Even if I had been infinitely curious about experiencing a skip since I’d been left out of Sookie’s first one…
The timing could have been better.
There was a reason the other versions of us had kept their experiences as quiet as possible. They’d only explained to guards and assistants…
While I did a mental census of who was in the house, the ‘immediate family’ label was applied to all of them except Ashley. Knowing that a Witch could alter a Were’s memory gave me a certain amount of peace. The only question was if I should have her memory altered preemptively or if I should wait… If Brandon and Ashley were to get past their communication breakdown, Ashley could be party to multiple skips.
As they ran into the room from the den, Brandon asked, “What’s wrong? Who screamed?”
I shook my head. “It wasn’t a scream as much as a squeal. The girls are excited about our surprise guests… You and Ashley are about to see you could have much bigger complications.” As soon as I spoke I realized that since there were other versions of Brandon, and Jason for that matter, they could be paired with Vampires as well… meaning they could be doing and/or hosting their own skips… It was enough to make me feel dizzy.
The girls kissed my cheeks from my arms and congratulated me for having my first skip.
The only member of the family who wasn’t standing in the dining room was Jason and as the other Sookie and Eric finally entered the house, she stopped in her tracks.
Her eyes were fixed on Corbett.
I decided to get ‘it’ out of the way. “Apparently, this is what happens when Vampires and Faeries are a couple. Once in a while…”
The other Me corrected, “More than once a week isn’t really ‘once in a while’.” Asshole… and… that fucking often?
“On occasion, realities become crossed. It’s happened to Sookie before. In fact, it’s what encouraged her to make the recent changes…”
Corbett and Calvin breathed from behind me, “I’ll be damned,” in awed chorus.
The other Me looked down at his hand, bringing my attention to the fact that Sookie’s was in it… she was holding his hand so tightly that hers was white. He asked, “That’s your father?”
When she nodded, a tear escaped.
“Then I suppose it was a good thing Adele suggested the videos. She’ll be excited to get a message…” He looked up at me. “This is only your second?”
I shook my head, suddenly understanding Sookie’s description of how bizarre it was to have a conversation with herself. “I wasn’t included in the first one. Which one are you?”
“August, but we’ve recently met another Us that began as we did and diverged only a week later.”
“What would that difference entail?”
“I almost lost Pam and Sookie during an attempt to kidnap Hadley… He did. That Me was forced to turn Sookie.” Wow. Losing Pam… I suddenly couldn’t be less interested in skipping… Seeing my life without Pam in it wasn’t something I… No.
“That means you’re the version Sookie met in October, yes?”
He grinned in My Sookie’s direction. “Fat Sookie shot me… You look like you’re getting around much easier now.”
She giggled and went over to hug him, blaming the pregnancy for the fact that she was out of sorts at the time. While My Sookie asked the other Me how everyone she met during the skip was, I turned to Corbett.
“Corbett, you should probably go hug your daughter. That one hasn’t seen you since she was 8 years old.”
“Your mother died in a flash flood while she was taking them home after an afternoon together… In her version of events, you and Michelle were on your way over that bridge to pick them up instead. That Sookie and Jason were raised by Adele.”
Corbett gave her a sympathetic look and mumbled, “Poor baby,” on his way to hug the other Sookie.
The other Me was dazed by Corbett’s scent for a moment before he took a step to the side. That would confirm Adele wasn’t carrying the Faerie genetics. Once he shook off his reaction, he raised an eyebrow in my direction. “Better you than me.”
“It’s manageable, actually. I’m building a tolerance.”
The girls squirmed to be let down while he nodded and pointed around the room. “I know Norris and Jason. Who are the extras?”
Lauren was leaning against the archway as though she was close to falling over, so I started with her. “You don’t have a Lauren… She babysits Jason for us.”
He grinned and shook her hand. “I’m going to need your social security number.”
She tilted her head to the side. “What for?”
“Because our version of Jason and Pam think we don’t know they’re a couple. They know about the skips… I was just thinking it might be fun to be caught playing matchmaker.”
“You mean… ‘research me’ and leave evidence so she thinks you’re trying to set him up with his own wife?”
He gave her a faked innocent look. “Why would it matter to her? It’s not as though they’re anything but wing men to each other.”
She laughed, “You got it. If y’all have done this before, then… will I find out about the prank?”
“I’ll make sure of it… Is this Junior?”
He was already squatting down to meet the boy at eye level when Lauren confirmed. Junior looked at me and then back to the other Me. “Um. Hi.”
“Hello… You aren’t ugly at all…” Junior was as offended as he was confused. “Your Aunt Sookie showed everyone a picture of you the last time we saw her. Someone said you were an ugly baby.”
Lauren gasped, “I’ll beat their ass! Who said that!?”
