Y’all Take Care
It was a spectacular feeling to rise that night…
Slowly getting my body and surroundings back to me…
Feeling her breaths fall over my arm… her heart beating against my chest…
Sookie’s taste was still on my lips and even though she’d spooned back to me to put her freshly washed hair at my nose, the scents of the night before were clinging to me.
If only I could remember all of it… but the mental slideshow of what I had managed to keep was more than enough.
When I tightened my arm over her side, she arched her back, rubbing herself against me as she stirred… saying I was encouraged was an understatement, but Sookie stopped.
She tensed suddenly to become perfectly still, feeling fear and confusion.
She moved slowly enough to seem like she was trying to inch away from a rattlesnake, putting her hand over my wrist to take it away from her and lay my arm along my side, leaning her shoulder against me as my hint to leave the bed.
As I moved to exit the bed, lifting my head was all I needed to solve why Sookie was so confused.
We weren’t in our hotel room…
I couldn’t decide if it was impossible that we were back in my room at Sookie’s house or if it made perfect sense…
Subtle differences… the bedding was printed with stars, there was a toy box in the corner and a purple backpack sitting on the floor in front of the dresser…
Being blown away by the strangeness was delayed by the way Sookie carefully pushed herself off of the bed like I had, as though she was repelled by what was on the other side of it…
Black lace distracted me for a moment, or maybe it was the way her ass brushed my legs… who cared? It wasn’t an unpleasant distraction.
When I finally pried my eyes away from memorizing the paisley pattern of Sookie’s underthings, I glanced at the bed looking for the reason why Sookie had backed up to press herself against me.
Honestly, I knew what to do with the tiny panties and bra… at least, more than I knew what to do with the child in the bed.
Long, wavy blond hair.
So tiny it was no wonder how I didn’t see her at first.
Restful little purrs so slight I missed them until Sookie was holding her breath.
Sookie turned her head and breathed, “Hey Eric?”
“When we get back and I say, maybe we should look over the journals, what do you say?” Even in the situation we were in, I was tempted to laugh at the way she chose to tell me, ‘I told you so’.
“Don’t blame me. I wanted to read them. All you can think about is sex.”
Seriousness aside, she was still amused. Instead of making a noise by slapping me, she reached back and pinched my thigh. “What. Do. We. Do?”
“Let her sleep. I’m sure you can find somewhere else to abuse me.”
She turned around to scowl at me, whispering bitingly, “This isn’t funny. She’s going to wake up with Victoria’s Secret and the Loch Ness Monster in her damn room. She’s going to be scared.”
I was given a dirty look for smirking, but it was the best I could do. Loch Ness? She was lucky I wasn’t laughing. “Nonsense. You look spectacular.”
I’d finally pushed her capacity for humor enough that she balled up her fist and punched my ribs. The loud thud probably would have been enough to wake the child by itself, but I grunted… It wasn’t the hardest I’d ever been hit, but I wasn’t expecting Sookie to be so strong so soon.
The child stirred, rolling to her back and rubbing her eyes while Sookie frantically snatched a sheet to wrap it around my waist. Subtle.
The child gasped, jerking to sit up, gaping at us… then standing on the bed and running to hurl herself against my chest, yelling, “Daddy!”
Catching her was nothing but reflex… Everything else was as bizarre as I could have thought possible…
Sookie was grappling to keep the sheet around me while keeping from exposing herself (hiding behind me)… the child was so small I couldn’t begin to guess her age, hugging my neck so tightly I could have let her go and she wouldn’t have fallen… Daddy?…
I’m sure I looked as brilliant as Jason while I did my damnedest to do or say anything rational… I might have cared if Sookie seemed less lost.
“Daddy?” Even if the child smelled like me, it was the best I could fucking do.
“Missed who?” I was hoping that if she thought it was a game, Sookie and I could get some answers.
“Ok. And who are you?”
“I’m…” She stopped to give me a very serious look before putting her tiny hand over my mouth. She demanded, “Do it.”
I mumbled, “Do what?”
When her lip curled so she could growl, she looked exactly like Sookie. “Yer not Daddy.” No kidding.
“Then who am I?”
“Daddy’s fren, Skip.” Skip? Cute.
“And who are you?”
She huffed, “I’m Erin the Great. Pu’me down.”
As I set her back on the bed, I asked, “And your Daddy, he looks like me?”
She nodded and pointed to Sookie. “An’ she’s like Mommy… where your cloves?”
“We forgot them. Do you know where we can find some?”
She nodded and pointed to the closet behind us. “In’air… You’re not Daddy an’ Mommy. Why you snuglin’?” Good question.
Sookie opened the closet door, instantly feeling relieved by what was inside. She sighed, “There’s an outfit preset for both of us… Erin, does Skip visit a lot?”
The miniature of Sookie nodded. “Yeah, but not here… mostly home.”
“You don’t live here?”
“No… we live w’Daddy now.”
I asked, “And why did you say you missed your Daddy?”
“Cuzz him didn’t bisit lass nite… Why you lookin’ for’em here?”
Sookie stopped pulling on her clothes for a moment and whispered, “I’m counting 2 Weres in the yard… they aren’t close enough for a read though.”
“Then why are you sleeping here?”
“Bis’tin Gran…” If I hadn’t already been still, I would have stopped just as suddenly as Sookie. “She dot sick.” But she was still alive?
“She got ‘monia. She was ina hospital couple days. Mommy’s nursin’ her cuz Hadley’s a selfiss bish.”
