The first thing that came to me was Jason yelling, “Get the fuck out, BITCH!” followed by what sounded like a bomb being dropped in the foyer.
Sookie shrieked and I felt a sharp pain in my chest and another in my cheek while the scuffle proceeded to push my patience.
After I’d died that morning while Sookie cried hopelessly into my shoulder, I was in no mood for any form of fuckery.
I cracked the bedroom door carefully, making sure the front door was closed before I sped down the stairs to find Arlene and Sookie engaged in a one-sided catfight. Jason was trying to yank Arlene away from Sookie, but the cunt had one hand in her hair and the other was scratching like a feral cat… in front of two children no less. Sookie’s hands were clasped to her chest and her blood was everywhere, red cascades flowing between her fingers.
I couldn’t think for a moment. The sight of Sookie’s blood destroyed every rational fiber I had.
I almost missed the bloody buck knife on the floor.
When I saw Sookie’s eyes start to flutter, it broke me.
I scooped her up to take her to her room, ordering Jason to get Arlene out of the house.
When I laid with Sookie on her bed, she whimpered, “She… I think she…”
I cut her off, pushing my bloody wrist to her mouth and using my free hand to pull her shirt up to watch the wound. Calling for help wouldn’t have been an option. As quickly as Sookie was losing blood, if Arlene had come by half an hour earlier, an ambulance wouldn’t have arrived in time to help Sookie…
Surge after surge of Sookie’s blood, at least two pints seeped into the bedding before I noticed improvement worth mentioning…
I could’ve lost her.
I’d just opened my wrist again when Jason ran back and barged into the room without knocking and the phone in his hand. “What the fuck!?”
“Put the phone down.”
“What the fuck are you doing?”
“I’m giving her my blood to heal her wounds. Put the phone down.”
“That bitch just stabbed my sister! I’m callin’ 9-1-1! Sookie needs…”
“By the time medics could arrive, she’d be dead. Sookie was bleeding too fast.”
“Arlene needs to go to jail.”
“We’ll figure out what to do about Arlene later. Right now, we worry about Sookie.”
“Your blood… Vampire blood can do that?”
“She ain’t addicted to it, is she?”
“Cuz I met my share of addicts in jail.”
“She’s not addicted. She’s only ever been healed. This isn’t recreational.”
“It… You know Hadley was though, right… she used drugs and stuff.”
“Sookie doesn’t. She barely drinks.”
He nodded, but inched closer to watch as Sookie’s defensive wounds healed quickly…
As my wound healed again, Sookie’s major injuries still weren’t closed completely. I didn’t want to risk bringing her over prematurely. As much as I looked forward to doing it eventually, I didn’t want her to lose her life before we could enjoy it if we had the choice.
I smoothed my thumb over Sookie’s cheek, watching it knit back together while the deep scratches on her arms faded into pink welts. Sookie’s heart was still pumping frantically… the room was heavy with her blood and adrenaline.
She panted, “Much… much better…”
“You’re still in pain.”
“Not as much…” She leaned over to kiss me appreciatively. “Better than bleeding to death… How did you… It’s too early.”
I glanced over to Sookie’s alarm clock and I spent a moment thinking it was a joke. 2 o’clock wasn’t possible in Louisiana. “Your pain must’ve roused me.”
She began trembling, laying her head on my chest. “She… just went nuts.”
I smoothed her hair, trying to quiet her. As her adrenaline rush from being attacked waned, I began feeling the pull as though sunrise hadn’t taken me once already. “Sookie, I can’t give you more. You need to eat, let your blood replenish… I’ll tend to you again when I rise… Be careful. I had to give you a lot. You’ll be stronger, faster…”
“Rise? You’re…” She paused to sigh, “Ok… I love you.”
It was already a struggle to reply, “I love you too.”
I rose again, looking to Sookie’s alarm clock to be sure of the time since Sookie was curled into my side. 6:40 was a perfectly normal (not to mention drama-free) time to rise.
I slid my hand over her back to pull her closer, enjoying her warmth while I listened to her…
Her breathing was a relaxed purr. Her heart beat was already stronger than it had been when she had her fever.
