Another long drive to Bon Temps… I wouldn’t have minded the time if I had Sookie to look forward to, but I wasn’t looking forward to the errand at all.
After Sookie’s death, the only lead I had was Compton… And he’d disappeared as well.
I’d risen the night after returning from Jackson with Sookie to feel nothing of her. No feeling of her location. No feeling of her moods. No matter how much I focused, there was nothing.
Her Shifter was clueless. Her Wolf was furious, sure Compton had done something to her. Her brother disappeared just a few days later.
I was sure enough Sookie wouldn’t want the bank to foreclose on her house that I continued making mortgage payments to buy time for Jason to return. I assumed he tried to find his sister…
Now that a body, found by boaters in Lake Bistineau, had been identified as Jason Stackhouse, I’d run out of excuses to maintain Sookie’s house.
The joyous errand I had the pleasure of running this evening… humoring Sam Merlotte by entering Sookie’s house to prove she’s dead. He’d been in denial, spearheading a search for Sookie and Bill Compton. Jason’s unsolved murder made him question his wisdom. He wanted a reality check only a Vampire could provide.
To be honest, I hoped I couldn’t enter the house… If Bill had found a way to sever Sookie’s tie to me and she was still alive, finding her would be fun…
Who the fuck was I kidding?
Finding the fearless little cure to boredom would be fun, but I missed her and all the surprises she had to offer.
I hadn’t been to the property since January and I’d been paying the mortgage over the phone…
Five months later, I expected a jungle of weeds and thigh-deep grass to surround a dark house…
But there were several lights on, including the flood-light… Not only had someone repainted it recently, but they’d been mowing the lawn, and the flowerbeds were in full bloom.
I couldn’t decide what was worse… that Merlotte had been so hopefully diligent, or the feelings the stasis caused for me. It was as though she was still alive.
I stepped out of the car and sampled the air, assuming I’d find traces of Merlotte… but under the scent of freshly cut grass and hydrangea, I smelled a combination of Vampires and Weres.
Apparently, Merlotte wasn’t the only one hoping Sookie was still alive. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I caught traces of several individuals who would benefit from Sookie’s return.
I circled the house slowly, looking for clues as to who’d been there and what they’d been up to… I was just stepping onto the porch, reaching for my phone to call Merlotte to remind him of our meeting, when I heard the slightest noise, a quiet bump inside the house…
I stepped onto the porch to inspect the house, and heard another bump…
If the house had been abandoned, it would have made sense for something to get in. A squirrel, a raccoon… but the house seemed lived-in.
I turned the doorknob quickly with the intention of breaking the locking mechanism, but it was already unlocked.
I stood at the threshold and studied the doorframe or a moment, not wanting to be proven right about Sookie’s fate.
Whoever was inside gasped, but they didn’t have a heartbeat.
If it was Compton…
He wouldn’t have long to explain what happened to Sookie before I ruined the rug…
The rug wasn’t the same one Sookie had the night I brought her home.
I couldn’t have been more disappointed when I passed the threshold, but I needed to focus on other things.
The furniture was different.
The walls had been painted.
There was an assortment of fucking swords on the wall where Sookie’s family photos used to hang…
And the house reeked of Vampires.
I announced, “Sheriff Eric Northman. You’ve chosen the wrong house to squat in. You have one minute to get the fuck out.”
They were probably the tidiest squatters ever, but this was Sookie’s house.
There was another quiet gasp in the back of the house, but the intruder was perfectly still.
“If you bothered to check in to my Area properly, you’d have learned I don’t enjoy-”
“Eric?” Hardly a whisper, but it almost sounded like Sookie.
How fucking pathetic… months later.
I took a broadsword from the rack on the wall and stepped around the corner. “Eric Northman. Who are you?”
The whimper that came from the mystery guest was all too familiar.
As I passed the first bedroom, I heard a quiet shuffle and another bump against the door.
“Who the fuck is there?”
The faintest of breaths, “Shitshitshit,” followed by more nothing.
“I know you’re against the door. Should I play guessing games with this sword or are you going to tell me who you are?”
I lifted the sword, dragging the tip along the door slowly until it was four feet from the floor. Beheading him wouldn’t give me any answers, but running him through would.
“Eric, it’s me.”
“Ssss… me, Sookie…”
I knew too many Vampires who could perfectly disguise their voice.
“I missed you.”
“Bullshit. Sookie would never say that. Open the door.”
“Will you… are you going to put the sword down?”
“Because you hate me or because you’re being cautious?”
So help me, that rang of Sookie through and through.
“If you’re really Sookie, you should know this door is not protecting you.”
There was a deep sigh… then the rattle of the doorknob being grabbed… then turned…
The door only opened an inch before she paused. “If it makes you feel better, I don’t know how I got… wherever I am. Is this your house?”
“Open the door.”
She sighed and opened the door slowly…
Sookie Stackhouse, not live, but in the flesh… wearing nothing but a large T-shirt and biting her lip nervously…
Absolutely stunning… even as a newborn…
“Where the fuck have you been?”
Her eyes rimmed with blood and she shook her head. “I’m sorry. I never meant for you to get hurt… How long did it take for you to heal?”
