Before I was ‘allowed’ to move along to the part of the evening when Sookie and I could remedy some confusion, I was sent on an errand.
My ‘girlfriend’ refused to stay the fuck off of my laptop’s keyboard and Sookie was sure there was only one way to pacify the cat.
When I told her that there were plenty of ways to skin a cat, I was reminded that Tina was a monster I created and if we wanted any peace, I was going to have to pay the piper.
I went from being feared by my peers, to having my memory wiped clean by a Witch, to having the course of my evening dictated by cats and dogs.
Sookie was leaning against the washer, stroking the spoiled feline when I returned. Tina eagerly leapt from her place to strangle my ankles, which made Sookie giggle and quietly say, “You’re a brat, you know that?”
I couldn’t have agreed more. “Yes, she is.”
Sookie snorted. “I was talking about you… You flew next door, like walking would kill you. Hell, for that matter, like we’re dealing with some sort of deadline.”
“You might be the only Human I’ve ever met who would have the sass to call a Vampire a brat.”
She shrugged. “While we’re on the subject…”
“The subject of me being a brat?”
She shook her head and giggled, “You’re over a thousand years old, right?”
“Yes… roughly 400 times your age and you called me a brat.”
“Oh God. Get over it. You’re actually getting worse… What was the Pied Piper?”
“The Pied Piper?”
“Yeah. I mean… when you left, I got to thinking because I made that joke. I was just wondering because Gran and I used to debate stuff like that.”
“Stuff like what?”
“Well, like fables and legends and stuff… She had a theory about Atlantis and…”
“What was that?”
“Well, she says it was Plato’s fault that it was supposedly as big as a ‘continent’… that it was probably a small island that broke away from somewhere because of an earthquake or something that bumped into another landmass because of tectonic shifting. Her money was on Sicily and Gibraltar.”
“Theorizing that Sicily was severed from greater Italy or Gibraltar collided with Spain.” Not a bad conclusion for someone who only had basic schooling.
Sookie shrugged. “Geographically, it makes sense because they’re both part of the Med. My guess was that it was like Venice. You know, sinking…” Another sound theory…
“How would you feel if I told you that you’re both wrong?”
She gasped, “You know!? I only brought it up as a ‘for instance’.”
“The Canary Islands seem bigger than they are from a ship due to the mountains.”
“Sadly, all the hype is over islands that everyone has always known about. Were there other debates?”
“Der Butzman? Vampire who preferred children?”
“Rasputin… It was hard to kill that guy… was he a crazy ass Were?”
“Disgusting and deranged, but Human.”
“So… about the Pied Piper of Hamlin?”
“Originally Hameln…The Pied Piper was a Witch. He was hired to rid Hameln of Sinti, which were gypsies. Rats, vermin, lowlifes… most languages associate them. The Sinti were baited out of the village when they hallucinated whisperings that there was gold in the nearby river. They dove to their own deaths… The part of the fable about the children was correct in part. The Witch, whose name was Pfeiffer, took a child from each family of Hameln having more than one and killed them, promising to get the rest if he wasn’t paid.”
“Oh. My. God!”
“It wasn’t unheard of back then to kill someone who refused to pay…”
“Not that! I’m making a list!”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. I’d thought that she’d be less than amused given our recent encounter with Hallow. “A list?”
She nodded. “It’s not fair that Gran had you, but you couldn’t tell her this stuff either. As many times as she read Grimm, she’d have eaten it up!”
“I scanned the journal entries of the Eric and Sookie we met… Apparently Adele was right about the origins of Bombay blood type as well.”
“Figures… can I? Do you mind?”
“Do I mind if you what?”
“Read the journal… I can’t help but be curious.”
“I assumed you read it already. Why didn’t you?”
“You mean at your house? I didn’t want to at the time… I didn’t want to know what you’re like with your memory if you didn’t get it back. You and Pam were frustrated enough. I wanted to stay ignorant. Gran’s Eric was good enough for me. I thought it’d be good for you to be around someone who wasn’t disappointed.” I wasn’t sure how to understand how that made me feel…
“The Eric we met… his Adele is enamored by him.”
“Our Adele was enamored by you… Come on. Feed the beast so we can get to class.”
I waited in the living room while Sookie stopped in the kitchen… as she moved around she asked, “I’m grabbing a snack. Do you want me to warm up a True Blood while I’m in here?”
“No thank you.”
“You were drinking a couple every night before though…”
“Because they aren’t…” I had to think of the least insulting way to explain them since she’d been scraping pennies to buy them for me. “They aren’t as filling as live blood. I might not remember it, but I had your blood and the blood of several Witches… I won’t need to feed for a few nights.”
She sat next to me with a package of cookies that smelled of figs and a large glass of milk. She huffed, “Oh… ok then… sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?”
“Because you’ve been drinking junk food for months, I guess.”
“I’ve resorted to worse, but to be honest, I never touch True Bloods.”
“Go ahead and ask. You’ve killed two Witches. Don’t chicken out of a question.”
She swatted my arm and giggled, “Fine. Is it because you used to feed from fangbangers at Fangtasia or because True Bloods are that gross?”
“Both, but for the record, fangbangers are rarely much better.”
“Fangbangers are of a certain mindset. Pam has explained their litany of mental disorders to me, but I wasn’t listening. What it comes down to is that most drugs either thin out the blood or make it hardly palatable. The Cocaine family makes blood bitter and GHB gives it an irritating chalky aftertaste… Diet is a factor as well. We can actually taste a poorly balanced diet. When a human is ailing, a doctor does ‘bloodwork’. Nearly everything that can be detected under a microscope can be distinguished by a Vampire who knows what he’s tasting.” I’d worried that the topic might be too macabre for her, but she’d listened attentively with her head tilted to the side.
She hummed thoughtfully and seemed to be ruminating while she chewed her cookie. “And you… You don’t remember what I tasted like.” As much as I wished I did…
“Just curious since I was sick and all… I hadn’t eaten that day or anything.”