Eric pointed over his shoulder towards Jason… Lauren punched his shoulder before My Sookie could explain that it was the picture of ‘the Stackhouse men’ she kept in her wallet. The timing was unfortunate since Junior was swollen from having a reaction to an immunization at the time it was taken… then she reminded her sister-in-law that she’d hit the wrong Jason and told the other Me to stop causing trouble.
He chuckled at her and nodded towards Brandon and Ashley. “And who is this?”
My Sookie patted the arm of the other to try to get her attention. She was still clinging to Corbett and weeping against his neck. “Hey Sookie, I know Your Daddy died when you were 8, but… did he break up with Michelle for a while before you came along?”
The other Sookie gave Corbett a squeeze before letting go to start wiping her tears away. She cleared her throat a couple of times before choking out, “Yeah… Gran mentioned it when we went to a funeral. Turned out she was an old flame of Daddy’s. Um… why?”
Hearing Sookie talk about his mother in the present tense choked him up, but Corbett managed to chuckle. “It’s possible that my mom has herself another grandbaby. Julie got pregnant while we were together and never told me… That’s Brandon and his girlfriend Ashley. He tracked me down last night and found all of us.”
She stared at her father for a moment before she started to smile in Brandon’s direction. “If you went looking and all you found was a grandmother and a couple of half siblings, would you be cool with that?”
He nodded. “I probably wouldn’t have gone looking, but Ashley was talking about having kids eventually and I didn’t know how I ended up with telepathy. I was hoping it was a fluke… found out that it’s almost a guarantee. How many kids do you have?”
She shook her head. “I adopted my cousin’s little boy. Your Hadley got knocked up in high school so she settled down… Mine went on a bender that put her in New Orleans to meet Hunter’s father.”
“Ahhhh… that… makes… sense. I guess.”
She shrugged and offered, “Well, since you hooked up with a Were, you can make fun when everyone else skips. You only have to worry about it if another you found the Vampire of your dreams.”
He gaped for long enough that Lauren offered a distraction to ease everyone’s awe… as she tried to herd the family to sit at the dinner table, Tina approached the other Me with Magnusson.
She was testing me. Since we hadn’t discussed that there was still a very good reason to keep her ability under wraps and why, she was pushing other points we’ve had to be stern about. Certain four year olds knew damn well they were only allowed to hold the baby when they were sitting down and supervised… I didn’t even want to think about how she took him out of his hammock when she had to stand on the tips of her toes to even see into it.
Sookie and Lauren saved me from having to be the one to say something… both of them shrieked Tina’s full name while the other Me took Mag from her gently.
I might have made fun of the way he looked like he was locked in an internal ‘do I cut the red or green wire?’ debate if I could be certain I hadn’t looked the same way the first time I held the baby. I was sure it had been just as long for him.
“You don’t hold newborns often?”
“The smallest before him was…”
His Sookie finished for him. “Erin the Great… we should’ve taken her home with us.”
He countered, “We could just steal Tina and Shelly. Hunter is already fond of them.”
My Sookie swatted the other’s hip and joked, “Get your own damn stretch marks…” What stretch marks? “C’mon. You can sit next to Daddy… Erics, you two joining us or are y’all thinking about comparing notes while the rest of us chew?”
That decision was difficult. We almost had the chance to look at one another before we opted to compare notes.
I followed him to the den and asked, “Erin the Great?”
“One of the Sookies named her little girl Erin. She’s only a few months younger than Shelly.”
He smirked and handed Magnusson to me. “This is yours… No. Erin Grace Nordmann.”
“Nordmann. That Sookie was already dating an Eric when she was raped and nearly killed. His Human identity made its way to Erin’s birth certificate instead of the rapist’s. We just met them last week. It’s how our Thanksgiving started… Why the fuck aren’t you bonded to Your Sookie yet? Is she being difficult?”
“Did you not read the journals I sent with her? Honestly, as many versions as there are, do you think you can resist when the rest of us couldn’t?” Not in another thousand years.
“I read them. I memorized them… Given that a Hadley was given blood regularly and died during delivery, I didn’t want to risk that he’d be strong enough to hurt Sookie since there was no guarantee she’d deliver when I could be there to heal her… and now we’re concerned it could halt her milk.” His face fell as though someone shit on his lap. “What?”
“We hadn’t thought about that.”
“Why would you need to?”
He shook his head. “Nevermind that… so what is this? Are you living in both houses?”
“No. I had this one warded and refurnished since My Sookie still has such a large family. We use it for family gatherings. They call it ‘Holiday House’. Lauren and Jason are staying here for now while Junior gets some coaching.”
