Not only did I catch myself thinking that I could get used to my situation, but I realized that I was hoping to have the chance.
Sookie hadn’t shed another tear before I died for the day. We’d been in bed talking for more than two hours by then and we’d discussed things that worried or frightened her, but she stayed calm enough to control her moods.
And as I came back to myself, every sensation reached me separately.
The first thing to be noticed was the cool air at my back. Rather than dying lying flat as I usually did, I was on my side. Sookie actually asked for it because it made her feel safer… once she proved that she was strong enough to move my arm so she could leave the bed, I had no argument against spooning…
The cooler room air was a stark contrast from the profound warmth cocooned against my front. I was stretched out with my legs straightened and Sookie was using my arm as her pillow… covered to our shoulders with her back pressed against me and her legs pulled up so her tiny feet were warming my knees…
The room smelled of food and faint traces of pot, her hair was damp and the television was on again… She’d been out of the bed, but when she came back, she curled back to me and wrapped herself around my arm again.
Unlike the recent past when her sleep was uneasy at best, she felt content and secure…
It was impossibly, perfectly comfortable and I was very happy to stay exactly as I was until she woke on her own.
While I waited, I was amused by the changes to historical documentaries since Vampires revealed themselves. Commentary delivered by someone with fangs had replaced conjecture by virgins in tweed jackets. The saddest part of the scenario was the virgins in tweed had been more accurate than the Vampires… the virgins had time to do research. The Vampires were regurgitating ‘facts’ they’d heard from word of mouth because that’s how we all heard news of the Great London Fire. Apparently, the grapevine didn’t explain to the fanged ‘historian’ that the fire was started by Vampires to begin with… a bakery oven simply can’t be used as a crematorium. In their defense, something needed to be done with the bodies of plague victims…
Sookie began to stir before I was subjected to the blathering of a Vampire named Chow narrating a show named ‘Ninja: Spies of the Shadows’.
At first, she rubbed her feet together like a little cricket and moved to put them on my shins…
Then she let go of my arm to snatch the remote from the bed and blindly punch buttons until the television turned off… the remote was then tossed to the far corner of the bed.
Once the television was black, she let a little grunt and turned to face me… tucking her head under my chin and cooing as she slid her hand over my side… along my back…
She settled with the tip of her nose just barely touching my neck… warm breaths feathered over my chest while she purred in her sleep…
I was a lost cause long before she slid her knee up my thigh to scratch an itch on her ankle, but when she rolled to her back, the nightgown she changed into after her bath didn’t cooperate with the movement.
The little white slip was already low-cut, but it stretched enough to expose her. Two perfectly pink little nipples hypnotized me for longer than I care to admit…
They were just nipples. It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen plenty…
And reminding myself of that is the only way I had the coherent thought to roll onto my back.
As soon as I did, Sookie stirred, following me to hook her leg over mine… and drape her arm over my stomach, but… her aim was off.
She ended up pinning my cock under her wrist.
My options, the ones that occurred to me at the time…
- Stare at the ceiling like a clueless teenager whose cock hadn’t ever been touched by a woman.
- Pretend to be dead as she woke and let her move her arm herself.
- Devise a nonchalant approach to moving her hand so she wouldn’t wake up practically holding my hard on.
By process of elimination…
- The first wasn’t going to happen. The ‘clueless’ idea was so absurd I was surprised it even entered my mind. Then again, someone dreamed up venomous, sparkling wimpires.
- Pretending to still be dead was risky for two reasons… I loved that she trusted me and if she was to check she’d be able to feel that I was alive. I wasn’t going to risk that trust by lying in any form… And she would suffer a certain amount of embarrassment if not recoil.
- Nonchalant, tricky as it was, won by default.
I decided against trying to move her hand by touching it. If she didn’t wake up right away, it was possible that she’d wake while I was moving it… she could think her hand was en route TO my cock instead of away from it. Not the way I wanted her to wake up… not when she fell to sleep with a contented little grin on her lips.
After several schemes were rejected for one reason or another, I opted for the most grownup of strategies…
I used a section of her hair to tickle her nose. She was lying on one arm so there was only one way for her to swat or scratch her nose.
Juvenile or not, it fucking worked perfectly… not that I’d be bragging about my ‘ingenuity’ to anyone.
