As it turned out, I didn’t have trunks at the house originally, but when Pam bought a pair for Tarzan, she thought to buy a pair for me as well…
Sookie and Hadley were the first to step into the Jacuzzi… Both of them carried fresh glasses of Malibu and Coke and casually complimented how each other looked.
According to Hadley, Sookie’s ‘girls’ looked amazing in blue macramé and if she didn’t know better, Gawain must have memorized Sookie’s ass because the bottoms were a perfect fit.
She took the words out of my mouth.
According to Sookie, Hadley looked phenomenal in general. She weighed at least 10 pounds more than they were used to. Hadley graciously thanked Sookie for the compliment and explained that she’d been trying to regain the weight she lost while she was at school. Jude was partly to thank because he was a ‘junk food junkie’ and she was hoping a pregnancy would help the effort, perhaps even give her a few curves like Sookie’s… Then she jokingly called Sookie a lusciously curvaceous cunt and blew an envious raspberry.
Hadley claimed she wasn’t planning to tell anyone about her adventure in the braid and Sookie agreed because, while mental institutions supplied pretty little pills, straitjackets weren’t very flattering… As Lynn stepped into the Jacuzzi, she whispered that Sookie and Hadley hadn’t ever gotten along so well.
Even though the cousins intended to smoke from the same bowl, Sookie sat at the opposite end of the Jacuzzi…
Of course, Lynn chose to sit next to Hadley and Pam sat with them… leaving Sookie to be sandwiched between me and Gawain on the other bench. We were all comfortable, plenty of leg and shoulder room, but it was the first time I’d ever tested the ‘seats eight’ capacity the pool installer had boasted. He lied.
They sat on the edge of the benches and passed the bowl back and forth, but Sookie reclined after taking only three drags.
She exhaled and offered, “I’m a lightweight. Three hits are all it takes to give me a buzz. I never tried it until a few nights ago.”
She wasn’t exaggerating at all. She was already lightheaded.
Hadley giggled and shook her head. “Oh my God… that’s crazy. You asked your folks for a bong for your 15th birthday. We’ve been smoking forever, the four of us… Not to party though, because it chills us out. Damn… You know, I can’t even imagine you growing up without Bran. Or me for that matter. We’re all so close. That’s nuts.”
Sookie frowned and asked, “What’s he like?”
“Great sense of humor, with a semi-automatic temper… He’s a constant flirt. Any girl he wants, the panties hit the floor. He’d kill for his family. He took to magic, like charms and wards, like a duck takes to water. He absorbs information like a sponge and reads everything he gets his mitts on. I think he was about twelve-ish when he opted to read one of y’alls mom’s Harlequins just because it was something he hadn’t read yet… When he was done, he told her the writing was horrible and gave her book back with a copy of Pride And Prejudice and a porn he boosted from Jason’s collection and suggested she keep her smut and romance separate. She blushed for a week … Y’all both hate shopping with a passion. You’ll do anything to avoid it. He ordered twenty suits from his tailor to avoid repeated trips and you just let Pam dress you for work. He makes his ability look like a fucking cake-walk, both of you do, and I’m really jealous of it. If he’s riled up about something, you’ve got to just give him some space. He’s a natural leader and he won’t cow to anyone. He’s more likely to go along with a plan if it’s his. Actually, no point in sugar-coating, he’s a total pain in the ass if it isn’t his idea. He sucks at apologies… Beautiful, intense, calculating, complex as hell. Like I said, he’s like you.”
Sookie scoffed, “I’m not-”
But she was interrupted when Pam, Gawain, Lynn and Hadley countered, “Yes, you are,” in chorus.
Apparently, it didn’t matter which trait she intended to argue.
Lynn smiled as she stared into the yard. “I thought I was pushing too hard or something. When I pictured him, I saw him at a bookstore, working, and he was helping a kid… Sookie’d done pretty much the same thing once. The kid was pissed about having to do a book report on Hamlet. He was going through, teaching the kid how to make sense of it.”
Hadley nodded. “Bran could be an excellent teacher if he just had some patience. He’s smart as a whip and has a knack for breaking things down. He’s a fixer too. Always wants to help someone out. As long as they aren’t just too lazy to do it for themselves, he’ll bust his ass to help out.”
Lynn offered, “He got that from his daddy… So did Sookie. Sook, I think I need you to run to the bookstore for me tomorrow.”
Sookie’s eyes rolled. “How did I know you were going to say that?”
Lynn chuckled, “Because you took over for my brother as the person who knows me better than anyone… Hey Hadley, how does that work out? Jack and Corbett, and me and Julie? Michelle and Carrey were always jealous as hell when we did anything together. They were even shitty about getting together for holidays and birthdays.”
Hadley rolled her eyes with a wide grin on her face. “You four are just as damn bad as the next generation. We even blame y’all because we never do anything alone. If y’all aren’t working, y’all are together. You and Julie are besties. Uncle Cort and Dad are like brothers. Y’all took them on your damn honeymoon, for Christ sakes.”
“Nooooo. Your father gave the phone from our hotel room to the manager to keep me from calling home.”
Hadley nodded. “That’s because he is a clueless fuck-bag who clearly has no concept of family… They had little babies when they got married, so they only spent a couple nights in a hotel, so you invited them to go with you and us older kids took care of Josie and Jessie for them. Y’all went on an Alaskan cruise together and y’all were already planning your next trip when you got home. You’ve vacationed together every year since then. Y’all get together every weekend and beat the crap out of each other old-fart style, you know, board games and cards.”
Lynn snorted, “Not only is Michelle dead, so I can’t beat her ass for playing with Corbett’s head, but I can’t even piss on the bitch’s grave anymore.”
Sookie mumbled, “I can. If I drink enough tea ahead of time, I can piss on her grave for both of us. Every week. Until I die…” When Hadley’s eyes bulged, Sookie explained, “She died when I was eight and I don’t have a single good memory of her. Mostly just yelling and spankings, oh, and the meds she forced down my throat. She used to think I wasn’t worth the cost of the medication because nothing would make me ‘right’. She freakin’ hated me. She loved Jason even more because he was normal.”
