Hugs And Kisses
I’d barely closed the door behind her brother before Sookie’s arms were around me.
She was quietly crying again, but she wasn’t overwhelmed like she had been just a few moments before… I wasn’t feeling anything in obscene proportions, but still nothing I could define with any certainty.
When I put my arms around her, she tightened her hold and sighed, “Nothin’.”
“That isn’t true…”
She took a step back and gasped, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t… I didn’t mean…”
I took her hands and pulled her back, fixing what her panicked retreat had broken. “I wasn’t accusing you of anything, Sookie.”
“Shit. I knew that…” She didn’t apologize? “I… You can tell, right? How excited I am to meet him.”
“Of course. So my hug is celebratory, yes?”
“No… His was. Having him doesn’t replace Gran or Jason, but it’s nice to… to…”
I finished, “Not feel so alone.”
She gave another gentle squeeze and laid her head on my chest. “That’s only part of it… I… I just don’t want you to think I’m forgetting what you’ve done for me… I’m going to enjoy getting to know them, but… If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have them. I owe you everything. Thank you.” Her feelings were… appreciative? No wonder I couldn’t identify them. I’d forgotten how that felt.
I floundered, unsure of how to process genuine gratitude for long enough that she began to feel awkward about hugging me even though my arms were around her.
I would have been content to stand there indefinitely.
When my phone began ringing, Sookie tried to release me and step away, but I held her in place.
She cooed, “It could be important.”
“How? It’s a new number…”
She hummed against my chest, “Ummmmm, it could be that Pilar lady. She said she’d call back… Charlie or Pam… something could’ve happened while Brandon was here…”
I growled, only caring about who was calling because Sookie did… Letting her go just long enough to go to the bedroom, quickly grab my phone from the nightstand, and race back to Sookie.
She giggled, delightfully amused when I led her arm back into place. I answered, “Northman.”
“Northman, Pilar Trejo.” Sookie tilted her face enough to show me a grin that was almost proud.
“How did your research go, Miss Trejo?”
“You called me as well as four other individuals last night. Rory, Barry, Brandon, and a man named Remy regarding his child, Hunter. You’re currently staying in a hotel in Evansville owned by your child, Pamela Ravenscroft. Sookie Stackhouse is in the ICU at Evansville General. Brandon and Julie Rousseau flew from Shreveport to Evansville this morning and Hunter Savoy seems to have flown unaccompanied to Evansville even though there was a seat booked for Remy.” Her badge made her one hell of an investigator.
I clarified, “Barry and Rory hung up last night. They seem uninterested in my offer to help or, at least, too frightened to accept it. I’ll only contact them once more to let them know how to reach me if they change their minds.”
“You have Brandon, Julie and Hunter.”
“They’re at the hotel with me. I’ve already met with Brandon.”
“How did you convince them to join you?”
“They’re related to Sookie. Brandon is her half-brother. Hunter is the child of Sookie’s cousin. It should be easy enough for you to confirm… Sookie’s cousin, Hadley Dellahoussay, was married to Remy Savoy. She was estranged because she was made a Vampire by Sophie-Anne LeClerq.”
“You have an impressive collection of telepaths, Eric.”
“So it seems.”
“You aren’t covering your tracks.”
“I have nothing to hide. As far as anyone knows, I’m traveling with my pet and her family.”
She sighed, “That’s what it looks like… How did you discover us?”
“Sophie-Anne LeClerq has been doing her homework. She heard of Sookie’s ability from Hadley, of course, and Sookie was abducted by the errand boy sent to test her. He opted to keep her for his own purposes.”
“The rest of us could be vetted as well then?”
“If you haven’t already been, yes. That’s why I made the effort to assist the telepaths known to us.”
“Where are you taking them?”
“The Netherlands. My home. I’ll help as much as I can. What happens to them is their choosing.”
“They’ll be safe there?” Safer than they would be if they remained where Sophie-Ann could get to them.
