As I rose, to the sounds of rain on the tin roof and the house phone ringing, I wanted to remember what happened before I died…
Other than being overcome with the urge to climb inside of Sookie, I didn’t know what happened once Sookie started taking my blood.
The sound of the house phone ringing unanswered was worrisome enough before the answering machine picked up. “Tray. Again. 8th call, 4th message. If you’re not talking to me because of the car, then tell me that you aren’t talking to me. I’m worried. You’re giving me more grays. Love ya, kid. Call me.” He was going to pick up our new cars… He’d said he would be by to check on her and fix the back door… if he hadn’t seen her… fuck.
I still wasn’t completely coherent when I left my bed… looking for her body, looking for her blood… worried that I’d done something to her…
I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I felt like a fool when I realized I was on the floor, searching under the bed…
I sat on the bed and spent a moment trying to remember… That’s when I came back to myself fully…
I’d risen in enough of a daze that my other senses lagged…
The house smelled of freshly cooked food. The only blood on the bed was a few drops of mine from when she’d balked at her healing. The jeans I’d put on after my shower were still on. The dresser hadn’t been put in front of the door, but the doll wasn’t hanging from the knob, so I had to assume it was on the other side.
When I finally started to feel her, she was close and closing the gap between us quickly… she felt a strange combination of happiness and apprehension…
And the closer she was the more her hesitation clouded her cheerfulness.
What had we done?
When I finally heard the sound of a 505 horsepower V8 rumbling up the driveway, her emotions came to a head.
She might have been close to shaking nervously by the time she crossed the threshold before coming up the stairs, leaving a set of footsteps downstairs to wander.
Sookie knocked and whispered, “Can I come in?”
She jumped when I opened the door to see the ‘draft dodger’ in the threshold. “What’s wrong?”
Sookie pounced. She had her arms around my neck, kissing me with an ear to ear grin on her face before I could brace myself.
I couldn’t even think to be bothered by the fact that she smelled like she’d been in the company of men for the day…
Putting her on the bed was reflexive, and she didn’t resist other than pulling away from kissing me to breathe.
I growled against her neck. “I could get used to rising like this.”
She giggled as I nipped her collarbone. “I could get used to waiting for you to wake up if I get this kind of greeting.”
“A half truth. You’re very turned on, but you’re nervous about something.”
She groaned, “Damn it! Taking your blood… I lost my edge.”
When I chuckled against her skin she squirmed in the most delicious way possible. “That’s right… It seems like we’re close to being even now.”
“So… we need to talk.”
“Definitely. Can we talk after we fuck?”
“No. Fucking comes later.”
She cackled, “Later as an abstract. Not later as a predetermined timeframe.”
Before I could negotiate for a specific fuck schedule, a man’s voice called from the first floor. “Everything alright up there, Sook?”
She called back, “Perfect! Be down in a minute!”
I raised my eyebrow. “Another friend?”
She beamed as she shook her head. “No… want to hear a story?”
“Can you tell the story while I fuck you to save time?”
“Going on this morning, I’m going to say no. I doubt I’d be coherent.”
“I’m fine with that.”
She jokingly scowled at me. “Starting the story… So I crashed a few minutes after you died…”
“No… don’t start the story with sleeping. Who starts a story with sleeping? Start with the part that makes you sure you wouldn’t stay coherent for long.”
She raised her eyebrow and her tongue played on the inside of cheek for a moment before she began, “When I woke up, I made breakfast and tried calling Coughlin and Halloran. When I couldn’t get in touch with them, I went out to the hardware store to get the stuff to do the rest of the windows…”
“Do you like the way your Corvette handles?”
She slapped my shoulder. “You’re a sneaky prick and I’m reserving the right to pitch the rest of my hissy fit later. I can’t believe you had Tray tow my car away so I’d have to drive the new one.”
“But do you like it?”
“It’s beautiful and drives like a dream and when I stopped to get gas, the guys in the shop offered to be your girlfriend.”
“Do they smell like sunshine and taste like honey?”
“Nope. Just me… anyway, I painted and whatnot and got all the windows done but this one, but the stuff is ready to put in. I tried calling the lawyer and detective again and left more messages… Then I went and laid out in the yard… I dozed off and woke up when company came by.”