He sat on the sofa and put his feet on the coffee table like it was his house… but it was his house. Fucking insane. “Ah. So did you get to kill Merlotte?”
“No. I missed the opportunity. Sookie came to me within a week of her skip. She only took that long because she was making arrangements to leave him. She barely unpacked in her new apartment before he came unhinged. He hit her and destroyed nearly everything. I took her and the children in. It seemed like his fuckery was finally going to stop and then he ended Bill Compton with witnesses the night after Magnusson was born…”
“How did you decide on the name Magnusson?” Back to the baby?
“Believing he was a girl Sookie chose Maggie months ago… He was already used to it by the time he was born. We only called him Maggie for the first week. Now it’s Mag or Magnusson. He responds the same.”
“Is he telepathic too?”
“Sookie thinks so, but since she wasn’t reading minds yet when the girls were newborn, she isn’t sure enough to place any bets.”
“Hmph. I should have thought to ask about Erin… You were saying? Merlotte ended Compton?”
“Compton had his Maker in tow. She only revealed herself a couple of nights ago. She demanded that I give Tina to her. A child for a child… I actually helped that Shifter escape from a holding cell and he fucked up his freedom by stalking Sookie. He was arrested just over the Texas border last night.”
“If he’s being charged with murder, then a guard will most likely offer to shoot him in an escape attempt. Apparently it’s less cruel than facing a life without being able to run. Funny, the things you learn when you spend so much time with Weres… Alcide assures me they don’t last long in a cage without going mad.” Ooh. Merry Christmas?
“He’s too unpredictable to guess. Since he’s too stupid to realize how stupid he is, he might think he can escape. How does Merlotte factor in for you?”
He chuckled, “He doesn’t, unless you count Alcide and I have a new hobby. Our women hardly ever leave us unsupervised because when they do, bizarre incidents occur.”
“Somehow the pipes in his trailer were primed with deer urine… there was the time his ice machine was full of maggots… and my favorite was when he closed the bar to have the floors refinished. No one knows how newspaper was put down from wall to wall. It resembles a kennel, but I think it gives the place some class.”
“Spectacular… Alcide Herveaux is one of the Weres Flood brings when we have the girls hunted.”
“Hide and Seek. They evade capture… they have fun, but they know that it’s tactical training. The immediate concern was Merlotte could decide to abduct them, but once I claim Sookie there could be an interest in them. Once Sookie is a known telepath, they’ll be suspected. Lorena’s ploy for Tina makes me wonder if she discovered the connection.”
“You haven’t told Sophie-Ann about her yet?”
“No. We were waiting for her to recover from the delivery. I’m planning the trip for after Christmas.”
“How did Sookie do during the delivery?”
“She…” I paused, trying to figure out why the fuck he was so fucking curious about the baby. “Her labor started early in the morning, but she carried on until sunset. The first two deliveries were drawn out and miserable, so she waited for me to rise, then insisted that we go through with standing plans. The labor didn’t seem to progress much until just before we went to the hospital… but we almost didn’t get there in time. He was born just after midnight.”
“Was she as comfortable as possible?”
“As long as she was on her feet.”
He nodded thoughtfully for a moment before getting back on track. “Shortly after the skip we shared, we met a version who repaid his contract and retired.”
He nodded. “And her son, Corbett. Her life was identical to My Sookie’s until high school when she tried marijuana and realized it had the opposite effect on her shields as alcohol. She had no trouble socializing and her high school boyfriend promptly decided to join the Army as soon as she told him she was pregnant… He barely made it through basic training before he became cannon fodder. Sookie was supporting Cort, Hunter and Adele by working at the Chevrolet dealership…”
“And he found her while buying his yearly upgrade. How fortunate.”
“She was using her gift to break corporate sales records… Hunter had been brought to Adele as a newborn because Hadley didn’t know Remy was the father, or so she said. They were more than a little confused to wake in our room instead of the boat they’d been living on. They’ve been enjoying a quiet existence yachting from one European port to another…. I’ve bought the yacht and I’m waiting for the chance to use it.”
One of the Sookies offered, “Five years.”
I asked, “Was that Yours or Mine?”
He chuckled, “It wouldn’t have been Mine. She knows better. We’ll leave in one year or twenty, as soon as the opportunity presents itself.”
“Mine shouldn’t have heard me. She’s only had my blood once…”
Mine came into the den, grinning from ear to ear and offering to take Magnusson from me. “He doesn’t understand you, but Mag can hear everything you say. He’s mommy’s little spy…”
“You’re almost as nosey as Pam.”
“I’m nosier… You might as well have had a cartoon light bulb turn on over your head… If you’re still putting up with the extra drama when your contract is up in five years, we’ll set sail. We’ll come home for a month in the summer and from Thanksgiving to New Years. We’ll even home-school the kids. Deal?” Yes, yes, absoFUNKINGlutely yes!