Sookie countered, “But Gran’s better now, right?”
Erin nodded. “Gettin’nair. She’s nappin’.”
Sookie came out from behind me and took the sheet to hold it up as a dressing screen. While I pulled on my jeans, Sookie asked, “How do you know Mommy’s napping, Erin? You were asleep.”
The little girl chirped, “She dreamin’.”
“You’re a telepath too?”
She nodded. “Hunter too. Him stayed wiff Daddy ‘cuz hims notturnal. I’m not yet.”
“Hunter lives… if your Mommy is… how…?”
I interrupted Sookie’s confusion. “We should probably ask Sookie about particulars, Skippy.”
She narrowed her eyes at me and huffed, tossing the sheet over my head once my shirt was on. “Why don’t you go downstairs and get her then, Skip.”
My Sookie stayed upstairs with Erin while I ventured down to find ‘Mommy’.
I found our hostess curled up in Adele’s chair by the fireplace with a book laid over her legs…
It was too much of a temptation to keep walking so that I could finally meet Adele.
I sat on the coffee table in front of her, looking her over for a moment. My first skip that I could remember… My first alternate Sookie…
We would have known who Erin was if this was the same version who helped us. So I couldn’t help but wonder where the little girl came from. She certainly wouldn’t have been calling someone she’d only known for less than a week ‘Mommy and Daddy’ so they hadn’t taken her in… and why would Hadley be expected to help care for Adele if she was a Vampire in New Orleans?
She hummed, but didn’t budge.
“Sookie, I need you to wake up. We need to talk.”
She opened her eyes slowly, arching her back and dragging her arms up to stretch while smiling at me. “Hey…” She looked up at the clock on the mantle. “How’d you get here so fast?”
“I rose here… with My Sookie… she’s still upstairs with Erin.”
She yawned and shook her head. “Sorry. My schedule is off… Which version are you?” No shock. None. She was seasoned to the nonsense.
“We only experienced our first skip last week, so I’m not sure you’d know about us… wait. There was a brief encounter Sookie had with another version of herself.” I’d almost forgotten about that since My Sookie had only mentioned it in passing.
“When was that? What happened? What was the other skip?”
“Mid-January. Sookie was at Merlotte’s when the other came to her looking for Eric. I’m unclear about the details, but she told me, Sookie advised her to not confront the Witches responsible for my amnesia alone…”
She gasped. I was already prepared to explain, when she lurched forward to grab my face. “You’re the one!”
“The one? Was it you who met My Sookie?”
She let go of me to tuck her hair behind her ear, exposing that she had an earring through the cartilage at the top. A tiny orange gemstone. “We’ll have to ask to make sure paths haven’t diverged again, but I think so. We’re the Topaz version in the journals… We’ve asked every skip we’ve met since January if they heard about how things worked out for you. Nothing. Gran’s been beside herself, but I don’t have to tell you that. She’s a universal Eric fan.”
“Sookie did as you suggested. She kept the secret until the skip that helped us end the infestation. It wasn’t until then that I regained my memories.”
“Holy shit! You lost 3 months?”
“You… How do you know I lost anything?”
Her eyes widened. “Oh God… If you remember everything, play dumb when My Eric gets here. He’s still pissed that he lost one night.”
I chuckled, “Fuck him and his one night. In the last week I’ve only regained a handful of scattered memories.”
“The other Erics it happened to had to have something trigger it… My Eric hasn’t gotten his yet. Why didn’t you get a copy of the journal?”
“But you’ve been a little busy trying to get your head and Area straight… Gotcha…” She stood and went to the base of the stairs to call up, “Come on out. Everyone here knows about the skips.”
“Sookie, where did Erin come from?”
She jogged back over to me and put her mouth to my ear. “From what I’m told, I was Rene Lanier’s second victim. The first one after his sister, chronologically anyway since he went after other Sookies, women in general, in different order… My neighbors spooked him away before he could kill me, but he had enough time to rape me. You’ll get plenty of details from the journal.”
Erin approached her mother with her hands on her hips. “Playing a joke?”
Her mother giggled, “No. They’re just confused. Daddy tells you how tiny you are all the time… They just didn’t notice you were in the bed when they got there.”
My Sookie offered, “Honestly. We have a house just like this and we were so wiped out we didn’t even notice where we crashed.”
The little girl eyed both Sookies carefully before she stomped towards the kitchen. “Ima get a milk… I. Want. MY. Daddy.”
The Sookies bit their lips and turned away from her identically, amusing and bizarre…
The distraction from their urge to laugh at the tiny Sookie clone came in the form of scratching at the door.
Topaz Sookie rolled her eyes and went to greet the visitor, explaining, “Alcide’s got a sense of humor, guys. He never knocks anymore.” If my memory served me correctly, Alcide was the Were guarding the Peridot Sookie…
A man on the other side of the door grumbled, “Would you stop that shit? It’s demeaning.”
Another voice defended himself, “Shut the fuck up, man. They know it’s a joke. Don’t be one of those assholes who takes himself too seriously. The Lieu jokes around about taking me for walks too. Do. Not. Embarrass. Me.” Lovely. Another version where I had more responsibility than I wanted.
When Topaz Sookie opened the door with Mine standing behind her, Alcide shouted, “AGAIN!” But my Sookie gasped and staggered backwards until she fell… She was so shocked she didn’t seem to notice that she’d scraped her back on the stairs.
She was still staring when I reached her to help her up.