“You’re curious about what you taste like.” I don’t know why I asked… we needed to change the subject… soon. Sookie’s blood and bath time weren’t things I needed to spend any amount of time thinking about until her refrigerator had the pouches of donor blood Pam was supposed to bring to me.
“Well… yeah. I mean to a Vampire. I know what I taste like to me. I’ve been waitressing long enough that I’m surprised I still have fingertips. Slicing lemons for iced tea is my bane. Lafayette used to do it for me.” The mental image of Sookie sucking her finger was all I needed to decide that talking about her dead friend was the perfect change of subject.
“What happened to him?”
“Fucking Sam… it was my boss’s bitch of a booty call… Do you know what the hell a Maenad is?”
“Yes… The question is how you know.”
“She rolled through town in October…”
“I’m aware. I had to pay tribute to get her to leave.”
She laughed, “No shit!?”
“She was here, in Bon Temps?”
“Well why the hell wouldn’t she be when she’s got a Shifter offering dick-service? She stirred up all kinds of shit. Lafayette was killed because of the orgies she stirred up. I don’t know all the details, but I could’ve killed Sam when I caught him missing the sex.”
“Did you meet her?”
She shook her head. “I just saw her in Sam’s head. She was pretty to him, but I didn’t eavesdrop much. Whenever he thought of her it was ‘sexy time’. Did you?”
“No. She attacked one of my waitresses. Ginger only lived long enough to pass along the message that the Maenad was demanding tribute.”
“I confronted Sam about her… He thought I was being possessive of him, if you can believe that. It made him worse than before… like it gave him hope that I wanted to be with him.”
“He just assumed that you were seeing ‘sexy time’ in his thoughts and were jealous?”
She snorted, “Yeah… asshole. Punched him right in his nose when he asked me what I knew about ‘anything’. I swear, all this time he’s been gunning for me to be his and he’s completely oblivious to the reality that there is, IN FACT, a perfectly functioning brain in the lump two and a half feet above what he cares about… Good riddance.”
“Yep. Quit today.”
“Sort of. I called the florist and had chocolates and baby’s breath sent to him. The card says, ‘Sayonara. No love, Sookie’. That should take care of it.”
I laughed, “I should think so. Do you realize both are poisonous to dogs?”
The evilest smirk appeared on her face. “Bet your ass I do… The woman who took my order wouldn’t draw a middle finger for me.”
“Why didn’t you quit last night?”
“Because I was still pissed about the way he was acting. I wanted to calm down first… It helped that I talked to that detective.”
“How did that go?”
“While I was on the phone with him he looked up those other murders the other Sookie mentioned… The ones that happened before. He apologized because he was afraid that they could just make Jason look more guilty… but then he found another unsolved case that happened once Jason was in custody with the same MO… By the time I was off the phone with him, he found three unsolved cases in some data base that happened after Jason was arrested.”
“The question I have is why the fuck no one noticed before?”
“Hallow. Plain and simple. All of her fuckery is why no one cared about the occasional fangbanger getting raped and strangled. People were turning up ripped to bits all over Shreveport and Bossier City. Hell, Hallow scattered pieces of one of Flood’s Lieus all over the lawn of her bridal shop… Fangtasia pulled in its shingle and Vampires were nowhere to be found. Anyway, I explained to Coughlin that the Jane Doe was probably the sister of one of Jason’s co-workers… and that Rene had testified against him. He was sooooo interested in that little tidbit, lemme tell ya. He promised to call back tomorrow once the other parishes faxed over the autopsy reports.”
“He’s definitely interested in the case. That’s enough for me since no one in Bon Temps would so much as look.”
“So you only quit your job because of the possibility that your brother could be released to pay his own mortgage… even though I…”
She dropped her pack of cookies on the coffee table and moved to cover my mouth. I couldn’t decide if the look on her face was playful or deadly as she whispered, “Shut. Your. Mouth.”
The temptation to pull her onto my lap made my hands twitch. I mumbled into her palm, “Why?”
“Because I could’ve bought True Bloods for you for the rest of my life. How great would it have felt for you to be tended to like a pet instead of doing something for yourself? How damaged would your sense of pride be if you went on like that?”
I gently pulled her hand away since she hadn’t removed it. Her face was only inches away, but I let my fangs down. She barely reacted other than giving a glance in their direction. No fear. “Knowing now that I have always been able to take care of myself, I’d have been embarrassed… but since I didn’t remember how independent I am, there is no telling. I think I’d have been happy to drink metallic, bottled sludge just to be near you. It’s why Jan didn’t move on after Adele’s passing.”
“To be near me?”
I nodded and let go of her hand, but she stayed where she was.
“Memory or video?”
“He didn’t know me though. I… Eric, I stayed the hell away from you so no one smelled you, especially Sam, but Tray asked me right away why I smelled like Vampire and I stopped sitting on the couch because I thought I was transferring the scent that way. I played it off and blamed it on maybe brushing up against someone while I was waitressing… and I stopped having friends stop by.”
Sookie made a fair point… avoiding direct contact with me, her Were co-workers were forced to assume anything but that I was staying on her property. I wouldn’t have been as easily fooled though. I’d have smelled the traces throughout the house. Since Sookie had taken Nate directly from Tray, Sookie smelled as though Tray had been wearing her clothes. It was safe to say that wasn’t the first time she’d ever held the boy.
I couldn’t help but wonder if Jan had forgotten the scent, or if he’d remembered and simply thought Sookie was Were. I pulled her closer to settle my curiosity, taking a long draw of her scent. Even carrying ample amounts of Dawson’s scent, she was temptation personified… but I was distracted by a thought… a memory.
A much bigger piece…
I’d landed on the stairs of the back porch reeking of moth balls… it was just after sunset so seeing Sookie’s car was a surprise. I waited, listening for clues that Adele was alone, but Tina had given me away. She sensed her waiting meal and Adele had taken the cat’s cue and followed in spite of her stiff joints.
Adele smiled from the doorway and whispered, “It’s safe. She’s asleep.”