Sookie turned her head and lifted her chin to offer, “Eric won’t let what happened to me, happen to them, Pilar. They couldn’t be safer.”
After a pause, Pilar asked, “Was that Sookie?”
“But… she’s unconscious.” The government had their ways of wagging the dog, and Vampires had theirs.
“Her hospital stay is a smokescreen so she can contact local law enforcement to have them close the case of her disappearance later…”
“Once she’s in the Netherlands and wouldn’t have to be subjected to intense questioning.”
“Precisely. Am I to understand that you aren’t interested in joining the exodus?”
“I thought about it, but as a federal agent, I have a certain umbrella of security… I am interested in helping though. Since you aren’t going to be staying in the States, I think my relatively unique position will allow me to keep an eye on things here.”
“Such as sudden disappearances?”
“Among other things. I’ll warn anyone I come across with an ability about exposing themselves and let them know how to contact us if they find themselves in danger. I can have them taken into custody as suspects. You can help them relocate. Sound good?” It sounded too good to be true and I was sure Sookie was just as doubtful as I was.
“As long as it doesn’t put you in any danger.”
“What good will putting my ass on the line do? I know what I’m doing… As a testimonial of sorts, I’m interested in hearing what they used Sookie for.”
“You’ve heard of the Geneva Convention, yes?”
“Damn… That wasn’t what I meant though. I was referring to her ability. Was it political or financial?”
“Both. Sookie can sense deceit in Vampires, so she was helpful if not vital to nearly everything they had a hand in. Specifically, she made millions for them trading antiques because she knew what was going through the minds of other dealers.”
“That sounds like enough incentive for someone to watch their ass to me… Call me when everyone settles in and send my contact information to Barry and Rory when you give them yours. Good luck.”
“Same to you.”
As I tossed the phone to the sofa, Sookie said, “I’m not sure I trust the Helpy Helperton routine.”
“In the interest of dissecting my distrust from yours, what are your thoughts?”
She lifted her chin to rest it on my chest like she did while we were in bed. “I don’t think she believes you for a second and I doubt if you’ll ever hear from a telepath that’s referred by her… I mean, I don’t think she’d sell one out. If she was in it for the money, she wouldn’t be a civil servant, but I can totally picture her telling a telepath that there’s this ‘Dutch Vampire King collecting telepaths’ as a scare tactic. It wouldn’t do anything but push them further underground… How about your angle?”
“Given her profession and location, it wouldn’t be farfetched for her to think she could protect them by helping them find work within the Daemon community. It would only help them if they were to explain their ability, and that still won’t be as secure as being protected by a King. Acting against my property is punishable by execution. Daemons would be lucky to levy a fine.”
She sighed, but stayed quiet for a moment before saying, “Either way, right? I mean, the coin has two sides. If I got the same phone call a year ago, I would’ve let Pilar help me and kept your offer in reserve just in case… It could be as simple as not wanting to leave their stomping grounds for some folks and Europe might as well be another planet to someone from a tiny town like me. At least they’ll be better off with her help than just twisting in the wind like I was. Hopefully, she’s got enough sense to contact you if her Plan A doesn’t pan out.”
“You don’t seem to be bothered by Pilar’s duplicity.”
She shrugged. “Considering the fact that Barry and Rory were too scared to hear any details, they’d probably feel more comfortable going to one of their own kind if they need help… I don’t think it’s a bad idea to use her like she’s using you. If you find more and they aren’t convinced that you don’t mean them any harm, then you send them her way. Maybe, eventually, Pilar will realize she doesn’t have to protect telepaths from you.”
She cringed questioningly. “Really?”
“I don’t care if she trusts me. I have the telepath I want. You have the telepaths important to you. Collectively we’ll do what we can for the rest.”
She grinned, ear to ear, close to beaming. “It’s no wonder why Pam missed you so much. You really are awesome… Can I go get dressed now?”