I hadn’t expected for her to have such a strong reaction to seeing Alcide alive since she hadn’t ever known him personally… it made me worry about how she’d react to seeing Adele again.
Both Weres were staring at her as I pulled her to her feet. She was fixated on the shorter one with red hair.
She approached him slowly, lifting her hands to his face… it was as though she was memorizing it.
When My Sookie wrapped her arms around his neck to hug him, Topaz Sookie gave me a questioning look.
I shrugged. “She didn’t know him, but Alcide didn’t survive the Witches occupation of Area 5.”
She looked positively horrified, but she shook her head. “That… that’s Chester though.” Oh fuck.
I walked up behind Mine, taking her hips to pull her away from him. “Sookie. Don’t do this to yourself. It’s cruel.”
She resisted, refusing to be pulled away from him. She sobbed, “I can’t…”
I gave another gentle pull without results. “Sookie, it’s not fair to him either.” She managed to shake her head while pushing her face into the side of his neck… he was too stunned to do as much as lift his arms.
Alcide huffed, “She obviously had the chance to meet Chester before the Witches got to him… How’d they get me?”
“You and your father were found electrocuted in his garage… She didn’t just meet Chester though. They’re still friends.”
“If he’s still alive then…”
“Our version of you was lucky to have died… Chester was severely disfigured and lamed. He’s still hospitalized for reconstruction and rehabilitation.”
Alcide sucked air past his teeth and grumbled, “Damn…” He looked angry for a moment before he shook his head and patted My Sookie’s shoulder. “C’mon blondie. You’re gonna get him killed. What do you think his pregnant, territorial girlfriend’s gonna do when he goes home smelling like his new boss?”
She sobbed, “Thank God she’s looking into BOTH of his fucking eyes when she questions him! Give me a damn minute!”
Well… fair enough… there wasn’t much arguing with that.
While we were still waiting for My Sookie to calm down, staring as though we were watching a train wreck, Pam arrived on foot…
She sped onto the porch to wrap her arms around Alcide from behind and nip the side of his neck. She barely glanced at the rest of us, but she didn’t seem interested in an explanation. “They seem busy… While they’re distracted, could I interest you in a walk?”
He growled, “Speaking of trying to get a guy killed… Could you get off me. You know my girlfriend will throw down.”
“She’s invited.” When she ran her hand over his stomach, he caught it before it passed his belt. He must have known Pam for long enough to know she was planning to grab his cock.
“Sorry. I don’t share.”
She grunted as she pulled her arms away from him and playfully slapped the back of his head. “Bad dog.” I could already imagine My Pam doing the same with Trey.
He was smiling before he turned around, grabbing her ass with both hands and lifting her… it seemed like he was prepared to give her what she wanted and she was smiling triumphantly until we heard the rip.
Alcide was already laughing when he put her down and she spun around trying to see what he’d done… the back pockets of her jeans were dangling by threads. She gasped, “These were DOLCE!”
He slapped her ass and squeezed past Sookie and Chester, chuckling, “You should know by now when you’ve got pets, you can’t keep nice things.” Considering the way Pam’s jaw was sagging and the balls it required to fuck with her clothing, I might have mourned my own version of Alcide for a moment.
When she realized her mouth was open she snapped, “Wait until I show Gran what you did!”
He winked at me before he turned back to face her. “I bet she knows you started it… The usual bet?”
Pam narrowed her eyes. “You’re on.”
I asked, “What’s the usual bet?”
He smirked as he answered, “If I lose, I drink a True Blood. When she loses, she gargles a beer for 3 minutes.”
“I’m not sure which is worse.”
“Neither am I. I haven’t had to drink one yet… Every time she loses, Gran tells her to dust the True Bloods while she’s in the fridge for her beer… Isn’t that right, Pammy-Lah?”
That was… fucking perfect.
Our reality was definitely a smaller place without an Alcide Herveaux to torment Pam.
It was sad to watch Chester leave… Not his exit. The way My Sookie said goodbye to him… she told him to go home and lace all ten of his fingers with Keira’s and be happy he was going to get to teach ‘Chessie’ how to walk.
He almost cried, but no one could find a reason to hold it against him.
After she watched him climb into his truck, she excused herself to use the restroom and ordered us to pretend ‘that’ didn’t happen when she returned.
I followed as everyone else filed into the kitchen where Alcide greeted Erin by mussing her hair and calling her ‘Boss’.
Everyone gathered around the table except Sookie who went to the oven to pull out a large pan.
She asked, “So you guys should mark yourselves. Most of us are doing it by now… My Eric wears a necklace with a topaz crystal on it. Ummmm… there’s several of us from each month. I kind of get a kick out seeing what everyone picks and hearing why they picked it. There’s a couple of us with tattoos, but we still wear something specific and easy to spot.”
“We discussed the rings August was wearing just last night…”
“Oh? You mean their wedding rings?”
“You know they’re married?”
“Yeah… that’s weird. How long have you and Sookie been together?”
“I’ve been staying at her house since I was cursed, but we’ve only been together since the skip…”
She nodded slowly and breathed, “Ooooh, that explains it. They don’t say anything about being married unless the skip is already a couple. Less pressure for them. Y’all are already bonded though. That might set a record. So… was she just working for you?”
“We’d never met. Sookie was raised here by Adele… I’m told the divergence from August’s path was Hadley’s overdose…”
Her eyes widened again. “No Hadley… so Bon Temps hasn’t been graced by Compton trying to sniff out the Stackhouses… Everything was the same for you?”