“I was healed before I left your house.” It wasn’t as though a few poorly aimed bullets were going to cause long-term problems for me. She was the one left with injuries.
She gave me a puzzled look and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “I meant… I guess you don’t want to talk about the Queen, huh?”
“What about her?”
“Right… Ummm… do you know where I’m going to find some pants or something?”
“It’s your house. You tell me.”
She looked back into the room and then leaned to look past me to the hallway…
She gasped, “My…? How the hell?”
She pushed the door open to bring my attention to the room behind her… It was unrecognizable as her old room. There were two King sized beds in opposite corners, leaving little room to move, a large terrarium had taken the place of her dresser, and large mirror was anchored over the window…
She closed her eyes and breathed, “How the hell did I get back to Bon Temps?”
“Where was the last place you remember?”
“Lake Bosworth, Washington…”
“Someone moved you more than 2000 miles while you were dead for the day?”
She gnawed on her lip and shook her head. “No… I…” She walked past me to open the second bedroom door and gasped as the smell of lizards spilled out. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Bill. I can’t feel Bill.”
She didn’t give any warning before she sped to the front of the house.
When I caught up to her, she was dialing the phone. I waited long enough for her to hear the message that the number was no longer in service before I spoke…
“Not that I meant anything to you, but I’m dying for an explanation.”
She raised an eyebrow and sassed, “I’m not allowed to worry about why I can’t feel my Maker, why I’m inexplicably in Bon Temps, why our phone’s been shut off?”
No. Chronologically, my questions were at the top of the list. I’d been on hold for nearly six months.
“No. I thought you were dead.”
She smirked and opened the refrigerator. “I am dead, Eric… Ooooh, jackpot. Whoever’s staying here has a stash… AB-negative. I haven’t had the opportunity for that… Think they’ll mind?”
I leaned over to see into the refrigerator and there was more than a ‘stash’… There was a large cache of bagged blood. Most of it was AB-negative.
She already had six bags in her hand, waving three for me with a wide grin on her face. “Finders keepers?”
She was actually more adorable as a fucking Vampire.
I nodded. “This is your house.”
“Oooh, good point. Guilt-free…” She took the bags to the counter and used a pair of scissors to open the bags and pour them into large coffee cups. After she placed them in the microwave, she leaned against it and huffed, “Once I rose, Bill took me to Washington. He has a little house there in a town with a microscopic population. We’ve been laying low and I’ve been secretly hoping Sophie-Anne trips and falls on a stake so I could come home.”
“Sophie-Anne was your reason for leaving and no one bothered to tell me?”
Her mouth opened and closed again four times as though she was struggling to answer…
When the microwave was finished, she offered one of the cups to me and sat at the table. She offered, “Not stalling; starving,” and began guzzling her cup of blood.
I sipped from my cup, watching her head tilt back… The way she moaned between swallows…
Imagining Sookie as a Vampire was a complete failure on my part. I couldn’t have been further from the mark… I actually imagined she’d be quite difficult about feeding, as she had been about taking blood.
But the way she licked her lips when she was finished…
When she set her cup on the table, she stared at it for a moment. “I kinda do feel bad… I’m not impressed. Better than bottled, but I still prefer A-positive… And I doubt they’ll even miss a couple bags of that, what with all the AB-negative, right? Right?”
Cute. She darted towards the refrigerator and took three bags of A-positive… I couldn’t help but watch her move around the kitchen.
“You were saying…”
“Yeah, um… I’m not really getting why you needed an update… You… With everything going on, we were hoping to hear you were okay, but you had a front-row seat and all.”
What the fuck?
“Front-row seat to what?”
“You… you…” She was distracted by the microwave’s timer.
While she guzzled that cup, I pushed, “Start with the night we returned from Jackson.”
Watching her swallow, lick her lips again… I wasn’t sure I’d ever had the same reaction to watching another Vampire feed.
“Um… I got beaten to a pulp, then you and Bill argued, then you and Bill left… There?”
I nodded… I couldn’t have been more curious… I had a sinking feeling Sookie’s lovely Maker had deceived her on an epic scale.
“Bill came back and apologized for arguing with you… I wasn’t really up for talking, but he was worried about me being alone. He tucked me in and went to the living room… and… and… That’s the last thing I remember for three nights. Bill heard a noise and came to check on me. I was convulsing and… He said I was bleeding from my ears. He panicked and brought me over as soon as my heart stopped…”
Bullshit. If he was alive to ‘save’ her, I would have felt her health failing. I could see the scene play out in my mind too clearly… He’d garnered an invitation, waited for her to go to sleep, slithered away to prepare a grave, and waited until the last moment before dawn to drain her and carry her off into the night.
“And of course you wouldn’t remember something like that.”
Her nostrils flared when she gave me a level stare. “Pam came to him the next night… Well, she was looking for me… She warned Bill to get out of town ASAP because the Queen heard about me. And, you know, since…”
She pointed at me as though I could fill in the blanks of a lie I’d never heard.