It only took a moment for her to adjust her head to look up at me. “How weird is it that you rose during the day? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, but I’m not the one who was stabbed in the chest. How are you feeling?”
“I’m a little sore. I had to get Jason to do all the lifting and whatnot. The wound was heeled up before I was out of the shower. It’s just muscles now…”
She shook her head as she found my hand with hers. “Jason answered the door while I was packing. Since he’s an idiot he didn’t think anything of letting her in, but in his defense, she brought her kids with her and he feels horrible. Rene woke up. He told Andy while Arlene was there that he’s been having an affair with me since before they got married. And that you broke into my house and broke his neck for no reason.”
“Tell me Bellefleur didn’t believe that.”
“Of course not. He’s seen the evidence. Andy even told Arlene that I had bruises on my neck, but I didn’t have any bruises when she got here so she figured Rene wasn’t lying after all. She’s been living at the hospital since it happened… No sleep and she’s facing the same hell I went through when it was Jason on trial… She wasn’t thinking straight.”
“You’re defending her?”
“No. If you hadn’t gotten up, I’d have been dead in just a couple of minutes. Not defending her, just kind of understanding her desperation.”
“Your brother wasn’t pleased to see you taking my blood…”
“That would be why I’m hiding from him.”
I snorted, “You’re hiding?”
“Well, we went out this morning. I took him shopping for clothes since his are porn star tight. He’d stored up all kinds of questions he was embarrassed to ask last night…”
“This will be good. He wasn’t too embarrassed to ask me if Smurfs are real. I told him they are, but they’re invisible. They live in pipes and eat clogs.”
She buried her face against my shoulder and laughed hard enough to irritate her wound. “I love him to death. He’s genuinely a good guy, but he is such a damn goon. He’s got no filter.”
“He asked me about the graveyard scene in Dracula. He wanted to know if Bram Stoker was confused or if some Werewolves were Vampires too.”
“Do I want to know what you told him?”
“That one was early on, so I told him the truth… What was he too embarrassed to ask when I was in earshot?”
“Well, you flipped out on him last night…”
“I did no such thing…”
“That’s how he put it, and since he hasn’t seen you in bloodlust, he doesn’t know the difference. I told him that his Come-To-Jesus was as far from flipping out as you get. Anyway, you mentioned where your cock has been… so he was curious about us being a couple… He had no problem accusing us of shacking up together, but asking questions like if you’re good to me and if you take care of me embarrassed him.” Dolt. Had that been his original tract of questions, he could’ve avoided being strong-armed into cooperating.
“And you told him that I’m happiest between your legs and you’re the one that takes care of me, yes?”
She narrowed her eyes. “I told him that you’d kill anyone that hurt me and told him that I have to fight to take care of myself… Then after you healed me, he wanted to know if I was going to be a Vampire now that I’ve had your blood or if you have to bite me for it to happen… I told him neither, so then he asked how it does happen… so I explained that’s why you stopped, why you couldn’t give me more.”
“Those are more rational questions.”
“Yeah, but they were nonstop. He followed me out to the yard and hovered while I laid out. He followed me from room to room while I did laundry and tidied up before we leave…”
“Being clingy is a relatively normal reaction to seeing someone you love get stabbed in the heart by a raving lunatic.”
“I know, but like I said, I’m out of practice. I finally had enough and came in here to nap inside your bubble.”
“Have you had any thoughts about what to do with your insane friend?”
She shrugged. “I guess a glamour…”
I sat up reflexively. “That bitch stabbed you in the heart! You lost so much blood that a thousand years old Vampire couldn’t heal you in one fucking sitting! And you think a glamour is fitting!?”
She sighed, “No. I don’t. I think I want to wait for her after work and beat the shit out of the bitch. The fact that she’s got those kids is the only thing to keep me from tying her to the bumper and dragging her to Shreveport with us. Foster homes are hard to come by right now.” That wasn’t enough. Arlene Lanier was not going to put a knife in MY SOOKIE and walk away like nothing happened. For all that bitch knew, she killed Sookie. There hadn’t been any calls or visits. I didn’t smell anyone on Sookie. She hadn’t left the property thinking anything of what she’d done. Fuck glamouring her.
“Are you ready to leave?”
“Yeah… I guess… Do you need help packing?”