“You look dressed to me.”
“I am… but I got sick and I feel gross. You aren’t dressed yet either… I’m pretty sure you have to let me go to get that accomplished.”
I growled, “Was that a dare?”
She slid her arms away from me and giggled, “No. Besides… Willis is coming.”
“How far away is he?”
“Just off the elevator.”
“How will I know what to wear?”
She giggled again, “Everything’s in the closet. I already sent my rejects back with Willis. It’s your turn anyway.”
When Willis knocked on the door, Sookie took a moment to give me another, all too brief, hug and remind me that she needed something to wear ‘for dinner’ rather than pajamas.
I’d earned another giggle for scowling at her for spoiling my plans…
“What can I do for you, Willis?”
“Is that thug gone?”
“For now. We’ll be spending the better part of the evening with Mr. Rousseau though. You’d be wise to make yourself scarce for the evening.”
He rolled his eyes. “Good luck with that. He’s been a bitch since his plane landed.”
“Sookie seems fond of him. That’s all that matters. Did you stop by just to gossip?”
“No sir. Pam told me to meet her here. She should be joining us shortly.”
Just for fun… “Brandon’s behind you.”
He ducked, squatting down as though he was being shot at. It was hilarious and Sookie could feel my mood to complain that she was missing the fun.
He scowled at me, knowing better than to complain any other way. “He’s vicious.”
“He’s protective of the children. You might want to watch yourself until we leave tomorrow evening.”
“Tomorrow!?” He shook his head in lieu of apologizing for his outburst. “Pam… didn’t… So soon?”
I turned around, wondering if he’d enter on his own, but hoping he’d sulk in the hall. “I have a Kingdom to return to…”
Sadly, he followed, closing the door behind him. “Does Pam know? She… you didn’t give her any notice.” Yes, she knew…
“My business with my child is none of your concern.”
“I understand that… but… If she’s leaving tomorrow. I’m… We have a lot to do.” He said ‘if’ as though he was predicting rainbows.
“Then you’ll hardly notice missing our dinner then.”
Sookie called from the shower, “Eric, have you decided what we’re wearing tonight? I’m just about done in here.” She knew that I didn’t need her to yell… She was ‘yelling’ so that I’d have an excuse to ignore him… politely.
I happily went to the closet to choose our clothing for our appointment to see that Willis had been on a spree. The closet was small, but should have been able to hold a respectable amount of clothing for two people… as it was, everything was crammed into the closet so tightly that any attempt to take one item out dragged other things with it.
“It seems like a good thing we’re leaving tomorrow, Willis. Did you think to purchase luggage?”
He lifted his chin to boast, “I did! Samsonite hard-side. Black for you. Blue for Sookie. Green alligator for Hunter, and purple for Julie… I’ll have to return Remy’s, but Mr. Rousseau’s is red and Miss Oswald’s is the prettiest turqu-”
“I wasn’t rambling… I was just-“
I finished for him before he could claim he was just answering my question. “Over-elaborating… You’re so excited about luggage I’m surprised you don’t menstruate. Excuse me. I’m going to dress.”
I’d barely closed the bathroom door behind me when Sookie whispered, “He’s chatty because he’s nervous. He doesn’t know exactly what he did, but he knew he screwed up when you didn’t defend him from Brandon… What did he do?”
“Brandon didn’t appreciate Willis’s imagination. Willis seems to think Brandon and Ema are part of my private stock of donors…”
“I’m sure he’ll be too busy packing for Pam to be a problem tonight. Along with everything else she didn’t tell him, the fact that her ‘vacation’ commences tomorrow night didn’t make the list either.”
“Springing it on him at the last minute spares them both though… less pleading on his part, less guilt on hers because she doesn’t have to witness it… I’m all done in here. Should I leave the water on so you can get in?” Oh, how cruel an imagination can be…
I took a towel from the counter to offer it through the curtain while my attempt to keep my thoughts from getting the best of me failed miserably.