“Since the Queen sent someone for you and all. She was furious that you had a telepath and didn’t tell her… Pam said you wouldn’t want anything to happen to me, so she warned Bill to get out of Dodge like she was planning to do… I’m glad you’re alright. Bill was pretty sure the Queen would end you. Is… is Pam okay?”
My Pam or the imaginary messenger who flounces about in Bill’s rolodex of bullshit?
“Pam is shopping.”
She grinned. “I went shopping in Seattle last week. That was fun. Pretty city, but we don’t leave the lake often. It’s nice and quiet there.”
“Sookie, that never happened.”
“I wasn’t taken. Pam never told Bill to hide you. If I thought you were in danger, I would have hidden you myself. When you and Bill disappeared, I contacted the Queen to let her know and she ranted and raved that he’d sold his program to someone else. If the Queen knows anything about you, she’s never hinted as much to me.”
She gulped again and croaked, “No.”
“If I had to guess, I’d say Bill drained you and took you to ground because he wasn’t pleased by how you seemed to be warming to me… and while you were dead, he fabricated the excuse to leave Louisiana. I’ll give him credit for thinking of a plan that wouldn’t result in you loathing him as soon as you rose, but the folly lies in the fact that Vampires live long enough to guarantee our lies need to be chosen carefully.”
She shook her head. “No. You’re lying. He saved me… the Weres. They… Internal…”
“You’re a Vampire now, Sookie. You don’t have an excuse to be ignorant. He stole you from you from your life and lied to you… Unless you’ve been working as a telepath, he did it just to keep you from me.”
“Has he been allowing you to contact your brother, Sookie?”
She shrugged. “Phone records… he didn’t want to risk it. He anonymously sent a computer to Jason. We’ve been emailing… That’s the best I’m going to get for a while. So I thought… I’m here. I could go… I could visit him while I’m trying to figure out how the hell I got here.”
I nodded and left her, going to the bedroom in the hopes of finding pants with a drawstring…
I returned to Sookie and offered a pair of sweatpants to her.
“I’ll take you to see him.”
She knew something about my offer was off, giving me a puzzled look as she pulled the pants on, but she didn’t say as much.
As we stepped from the porch, she turned to appreciate the condition of the house and complimented the renters for taking such good care of her grandmother’s flowers… She’d asked Jason to find someone to rent the house because she was hoping to return to it eventually, but he hadn’t mentioned anything about the tenants.
She stopped at the passenger door to my car and paused with her hand on the handle… because I continued to walk.
“Where are you going?”
I pointed towards the cemetery.
“Why would Jason be at Bill’s place?”
“He’s not, Sookie.”
“What? The only other thing in that direction is- NO!” She covered her mouth and repeated, “Nonononono.”
Her legs caved and her ass crashed to the ground as she began crying.
I knelt in front of her and asked, “When was the last time you heard from Jason, Sookie?”
She wailed, “Last week!” into her hands.
There was a special place in hell waiting for Bill Compton.
“Jason was reported missing just a few days after we returned from Jackson by his employer because he didn’t go to work… He was missing for five months before his body was found in Lake Bistineau. His body was covered in animal bites and scratches, but he was wrapped in a tarp. The official report is full of speculation that someone found your brother mauled and disposed of his body illegally, but given the timing of his disappearance, I suspected someone from the Jackson pack came looking for their friends and finished the job the others were sent to do… Now that I know better, I probably shouldn’t have killed them all.”
“For months now. I did what I could to find him, but every lead hit a dead end.”
“You killed them all?”
“Just the men… I tortured them first. I thought they’d taken you.”
Of course she’d ask.
“Now… It seems reasonable to suspect Bill. Someone has been impersonating Jason for months.”
“But we were in… The night I rose, we left. We spent three nights in Seattle waiting for my new IDs. He hasn’t left me long enough to come back and do anyth-”
“I have a friend in Portland who could end Bill while I have an airtight-”
She shoved my shoulders and cried, “I knew you’d say something like that!” as I fell back. “What the hell am I going to do!? My Maker… I trusted him… why the hell would he kill my brother?”
I pushed myself up, but stayed where I landed. Under different circumstances, I might have laughed at myself for forgetting how physical she was when she was upset.
I thought she was hysterical and arguing rhetorically, but after a moment she shook her head and covered her face again.
“It just doesn’t make sense. My poor stupid brother…”
“I can think of two reasons off of the top of my head. One: if Jason is dead, he can’t look for you. Two: if Jason is dead, you don’t have a legitimate reason to want to return to Bon Temps.”
She nodded, but she was too choked to say anything.
For every tear she shed, I thought of a different way to torture Bill Compton… He’d ruined her. There wasn’t any reason she’d ever trust anyone again.
As completely futile as my existence was for the next few minutes, I let her cry. Nothing I could do would help her.
When she finally seemed to try to calm down, I knelt in front of her again.
“I’ll help you. I’ll do whatever I can, whatever you’ll let me do… but first, I think we should find out how you traveled from Washington to Louisiana.”
She nodded and pushed herself from the ground. “If Jason’s dead… someone bought the house then, right?”