Fuck. And I’d thought Carrey was a prick for walking out on his wife and daughter.
Hadley argued, “Or maybe because he was affecting her feelings. I’m not suggesting Jason wanted her to hate you, that’s not in Jason’s programming, but maybe he wanted Michelle to love you and it got mixed up because he didn’t know what he was doing.”
Sookie shrugged. “We’ll never know… but about that… No offense, but why isn’t Jason like our Hadley was. I mean, you said he’s empathic like you, but ours doesn’t know what he is or what he can do. Hadley was nasty and irresponsible and slutty… Jason’s a man-whore, but girls stay in his reserve willingly. He works and pays his bills. He’s everyone’s friend.”
Hadley sighed and explained, “Well, it’s not just moods. We’re puppets to expectations too… And you have to consider our personalities. We actually have them under everyone else’s influence… I think, probably, it comes down to biology. We’ve got this allure shit. We’re all like bug lights and attract all kinds of attention, good or bad. Then there’s testosterone and estrogen. Testosterone wants to fuck. Estrogen wants to make love. While I attract hopeful one-night stands, Jason’s attracting relationships. Lucky prick. The best relationship I had before Jude lasted a year and it was with a girl I met at school. Eden…”
Lynn asked, “What happened with her?”
Hadley giggled, “Bitch couldn’t handle how close I was to Alcide. She’s completely why I started missing men, but the next guy I was with did the same shit because he had it in his head that Alcide wasn’t just my step-brother, so he was competition. I swear, Alcide is my filter… and I’m his. He dated this one cooz when we first got home from school. CRAY-ZEEEEEE. The sex was alright, but she kept doing creepy shit. He only dated her for about a month, but she stalked his ass. Alcide and I met for lunch and she followed him. She flipped her lid and came after me. I stabbed that bitch with my fork and then his. She had a fork in each thigh and she was still calling him a cheating bastard and telling him about the guys she’s been sleeping with on the side. I had to get bailed out. She had to have Kung Po Chicken dug out of her thigh and get a shot because she’s allergic to peanuts. And poor Alcide had to deal with the pack because she claimed I started it. We were lucky as hell there was another Long Tooth in Dragon Garden who saw the whole thing go down because some douche bag tried to claim he was Debbie’s fiancé and challenged Alcide because of the blood offense.”
Sookie snorted, “Debbie Pelt?”
Hadley laughed, “Poor Alcide. He can’t get away from that bitch. We make fun of him and say there needs to be rehab for his cum, but do yourself a favor and just shoot that ho in the face if you get a chance. In my version of things, she’s still passively stalking him. Apparently those scars on her legs haven’t taught her anything.”
Whatever Gawain didn’t say to Sookie earned an elbow to his ribs.
Lynn asked Sookie, “How do you know about that Debbie bitch?”
Sookie explained, “He called to warn me that he got the third degree about me because my number is in his phone. She actually came into Merlotte’s to start shit. I was at home with you, but when Sam told me she came by, he remembered doing her. Asshat… So, I told Alcide about it… and he told me about how she looked when he threw it in her face.”
Lynn gave Sookie a knowing smile. “I still think he’s sweet on you.”
Hadley shivered and groaned, “Cousins. Ew…” Gawain was elbowed again. “This sucks… I’m dead here. Jason is clueless about his ability, so I want to call him and give him some pointers.”
Sookie sighed, “If you want to help, help us think of a way to bring it up.”
Hadley pointed at Gawain. “He’s Fae. Just tell Jason and have Tarzan explain. I mean, you might need to embellish a little about how you know, but blame ‘the Faerie’.”
Why not? I’d been doing it for centuries.
“And risk Jason blabbing? I mean, Gawain glamoured him to keep quiet about Aunt Linda.”
Hadley snorted, “It’s important that he doesn’t say anything. He’ll be able to feel that. If a secret needs to be kept, Jason Stackhouse is a steel trap. No one but Stackhouses will ever know. You can trust Jason with a lot more than you think. We grew up in Bon Temps. Between the four of us, we know every secret in that town. If we didn’t know how to keep a secret, someone would have killed us by now.”
That sounded familiar… Sookie actually winked at me when I recognized she’d been cited.
Pam offered, “Unless you plan to keep Brandon to yourself and hide Maguire from Jason, he should know. Brandon is telepathic and Maguire could have an ability as well. Honestly, even if telling him goes badly, I think it’ll stick with him enough for him to realize you aren’t toying with him in time. He was funny last night, asking about Vampires while we light-proofed. He didn’t seem confused, just curious.”
Hadley nodded. “That’s Jason. He takes a lot of people by surprise because he’s so laid back and goofy…”
Lynn giggled, “So much like his daddy.”
Hadley agreed, “Exactly… he’s the smartest one of all of us. But he’d rather watch cartoons and play football on the roof of the hotel. Why? Because he’s empathic. He wants to have fun. Y’alls Jason might be a goofball, but if I had to guess, I’d say he slacked off in school because he was absorbing the boredom of the other students. Anything he’s ever been taught one-on-one style has stuck with him… Ummmmm… Carpentry? Cars? Hunting? Did Uncle Cort do that with yours before he died?”
Lynn nodded. “He sure did and Jason’s still doing it all even though his daddy’s gone.”
Hadley pressed on, “And I bet if you filled his fridge with groceries, he would cook for himself, but he orders pizza or goes out, right?”
Sookie and Linda nodded.
Hadley sighed, “I’m the same way. I’m not as laid back as Jas, but… empaths need a different approach.”
Pam cooed, “Can I be his sex-ed teacher?”
Sookie shook her head. “He doesn’t need one. You should have been in his head last night. A sexy woman who knows the difference between flat and Phillips-head…”
Hadley finished, giggling, “You got him… Just take a bottle of single malt over to his place. Parrrrrtaaaayyyy!”
“He likes single malt?”
