In The Dark
After a month of taking turns making excuses to stay in Switzerland, we finally let our responsibilities and family bait us home…
Beginning the first leg of our trip home the night before had been bittersweet. The children had all been excited to complete their ‘Euro Trip’ with a train ride from Zermatt to Bern since they’d never been on one. They excitedly crowded the windows to watch the scenery go by, happily chattering about what we’d enjoyed doing while we’d been away… horseback riding, sledding, skiing, snowboarding, roasting marshmallows in our suite and outdoors, snowball fights and formal balls… And they became the youngest people to ever summit the Matterhorn, even if they technically cheated to get there. Sookie put their names into a hat to decide the order… each night I flew one of them to the summit.
The photos of each of them with the Matterhorn’s cross had already been sent to be printed and framed.
Sookie and I were practically stoned from how much we enjoyed ourselves… we’d been spoiled by our isolation to the point Sookie no longer needed to look at my retirement countdown to know how long we’d have to wait for a permanent vacation. And that was in spite of what we missed while we were in Zermatt…
Brandon formally proposed to Ashley on the London Eye with her extended family as witnesses… he’d used his phone to record it for her mother and his family, but he refused to email it to Sookie because he wanted to be sure she’d return to Louisiana.
Brian returned to Arkansas alone when Hadley refused to leave Australia with him… She’d replaced Brian and Shane with a recently divorced jeweler from Arizona, and had his lawyers send adoption papers to Sookie at Holiday House. Surprisingly few tears were shed by Misty and Jenny… They’d known it was all part of a long term plan, but they were understandably upset by how easily Hadley gave them away. Since Tina and Shelly had been eavesdropping when Sookie and I explained, they burst through the bedroom doors to declare they were excited to have big sisters… Sookie was the one who shed most of the tears and it was because she overheard Misty thinking how nice it was to feel wanted for the first time in her life.
Pam and Paulette ‘joined forces to thwart sinister Witches out for global domination’… and Pam used the Witch’s power-play as an excuse to introduce Paulette to Alcide Herveaux as per the journals…
Of everything, I think the biggest reason Sookie was willing to go home was because Ema emailed us a drawing of a positive pregnancy test. We knew it wasn’t Sookie’s. We hoped it wasn’t Hadley’s. And Sookie refused to celebrate the news of a niece or nephew over the phone… or let Pam shop for the baby alone.
Pam… My child had been taking advantage of the time difference. She’d been spending no less than three hours every day on the phone with the children… since I was dead in my time zone, the children were ‘technically free agents’… Pam and Lauren had been redecorating the bedrooms of Holiday House. With five children of our own, the three bedrooms in my other house wouldn’t be enough… I was convinced to have Jason Stackhouse as a ‘roommate’ until they found their own house. Sookie bought my compliance with a box of scarves, dice, and sugar packets. Her plan: Keep me from regretting the decision by rewarding my patience with blood, sweat and cum.
Who the fuck was I to argue?
As I came back to myself, our suite in Bern was quiet except for the sounds of sleeping children.
It hadn’t taken much for the children to become nocturnal. Within a week of being in Zermatt, all of them caught on to Magnusson’s napping tactics quickly. They’d gotten into the habit of using my bubble to sleep more soundly. It was the only way six telepathic children were going to rest in a busy hotel. The long winter nights meant the children woke shortly after I did and tired out before dawn so Sookie and I could enjoy more adult activities. The only catch was knowing that once we returned and I resumed my duties, they’d be beginning their ‘day’ as I had to leave them for work.
A week after the children were set in their nighttime rhythm, I told Sookie I’d contacted an associate about replacing me to sneer from my seat and act as a middle-man. I wouldn’t burn down Fangtasia, so she was still free to work, but I wasn’t going to waste time being scenery at Fangtasia any longer… I was going back to my old practice of being an ‘on call Sheriff’. She didn’t give me a hard time. She didn’t try to haggle. She didn’t try to talk me out of anything.