I shook my head. “No. I’ve been making the mortgage payments on your house and Jason’s. His body was only found recently, so there was a possibility he could return. I was going to leave it to him to decide what to do with your family’s home.”
“You’ve been paying two mortgages?”
“Bill never cashed the check for your services in Dallas. I still owe you.”
Her eyebrows knit together. “You could have just written it off… You knew I was dead…”
Knowing facts and accepting reality were two very separate concepts.
She began pacing with her arms folded. “You’ve been making the house payment. So whoever it is that’s staying here, really is squatting… Quiet Vampires who like living in the middle of nowhere? Someone who shouldn’t be in your Area anymore?”
“I doubt we’re lucky enough for it to be a coincidence that your vacant house was randomly chosen for…”
Before I could finish, two Vampires appeared from the direction of the cemetery.
One stopped to my left, the other to my right.
They offered in unison, “We stay here.”
Wybert and Sigebert Kuester. Sophie-Anne’s children and favorite guards had been squatting in Sookie’s house. I couldn’t decide if the Queen was that upset about the loss of Bill’s database or if she actually had known about Sookie’s ability, but either way… It seemed like they’d been staying at Sookie’s house, waiting for Sookie and/or Bill to return to Bon Temps.
Wybert started, “Eric, Sookie, come with us.”
They both pointed to the cemetery and Sigebert finished, “All your questions will be answered.”
Panic was written all over Sookie’s face. “Who are you?”
They bowed… BOWED… not a simple, disarming nod… a respectful bow.
Wybert explained, “We’re friendly, Sookie. Don’t be frightened.”
Friendly, my dead ass.
Sigebert gave an encouraging nod towards the cemetery.
Sookie grumbled, “I feel the need to point out that I haven’t had any surprise company since I moved,” as she stomped towards the cemetery.
I snorted, “I’d like to point out how wretchedly boring my nights have been since you moved,” as I followed her.
“Oh good. I’m happy to entertain you, Sheriff Northman.”
The Berts chuckled behind us and one of them offered, “Happy Memorial Day.”
Sookie gasped and looked back. “Is it Memorial Day? I completely lost track.”
Sigebert nodded. “We’re supposed to have the night off. We’re going to see fireworks.”
So fucking bizarre. Unless they were muttering back and forth to each other in Saxon, I’d never heard them speak to anyone socially, let alone with such a grasp of English.
Sookie huffed, “I’m sorry… I don’t know how I ended up…”
“Don’t apologize. They’re Sophie-Anne’s children. You didn’t breech etiquette by rising in your own house. They were waiting for you or Bill to return.”
“OhmyGod…” Her head whipped around. “I don’t know where Bill’s program is.”
Wybert offered, “We aren’t looking for his program…”
Sigebert added, “We already have another one.”
That wasn’t at all settling… that only eliminated the less troublesome of the options for their reasons to be in Bon Temps.
Leaving Sookie’s ability.
As we moved through the cemetery at a Human pace, Sookie began stooping over and squinting… residual Human behavior that was actually endearing. She was trying to focus on the property on the other side of the graveyard.
In the clearing where Compton’s dilapidated mausoleum used to stand, was an impressive modern home… More glass than any other material, giving a very clear view of the sprawling interior decorated with contemporary furnishings… at the angle we approached the house, we had to walk around the large pool to the concrete patio… the glass walls of the house had been pushed back, making the structure the largest pool house I’d ever seen.
I couldn’t decide whether to take notes on the house or be furious that someone (probably Sophie-Anne) had taken over Bill’s property…
Nothing could make me renew my contract again…
Spend a while in Eijsden to enjoy the peace and quiet and lack of obligations… Let Pam run amuck in her favorite European shopping districts…
As we passed through some sort of magical barrier, Sookie hissed, “I’m about to rattle apart and you’re happy? Would you please share with the class?”
I offered, “I was just thinking about retiring. I have a quiet little house in the country. No politics. No other Vampires. I can just read and watch Pam chip away at my bank accounts online. I could go for weeks without speaking to anyone…”
Sookie snorted, “Sounds nice. Crickets and a mountain of books. That’s all I had in Lake Bosworth. That’s all I needed.”
Wybert offered, “You don’t want to return to Eijsden just yet.”
How the fuck did he know I meant Eijsden?
Before I could ask, the noise of laughter, loud raucous laughter, echoed through the seemingly empty house.
If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn it was Sookie gasping ‘no’ between cackles.
As we entered the house, the Berts announced, “Your Majesty, your company has arrived.”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck… I knew it. Sophie-Anne… If she tried to tell me this was a vacation home or a safehouse, I was going to walk away. The political games were rankling enough, but I was well past bored with the fact that she thought everyone was an imbecile.
Someone whispered, “She’s a Vampire, a baby,” and Sookie gasped and covered her mouth, stepping back to bump into me.
Even if I could have asked in the Berts’ company, I didn’t have time before I was just as surprised as Sookie.
One of the two walls inside the house suddenly opened and a Vampire moved quickly to loom over Sookie…
What the fuck?
I was standing in the room with another Me and he was standing toe to toe with Sookie, smiling as though he was excited about something.
“Let me see them, gorgeous.”