Hadley shook her head. “He’s not particular, but you prefer it. You also like it when his mouth tastes like Lifesavers or jelly beans… You’re quite fond of that Fae side effect. Our chemistry doesn’t make food stink up our mouths like Humans.”
Good. To. Know.
Pam spent just as much time imagining possibilities as I did. I couldn’t help but wonder how obvious it would be if I browsed the contents of my refrigerator and pantry.
Sookie finally nudged my arm with her elbow and said, “Alright folks, let’s go. We’ve bogarted their visit long enough to start pruning. Let’s give them some time alone…” As she stood up, she asked, “Aunt Linda, do you want me to bring you a glass or two?”
Perfect view of her ass.
Lynn smiled and shook her head. “No thanks, baby. I’ll call you though, instead of dripping on the floor.”
“K…” Sookie reached into the water to take Pam’s hand, towing her along. “Come on, ya nosy looky-loo. There was a new South Park on tonight.”
Pam followed and whined, “But the cable box recorded it so it’ll still be there later.”
Sookie tried, “And a baby to shop for?”
Pam pulled away from Sookie’s grip and dashed up the stairs to the deck… unfortunately, as soon as she entered the house, she slipped on the smooth floor.
Judging by the pain in her back and head, she’d fallen flat on her back.
Sookie giggled, “Hey Pam, watch out. That floor’s slippery when it’s wet.”
Gawain was already laughing when Pam groaned, “Oh. Ha. Ha… Fucking smart ass.”
We dried with the towels Sookie had brought to the deck, starting with our feet, and walked into the house, stepping over Pam on our way… At least Sookie stopped to help her from the floor.
As soon as the door closed, Sookie offered, “For the record, this is the longest Hadley has ever been in my presence and not started a fight. Night and day.”
Gawain shrugged. “Who the fuck cares? This is probably better for Lynn than seeing her actual daughter. Unless you learned something to suggest Hadley discovered her ability while she was in New Orleans, the stress of a reunion would more than likely affect everyone’s feelings and she’d react poorly to the tension.”
Sookie clicked her tongue. “Got me there… and you know, call me crazy, but I think this might help, if for no better reason than guilt relief. Any time Hadley’s come up in conversation since she disappeared, Aunt Linda started flogging herself about where she went wrong and what she could have done differently. Hearing that Hadley might have been normal, awesome even, if we knew about her ability…”
I nodded. “Even if she’s shifted blame to your mother, at least she isn’t dwelling on mistakes.”
Gawain sighed, “It doesn’t matter. That’s temporary too. We all do it. I had one die after a long fever when he was four years old. I was certain I’d carried the illness home with me. I had a stillborn daughter. I was sure I’d pissed someone off and been cursed. Blaming yourself is just part of losing a child. It doesn’t matter Hadley was making her own choices and mistakes.”
Well put, but I was sure that was the first fucking time he’d ever mentioned losing children in my presence. He’d talked about his surviving children at great length, but never his lost ones.
Sookie puffed out her cheeks and huffed, “Fair enough. Gran still blames herself for a car accident caused by a flash-flood. Thirteen years later and she still wishes she took us home or suggested a marriage counselor on the other side of town. I’m sure as hell not going to tell her that she’d still have her son if she didn’t encourage him to try to make things work with Michelle.”
Gawain kissed her cheek and walked towards the den. “That’s probably for the best… By the way, your phone… blew up… Blew up, yes?”
She scoffed, “Yeah. Why didn’t you say something earlier?” When he didn’t answer, she rolled her eyes and relayed, “Because he was enjoying the view. He’s such a turd. Can you do anything with him?”
I shook my head… he was right about the view. “I was sure it was just your boyfriend. Surely, he’ll forgive the delay in returning his call when he hears Hadley’s dead and you’re planning to neglect him for a much younger Were.”
She blew a raspberry and turned to take her phone from the counter.
While it rang, she began gathering the spilled contents of Hadley’s purse and asked, “Can you do me a huge favor and listen for them. I can’t tell him she’s dead and then have him hear her voice.”
Since the Wolf probably couldn’t grasp the concept of the braid, and being Sookie’s ears gave me an excuse to eavesdrop… Gladly. I sat on a barstool as Alcide grunted his greeting.
“I woke you up. I’m sorry…”
He groaned, “Nonono… I would’ve worried if you waited ‘til you got up. What all happened?”
“Better than I expected, but she’s pretty dashed… The worst case scenario ended up being the reality.”
“Fuck. Hug her for me… How’d Hadley die?”
Sookie moved, setting Hadley’s purse on the counter and walking towards the refrigerator. She opened the freezer and bent over as she searched the contents and finally removed a small carton of ice cream.
She took a spoon from a drawer and leaned on the counter. “She was clean while she was AWOL… She hurt her arm and was given pain killers and muscle relaxers. It was enough to knock her out cold and she drowned in the tub. Completely accidental and without a Darwin Award, believe it or not.”
“Damn. Next thing you’ll do is tell me the Easter Bunny’s real… How are you holding up?”
“I’m kinda numb right now… It turns out she was a Jane Doe because of a colossal comedy of errors and I ended up talking to Hadley’s father. I punched the wall and broke my hand. Erik healed me even though he should’ve laughed at me for being a dumbass and left me to suffer…”
He chuckled, “That temper of yours… Maybe he’s a little scared of taking you back to Lin busted up…”
Sookie giggled, “If he’s smart, he’s scared.”
Alcide asked, “You planning to read yourself to sleep?”
“I’m planning to write myself to sleep. Lists… I have a shit-ton of stuff to do…” She scooped ice cream into her mouth and sighed, “I have to set up a nursery…”
“Yeah… I have no clue how to baby-proof. I need to get furniture and clothes… I’ll probably screw it up, so I see a chaperoned trip to Babies R Us in Aunt Linda’s future. She’s the only one in the family who’s had a baby in the last 50 years. She’ll have a better clue than me. Baby showers are easy because you buy the cutest thing they’re registered for, but I’m clueless about what a baby needs unless it fits in a diaper bag. I haven’t even babysat for many little ones. They’re usually old enough to tell me what they want on their pizza.”