She smiled as she pulled back the curtain and took the towel from me… The view only made things worse.
Sookie was already looking through the clothing I’d brought from the closet when I reminded myself that I needed to bathe.
As I stepped under the water, I noticed a grainy residue in the bottom of the tub… and then a small candle on the ledge. Before I could ask, Sookie giggled, “In your rush to hide from Willis, you forgot to grab a bra for me.”
“Your shirt is backless and I’m not hiding. I don’t hide… I’m avoiding awkward prattling until Pam arrives and then I can just ignore the talkative little prick… What is this mess you’ve left? Bath salt?”
“He’s not a prick. Really. He’s a nice guy, with good intentions… The mess is from Pam… She sent a present with Willis. The note with it is over here. It was really sweet of her to think of it. It’s a spell, but even if I screwed it up, I felt better after. I didn’t realize I made a mess. I’ll clean it up when you’re done.”
“A spell that involves… salt and a candle?”
“A spell and special brownies… In lieu of dealing with listening to the thoughts of a therapist. Therapy in a box. Like I said, sweet. Can I hug her?”
There was too much to what Sookie said for me to have time to consider everything. I’d thought rehashing the details of her hell was why she didn’t want to see a doctor for treatment. I hadn’t considered that she’d be subjected to his thought process as well. Therapy wouldn’t help and I was going to cancel Dinh’s search for mental health professionals as soon as I was done with my shower… As for Pam’s gift, I couldn’t say that ‘sweet’ had ever been part of Pam’s repertoire. It seemed more likely she was being supportive of my concerns for Sookie. That was more along the lines of Pam’s range. She’d been a devoted child from the night she first rose. And…
“Are you asking for my permission to hug her, or are you asking about how she’ll receive the hug?”
“Ummm… I’m asking…” She paused to begin giggling, feeling proud. “I didn’t even think about permission. I was asking if she’d hate it.” My, my… A break in the clouds.
Rather than verbalize, I pushed my own pride to her… after all, it’s why we bonded. I grinned as I finished my shower and when I pulled the curtain open, Sookie was crying…
Crying, but smiling and absolutely delicious in the clothes I’d chosen for her… She wiped her tears away and shook her head as she offered, “Happy tears… Spell, pot, bond… Who gives a shit?”
I could definitely understand that perspective. “Not me.”
She crossed the room to return my favor of offering a towel and stretched up to kiss my cheek. “Me either. I’m going to go put my makeup on and keep Willis company while you finish up… Thank you.”
As she left, I answered, “Don’t hug Pam until I can witness it.” Not only did I want to see the look on her face, but I was tempted to give her one myself.
Since I was waiting for Pam while listening to Willis compliment how rare it was that ‘Ds don’t need a leash’, I opened the large, purple gift box with bright pink ribbon.
Small candles like the one left on the edge of the tub, a carton of salt, a bundle of small paper sheets… dark red rose petals… the negative space was explained by the absence of brownies despite the lingering scents of chocolate and pot.
Pam’s note was rolled into a lavender vellum scroll and tied with a fuchsia ribbon… her stylish habits hadn’t died and it had been too long since I’d held one of her letters.
I rolled my eyes when Willis suggested a ‘sassier shade’ for Sookie’s lips and began reading in the hopes of drowning him out.
You’ve been through one hell of a ringer. I’m going to guess that therapy is out of the question unless you want to be distracted from your sessions by the doctor’s shopping lists and daydreams. I find myself in the unprecedented situation of being impressed with you though, and that awe is what I’m blaming for why I want to help as much as possible.
Eric healed your wounds.
Food will help you get your curves back.
Cheeba will take the edge off.
Something needs to be done for your psyche, dear, and that’s where I come in.
More specifically, my hocus pocus subcontractors from the friendly neighborhood cauldron emporium. As soon as I explained that something needed to be done for a friend of mine who was the victim of recent and severe physical and emotional abuse, the cliché bohemian gypsies were twitterpated for the cause.