I nodded. “Until the night Sookie didn’t visit Fangtasia. I still heard rumors of the Vampire abducted in Dallas. He was sacrificed by the church. I still had a Maenad blow through my Area like a hurricane…. And witches still targeted Shreveport. How did you get ahead of them so Your Eric only lost one night?”
“That was thanks to a skip, thank God. As soon as we met August in November, My Eric dove into that journal. We got Paulette. I was already working at Fangtasia anyway. They came in to scope the place out a couple nights ahead of time and I spotted them. We brought Paulette in on plans… they sent a Witch in with a ‘proposal’ and Eric flipped his lid and broke her neck. He stood there like he was stoned for a minute, and then ran off. I finally found him walking down the road and he didn’t know who I was, but he could feel me. It broke the kids’ hearts that he didn’t know who they were either… I took him home, cleaned him up, fed him and put him to bed. When he rose the next night, he was fine. Fuzzy, pissed as hell, but fine… The Witches didn’t make it ‘til dawn.”
I nodded. “No Paulette. No Sookie to look for me… The Witches practically decimated the Supernatural population of my Area while I was oblivious.”
She looked like she was about to say something when we heard a car in the driveway and Erin sped out of her seat squealing, “Daddy!” and Sookie went after her.
The other Me entered the kitchen with Erin in one arm and Hunter in the other.
He stopped to stand over me and shake his head. “Where’s your Sookie?”
“Using the restroom to recover from seeing Chester. Our version of him was heavily scarred by Hallow.”
“Do you have any memory of us?”
I shook my head. “Why would I? My Sookie met with yours.”
His eyebrow went up and he snorted, “We should talk before your Sookie is done.”
I watched him stoop down to place the children on the floor, but Erin needed to be convinced to let go of him. It wasn’t until he promised she could go home tonight that she released him.
I followed him to the front porch and the door was barely closed before he said, “Sookie says you’ve bonded… that should give you some warning before Your Sookie tries to kill you for lying to her.”
“Sookie told me that you haven’t read the journal…”
“Not in its entirety. We read the prologue and record of skips done by August. I haven’t had my memory back for a week yet. We…”
“You’ve been courting Sookie, asshole. Don’t try to lie to me. I fucking know better.”
“I had amnesia from January 1st until I rose on March 25th. What happened in that time, except for a handful of short vignettes, is still a mystery to us.”
“Does that handful include meeting me?”
“No. I told you…”
He growled, “Then perhaps I should jog your memory… January 16th. I rose to find Sookie gone as I had several other nights and set out to find her. She rose at her grandmother’s house. She investigated the room she rose in to find it seemed she lived there, so she wasn’t worried about startling the woman. She took a handful of clothing to the bathroom and walked in on you as you were stepping out of the tub. You, clueless dolt that you were, grabbed MY WIFE and ‘glamoured’ her to forget you were there. She of course humored you and eavesdropped while you explained to Adele that Sookie surprised you in the bathroom… Once Sookie was dressed, she left the house in a faked hurry to get ‘back’ to Merlotte’s. She explained that she came home to shower because something was spilled on her as she left so you and Adele wouldn’t be troubled by the idea of skipping…”
I shook my head. “Nothing. I’m not remembering any of that.”
“On her way out, she left three of the pebbles from the driveway on the porch railing. It’s our signal to one another that we’ve left or shouldn’t approach it for some reason. When she arrived at Merlotte’s she used the employee entrance and went to the restroom and telepathically called Your Sookie to talk to her. That’s when it was explained you’d been staying at the old Compton place and visiting with Adele for two weeks. Adele was feeding you with True Blood and you’d been keeping your presence from Your Sookie because neither of you knew how she’d react. Yours confided in Mine she was on the verge of trying to rally her friends to overthrow the Witches… That night, I narrowly escaped Fangtasia. I’d gone there first because it was closer to home. I was recognized and had to fly to a safehouse for another vehicle. When I finally arrived at Merlotte’s, I found both Sookies still in the restroom discussing the Witch infestation. Yours was beside herself, sobbing over the fact that she couldn’t take care of the problem herself and her friends in the Were community wouldn’t be able to help… We left her with instructions to do nothing until there were Vampires who could help… and then I returned to Adele’s house.”
I shook my head again. He might as well have been telling me about someone else… “Are you sure it was me?”
His eyebrow pitched again. “I left Sookie in the car and snapped a branch just outside the living room to get your attention. Once I explained who you are and how to unfuck yourself, you told me to mind my fucking business because you were happy there.”
“I offered to take you back to Shreveport, give you access to your accounts and contact information for the Vampires in your fealty so you could reclaim your Area and you told me to fuck myself. You refused to leave.” Two weeks. That fast? I’d only been there two weeks. I hadn’t talked to Sookie yet. The only company I had was Adele and Tina and…
He nodded. “You felt comfortable there. You liked the simplicity as though you’d been craving it… and if your life had been like mine before I had Sookie, I could understand that yen, believe me. If you even consider lying to her, she’ll hate you for it…”
“No, no. I won’t. I’ll tell her. I’ve told her about everything that comes back to me as it happens. I just don’t remember it yet… How long have you had Your Sookie?”
“Together for four years. I gave her my blood when she was attacked and after she delivered Erin… We bonded the night we were visited by August. We took Adele to Paris for Christmas and wed there on the 27th.”
“Why did you wait so long to bond?”