She didn’t react the first time, only scrunched her nose when I doubled my efforts, and finally moved her hand the third time…
She rubbed her nose and looked up at me, catching me holding a lock of her hair.
She grinned and teased, “You forgot the shaving cream.”
“I drew a handlebar mustache instead.”
She instantly began rubbing her upper lip and checking her hand for ink before she realized I was joking. She pinched her face together… ‘playfully annoyed’ was adorable on her.
“I was beginning to think you’d try to sleep through dinner. I’m sure you’re interested to meet other telepaths.”
She nodded. “I think it’ll be weird and neat at the same time, but… I’m… Hunter’s the one I’m really interested in. He’s it. He’s the last Stackhouse.”
“No. There are two Stackhouses…” Instead of dwelling on the topic and risking the wrong end of the mood spectrum, I went back to the subject of dinner. “Is it too much to ask that you try to keep conversation verbal?”
She shook her head. “That would be really rude to do to you and Ema and Remy. Is Pam coming?”
“I’m sure she will. She couldn’t be more curious… Did I mention that she’s going back to Eijsden with us?”
She giggled, “Only about a dozen times before I fell asleep last night. You’re really excited to get her back, huh?”
“I spent more than 300 years with her. The first five years she was gone I was reminded of her by the smallest things and there was a song popular at the time. It was everywhere… I’ve never hated anything more in my life. When my contract was up a few years later, I left the States for Europe because it was far enough away that I only had to feel her moods for a couple of hours every night. I was just beginning to realize it was much worse to not feel her when I…”
“Got yourself into ‘trouble’.”
“Precisely… and it didn’t help that I went back to old habits to spite her.”
She lifted her head to rest her chin on my shoulder. “What kind of habits?”
“Pam has always been a social butterfly. She’d deny it, but you’d be able to tell she was lying if you weren’t telepathic. She’s always kept pets and socialized with them. Newspapers to magazines to radio to television… even if she acts as though she’s watching Humans as scientific research, she was always the more Human of the two of us. When we went our separate ways, I didn’t really change my habits, but I didn’t make any efforts towards making up for not having her with me either…”
“A pilot without a navigator.”
“That’s a very fitting analogy… She’s a chameleon. Anywhere, any situation, she can blend without standing out because she’s always paid attention to societal standards and etiquette. I honestly didn’t realize how many social graces I’d forgotten until the other you called me feral.”
She grinned. “And now you’ve got her back… The other Eric said he was surprised you didn’t make another child just so you’d have something to do. He said he’d have been bored enough to go nuts without her.”
“I didn’t have the time to dedicate to a child… I wasn’t idle long enough to consider it. Klaasje was high maintenance after Halfdan was ended. She’s always done her job well, but she needed a lot of fostering at first. Even though she’s 800 years old, she might as well be my child now.”
“After being turned on by her own Maker, I’m sure.”
“I have her loyalty though. It was a by-product of explaining why I ended Halfdan. It’s why I didn’t have to end all of the Lords. They know I understand the concept of loyalty and I expect that above everything…”
She giggled, “And when you call your meetings to order every month your first order of business is offering the throne to whoever wants it.”
I nodded. “And that… What did you do today? You’ve only left me a few hints.”
She took a deep breath and started, “I woke up at about noon and felt starved so I finished my leftovers… I was cleaning up my empties when Willis came by with a bunch of stuff… Mostly clothes for me, some clothes for you… a bunch of stuff ‘all girls need’, but I’ve never used before. He showed me everything he got for everyone else too. He was searching for validation because he’s upset today…”
“Am I to assume that Pam’s discussion didn’t go well?”
“Ummmm… Actually it didn’t go.”
“She didn’t talk to him?” Did she plan to just leave and send him a ‘Dear John’ post card?
“She chickened out. She told him that she was going back with you for about a month. As soon as she mentioned going with you, he asked if he could go too. Judging by how he pictured things, she didn’t have the heart to just get it over with.”
“Or she’s going to call him once she’s settled and make me her fall guy.”
“Or she’s hedging her bets and keeping him in reserve in case she needs something to come back to… either way, it doesn’t matter because you don’t care what he thinks of you and it’s not silly for it to occur to her that riding off into the sunset with you might not work out after your break from each other… I’d put money on the ‘letting him down easy’ scenario though.”