“No. We have an errand to run before we go to the airport.”
While the sun was still setting, I showered and checked in with Pam. The sunkissed T-shirt waiting for me was phenomenal, but it did nothing to improve my mood.
Jason remained watchfully mute while I moved around the house to pack the last of the items we were taking with us, namely my laptop. He seemed quite aware of my mood, if not the reason and even though he was hovering, he was doing it from a distance.
While Sookie harangued and snarled for details I wouldn’t give her, Jason didn’t make a single remark until we pulled into the parking lot at Merlotte’s. “Shit… this ain’t such a good idea…”
“That might mean more if it came from someone who hasn’t asked about the existence of unicorns in the last 24 hours.”
“Does it mean more when it’s coming from someone that just spent 6 fuckin’ months surrounded by guys locked up for bar fights?” Fair enough.
“I’m not planning to start a barfight.”
He shoved open his door to get out when I did and mumbled, “Oh good, ‘cuz ain’t nobody ever had something go wrong when they walked into a bar with their hair up.”
If I wasn’t struggling to keep my fangs in check, I might have mustered a chuckle. Even a broken clock was right twice a day…
Sookie was all but part of my arm, anxiously clinging to me when we walked in with Jason just behind us.
Merlotte noticed immediately in spite of entertaining Arlene’s children for her while she waited tables.
As a hush fell over the restaurant, Arlene turned with a tray full of food that fell when her arms went limp at the sight of us.
Sam, in all of his infinite wisdom, got the attention of Detective Bellefleur… who just so happened to have soup on his tie and something orange on the corner of his mouth. “Andy! Andy, earn your keep, he’s not welcome here!”
While Sam charged in my direction, and Bellefleur approached humbly with his napkin tucked in his belt, I motioned to Arlene to have her join us. When she seemed frozen, I pulled her. I couldn’t have cared less if anyone noticed by that point.
Bellefleur was clueless when he nodded. “Mr. VanLuik. How are you doin’ tonight?”
“I’ve been better… Sookie’s been much better. She was attacked today.”
“Attacked!? By who?”
I leaned over to his ear, whispering just loud enough that I knew Merlotte would be included. “I trust that you understand Vampire blood has healing properties?” When he nodded, I continued, “Arlene came to the house earlier. She stabbed Sookie in the heart while her children and Jason watched. The only reason Sookie is alive is because she was healed with my blood. Since I’ve healed her, there’s no evidence other than the ruined mattress and clothing in Sookie’s bedroom…”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry, if there’s no injury or anything, I can’t really do anything without revealing…”
“Stop, I understand why you can’t do anything within the confines of your position… and the only reason I’m not glamouring Arlene to go home and hang herself is because Sookie doesn’t want it.”
“Uh… well… that’s… thanks, I guess…”
Sam narrowed his eyes and puffed out his chest. “Then what are you here for?” Awwww. I thought he’d never ask.
I raised my voice to make sure everyone in the dining room and the man wearing a hairnet in the kitchen pass could hear me. “I’m here because, as most of you know by now, when Sookie and I came in for her dinner the other night, Merlotte was indignant that Sookie is keeping company with a Vampire. Rene Lanier overheard Merlotte’s envious gibberish and later that night, Sookie awoke with Lanier on her chest, strangling her. In case you haven’t noticed that Jason Stackhouse has been released, he was released when it was discovered that even though he was incarcerated, the murdering of fangbangers continued. Rene Lanier was the killer from the very beginning and when he tried to murder Sookie, I broke his neck… Earlier today, Arlene brought her children to Sookie’s house as witnesses as she attacked Sookie… I’m here because this seems like the most efficient venue to issue my warning…”
I stepped closer to Arlene and inched down to loom.
“…Sookie. Is. Mine. NO ONE hurts her. You won’t ever approach her or tell another lie about her again. If you do, I’ll find out and you WILL NOT be so lucky as to get another warning. Do. You. Understand?”
Her breath rattled as she nodded.
“It’s not Sookie’s fault you married a serial rapist, is it?”
She shook her head slowly and Merlotte came to wedge his shoulder between us, pushing against me as though it would help.