Sookie whimpered, “See what?” as two sets of footsteps climbed a flight of stairs I couldn’t see.
“Your fangs.” He practically sang it… and the Berts thought something about the situation was funny.
Another voice scolded, “Eric Northman, you knock it off, right now!”
Sookie. Another Sookie?
Just as she emerged from the same break in the wall he had (holding the hand of a little boy, no less) he turned to show her my most innocent face. My innocent face. Mine?
“What? I’m not doing anything.”
Sookie rolled her eyes as she walked towards him. “My ass. You’re always up to something…” She turned to her other self and offered, “Sorry. He wants to see your fangs because he’s getting twitchy about making me. I’m making him wait until October… He’s really annoyed with himself for mentioning how nice the Dark Season is in Longyearbyen. Salome’s going to take over for him while we’re enjoying my first Vampire Holiday.”
Sookie stammered, “Dark season?”
Of all of that, she chose to ask about the Dark Season? Not why there was an extra pair of Us. Not who the fuck the kid was… Sure. Longyearbyen. Let’s ask about that instead of clarifying where the extras came from. Right.
I explained, “No daylight from October to February. Longyearbyen is in Norway… What the fuck is happening?”
The other me wrinkled his nose and complained, “She smells like Compton,” so the other Sookie slapped his shoulder.
“Judgy! Sorry… he’s really not going to be happy until he sees me with fangs… So, welcome to Louisiana. This is King Eric Northman. I’m his wife, Sookie Northman and this is my little cousin Hunter Savoy Northman. We’ve adopted him, but he still has regular contact with his Daddy. He’s just happier with us because Remy doesn’t understand his ability. He’s a telepath too… You guys aren’t high. You haven’t been drugged. Vampire plus Faerie equals skipping, also known as leaping, crossing, gleaning, and ‘the braid’. You guys have visited us so you’re no longer in your reality. Sookie, you woke up in the house we were raised in, but the Berts stay there because they’re our guards…”
I asked, “What happened to Sophie-Anne?”
“You probably met my cousin Hadley at some point and she became Sophie-Anne’s newest child…”
My Sookie interrupted to blurt, “Oh Jesus!” and let her fangs down. “Happy now?”
The other me smirked, finally taking a step back. “Quite.”
Sookie Northman pinched his side and warned, “Stop flirting with other Mes… Anyway, Hadley wasn’t any more loyal to her Maker than she was to her Human family. She killed Sophie-Anne and Andre while they rested for the day…”
Wybert grumbled, “Murder-suicide. She burned the house down around them during the day.”
Sigebert offered, “She didn’t die for the day. Hybrid. Like Sookie. We’re loyal to Eric now.”
The other me shrugged. “I’d been given the choice of taking a position as Lieutenant or marrying Sophie-Anne for political reasons…”
His wife interjected, “Mine.”
“I accepted the post rather than the proposal and Sophie-Anne was murdered soon thereafter… Bill is dead. Diantha and Gladiola took his head for what he did to Sookie.”
Sookie breathed, “What did he do?”
Sookie Northman offered, “Well, Hadley whined about being homesick for a while. Sophie-Anne sent Bill to feel us out, see how I felt about Vampires, because… Well, Andre thought if Hadley saw her family it would shut her up. I was a complete moron. He was the first Vampire I met and I didn’t know better so I exposed my ability right away. Sophie-Anne knew I’m a telepath because of Hadley, but she didn’t tell Bill… that putz thought he’d stumbled onto something incredible and tried to keep me to himself. He even went as far as glamouring Rene to kill Gran…”
Sookie shook her head… I didn’t think it was possible for me to feel so much sympathy for someone. She’d been completely duped, fooled out of her life.
“No… The Queen… She wants to keep me. She’d put me in a cage. She’d… She’d…”
Sookie Northman shook her head. “Sorry hon, but that’s crap. Even the Sophie-Anne’s who were more aggressive about obtaining my services sent gratuitous gifts. There’s one version where Andre came to check me out personally…” The Berts began chuckling. “I wasn’t exactly cooperative so He got frustrated and brought Me over. Sophie-Anne whooped His ass for jumping the gun. She brought Gran to New Orleans while I learned to feed and I was back in Bon Temps in a few months… Where I met Eric and started working with Him.”
Hunter chirped, “They’re together now too. Bill’s stupid.”
Sookie Northman took over again. “So this funny bastard here, after everything Bill put me through, brought Hunter over here after we got back from vacation… ‘just a walk’ he said, and the next thing I know, I hear an explosion… then another… and another…”
The boy high-fived the other me and laughed, “We blew up the old house!”
‘King Eric’ chuckled, “One stick of dynamite at a time.”
The boy continued, “And then we roasted marshmallows!”
I wished I’d thought of the dynamite, but…
Sookie whimpered, “I’m gonna dance in his puddle… that son of a bitch…”
The other me offered, “Just in case you haven’t discovered it already, you can ignore your Maker’s call… It’s a perk associated with your shields. Sookie can completely block our bond. She discovered it accidentally, but if you want privacy to plot…”
“Plot what? He’s there. We’re here, right?”