Shopping was Pam’s department.
“When the hell did that happen? You’re planning to live with a newborn Vampire and a baby? What the fuck?”
“Erik’s apprehensive too, so I’m setting up another house just in case we need some space, but…”
That question made his last few questions funny rather than irksome…
Sookie gasped and choked slightly on her ice cream.
“No…” She coughed a few times before continuing, “Way to go, you paranoid ass… I nearly choked on my vanilla bean.”
“Yeah well, you gave me a heart attack. We’re even. What baby are you getting ready for?”
“Did you think I was pregnant and wouldn’t have told you? Hell, would I have told you like that? Hey sweetie, could you come over and put together the baby’s crib?”
He growled, “Fuck, I’m sorry. It was like you were trying to sneak it into conversation. What baby are we talking about?”
“Hadley had a baby. He’s almost a year old. I’m taking him.”
“My heart attack’s over, but… a kid with a newborn Vamp still doesn’t sound like a great idea. Do you really need to be a live-in, baby? You can get your own place or move in with me…”
“I’m not taking the baby for me, Alcide. On paper, Aunt Linda’s unfit. His grandma is going to raise him. Cousin Sookie’s just going to keep an eye on him during the day… He’s a Were.”
“You heard me… Hadley was just like me and the baby’s father is a Shifter. Poor thing is a Were mystery. He won’t know what he shifts into until it happens.”
“Oh, that’s an extra layer of suck on top of the rest of Were bullshit… He’ll know though. He’ll start dreaming about it. If you take him to a big zoo, he’ll have a favorite animal when he leaves. Obsess over it.”
“Yeah. Way before my folks sat me down. My favorite comic book was The Phantom. He had a wolf named Devil. I’ve still got the comics boxed up in the attic.”
“At least there’s that… Look, I’ve had a long day. I’m going to finish my snack and then snuggle up with a notebook.”
After a long pause he offered, “You’re really young, you know, on paper. Your address is a house with an inch of lead paint on the walls. You’re a waitress at a joint where cops eat free just so they’re cheap security.”
“Call Gran and tell her your glass is half-empty. You need an education, Mr. Negativity.”
He snorted, “I already heard that one. Lin told me. The glass is always full because people take the air for granted, right?”
“Alright, what are you getting at then?”
“On paper, the only reason a judge would give that kid to you is to get him out of the system. That’s iffy. It might not be enough.”
She scoffed, “Thanks for the vote of confidence. Erik’s using his lawyer.”
“Right. That’s really generous and all… but… A family portrait might help… If we get married…”
“That’s sweet, but…”
“Hear me out. I’m not just asking because of the kid. You know I love you. You probably already know I’ve already been looking at rings and houses. Just think about it. If you’re just planning to be the kid’s nanny-type then you could take the kid over at sunset and bring him back to our place at dawn. It could work… I was just thinking a husband and a new house of your own might be better to take to court with you.”
It would be.
And I’d been hoping (albeit selfishly) he’d react badly to the news of Maguire.
I could feel how conflicted Sookie was, but it did nothing to give me any hope.
She sniffled, “I’ll think about it… I’ll talk to you later.”
After Alcide said goodnight, Sookie closed her phone and dropped it onto the counter, taking her ice cream with her as she left the kitchen.
She couldn’t have thought she was getting away from me that easily, but before I left my barstool, she said, “Not talking about it.”
I still followed her…
She tried to close her bedroom door.
She tried to close her bathroom door.
I actually let her close the sliding door for her shower though.
As she turned on the water, she growled, “Read a damn book if you’re bored.”
“My library is at another house. While you’re at the bookstore tomorrow…”
She scoffed, “Turd.”
While she worked shampoo through her hair, completely oblivious to how much I could see through the glass door, I asked, “Why haven’t you removed your bikini?”
“Because I have a creeper in my bathroom.”
I gasped, “Where?”
In perfect time, Gawain walked into the bathroom and offered, “Talking about me again?”
The only thing he was wearing was a layer of soapsuds… and he stepped into the shower with Sookie.
“Make room. I just need to rinse…”
Sookie stepped back and waited with her hands on her hips. “What the hell are you doing in here? There’s a hundred bathrooms in this house.”
“This is the only one where the water is already running warm…” He kissed her cheek. “All done. Thank you…” As he stepped out and wrapped with a towel around his waist, he explained, “Now that you’re upstairs, my reception of Hadley’s mind is shite. What are you hearing?”
Sookie stepped under the water again and offered, “I’m only sneaking into her head once in a while. Hadley can feel it. Seeing her mom like this depresses the hell out of her. I mean, she’s really relieved that Erik saved her from cancer, but… they had a really good setup for as far back as Hadley can remember so hearing that Aunt Linda hasn’t had anything good in her life… She thought how great it is that Erik’s her Maker because she’ll have the chance to make up for the past 20 shitty years.”
Gawain nodded, “I thought I was imagining it, or she’s just stoned…”
“Nope… I mean, Hadley’s mother got her dream shop, and still has her brother, and has a man who loves her, and wasn’t sick for nearly two years, and has a great relationship with her daughter… The only shit her mom had to go through was burying her father, but she had her brother to help her with that.”
“And outliving our parents is a natural experience, so it’s usually less devastating when it happens in adulthood… Now… What did Alcide say when you returned his call?”
Sookie turned her back and snorted, “As nosy as you are, it’s really sad that you can’t multi-task.”
“You know I’m nosy enough to go to his house and glamour him to tell me.”
She continued to wash, feeling both stubborn and hopeful… She didn’t want to tell him, and she was hoping I wouldn’t either.
She growled at me while Gawain laughed, “No. He. Didn’t.”
I nodded. “He did. Apparently, he’s been shopping for rings and houses already and suggested being married and appearing to be ‘settled down’ could give a better impression when she tries to obtain custody of the boy. They can live together and Sookie can shuttle Maguire between the two homes.”