1731 nights and counting.
Magnusson was already grinning at me from his usual spot when I opened my eyes.
Misty, Jenny, Tina and Shelly had climbed onto the bed to surround me, while Junior snored from the settee at the foot of the bed.
There was only one thing missing from my new routine.
I listened for movement in the bathroom, hallway or living room… assuming Sookie was preparing for the last leg of our trip home.
Nothing but the sounds of sleeping children… and the bond was a wretched void.
It was difficult to move my arm without stirring Misty, but when I felt the empty space where Sookie would normally be resting, it was warm.
Six little anchors kept me from searching for Sookie, even if I knew where the fuck to start without our bond to use as a guide.
I could only imagine how tense the idea made me… Mag was all but scowling at me and the other children began waking up…
Having company was one thing, but skipping with six children was something else entirely.
Junior rubbed his eyes as he sat up and groaned, “What’s wrong?”
“Did Sookie mention or think about running any errands while we’re in Bern?” She could have been restless and decided to look up her old friends since we decided we wouldn’t be back for a couple of years… I would have preferred she left a note, but when we checked in the night before she was disappointed to hear her former lover had sold the hotel after his parents died. It had been the news of his parents’ deaths that bothered her… she could have been blocking our bond while she paid her respects. Possibly?
As the children got their senses back, they began shaking their heads and Jenny asked, “What kind of errands?”
“Perhaps finding old friends… Allecks Auers? Or Ana? Rose?”
“Nothing like that. After you went to bed, we went out for breakfast and walked back so we could look at buildings. She was asleep before we were.” Fuck me.
“Then, ladies and gentlemen, I believe Sookie has skipped without us…” And I could only hope she ‘landed’ favorably.
Since Tina and Shelly had skipped with Sookie before, I looked around the room to make sure we hadn’t skipped as well…
Our train stubs were on the dresser with my wallet and phone. Our luggage lined the wall because we hadn’t bothered unpacking when we were only staying for the day before our flight… the flight that was supposed to leave in just a few hours.
Shelly gasped with an unhappy look on her face, “Mommy skipped wiffout us!?”
I nodded. “That seems to be the case.”
“Howie getter back?”
“We wait…” And hope I don’t go mad in the process.
NEW ERIC POV
I rose to the unmistakable sounds of a brawl upstairs.
More confusing than anything… I was in the wrong fucking house. I’d died in my house in Copenhagen… and rose in Eijsden.
The scuffle continued with bodies slapping and thumping against the stone walls of the corridors, steadily inching closer to my chambers.
Not only had the soldiers managed to find a hole in the wards on the property, but they were putting up a respectable fight against Gerrit and Miles (possibly Anja). Thanks to countless football matches on the property, I’d become all too familiar with their brands of grunting.
Once the infiltrators made their way into the corridor leading to my chambers, I left my bed to dress…
The sound of a solid punch had my attention before Miles yelped, “TWAT! You bloodied my nose!” He was practically whining.
A moment later, Gerrit grunted that he caught her… ‘Her’. Not ‘them’. Her. One? The female grunts I’d heard were from one woman? One woman managed to break through a ward, circumvent the roving Were guards, and advance towards my chambers while sparring with my two strongest sentries.
This I had to see.
As I walked towards my door, listening carefully, the would-be assassin snarled, “Get your fucking hands off me, asshole! I NEED to see Eric! NOW!”
Miles taunted her. “Hard little cunt… Tidy though. Can’t decide if we should send her for the swim or take her home to meet my mum.”
Gerrit grumbled, “We should get answers and call the King. We’ll ask him whether she’s swimming or eating your mum’s disgusting biscuits.”
The sound of another hard blow and the female answered, “He’s up and already here, you fucking clowns! I need to see him! It’s important!”
