I’d waited for Sookie and Jason’s argument about Bartlett (and all of the subtext that made me wish I could read minds) to fizzle out before going to get my shower and by the time I was done, Tray was standing in the foyer with Nate.
He’d congratulated Jason on his release and when I joined them, Tray was pointing out his ‘new grays’ while Sookie apologized for ‘just missing’ him all day. She rattled off her list of errands as though she was checking in with a parent.
Sookie asked if Tray minded if she took more time off so that she could see to Adele’s remains… Other than missing her at the garage, he didn’t mind at all, not that I expected he would.
While Jason was distracted with company, I went to the kitchen for my ‘meal’ that had been carefully hidden under the bags of lima beans and kale in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. It had previously been the case that bagged blood was the best blood available unless one was willing to feed from healthy children and I never had been… Even though I warmed it, I still had to choke it down. I wanted Sookie.
To explain my reason for being in the kitchen, I took a Dreamsicle to Nate and was rewarded with another high five. Tray groaned that it was his fourth one of the day while the boy ripped the wrapper and shoved it into his father’s pocket, seeming just as excited as Pam did when she received new clothing.
When ‘our’ company left I took my laptop to the living room so that we could discuss travel arrangements.
Sookie sat next to me with her legs curled up and watched the screen, resting her head on my shoulder.
She couldn’t have been more content to watch while catching up with her brother until she noticed that I was booking seats in first class.
“What’s wrong with coach?”
She studied my face like the answer was written on it. “Ummmm… ben… ben is leg, right?”
“It is.” “Leg… leg… legroom?”
I nodded. “Benutrymme.”
She giggled. “Ok Stretch, you’ve got me there…”
Jason shook his head. “What the hell is that? Like… German?”
“Swedish.” Sookie giggled when she realized we answered him at the same time.
He grunted, “Huh… why the hell Swedish? I mean I’ve had Swedish breakfasts, and had the Swedish flu, but ‘round here, talkin’ Spanish would be better.” Sookie buried her face between my shoulder and the sofa.
“Swedish came up because I was born there… Do I want to know what the fuck you’re talking about?”
“When you wake up and you only have time for sex OR breakfast before work. You pick sex, that’s a Swedish breakfast… and Swedish flu is calling in sick to stay home and fuck all day.”
I rolled my eyes, hoping I could keep Jason away from Pam so her vocabulary wouldn’t expand. “So to clarify, is it that Swedes’ priority is fucking or Scandinavians in general?” Sookie quietly dared me to deny it, making it hard to keep a straight face.
“I dunno, dude. If you go by all the slang I know, Swedes know how to have fun, but I guess that’s better than Dutch people… all that stuff involves farting… Dutch ovens, Dutch tuxedos, Dutch thunderstorms…” Lovely.
“I’ll skip that lesson, thanks.” “And Vikings were just nuts.”
“That I’ll hear.” Sookie left the sofa and claimed to be letting the cats in as an excuse to leave the room.
“Ummmmm… A Viking baptism is when ya beat the shit out of a guy and then piss on him while he’s down…”
“I like that one.”
“Me too… A Viking Ball is when a bunch of guys go out and they fuck shit up until everyone gets arrested. And a Viking Massage is…” He stopped to make sure Sookie wasn’t on her way back and whispered, “When you grab the back of a girl’s head right before you cum and shove her down so you nut in her throat.” There was a name for that?
Sookie returned to the living room shaking her head. “Alright. That’s it. Y’all are done. Talking about it is one thing, but dammit Jason, you’re picturing it…” She elbowed me when she sat down. “Stop encouraging him.”
He rolled his eyes. “You got shields. Use ‘em.”
“I’m out of practice. I’ve been home for four days now…”
“He’s here. He doesn’t get any privacy?”
“I can’t hear him.”
She nodded. “No shit.”
“Hell, I was wondering how you were holdin’ hands… wait. He ain’t a mind reader too, is he?”
I started making our hotel reservations and answered, “He’s in the room and no, I’m not a mind reader…”
Sookie glanced at the screen and interrupted… “Ok. Legroom is a good excuse to fly first class, but are you going to tell me that a 5-star hotel is the only way you can get a big bed?”
I raised an eyebrow, wishing I could at least push thoughts to her. “Vänliga.”
”Is vänliga Swedish for spoiled?”
”No. Think about the root.”
”Vän… is friend… so… friendly? You’ve stayed there before… or…” I felt it dawn on her that by friendly, I meant vampire friendly. I nodded.
”They have a spa and a pool. You’ll be able to lay out.” Shirts.
She giggled, ”Ok. Now I have to know what the Swedish word for spoiled is.”
”I’m not telling you.”
”Fine. I’ll ask Pam and get the translation of brat and poor sport while I’m at it.”
”Not if I command her not to translate, you won’t… our plans are made, by the way. Our flight leaves tomorrow night at 9:25.”
She was immediately distracted. ”Is that going to be enough time for you to be up and ready?”
”Two hours is plenty of time as long as I pack tonight… I need to go to my house and grab a few things. Do you need to take Jason to his house so he can pack?”
Jason shook his head. ”I can get Sook to run me to my house tomorrow… If you got a house, why are you staying here?”
”I stay here because I like it here… I’ll leave you two to catch up. I won’t be long… I’ll take Armani and Tina to Pam while I’m out.”