I stared at her. I couldn’t help it. That was easily the most declarative statement she’d made (to me) since I first laid eyes on her. She hadn’t stammered or hesitated. To go a step further, she was giving an unsolicited opinion about my child and she knew that it wasn’t anyone’s place to discuss Maker/child relations. Sookie was as sure about what she said as she would be about the color of the sky.
Unfortunately, she misread my silence. She sat up when she started to feel anxious. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t any of my business…”
“No. You’re right…” She worried from next to me on her knees and I wanted nothing more than to think of a way to encourage her to lie down again. “For all I care, she could tell him that I threatened to kill him if she tried to keep him. And leaving him in limbo as a cushion wouldn’t be stupid either… She does love him. That much is evident. If she didn’t, he wouldn’t be here today. She would have turned him out to pasture.”
While she cringed, still unsure and angry with herself for being candid, I took her hand and pulled her back to her original position as gently as I could.
“I hate this, Sookie. This is the cage… I promise that I will tell you if you’ve overstepped any boundaries. I was only quiet because I was proud of you. You were casually outspoken. That was a stride.”
She sniffled, but she was only close to crying. Progress. “I’m sorry. I’m trying… I…” She fixated on my chin while she tried to gather her thoughts. “I… that… no answer used to mean I was about to pick myself up off the floor.”
“I’m not upset with you.”
“I am. I hate what they turned me into. It’s automatic.”
“But you’re still more timid in regards to me than you were to Charlie or Willis from what I’ve seen.”
She took a sharp breath. “It’s not anything you’ve done…”
“It’s that my mind is still uncertain to you.”
She was disappointed to do as much as nod to confirm it.
“Then I suggest we bond. You’ll have the benefit of feeling my moods. If nothing else, I want you to feel how proud of you I am as you recover.”
She shook her head slightly. “Is that a good idea? You’ll walk around scared of everything, right?”
I reminded her, “I can already feel your moods… If we bond, it will be easier for me to help you control them. When you’re feeling unsure, I can loan some confidence to you.”
She smirked. “Because you’ve always been cocky.”
I nodded. “At the moment, being bonded to a Vampire with pride to spare couldn’t hurt.”
“You aren’t thinking of drawbacks?”
“I can only think of one, but it would affect me more…”
Her brows knit together as she interrupted, “You already put up with enough…”
“Sookie, are you debating with me?”
She sat up like she had before and gasped a self-protective apology before she realized that I was smiling at her. She clapped her hands over her mouth and whispered, “I am. I’m arguing with you.”
Instead of making her feel like a yoyo by pulling her back to lie down, I sat up and kissed her forehead. “You are… It’s your choice, but I’d like to point out that the Sookie and Eric we met were quite fond of their bond and from what I read, that seems to be the standard.”
She stared blankly at the pillows for several minutes… perfectly still except for her base functions while she contemplated what I had considered to be manifest. Bonding. There wasn’t a single journal entry that wasn’t bonded or already given his blood to his Sookie. There hadn’t been a single version of Me that hadn’t dropped everything to envelope himself in her life, her care, her needs… She’d been described as a force of nature and I had every intention of adding my own notes to contradict those comments. I’d never, in all my years, hoped that a storm could linger in my life.
She finally nodded. “If you’re sure… I don’t want to be like this…” She started to sniffle, “I’ve never been needy. I hate it.”
“I’m sure… I’m actually looking forward to it… I have been since I watched you put the stake into Compton. You don’t realize how strong you really are.”
She blushed and studied her lap to mumble, “Maybe it’s just hard to remember how strong I used to be.”
“That would be the point of this, yes? To help you remember…” When she shrugged, I asked, “Are you ready?”
“As opposed to waiting until after you meet a group of new people?”
Her eyes widened. “Good point.”
I chuckled and she watched as I ran my fangs out to bite into her wrist… She seemed surprised that I took barely more than a taste…
But if she only knew how difficult it was to pull away…
I’d hoped in vain that malnutrition would have affected her flavor. The one thing that caught my attention enough to keep me focused was that she showed no reaction to the pain from my bite.