That was enough for me. I was already curious enough, but this woman knew I was on the property before my guards did…
I cracked the door slowly to make sure the other doors had sealed out the light, and finally stepped into the hallway…
Not only had the female bypassed magic, a dozen Weres, and made her way to within 50 meters of where I rested, but she’d done it barefoot in nothing but a T-shirt and panties.
Miles’s nose and mouth were bloody, his shirt was ripped, and his eye was going to look like raw meat in a few hours…
Gerrit was holding the petite blonde, pinning her arms to her sides while his nose bled into her hair…
She had just lifted her legs to kick Miles’s chest and knock him onto his ass when I joined them. There wasn’t a mark on her.
Before I could say anything, she offered, “I don’t mean you any harm, Eric. I woke up on a sofa upstairs. Your maid held me off with a gun until these two came at me. I need to talk to you in private.”
“Why would I risk that?”
“Because you’re a thousand year old Vampire and you could kill me before I could think about defending myself. Your Maker is Appius. One of the few TV shows you ever enjoyed was the Twilight Zone because it tended to have an ironic moral. One of your favorite books of all time is The Count Of Monte Cristo. I need to speak to you without the Tootsie Roll Owl and the cliché.”
“How is Miles cliché?”
“Bull in a china shop… Prick smashed a Wedgewood urn while he was getting his ass lit up by a girl.” Miles looked like his feelings were hurt by her taunt… only him… He’d only just called her a ‘hard little cunt’ and a twat…
I almost made fun of him until I let it sink in there wasn’t a single person, living or dead, who would know so much about me.
“Where have you gotten your intelligence?”
“That’s a long story.”
I waved her off. “I don’t have time for that… Take her to the constable. Press charges for assault and trespassing.”
Gerrit nodded and tried hauling her away, but she lifted her legs again to put her feet on the doorway to keep him from leaving.
While he argued with her and ordered Miles to secure her legs, she managed to twist around to look at me. “Fine. I’ll be back… You’ll give me a few minutes in private just because you’ll want hear about the holes in your security, right?”
I shook my head, but I was too close to laughing at how certain she was. “If you make it as far as the house, then yes.”
She huffed, “Thank God,” and dropped her legs to allow Gerrit through the door. As she was carried away, she grumbled, “Of all the fucking luck… at least he’s willing to talk to me about security… fuck… I’m sorry about breaking your nose. I really just want to talk to him. I’m not going to hurt him. I swear…”
Once my chamber’s door was closed behind me, I let myself chuckle at the ‘hard little cunt’. I still needed to find out how I was moved and why, but I could do that while she was behind bars once the sun set.
I searched my room for evidence anyone had been there, but other than my maid’s scent clinging to the linens, there wasn’t the least bit of evidence… My scent wasn’t heavy enough to suggest I’d been there long.
My sudden relocation and the peculiar battle were all I could think of as I showered…
And when I turned to rinse, she was leaning against the marble wall… she was in the shower with me.
She was still wearing a cheeky grin when I pinned her to the wall. “Who the fuck are you?”
She couldn’t have been more calm as she offered, “I’m Sookie Stackhouse. I’m from Bon Temps, Louisiana. I’m vacationing with my family. We left Zermatt on a train last night because we’re on our way home. I went to bed with my fiancé and kids this morning and woke up on your sofa.”
“You went to sleep in Bern and awoke in a different location?”
She nodded. “What about you? Did you die somewhere else? The guards argued when I said you were here.”
“Copenhagen. How do you know who I am?”
“That’s the long story… I’m part Fae. A small part. We figure a quarter or less. I’m a telepath…” She held her hands up to halt me. “I can’t hear Vampires or Daemons. I can find them if they’re in my range and get a clue of their moods, but your actual thoughts are safe. I’m bonded to a Vampire. Apparently, when Vampires and Faeries bond this thing happens. I’m not in my reality. I’m in yours. When this is all over, I’ll disappear without a trace. There should be another version of Me here, or my family… Right now, my Vampire is probably rising with our kids…”
“Vampires can’t have children.”
