of differences Sookie hears?”
“Yeah. Why does Hadley whisper?”
“We aren’t sure yet. I think that she’s just weird.”
He giggled and Sookie told us to behave. “I’ve heard it before.”
“Once. In a store, but it was louder.”
“Let us know if you hear it again. We might be able to figure it out. Are you ready to go upstairs? Everyone is anxious to see how you feel about living here. Your Gran and Jason want to see how you like your room. They put a lot of work into it and your Gran made enough treats to fatten an army.”
His eyes lit up. “What kind?”
“You’ll have to see for yourself. That kind of thing wasn’t available when I was able to eat.”
Sookie and I laughed. “I’m afraid so. When I was a child, we would sneak breads to the closest beehive for honey.”
“Didn’t you get stung?”
“Regularly, but it was worth it.” I winked at him as I stood to put the chair back (exactly) as I found it.
To spare him the climb, Sookie carried Hunter up the stairs… His wide grin was explained by the fact that Sookie has ‘awesome shields’ so he didn’t mind touching her.
However once we were in the kitchen with everyone else, Hunter nearly threw himself out of Sookie’s arms in a panic to get to me. Me?
His tiny arms barely met behind my neck and for a split second I wondered about what the fuck Jason could’ve been thinking about to scare him…
Sookie rubbed Hunter’s back and whispered. “You’ll get used to him. It’s not scary, just different.”
Hunter didn’t look up, speaking into my neck. “What is he?”
“He’s just a Werewolf.” Alcide winced, making it obvious that he didn’t like scaring the child.
He shook his head. “They aren’t real. Just in stories.”
Sookie cringed, lost on how to help so I gave his arm a nudge. “Hunter?”
Sookie rubbed his back again and still no response.
Jason was given a collective dirty look for the poor timing of his chuckling. “What!? I was just wondering if it was like Disneyland in there or something.”
My mind? Disneyland? I actually snorted at the smart ass.
The only idea as to how to settle the boy down came from Adele. Since Hunter seemed to trust me enough to hide in my mind, she suggested that I take him somewhere quiet before setting him down to explain things.
Alcide was already apologizing and suggesting he should go home as I was on my way to the library. Pam told him to ‘shut up and eat a cookie’ because he wasn’t going anywhere…
It was a chore to unlock his arms from my neck without hurting him, but eventually I managed to set Hunter on the desk so that I could sit clear of him in the chair.
He seemed dazed, looking around the room as he came back to himself fully. “He’s still here?”
“He is. His name is Alcide. He’s your guard.”
“His head is scary.”
“No. His head is different. You’ll get used to it.”
“It’s all red…”
“He’s not angry though. The red is just a coincidence.”
“He’s really ok?”
“And Werewolves are real?”
“They are. Werewolves and cats and a few others… Sookie has a friend who can turn into any animal he chooses. You’ll be meeting a witch soon too.”
“A witch!? Is she ugly?”
“Not at all. I think she’s quite pretty… and very friendly.”
“You already know a witch?”
“From Wizard of Oz.”
“Oh, not quite. No big dress or wand… Paulette wears jeans and carries a cell phone.”
“They look like people?”
I nodded. “There are witches… and then there are ‘normal’ people who call themselves witches, but usually just get themselves into trouble when they play with magic… The important thing for you to remember is that they’re all secret. The world only knows about humans and vampires right now.”
He nodded. “Like mind readers.”
“Exactly. Eventually other things will make themselves known, but for the time being they are safer to stay quiet about what they are.”
“Why did you tell me then?”
“Because we don’t want you to be afraid of people like Alcide or Paulette. There are going to be witches and Werewolves that we can’t trust, but that can be said of humans too.”
“What is Jason?”
He cackled, “That’s not what I meant!”
“He’s a normal human like your Gran.”
“Nuh-uh.” Oh really?
“What do you mean?”
“Their heads are hot.”
“Not cold.” Adele had told me that Sookie was early to speak and read and that it wouldn’t shock her for Hunter to have the same traits, but I still hadn’t expected him to be so articulate. While he communicated in simple sentences, there was no doubt that he was comprehending everything… it was in his eyes… and I had to appreciate his sense of humor.