Sookie shook her head. “You’ll reset, go back to your reality. You won’t feel a thing…”
The other me whispered, “Like sex with Bill.”
Sookie narrowed her eyes at me for laughing as the other Sookie continued, “So… We’ve been at this for a while, so we’re seasoned vets at the whole skipping thing. No real rules. We’re kinda flying by the seat of our pants. Skipping tends to be a wakeup call. You know, a fact-finding mission. We’ve been hosting more and more. It just means we know something that’ll help you somehow…”
The other me offered, “Constant themes from one reality to another include… Bill Compton is a bottom-feeding cocksucker who covets Sookie like Smeegle and his ring. The only good Compton…”
The Berts, the other Sookie, even the boy, all finished in chorus, “Is a dead Compton.”
He nodded. “Exactly. I don’t just feel that way because Sookie is Mine. I helped an Alcide end the prick too… Sophie-Anne isn’t a threat to Sookie as long as she has Hadley…”
Wybert offered, “We think the bad apple spoiled the bushel. Sophie-Anne is usually happy to have Sookie’s services rather than risking another child or pet as difficult as Hadley.”
The other me nodded. “That would do it for me too… Halfdan and Appius…”
“Yes, speaking of bad apples. As you can imagine, any plan Halfdan or Appius could conceive would be flawed… Think of how gloriously preposterous a plan they hatch together could be.”
“Notoriously, Halfdan needs income after the Belgium/Saxony/Rhineland debacle and decides taking France is the best way to recoup his losses. Appius helps hoping to walk away with a Lordship. The standard is taking advantage of your return to Europe to bring his favorite Knight into play. Pam is either threatened or taken as leverage. That never works and you always become King… the other possibility is that Appius is conspiring to arrange a marriage between you and Freyda of Oklahoma…”
“We assume it’s for the same reasons he wants a Lordship in the Northern Empire. Appius has an incorrigible child and needs clout to cover his crimes… Funny…” He smirked at his wife, “Didn’t you mention we’re married?”
She giggled, “Yeah I did.”
“But he didn’t have a reaction…”
Yes. Ha ha… I didn’t overreact to the idea of marrying someone I’d chosen myself. Go fucking figure.
I growled, “Excuse the fuck out of me if I’m not reacting to this insanity according to some script… I’m still in shock that Sookie’s a Vampire. I’ve been sure she was completely dead for months. I’d just given her a large quantity of my blood and rose to find my connection to her was gone.”
He nodded knowingly. “Jackson?”
“Why not? Jackson was a clusterfuck we avoided because Bill was already dead. That one event produced an insane number of divergences, but there’s no sense in bogging you down with details now…”
Sookie argued, “Shouldn’t you? I mean… It might help to know.”
He wiggled his eyebrows at her and waited until she dropped her fangs again to say anything. “It doesn’t even bother me that they’re Bill’s fangs… Fuck. October needs to…”
His wife laughed and grabbed his wrist to pull him towards the door they’d all come from. “Down boy! Come on y’all… we’ll get some things together. You aren’t being left in the dark. We have a journal of all the different versions we’ve run into. Things that are different between realities. It’s crazy long though…”
Eric lifted Hunter and as we followed them, Hunter looked back to explain, “It’s two thumb-drives now. One of them is the journals and my project with another Me…”
Sookie asked, “What project?”
“He started a Vampire family tree and I collect where they’re from… we compare notes…”
Wybert offered from just behind us, “Compton’s database is a joke compared to Hunters’ archive.”
Wow. Bested by a toddler. What a winner.
Hunter continued, “The other drive is just videos. Gran and us kids…”
The other me teased, “Some Sookies are breeders… Across the journal, you’ll find nearly a dozen little Sookie miniatures, most of them girls. As we speak there’s a Sookie who’s pregnant with triplets.”
Sookie gasped, “Triplets!? Who’s the father?”
Sookie Northman pointed at her husband. “In-vitro with an anonymous donor. That Eric and Sookie are married too. They got married in Longyearbyen.”
“Where did y’all get married?”
Hunter put his hands in the air and shouted, “MONTE CARLO! I was the best man!”
Sookie giggled, “Has anybody told you how cute you are?”
He shook his head. “Not tonight. You need to go to New Orleans and get your Me before His daddy’s head explodes…”
The downstairs wasn’t what I expected.
For me, a light tight resting place normally consisted of a bedroom with a desk and a bathroom…
The lower level of King Northman’s house was a completely lightproof space laid out like a large loft, and it had just as much visible square footage as the upper level.
There had been a large open kitchen upstairs, but there was a second one downstairs. The other end of the large area was home to a sunken sofa directed at a large television… there was a massive iguana sprawled across three cushions and its tail draped over the front to the floor. Pam would look at it and see shoes and a handbag.
While Hunter continued trying to sell another version of himself to Sookie, we were led into a bedroom that positively reeked of sex.