“You’re going to need to make arrangements for your children if you pull another stunt like the one you pulled today. Tell me you understand why I’d warn you after you tried to kill her.”
As soon as she nodded, the silence in the dining room was replaced with gasps and murmurs of disbelief.
Merlotte seemed to be using as much force as he could to try to move me, and was getting more pissed with the effort. He shouted, “Andy, would you do something!? Don’t just stand there and let him threaten Arlene!”
Andy shrugged. “Sam, if I arrested everyone who made a threat in a bar, I’d be buried in paperwork because the whole damn town would have a record. He’s got every right to warn her. Hell, he’s got the right to challenge her to a duel since she owns property worth more than a hog.” Ahhh… some laws never go out of style.
I added, “Detective, she’d have to accept the challenge.”
He wobbled his head to either side. “Well, yeah, but you know… I can arrest her right now for child abuse. She committed assault in front of her kids. Don’t have to have evidence for that.” Oh my… my apple had been successfully polished.
“I have to wonder, have I done something to warrant Merlotte’s unwanted physical contact?” He’d ruined my shirt.
Bellefleur nodded, but said, “Not a damn thing and if he don’t knock that shit off, I’ma take his ass in!”
Merlotte finally backed away and blurted, “A Vampire just threatened to kill Arlene!”
Andy returned, “IF SHE TRIED TO KILL SOOKIE AGAIN!” More gasping and chatter spread through the dining room. Arlene had already lost the popular vote, but Merlotte was circling the drain right behind her. “And you know, while you’re on your high horse about what he said to ‘poor Arlene’ I’m ‘bout ready to beat your ass myself! Don’t think I didn’t hear ‘bout the way you lost your nut when they were in here the other night. What the hell you got against him when all he’s doing is looking out for her?”
“He’s just looking out for his PROPERTY!”
“Ain’t my business until she’s got a gripe, Sam. If she calls him Daddy it don’t make it incest. Shut the hell up.”
I interrupted their little spat. “Detective, do you have any questions or concerns? We’re actually on our way out of town.”
“You’re coming back though, right?”
“Of course. Now that Jason is home, we’re seeing to Adele’s ashes. We’ll be back on Sunday.”
“Well, good on y’all then. Naw, naw. I got no questions. If anything comes up, I’ll stop by once you’re settled. Thanks for letting me know what that one’s been up to. If she tried something later, this coming up would just be hearsay.” No. Really?
A woman (more like a hippopotamus with hair the same color as the glob on Bellefleur’s lip) barked, “Sookie, what y’all decide to do with Adele?”
“We’re spreading her ashes at the Library of Congress.”
“Well, I’ll be! Ain’t that the most fitting… Do you know when you’ll be doing it?”
“Tomorrow night. They’re only open until 9…”
“Well then… I’ll say my prayer for her ‘round 8 then. Y’all be safe. Worshentin’s crawlin’ with them Al Kaydas now…” She tapped her temple and nodded towards Sookie. “You best pay attention so you don’t get in a fix.”
Sookie snickered, “Yes ma’am.”
Even though Sookie had been on edge when we walked into Merlotte’s, her mood was much lighter as we left… to the extent of grinning.
I was going to ask if she’d waited, but as soon as I started backing the Escalade out of the tiny parking spot, she offered, “Half the town thinks you’re scary as hell, but that you can’t be so bad if you’re willing to stick up for me.”
“That would make them… 2/3 right?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Something like that.”
“So what else were they thinking?”
“Most of them were picturing Arlene cat fighting with me on my porch… her poor kids were remembering what she did… Sam didn’t believe any of it even though Arlene admitted coming after me… Arlene pictured being drained, pulled apart, and dumped in a shallow grave… and she peed in her pants a little. Andy hopes you stick around though. He was thinking that having a Vampire around isn’t as bad as he’d heard… that even though you could’ve killed 2 people in 3 nights, you kept your temper and that’s more than he can say for some people in town.”
“You’re the only reason I kept my temper.”
“I know. Thank you.”
“What about the Colossus of Bon Temps? Who was that?” Jason laid down in the back seat to hiss hysterically.