“Sophie-Anne didn’t have her own Stackhouse. I was concerned Sookie would be too tempting… When we were told about a telepathic man in Dallas, I convinced him to move to New Orleans to work for Sophie-Anne. Someone was so very pleased, she agreed to terminate my contract. I’m done. I’ve sold Fangtasia to my replacement and I’m training her to take over. Tilda Clease. You should remember her from your time in London.” Fucking brilliant.
“If you’re practically retired, why did Alcide refer to Pam as the Lieu?”
“We were visited by a King Northman not long ago. The joke isn’t old yet.”
“You said the Queen doesn’t have her own Stackhouse. What happened to Hadley that you have Hunter?”
He groaned, “That fucking cunt… Since you only know about August, you aren’t aware of versions where Hadley remained Human… Hunter kept his telepathy a secret until he was exposed by August because his mother is jaded against Sookie’s ability. He could hear his own mother thinking Sookie is an evil freak. Sookie offered to take him for a week or two to help him… They stayed at my house and the boy was given some coaching for his shields. When he went back, he went back kicking and screaming. Two nights later, that cunt had her husband bring Hunter to me at Fangtasia. With a straight face, Sam Merlotte told me to expect adoption papers because Hadley couldn’t ‘deal with’ him. We’d turned the boy against her. Fuck her. Hunter Northman couldn’t be happier.”
He smirked. “Sam Merlotte who hasn’t told his wife that he’s a collie during full moons? He obsessed over Sookie while she worked for him and as soon as Hadley returned to Bon Temps, she became the new hydrant in town. It’s just the allure for him. There’s a version of him who was married to Sookie for a few years and still treated her like a trophy. The only thing that can be said for that prick is he feels some remorse for abandoning Hunter. He’s afraid Hunter will spill his beans. Funny story… Sam went on a ‘beer tasting business trip’, so Hadley arranged to be sterilized while he was gone… meanwhile, the trip Sam went on was so he could be neutered. It’s probably better that way since Hadley, in different versions, has 4 gifted children.”
“No surprise. Merlotte’s fuckery is predictably juvenile in our version as well… Did you say Northman?”
“As is Hadley’s. There’s a version where she had two girls much earlier in her timeline and she abandoned them to be raised by Sookie and Eric… As for ‘Northman’, when Erin was born we used my pre-revelation documents to list me as her father. When I married Sookie, she took my name. Hunter’s adopted name is Northman and Erin’s changed.”
“We just realized last night that August was married. Do you know why?”
“Because ‘I’ wouldn’t marry?”
“I can’t think of a reason why I’d put any stock in it.”
“What better reason to have Sookie take your name? August married for the ‘old fashioned’ reason. Family. We met with them again recently. They’re planning to expand. Insemination. My Sookie isn’t interested though. We have Hunter and Erin. She’s had the experience of being pregnant, which she detested. We’re quite content with the two we have and I’m not about to argue to have her reset the clock on how long I have to wait to bring her over.”
“You’re considering it?”
“No. It’s decided…”
He was interrupted by the front door opening. My Sookie peeked out and grinned at both of us. “Hey there. Erin’s inside pitching a fit over Skip hogging her attention… She’s a real Daddy’s girl, huh?”
He nodded and began walking towards the door. “Since the night she was born… I’ll leave you to have your talk.” He said it like he thought he wasn’t leaving me any choice.
Sookie sat on the swing and crossed her arms and legs. “What’s that about?”
“Something I don’t remember… Do you have any idea how annoying it is to have so much missing?”
She pouted, “Sorry. I don’t… What was it?”
“This Sookie visited with you at Merlotte’s… When Eric found her, they came back here.”
She was pissed in an instant. “Gran knew!?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so… He spoke to Me. He told me who I was and offered to take me back. I refused.”
“You knew all that time… you… you could’ve gone home. You were starving to death…” Not at the time… after only two weeks, I wouldn’t have been suffering.
I shrugged. “But happy to be in Bon Temps regardless.”
“You could’ve gone home…”
“I’m more preoccupied with the fact that I could have helped financially…”
She gasped and slapped her hands over her mouth. “Shit! Eric, you did! You… I thought it was a glitch! I… I thought it was some weird accident and I was afraid to get a bill for God knows how much in late fees once the bank finally caught up. I went to the branch to make the mortgage payments and they told me to wait… when the manager came back he handed me the deeds to our house and Jason’s. I had the money wired back to the account because I thought whoever did it just messed up the routing number or whatever…” She started to giggle. “You’re a high handed ass even with amnesia.”
“I thought we established that when I remembered having Adele interrogate you in your sleep.”
She nodded. “That too… So why the secret squirrel outside?”
“He thought I might lie about it, or was lying about my memory loss… As it turns out, I omitted that detail for an evening, but I still should have mentioned it, even if it was while we were alone. I was ‘too busy courting’ you to be interested in the journal. We would have read about your first experience if we’d read it.”
She raised an eyebrow at me. “I told you so…”
“August isn’t in the habit of explaining their marriage when they aren’t visiting with versions who aren’t already a couple. This version is married as well.”
“Would we know that from the journal too?” No.
“You’re going to be a brat about this, aren’t you?”
When she started nodding, I made my way over to join her on the swing. I put my mouth to her ear and whispered, “I was a fool to ignore the journals. I should have yielded to your curiosity. Sweet Sookie, how do you find it in your heart to love such an obtuse and high handed ass?”
She snickered against my cheek, doing nothing to help me concentrate on deciphering why we’d skipped. “I have a very high pain-in-the-ass tolerance.” If anyone else called me a pain in the ass…
“How lucky for me then.”