Their unanimous suggestion was a charm to ‘alleviate anguish ’.
The ingredients are simple.
- A pen.
- A candle.
- Red rose petals.
The spell is just as simple, so I’m told.
- When something troublesome, painful or overwhelming comes to mind, make a brief note of it.
- Surround yourself with a circle of salt.
- Light the candle and place a rose petal under it.
- Explain your pain to the flame (their words, not mine), holding the note above the candle.
- When done, burn the note while asserting, “But I can’t punish myself for the actions of others. I control my burden and this pain won’t leave the circle.”
- Leave the candle to burn itself out inside the circle of salt.
- Rinse and repeat liberally as needed.
I don’t know about you, but I’m disappointed a cheesy chant isn’t required. It sounds more appealing to me than the idea of being locked in an office with a head-shrinking stranger for hours though.
Of course, you aren’t obligated to try this, but I’ve been assured that this spell is foolproof. It might not work, but you can’t cock it up and turn yourself into a toad. So the worst case scenario is that we wasted some perfectly good roses.
PS- The brownies aren’t part of the spell. Those are just because the smoke seemed to bother you. And nevermind salting the floor. Messes are why God gave us maids.”
The letter was perfectly Pam.
Reading the letter a second time wasn’t a stall tactic… As it turned out, I’d even missed Pam’s barely legible script.
Rereading gave me the chance to realize Sookie had most likely used the rim of the bathtub as her ‘circle’ and then wiped the salt away when she was done. She really was a clever little thing when her confidence wasn’t hiding behind her suffering. She was already a ‘keeper’ and she’d hardly begun to heal.
When I emerged from the bathroom, Sookie was sitting in the living area, nibbling a brownie while she re-explained to Willis that she’d never been one to wear much more than lip gloss and eyeliner because he’d thought she didn’t approve of his selections.
Sookie was in one chair, Willis was in the other. The sofa was too far away from her for my taste, so after taking my phone from the sofa, I prompted Sookie to stand so we could share her seat…
Once Sookie was warming my legs, the only problem I could find with my situation was our additional companion… so I chose to ignore him.
He was arguing for Sookie’s use of foundation while I emailed Dinh with new instructions, and when I was done I interrupted. “Are you suggesting Sookie’s face is anything but perfect the way it is, Willis?”
He gulped loudly and croaked, “Uhhhhhh, no.”
“Then shut the fuck up and wait for your Master quietly… Sookie, you seem to be enjoying your snack.”
She smiled at her brownie and nodded. “It’s really good… I mean, good for a normal brownie, not like ‘even though it has pot in it’.”
“It certainly smells much better than the smoke from a joint.”
“Amen… Oh God! There’s going to be kids around now…”
“Don’t worry. I’m sure we can find a cookie jar solely for your snacks.”
She giggled, “I saw one shaped like the Mystery Machine in a catalog once.”
“Yeah. That’s what they called that aqua van Scooby Doo rode around in.”
“I’m not sure I get the connection between snacks for potheads and a children’s cartoon.”
She rolled her eyes and laughed, “Shame on you for being too old to get away with watching Saturday morning cartoons…”
I nodded. “It’s very inconsiderate of me. My apologies.” Her mood was that much more contagious than it had been the night before. It was phenomenal… Her mood lightened as the THC took effect. My amusement affected our bond… an upward spiral, if there was such a thing.
“Apology accepted. So… kids grew up watching this cartoon. It had something for everyone. The prissy girl. The nerd. The jock… Then there was Shaggy. Shaggy was just a really mellow hippie type, but scared of his own shadow. And of course, there was Scooby Doo…”
“It would be poor form to omit him since the show was named for him.”
She agreed, “Shamefully poor form… So anyone under the age of 40 watched this show… and watched Shaggy eat the damn dog biscuits…”
Willis blurted, “Scooby Snacks,” to remind us he was in the room.