Jason scowled. ”You ain’t got like a family or whatever, do ya? One a’ them fucks who ’goes on business trips’ and shacks up with a newer make and model in another town? What’s that, a baligamist?” Sookie crashed onto the sofa to laugh into the cushions.
I was only slightly less affected. I chuckled, “Bigamists have more than one wife secretly. Polygamists have droves of wives and they wear bizarre, matching clothing. I’m a bachelor. Would you like to join me for the fresh air… you can search my house for diapers and stockings.”
Sookie piped up. “Am I invited?”
“I was planning to take my new car.”
She narrowed her eyes and practically growled. “Alright. Do you mind letting me play with your computer.”
“I was thinking I could peruse your videos, maybe do some reading.” That little… She was not watching that video without me.
“Get ready to leave.”
If I wasn’t going to be ‘allowed’ to test drive my new car, I was going to get something out of the errands. The bait was barely on the hook before Jason seized it… I offered to drive the Escalade or let Jason drive a Corvette. He snatched Sookie’s purse from her and dug for her key on his way through the yard. Poor me… Sookie was forced to sit in my lap for the 40 minute drive while she and Jason discussed Adele’s personal effects such as her wedding rings.
Forty minutes of squirming and shivering while I ran my hands over everything Sookie’s brother couldn’t see… the occasional spark offered by shifting her because ‘my leg was going to sleep’… playing cruel little games with myself… the fact that Sookie was letting me use her as my own torture device was rousing enough without considering that she smelled a little sweeter with every fucking touch and rub.
The last thing I wanted to do when the car stopped in front of Pam’s house was leave Sookie’s warmth, but I’d been lucky enough that Pam had ‘company’.
Sookie was blushing before I let us in… her slightly heightened hearing and telepathy clued her in to Pam’s fun.
I released Tina and Armani and left the Stackhouse siblings in the living room to go intrude… as I opened the bedroom door Sookie gasped that I should ‘at least knock first’.
As though knocking would’ve mattered… Pam barely pulled herself away from gorging at a thigh in a pile of 3 moaning and writhing brunettes. “What can I do for you, Jan?”
“Don’t mind me. I’m just returning your Armani and delivering Tina. We need a pet sitter. We’re going out of town for a few days. Tell me that you can refrain from eating the wrong pussy.” Her company giggled.
“I can try. You’ll be in contact though, yes?” One of the toys began crawling in my direction, so I held my hand up to stop her.
“If you need me. I’ve already sent the details to your email account. How often are you checking in?”
“Nightly because of the coup. Management seems content. Don’t disappear again.”
“Of course not. Enjoy your evening.”
When I turned to leave Pam called, “Hello Sookie! How are you tonight?”
Sookie answered, “I’m great Pam. How about you?” Pam purred, “Fabulous… care to join us? We could use a tie-breaker.” That reminded me…
I turned around and swatted Pam’s ass, for all the good it did. “That’s for not telling me that Sookie knew about Armani.” She turned just long enough to give me an unapologetic shrug.
When I turned again, Sookie was standing in the doorway to Pam’s room with a wicked smile on her face. “No boys, right?” Not funny.
They were both cackling when I grabbed Sookie and carried her back to the front of the house.
Sookie was still giggling quietly over her little joke… while Jason drove to my house, she actually cooed that I was cute when I was ‘spun up’.
When I growled, I was told that was cute too.
My only reprieve came in the form of more aggravating topics. As soon as we turned into my neighborhood, Jason grumbled, “Minivans, privacy fences, pools… family neighborhood… ain’t got another family my ass.”
Sookie slapped her brother’s arm. “Oh Jason, shut up already. He isn’t hiding a wife and kids from me. Pam’s the closest thing he’s got to a wife and she’s more like the bratty kid sister he works with.” Perfectly put.
“Pssh… don’t know what that’s like at all. So… what? Are you like one of them basement dwellers? One of those guys that lives with his parents until they make him move out? You got a room full a’ Star Wars action figures?”
I shook my head and directed him to turn onto my street. “Funny, but no. My family has been gone for a long time… Upper middle class family neighborhoods offer a certain amount of privacy. Soccer moms tend to be too busy impressing each other to be stalkers and their husbands are usually too unhappy to look up from their shoes unless it’s to flirt with the nanny.”
“So while the husbands are at work, you’re waiting for school buses to get the kids out of your way?”
“Actually since I’m a bit of a night owl, while the husbands slithered away with their mistresses, their wives hired babysitters so they could take their girlfriends to my bar to flirt with me.”
He grunted, “Nice… So which bar?” Moment of truth time… Sookie held her breath. I was just waiting for him to pull into my driveway and kill the engine.
I answered, “Fangtasia.”
He pushed himself out of the car and waited for Sookie and me to meet him on the sidewalk. “Fangtasia? Ain’t that the Vampire bar?”
“It was. It closed. I lost interest in it.” Lost interest/ forgot. Tomayto/tomahto.
“Damn. What that hell’s that like? To be ‘round Vampires every night like that?” I wanted to laugh, but Sookie actually did. I’m not sure he noticed her snickering since he was gaping at the staircase when we walked into the house.
“More boring than you could possibly imagine.”
“Boring? I wouldn’t figure it’d be boring? I mean… how the hell d’you hire bouncers? Ain’t Vamps strong as shit?” Still not catching on.
“Vampires tend to behave in public. The Humans were a bulk of the problem. There was no less than one cat-fight every night over one absurd situation after another… What’s your favorite fast food restaurant?”