“How are their heads ‘hot’? Do you mean your Gran’s too?”
He nodded and pulled his legs up to fold them together. He studied the ceiling for a moment, seemingly formulating his answer. “Yeah. Gran too. Like a blanket or… a hug.”
He snickered. “I meant why.”
“We should ask Sookie if she noticed the same thing about you… since you’re all family.”
“They said that, but… how?” Still? Seriously?
“Hunter, Hadley is your mother. She is Sookie and Jason’s cousin. Gran is your great-grandmother.”
He disbelievingly shook his head. “My mom is dead. Daddy said.”
“He didn’t know that she is a vampire. She’s a different kind of dead.”
“She’s my mom?”
“Then why are you and Sookie taking me?”
“Because Sookie can help you. Hadley can’t care for you because vampires die for the day.” A half truth that Hadley should be beaten for forcing me to tell.
“And you can keep me safe?”
“I’ll certainly do my best. You don’t run with scissors, do you?”
He giggled. “No. I don’t mess with bees either.”
I laughed at his joke. “Touché… Are you ready to go back now? Your Gran is about to send Jason home because he won’t leave the brownies alone.”
He narrowed his eyes. “They have nuts and I don’t like them. But how did you know?”
“You can hear thoughts, but vampires have very good hearing. I’d bet the back of Jason’s hand is red from being slapped away from the snacks.”
“Is she mean?”
I stood up and held my hands out in an offer to carry him, but he only took one to help himself down. “Not at all, but she’s very nervous about making sure you’re happy. Sookie wasn’t lucky enough to have anyone that understood being around a telepath. Your Gran had to learn as she went.”
“But Sookie already knows what will help?”
“She knows what would’ve helped her. I suppose that’s a good place to start.”
“Are there a lot of us? Tele… tele…”
“Telepaths… You and Sookie are the only ones I’ve ever met.”
He stopped walking and looked up with a surprised expression. “But you’re older than cookies.”
The first thing Hunter did when we rejoined the waiting collective was apologize to Alcide… He actually took Alcide’s hand to ‘test his head’ and pulled away laughing that Tommy ‘isn’t retarded, he’s normal’. Alcide had inadvertently compared Hunter’s communication skills to his nephew’s.
Hunter’s second order of business… was turn to Adele to ask what his snacking options were…
While he snacked, he was interviewed about his preferences… movies, books, toys, outings, food… the onslaught of attention took him a while to adjust to, but he did adjust to it all… and he offered very few surprises…
He’d never been able to watch TV or movies with company because ‘people think too much’… Pam immediately offered to keep him company since her thoughts wouldn’t distract him… He thought it was hilarious that she said he’d be a better movie date than I am…
Books weren’t high on his list. He informed us that he could ‘read some but not real good yet’. Janell Cannon wrote the ‘prettiest’ books. Alcide and I were stunned that he could read anything at his age, but Adele and Jason weren’t the least bit shocked since Sookie was helping Jason with his homework as early as 5.
As suspected, Hunter liked quiet toys… specifically, dinosaurs and dragons.
Hunter wasn’t fond of outings in general because he didn’t like crowded places for the obvious reasons… His eyes brightened when Sookie mentioned that most places were less crowded during the day and that she was going to start proving it right away…
Adele was appalled to hear that the boy had been eating what she called ‘bachelor food’ for as long as he could remember… but just as pleased to hear that he wasn’t picky…
All in all, the boy led us through a list of inclinations that his father would have shared if he’d been given the chance… or his mother if she actually cared enough to ask.
Knowing that Sookie had been more right than she realized about Hadley using her vampirism as an excuse to not raise Hunter herself irritated me to no end. Not that being sequestered to a wing of the palace would have given him a happy childhood, but the fact that she didn’t even bother herself with him in infancy spoke volumes.
I would have thought that Hunter’s to-do list might include talking to Hadley about his recent discovery, but when he was done (and he’d asked about a mysterious humming several times) he asked to see his room…
He was more than a little pleased to see that his bedding had dragons on it… He was thrilled to see ‘fresh’ crayons because he’d forgotten to put his in his dinosaur backpack with his favorite toys… He marveled at the idea of having his own bathroom…
I caught myself feeling satisfied that Hunter was going to be comfortable… but more than anything, Sookie, Adele and Pam’s excitement that he seemed so happy about his new accommodations was stirring a ridiculous amount of unvampirelike emotion that I wasn’t about to irritate myself with scrutinizing.