Mrs. Northman pulled Sookie into a large closet and provided three outfits for her… One for now and two in the case that we ‘reset weird’… We could reset separately with Sookie returning to Washington, or we could find ourselves in any number of my local houses, or hers. They’d come to realize through comparing notes with other ‘skippers’ that it didn’t matter where a reset was started, the ‘landing’ seemed to be just as calculated as the skip itself. They gave several examples, but just the first one was dizzying… I thought it said enough that my Sookie had left her safehouse in Washington to return to Louisiana.
King Northman handed four thumb drives to me and explained that the reason for the skip was more than likely covered in the journal… the couple had gotten into the habit of resting with copies of the journal and their wallets even though they usually played host…
I was urged to pay close attention to the document named ‘Hybrids’. Along with Hunter’s Vampire family tree, there was a list of hundreds of Humans with Faerie heritage… Like the bellhop Sookie discovered in Dallas… They were listed by name, ability, and level of acceptance because some of them were in denial.
Two individuals who weren’t on the list were Ema Oswald and Brandon Rousseau…
I was amused to hear that Ema would more than likely be expecting to hear from me since I had a message waiting from her when I rose, but hearing why the fuck she was calling me actually made me blink. A fucking Sybil.
Somehow, news of a Sybil was over shadowed by the information of who Brandon Rousseau was. Sookie had another surviving relative. A brother… Sookie wept, leaving me to explain Jason’s death in our version of events. While the couple agreed with my initial assumption, they suggested I look to Hotshot before burning Bill for that particular crime. More information they’d gained from skipping.
For more than half an hour, Sookie and I were told word-of-mouth accounts that amounted to a recipe for a much easier existence. Helpful, trusted friends with valuable abilities that far exceeded any check I could write.
The most immediate concerns were Bill, Hunter, Brandon and Ema… but Hunter offered, “If Vampire Sookie dances in Bill’s puddle, she should call Auntie Gawain.”
I almost didn’t hear the hosting Sookie say Pam was a bad influence over how loudly I was laughing… I was too amused to care they wouldn’t spell out a reason for me.
They mentioned as much as they could, situations that could be different because of the timing and circumstances surrounding Sookie being brought over… After as much information as they could think of to share, King and Mrs. Northman nodded towards the bed and referred to it as our ‘magic carpet’. Returning to our reality was as simple as lying down and relaxing… we’d return without missing a moment of our evening, as though we had a dream.
They were running late for an errand of their own, a DGD Memorial Day picnic, but they planned to wait until Sookie and I were gone, just in case they missed something… They were confident they hadn’t missed anything.
Sookie laid down on one side of the bed, clutching the bag containing her spare clothing and ‘mad money’, and I laid down on the other…
Bizarre was the only way to describe it… the whole situation…
Skipping in general, Sookie’s return, finding her as a Vampire… And once again being on a bed with Sookie under less than pleasant circumstances. I couldn’t think of a way the situation could be more awkward.
Sookie stared at the ceiling and sighed, “I got my whole family killed…”
“We should compare notes, but I’m almost positive blaming yourself for that is akin to a rape victim blaming herself for wearing a short skirt. Bill Compton deceived you every chance he had… I almost had you without lying to you or letting you be injured.”
“Had me, huh?”
“You know I did. If it weren’t for interruptions…”
“Like Maenads and Bubba?”
I chuckled, “You can’t exactly deny it now, not given how you knew what I was talking about.”
She giggled, and she didn’t bother denying anything.
“I was serious… about helping you. Do you have any idea how you want to proceed?”
She was so perfectly still I felt as though I’d been speaking to myself… Sookie, as a Vampire, was going to take some getting used to.
After a moment, she finally sighed, “I want to end him… but… that’s such a huge no-no. I sucked at being Human so bad… I was doing okay as a Vampire. Now this.”
“You might have sucked at being Human, but that could have something to do with the fact that you weren’t Human… And trust me when I tell you, ending a Vampire who fucks with you is a very Vampyric thing to do.”
“You wouldn’t think less of me?”
“Absolutely not. It isn’t as though you’re throwing a petty tantrum…”
“You never liked him though.”
“You think I’m jaded because he stole you from me, yes?” When she nodded, I continued, “If he’d surprised you as soon as he discovered your ability, I wouldn’t begrudge him. That’s how taking a child is normally done, by surprise. Instead of traditional methods, he took part in your grandmother’s murder, nearly caused a war between states and let you become hurt several times… Has he at least been good to you? Fair? Patient?”
She sniffled, “I guess… He’s been… yeah, I guess.”
“That wasn’t very convincing.”
“He just hasn’t been very understanding. I miss Louisiana, my friends… Jason. I only really leave the house to go to Walgreens for toiletries. I order books online because the closest library is too far away to get there before they close this time of year… There’s one window at the house, the view isn’t anything but a gravel driveway and trees, but when I’m reading, in my periphery, it’s like the one here.”
It was no fucking wonder she was homesick. She was isolated.
“You’re practically a shut-in.”
“I’m a little bitter… disenchanted maybe. I expected to have some fun. I mean, I kind of expected he’d have to talk me into stuff. The first couple of weeks were okay because it was like a little vacation, but I don’t even see the UPS man because he comes during the day.”
“Mostly bottles. We don’t get many bags because the area is so isolated. There’s a small clinic in town though and they have a supply they almost never use. The doctor in charge calls me on expiration day.”