“Did you mark a shirt for me?”
She patted my shoulders and giggled, “Yes… in spite of the car-swapping. It’s downstairs on the bathroom counter.”
“Thank you… Was your company that idiot detective from Bon Temps?”
She laughed, “No… and stop interrupting me because you’re comfy, you big perv… As it turns out, the reason why I couldn’t get in touch with Coughlin or Halloran is because they were in court today.”
“Did one of them come by?”
She smiled as she shook her head. “Halloran had spent the day with Jason yesterday and managed to wrangle a hearing based on the new victims… Andy went home last night and called Coughlin and both of them were waiting at the courthouse this morning. Based on the new victims and Rene coming after me, Jason’s conviction was overturned. Vacated is the word, I think. He’s not out of the woods yet… the judge said that since he was only convicted of the two murders, they could still get him for the others. Apparently, since Jason looks innocent, the judge isn’t interested in a bigger miscarriage of justice suit since Jason’s conviction gave Rene the chance to get 3 more girls… Since the original arresting officer made a statement apologizing for his misinterpretation of the evidence… Andy was my company… He gave Jason a ride home… Eric, Jason’s home.”
I growled, “That is the only excusable reason for us to not be fucking right now.”
She grabbed my ears to pull our faces together. Her lips, her tongue… rubbing and nibbling until she needed air. “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome. Is there anyone else you’d like for me to paralyze?”
She giggled, “I’ll let you know… Anyway, I just got back from taking Jason over to his house to get some things and took him to see his old boss about getting his job back. He starts again on the 1st.”
“Since it’s Jason who’s downstairs, why are you so anxious? Does he have objections to his sister being with a Vampire?”
She cringed. “He might… if I told him.”
I whispered, pretending to be galled, “You haven’t told him that you’ve had a Vampire playing with your pussy?”
She snickered, “Um… I told him I’m upstairs getting something.”
“He doesn’t even know you have a houseguest?”
“No. See, the thing is, he was always on the fence about Vampires before… and he went to jail for something pseudo-Vampire related. I don’t know how he’s gonna react and I didn’t want to argue with him because I’m happy that he’s out of jail and I… I was kind of… Eric, he’s kind of simple. I was hoping he wouldn’t notice until he got to talk to you and see for himself that you’re not, you know, some Buffy/Angel villain.”
“So meeting him with my fangs down wouldn’t make a good first impression?”
She covered her face and whined, “I don’t know… he could ask to see your coffin or go for the silverware… I could give a shit what anyone else thinks, but Jason… I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. Not when I just got him back.”
“The Green Journal mentioned that it didn’t take much effort for him to realize that I wouldn’t hurt you.”
She bit her lip and nodded. “And that y’all are friends, but…”
“But situations for us are different. You’re afraid that prison might have jaded him, yes?”
She gulped. “Yeah. Don’t think that I’m embarrassed by you or anything. I swear that’s not the case…”
“Sookie, for you to be a part of my life, you’re going to have to spend a certain amount of time pretending to be something you’re not. You understand that, yes?”
“If I have to pretend to be Human so that your brother doesn’t reject you, then that’s what I’ll do.” I had enough practice. I’d ‘faked it’ for most of my life.
She gulped again. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“I don’t mind…” It was the least I could do. I wished I could think of a reason to refuse, but pride wasn’t going to help the matter… Sookie’s life had been difficult enough.
“No… You know what… It took hearing you say it out loud… I’m not going to… No.” She began pushing herself out from under me to sit up.
“No matter how we spin your part in my life…”
She shook her head. “That’s different. I have to be a pet so that you don’t look like a pushover to the hard asses you deal with. And it’ll be a safety thing too… Jason can deal with it. I’m just gonna keep my fingers crossed that he doesn’t flip out for long. C’mon.”
She huffed, “What?”
“If he overreacts, I’ll glamour him to forget meeting me. Then you can introduce the idea of me slowly until he comes to terms with a Vampire being part of your life.”
She stared unblinking for a moment before she conceded with a nod. “Just once. He only gets one chance to be an ass.”