It was odd enough that I’d found myself in love with Sookie, or at all for that matter, but the distinct itch that I might have been developing a regard for a (mostly) human child was just as perturbing as it was crazed.
As Hunter’s tour continued, he mentioned that it was ‘way past’ his bedtime so it was explained to him that much later bedtimes were in his future since we ‘enjoy the nightlife’… since his usually early bedtime was because he had to wake up before dawn to get ready for a daycare he wasn’t fond of, he was not disappointed to hear that ‘sleeping in’ was part of his new life…
He wasn’t anymore disheartened to see the pool or be promised a swimming lesson after they had their breakfast…
Nor was he downcast about the television that was bigger than him… literally.
And by the time he was done rejoicing over the idea of a ‘weekly vacation’ in the country, Sophie-Ann, Andre and Hadley had deposited his belongings in the foyer and slipped out of the house…
Hunter had barely noticed. The same could not be said about Sookie, Adele and Jason… the three of them were fuming that Hadley wouldn’t have at least announced her exit. Pam and Alcide seemed to share the same brand of sympathy for Hunter…
While Hunter acquainted himself with everyone, Adele packaged the surplus snacks for Alcide and Jason to take with them as her version of an olive branch… she went as far as to offer an apology for having been ‘out of control’ when she hugged them on their way out… They were actually sent home shortly after midnight since neither of them had the luxury of sleeping late… When I caught an amused grin on Hunter’s face, Sookie whispered to explain, “He’s a kid after your own heart… he thinks it’s funny that the grownups are getting sent to bed before him.”
It was nearly 2 am when Adele announced that she was ‘tuckered out’ and that Hunter shouldn’t try to ‘become nocturnal overnight’… Again, Hunter caught onto the irony… No, there was no question as to the depths of the boy’s comprehension… Hearing the overcomplicated thoughts of everyone around him since he was born had primed him for an astounding intellectual capacity… Just like Sookie, his physical and emotional states would be his only limitations. Only time would tell, but I was starting to question if my blood had done much of anything to bolster Sookie’s ability… Accepting and finally exploring her ability may very well have been responsible for how much stronger of a telepath she was… Since it would take something catastrophic for me to give a child my blood, time would solve that mystery for us.
While Hunter happily showered in his own bathroom, Pam and I helped Sookie start unpacking his things… Both of us had to offer Sookie some encouragement when she noticed that all of Hunter’s things were in good condition. She mentioned that it might have made her feel better about the circumstances if Hunter’s things weren’t so well taken care of… if it seemed like Remy didn’t care anymore than Hadely.
Since Adele had said her ‘goodnights’ before Hunter bathed, Pam only stayed long enough to help ‘tuck him in’… but not before reminding him of their ‘date’.
Completely exhausted from her maniacal cleaning and self induced strain, Sookie peeled out of her clothes and slid between the sheets before asking me why I’d been ‘mad enough to chew nails’ earlier…
We spent the next two hours discussing Hadley’s selfishness, the sudden offer of a ‘promotion’ and the insane concept that we weren’t the only ones to have visited ourselves… eventually getting to the topic of Hunter and that she’d heard that he was excited to be here with ‘us’…
Dawn’s approach was just starting to slow me down when Sookie and I heard the door to the kitchen open.
It took her only a second to yank the blanket over me and scramble to put my discarded t-shirt on to cover herself.
She stood still, waiting, ‘listening’… tiny footsteps and slightly labored breathing mixed with a quiet grunt or two…
She finally slid back into the bed without investigating further, but she was smiling from ear to ear as she snuggled into my side feeling pleased (if not thrilled).
“Hunter brought his blanket and pillow down. He’s already mostly asleep just outside the door.”
“Are you surprised that he’d like you right away?”
She giggled, tightening her arm over my ribs. “He didn’t come downstairs to be closer to me, Eric.”