She raised her eyebrow and offered her hand to shake on her offer. “I’m no tease. I’m a sure thing… I’m promising.” That was just under 5 years away. Tina would be 9. Shelly would be 8. Magnusson would be about to celebrate his 5th birthday… Just to be sure, we’d need four bedrooms of our own… two more for guests so her family could visit. Pam was a wildcard. She’d need her own room whether she was just a visitor or a fixture… Seven. I was window shopping for a boat with a minimum of 7 staterooms… at least 2 of them needed to be light-tight… I could commission one. I could commission one now. It could be ready to put some miles on it in the summer… enjoy it on short vacations before retirement. Perfect!
I shook her hand and told her, “1784 nights.”
She snickered and stretched up to kiss my cheek. “Congratulations. You’re looking forward to something other than sex… I’m going to go finish eating. You two behave.”
As she walked out of the room, the other Me offered, “You’ll need to make sure Sookie’s contract with Sophie-Ann ends with yours and she’ll need to recruit her own replacement… Just avoid a promotion and I’ll envy you too.”
“I’ll stop giving Sophie-Ann reasons to think I’m indispensable as soon as Sookie’s contract is signed…” I sat on the chair opposite him, enjoying my new 5-year plan… maybe even fantasizing about it. “So why did it take you two hours to get here? Where did you rise?”
“In your room at the other house. The delay was caused by extracurricular activities. When we were done with our shower, Adele and Hunter had been turned into snakes and Sookie’s clothing had been moved to Adele’s closet…”
“We don’t want to confuse the children. Their father…”
He waved me off. “We assumed. We remembered Tina and Shelly’s scents… We noticed a to-do list that included errands for Paulette. Sookie called and asked her if she had any idea where she might have left her cell phone.”I hardly heard his answer from the distraction…
“What is that?”
“What is what?”
“On your finger. Is… Is that a wedding band?”
“It is… we left for Longyearbyen just after Your Sookie visited us… We were pledged and married there. Since she introduced herself to you a week later, it’s not unlikely that you were meeting her at the time.”
“I was married?” No. HE was married, but he was another Me and he knew what the fuck I meant.
He nodded. “A few of ‘you’ are, but I’m going to let you go through the journals and figure out the other ones on your own… Besides, you should concern yourself with the pending divorce first, yes?”
“Why would I?… And she doesn’t want to remar-“
Since fragments were the best I could do, it was probably better that he interrupted, “My Sookie and I have our reasons, but you have three of your own… Imagine something happened, like the children needing medical attention while Sookie is unavailable. It could be something as simple as a twisted ankle, but hospital workers wouldn’t so much as let you approve of x-rays. To them, you’re just the Vampire who fucks their mother unless there’s something more Humanly profound in place. Alcide was given a medical power of attorney, and as an experiment he took Hunter to an emergency room to test the procedures… Even though Hunter faked a head injury and resulting confusion very convincingly, they still wasted time contacting me, but all they needed to hear was his stepfather and approved of the treatment over the phone. As their stepfather and her husband, you have more rights.”
“What is your reason?”
“Private…” He shifted to take his wallet out of his pocket and hand a memory card to me. “Fresh reading… Since October when we first met your reality, the journal has doubled… and of course, this copy has Sophie-Ann’s journal as well. We didn’t want to risk Merlotte doing something with the more sensitive information.” He would have. He’d have done something idiotic like helping Threadgill in exchange for making sure I was out of ‘his way’.
“Doubled? You haven’t figured out how to control it at all?”
“We originally thought that resting was key… There was one night when we reset from a skip, and started our evening only to meet with another. That was fine though… we have almost weekly visits from the September version of us. That Sookie enjoys some time with Adele and I exchange information with the other Me then We reset and get on with our lives… It seems as though we skip when we need to skip, whether it’s to learn or educate. We’ve tried to reset without making contact of some kind, and it doesn’t work… Clearly Brandon is our reason for tonight’s adventure.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“You’ve been enjoying family life instead of politicking and if Corbett were the reason then I have to assume we would have visited this version originally… or at least, since the first time… ”
“So your purpose for skipping is usually blaring?”
“Quite… And last week’s skip was to a version where Jason died with his parents. I hadn’t heard about it at the time, but it just so happens Our Jason nearly died trying to fry a turkey that day.”
I nodded as the connection came to me. “And you skipped to a version where Adele was dead as a sequel to her heart attack…”
“And as it turns out, September skipped to visit us the night before they were presented with the opportunity to raise Hunter out of the blue… We have to dig for some of the connections, but they’re there.”
“What was the connection to the skip with the retirement tease?”