Gawain laughed, “Fuck. Sookie, you could probably ride every cock between this house and his and he’d forgive you.”
That seemed like a jump. I’d missed something else.
She groaned, “Tell me about it.”
He shrugged, “Well his reaction to the genetic newsflash was surprising and now…”
She shook her head and leaned over to turn off the water. “That’s just a saying. ‘Tell me about it’ is like ‘no kidding’ or ‘that isn’t news’.”
He nodded. “An ironic way to respond when someone states the obvious.”
She nodded, feeling more comfortable with his lesson on idioms. “Exactly.”
“Thank you… I’m curious about what reaction smelling like Erik will cause.”
I was only surprised he’d waited so long to mention it.
He passed a towel to her without being asked, and as she wrapped it around her hair, he took another one from the cabinet for her.
“I told him I had Erik’s blood and why, so it won’t be a surprise when I smell like him.”
“And he didn’t have a reaction? Does he talk in his sleep like you do?”
She talks in her sleep?
Sookie wrapped the second towel around herself and stepped out of the tub. She narrowed her eyes as she walked past him, offering, “I’m sure he had a reaction, just not one I could hear from five miles away.”
“He could be paranoid Erik had a clandestine reason.”
Just in regards to the collateral benefits. Her hand actually needed attention.
“He usually saves his paranoia for his father.”
I opted for a comfortable position, lying down to enjoy the scent of Sookie’s pillows. I asked, “And what was his reaction to the genetic newsflash?”
Sookie seemed to be ignoring me as she removed a robe from her closet…
While Sookie used the robe to cover herself, shimmying her bottoms down her legs and pulling on pajama shorts, Gawain answered, “He’s pleased. His distaste for ‘adding to the pack’ hinged on the concept of mating with strangers to produce children whose lives he’d be excluded from. Hearing Sookie would give him Were progeny is just a bonus considering he was already fantasizing about having a family with her…” Sookie looked at both of us and scoffed before stepping into the small closet and closing the door. Gawain sprawled out on the other side of Sookie’s bed and chuckled, “She’s absurdly introverted… Back to Alcide. Sookie’s ancestry actually spares him from an awkward date with a specimen cup. His secondary concern is they both have a family history of cancer. He wants to undergo some sort of screening to find out if either of them have genetic concerns before committing to children. His mother had colon cancer and, apparently, that particular type is known to be genetic.”
From the closet, Sookie added, “And he understandably doesn’t want his children to watch their father die like he watched his mother, and definitely doesn’t want to watch his babies suffer.”
I asked, “What about your family history of cancer?”
She took a deep breath and stepped out of the closet in a tiny tank top that matched her snug shorts. “Aunt Linda’s cancer was different. Without a uterus, Hadley’s mom was fine. It was all because of her endometriosis… That can be genetic. God knows every freaking monthly cramp I’ve had for years has made me antsy, but I’m alright and so is Hadley. I’ll never miss a yearly checkup, that’s for damn sure… Are you two comfortable?”
Gawain nodded when I did.
He offered, “Just break up with him, Sookie. You can’t take care of everyone. You can still be his friend without fucking him.”
She tossed herself onto the bed between us and scoffed, “Right. Okay. We’ll go to the mall tomorrow night and shop for Maguire. You’ll ask the first hundred people you see how many exes they’re still friends with… And I’ll ask them if I’ve got a single good reason to break up with him. Hell, I dare you to think of a good reason.”
Gawain tried, “His dick should be registered as a weapon?”
Sookie elbowed him and snickered, “That might taint the poll a bit. I’ll end up getting asked for his phone number.”
“Then I’ll bring you over and take you away.”
Excuse me? Gawain? Even jokingly?
A night of firsts.
Sookie sighed, “Can’t do that. Maguire needs someone to take care of him for a while. Even if Aunt Linda gets a handle on feeding in record time, it’s going to be a couple of years before he can be on a mostly nocturnal schedule.”
Was that her only reason?
I asked Gawain, “Do you still need to rest even though you don’t die?”
He nodded. “Mental exhaustion and physical fatigue. I can last a few days without rest, but there isn’t really a reason to. It isn’t as though I can go out during the day. If I push to stay awake for too long, my reflexes are affected…”
Which easily explained why all of his houses had always been light-proofed with curtains and shutters… And why his first order of business at sunset was opening them all… And why he wandered outdoors to fill his idle time… His unique state caused a certain degree of claustrophobia.
Centuries of curiosity, resolved… and only because I’d brought over Lynn.
“What about Lynn? Does her rest seem any different from yours?”
“Not in the least. She rested longer than I did today, but that will probably change as she ages. When I was a newborn, I usually slept most of the day. She still dreams like I do. Testing her ability was an effort to distract her from the same restlessness I experienced at first. She was pacing like a caged cat while crocheting and talking.”
Sookie offered, “It’s probably a little worse because of how awesome she feels all of a sudden. Last week, she needed to catch her breath after a shower.”
He chuckled, “Good point… back to Alcide…”
She groaned and rolled away from him to hide her face between my arm and the mattress. “I’m going to sleep.”
He snorted, “Good. You’re less inhibited when you’re sleeping.”
As she kicked his shin, I asked, “What are her reasons for sending him to the farm?”
She moved her leg to the other side to kick me.
Gawain asked, “Farm?”
“Americans lie to their children. Instead of explaining the family pet died, children are led to believe there is a farm where elderly and infirmed pets live forever. Pam was eavesdropping at a pet store and heard a child say they were shopping for a puppy because her old dog ‘went to live on the farm’.”
He narrowed his eyes and scoffed, “And then they make up excuses for their children’s stupidity. Humans are insane.”
Sookie groaned, “SOME Humans, please! I wasn’t raised on lies.”
He shrugged. “Fair enough… Sookie has multiple legitimate concerns. They basically equate to a Shakespearean tragedy.”
“She’s been spending too much time with you. I’m sure she’s being melodramatic.”