She nodded, her smiled fading quickly. “Something’s wrong, but she won’t talk about it… She came back from that Tray’s house and she was some kind of blue.” She said ‘that Tray’ as though it was one of the 7 Plagues of Egypt.
I followed Adele into the house after setting loose Tina’s toys. “Do we not like Tray?”
“Oh, he’s nice enough, but that could be hooey. He could be an Eddie Haskell…”
“Sorry. He was a character on a TV show. He was a trouble maker, but he faked manners for parents and caused ruckus behind the scenes.”
“If he hasn’t given you any reason to be suspicious… Adele, you’re housing a Vampire. You’ve given me the benefit of the doubt.”
“I don’t have a reason in the world. I’ll admit… He’s been sweet as pie when I’ve seen him. I’ve just got a feeling about him… like he’s two faced. She doesn’t need that. Not with how Sam treats her. Who knows why his wife cut him loose and he’s got a baby. His son is only 2… And I’m sorry, call me old fashioned, but I think he’s way too old for her. That man’s got more business dating me.”
“What’s the age difference?”
“He’s a retired cop so I’m betting he’s old enough to be her daddy.”
I chuckled, “So you’d be against the idea of me asking her for a date?”
“No. Doesn’t that just beat all? How big of a hypocrite am I? As old as we’re guessing you are, from what you’ve remembered, I wouldn’t mind a bit. I guess it’s weird, but I don’t give a fig. There are Humans his age he can date. You can’t say that.”
“But then what would that say for Sookie? There are men her age she can date.”
She shrugged. “She can’t stand being that close to most Human men… I don’t know how she can stand to date Tray unless his thoughts are like Sam’s. You know, more clouded… let’s get you those True Bloods so you can take your shower.”
Everything was clear, every detail of the shower… Adele staying in her room to act as a guard so that Sookie wouldn’t walk in… The smell of the soap… The feel of the water… The warm feeling of seeing fresh clothing waiting for me on the counter because Adele kept it in her room for me… And the way they smelled of Adele who always smelled of her lotion and brown sugar.
I waited next to the door to be sure that Sookie was still asleep before we left the room…
Since I was clean, free of the stench of mothballs, I could smell it before we were out of the room… the salty drag in the air. “Adele, were you crying?”
She shook her head ruefully and whispered, “No… that was Sookie. Like I said, something happened. Poor thing… Gone for days and she got home about an hour before you did and went straight to bed without dinner to cry herself to sleep. Something tells me I’m gonna need my shotgun next time that Tray shows his face ‘round here.”
Instead of moving down the hall quickly to guarantee that I wouldn’t be seen, I stopped just short of Sookie’s door to peek in. She was lying with her back turned to the door, so I signaled Adele to stay where she was and walked in silently. I didn’t want to think because I was afraid it would ruin the memory, stop it short, but the closer I stepped to Sookie, the more of Dawson I smelled and I knew immediately what triggered the memory. The layers of Sookie and Tray’s scents together.
The tiny puddles of fallen tears on her pillowcase and her damp cheeks were all I would’ve needed to know she was upset about something, but she shifted, pulling her pillow closer and mumbled, “Don’t do that… It’ll be alright…” before her sleepy chatter became incoherent and brought on a fresh flow of tears.
I left just as quietly as I’d entered and whispered to Adele, “You said she talks in her sleep?”
“You should see if you can get information that way.”
She cringed, the look on her face echoed my own feelings at the time… she didn’t want to invade Sookie’s privacy, but was still worried enough to try.
I stood behind Adele with my hands on her shoulders and whispered, “Start simple to test if she stirs. Ask if there’s anything you can do.”
Adele used the softest voice she could muster to coo, “Baby, is there anything I can do to make it better?”
Sookie whimpered, “No… I don’t think anyone can.”
Without prompting Adele asked, “Did Tray do something stupid? Did he hurt you?”
Sookie hummed and shifted her leg. “Of course not. Tray loves me. He’d never.” Even in her sleep, she said it with conviction.
It took Adele a moment to think of another question. “Is Sam up to his nonsense again?”
“I haven’t seen him in days, but he’s probably just being a nasty assface alone somewhere.”
Adele snickered quietly and looked over her shoulder to give me a little smile.
I whispered, “Ask her why she smells like Weres and blood.” And a hospital, but I didn’t want to terrify Adele.
Adele’s eyes grew in panic. “Sookie… if you’re not hurt, why do you smell like blood?”
Sookie’s crying became more pained and she all but wailed, “Poor Chester… a friend of mine… he got hurt real bad. He probably won’t make it.”
“I can’t talk about it…” I patted Adele’s shoulder and reminded her to ask why I smelled Weres on Sookie and promised to explain what a Were was when we were done.
“We were all waiting together… They wouldn’t let any of us see him for a while… I got to go back with Keira though…”
“You were at the hospital?”
“You should know better after Linda.”
“I couldn’t not go… He couldn’t talk.”
Adele turned to me and whispered, “That would explain it. Sookie can’t go to hospitals.” I knew better. I knew there was more to it, but it wasn’t a conversation that could be whispered.
Adele cooed again, “Alright baby. I’ll let you rest then unless you want me to bring you something to eat.”
“No… I couldn’t stand to look at food… not after what they did to him…” Sookie’s breathing became more labored and Adele left me at the doorway to calm her troubled granddaughter.
I listened from the hallway, waiting for more clues, but the memory faded into my reality.
I hadn’t realized until my thoughts came back to the present that I’d pulled Sookie onto my legs. Even though my finger was on her lips, she seemed to be waiting patiently for me to explain.
Her hands were warming the sides of my neck and when my eyes met hers, she raised her eyebrows and smirked, waiting for me to remove my finger. “That was a memory, wasn’t it?”
I nodded. “Did you date Dawson or just let Adele think you were dating him?”
She tilted her head to the side and didn’t make any effort to leave my lap. “He was in on it because I didn’t want her to know I’d gotten a second job… She found out eventually though. What? Was your memory of her gossiping about us?”