“And don’t introduce me as ‘Jan the Vampire’. You’ll introduce me by my real name and you won’t throw that I’m a Vampire in his face. We’ll let it come to him slowly. It’s highly possible that he’ll be protective of you regardless of what I am. He wasn’t voluntarily out of your life.”
She growled, “Ok. Seriously, don’t hold onto me… I feel sick.”
Jason Stackhouse was waiting at the bottom of the stairs with his arms folded across his chest. It seemed as though he’d been making use of his ‘yard time’… the pictures of him throughout the house showed a well-built man, but the Jason waiting with a suspicious look on his face had bulked up enough to have a chest and arms that were testing the limits of his t-shirt and his jeans looked painfully tight.
He grumbled without looking at me. “So Gran died and you… got a roommate?” I couldn’t be sure if he was accusing or inquiring.
“Actually, Eric’s been staying here since before she passed. Jason, this is Eric Northman. Eric, my brother, Jason Stackhouse.” He didn’t bother offering to shake, so he wasn’t going to get a clue from my cool hand.
I nodded. “Nice to meet you.”
“Why didn’t y’all mention him when I called, when y’all visited?”
“Because we didn’t want you worrying about us taking in a boarder.” Liar… I might’ve smiled if it weren’t for Jason’s mood. It actually pained Sookie to lie as much as she just had.
“Not because you snowed Gran into letting your boyfriend move in?”
“Because you wouldn’t take advantage of being the only thing Gran had left, right?”
“Of course not…”
“Did Gran know you were fucking the ‘boarder’?”
“Jason, you’re on the wrong track… Eric…”
“So why not rent him my place?” Because he couldn’t issue an invitation from jail.
“Because it’s your house and he’s a friend of ours…”
He cocked his head to the side. “A friend? A friend you’re planning to fuck later?” He shut his mouth long enough to let Sookie struggle to answer him before he delivered another low blow. “Right. I guess y’all don’t really care about how much those rooms echo now that you’ve got the house all to yourself. Y’all can just make all the noise you want… Y’all scare the cat off, or d’you just leave her alone until she died like Gran?” He was dangerously close to being drained and dumped in the swamp.
Sookie held her hands up and shook her head, yelling, “Stop! Just stop. That’s not fair!”
“What’s that mean?”
“Fuck Sook, I dunno. It might suck a little bit to come home from being in jail for no fucking reason to a grave marker, no utilities, no truck and a sister that’s shacked up with a guy who’d buy her a fucking car worth more than the house that’s falling the fuck apart around her. How ‘bout that?”
Sookie finally felt sick enough that I felt it. “Jas… I did the best I could. It’s not like I was out bar hopping.” She’d been on the verge of tears… they finally spilled.
He boomed, “Fuck that! You…”
Change of plans.
Jason Stackhouse was on his back before he saw me move. “Hello. I’m Eric and I’m going to be your post-release assimilation counselor.”
He struggled to get my hand from around his throat, not realizing that I wasn’t choking him, just holding. “Who the fuck are you?”
“I just told you. I’m Eric and you’re going to shut the fuck up and listen to me…”
He rasped, “Why the fuck should I care about your opinion, asshole?”
“You’ll listen to me because the last mother fucker that made Sookie cry won’t ever walk again. Understand?”
He lifted his knee to kick my side and the look on his face when I didn’t budge was laughable. “What the fuck!? Get off me!”
“I’m talking. You’re listening… Your sister has been working 2 full time jobs, exceeding 80 hours per week since September. She nearly killed herself keeping the schedule so that you had a house to come home to at all. I’m terribly sorry that your truck payment couldn’t be made and that your cable hasn’t been turned on yet, but while you’ve been getting 3 square meals a day and working out, your sister has run herself ragged enough to lose no less than 20 pounds. Until this morning, she’d been driving a car with bad brakes, a headliner that was falling out, no tire tread, and no turn signals. She kept a job where she was sexually harassed so that she could continue paying two mortgages on the off chance that you’d be released… and further helped you by acting as a decoy so that Rene Lanier would attack her to prove your innocence. The very least you could do is show some fucking appreciation for what she HAS done for your ungrateful ass.”