He shook his head. “She was covered in tears when I met her. She was already like this.”
Her leg jerked back and when she kicked him again, he swatted her ass.
I asked, “So what are these legitimate concerns?”
“Eventually, Alcide’s father will rightfully hate Lynn and because she’s like a mother to Sookie, the Montagues and the Capulets are already on the stage.”
“Fair enough. What else?”
“She doesn’t want children. She understands that her mind could change later, but she doesn’t want to be convinced and then regret it later. She also doesn’t want to make a commitment to Alcide only to have wasted his time if her stance doesn’t change.”
“Another good point.”
“And now there’s Maguire. She accurately predicted Alcide would push for her to move to live with him because he’s already shopping for houses. She’s afraid Alcide won’t see the situation for what it is and have false hope that Sookie’s biological clock will begin ticking…”
“Why do you know ‘biological clock’, but ‘tell me about it’ had to be explained?”
“She already defined that for me… Sookie doesn’t have any intention of taking Maguire away from Lynn in any capacity. She intends to ‘kick ass and take names’ as a nanny to be sure nothing unfortunate happens to force her to relocate with the boy… and Alcide has suggested starting a family of their own in ‘a couple of years’ which overlaps the timeframe she’s expecting to be needed by Lynn and Maguire…”
“What is her educated guess?”
“Five years. Once the boy begins school, Lynn will be able to rest while he’s away. Sookie will only really be needed for a few hours on weekends by then…”
I hadn’t considered school. That would make a difference.
Pam joined us, wearing a silk robe and slithering into the narrow space between Sookie and Gawain.
She pinched his nipple as she settled, complaining, “Asshole. I can’t hear them from downstairs over the Jacuzzi jets.”
Gawain shrugged. “Every man for himself.”
“Again. Asshole… Are we talking about Alcide again or does something else make her hide like a turtle?”
When I chuckled, Sookie nipped my arm.
Pam giggled, “I’ll take that as a yes… Let me guess, the world’s best boyfriend offered to adopt Maguire and help you raise him.”
Decades of Shreveport-induced boredom and all of interesting events happened in the three nights I was with Lynn.
Sookie whimpered, “Basically.”
Pam sighed, “You have three options.”
Sookie snorted, “Dying to hear this.”
“Have a torrid encounter and send him the video. I’ll volunteer to be your costar.”
No no no… Sookie prefers men. I’ll volunteer.
Sookie grumbled, “A- That’s shitty because I don’t want to hurt him. B- It might just turn him on because some of his porn is girl-on-girl.”
Gawain offered, “Speaking of porn… It’s responsible for why Hadley thought Alcide had female company. When I called him, I could hear the audio of the video and crickets… He’d opened his windows to air out his room after their tryst this afternoon.”
Pam cooed, “How very accommodating of you, Sookie. I’ve heard several women compare pornography to adultery.”
“Because they’ve clearly never seen Alcide wash his truck with his shirt off… visual inspiration is visual inspiration. Dayum…”
Pam complained, “I need to see this Wolf.”
Sookie snorted, “Could you start feeding from people on Ritalin or something? Do you even remember the other two options anymore?”
When Gawain and I laughed at the look on Pam’s face, Sookie lifted her head to shake it. “That’s just sad.”
“Kiss my pale ass. I’m part of a cuddle pile while my sister is downstairs taking a schvitz with her dead daughter. You’ve just discovered Jason is empathic and learned about your father’s telepathic wild oat. We’re preparing to babyproof for a Pollyanna-Were…”
“Do you mean Pollyanna-Were like orphan, or like the Secret Santa thing?”
“Secret Santa. We don’t know what the hell he’ll be.”
Sookie snickered, “That’s kind of cute. Shame there isn’t a more masculine way to say that… And don’t forget that you’re still waiting for a chance to make fun of Erik because he’s always told you to stay the hell away from Faeries… meanwhile, his best friend is one.”
Pam pouted, “Thanks for ruining that.”
I couldn’t help but ask, “Did you really forget two options?”
Pam sighed, “I remember the only one I was serious about… She needs to pull up her big-girl panties and go forward with her first breakup with her first boyfriend because being just friends is the only thing about their relationship that makes any fucking sense given their current situations…”
Sookie shoved her face into the mattress again and groaned, “I freakin’ know that, Dear Abbey! I’m not exactly happy about it, but I know. The Medieval buttinskys were the ones talking about it.”
Pam snorted, “Don’t lash out at me because you love someone so completely perfect, yet immeasurably inconvenient.”
I asked, “What makes him perfect?”
Pam explained, “He’s stunning. He’s intelligent. He’s not afraid of Sookie’s ability. He’ll tell her to shut the fuck up when it’s called for, but treats her like the full moon glows from her asshole otherwise. He wants to marry her and take care of her and father her children… He doesn’t care if she works, goes to school or keeps house as long as she’s happy because he’s ‘stuck’ with the family business, so he’s content to ‘borrow her good mood’ at the end of the day. On paper, he’s the perfect fucking man and mate and lover, but their complicated lives are spinning in opposite directions. He’s on the track to settling down and establishing a family, with goals for a more Rockwellian existence. Sookie’s jumped headlong into Supernatural duality, accidentally boarding the SS Shyamalan.”
At least Pam could focus occasionally.
Gawain agreed, “Fantastic synopsis.”
Sookie added, “And now this, Hadley’s posthumous visitation. Any guesses as to which Faerie is responsible for this, Gawain? Or if it was a combination of factors? Even if I bailed on Aunt Linda, kept Maguire with me for the majority of his time, became Sookie Herveaux, had a kid or two, lived the Tupperware Party and casserole life that sounds really awesome and, honestly, is exactly the life I figured I’d never get to have because of my ability, how the fuck do I explain to my husband and kids when dead people come over for a visit? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a knockout.”
She was absolutely right about that. This braid made normalcy an almost preposterous concept.
After a moment, she huffed, “See. I couldn’t even try. It wouldn’t be fair.”