“He’s too old for you.”
She giggled, “She would. She was so funny. I guess she wouldn’t approve of you then.”
“Actually, I made the same point and she said she wouldn’t mind if I asked you out. The age difference was only half of her problem. She said he seemed ‘two-faced’ and then immediately mentioned Sam. I think she might’ve inadvertently connected those dots.”
“That woman was crazy perceptive… So if Gran was in your memory and she still thought I was dating Tray, we’re talking about mid-January. Miss Fortenberry spilled my beans for me. Bernie gave her a tow. Silly old bat blew a tire on her way back from shopping and tried to limp her car home. She got stuck in a rut and guess who was working when she poured her fat ass out of the wrecker.”
“When Gran knew fast enough to come up before my shift was over? She read me the riot act and then went after the guys for laughing at me. Hell yeah, I’m bitter… So did you two just tittle-tattle about my ‘love’ life?” Having had the memory had been promising enough, but the way Sookie’s tongue moved when she said ‘tittle-tattle’… fuck… focus.
“No. We were only discussing it because she was worried about you. You’d been gone for days, but when you returned you were too upset to eat and cried yourself to sleep… She thought Tray had done something to upset you.”
“Oh… that was…”
“You’re most likely about to get really angry.”
“Because we found out why you were upset?”
“You talk in your sleep.”
She rolled her eyes and sighed, “And with a Vampire in the living room, you heard everything, huh?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Am I going to want to beat your ass?”
“Probably… I went into your room and… I smelled your tears, several Weres including Tray and blood, that horrible medical disinfectant that’s only used at hospitals… On a lighter note, smelling Dawson on you from your hugging earlier brought on the memory, I believe. And I’d been taking True Bloods while I still smelled like a walking moth ball so that I couldn’t taste…”
She narrowed her eyes. “Cut the shit and get to the part that’s gonna piss me off.” Yes ma’am…
“At some point Adele must’ve mentioned that you talk in your sleep… I suggested she try to ease her concern by getting answers that way.”
“Jan.” There was plenty of blame I would accept, but since I wasn’t myself… that was all Jan’s fault.
“You suggested that my Gran practically read my mind by interviewing me in my sleep.”
“We were worried that Tray had hurt you.”
She growled, glaring like she wanted to kill me. “What. Did. I. Say?”
“The first thing Adele asked was if she could help, then if Tray hurt you… then about the smell of blood…”
“You told her that I smelled like blood!? Were you trying to give her a heart attack?”
“No…” I was fucking floundering worse than I ever had before. “Honestly, we were concerned and… I’m not talking to you.”
Her face contorted, her eyes squeezed together. Her lips puckered like she’d eaten something painfully sour before she took a deep breath. “I’m gonna get you for that.”
“Am I wrong?”
“Shut up. Finish the story.”
“You were too upset to give details. You’d been to the hospital… because of Chester.”
She nodded. “January 21st. I spent 4 days at Tray’s house with Becky and once things were starting to settle down with her I was planning to come home… we got the call from Keira at about 8am… She’d found him on their driveway when she went to leave for work.”
“Adele offered to bring food to you, but you said you couldn’t stand to eat, not after what they did to him… What was done?”
Her chin puckered before she could open her mouth to begin explaining.
I put my finger to her lips to stop her. “Hold on. Take a deep breath. Don’t feel it. Explain it like he’s a complete stranger. Focus on my quiet mind and feel that instead. The smell of your tears makes me want to kill something.”
Shocked, but still perfectly comfortable on my lap, she inhaled deeply before she started. “He was covered in bite marks, Wolf and Vampire. The skin on the right side of his face had been scratched away down to the bone. Some of his fingers had been chewed off… and his leg got the same treatment. The doctors said that the only reason he lived was because he’d been bled slowly… that his heart had slowed down… otherwise…”
“Otherwise, he’d have bled to death in minutes from the severed femoral artery… Vampires helped?”
She took another deep breath. “No… he was taken somewhere. He doesn’t know where except that it was a warehouse and he was fed to Vampires being held captive. Him and another Were, but Luke never turned up. Hallow was draining the Vampires, feeding them with Weres to get every drop she could out of them and then letting the sun kill the Vampires when it came through the windows. Chester watched the Vampires blister to death then he was taken home for his pregnant girlfriend to find.”
“Adele said that you should’ve known better than to go to a hospital because of someone named Linda?”
“My aunt. It took her a couple of years of poisoning herself with chemo before cancer finally took her. I found out the hard way that it’s a good thing I’ve never been sick enough to need to be hospitalized. All the mental anguish… it transfers.”
“Understandable. So if you’re ever hurt, you’ll be healed instead of taken to an emergency room. Good to know…” She opened her mouth as though she was going to argue, but I didn’t give her the chance. “What were the authorities told?”
“By then they were looking for a pack of wild dogs because he wasn’t the first. The fang marks were a big issue. Tray figured that there was enough shit going on that we didn’t need a rogue Vampire running around. That’s how we found out that they’d taken over Fangtasia… They’d been using somewhere else, but… spoils of war, I guess… when Tray called Fangtasia to give you a heads up, there was a message on the machine. Basically the info from your reward poster, plus Pam’s name. Tray was pretty sure they were on their own at that point.”
“And you were at the hospital because…?”
“I wanted to be. I was waiting for news, but the only reason Tray let me stay was because it’s true what they say about people in comas. Their brains are working, just disconnected from their body. I played the ‘what if’ card. Chester’s only 22 so it’s not like he had a living will. Life support, no life support… certain procedures… the chance for Keira to say goodbye and actually get one last message…” She stopped to take another breath. “I went back with Keira when they finally let anyone see him, once they neatened up the amputation… He thought directly to me. ‘Tell her I’m not going anywhere. Tell her she’s stuck with my freckled ass.’ It made her laugh. She had a scare, almost lost the baby, but now that he seems to be out of the woods, things are getting better.”
“Knowing that she was looking for me specifically, why didn’t you turn me in?”