I braced myself… the journal had been very clear that taking one another’s blood simultaneously caused a chain reaction leading to a euphoric time loss and completely ruined rooms. ‘Constant orgasm’ and ‘indescribable ecstasy’ were quotes from just one journal entry… ’14-hour fuckathon’ and ‘eroti-lympics’ were mentioned in others. Unless I wanted to risk harming, scarring, or killing her (given her health), the drawback Sookie asked about was going to be resisting the phenomena… no matter how anxious I was to experience it.
As for her part? I was fucked from the second her breath touched my arm…
Cupping her hand over the back of my hand…
Suckling from the wound contentedly because my blood was her remedy…
I was completely to blame… I hadn’t considered how different our situation was. When she’d taken blood from me before, there was too much to preoccupy us…
As it was, we were in bed where she felt as safe and relaxed as she could be… and I was barely recovering from how perfect it was to rise with her…
I was completely unprepared.
It had been… stimulating… enough before…
Giving her my blood and not being able to enjoy it fully was absolute misery.
Every part of my body was rigid, purposely frozen in place to keep still…
To keep myself from letting bloodlust take control…
Every whimper she gave while my blood filled her only made it more impossible to keep still…
I was fool enough to think I was safe once the punctures healed…
Before releasing my hand, she gave a final lick to take the drops that escaped…. long and warm, testing my resolve. My eyes rolled back and by the time I could focus again, she was licking her lips.
She didn’t seem to notice that I’d clawed through the sheets, or gotten painfully hard, or that my eyes couldn’t focus…
What only made the circumstances worse was the way Sookie stared back at me…
With my blood trickling over her chin…
Letting myself feel for her mood, hoping for the distraction of something I could talk her through, was the worst thing I could do.
She was having the same problem…
She stared back at me in a daze while I imagined a million things she wasn’t ready for.
Then another million…
It was torture.
I finally managed to come to terms with what I needed to do. Avoid temptation…
I didn’t want to leave the bed, but it needed to happen.
“We need to get dressed for dinner. We don’t want to keep our guests waiting.”
She nodded, but never took her eyes from mine. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was trying to kill me.
“Are we going to be a matching set tonight?”
She sighed, “We have the option.” She answered autonomously… still just as tested as I was.
“Why do I… why do I feel like…” If I let her finish that thought, it would have been the last straw.
“Because I do.”
“I… I thought you didn’t want me.”
There was a brief moment that I thought losing my control was inevitable…
But the perfectly timed knock on the door almost made me believe in God.
As I left the bed to answer, I told her, “More than anything. You should clean yourself up and dress for our company.”
I opened the door to see Willis’s plastic grin first. It actually offered some relief to the mood I was in.
His suit was dark purple, his shirt and tie were lavender… It was a shame Pam had outgrown him. They made a fabulous couple.
His companion wasn’t nearly as well dressed, but at least the man looked comfortable in his jeans and white t-shirt…
“Good evening, Willis… Room service?”
Before he could answer, the man pointed towards the elevator and told him to, “Leave.”
Willis scowled, “I’ll stay until I’m dismissed, thank you.”
“I already punched you once, you little bitch. How long do you think he’ll watch me whoop your ass before you get that dismissal?”
That was all Willis managed to say before he was backhanded. “You did your job… you showed me to the man I need to see. Go downstairs and find yourself a cookie, Day Boy. Fuck off before you bleed all over your prissy suit.”
I was dangerously close to laughing so I asked, “Why did you punch him?”
He gave a scathing look to Willis and offered his hand to me. “Brandon Rousseau. He’s been a bitch since the airport.”
I took his hand, but he let go before it could be considered a shake… He made a fist and pulled it back to his shoulder. I caught it before he made contact with Willis’s nose, somehow still managing to keep from laughing. “Brandon, why don’t you come in so we can talk?”
He stepped back and dropped his fist. At least he was easily reined in. “Is Sookie in there?”
I nodded. “She’s getting dressed as we speak.”
He shook his head. “Me and you need to talk first.”
“In the hall?”
“Anywhere is fine once Day Boy fucks off.” I couldn’t imagine what the fuck he needed to say before meeting Sookie… when he already credited her for helping him?
I ordered Willis to hand over his master key and sent him on his way.
Once the door to the vacant room next to mine was closed behind us, I asked, “Was he a blatant asshole or was it his thoughts that gave him away?”