“I’m not ungrateful… I’m just… pissed! Wouldn’t you be!?”
I let go of his throat, but I hovered too close to let him up. “I can appreciate that the last few months have been difficult for you, but Adele worried to death and your sister nearly worked to death… If you don’t show your sister the respect she fucking deserves, you’re going to wish you’d stayed in jail. Adele would be beside herself if she heard you belittle what Sookie’s done for your family. You aren’t the only one who’s shaking off a regrettable few months, but you’re the one getting a lesson on respect and gratitude.”
“What the fuck do you know about it?” As soon as I stood up, Sookie grabbed my hand and began rubbing her thumb over my knuckles.
“I’ve been here since January and I’ve watched Sookie do everything she could… it was more than you deserve.”
He grimaced as he sat up and rubbed his neck. “Fine.” His answer wasn’t anything more than a learned response to being bested. Prison behavior. Symbolically, I’d taken over his territory while he was in jail. He hadn’t absorbed any information or changed his mind about anything… I almost felt sorry for him when I realized I’d accidentally won his challenge for control, but Sookie was still hurt by his insinuations instead of feeling protective of him.
“Good… One last thing… while you have no concept of discretion, you need to know that where I put my cock is none of your concern. The next sexual accusation that comes out of your mouth will end with your need for dentures. You’re talking outside of your paygrade and I won’t let you upset your sister. Are we clear?”
He started pushing himself off of the floor. “Yeah, yeah, yeah… fabulous fuckin’ homecoming… Giant asshole… jumping my shit… fuckin’ dick weed…” When Sookie said Jason was ‘kind of simple’, I’d thought she meant flannel or stripper mud-flaps… I wasn’t expecting him to be simple in a fat pencils and Velcro shoes way. That dense bastard still wasn’t catching on.
I moved to stand behind him and I put my hand on his chin. “Let’s try something…” I started moving his chin and mocking his ridiculous accent. A Jason puppet. “Sooookie, thank ya fer cookin’ fer me even though ya were nearly kilt last night.” Sookie covered her mouth to start laughing into her hands.
Jason swatted my hand and jerked away from me. “Fuck you, dude! I already said thanks! You think I didn’t miss real food?”
I shrugged and grabbed his chin again. “Sooookie, I suuure ‘preciate ya taking me back ta muh house ta get muh own clothes.” He pushed my hand away again while Sookie laughed until she was short of breath.
“Alright, alright! I get it! I was being a shithead! SORRY.”
I palmed his head to fuck up his hair. “Good boy. The next step was putting you on the roof.”
“You’d put me on time out!?”
“I was thinking you might understand ‘solitary’ since you weren’t responding to anything else.”
“Troglodyte.” I could tell by the look on his face that he had no fucking clue what a troglodyte was when he started wandering towards the kitchen.
Sookie waited for him to open the freezer before she whispered, “Thank you,” and kissed my cheek.
“Any time. Would you like me to go to the toy store? You don’t have cable… some wooden puzzles might keep him busy.”
She snorted quietly and shook her head. “You know, I still check his feet… when we were kids, he always put his shoes on the wrong feet.” That was… not surprising.
I put my hands on her shoulders and ushered her into the kitchen slowly, whispering along the way. “At least your parents’ efforts improved with practice.”
Jason was already sitting at the table with a Dreamscicle, inspiring Sookie to get her own.
Sookie still had her hands in the freezer when Jason joked, “Don’t get one for him. His hands are already like ice… What? D’you put a window unit in upstairs?” Apparently, he’d heard Sookie and me joke about fucking, but missed the Vampire part of our chat.
I shook my head. “I just have cold hands.” As soon as I sat down, Armani and Tina ran into the room and leapt onto my legs, supporting Pam’s theory that cats had ‘lap-radar’.
Jason pulled a disgusted face. “What the hell is…?” He stopped to grab his head and Sookie explained that we were waiting for a ‘brain freeze’ to pass. He finally continued after taking another bite of ice cream. “What the hell is wrong with that one? It sick?”