“The education came in the form of being warned that my- OUR Maker has a problem child. Ocella only visited Eric because they were already nearby, so I doubt it will be an immediate problem for us. That Eric’s hand was forced when said problem child attempted to drain Cort. Keep that Vampire the fuck away from your family.”
I nodded. “Lesson learned.”
“So since you haven’t been exchanging blood, you haven’t…” He trailed off, wiggling his eyebrows to finish rubbing in what Sookie and I hadn’t been able to enjoy yet.
“Don’t be an asshole about it.” I didn’t care that it sounded like a growl… the curious part was that both Sookies said it at the same time. At least I had allies.
He rolled his eyes and tilted his head to the side with his eyes narrowed. “Stop that, woman.”
Too curious. “What is she doing?”
“Mine is in Your’s head. They’re passing notes…” No sooner than he spoke, I felt my Sookie become all but giddy. “What are you up to?”
His giggled from her place at the table. “Nunya, Mr. Cocky.”
My Sookie added, “My Eric will find out before you will.” That sounded promising.
He shook his head and grumbled, “Sneaky bitches… This is a surprise to us actually. Granted, Sookie was asking about how to go about being hired as a telepath before our visit was over, but We assumed she’d calm down and forgive Merlotte for the secret.”
“She has… she doesn’t begrudge him for hiding his nature. She begrudges him for the myriad of affairs he had while accosting her for smiling at customers… Funny, what crosses a person’s mind when they find out they don’t have any secrets.”
He sucked air past his teeth. “Ouch… Has she overheard you yet?”
I nodded. “Almost right away. And it happened several other times before she had blood. I’ve spent several hours every night with her for six weeks and it can only be called sporadic.”
“Twice as long together, but it’s the same situation for Us. Bonded, pledged, married… We can’t be more tied to one another and my thoughts are safe.”
I shook my head. “Not yet…”
My Sookie joined us, with Mag and held him out to me. “Every freakin’ face he knows is in that room, but he’s asking for you.”
“He probably just wants the peace.”
“If it was during the day or… You know what…” She went over to the other me. “Experiment. Since you’re curious… let’s see if he knows the difference.” I was definitely game…
More so than the other Me. He looked awkward taking the baby from Sookie, so I could only imagine how his mind felt.
Sookie sat on the arm of the sofa next to them for a moment, silently observing.
Finally, the other Me asked, “What will this prove, exactly?”
She smirked and explained, “We’re starting to suspect that the little man is packing a sixth sense too.”
“But he’s looking at the face he was picturing, yes?”
“But the same mind isn’t holding him… Ooh! Idea…” She stood up, calling to her other self to ‘observe and report’ as she began untying the scarf around her waist slowly… she was teasing me to prove the fucking point and I couldn’t decide if it bothered me.
The other Sookie called from the dining room, “Confirmed! One Eric is confused, the other is ready for… dessert.”
I gave My Sookie a fangy grin. “Congratulations. You just proved what an evil bitch you can be.”
She blew a raspberry at me and took Mag to give him to the right Eric. “Like you didn’t already know… And our questions have been answered. Magnusson only stopped asking for you for a second. Little man could tell he didn’t have his Eric…” As she left the den again, she announced, “This generation is 4 for 4… Anyone want to take the bet that Hadley’s kids are plain-Jane?”
While the dining room agreed that the chances were too much of a longshot to place bets, the other Me offered, “8 for 8. Hunter, Cort, Erin and Chloe.”
“There’s a version where Hadley stayed with Remy long enough to get pregnant a second time. She still found her way to Sophie-Ann and they’re raising the children together. Both children are telepathic.”
“Found her way? Meaning one of their skips precipitated the meeting?”
“Like in your version, yes. Sookie didn’t mention any suspicions about Hadley’s children having any gifts when we met before.”
“She had a few things on her mind… Specifically, she was listening to Merlotte’s thoughts about his bastard children and their mothers.”
He snorted, “I didn’t say that the oversight wasn’t understandable… After the way that skip began, I’m surprised she wasn’t hospitalized to be treated for shock. Strange Vampire in her kitchen, her brother was berating her, her dead grandmother, an unfamiliar Were who was more forthcoming about shifting than her own husband…”
“The stress alone should have put her into labor… it’s a good thing she’s resilient.”
He stood up, nodding. “That’s an understatement…” He called down the hallway, “I’ve heard I should learn to play Hide and Seek… Is there anyone willing to teach me?”
My Sookie, Lauren and Ashley helped clean up the dinner mess, and Calvin, Jason, Brandon and I laughed our asses off while the other Me tried to find the children. He was only keeping them busy while his Sookie took Corbett to the side so he could watch the message Adele recorded especially for him in the hopes that our versions would cross paths again.