“Because you’d have died at dawn like the rest of them. There was no promise to stop once she got you. Sure, I figured that she wanted your go-juice, but that would’ve just made it easier to kill everyone else. The Weres were done quickly. They went underground in the first couple of weeks. They’ve been laying low like everyone else. I don’t know how the fuck she got as many Vampires as she did. I don’t really believe it, honestly. Pam said more than 400… but that doesn’t jibe.”
“Because the other me, yeah she’s had Eric-juice and all, but she managed to sneak up on her. I think Hallow scared them underground too…”
“A Vampire wouldn’t be scared of a Witch.”
“A Vampire might be leery enough of a Witch who was powerful enough to make someone they’re scared of disappear. K… Hear me out… You killed that first Witch. Did you think twice about it?”
“BUT… knowing now that there are crazy powerful bitches out there, would you think twice next time?”
“I suppose that we could say I learned that lesson the hard way. Yes, I’d be more cautious.”
“Right… and you’re a pragmatic son of a bitch according to Pam. So say someone that you acknowledge as being strong and smart like you went poof into thin air. Would you go looking to bring that on yourself or would you take a wait-and-see approach from the safety of your favorite safe-house?”
“Wait and see.”
“That Compton guy is probably dead because they found that mucky puddle of someone next to his car… and Chester watched 3 die…”
“Did Chester mention how long it took?”
“He said he was going to have nightmares just because it took so long.”
“That means they were young and that would explain why they were easily caught. It wouldn’t take long for me to disintegrate.”
She shook her head, seemingly to eject the idea. “Anyway… If Hallow was still feeding from Vampires on the regular, she’d have smelled us, that we were there. Hell, Tray can smell me from under whatever car he’s working on when I get to work and he’s not an amped up blood-head. I think you’ve got more Vampires left than Pam’s numbers suggest.”
“Interesting theory. Care to make a wager?”
She scowled and slapped my chest with both hands. “You. Are. Not. Allowed to bet against your own team!”
“It wouldn’t be betting against them. If they’re dead, it’s already done. What’s the harm in making the numbers interesting?”
“The harm would be that you’d be hoping that more are dead so that you could win, what? What was your dirty brain thinking about betting?”
I tried my most innocent face. “I hadn’t gotten that far yet.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Would it have involved nudity?”
I opened my mouth to tell her no, lie, but thought better of it. “Maybe.”
She snickered, shaking her head back and forth. “That’s good, but uh… in all your life, how many times have you actually been as innocent as that look?”
“Probably close to never.”
Her head fell back when she laughed. “Oh God! What the hell does it say about me that I think it’s cute that you’re the damn devil?”
“Even the devil has a weakness.” She made me crave dreamscicles.
She caught her breath and gave me a level stare. “I’ll tell you what… I’ll make you a deal.”
“Ok. What do you want?”
“I want you to hope those Vampires are ok. Hope they were just being smart like Pam.” So sweet. There wasn’t any way for her to know that I wasn’t going to miss most of them. For that matter, I’d wished most of them would leave my area at one point or another. I’d labeled most of them. Anything from ‘problem child’ to ‘chronic bore’.
“And in return?”
“Dinner.” There wasn’t a single thing to make me think she was joking.
“To clarify, in exchange for hoping that the Vampires of my Area are just waiting for news of Hallow’s death so that they can resurface, you’re willing to make a roast for me?”
She raised her eyebrow and brushed her hair over her shoulder. “Not exactly.” Tease.
“I’m going to hope that they’re still walking regardless. Having 400 Vampire deaths on my resume isn’t going to help my reputation.” If she had any idea how much it pained me to say that. My fangs hurt as though they were arguing that I wasn’t in my right mind.
“Then we’re even. I wasn’t going to make you stick to that bottled shit either. I saw what you looked like after you’d been on it for 3 months AND how one feeding from me helped.”
“It’s the least I can do.” No. She surpassed the least she could’ve done months ago.
“I already feel like I’ve taken advantage of you.”
“How’s that? Until 2 nights ago you didn’t even know I was doing anything willingly.” I should’ve taken the True Blood when it was offered.
I stared at her, trying to think of a way to explain that I still felt like I owed her everything and forcing air out of my nose slowly so that her scent couldn’t push me.
She waited, but finally tilted her head slightly. “Ok. For once in my life, I’m not going to push. The offer is there. Just let me know. You wanna get to watching the video and going through the notes?”
I nodded and considered moving to sit across from her instead of torturing myself by staying next to her.
The video had a running time of 19 minutes and 27 seconds, but it took 2 hours to get through it even though Sookie refused to watch her 2 minute segment.
As each topic came up, the video was paused so that one of us could explain something that was mentioned.
I explained every facet I could think of on the topic of bonding between Vampires and Humans as well as between Makers and children. She seemed to be more curious about why Makers who bond with their children before turning them have a closer tie… interested since there were two known versions of ‘Vampire Sookie’.
I was informed that the ‘differential Hadley’ had been stealing checks from Adele. In the falling out, Hadley denied having a drug addiction and walked away from her family instead of letting them help her seek treatment. Less than a month later, she was discovered by the maid service of a sleazy motel in Alexandria… She’d overdosed and was covered in old bruises and track marks with $14 to her name. While her death wasn’t much of a surprise, it still took its toll on Linda and Adele.
I’d managed, fairly well, to get through the bonding conversation without being too affected by the concept…
My problem began with reading the journal entries. Knowing that I’d be able to see perfectly, Sookie placed my laptop on the coffee table and sat between my feet on the floor…
The record was color coded and filed by when they met, our encounter was with ‘August Sookie’ and ‘August Eric’ whose entries were on the light green pages.
There were more than a few things about the collection of notes that caught my attention.
The first line of text was, ‘Bring her to your side. Be patient. Don’t lie to her. She’ll be the best thing that ever happened to you.’
It was the quote Jan had given to Pam about Sookie, the one he’d gotten from August Eric… I’d assumed it was an off the cuff remark, but since it was the first thing to be read of his version of events, it seemed more like a mission statement. A doctrine.