She nodded again. “When I went to bed, I was in bed with my three children, my nephew and my cousin’s little girls whom we’re adopting… I was pregnant with my third child the first time this happened to me. It was the first time I met you, in fact.”
“I don’t know you.”
“Sorry. Another version of You… Eric, Lieutenant Regent of Louisiana, was sitting at the kitchen table with a little boy when I went to what I thought was my home. During that visit, I found out my children were also telepaths and my husband was unfaithful. And I met a version of Sookie who was already bonded to Eric Northman. They’d been together and skipping for a few months. There are so many versions it could make your head spin… My brother compared it to taking a blind sample of novels and changing all the main characters’ names to Eric and Sookie as you read them. What we know is that whenever we skip, there’s a reason. One version knows something the other should know so they can get on the right track or avoid a problem. The first skip we had, was when I learned I needed to use my gift instead of block it because my children, my nephew, my cousin’s children are all telepaths as well…. Our second skip was a visit with the same version of us and we found out Appius has an incorrigible child who was going to be a problem for us. When we first arrived in Zermatt, there was a funeral for a little boy and girl who’d been drained. We knew right away who it was because of what we learned in the skip… Our most recent skip was a couple of weeks ago. My Vampire and I woke up in bed with kids like we usually do, but I woke up with a different Eric and mine woke up with the other Eric’s wife and little girl.”
“You’re telling me there are alternate versions of my life that include wives and children. Where Appius is still walking. Where you’re married to men other than your Vampire…”
She shrugged, “Technically, wife. The only wife/fiancé/bonded you’ve ever had in a skip is me… but yes, as unfuckingbelievable as it sounds, that’s what I’m saying. Trust me, I know the feeling. I was ridiculed by another version of myself. I’ve been with my Eric since October. He was there when I delivered Magnusson, even cut his cord. He reinvented Santa Claus by hiring an Elf actor so telepathic children could enjoy believing in something. He proposed to me on New Years at midnight. He has a line on Vampire marriages being legalized soon, so we’re planning it for next October since it’s already an anniversary for us.” Yes… Unfuckingbelievable was exactly how it sounded.
“You’re strong enough to spar with my guards…”
“Because My Eric and I exchange blood as often as possible… and my ex-husband was a Shifter and he went a little nutty when we split up, so My Eric taught our kids Hide and Seek as a defensive strategy. Bullshit and Owlie got me as far as the motor court and I broke away. Eric and the kids are going to laugh their asses off when I tell them I used their game to get to you.”
“You know my history because…”
“I spend every night with a version of you who had a very similar life up until the last few years.”
“Bonding with you causes the skips, yes?”
“Well, as far as we know it could be any Faerie. If you’re here and a King… Pam might already know a Me. There’s one version we’ve heard about where Pam took over for you when you opted to not renew your contract as Sophie-Anne’s Sheriff. She stayed in Shreveport and you ended up being King. She was bonded to my brother.”
“Renew as Sheriff? Who is Pam?”
“Pam is… wait… she didn’t change her name to Pam? Ummmm… Winifred, but that went bye-bye when you turned her. Then Sarah… Is she still going by Liz? Did y’all never go to the states?”
I released her and stepped back shaking my head… more at the idea than the question. “No. We never went to the states.”
“Yeah? What name does she go by now?”
“She doesn’t… she was murdered.” And… there was a version of her still alive? Maybe there was a God.
As calm as she’d been, as collected and casual as her side of the conversation had been, she slapped her hands over her mouth to begin sobbing, “Oh… my… God… What happened? I… How…?”
“I was a mercenary… I was contacted in 1978 to help a King overthrow another Kingdom. She and Appius were taken as insurance. She was killed when Appius tried to escape.”
She moved more quickly than I was prepared for and wrapped her arms around me… “I’m soooooo sorry! I can’t imagine what that’s been like for you!”
“I don’t want your sympathy.” I wanted skips of my own.