Sookie shook her head and shooed my company away. “He’ll feed you girls in a little bit. Get…” She took their place on my legs and peeled the paper from her snack while they hissed from their new spot next to the back door that had been repaired. “No. That’s Armani. She’s naturally hairless… Eric borrowed her from a friend because he was playing a prank. He wanted me to think he’d shaved Tina.”
“You didn’t buy it, did’ya?”
“Nope. I already knew Pam has hairless cats.”
While he shook his head, he looked at me like I was the one who needed a picture menu. “That’s what you get for trying to pull one over on a telepath.”
She shook her head. “Jesus. It’s a good thing he already knows, you dolt.”
“Pssh… he ain’t been here since January and not found out about that.”
“Fair enough… so… I guess you can sleep in Gran’s room until your power and stuff is back on…”
“Alright. I’m tempted to take a blanket outside. I’ve been cooped up too long… Speaking of Gran though, you said we’d talk about what to do with her when I got out. I’m out… You can’t keep her ashes on your dresser forever.”
She shrugged. “Have you had any brilliant ideas? It doesn’t feel right to just put her on the mantle.”
“I dunno… I kinda think she shoulda been put with Grandpa… I get why you cremated her though. Thanks for waiting for me.”
She nodded, but the two of them remained silent while they pondered what to do about Adele’s remains. If I didn’t join their efforts, I’d have spent too much time focusing on the delicate little nibbles Sookie was taking from her snack. She was going to be the end of me.
Jason offered, “I can’t think of anything… I dunno… permanent.”
Sookie shrugged again. “We could bury her ashes with Grandpa. I mean, the plaque is already there.”
He shrugged. “She never complained… I was thinking, you know taking them somewhere, but it’s not like she ever mentioned wanting to go anywhere like the Grand Canyon or nothin’.”
Sookie cut her eyes in my direction and grinned. “We could take her to Atlantis.” That was an idea worth exploring… I had my mouth open to tell her I’d take them to the Canary Islands for the weekend and suggest that they could scatter Adele’s ashes on Mount Teide…
But Jason snorted, “Her and those books... D’you think about the library?”
Sookie nodded. “Yeah, but the mayor is hoping to build a new one in a few years.” That idea…
Even though my area of expertise was hiding remains rather than paying respect to them, I offered, “A suggestion?”
They both turned to look at me, eagerly waiting for input.
“Since Adele loved to read more than anything, a library would be fitting.”
Sookie nodded. “No argument there, but I wouldn’t want to do it if they’re just gonna tear it down. And it was the only library she ever really went to.”
“If not her library, perhaps THE Library.”
Sookie’s eyes lit up. “The Library of Congress?” I loved that I didn’t have clarify my train of thought for her.
“Every book she could’ve ever read is there and there’s an enclosed courtyard.”
Jason shook his head. “Where is that? DC?”
Sookie nodded excitedly. “Jason, it’s the world’s largest library. The main building is more than a hundred years old and I think it’s the size of a city block. It’s not going anywhere.”
He smiled at his sister. “Sounds right up her alley.”
Sookie grabbed my hand. “You’ll go too, right?”
“If I’m welcome…”
“Gran would want you to be there… You belong there. She loved you like she loved us.” It would’ve been fantastic to remember that.
I caught Jason’s shrug in my periphery. “Hell, if nothin’ else, it was your idea.” I’d have thought that he’d consider my presence an intrusion… I wasn’t going to give him the chance to change his mind.
“I’ll arrange for plane tickets and lodgings… Is there anything else you’d like to do while we’re there?”
She shook her head. “I’ve never been that far from home… Think you can clear your schedule to take me to the top of the Washington Monument?” It was too interesting to me… I knew flying in a plane alarmed her, yet she was infatuated with the concept of flying with me.
“Absolutely and we can go to Theodore Roosevelt Island for a while when we’re done…”
Jason interrupted, tossing his popsicle stick into the bin as he stood up. “Awesome. Now that that’s settled, I’m gonna go enjoy a bathroom with a door on it.” Charming.
As soon as he was around the corner, Sookie turned to wrap her arms around my neck and kissed me. Her lips were sticky from ice cream and her mouth tasted sweeter than usual, orange and vanilla… she grunted and whimpered when I pulled her closer…
She put her forehead against mine when she ran out of air. “The Library is perfect. Thank you.”