Sookie giggled, “That was Mrs. Fortenberry. She was a good friend of Gran’s. She doesn’t go out at night unless Hoyt takes her. Even then it’s only for DGD meetings and such.” Maxine Fortenberry had come to the house to give Adele a ride to a meeting… I was told to stay out of sight so that everyone in Bon Temps didn’t know about ‘the Vampire in town’ before the end of the meeting. Adele gave a kiss and an apology for leaving me alone… and I watched them leave and was waiting when Adele came home… She’d grabbed my hand to make sure I’d obeyed her and stayed in the warmth of the house… She’d gone to the extent of putting pies in the oven before she left so that I’d have to listen for the timer to take them out. Another little piece… another reason why I liked being in Bon Temps.
“That was Maxine?”
Sookie tilted her head to the side, realizing that I’d remembered something else. “It was.”
“Adele wasn’t terribly fond of her. She called her shallow and bigoted.” Among other things.
Sookie shrugged, excited that I’d remembered something else. “Maxine is honest about it though. Gran respected that about her.”
“That she was honestly hateful?”
“That you knew where you stood with her. She doesn’t mince words. She always liked Gran because Gran was the same way…”
“Except Adele was good-natured and unprejudiced.”
“It takes all types… So what would you do if Arlene came after me again?”
“Seriously, Eric… I don’t…”
“I’ve deffered to your wishes when it came to both her and Rene already. Rene might not be able to come after you again, but she can. If she does, the best you can argue for is that I kill her quickly instead of letting her bleed to death like she thought she’d done to you.”
“You don’t know what she was thinking.”
“Granted. Why don’t you tell me what she was thinking?”
She slammed herself back into her seat and growled, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Why? Because I’m right? Because she came to you armed with a knife because she was willing to kill you… not because your ‘boyfriend’ rendered her husband useless from the neck down, but because her pride was damaged by the idea of you being intimate with ‘her man’… She wasn’t killing to defend someone she loves. She was killing to defend her pride. And when you walked in to Merlotte’s she was sure that she was hallucinating because she thought she killed you. Tell me I’m wrong.”
She grumbled, “Bite me.” I won.
I chuckled, “Maybe later.” As much as she bit her lip to hide it, she still grinned.
While we waited to board our flight, Jason paced aimlessly and Sookie took my laptop out of the bag and started watching the video again…
She paused it every few seconds as she transcribed what was said, recreating the video in text format… She was anxious about the flight and looking for something to fill the hour that we’d be waiting.
She leaned over and whispered, “The Queen used flowers and the other Uses used birthstones. Got any ideas on what we should use. We already had two.”
“None, but the color-coding makes it easy to keep them straight.”
“Except the version we met and got the journal from was wearing diamonds and sapphires, but they’re the peridot pages…”
She nodded and backed the video up to the point when the other Sookie grabbed my hand to write on it. “See? What did she write anyway?”
I studied the frame closely, and remembered when she took my hand… Not only did I recall her scribbling the note, but she hadn’t written it in my handwriting after all. I’d rewritten it. “She cared for you when you had nothing. Remember her. Trust her. She’ll love you forever.”
Sookie snickered, “It’s a damn good thing you’ve got big hands.”
I nodded at the understatement and backed the video up a bit further because of something I noticed it the other frame and tapped the screen. “What is that?”
She didn’t hesitate. “His ring? That’s a joke. He had her house repainted and she was being a brat about being spoiled…”
She elbowed me and giggled as she continued. “He ‘punished’ her with that big ass sapphire ring. When he woke up the next night, he was wearing a wedding band. The inside says ‘two can play at that game’. They aren’t married or anything if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“Did they say that they aren’t married?”
She stared blankly for a moment. “No. Why would they say they…?”
“You asked about the ring he was wearing. Did you ask about hers?”
“She’s wearing a band too.” Channel set sapphires. It could be missed on the video, but I remembered noticing the extra ring when I remembered Sookie leaving the message on my hand.
“It’s not even legal…”
I smiled at her, and couldn’t wait to reunite with that version of Us again so that I could get details. “Not in the States.”
She gasped, clasping her hands over her mouth. “What does that even mean? Not in the states?”
“It’s legal in most of Europe.”
“She didn’t mention that they’d been though…”
“It seems that there’s a lot that they didn’t mention.”