She snickered again, “Eric, would you stop flirting with me and concentrate on the skip?”
“You’re the one flirting… out of curiosity, what time were you finally done having your way with me?”
“Jason beat down the door when he decided he wasn’t going to eat lunch alone too… 11ish. You were making so much noise, I had to lie and say the TV volume was stuck.”
“I couldn’t have been the only one being loud.”
“You weren’t, but if it was just me, I could’ve said I stubbed my toe or something. Man-noise meant I had to blame the last people to use the room for watching porn… And he soooooo didn’t buy it.”
“What are you concerned about? Your brother knowing his adult sister was fucking or that he discovers you can keep me ‘up’ until lunch?”
She huffed, “I kind of got numbed to how shocked he was that I’m not a nun… I’m more worried he’ll flap his gums about you being awake during daylight hours.”
“Don’t be. We should tell him about skipping and the peripheral occurrences.”
“I know other Pams know… but… If I’m going to tell anyone on my end about it, I’d rather tell Trey.”
“We should tell him as well, but it seems like Alcide is the standard in that arena. Your life is different from the status quo. We should have a tight circle of accessories. It isn’t as much for Us as it is for Them.”
She shrugged. “Okay. I guess you get to be right once in a while… We should go in and visit with Gran for a little bit before we let them get on with their night.”
“I don’t enjoy it when you’re upset… Try to consider visiting with Adele in a positive perspective. Thanks to the skips, you’ll get to see her from time to time.”
She giggled, “I’m not upset… it was amazing to see her again… and she was smiling instead of worried…”
“You’ve already seen her?” I hadn’t felt any of the pain she had from seeing Chester again.
“When I went to the bathroom, she saw me walk by her bedroom. She fussed at me for being too thin… She’s dying to talk to you.”
“What’s different, Sookie? August described various reunions…”
“Oh… Gran mentioned them… the ones where she was killed. I don’t know. Maybe because My Gran died of natural causes, maybe because there wasn’t any way to prevent it… Those other Sookies felt guilty because she let that Compton guy into her life. I’d love to have Our Gran back, but she was getting up there. I knew I wouldn’t have her forever… All I can tell you was I just got everything I miss about Our Gran. She smiled and hugged me. The sound of her voice alone was enough to get me through.”
“What did she say?”
“She was surprised I didn’t get vapors like some Sookies… She basically congratulated me for getting it… some Sookies treat her like preserves…”
“I know what they are. I was asking how Adele could be treated as such.”
She giggled, “Oh. Sorry… The ones that lost her tend to want to figure out how to skip on purpose… like a way to enjoy summer fruit during the winter… they don’t realize that eventually, the jar is empty. Some Sookies aren’t letting themselves realize they’ll have to go without because she isn’t going to live forever. Eventually they’ll run out of Grans to visit.”
“The problem with that metaphor is there’s another harvest to look forward to.”
She giggled again. “That’s what I said… Gran nodded and gave me one of those smiles. She said the next harvest is exactly what I should enjoy instead of lamenting about the last one… Go on. Get your taste while we have a jar.”
As I walked towards her room, I realized I was as anxious as I could be… as though I was about reunite with my own family.
She didn’t disappoint… She had a smile waiting for me when I reached the doorway, patting the bed next to her as my invitation…
“There HE is! The man of the hour! You’ve had us all worried.”
“So I’m told.”
“It would’ve helped if those boneheads mentioned Sookie can feel your mind from a mile away… You might have at least said something to her. How’ve you been getting along since you got your memory back?”
I nodded. “Well enough… it’s a little daunting to have lost 3 months, but I’m not surprised that I didn’t want to return to my duties. Just a few nights has taught me I’d do the same in hindsight.”
“You love her… Your Sookie?”
I nodded. “I think I do… I’ve had a few things come back to explain my attachment. Just as much of her as of you. I’d like it all though… I want more memories of Adele. It says something that she made me feel so at home.”
“That wasn’t all her… we have a theory. When the skips happen, even when the bond isn’t working for them, Erics feel drawn to Sookies. The only one that hasn’t is the one we call the ‘Alpha version’. It’s the earliest of the couples. They’ve been together 7 years now.” Seven fucking years? That lucky bastard.
“How did they meet?”
“Sookie tried a lot of jobs when she was in high school… always had a hard time with her shields. She worked for a storage unit store and lo and behold, a handsome man walked in wanting to rent several storage units to hide Pam’s stockpile…” FUCK! I remembered that… I’d been waited on by a humorless asshole who needed a flea dip!
I shook my head. “It was all a matter of scheduling then.”
“A pebble is all it takes. It wasn’t even Eric who found the listing. Bobby did… As for you, Mr. Northman… What are you up to?”
I huffed, “We skipped all the way from DC…”
“What were you doing there?”
“Since Jason was in jail, Sookie only held a service when you passed. She was determined to take care of your remains with Jason… We plan to scatter your ashes at the Library of Congress.”
She smiled, nodded and whispered, “I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be put. How did that Me go?”
“That’s very good to hear. You had a heart attack… I found you just after sunset while Sookie was at work. You hadn’t been gone long, but it was long enough.”
She studied the quilt for a moment before she pulled herself back to the conversation. “Last month… I had one too. Brandon was over though and he called 911 when I collapsed.”