“I’m happy to help.”
“At the risk of sounding ignorant, what’s on Roosevelt Island?”
I let my fangs down to answer, “Nothing.”
She giggled, without argument, and was still blushing when her brother returned.
“So Sook, you got Uncle Bartlett’s number so I can see if he wants to go? I know he probably cain’t and all…”
Her satisfaction didn’t fade. It was gone in an instant and replaced with agitation. She was the emotional equivalent of a cactus.
“No. Fuck him. I was nice enough to let him come to the church service…” His mouth was open, possibly to ask why she’d snub their uncle, but she cut him off. “Hey Eric, you wanna go take care of your girlfriends? They’re glaring at me like you’re cheating on them.”
“While I’m gone, you should call Tray. He left his 4th message just before you returned. You’ve given him more gray hair.”
She nodded and kissed my cheek as she stood up, seemingly grateful for a diversion from the topic of Bartlett.
I couldn’t tell if she wanted to talk to Jason in private or if she hadn’t wanted to discuss the topic of Uncle Bartlett at all, but they were yelling before I was out of the yard…
And still going when I returned.
While I ‘freed’ the four mice from their traps, Sookie told Jason to ‘drop it’ because it wasn’t any of his business.
He yelled back, “All this time and Gran’s brother… that fucker hasn’t even checked on y’all!?” That was abhorrent. Even if the man was a pauper, he should’ve been calling to ask about their health. I had a nagging feeling… I couldn’t help but wonder if a memory was trying to come to the surface, or if I was too curious about why Sookie seemed to be struggling to not talk about the topic near me.
“Gran wouldn’t have accepted anything from him anyway.”
“Gimmie, your keys.”
“Gimmie. Your. Keys. I’m gonna go beat his wrinkled ass!”
“I’m not giving you my keys so you can go beat up an old man. Assault will put you right back in jail!”
The cats rushed past me to enjoy their hunt as I walked into the house and Jason growled, “He should’ve been doing something to help y’all…” As soon as Jason saw me from where they were bickering in the living room. “Hey Eric, can I get a ride to Shreveport?”
I shook my head. “Don’t put me in the middle of a disagreement I have no place in.”
Sookie balled her fists up stepped towards him. “Dammit Jason! He’s not worth it. Just stop. We had Eric here to look after us.”
“IT. AIN’T. RIGHT. He left y’all to rot!”
“No he didn’t. WE left HIM to rot.”
“I know he ain’t got much, but he coulda been helping!”
I felt her lie before she started, “That’s what Eric was for. He paid every bill I couldn’t. And Gran had him helping around the house…”
“He got rid of those dead branches in that tree by our bedrooms before they fell and busted up the roof. He tightened every nut and bolt on every piece of furniture in the house and dragged every rug out to the yard to clean them. He cut grass and raked leaves. He put a new belt on the washer and fixed the stove so the oven and burners could be used at the same time. From January 1st, Gran rested her ‘old bones’ next to a fire he lit for her so that she wouldn’t have to go into the cold to get the wood and make her arthritis worse. Hell, he cut more wood than Paul Bunyan to save us from paying for the heat…”
As she added to the list, I could see myself in each task, Adele sitting nearby, keeping me company while I toiled. A sampler of my evenings in Bon Temps. No specific conversations or topics, just the feeling of being comfortable and welcome. Other than the cause for being in Bon Temps, ‘life’ had been simple, enjoyable… My existence full of give and take that meant exchanging unsavory favors and obscene amounts of money had been replaced with something far more peacefully symbiotic.
No bottom lines. No political subterfuge. No pomp and pageantry.
Trust. Safety. Good company. Modesty… and the overwhelming sensation that I didn’t care about returning to my life… that I just wanted to remember it.
“…She wouldn’t have let Bartlett pay to fix the place up anymore than she let Eric. Eric was here to keep her company and I felt safer for having him here… We had Eric and he was more than enough.”
He finally relaxed, melting from irate to behaving calmly. “Yeah?”
“How’d ya find Eric then?”
“He was looking into the old Compton place and wandered this way. Gran kept him like a stray.”
Churches had been built on less beautiful lies.