Eric combed the house, going from room to room… calling us assholes every time we laughed at him… calling Brandon a prick when he turned down a cash offer to help him locate the children… asking if they were even in the house… insisting they were cheating when he started his search all over again…
Even though Brandon was obviously enjoying the entertainment value of watching another Me look like an idiot, Jason patted his shoulder and told him, “This is why you don’t need to worry. Junior hated it until he realized he wasn’t the only one with it… Like Sook. Like you… Your kids won’t have that problem because they aren’t ‘freaks’ in this family…”
As the other me passed through the room, he added, “Suicidal telepaths, runaway Weres, little girls with inane prophetic abilities… We’ve seen our share. Supernaturals have to be fostered in some way… Seriously, where are the children?”
“Ema Oswald. You’ll find her in Dallas unless she’s already come to find you. She’s an automatic writer. If she exists in your version, she’ll probably have a stack of drawings of your family by the time you find her. Alcide began calling her ‘the Oracle’ as a joke, but now I’m trying to think of a way to arrange a meeting between her and Pythoness.”
“Hoping to see if they can spot their own?”
“Yes… None of you are going to help me find the children, are you? I’ve looked everywhere but… Fuck!” He breezed past us so quickly that Magnusson held his breath because of the breeze…
He’d looked everywhere, but the tunnel leading to the boathouse… but even if he found one of them there, they wouldn’t all be in the same place.
He was making another sweep when his Sookie joined us… By then, every damn one of us was watching and listening to his search turn up nothing…
Including His Sookie.
When he came back empty-handed, his wife giggled, “Are you done playing yet?”
“No. Not until I find the little monsters. I won’t be beaten by babies…” He didn’t know Tina only dug her heels in deeper when her age was insulted. “Good. There you are. You’ll tell me where they are.”
She gave him a look like she wanted to tease him, but she closed her eyes for a moment to scan the house… She gasped, slapping her hands over her mouth. “Those sneaky little… Eric! They’re in your bubble!”
Calvin chuckled and offered his hand to me for a shake. “I thought part of that was put on for the kids… Nicely done, Sheriff. Those kids aren’t going anywhere they don’t want to.”
Lauren laughed, “No kidding! Junior hid from me until Sookie found him so we could take him to get a haircut last week!”
I nodded. “Now all we have to do is work on Sookie. She gives herself away by giggling…”
The other Me called out to the children, “He’s giving up! He’s ready to leave. Come out so you have the chance to rub in your victory!”
Nothing. Not a word. Not the slightest shuffle or bump… They weren’t buying it… There were two Mes and they knew better.
I yelled, “Prinzessinnen!”
As soon as the safe-word was out of my mouth, we could hear the noises of the children emerging from their hiding places… three very proud children joined us one at a time, all of them wearing cocky little grins.
The other Me scowled at them until all of them were present and accounted for. “Where were you?”
Tina took a step forward and put her hands on her hips. “You folded. You don’t get to see our cards.”
He growled and offered his hand. As she shook it, he said, “Fair enough. We’ll play again.”
“We’ll win again.”
“Maybe… Maybe you’ll visit us next time. I’ll have Hunter on my side.”
“He won’t do no good. Eric taught us to hide from each other too. There’s telepaths that aren’t family.”
He gave me a look like he should have seen that coming… because he should have seen that coming. He was Me.
Over the course of the next hour the house emptied out as much as possible…
After taking a few pictures of the family, Sookie and Eric went back to My house so they could reset.
Calvin announced that he was going to go back where things were normal… Hotshot, where everyone turned into Panthers.
After My Sookie promised Ashley that ‘this is as weird as the Stackhouses get’, Brandon took her home…
They were walked out by Corbett, who was still understandably shaken by whatever message he’d gotten from his long deceased mother.
Sookie, Jason and Lauren stood at the front window and they only waited as long as it took for the last of everyone’s headlights to fade into the trees.
Jason asked, “How’s Daddy?”
But Lauren spoke over him to ask, “How freaked out is Ashley?”
Sookie snickered, knowing the questions were meant for her. “Daddy’s going to be okay. He’s just a bit out of sorts. And since Ashley’s a Were, she’s a little more acclimated to being in the middle of Weird-Ville. She’s dealing better than poor Brandon. The good news on that front is neither of them are hung up on the other’s secrets. They get the ‘why’.”
Jason flopped onto the sofa and ran his hands through his hair. “This isn’t Weird-Ville, Sook. This is fucking insane. There’s another you somewhere…”
She sat on the chair across from him and shook her head. “There’s several Mes, Jason. Apparently, every blink has an effect on everything that comes after it. Something about Me and Eric being together makes it happen. Faerie plus Vampire equals skipping. I guess you’ll eventually find out if you’re included in that since there’s a Jason who’s hooked up with a Pam…”
“I don’t even want to think about that… She’s hot and all, but… I mean, come on. I’m with Lauren. What do you mean ‘every blink’ though?”