Pam offered, “You had your hopes up, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but what does that matter? Hope is for chumps…” She sighed as she pushed herself from the bed to climb over my legs and went to her closet to quietly remove a handful of clothing before leaving the room.
Pam and Gawain were discussing the possibility of glamouring the Herveauxs to forget the Stackhouse family when I left to shower. I monitored Lynn, primarily for hunger, as I had for most of the night, and was surprised by how much lighter her mood was. Whatever she spoke to Hadley about while I bathed improved her emotions so much that no one would have believed she’d just found out her daughter was dead.
When I opened the hatch from the saferoom, Sookie was redressing Lynn’s bed.
“You’re tired. Why aren’t you resting?”
She sighed, “Shit to do… You and Pam have clean laundry on the dryer, but I can’t lift the trap door… Aunt Linda cried all over her bed, so I’m going to put her stuff in the washer to soak once they’re done showering… They moved up to the deck. I took a fresh drink to Hadley and four glasses of blood to Aunt Linda. They’re drying off. Gawain doesn’t know how the hell Hadley’s going to get home or how it happens, so I made a bed upstairs for her…”
I took a pillow from her and tossed it onto the bed. “Sookie, this is appreciated, but you’re not a maid. We can, and will, clean up after ourselves. Lynn doesn’t need this anymore.”
She nodded and rubbed her eyes and left them closed for a moment. “Right. Okay.”
“Go to bed. Rest.”
She nodded absently, as though she was under glamour and turned away, dragging her feet as she left the room… In twenty minutes, she went from seeming perfectly alert to practically catatonic.
It had been nearly seven o’clock when she came to me downstairs.
She’d already been to and from Bon Temps to fetch Hadley’s identification… That errand couldn’t have taken less than two hours.
She’d had enough time to be brought up to speed on Lynn’s experimenting.
She’d spent three hours with Alcide.
I noticed that some of the items Lynn had added to the list she’d made last night had been added to the refrigerator, specifically buttermilk and a large turkey stood out to me, so Sookie had been shopping.
Alcide had mentioned his father enjoyed the food Lynn had prepared, so Sookie had delivered it.
Sunrise had been at 6:30, give or take, and she was just going to sleep as I was dying, but would have been woken to remove pies from the oven… there was no way Sookie had slept for more than four hours. A nap.
Taking into account she hadn’t slept for long and the amount of stress she’d been under, I was surprised she wasn’t sleepwalking.
When I found her, she was leaning against the wall at the foot of the stairs. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was restful…
Her eyes hadn’t opened.
“Do you sleepwalk often?”
“Mmmmm no… I sleep talk. Jason sleepwalks.”
I carefully placed my hand on her back, planning to scoop her up and carry her to bed before she harmed herself, but opted for the deck instead.
Lynn and Hadley were wrapped in their towels with their legs stretched out to rest on the railing… and they both giggled when they saw me and my cargo.
“I found this sleeping at the base of the stairs.”
Hadley giggled, “As long as you promise to feed it every day and give it baths, you can keep it.”
“Thank you… She doesn’t usually sleepwalk.”
Lynn shook her head. “That’s Jason’s trick. He’ll cut the grass in his sleep, change his oil, he ate a whole pan of lasagna once…”
“Sookie was changing your bedding… Hadley, are you tired enough to be keeping yourself-”
She interrupted me to gasp. “Oh God! Yeah… I was up before the sun, then I worked until ten, and then shopping… Pam’s boutiques… Sookie, I’m sorry. I leaked. I didn’t mean to keep you up.”
Sookie mumbled, “T’sall good.”
“Want to have some fun and play truth or dare?”
“Yeah. I dare ya ta shut up so I can sleep. There are sexier voices to dream.”
Sookie giggled sleepily, “You know it.”
Gawain and Pam were still on Sookie’s bed when I walked into her room… both of them raised an eyebrow.
I tilted my head towards the door. “Find somewhere else to hang out so she can sleep.”
Pam breathed, “She crashed quickly.”
“I’m not sure what time she woke, but her day was trying, to say the least.”
As they left her bed, Gawain offered, “Sookie, if we’re going to share dreams again, no monster cocks. Beautiful, tight pussies.”
Sookie yawned, “Or the Golden Girls.”
“Who are-” He lurched back a step with a horrified look on his face as he shouted, “OH LORD NO!” before darting from the room.
Pam cackled, “I love her! I’m keeping her.”
I offered, “Too late. Hadley already said I could keep her. All I have to do is feed her and bathe her.”
Pam smirked as she walked past me. “Fat, lazy pets are no fun. Make sure she gets plenty of exercise.”
That wouldn’t be an imposition.
As I laid Sookie on her bed, she sighed, “She’s gone.”
“What do you mean?”
“Aunt Linda brought her in to get cleaned up for bed… Hadley was in the shower and… just gone… her mind just… faded…” After another yawn, she finished, “Like a candle at the end of its wick.”
“You were listening?”
“She thought to me… they do that, the lucky version… she thought poor you. She knows Pam really well, and Aunt Linda’s really stubborn. She told me to be extra nice to you to make up for your obstinate children.”
“Is she forgetting how stubborn you are?”
She snickered, “I guess so… You should probably go, tell Aunt Linda before she worries.”
Lynn was sitting on the foot of Pam’s bed, leaning back with her eyes closed. If I had to guess, I’d say she was listening to the water fall in the shower.
She was smiling before her eyes opened. “Yeah?”
“She’s gone. Sookie felt her mind as she left…”
Her smile melted into angry look and she walked into the bathroom to stare at the empty shower stall.
I offered, “Sookie compared it to a candle’s flame flickering out.”
She grumbled, “Goddamnit. I didn’t get to say goodbye to this one either.”
She was frustrated and upset, but not as much as I expected.
“Did you tell her you love her without a ‘but’?”
She closed her eyes and grinned… She actually felt calmed by the thought. “Only about a hundred times.”
“Excellent… Perhaps Gawain will remember more details about this braid…”
“Was this… like a huge pain in your ass?”