“When you go to Wendy’s, do you stay there or do you get your meal and go home?”
I nodded. “Pam joked that we should install a takeout window. The Vampires would only be there long enough to find dinner and leave. The younger ones caused trouble from time to time because they didn’t have full control over their hunger or strength… Humans would gather and drink until they caused fights or staggered home.”
“Shit. That does sound boring. Sounds like every bar I ever been to when I think about it. College kids picking fights while the older customers sit back and wish they’d shut the fuck up and find a keg party somewhere.”
“A bar is a bar. I’ve owned several. I don’t miss any of them.”
“So what are you going to do now that that’s closed?”
“I thought it might be fun to buy the property adjoining Merlotte’s and have it rezoned.”
“A bar right next to another bar, in a town that small?”
“I didn’t say I’d open anything, but it would be fun to see the look on Merlotte’s face when he finds out we’re neighbors. If I were to build, I’d probably open something less obvious. Bon Temps doesn’t have a pizza parlor.”
He started laughing, “Shiiiiiiit, there’s a lot Bon Temps don’t have… wanna have some real fun? Open a mall with a food court.”
I smiled at the ‘retard’ for a moment. “The best part of that idea is… during construction…”
Jason finished, “Sam’d roll around in the cash from all the construction crew traffic… As soon as that shit opened, he’d be crippled. Bye bye Sammy… I never liked that two-faced bitch.”
Sookie finally added to the conversation. “You know, y’all are just evil. I was thinking that it would be awesome to have the jobs out there now that there’s been a population boon.” The Long Tooth factor only sweetened the idea.
I leaned against the kitchen counter and started an email to my Property Manager ‘from Pam’ instructing him to look in to available properties in Bon Temps… the closer to Merlotte’s, the better.
I felt Sookie’s eyes on me while I typed and she peeked over to read and gasped, “NO. YOU. DON’T. That’s just…”
“It doesn’t have to be a mall. That could be a zoning nightmare. I want to see my options.”
“Do you lie to me just so I’ll slap you?” Maybe.
When I was done, I slid my phone back into my pocket and winked on my way down to my room.
Sookie followed me so closely that I might as well have had her on a leash.
“We should probably just tell him at this point.”
“You’re reading his thoughts to test his take on things?”
“Yeah… Sweetie, he likes you and all, but in case you haven’t noticed, Jason lacks certain social graces. He’s wondering how you ended up being an ‘orphan’ because of how we lost our folks, so if you aren’t usually comfortable talking about your family, then I suggest you drop the fang bomb.”
“Noted. Now can we talk about your ongoing game of ‘not-Mine’?”
She snorted, “No. You know I’m just messing around and I doubt you’d have kept Pam around so long if she didn’t know where her line in the sand is. Not only is Pam not my type, I’m pretty freaking sure that she isn’t any Sookie’s type.”
“You have insight about the Pam/Sookie coupling?”
“I spent some time on it because my mind wanders when I lay out… You’re the one that brought up constants. While I can recognize that Pam is absolutely stunning, I don’t swing that way.”
“Hence other Sookies wouldn’t either?”
“I’m 99% positive Sookie cooked up the joke to get to Eric… kinda like I joke around to spin you up.”
“Because you all think it’s ‘cute’.”
She giggled instead of answering and examined her feet to avoid eye contact.
“Sookie, is this one of those stupid Human games? Am I being tested?”
She walked over, smiling brightly enough for it to feel warm, and sliding her hands behind my back. “I think I might be testing myself.”
“Well… that Mine business is a bit off-putting at first… but I don’t think I mind it so much…”
“So the teasing you’ve been doing has just been ‘trying Mine on for size’?” I could deal with that.
She stretched up to kiss my chin, winking as she left me. “…And I’m starting to like the sound your fangs make. You pack. I’m going to go check a couple books out of the Northman Library.”
My closet door was barely open when Sookie was cut off by Jason on the stairs. “Oh thank God. I didn’t wanna walk in on something… Look, Eric’s got company.” Oh shit.
Sookie asked, “Did they give a name?” “Naw… but the guy looks like…” He paused before he whispered, “He looks like a bad Elvis impersonator.” I’ll be damned.
Before I could tell them that he was welcome, Sookie squealed and her feet pounded up the steps. “Outta my way Jas… Eric, Bubba’s alive!” How the fuck did she know who Bubba was?
I didn’t waste any time catching up to her… I was directly behind Sookie when Bubba spotted her and the idiot’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Miss Sookie! I’m glad to see ya! I was hoping I’d get the chance to thank ya for lookin’ out for me the way ya done.” Explanations needed to start and fast.
She was excited to her core to see him. “Seeing you’re alright is all the thanks I need. We thought you died. Where’ve you been keeping yourself?”
“Well, after you warned me like ya done, I told some’my friends ‘bout things and went up Branson way… It’s real good to see you too, Mr. Eric. Ain’t nobody think you made it out of Shreveport.”
“Thank you. Welcome back, Bubba. How do you know Sookie?”
“Well, I… Me and Pam was takin’ turns lookin’ for ya. You know ‘cus she can feel you and I can chase ya. We was sure you was out there, but you’re pretty slippery when ya wanna be.” Even without a memory, I’d outsmarted the hapless fool.