She laughed, “Oh, jeez-oh-me! You’ve got to read the journal! I’ve got another grandbaby… Sookie’s got a half brother. He’s a telepath too. My son was always popular with the ladies. We’re blaming that on the Faerie thing now, but he broke up with Michelle for a while and met a really sweet woman. We found out about him from a skip… He could be in Minden or Shreveport. Brandon Rousseau.”
“If he’s like Jason, warn me. I’ll need to brace myself.”
She shook her head. “I wouldn’t know… I lost my Jason in the river with Corbett. I’ve heard different things about different versions. Brandon’s a stand up guy… has his head on straight. His little girl is just darlin’.”
“Sookie has two brothers, a niece and an UnPack… She’s doing better than she thought.”
“And you. She has you. That’s the important part. What’s an UnPack?”
“While I pursued a simple life in Bon Temps, I ignored why I needed to be in Shreveport. The Witches decimated Long Tooth, including the Wolves you have for security. Trey Dawson was off the radar and ended up being the official UnPackMaster for the few survivors.”
She nodded knowingly. “Good man, that Trey… He’s used his eyes and ears for us a few times… So why do you think you skipped?”
I shrugged. “I doubt anything about our reality syncs to yours. Perhaps Brandon?”
She shook her head. “You’d already know about him if you read the journals… He’s only listed as a telepath because having a brother is news best served in person, but Sookie wouldn’t have ignored the chance to meet another telepath… He would have said something right away.”
“Hunter doesn’t exist in our version because Hadley died of an overdose before he would have been conceived.”
“Since Sookie seems more together than others I’ve met, that leaves you. What’s troubling you?”
“Could it be him?”
She shook her head. “I doubt it. He’s on cloud nine with his retirement. His only worry is my health.”
“I’ve been trying to think of a way to keep Sookie without exposing her ability. I enjoyed being in Bon Temps, the peace of it. I could go back to being Sheriff and Sookie could farm out her gift… August doesn’t seem to have any quiet though.”
Her eyes widened and she nodded slowly. Even though I didn’t remember much, I knew her wheels were spinning. “You know, part of your problem is Fangtasia…”
“Not anymore. We burned it down around the Witches.”
She clapped her hand together with a girlish smile on her face. “There you go… You were thinking too big, Eric… You don’t have Fangtasia to chain you anymore. Buy a little office here in town… have your Vampires call ahead. How often do you really have actual Vampire business to deal with? Buy the Compton dump and demolish it like My Eric did. He’s building a house for them to live in.”
I nodded. “You don’t think anyone would suspect Sookie?”
“Why would they? Given what your Area went through, it would be expected for you to have a less obvious place to do your business… and when the Queen wants you to renew your contract in a few years, tell her the Witch thing left a bad taste in your mouth. Celebrate retirement with four months in Longyearbyen… If something happens in the meantime, turn her. Nothing can interfere with that.”
“You’d approve of me bringing over your granddaughter?”
“Why wouldn’t I want my grandbaby to live happily ever after with the man of her dreams? It’s already part of their plans… You might not know it yet, but you and Sookie are soooo good together. If her head is already out of her rump, you’ve got it made.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. “We had our first argument last night…”
“She seems fine now. Is she faking?”
“It’s over. It was a mutual misunderstanding. She was more embarrassed than anything.”
She leaned forward and whispered, “Then you’re already one up on My Eric. Being wrong doesn’t stop My Sookie from going on and on and on…”
A Sookie piped from the front of the house, “You know, I can hear you!”
Adele scowled towards the door. “SO! It’s not like you’re gonna do anything to fix that flaw of yours!” She rolled her eyes and shook her head while Alcide and Pam agreed with her. “When you reset, you read that journal. Get in touch with Brandon. Set up a little office. Enjoy a quiet life in Bon Temps until you feel like moving on. Don’t overcomplicate it. You’ve lived long enough that you forgot how to enjoy life.”
“Can I take you with me?”
She gave me an amused look and held up her hand. “No. No one can go that isn’t meant to… One Eric was so sweet to try to take an iguana back to Hunter. Long story. The hosting Eric and Sookie got stuck with that ugly thing… You don’t need me anyway… You have Sookie and Pam. Now, get down here and give me some love. You’ve got a life to start.”
The way she held her arms up and smiled, I wouldn’t have denied her… She might not have been the same woman to care for me, but she was made of the same mettle.
As soon as my arms went around her… I remembered.
Every last second…
The time I lost…
From snapping the neck of the booby trapped Witch and leaving Fangtasia…
Running, seemingly on autopilot until I was staring at the little house that inexplicably felt like home…
Hearing Adele’s heartbeat as I rose from the dirt my first night in Bon Temps…
The excited look on her face when she devised ways to help me remember…
A new rosemary plant because her mother always said it was good for memories…
Pocket translators and history books from the library, checking out obscure books because I’d remember whether I’d read them or not…
The way she insisted my name would be Jan Doe because John Doe wasn’t befitting someone with ‘such obvious Scandinavian heritage’.
The little things I’d already gotten back to the bigger pictures…
I remembered the encounter with the skip, seeing His Sookie waiting for him in the car, noticing their wedding rings…
Refusing to leave, having him give me cash so I could help Adele and Sookie and ordering him to settle the mortgages for them before he went back to wherever it was they came from…
Hearing him try to drill into my head I was Eric Northman and hating it…
But hearing Adele call me Jan once I joined her in the house, made it all go away as though she was waking me from a nightmare…
The reason I didn’t remember spending any time in Compton’s orchard was because there wasn’t one… I’d used the cash from the other Me to buy the produce.