“Um… ok… case in point, you know that Vampire Sam killed?”
“Yeah… William Thomas Compton. Great, great, great great uncle or whatever to ‘Hermit Jesse’, right?”
“Yep… the version of us that just left met Eric in time to skirt the ugliness. They’re on their way to happily ever after. BUT there’s a version that didn’t go to Fangtasia like Gran suggested…”
“Wait. Why would a little old lady tell her granddaughter to go to a Vampire bar?”
“Because in that version, you were a slut. You banged half of Bon Temps and then told your friends about the ones that had bite marks… One of them killed two girls and you were looking at a murder charge. That Gran suggested I go to Fangtasia and talk to the Vampires there to see if they could help. That’s how that one met and ended up bonded to Eric, but she was already sorta friends with Bill Compton. With me so far?”
“Um… about as much as I can be.”
“Now, the Sookie that didn’t go to Fangtasia is a 3 month old Vampire. Her ‘friend’ Bill Compton told her how dangerous Fangtasia is and she shouldn’t go… Meanwhile that guy, the one that was killing your girlfriends, he killed Gran because she was nice to Compton… Not long after that, he went after Sookie and nearly killed her. Bill Compton finished the job.”
“And there’s a Sookie they tried to convince away from Compton, but she was being stubborn… I tell you what, just for shits and giggles, I want to meet a Me that didn’t come home from school the summer I met Sam… I think it’d be fun to see if a Me didn’t settle down before I wanted to.”
Jason and Lauren shared a look and rolled their eyes. Jason chuckled, “You don’t have to skip to know that… You and Allecks would’ve fucked each other to death a long time ago.”
“Allecks?” I didn’t even realize I asked until Lauren nodded.
She giggled, “Allecks was the reason Sookie almost didn’t finish school. She almost stayed in Switzerland and when she got home, she had her own phone line put in.” That would explain why Sookie’s ‘dirty’ German was much better than her conversational German… Sookie mentioned she was planning to go back, but she didn’t say a man was the reason.
I scrambled to think of which question about her omission to ask first. I finally decided on, “And how did you meet Allecks? Did he work at the hotel with you?”
Sookie opened her mouth to answer me, but Lauren was too excited to explain, “He owned it.”
Sookie corrected, “He was heir to it! His parents owned it. He didn’t have any interest in running it… I met him on sort of a blind date. My roommate was supposed to be his date for a charity function and got sick at the last minute. I stood in for her and we actually had a good time.”
Lauren teased, “He flew all the way to San Francisco to see her.”
Sookie rolled her eyes and scoffed, “We were infatuated, not to mention rebelling kids, tard…” She said ‘kids’ as though five years was a lifetime. “It’s all moot anyway. I wouldn’t change anything if I could. If I played anything differently, I wouldn’t have my babies or Eric. I’m just curious.”
“You could have little Auers instead of little Merlottes. Different doesn’t mean bad.”
Sookie nodded her head slowly. “Hence the curiosity. In fact…” Sookie stood up and nodded motioned to the archway. “I got a kick out of several things I learned tonight… You ready for bed, Eric?” Only since I rose.
Sookie ignored the joking behind us to concentrate on her task of tempting me.
She walked at an unbearably slow pace, swaying her hips… giving me a perfect view. All the way upstairs to tuck the children in.
She went as far as resting her hand on my thigh, passing her thumb back and forth, while we had our discussion with Tina about her behavior…
Nothing overtly explicit until we were downstairs again, stripping as we walked toward our room because she’d given Mag back to me after she nursed him. I couldn’t do anything but watch.
She threw her sweater to hit the back of my head while I was laying Magnusson in his bassinet… and ran into our room to lock herself in the bathroom.
I knocked on the bathroom door gently. “Sookie?”
She giggled, “Who’s there?”
“Are you as pudgy as the other one? You sound pretty husky.”
“What are you doing in there?”
“Um… I’m working through a dilemma.”
“What dilemma? I’m not sure you’ve left any room for options after the way you led me down here.”
She giggled again and opened the door… completely nude, posing in the doorframe with a collection of scarves cascading from her hand. “Oh, trust me…” She walked towards me, putting her empty hand on my chest to steer me towards the bed. As I backed up, she purred, “It’s a big dilemma thanks to our company. I have new information.” Uh oh.
“What did she tell you?”
When I sat on the bed, she pulled my shirt over my head and pushed me back to lie down to begin removing my pants. “That she’s going to be pudgy forever.”