“Anyhow, I stopped for gas one night and Miss Sookie here, she had me pegged as a Vampire straight off. She said she had Werewolf friends and told me that she heard things was just gettin’ worse and worse. I might be smart to take a vacation. Didn’t even take muh car with me. Left it at muh house and just took the clothes I could carry.” That would be why Pam assumed he’d been taken and drained.
“Who knew Branson would save you? I thought you tried to stay away from places like that.” Branson, Nashville, Memphis… they’d all been places he’d been recognized in no matter how careful he was.
“Yes sir, but I didn’t stand out like I used to, even did some karaoke… I got news that VooDoo devil woman lost her luck and I came right back to check in with muh Sheriff.”
“Then you should be checking in with Pam. She’s acting as Sheriff for me. It’s complicated, but we aren’t explaining that I was discovered yet.”
I was met with confusion. Bubba’s mouth was hanging open, but Jason had been party to the whole conversation.
Judging by the way he flailed his arms, Jason had reached his tipping point. “HOLD. THE. FUCK. UP!”
Sookie put her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. Did y’all introduce yourselves. Bubba, that’s my brother Jason. Jason…”
Jason boomed, “Y’ALL. SAID. VAMPIRES! Y’all said Vampires and Werewolves and VooDoo and Sheriffs… Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on Food Stamps, Sook!”
Sookie started her explanation with a deep breath. “Jason, Eric and Bubba are Vampires. There was some ugly stuff going on in Shreveport these last few months because a Witch came through and did what Hitler did to Poland. Bubba, she was Wiccan not VooDoo. Things are clear now, but most of the Vampires and Werewolves had to lay low to save their own asses.”
“Werewolves?” She shook her head. “Your dumb ass was surprised to hear about Vampires too… YOUR SISTER’S A TELEPATH! There’s more than just Vampires. Damn!” And still… he had absolutely no reaction to the idea of Witches.
I actually pictured a lightbulb appear over his head when his expression changed. “Oh… well, what’s a Vampire Sheriff for?”
“Eric makes sure all the Vampires act like good little boys and girls. His job isn’t much different from Bud’s, except Eric’s actually good at it. He’s been the Sheriff here since Mom and Daddy were babies.”
“Well… shit… I was wonderin’ what kind of blockhead would open a Vampire bar… since you are one, yeah, not so stupid.”
My eyes rolled on their own. “Thanks, I think.”
He started shaking his head again. “Hold up. I wanna see fangs!”
Sookie gasped, “Jason!” and punched his arm.
“Hey! You been playing pranks on me since before you started school! This… this would be right up your alley!”
Having been her victim I understood his plight, so I took sympathy and actually showed my fangs on command for once. Sookie was denying her evil streak when Jason twitched seeing them slide down… and Bubba followed suit.
He was still staring at my mouth when Sookie rolled her eyes and started stomping towards the study. “Y’all are gonna have to bite him. Now he’s trying to figure out if your fangs are Halloween props.”
I shook my head. “That won’t be happening, Jason.”
“Well, damn. Now I don’t feel so bad about how fast you put me on my ass… Did Sookie say Hitler was a Witch?”
“He wasn’t, but the reason there’s so much mystery surrounding how he died is because he tried to put the wrong man on a train to Chelmno…”
Sookie laughed from the study, “Gran called that one right!”
Since Bubba’s arrival slowed down the progression of the evening, I took him to my room so that we could talk while I packed. Specifically, I needed to explain that I’d be reimbursing his account immediately. Had someone executed my will as hastily, I might’ve been pissed, but Bubba was too excited that listening to Sookie’s kindhearted advice had kept him alive long enough to worry about his finances.
I’d packed two bags. One to take to DC and the other was full of things I wanted to keep in Bon Temps like every fucking T-shirt I owned.
Bubba didn’t want to leave without thanking ‘Miss Sookie’ again and followed me to the study where Sookie was still perusing the bookshelves.
Once he was gone, she turned back to the books. “I didn’t make the connection until you were talking to Tray. I wouldn’t have said anything to him normally, but… have you ever seen it take anyone 3 tries to get their pump and their tank on the same side? I assumed Pam had some sort of confirmation.”
I slipped my arms around her waist. “I figured.”
“I wasn’t sure what I’d be in the mood for, so I grabbed Monte Cristo and Sophocles so I could finish it, if you don’t mind. Thanks to the fever the other night, I kept dozing off.”
“I don’t mind.”
“All packed? Ready to go home?”
“We could stay here tonight. That would give us some extra time tomorrow night.”
She giggled, “Hoping for a Swedish breakfast?”
“Maybe… I couldn’t help but notice that you were watching me make our travel arrangements.”
“Sorry. It didn’t seem like you hated it… I won’t do it anymore if…”
“I noticed that you watched, but you didn’t argue about the fact that I only booked two rooms.” She also hadn’t put up an honest argument about the cost (and none about my paying for it). Even after she made it difficult, if not fun, for me to pay her bills, she seemed willing to accept my help. I was confused about it until I realized that she was considering the expense as my way of caring for Adele.
She bit the inside of her mouth and glared to hide how amused she was that I’d caught her. “I figured you had your reasons.”
“I do…” I lifted her and put her on my desk.
She snickered, “I bet you do. Are you ready to go home?”
“I’m ready to go to bed.”
She licked her lips. “Well, there’s a small problem with that plan… Jason and I didn’t pack anything…”
“You can go shopping tomorrow.”
“No. You can wait. We have reading to do.”
“The last time we did that, your mood soured.”