Having a better grip on reality since I’d come to terms with my amnesia, the passages in the journal seemed more real than they had been when I scanned them the night before.
Sookie was a well paid, working telepath under contract with the Queen. She behaved like a dutiful pet in the public eye, but was treated as an equal privately, just as I’d always done with Pam. He spelled out his pride in Sookie’s standing and behavior, his annoyance with Hadley, his angst over Adele’s heart attack and fear of her mortality, his enjoyment of having Hunter, and his friendships with Jason and Sookie’s guard, Alcide. We stopped reading long enough for Sookie to explain that Jackson and Alcide Herveaux had been some of the first Weres killed. Chester had been one of their employees.
August Eric’s explanation was a portrayal of a life that I never would’ve expected to have and made me inquisitive about skipping ‘to’ them just to see it personally.
Sadly, it wasn’t a life I could have… After everything that had happened, it just wasn’t possible.
Sophie-Anne was nothing if not covetous and he’d been right when he warned us that since our version of events didn’t include that the Queen had her ‘own Stackhouse’, Sookie wouldn’t be left to stay with me. Andre would’ve turned her to control her. And the way the power structure was aligned, the only way to file my complaint would have been to the Queen, and his Maker wouldn’t exactly have punished him for the infraction.
While August Sookie had met and built a rapport with nearly every Vampire in Louisiana by scanning their pets, My Sookie (March Sookie) had been absorbed by the remaining Longtooth pack by using her ability in humanitarian efforts.
Our Adele was already dead.
Our Jason was incarcerated.
Our Alcide had been murdered.
Our Hunter hadn’t been conceived.
When Sookie mentioned being on different pages the night before, she couldn’t have been more accurate.
August Eric’s description left an air of melancholy between Sookie and me.
Sookie had seen a very happy version of herself, but that happiness came from being surrounded by a loving family that wasn’t feasible.
Sookie huffed, calling their life a Utopia and ours, a funeral pyre.
By the time we were done reading his thoughts, I was questioning whether we should have continued with August Sookie’s remarks, but Sookie seemed determined. She scrolled down and suggested that we finish, but wait to read the other ‘colors’ on another night.
I nodded and braced myself to have my nose rubbed in the idea of how wrong things had gone because one heroin addict didn’t sober up.
August Sookie’s entry was formatted as a letter…
If you’re reading this, that means that you’ve already been welcomed to the Twilight Zone by meeting another version of yourself. Once you read through this whole thing, you’ll come to a few conclusions…
I’m going to try to save you some trouble though.
- Bill Compton is trouble no matter what version we’ve run into. The only good Compton is a finally dead Compton and if you haven’t met him yet, avoid him like AIDs.
- Alcide Herveaux is loyal to his core every time he’s crossed our paths, no matter what capacity. As weird as it was to meet him when I was engaged and pregnant with his baby, he loved that Sookie with all his heart. But since I’m with Eric, the thought hasn’t ever crossed his mind. He’s a good man and you’ll be honored to know him.
- The idea of raising Hunter scared the hell out of me. I wanted to avoid it, but Gran and Eric rallied around us. If Hunter lands in your lap, don’t be worried. He’s the sweetest little thing and his day doesn’t start until Eric is up. But that could be said for the rest of us.”
Sookie stopped reading to growl as her head fell back. She yelled at the ceiling, perhaps to something beyond it, “Could there be something in here about someone who isn’t fucking dead, please!”
“Sookie, we can stop.”
She shook her head and growled again. “It’s like getting lemon juice in your eyes. The first thing you do is rub it… it only makes it worse.”
“Then we’ll put it away…”
“No… I want to get it over with…”
She scowled at the screen as she continued reading…
“Look, this could be weird. I’ve met Mes in rearranged relationships with the people in my life. More often than not, I’m with Eric or eventually end up being with Eric. There was one version that made me sick because I was stuck with Bill, in a forever kind of way. There was a version with Sam and me pretty much happily married with children. The one that really threw me for a loop was me and Pam being together. Eric doesn’t think it’s funny, but I want to go back to that one. I bought it at the time, but, if you know Pam at all, it could’ve been a joke meant to get under Eric’s skin. P.S. I’d totally help her with that prank too.
Then there are the Mes I haven’t met, but I’ve read about. You will too. There is a version of Me who was turned by Andre. It’s like a third cousin version because it’s a third hand version. Apparently, as soon as Hadley mentioned me, he drove up to Bon Temps and killed me and went to ground with me that same night. And yes, even though I said he ‘killed’ me, I am planning on having Eric turn me. Once Hunter is grown and Gran is gone. Jason knows and is even understanding of my reasons for wanting to be with Eric as long as I can be. I’m not the only version planning on forever either.
As for Eric, my version of Eric… the Eric I go to sleep with every morning when he dies… the Eric who cures his boredom by spinning people up… the Eric who can’t control me any other way than reasoning with me… he makes me happy. He makes me smile. No matter where we travel, no matter how we wake up… my home is by his side. Gran says that we balance one another perfectly. He jokes that it’s because Pam trained him to tolerate anything… I know that it’s because he loves me, warts and all.
We make one another nuts, good ways and bad… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ok. Enough of the sappy stuff. You’ll get emo stuff from other Mes about Alcide, Sam and Pam, but I’d like to point out that no matter who you end up with, Eric is part of your life. When you’re not a couple, you’re under his protection because even if you’re not His, he’s still badass enough to protect you.
Oh yeah, and I know you’re going to think this is like getting a Mogwai for a gift but there are some words to the wise…
- He won’t complain unless you overdose on it, but veer away from cabbage. It makes your skin smell like an outhouse and it makes blood taste like paper.
- Go lay out in the yard for a normal tanning session, then put on one of Eric’s shirts for a few minutes after. Seal it in a Ziploc for him to wear later. My scent and sunlight on his shirts are like a little happy pill for him. Make sure you take the bag out with you and leave it open. The fresh air and sun get rid of the plasticy smell.