He folded his arms and clenched his jaw before he started, “I’m not sure what’s up with Ema, but Hunter and Julie don’t need the mental images he’s been having. He’s convinced that Ema and I were flown in from your private stock. In his head, we’re some kind of puzzle pieces that fit in your bed… with and without Sookie and that Pam woman I talked to. Fucking and biting. Not. Fucking. Cool. She’s barely legal.” Did he say Julie didn’t need to hear his thoughts?
“Under most circumstances, he’d be right. I’ll have Pam give him something to do elsewhere tonight. Is that what we need to talk about?”
His head tipped to the side. “If it were only that simple. Seriously. Today has been a gargantuan clusterfuck, man. I tell ya…”
“That wasn’t too rough. My boss was cool about me leaving. I blamed Julie’s mom for my reason to skip town. I’m, I was the head mechanic at Herveaux & Son.” Mechanic versus manager at a bookstore. Single versus father… something about this Brandon’s life had gone differently than the other one… I was going to have to read the journal again.
“Did your trip go smoothly?”
“Right up until I got off the plane… Hunter got fucking ditched.”
“His father and the girlfriend put a four year old on a plane BY HIMSELF because his cousin was going to be waiting for him. They. Just. Let. Him. Go. He’s giving his kid to someone he never met, family or not, without ever meeting her. I swear to fucking God, dude… I’m ready to go down there and whoop that fucker’s ass.” He wasn’t the only one. I searched my memory to be sure, but it didn’t take long to confirm that I had said Sookie was lucky to be alive. How the fuck did that translate to Sookie being well enough to raise his child for him?
“Hunter caught that Remy didn’t think he wanted to meet Sookie after what he went through with Hunter’s mom just to see him off. I guess he was assuming the invitation wasn’t extended to him. Like telepathy camp or some shit. Whatfuckingever. Try to get my kid away from me and see what happens… Hell, I beat the shit out of a guy who tried to carjack me. Fuck that. Fuck him. And on top of it, Hunter was thinking about how the girlfriend was happy he was going to live somewhere else. Fucking assholes.”
“Did Hunter seem upset by that idea?” Brandon seemed as though he was angry enough for everyone.
“Poor fucking kid’s heart was broken. Willis’s thoughts probably weren’t helping much. It took a lot of talking, but he seems a little better now that he knows he’s going to be with family and someone else who’s telepathic… He was heckling Hannah Montana with Julie and Ema when I left our suite.”
“I’m sure he’ll adjust…” I knew Sookie wasn’t up for the task, but I could make arrangements for a nanny so the boy could stay with her until she could manage. “Was that everything you wanted to discuss? Sookie is starting to worry that I’ve been gone.” I should have said something before I left.
He cleared his throat and shifted his weight. “I’m… I want to know what happened to her.”
“That’s personal. She’ll tell you if she’s comfortable with the topic. Am I to assume you’re aware of her disappearance?”
“Julie and I were at the vigils Sam was having… I put up flyers myself.”
“Are you a crusader or did you have an interest? A connection to Merlotte?”
He cleared his throat again. “You said… when you called last night, you said her whole family was killed… That wasn’t exactly true.”
“You think you might be related to her somehow? A distant cousin?”
“I’m her brother.”
“She only had one.”
“She only knew about one. Our dad split from his wife when Jason was a baby, hooked up with my mom, and went back to his wife when she cut him loose. My mom didn’t want to be ‘that girl’ and turn up like she wanted a hand out once she found out she was pregnant. I never met him. My mom only told me anything about him once he died. I’ll do a blood test if she wants to be sure, but my mom wasn’t a slut. Two guys. My dad and her husband… and I’m sure as hell not an angel.”
“You’re her half-brother?”
“I’ve known about her and Jason since I was 8. I was tempted to go meet them since then, but… well, when I was a kid I was afraid of their reaction. Not really what they said, but what they thought. I went to see Jason play football in high school. I only ever went to games when my school played Bon Temps. I talked to her a few times… When you said that we have the same ability, I could’ve shit my pants. I thought I was a freak… and since we were in the stands at a ballgame, I was blocking.” If he wasn’t a telepath… the longer I stared at him, the easier it was to see a relationship… And… Sookie said he sounded like her father. I didn’t have any choice but to believe him…Fuck.