I shook my head. “Not at all. Confusing at first, and Gawain’s going to be an asshole about my status in Hadley’s reality forever, but this wasn’t a pain in my ass.”
“I want it to happen again.”
“You’re looking forward to it? I would have thought seeing Hadley again would be… bittersweet, at best.”
She took a deep breath and nodded. “It was, this time, but… Maybe next time I can help my baby. If I meet a different one, a Hadley that doesn’t know what she is… This was only bittersweet because the visit was full of woulda-coulda-shoulda, but… I mean, think about it, if God forbid you lost Pam, wouldn’t you want to see her again? Hear her voice? Maybe even help her avoid whatever caused you to lose her in the first place?”
There was no doubt about that.
I nodded. “Absolutely.”
She smiled. “You didn’t even hesitate.”
I shook my head. “We’ve been together since I brought her over. I’d be wretched without her.”
“And if you found out a Faerie could help you see her again?”
“Honestly, I’d cage one if it was necessary… I hadn’t thought about it from your perspective… Your Hadley is gone though.”
Her eyes glazed with blood. “I know, but… what hurts the most is all the hindsight. My baby’s gone and there’s nothing I can do to bring her back, but maybe I’ll get the chance to help another one, maybe make it up to Mine. I need her to know how much I loved her, warts and all. My visitor, she’s exactly what I wanted Mine to be. Happy… Even if I have to wait to help, I’ve got plenty of time.”
It was so bizarre… she felt hopeful and troubled at the same time.
It wasn’t at all surprising, just a peculiar sensation.
Part of me hoped it happened frequently just for Lynn’s peace of mind, but without knowing more about the phenomena there wasn’t any point.
“I only worry it might confuse Maguire.”
The corners of her mouth turned up slightly. “But he isn’t Human. Not really. He’s got telepaths and Vampires… He’s a Were. He’ll never know any different… When that baby starts school, it’s not going to be for his ABCs. He’s going to be learning how to be around Humans… I love his name, by the way. Any idea where it came from?”
“While Carrey spoke to Sookie, he explained Hadley didn’t want to use Corbett as his first name because Sookie or Jason might eventually want to. Madeline and Gabrielle helped their sister choose it.”
She cooed, “I really like it… He could be anything with a name like that.”
“I wasn’t aware that names had restrictions.”
She actually giggled, “That’s because you deal with Vampires who ditched crappy names. Would you go to a doctor named Cletus? No. You go to doctors named Charles and have Cletus change your oil.”
I chuckled, “Fair enough… Are you hiding anything from me? Should I worry about how you’re taking so many changes?”
“Nahhhh. I’ll be alright. I’m a tough broad. I’ve got pain, but so does everyone else. I’ve got something to look forward to. I’ve got a grandbaby. I’ve got a nephew I’ve never met who needs to hear about his daddy. I’ve got another one who needs to do right by himself and work on his ability.”
“And you’ve just seen confirmation you weren’t an unfit mother… In your situation, you couldn’t have known about Hadley’s ability, but your visitor proved that you would have raised a beautiful, friendly, vibrant daughter who was completely aware of how much her mother cared because she could actually feel it.”
Lynn swatted my arm and scoffed, “I’m trying to stop crying, dammit.”
I chuckled again. “Alright… After you feed tomorrow night, I’ll take you to Adele so you can deliver the news about Hadley.”
“If you don’t mind… Can I have them come here? I want to sit them down and tell them about this braid thing too, just in case. And Brandon… And all the details… I kind of want Gawain there too so he can explain what he knows. Safety in numbers.”
I nodded. “You’re more than welcome to do that.”
“Thank you… Since hiding things came up…”
“Does Sookie have a really good reason to hide her relationship with Alcide from me?”
Definitely uh oh.
“I’m not sure this concerns me.”
She snorted, “You’re not getting away with that.”
She shook her head. “That’s not going to work either.”
At least I tried.
“Don’t you think you should ask her?”
She shook her head.
My only other stall was suggesting Alcide was just a fling, but I was saved.
Gawain opened the trapdoor and barked, “Nosy twat! You don’t have to know everything.”
She yelled, “Says the eavesdropping asshole!”
“I have excellent hearing. I can’t help that.”
“Why don’t you tell me then?”
“Because if Sookie wanted you to know, she’d have told you. She’s quite adult and entitled to some fucking privacy.”
“Why did she tell you then?”
After a pause he offered, “Because I’m a good listener,” but it sounded like a question.
“My ass! How did you find out?”
“Why does it matter? Do you object to the relationship?”
“Do you object to the idea of her riding a cock?”
She groaned, “I’d rather not think about that, but no. It’s not that I have a problem with her dating. It’s just… the secret.”
“Given Hadley’s reaction to your remark that Alcide is sweet on Sookie, one could raise an eyebrow because she was seeing her aunt’s lover’s son; a common-law cousin, but a cousin nonetheless. Perhaps she was seeing him privately to avoid suffering the taboos of others.”
Or she was altruistically sacrificing a relationship in favor of her aunt needs… and still was.
Lynn shook her head and argued, “Nope. Erik knows better. I can feel him calling bullshit,” and walked upstairs to confront him.
Her nose touched his as she continued to move, backing him up to the wall.
He chuckled quietly, “Perhaps Sookie was teaching you a lesson. You hid your affinity for dogs too, did you not?”
“Not bad. This is good. Keep lying… It’ll help me eliminate the bullshit and figure it out on my own.”
This wasn’t going to end well.
“Perhaps Sookie kept the secret because the relationship wasn’t worth mentioning. She isn’t dreaming about Alcide right now… He may join the party because her dreams are…” His face puckered when he paused. “Lynn knows about Alcide because Sookie talks in her sleep. She didn’t have any reason to think we knew about it.”
Lynn giggled as she stepped away from him, feeling completely proud of herself. “I needed a victory tonight, guys. Sorry.”
Gawain pointed at me. “You’re fucked, my friend. Between this devious cunt and Pam…”
I offered dryly, “Tell me about it.”