- Laying out in the sun and not bathing before he rises is a bad idea if you have ANY plans for the night. The shirt diffuses the smell enough that it’s calming. But Me + sunlight = ordering new sheets. I do it on purpose on nights off and we don’t leave the bed unless we fall out of it, but if you aren’t with Eric already, it could make for an awkward visit.
- And if I was an idiot and forgot to mention this when I met you in person, DO NOT exchange blood with him somewhere that isn’t light tight. Eric wanted to include the video we made on the memory card, but I’m not quite the prideful turd he is… So the sneaky asshole probably buried it in a file since I’m just getting used to computers and can’t find it, but whatever. The insanity that happens when we swap blood at the same time is unhinged. It doesn’t matter how much. If you don’t believe it, prick your fingers and do the ‘blood brothers’ thing. When you snap out of it, your clothes will probably need to be thrown away. It’s not normal. Sophie-Anne and Hadley didn’t even have it happen. We lose hours and it’s perfection… it’s our drug of choice.
That’s it. Go. Read. Fall in love with the man of my dreams.”
Sookie seemed to stare at the screen for longer than necessary, so I took a moment to be amused with the difference in styles…
If read aloud, Eric’s writing would have the tenor of a prideful inaugural address. That was his life and he knew how lucky he was to have it. He’d have killed anyone who tried to ruin it.
Sookie’s, had she read it to me, was relaxed and seemed like a conversation between two friends… That was her life and she couldn’t have been happier to have it, but he was her focus.
In the extra time I had to think, I found myself wondering why, of all the places, I’d ended up in Bon Temps the night I was cursed.
I blamed the bizarre source of the skipping… but I couldn’t help but feel like there was something more…
I’d remembered the most fundamental of standards.
Mousetraps that I’d been using in slight variations for centuries…
Discouraging vandals from a resting place by making it seem unsound…
Adele mentioned that I’d gleaned a few of my memories while I was there that gave them an estimate of my age…
And I had a memory of smells. Blood was a given, but Weres and hospitals weren’t something I should’ve remembered…
So having those thoughts functioning in the background, left me with something more profound…
My mysterious arrival in Bon Temps instead of my own home or anywhere else in the world that I’d been safe might’ve meant that part of me belonged there.
Sookie finally spared me from my abnormally deep feelings when she shook her head. “That is too weird. I just got done reading a letter from me on how to be your girlfriend.”
“Shhh. Tina will hear you.”
She giggled, “Is it weird that I want to try the blood brothers thing?” Fuck.
“No. I want to fuck you and remember it. From what I understand, they had to make a video because they don’t remember what happens.”
“For the full shebang, yeah, but she made the blood brothers thing sound like making out… You’d have buried that video on the memory card wouldn’t you?”
“You’re going to watch it as soon as you’re upstairs, aren’t you?”
She swatted my leg. “Sneaky asshole.”
I laughed, “I’m not that sneaky if she knew he’d do it and you knew I’d watch it!”
“What if I want to watch it?”
“If you want to see yourself fuck me, why not just fuck me in the flesh?” I must’ve become a masochist while I had amnesia. Why the fuck was I talking about it?
She dropped her head back to look at me from between my knees. Sadist. “I’m allowed to be curious.”
“Then why don’t we go to my room and record our own.”
“Because if we went past… Nevermind.”
“What did I tell you about chickening out?”
She put her hands on my knees to lift herself from the floor and sat on the sofa. “I’m not chickening out. I reevaluated what I was about to say.”
“Fine. That being said, what were you about to say?”
She growled at me. “I was about to say that if we went past dawn then I’d be trapped all day without a bathroom.”
“And you reevaluated that, why?”
“Because the conversation was getting away from me.”
“You ask too many questions.”
“You’re a curious creature, Sookie. I want to know what goes on in that perfectly functioning lump two and a half feet above your tantalizing ass.”
She gasped, leaving her mouth open.
I wiggled my eyebrows and ran my finger over her bottom lip. “That could be fun, but first you’re going to tell me how the conversation was getting away from you.”
She nipped at my finger as I pulled it away. “It was an avalanche. Ok? I’m curious about the blackouts. I have a weird inkling, and I own that it’s weird, to see myself in a porn now that I know it’s been made… but going upstairs and having sex that I won’t remember isn’t going to happen.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I’d like to remember my first time if it’s alright with you.”
“Your first time doing what?” I knew what she meant. I was buying time and that was the first fucking thing to come to mind. My options had been to say something or leave my mouth hanging open like a confused ape.
She huffed and rolled her eyes, shoving my thigh with her foot. “I’m a virgin you dunce. I can’t touch a Human without hearing everything. I’m sure you’re a God and all, but could you stay in the mood if the person you’re with said every retarded thing that popped into their head?”
“I’m fortunate enough that I could shove something in their mouth to shut them up. I suppose you don’t have that luxury.”
“Pssh. I wish. I’ve tried everything. The closest I ever got to being able to be with someone was an idiot who literally didn’t think a lot. Likable guy, but I couldn’t do it.”
“What ruined it?”
She sighed, letting the corner of her mouth turn up. “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back really… I’d ignored a few stray thoughts, but what dumped ice water on the situation was when he thought about whether his mom was going to make baked beans for a cookout. It was the most random thing in the world. And I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t had a few stray thoughts too… but… that was it. Done.”
“What about the Weres you know? Aren’t they harder for you to read?”
“At first they were. Now that I’m around them all the time, I can kind of filter through the chaos. I can block them easier, but when I touch one, all bets are off. They might as well be Human.”
“Hmmmm. So what you’re saying is that you want to fuck me.”
“No. I want to try the Pam option.”
She snickered and left the sofa to go to the kitchen. “You’d think it was if you saw that look on your face.” No I wouldn’t.
“You’re not Pam’s type.”
“Liar. I’m a bottle of dye away from being exactly Pam’s type since she likes brunettes. With the way I tan, I could pull off something with auburn highlights. It’d be hot. Admit it.”
“Still not funny.”