“You can’t have any idea what this is going to mean to her. Adele and Jason were murdered… the most you’ll get from me about what happened to her for the last four months is that she was tortured and raped. She’s treating her anxiety with pot because she doesn’t want to talk to a doctor. She’s a shell of what she used to be. She literally came to me without a stitch of clothing. She’s emaciated and frail… and she needed a lot of Vampire blood to help her get this far… It’s going to be a while before she’s back to herself.”
He shifted his weight again, clenching and unclenching his jaw and grinding his teeth… “You killed them, right? You killed the fuckers…”
“I killed two of them… I held one of them so she could do the third.”
He gave me a surprised look that came with a smirk. “She did it though? She had it in her?”
“Fucking good for her… I know this is going to seem weird… When I first heard her name on the news, I went out to Merlotte’s. I started listening to her friends… that girl’s got some stones on her. She never took any shit from anyone. Anytime Sam described her, he called her fearless and remembered a different drunk that got a come to Jesus from her. She did her own bouncing.” I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t met another Sookie.
“Now she apologizes for casting a shadow. We have our work cut out for us… Did you leave Shreveport for safety reasons or for Sookie?”
“Sookie. I could’ve gone to the Packmaster and offered telepathy in exchange for protection if safety was an issue.” No hesitation. No question.
“Do you want to check on the children before you meet her?”
He shook his head. “I just did. Julie said everything’s fine.”
“How far away is she?”
“Three floors. Our room is only about 3 or 4 rooms further down the hall from this one.”
“How do you know when the other is trying to contact you when you’re blocking thoughts?”
He gave me a strange look, like I’d asked a stupid question. “I knock first.”
Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?
“How can you tell that she’s worried about you?”
“Whose blood do you think she’s been taking to heal her?”
Sookie stopped tying her shoes for a moment to look up as I came through the door with Brandon at my heels.
She sighed, “Thank God. I was worried… I mean… you’re still in your PJs and all.”
“I was just in the room next door. Brandon wanted to talk to me before everyone meets for dinner… Sookie, Brandon Rousseau. Brandon, Sookie Stackhouse.”
She smiled without looking up from her other shoe. “Nice to meet you. Where’s your little one?” I pointed to the chair across from Sookie as Brandon’s invitation and sat next to her.
He seemed to be looking around the room as he sat down. “Julie is back in our room with Hunter and Ema. They already love her to death because they can’t get a damn thing out of her head.”
Sookie’s eyebrows went up. “Julie’s a telepath too, huh?”
“Yeah… She was only about a month old when she started asking for stuff telepathically. No words. Just pictures. I had a friend with a baby just a little older so I dug through his head. The difference was like… like the difference between finger-paint and HD. She didn’t just want a bottle, she wanted the bottle with the pictures on the side. She was picking her own clothes by the time she was a year old.”
“Is that why her mom bolted… Oh! I’m sorry. I don’t mean to pry… It’s just that my mom was a bitch about my ability…”
I whispered to her, “Fuck her too.”
Sookie nodded and grinned. “Yeah. Fuck her too.”
Brandon shook his head. “No, it’s fine. Her mom actually doesn’t know. Junior year of high school. Oops… I found out Amy was pregnant when she asked me to sign adoption papers. That wasn’t going to fucking happen. We had a sit down with our parents… She went off to college and I went to trade school. She was still seeing Julie once in a while, but she’s just the me-me-me type. When she met a guy that fit the role or whatever ideals she had, she sent me papers to sever her rights.”
Sookie sighed, “It’s probably better anyway. My mom only cared about appearances too… Julie doesn’t need selfish people under the same roof with her.”
He nodded. “That’s what my mother said.”
“Is Remy doing alright or is he freaking out about being a minority?”
He huffed, “I wouldn’t know… That mother fucker put his boy on a plane like he was sending him to summer camp. Hunter’s scared to meet you because he’s been catching hateful shit about his mother all along and all he knows is he’s gotten shipped off to be raised by a monster… Oh yeah… Super Dad’s an ignorant prick and thinks something is wrong with Hunter and the girlfriend is happy to get rid of him because she wants kids of her own and she doesn’t want him to rub off on them.”
Sookie’s face turned down, saddened and disgusted… she shook her head. “Those… those… assholes… he’s just a baby.”