She scoffed, “I think I had an excuse. I mean, I’m jealous that they were so lucky. But the Blue pages are a little less shiny. We know that Gran is gone too, and they ended up seeing a rougher road than the August Us. I think you just don’t want to read about being a King.” Not when I was trying to think of a way to escape the snares of being Sheriff.
“No. I don’t want to read because I’d rather fuck.”
“That too…” She giggled, as she pushed herself from the desk slowly. “Let’s head out. I promised Jason that we’d go to Wendy’s for junk food. He’s craving snacks because there isn’t any of that in jail. The best he could get was whatever me or Gran took to him on visiting day. He was lovin’ it once you came to stay with us.”
“Why is that?”
“Because you… Oh, ummm, do you want to know, or do you want to remember it?” “Earlier, when you were telling Jason about chores I’d done, I remembered doing them.”
She grinned. “That would explain a lot… Ok, the Compton place was a big plantation back in the day. Apparently, you’d done some exploring and found the old orchard. Apples, pears, figs and pecans… Gran was ticked that she hadn’t thought about it earlier… she was baking up a storm and loved every second of it because she didn’t have to feel guilty about the cost.”
“How did she explain the baking then?”
She yelled for Jason that we were leaving before hugging my arm. “She didn’t. There’s no way she could’ve since you brought her enough to fill the bed of a pickup. That sneaky little biddy was using the living room at the Compton place as a root cellar. She kept a big bowl of fruit on the counter and it was ‘magically’ replenished no matter how much baking she did. I’ll give her one thing, it took me a month to notice.”
“That would explain why I smelled her in that house… Was she usually so clever?”
We waited at the front door for Jason and Sookie called for him again. “Clever, yes, but she hated lying. I stopped asking questions after a while because it was eating her up.”
“Did you ask about the fruit?”
She shook her head before resting it on my arm. “I didn’t have to. I’d just noticed something was up… She came out to the porch to fuss that I was using a hammer to crack some pecans and she thought of how much quieter it was when you did it for her. You just pinched them.”
“I’m not remembering like I did earlier. I can’t even picture anything with any certainty.” She squeezed my arm and sighed, “I can tell.”
“Because when you’ve remembered something before, your mind gets… I guess the word would be severe.”
“Severe? Do you mean angry?”
“No… like… like staring into headlights. Bright. You liked being in Bon Temps about as much as Gran liked having you there.”
“I know. I wouldn’t have suggested… Sookie, what was my mind like the night I was found?”
She huffed, “Miserable. The darkest I’d felt. Like when Gran died… and crazy busy.”
“I’m not sure I wanted to be found.”
“Noooo… it was just that you were enjoying your vacation.”
“I mentioned wanting to buy the Compton estate when I still knew what a dump it was. I wanted to stay. I wanted to be there.” Close to Sookie. Remembering the video… I’d said I was frustrated. Given the mindset I’d been in when I first watched it, I assumed that I was frustrated over having amnesia for months… suddenly, I was certain that my frustration was because I’d been found, and my simple life was being replaced with inescapable obligations. I’d admitted being frustrated because Pam would’ve felt as much, but I hadn’t elaborated.
“Eric, why would you have wanted to be there? Unless you were working up the nerve to try to trust me, you had to be miserably alone since Gran passed.”
“Both are likely. I seemed adamant about pursuing you in the video.”
She hummed as she let go of me to go after her brother. “There’s another question for you, sweetie. Why would you want to pursue me? Gran couldn’t have talked me up that much and other than telling me to leave True Bloods in the baby section of the cemetery for you, we’d never talked.”
Good question… I was still trying to put it all together while we were on our way home. Sookie had pulled my arms around her and rubbed her thumbs over my knuckles for the drive, leaving me to ponder, maybe even monitoring my mind in the hopes that I might have some sort of explanation come to me. I was trapped though. I knew that Adele had spoken of her. I knew that I’d been close enough to smell her. I knew that I preferred my vacation to my life… there were still pieces missing. Something else had to have happened.
I still wasn’t coming to any rational conclusions as I stacked firewood in the fireplace while Sookie gathered laundry.
Jason offered to help, but when I declined, he took a seat on Adele’s chair. “I didn’t wanna leave your den. Not only is your entertainment center awesome, but it was nice to be able to flip channels somewhere comfy.”
“So you’re a Vampire?”
“I thought y’all were pretty badass. I didn’t know Witches were that big a deal.”
“They aren’t usually. That one in particular was genetically a Werewolf who simply trained as a Witch and boosted her strengths by drinking Vampire blood.”
“Yes. Past tense. She’s dead.”
“Damn. I always thought witches and e’erthing else was, you know, just superstition. Gran talked about that stuff, but I always just thought she was reading too much.”
“Most superstitions are based on something real. You’ve heard the horseshoe lore, yes?”
“Yeah yeah yeah… hang one by the door. Good luck can get in, bad luck cain’t. Right?”
“It’s as old as horseshoes being made from iron. As it turns out, Faeries are more susceptible to iron than Vampires are to silver. Supernaturals would hang something iron in their entry as a warning that Faeries weren’t welcome. When Humans asked, they were told it was for luck.”
“No shit? Why’d anyone want to hurt a Faerie though? Ain’t they cute?”
“Faeries aren’t ‘cute’. They’re gorgeous and alluring, as well as being deranged con artists.”
Sookie was passing through with a laundry basket and stopped in her path. “Watch it, buddy.”