Sookie had opened the back door for Tina and the cat sped into the living room to jump onto my lap, aggressively begging for my attention. When Sookie came back into the room with a can of soda, she nodded towards my ‘girlfriend’ and giggled, “Besides, you’re spoken for.”
“I’ll end it.”
“Guys say that all the time. They don’t mean it. She’d stalk you anyway… smother me in my sleep so she could have you to herself.”
I wanted to argue, continue the playful conversation, but Sookie made a confusing move. Instead of sitting down on the sofa with me, she unplugged my laptop and started walking towards the back of the house with it. “Where are you going with that?”
“To lock myself in my room to try to find that video…”
“To delete it?”
“No. I want to watch it. You don’t get to be the only one to see it. You gonna be a good sport and give me a hint on how to find it?”
I growled at her loud enough to startle Tina. “Just do an MP4 search. There shouldn’t be more than two.”
Without realizing it, I stroked that damned cat until my hands were covered in shed hair.
It was maddening to think that Sookie was watching US have sex.
I hadn’t gotten as much as a real kiss from her, but she was willing to watch me fuck her.
Never fucking mind that there was a certain amount of detachment, she was watching me fuck her.
I was anxious enough, crazed enough, over the notion that my fucking knee was vibrating.
I raised my voice, hoping it would reach her. “Did you find it?”
She replied too coyly, “Shhhh. Wait your turn.”
Tina wasn’t happy about being pushed onto the floor, but it wasn’t like I cared.
I had a thousand options on how to approach the situation…
How did I go about filing my complaint?
Before Sookie realized her bedroom door had been opened, I put myself on her bed next to her. She was on her stomach, squinting at the screen… completely flushed, and my being on her bed wasn’t the reason.
“When was it decided that you got to go first?”
She cleared her throat and paused the video. Her face was beet red from seeing herself wrapped around me while I fed from her neck. “Ladies first.”
“And you’re implying that you’re a lady?”
“Because you might curse and use slang more than Pam. You used the term ‘dick service’. That’s hardly ladylike.”
She giggled, “Sorry. I spend too much time in a garage, I guess. I didn’t used to cuss much at all. The guys must’ve rubbed off on me.”
“How is the video so far? Is it something we can market?”
Somehow, her face glowed more. “They just… he just bit her…”
“And you’re already blushing.”
“K. Do you think porn’s ever been in this house? Add that I’m in it… Dude, she doesn’t seem to even care that there’s a camera going… she was playing with hers…” She paused to clear her throat. “Yeah, while he made sure the camera was getting the whole bed…” Because I needed the image of Sookie masturbating in my mind after being offered ‘dinner’ and… fuck. Focus.
I reached over and closed the laptop. “I’ll wait if you’ll wait.”
“I want to watch it though.” So did I… more than almost anything.
“If you’re too embarrassed to watch it with your co-star then you might want to work up to it.”
“Oh really? Let me guess, we should fuck until dawn. It’ll make us both feel better.”
I shrugged and unbuttoned my jeans. “If you insist.”
She grabbed my hands and cackled, “Stop that!”
“It was your idea.”
“It was. Are you being a tease?”
It was nearly impossible to keep from laughing at how flustered she was letting herself get. I rolled over to my back and took her hand to persuade her to come closer. She seemed to be comfortable with stopping once her body was flush to mine, but still on the bed. “You’ve got me. For the next three hours, I’m your toy. What do you want to do?”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Of course not. You’ve been given the promise that I will be passive, the only promise of the like I’ve ever given at that. I have experience doing anything and everything you can imagine and more. Since you’re the one with all of the curiosity and none of the practice, where do you want to start?”
“Are you going to laugh at me? Because I know where you sleep.”
“I promise that I won’t laugh at your inexperience.”
“Or be a jerk about being disappointed.”
“I know that you’re at a disadvantage, Sookie. I’m not going to think less of you for not being a slut.”
“And you’re not going to think I’m weird?”
“I doubt you could think of anything I haven’t done.”
She stared for long enough that I might’ve felt her probing my mind for hints that I wasn’t being truthful.
I watched her until a slightly resigned look crossed her face.
She sighed and inched closer, putting her head on my shoulder… using one hand to pull my arm over her side and the other to lace our fingers together…
And she went completely still.
I instantly began to wonder if she was making plans, too shy to voice her wants, embarrassed that she didn’t know what to do.
She hummed quietly, sliding her knee up my leg. “I told you that you’d think I’m weird.”
“I wasn’t thinking that you’re weird. I was waiting.”
“This is it.”
“What? I give you free reign over me and you choose to use it by, what is this, cuddling?”
“If you had your choice, we’d be having sex, right?”
“I’ve never been able to cuddle. Even as a kid I couldn’t stand to be touched.” I couldn’t decide if I wanted to feel sorry for her or if I wanted to promise to leave time for cuddling after we fucked.
“I was wrong.”
“I said you couldn’t think of anything I haven’t done.”
“Not a big cuddler, huh?” Understatement.
“Bother remembering names?”
“You gonna remember me?”
“I don’t plan on letting you get away from me.”
“Sorry. That’s not in our cards. You have to get back to being a Sheriff and you don’t have the option of having a useless pet around.”
“You aren’t useless.”
“I would have to seem like just another bloodbag because we were warned about what would happen if the Queen found out about me being a telepath and it’s not like you to have a pet… Nope. Even if you got attached to me in spite of your track record, I’d just end up being a dirty little secret you have to keep on the DL.”
That’s what I was left with…
Sookie dozed off and purred against my side shortly thereafter…
I laid there, with her attached to my side, warming me like nothing I’d ever experienced and trying to imagine my life without her in it…
I couldn’t shake that even though I’d only met her the night before that I had the lingering sensation of knowing her for longer…
I couldn’t ignore how much there was compelling me to keep her…
I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to keep her safely hidden when possibly the whole Were community already knew about her…
I was actually afraid, frozen over the idea of having to leave her, and I let it consume me until I had to go upstairs just before dawn.