He tossed himself back in the chair and rolled his eyes. “I want to kill them on principle alone, but like you said, he’s better off not being around that bullshit. They did the boy a favor by accident… If you aren’t up to tending to him, I’ve got it covered. I’m already raising one telepath. He’s a really sweet kid.”
“He’d probably be better off with you since you know what you’re doing, but he’s my kin… God. This is just…”
When she didn’t finish her thought, I offered, “Fuck them.”
She nodded. “Oh yeah. Really, really, really fuck them. Fuck them hard.”
Brandon chuckled, “As a side-note, Ema’s an angel. Sweet little thing… She’s from a big family so she’s used to kids, but she told Hunter and Julie none of her cousins were as cool as them… They love that they can touch her and not get anything, but if I had to guess, they’ll probably like Eric’s head more. The other Vampires I felt while I was walking around aren’t as big… Fuck. I could take a nap in his brain.”
He made me sound like a fucking hammock and wasn’t sure if I was offended until Sookie snickered and said, “I’ve got no complaints. I’ve never slept better than I have the past couple of nights, well days… So how are everyone’s shields?”
“Hunter doesn’t have any worth mentioning. He’s been miserable. I had to send that Day Boy dickhead out for some Motrin because he had a headache from the plane. Me and Julie are solid. I barely made it through high school with my sanity, so when she turned up with telepathy too, I got to work making damn sure she wouldn’t have the same problem. I thought working at a garage full of Weres was a brilliant cheat for the first week. Once I was around them, that got fucked. I read them like Humans now… How about you?”
“My shields are rusty because I’ve been out of circulation for a while. I did like you did, barely got through school. After that, I worked a few jobs. I started waiting tables when a bar opened up in Bon Temps. That did the trick. It only took a month before I could keep my shields up for most of a shift… after that I started isolating certain people and blocking everyone else… then vice versa.”
He nodded. “Any clue about where it came from?”
“My dad… well, we’re assuming my grandfather since my grandmother knew a Vampire pretty well and she smelled like straight Human…”
“So… smell is a thing for you too? I can’t tell you how weird it is to have a huge fucking Were, biceps like redwoods, tell you how much you smell like candy.”
She snickered, “Yeah. I’m part Faerie. I only just found out for sure. Still don’t have any details, but Eric talked to a Vampire who knew my dad. The smell was even stronger on him.”
“Did he have an ability?”
“Ummm… from what I gather, I wouldn’t really call it premonition… it was more of a forewarning. He’d get a ‘feeling’ if something was about to go down.”
“Yeah… how about your folks?”
“My mom was Human… My dad was the same though.”
Sookie narrowed her eyes and I prepared myself to help her mood as much as possible without being able to guess how she’d react. “Yeah? You’re from Shreveport?”
“Minden actually. I moved to Shreveport a couple of years ago when I found a great gig as a lead mechanic.”
She studied the ceiling while she pondered and finally said, “Maybe it’s the blond hair and blue eyes, but you remind me enough of my brother that I was trying to remember my family tree, but Rousseau isn’t ringing any bells. Grampa’s mom was a Nobles and I can’t remember past that.”
“My dad wasn’t a Rousseau. I was adopted by my stepfather…”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize… Your dad wasn’t a Nobles, was he?”
“No…” He sat forward and braced his elbows on his knees. “My father was Corbett Stackhouse.”
As hard as I tried to get a sense of her reaction there was nothing to be felt. She watched him blankly… repeated blinking was the only tell that she’d heard him.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry, what?”
“My father was Corbett Stackhouse. He met my mom when he was split from his wife for a while. They didn’t work out and he went back to his wife, your mom… I’m four months older than you. My mom never told him about me and she only told me anything about him once he died.”
“Me and Jason. That’s it.”
“My mom just said that my dad went back to his family without being specific… Jason was the kryptonite Minden’s team was scared of so they actually burned him in effigy at pep rallies. I noticed the name and went to games until he graduated. I found you in the stands a few times and we’ve even talked…”
She gasped and slapped her hands over her mouth, finally spilling the tears I expected, but still giving me no emotions to work with.
“We’re practically twins…”
Sookie shook her head slightly and Brandon was making it obvious that I wasn’t the only one concerned.
I asked, “Are you getting anything from her mind?”