I looked over my shoulder, innocently enough. “Present company excluded, of course.” Jason didn’t seem to catch on.
“That’s what I thought… Where’s your laptop?”
“I’m not sure. I seem to have lost it.”
“The word is ‘hidden’. You’ve hidden it.”
“I have not.” Her eyebrow went up as she turned to go back to her bedroom. “You’re being evil.”
She answered me with a raspberry.
The next time I saw Sookie, her outfit explained the mischievous streak I’d felt.
She was wearing the borrowed pair of my silk boxers and a tiny tank top that wasn’t meant to cover much. I was being punished for my contrary behavior.
But there was more…
Once Sookie had done the chores she wanted to do, she came back to the living room, with Sophocles and two bowls, offering ‘fried ice cream’ to Jason.
Whatever the fuck fried ice cream was, she sat on the opposite end of the sofa while the scent of honey and vanilla filled the room in spite of the fire… and she practically killed me with her spoon.
She debated with her brother about his plans to sleep outside because the temperature had dropped since the sun went down and discussed the errands they needed to run during the day.
And when her ice cream was gone… Sookie complained of a chill.
She pulled a sprig of the rosemary on the coffee table and tossed it into the fire as she stretched out in front of the fireplace on her stomach to start reading while Jason thanked her because that was what the fire was missing. I had the vaguest image of Adele tossing a stem into the fireplace too, but she hadn’t done it with chilled nipples while wearing my underwear.
Jason, clueless cock-blocking retard that he was, turned the television on to watch Craig fucking Ferguson. Why did Jason opt to watch a program that his sister had to explain? Because he liked the way Ferguson talked. If he liked Ferguson’s accent so much, I could make sure he was surrounded by ‘people colored Shreks’ in no time… the asshole went as far as joking about how nice it was to not have a ‘bedtime’…
After half an hour, Jason blurted out ‘DING’ and jokingly told Sookie to turn around so she’d cook evenly… Shifting changed my view from her legs and ass to her neck and chest. Not better.
Another 20 minutes later, while he was nodding off, Sookie practically sang her brother’s name. When he answered, she soothingly reminded him how comfortable Adele’s pillows were and that’s all it took before he was staggering to the back of the house…
Once the door to Adele’s room was closed, Sookie pushed herself from the floor. “Busy day tomorrow. Guess I’d better turn in too…” She leaned over to kiss my cheek… Nice try.
I pulled her onto my lap while she giggled. “You think you’re hilarious, don’t you?”
“What do you mean? Did we have plans?”
“We’re being coy, Sookie? Really?”
“No. We’re suffering from a one-track mind. I was planning to read, maybe just scan the journals for something about DC since the other Uses do a lot of traveling…”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Because you ‘lost’ your laptop.”
“No… You did. When Tina ran away from being put in her carrier, you moved it from the coffee…”
She slammed her head into my shoulder to hide her embarrassment. “I’m soooooo sorry. I thought you were joking around… I forgot.”
“You forgot that you moved the laptop and decided to punish me by being practically naked.”
“Um… no. I…” She started giggling. “We’re so even. You thought I was up to something too. When I said he was simple, I wasn’t kidding. When we were kids, we did PJs then ate our dessert while Gran told us a bedtime story.”
“You were forcing hints to him.”
“Yeah. He could’ve slept in that chair if I left him to it. Thank God he sleepwalks.”
“Because you wanted to get rid of him?”
“We can’t exactly discuss King Northman in front of him.”
“I’m not interested in talking about…”
“Don’t be a jerk about it. It can’t be that bad.”
“I’m more interested in My life. I could care less about the rest of them for now. Feel free to read them yourself, let me know if you have any questions, but there’s still too much about this life that has my curiosity.”
She tilted her head and studied me for a moment before she nodded. “Ok… but you know everything until January first, right?”
“I do. I’m preoccupied with what happened after Adele passed.”
She frowned and put her warm hands on either side of my neck. “I wish I could help. I didn’t ever lay eyes on you unless you were glamouring me.”
“Was I still coming to the house?”
She nodded, but didn’t elaborate.
“What was I doing?”
“Your laundry, bathing, using the microwave for your True Yuck. I’d stir in the middle of the night and feel you. I can’t blame you for hanging out here instead of in that termite commune.”
“What do you mean, you felt me?”
She shrugged. “In the house.”
“You didn’t lock the house when you went to sleep?”
“I… Gran taped that spare key under the porch swing for you. I’d have fussed if I ever came home and she’d left it unlocked.”
“What did I say when I glamoured you?”
“Um… you snuck up on me so you were behind me with your hand over my mouth long enough to say you wouldn’t hurt me.” I could feel that she was only telling me half the story.
“The other night, when Sam was over, I told you that I’d smelled you. You knew right away that it was because you smell ‘different’.”
She nodded. “You’d told me as much while you thought I was glamoured, but for the record, the guys in the shop call me Cookie because they picked up that I smell sweet too.”
“What else did I tell you, Sookie?”
She huffed, “You said that you were sorry you couldn’t help… but you’d be watching out for me.”
“What else did I do?”
“Nothing… three Fridays in a row, you’d grab me, smell me and re-glamour me to leave True Bloods for you.”
“Is that all?”
“Is. That. All?”
“This Friday, when you grabbed me, you felt my fever… Instead of glamouring me for True Bloods, you glamoured me to go to the doctor.”
“But you didn’t.”