“Since she’s going to be a Vampire eventually, she asked me what I do to stay so tight because I teased her for calling me ‘Fat Sookie’ when she’s two sizes bigger than me and I’ve even got her in cup-size thanks to breast feeding..”
“You might actually be more conceited than me… and you know that wasn’t what I was talking about… What did she tell you to cause a dilemma?”
She knelt between my feet, untying my boots without answering me and stripping everything away…
She straddled my legs when she was done, resting her hands over mine on her thighs… She cooed, “You’ve been looking forward to scarf games since last night, right?” That was an epic understatement.
“So you’d be disappointed if we put it off.”
“That would depend on the reason. Why would we put it off?”
She purred, “Exchanging…”
I shook my head to cut her off before either of us could get our hopes up. “Don’t. You’d regret not waiting until the baby is weaned.”
She smirked and ran her tongue over her bottom lip slowly. “I would be… IF it affected my milk.”
“Well, as it turns out, Vampire blood improves Humans. It improves function and heals things that are wrong with them. Now tell me… what is unnatural about lactation?”
“How can you be sure?”
“There’s a Hadley who didn’t die having Hunter. She was healed postpartum and her milk still came in.”
“Are you sure you want to risk it?”
“I wouldn’t have brought it up if I considered it a risk… That would be cruel. What’s it gonna be? Scarves or blood?”
“We’ve talked about this… You know I want to exchange…”
She tilted her head to the side and narrowed her eyes. “I sense a ‘but’ coming.”
I nodded. “But… I’m not making that decision.”
“Mind if I ask why?”
“Because in all of the talking we’ve done… all of the plans we’ve made… the children have been the biggest factor. Nursing is the reason we’ve waited to bond unless the Queen pushes the issue of you being Mine. I’m to bring you over rather than letting the children be orphaned in the case of something devastating happening to you, otherwise we’ll wait until the children are through college. Weddings can be planned for evenings, but graduations happen during the day and one of us should be there’, remember? And earlier you mentioned their educations with our retirement plans… I’m not making a decision that could affect your ability to nurse Mag.” She could talk me into trying small amounts and building up to experiment, but I wasn’t going to feed her without knowing the results.
She studied me, leaving me without any clues to what she was thinking. No facial quirks. No feelings. It went on for long enough that I was just starting to worry that she felt rejected or disappointed…
Sookie finally moved to kiss me… “You’re officially leaving it to me then.”
“Don’t make it sound like I’m balking at the idea. You know my vote.”
“I’m not trying to make it sound like anything… I’m just clarifying.”
“Alright. Yes. I’m leaving it to you.”
She nodded and stared blankly again for a moment before she slowly reached to the bed to lift a scarf and toy with it in silence.
I finally couldn’t take it anymore and asked, “Are you angry? I’m not feeling anything from you.”
She mumbled, “Thinking. Trying to weigh everything. Not angry. Not at all.” It would make sense that an analytical process wouldn’t reap emotions, but I didn’t have to enjoy it.
“How are you doing?”
She took a deep breath and nodded. “I think I’m done.”
“And what verdict did you come to?”
She huffed, “Factually, we have a hung jury on our hands. The pro and cons are even.”
“Did you consider the Queen?”
“No. We already have a plan for bonding.”
“And you know that I’m prepared to wait. I already know I’ll have you forever. I can be patient.”
She grinned and leaned to kiss me. “One of these days, I’m going to tell someone how sweet you are.”
“You’d better not. Eventually we’re bound to encounter a skip where your mother is alive. I’ll lock you in a room together.”
She snickered, “Did I say sweet? Sorry. I meant fierce asshole… Yeahhhhh, that’s it. If you can’t fuck it or bleed it, kill it. That’s Eric Northman.”
I chuckled, “Good girl… Now what did you decide?”
“Well, since the pros and cons are balanced, the only way to tip the scale in one way or the other is to consider what we want. We want to exchange blood. We want to bond. Knowing that there’s a distinct possibility that the only reason we waited is a nonissue, I want to go for it.”
“Promise me that you aren’t just being impatient enough to not care about the outcome.”
She nodded. “I promise. Not only that, but it won’t be a shock to Mag’s system. We have 3 days worth of milk in the freezer…” At least she’d been thinking about the minutiae. “Do you still want to or do you want to hit the brakes after hearing I’m ‘go for liftoff’?”
I growled, “I still want to. If you’re sure, we won’t wait.”
She licked her lips and wrapped them around my chin… chewing along my jaw… down to my neck… purring, “Good,” along the way…
Inch by inch, she gnawed a path down to my hand…
Sucking my fingers…
Between the stimulation and anticipation, I was gone long before she turned my hand over and bit my wrist.