I sat in the kitchen, peeling apples and pears, shelling pecans, and translating everything from shopping lists to gossip while Adele rolled the dough to make pies I glamoured her friends to buy from her.
Since I’d heard Sookie telling Adele about the bank’s ‘mistake’, I’d stolen the mail in the house to make half payments on their utilities…
Adele wept on me after every day in court until I found her…
I’d only just missed her, the chance to heal her… I dialed 9-1-1 and held her hand until police arrived and waited, listening from the upstairs room while Adele was declared dead…
I sat in that room and listened to Sookie sob until dawn that night and was painfully close to following suit.
Spending a week of my nights on the sofa, haunting myself with the sight of Adele’s empty chair…
Pacing the kitchen, staring into the spice cabinet, hoping to catch a faint scent of when the kitchen was still alive…
The only thing to drag me out of mourning was Sookie’s sleepy company…
I was withering by then, starving to death, but from the time I rose until the time Sookie fell to sleep, what I craved was the conversations we would have…
Remembering how I tried to convince myself to talk to her while she was awake, but thinking back to the warning from the other Me…
Sneaking cash into Sookie’s laundry to help with the expense of my True ‘Yuck’…
Waiting for Sookie, lurking to make sure nothing happened to her when she left work and how she’d scan the tree line and offer a smile in my direction…
It made me wonder how she knew I was there… remembering the night of my discovery, I wasn’t surprised my first question was how she could…
I already wanted her by then, but seeing yet another Eric and Sookie together was too much bait…
Going home, regaining my memories, leaving Bon Temps meant it would all be over for me… That I’d missed my chance to have her…
I watched her pour kerosene into the air ducts at Fangtasia with a vengeful look as she explained the guys in the garage were ‘pyros’…
I watched her cry most of the way back to the house I didn’t want because her friends didn’t get to feel any justice…
The reason Sookie thought Pam and I were a couple was because the other Sookie explained to take any nastiness she dished out with a grain of salt. She told Sookie we’d been ‘together’ for centuries. How was My Sookie to know better?
I watched the other Sookie write in the palm of my hand and then searched my room for a pen to rewrite it…
Glaring at Pam for lying on my bed when Sookie was the one I wanted to rest with…
All of it was back in a rush quick enough to make my head ache…
Up to the moment I rose oblivious to who Sookie was and what my time in Bon Temps meant to me.
When I released Adele from the tender hug that turned out to be my ‘trigger’, she stared back at me with her eyebrows raised. “What was that?”
It wasn’t until I heard Sookie giggle behind me that I realized she was there even though her hands were on my shoulders.
“That was Eric getting something back.” She ran her hands down my chest and leaned to hug me and whispered, “All of it?”
I put my hands over her arms and nodded. “I think so.”
She hummed and kissed the side of my neck. “It would make sense. Gran was who you were attached to first.” Attached was an understatement. She was mine. Adele Stackhouse took me in. It didn’t matter I was 9 centuries her senior. I didn’t know up from down. Her face was the first one I saw when I clawed out of the ground… that woman was my mother no matter how insane of a concept that was.
Adele sputtered, “I’m about as honored to help as I can be, but don’t tell My Eric. He’s still bitter he can’t remember one night. We’ve tried everything.” He groaned ‘too late’ from the living room.
Sookie and I chuckled, “We heard,” in unison.
Adele nodded and mumbled, “I bet…” She lifted her arms again and chuckled, “Now, give me one you can take with you… You’ve got settling down to do.”
Sookie waited for me to leave my seat on the bed so she could give Adele a ‘hug proper’. “When are you going to stop being stubborn and move in with them? They don’t like you being alone. Just go stay with them until their house is finished. You won’t be sorry once you see Eric’s library.”
Adele chuckled, “You did not skip to have a Dr. Phil intervention, Sookie Stackhouse.”
When she pulled away, Adele just stared at her.
“They love you. You won’t be in the way.”
Adele rolled her eyes. “You don’t know everything.”
“Neither do you. Wanna use it as a bargaining chip? What do I have to do to get you to be sensible?”
Adele thought about it for a moment before narrowing her eyes and offering, “Let Eric spoil you, grief free.”
Sookie gasped, “That’s just… You didn’t raise me like that!”
“I raised you to not expect it. I didn’t mean that you should reject thoughtful gestures.”
Sookie pressed her lips together and grunted as though the idea actually caused physical pain. She finally called, “Hey, Not My Eric! I need a notary!”
Adele looked defeated… she hadn’t expected Sookie to give in.
Topaz Eric appeared and made his way over to lounge on the vacant side of the bed. “How may I be of service?”
Sookie huffed, “We need a witness to a bargain. It needs to be logged in the journal that there is an inter-version arrangement. In exchange for Your Gran agreeing to move to Shreveport until your house next door is finished, I’m agreeing to let My Eric spoil me.”
He eyed Adele and crooned, “Oh really?”
Adele sniped, “Eric Northman, don’t you dare gloat.”
“Who’s gloating? I’m not gloating… Maybe a little gloating… Slight, minor gloating…”
She swatted his arm to stop him and flapped her hands towards the door. “You two need to scoot before you trick me into making a deal with the actual devil.”
Sookie leaned over to kiss her grandmother’s cheek… I couldn’t help but do the same…
We’d only just reached the door when Adele called after us. “I love My Eric and Sookie more than anything. You stick together and everything will fix itself. You’ll see that when you read the journal… Y’all take care.”