Sookie nodded. “When kids got older and the world started making sense to them, they realized Shaggy was a pothead… he was stoned enough to enjoy dog biscuits. ”
“You said last night that you thought pot could improve the flavor of water.”
She nodded again. “And it did… There’s the connection though. Have you ever been high? I mean, did pot grow where you’re from?”
“Sweden and there was something like marijuana, yes. I didn’t enjoy smoking though. I liked to drink…”
She began snickering, leaning away to hiss an apology and curse her watering eyes before she explained, “You… you were a drinker… I’m sorry. You… liquid diet…” I chuckled when I realized that she was getting carried away by the irony. “I’m sorry… I’m not making fun of you… It’s the… blame the pot. I’m sorry.” I was nowhere near ‘blaming’ pot for her laughing jag. Giving it due credit, maybe. She padded her eyes and cleared her throat while she pulled herself together. She was still smiling when she said, “Totally the pot’s fault. Sorry… So, it’s not like you had drive-thru liquor stores back then. What kind of stuff did you drink?”
“Wine and mead. My favorite was bjórr.”
“Why? What did it taste like?”
“It was the strongest and sweetest.” I waited for her laughter to flare up again when she realized I was craving something sweeter again, but it didn’t…
She only became more serious, locking her eyes on mine. “Did you like sweets too, like chocolate?”
“Never had the pleasure. In fact, Pam only had it once. She drank a cup of chocolate at a family celebration. It was still new to Europe when I made her. When I was alive, we had a type of preserves made with honey and berries.”
She nibbled the corner of her lip. “So it’s been a thousand years since you’ve tasted honey?” Other than the notes of it in her blood…
“Yes.” She was leaning again, but this time, towards me.
“But you can taste things, right? As long as you don’t swallow it.”
“So if you kissed someone who just had some honey, you’d be able to taste it safely.”
“Only in theory. A person’s natural flavor would interfere and there are environmental factors as well.”
“What if the person’s natural flavor was already sweet?” What if said person’s face was only a centimeter away from mine? What if she was already tempting enough before she was on my lap and practically feeding me her ambient sweetness with her phenomenal mood?
“That would be an interesting experiment.”
My eyes only left hers long enough to watch her tongue roll over her lip slowly. “You could make a list… things you’d been curious about over the years…”
I was fucked before her nose brushed the tip of mine. “I’ve never been curious… but at the moment I’m craving chocolate.”
She cooed, “Isn’t that a funny coincidence?” No. I couldn’t think of anything funny about it. I’d warned her too passively.
“You shouldn’t tease me, Sookie.” Not after what completing our bond had done.
She finally broke eye contact once our faces were too close for her to focus. She closed her eyes and whispered against my lips, “I didn’t realize I was.” Fuck.
It felt like there wasn’t any choice but to kiss her… As though the bounty of exits from the situation had been sealed…
No. There was no ‘if’. The only options I had were how to kiss her.
As soon as my lips touched hers, she began curling herself around me… sliding her fingers through my hair, laying her body against mine, pulling her knees up to my side to put herself completely on my lap…
As though she couldn’t possibly get close enough to me…
Letting her set the pace…
Starting slow, small, composed…
Savoring every facet…
From the way she whimpered into my mouth to the way she rolled her tongue against mine…
Tightening my arms around her…
Feeling her body responding…
Letting her push me until she couldn’t breathe and I was sure the smell of chocolate would haunt me for a while…
She rested her forehead against mine to pant, “Pot or bond?”
I growled, “Both.”
“Do we give a shit?”
She moved to tuck her face into the crook of my neck and sigh, “Me either.”
Willis cleared his throat and sang, “Awkwaaaaaaaaard.”
Sookie yanked her head away from my shoulder to look at him, then me and began giggling and blushing to a bright pink…
She’d forgotten he was there just as much as I had.