She shook her head. “I knew what it was. I’d caught it from Nate. He’d been to the doctor though. Just a viral fever.”
“And Saturday, when both Mes found you on the bathroom floor?”
She whispered, “You didn’t find me on the bathroom floor… I walked in on you in the shower. I wasn’t supposed to be home until 11. I was dead on my feet, but I made it to the bathroom to take some Tylenol…” When she paused, my memory filled in the blanks…
“You said, ‘don’t mind me,’ but when you turned to leave, you swayed…” She left me standing there, holding her up, trying to figure out how long she’d known about me.
She shrugged. “The last thing I remember was you catching me.”
“Why didn’t you say anything? I told the others that I’d heard you fall, that I hadn’t spoken to you.”
“I… I just went along because I thought it would be easier to be the lie it only ‘rewrote’ about 3 minutes out of three months. Truth be told, if I hadn’t swayed, I was going to tell you I knew about you… And in Shreveport, when Pam was recording her message and you took me to get something to eat, we talked… We bitched at each other about money until I told you I knew about all the work you did around the house. The firewood and produce alone would’ve cost a hell of a lot more than the True Bloods, not to mention the repairs you did around the house.”
“Did I remind you that you hadn’t just fed me, that you’d saved me?”
“Yep. And I told you to shut up. You knew Gran… You knew she didn’t raise me to take advantage of someone’s vulnerabilities… I went to sleep every night trying to think of a way to help you… I hated it for you that you were all alone…”
That was it.
A bigger piece…
I’d actually been on her bed, and the memory hadn’t returned, but… something brought it back… I was reading a copy of Piccadilly that had been left on the coffee table, sitting on Adele’s chair, petting Tina while the little noises Sookie made in her sleep haunted me.
Sookie finally muttered something coherent in her sleep…
“…Nothing I can do. Stuck like that…”
I was too curious. Hopeful that I could have a conversation with her in her sleep simply because I’d caught myself talking to Tina while I’d watched her torment her dinner. I was starting to forget the sound of my own voice after only a week.
I leaned against the frame of Sookie’s bedroom door, resigned to the idea that I’d probably have to glamour her to forget my presence. “Sookie?”
She stirred enough to flip her pillow and hum into it and coo, “Hey.”
“What are you dreaming about?”
“Poor Jason… He was still too upset about Gran to eat the pie I took him.”
“Did you eat it?”
“No. I spit on it and gave it to Rene when I saw him at Merlotte’s.”
I chuckled quietly, “How do you know Arlene and her children won’t eat it?”
She smiled into her pillow. “Because they’re allergic to pecans.”
“Good girl. You should make another one for Merlotte.”
“He isn’t worth the trouble of spitting… the way he acted after Gran’s funeral.”
“What did he do?”
“He offered to move in, buy the house, settle my debts… marry me.”
“How adorably old fashioned of him.”
“Old fashioned/archaic. Tomayto/tomahto.”
“There are worse things than having someone want to take care of you.”
She furrowed her brow. “It’s insulting.”
“That he offered to marry you?”
“No. That he wants to take care of me.”
“Why is that?”
“He’s doing it for the wrong reasons. He wants to take care of me because he thinks I can’t do it myself and because he thinks that’s what I want, like I’m some kind of gold-digger.”
“What are the right reasons for wanting to take care of a person?”
“For small things? Compassion, sympathy… You know, making soup for a sick friend and…”
“Taking magazines and pies to your incarcerated brother?”
“Like that, yeah.”
“On a larger scale then?”
“No one wants to be taken care of all the time.”
“Gran says they want to be spoiled because they’re too broken to see the difference between possessions and love.”
“Does the telepath have a second opinion?”
She chuckled sleepily, “The telepath thinks that gold-diggers are so empty that they need shiny camouflage.”
“I like that analysis… So is there no way for someone to take care of Sookie Stackhouse?”
“Sure there is.”
“He’d have to let me take care of him too.”
“I’m sure Merlotte could think of something you could do for him in return.”
“Among other things.”
She giggled loud enough that I thought she was going to wake up. “I didn’t mean like that… You’re right though.”
“Then why fuck Merlotte?”
“I can’t think of anyone who does so…”
“You’re being difficult.” Even in her sleep, and I was endlessly amused by it. My first conversation with her and she was already displaying the sass Adele joked about.
“Because paying bills is all he’s good for and he thinks it’s enough. I’d rather be in debt with someone I can laugh with and trust my secrets to than walk in high cotton with frauds and strangers.”
“You believe in the simple things?”
“Yep… High cotton doesn’t last forever… What’s left when the lights aren’t on to make everything sparkle?”
“You sit in the dark and wait.”
She hummed as she rolled over again and repositioned herself. “Not if you have someone with you that makes the dark fun… the lights don’t have to be on to laugh or smile. You don’t have to be wearing silk to feel safe. Jewelry doesn’t buy trust.”
“That’s very idealistic of you.”
“Maybe, but if I live a thousand years, I’ll be damned if I’ll ever settle for someone I couldn’t stand to be alone with.”
As it occurred to me that Sookie was in the dark with me with nothing but conversation and a stack of bills, the memory drove on… conversation after conversation, night after night for nearly a month… I spent a few nights getting a dose of her company from her doorway, a few more leaning against her dresser, getting braver still to sit on the end of her bed before I finally found myself lying on it with her. By the time I was discovered, by the time we were visited by our other selves, I was waiting for her to retire and climbing into bed with her where she’d instantly wrap herself around me like she had the first night we’d ‘cuddled’.