“No. Not a peep. She’s locked down, but so am I.”
“How can you shield your thoughts and listen in chorus?”
“So that my daughter doesn’t confuse the sluts I entertain myself with and the lady I expect her to be.” Considering how serious he was, fair enough…
I tucked a section of hair behind Sookie’s ear and leaned over to whisper, “I’m counting four. It seems like the Stackhouses have rallied.”
She left the sofa to begin pacing aimlessly while Brandon and I were left to watch, waiting and monitoring for some sort of discernable reaction.
Her brother and I were being forced into an epic display of patience.
I wasn’t happy that she went into the bathroom and immediately turned the exhaust fan on… Even if it was an improvement on the 20 minutes of anxious pacing, escaping her feelings by getting high wasn’t going to be a permanent cure.
She barely had long enough to light a joint before we could hear her begin to vomit… whether it was due to stress or choking on the smoke she wasn’t used to, I couldn’t guess.
After a few more minutes, Brandon shook his head and huffed, “I should have waited. This is too much for her.”
“Everything is too much for her…” I wasn’t trying to be encouraging. In fact, I was certain that I wasn’t capable of it… I was simply stating a fact. “Last night she solved a murder, arranged for the other known telepaths to be protected, found another Human with a Faerie gift, and helped a homeless woman reunite with her son… by the time we returned to the hotel, she was sure I’d discard her because she’d made herself obsolete.”
“So she’s working for you now?”
“Then why did she think you’d cut her loose?”
“Because the Vampires who took her, fucked and fed from her while exploiting her telepathy. It’s all she knows and given that I’m doing none of those things she doesn’t know how to act. I told you, it’s going to be a while before we see the real Sookie that’s still hiding under the damage they did. The only saving grace any of us have at the moment is that pot is working to reduce her anxiety. In fact, some of her feelings are coming back to her as we speak… She was numb. Now she’s practically overwhelmed.”
“I don’t see how her being overwhelmed in an improvement.”
“I can work with her emotions. The numbness isn’t something I can help her with…”
I was interrupted by the suddenness of the bathroom door being flung open to slam against the counter. Brandon and I were on our feet in an instant, waiting to be party to what urged her appearance as she stomped over to us.
Her outburst was directed at Brandon and he shook his head, clearly confused and asked, “What?”
“Your mom. She died of pneumonia.”
He tilted his head to the side. “Her name was Julie. I named my daughter after her…”
“And she was a ‘sweet lady’ who was a ‘friend’ of my father’s…”
“Your grandmother told you about her?”
Sookie nodded. “I was at her funeral, Brandon…”
“I didn’t know… I wasn’t paying attention to anything but Julie…”
“Gran just thought she was paying respects to an old girlfriend of Daddy’s… she thought that she would’ve been better for him than my mother… she didn’t know.”
He shook his head. “No. Mom never told anyone but me. I was too chicken-shit to say anything to y’all before… when you disappeared, all bets were off.”
“It’s better that way…”
“Except I missed the chance to know my grandmother and brother…”
“If I knew about you… Bill would’ve killed you and Julie too… He killed everyone else… even my friends.”
He nodded. “I heard.”
“But they missed one… I… I still have a brother.”
He nodded again. “And a niece… she’s excited to meet you.”
“You told her about me?”
“When I got off the phone with Pam last night I woke her up and told her what was going on… she didn’t sleep until I did on the plane. It’s been just me and her for years. She’s jazzed to have family…”
Sookie whimpered, “She’s not the only one.”
“Family and friends that would kill for you… it looks like your luck is turning around.”
She sniffled as she nodded. “You have no idea… you… did Eric warn you? That I’m all screwed up?”
He shook his head in the negative. “No. Eric says you’re perfect, but you’ve been through a lot… So… can I get a hug from my sister, or what?”
She grinned and put her arms over Brandon’s shoulders. Even though he was what I would call average sized, his arms wrapped around her back until his hands were on her sides and her feet dangled when he stood up with her.
She was happy, confused, guilty, ashamed, relieved… her moods were contradicting themselves as they came to her, but the most impressive part of the scenario was that she wasn’t uncomfortable.
A manicure made her skin crawl the night before, but the lingering hug from her newfound brother hadn’t caused an iota of upset.