Month old blood!?
“Donors, Sookie… You need to feed from live donors.”
“I’m too young for that.”
I wasn’t sure I’d let Compton survive even if she wanted it. The fact that he was keeping her weak on bottled sludge and nearly spoiled blood was unacceptable.
I sat up to say ‘bullshit’ without shouting in her ear and the bed screeched. Sookie’s bed. The squeaky bed frame I remembered. The one in her house.
They hadn’t been exaggerating when they said we wouldn’t feel anything.
She gasped when she realized we’d ‘reset’ and left the bed. She opened and closed closets and drawers, finding everything was just the way she’d left it.
I let her enjoy being home again long enough to make her way through the first story of her house, wearing a bright smile every step of the way.
I followed along watching her act as though her own belongings were left by Santa, (especially since her Christmas tree was still in the corner of her living room) and she’d just discovered the refrigerator hadn’t been cleaned out after she left when I asked, “Now that you’ve come home again, are you staying?”
She stopped smiling to nibble her lip. “When you said you’d help, what did that mean and what is the price?”
“I’ll drive the stake into his chest myself and claim he attacked me.” He’d probably be daft enough to do it in public if the setting was just right.
“No price. No fee. No banked favors… But you’ll need a foster, Sookie. You should be feeding. You should be socializing…”
“Is this one of those things… like parents judging other parents? Your style is wrong because it’s not mine?”
“No. Feel free to ask Pam, but I laugh at those Makers… Pam’s been feeding since the night she rose…”
“Yeah, but how many bodies did you have to hide?”
“None. She’s never killed accidentally… If you hadn’t bartered with the local clinic, you would have started withering by now… You might already feel it and not realize what it is. Stiff or sore joints, slight headaches, difficulty controlling your senses?”
She nodded and whimpered, “I’m… I’m… that’s not fair. I’ve been so good… and I’ve even been trying to be… because I thought he saved me…”
She’d been on her ‘best behavior’ to show gratitude to her ‘hero’… He rewarded her with lies and fuckery… malnutrition was but the cherry on top of all the ways he’d wronged her.
“I’m sure… There’s only a two-hour time difference… If you try to return, he’ll sense you as you close the distance.”
“But if I stay here… If he thought I was kidnapped…”
I nodded. “He’ll bluster into the Area and you’ll have the advantage.”
She took a deep breath and walked towards me with her hand out. “Gimme your cell phone before I lose my nerve.”
“You’re going to call him?”
She nodded. “He’ll wake up to a voicemail, right? No actual contact, so I can’t mess up.”
“He’ll call me.”
“He’ll assume you took me anyway because you’re ‘the devil’… and it’s not like he can call the Queen to tattle. She should still be looking for her database. Besides, even if he risks it, I can spill my guts about everything that happened and he’s a goner anyway.”
As soon as I placed my phone in Sookie’s hand, she dialed…
She waited for the tone after Bill’s (George Lee) predictably bland greeting before she started with a whimper, “Bill, Bill, I don’t know where I am. I woke up and… there aren’t any clues…” She sounded so believably desperate. “I’m sorry… I didn’t do anything… And… I’m so scared. Wait…” She paced away from me and back again before finishing, “No, no, please don’t!” and ending the call.
I smiled at her. “Beautiful. Remind me to never betray you.” Not that I would, but…
She glanced down at her hands before offering my phone back to me. “So, I guess we wait now, huh?”
I nodded. “We have a couple of hours before the sun sets in Washington and he realizes you’re gone.”
“And a few more before he can get here, maybe not tonight at all. Sea-Tac is the closest major airport. It took us two nights to get to Seattle.”
I nodded. “That gives you time for some fun.”
She rolled her eyes. “I doubt any of my friends want to talk to me now. Most of them were terrified of Vampires.”
“Yes, but now you can glamour them to cluck like chickens or kiss repugnant strangers.”
She giggled and covered her mouth, but then her laugh became louder. “I just… Sam making out with Maxine Fortenberry… and the chicken dance… and… oh God.”
“It’s very good to see you can still laugh… Welcome home, Sookie.”
When she pushed herself onto her toes, I knew she meant to peck my cheek, but I caught her mouth with mine.
Her whole body tensed against me.
It wasn’t that she was resisting… she was surprised.
She spent a moment positively frozen before she relaxed, putting her hands on my shoulders, breathing as though she didn’t know it wasn’t necessary.
When I stopped, and only because I didn’t want to push her, she raised her eyebrow at me. “So… is that what you meant by ‘some fun’?”
“No. I just wanted to kiss you… What I meant by ‘some fun’ was starting what your Maker should have done months ago. Can I take you out to dinner, Sookie?”
She gave me a sad smile and said, “You know… I’m so happy to hear my own name again… yeah.”
“You changed your name?”
“Bill did. Sonia Stillman. I didn’t like it, but my handwriting is sloppy enough you couldn’t really tell when I lapsed.”
Another attempt to keep Sookie from being discovered.
“I don’t like it either… You’re Sookie.”
She giggled, “I am now.”