Pillow talk about random topics. Laughing and smiling into the darkness of her room. Keeping one another from an otherwise dreary existence. I enjoyed every fucking second of it and had to force myself away from her side every morning before her alarm went off at 6 so she could overwork herself.
Sookie’s eyes were already on mine as the memory passed. She was smiling even though she was biting her lip. “What… did I say something?”
“Were you awake?”
She glanced down at my legs with a puzzled look on her face.
“You let me think I was glamouring you.”
“When I was Jan, did I touch you?”
Her hands left my neck to cover her mouth. “Oh God, Eric… What did you remember?”
“I need you to tell me. Every time and how.”
“When you… when you glamoured me you’d put your hand over my mouth. When I walked in on you in the shower, you caught me…”
“Ummm… You’re starting to freak me out.”
“I need to know.”
“On the way to Shreveport you fed…”
She glanced away before her eyes came back to mine. “When you took me to get something to eat… you… well, you grabbed me… Kissed me…” “
Did I say anything when I kissed you?”
Her look became angrier. “You first. What did you remember?”
“I was coming into your room… from what I can tell it was nearly every night and it started shortly after Adele passed.”
“I don’t… remember. Eric, I must’ve been sleeping. What happened?”
“I remembered climbing into bed with you and talking until just before your alarm clock was set to wake you.”
“Every night? What did we talk about?”
“I… I thought I was crazy lonely… I thought I was just dreaming that we were talking. I only remembered a little bit and just for a few minutes then it would fade away like any other dream.”
“Are you sure I never… If you can sleep through hours of talking… I could’ve been feeding from you.”
She shook her head, far more positive than I was. “You. Looked. Like. Shit. There’s no way you were getting real blood… You know what, call Pam. She could tell you what you looked like before you got my blood. She rode separately to Fangtasia. When we got there she said something about how much better you looked.”
“And… you’re sure I never touched you.”
She nodded. “You… when you kissed me… you said you’d wanted to do that for a while.”
“There would’ve been a list if I was lying in bed with you every night. What else did I say?”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath like she was bracing herself. “You said… you said you’d find a way out of your trap so that you could come back. You didn’t want to walk in high cotton unless you could keep me.” High cotton.
“What did you say?”
“I thought you and Pam were together. I didn’t… I made a joke about you learning southernisms from Gran in exchange for Swedish lessons. You said you’d heard it from me.”
I nodded and tucked a section of hair behind her ear. “The first night I talked to you, you told me that you’d ‘rather be in debt with someone you can laugh with and trust your secrets to than walk in high cotton with frauds and strangers’.”
She shrugged. “Who’d want to settle for someone they can’t stand to be alone with?”
“You said that too… and we’re alone.”
She nodded and whispered, “I know.”
“You make me laugh.”
“Oh yeah, I’m a riot.”
“I trust you more than I’ve ever trusted anyone.”
“You shouldn’t. God only knows what I say in my sleep.”
“I’m not joking.”
“I am going to find a way out of my trap.” She shook her head.
“You’ll just get bored. You’ll get bored and you’ll resent me for it.”
“I want to stay here.”
“Bon Temps is just a vacation.”
I shook my head. “No. You are. I’m going to keep you.”
“I don’t want you to go, but… I don’t want you to give up your life to stay with me.”
“I wouldn’t be sacrificing anything I’d miss. I’m just taking out the garbage.”
“Why? Because I helped you out? Because I…”
“Because I’m happy here. I’m happy with you. I’m going to keep you.”
She shoved herself from my lap and stomped towards the kitchen. “You need to just… stop.”
I followed. “Stop what?”
“This. This is all just… leftovers. You… You’re going to go back. You’re going to go back to being Eric Northman, Sheriff of Area 5. You’re going to get a grip on who you are and eventually Jan’s going to be a footnote, a decimal point, a bad dream you shook off and I’ll go with the rest of the dream. You’re going to leave because nothing good ever fucking happens to me and even if you can keep your telepathic girlfriend a secret for a while, what happens… what happens…” She started gasping for air through her tears and pushed me away when I reached for her. “She’ll kill at least one of us. We don’t get to be happy.”
I darted around behind her so that she wouldn’t have the chance to fight me off again. I put my arms around hers, pinning them to her sides. “We will. I’ll figure out a way.”
“No. It’s stupid to even think about it… You need to run… you need to get the fuck away from me while you still can… Everyone I love… Eric, I’m a fucking jinx.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“You can’t… stay…”
“If I can’t stay here, I’m not leaving without you. Don’t give up on me yet. I will think of something.”
She shook her head and repeated, “We don’t get to be happy.”
“You said the other night that all we had was hope. What happened to that optimism?”
“We used it all up. Pam got her Maker back. You got your memories back. I got my brother back. The end.”
“I refuse to accept that.”
“Because I wasn’t hoping for my memories to return. I was hoping to keep you.”
“Eric… it’ll to break my heart if anything happens to you. Don’t get yourself in trouble over me.”
“No matter what, I’m not going to walk away from you.”
She shook her head. “Don’t. Stop making promises you can’t keep.”
“Sookie, if there’s no other way, I’m going to turn you. You’re mine. Nothing is going to get in the way of that.”
“Nothing can come between a Maker and their child. Nothing. I won’t lose you.”
“You’d turn me?”
“You’d be stuck with me forever.”