She snorted, “Tough… She’s always been your best friend. I can’t imagine losing her…”
“Where do I start trying to find my version of you?”
She stepped back and wiped her eyes. “You… Eric, you can’t skip just to see Pam again…”
I corrected, “Liz. Yes, I can.”
“You wouldn’t be able to keep her though, sweetie… You’d have to reset. Going back always happens. There are versions that have tried to prevent it. The longest skip we know about was one sided. An Eric skipped by himself and was gone for a few nights trying to keep a Sookie from being killed. He went back once he was meant to go back.”
“I don’t care how short…”
“You don’t think that’ll be weird for her…”
“I. Don’t. Care.”
“So you want to meet Your Me and force a bond, just on the off chance you’ll see Liz again.”
“Sookie Stackhouse. Bon Temps, Louisiana. With a name so unique, I won’t need your help.”
Tears were still streaming over her cheeks as she looked up at me… She shook her head and turned to leave the shower. “No… But you’ll need me to explain to the other Me why she should trust you enough… Let’s start with the internet and some phone calls. I need some clues about where to start looking for her.”
“You’re willing to help me track You down and force a bond?”
“You’d find her regardless. I think things would go more smoothly if you had proof you weren’t on crack. You can’t glamour her.”
“I most certainly can… if it means I’ll see…”
She shook her head. “No, sweetie, I can’t be glamoured. It’s part of my telepathy…” As she walked out, she tossed a towel to me. “C’mon. We have a Sookie to find.”
I couldn’t have been more surprised by Sookie’s compliance. I’d all but told her I’d enslave a version of her, if that’s what was needed, if it meant I’d have the opportunity to see Liz again.
I didn’t care how fucking awkward it would be. I needed to see her again. It wasn’t fair that her life had been cut short thanks to her Maker’s futility.
When I left the bathroom, Sookie was sitting on the edge of my bed with my laptop open next to her and my phone to her ear.
“How do you know my password?”
“You change it every few weeks, but it’s always ‘Winifred Dolores’ with the vowels replaced with one, three or zero. Trial and error…”
The phone was answered with a hummed, “Hello?”
“Sook? I’m just getting to the office. What’s up?”
“Not much… Just calling to say hi.”
“Got a question for you.”
“What address do you have for me?”
“Because Lauren was supposed to send me some pictures, but I haven’t gotten them.”
“Off the top of my head I don’t know… I’ll tell her to send another set to the hotel just in case. How’s the baby?”
She snorted, “He’s good. What hotel?”
Jason snorted, “I’m not talking about the baby you married. I’m talking about Linda. Lauren isn’t the only one bad about pictures.”
“Yeah… Sook, you alright?”
“Um… I have a baby named Linda and I work at a hotel.”
“Sookie, you’re scaring me. Where’s Allecks?”
“Why would you ask about Allecks?”
“Because I want him to make sure you haven’t had a stroke! What the fuck is going on?”
“I’m with Allecks Auers. The hotel you meant was The Auershaus… I didn’t… Fuck. I’m in Bern?”
“Yeah. That’s great. I’m hanging up and calling your husband.” He wasn’t just making a threat… he actually hung up on her.
Sookie gulped and looked up at me. “We have a complication. Your Me is married with a kid.”
“I heard, but I don’t give a fuck about her personal life.”
She nodded. “Understandable. I’m just saying it’ll probably take more effort to convince her…”
“Didn’t I just say…”
She stood up quickly and stomped over to stand toe to toe with me. “I get it, okay? I understand why you want to bond with your own Sookie, but I know you’d rather she complied. As much as I love My Eric and Pam, I want it for you. I’m not giving up. I just know it’ll be a little different than I was expecting.” That was exceptionally settling for some reason.
“What were you expecting?”
“I was expecting to hear Sookie was living with her lying, cheating, pecker-headed, Shifter husband in Bon Temps. I wasn’t expecting to actually find out what would have happened if I went back or stayed in Switzerland. Apparently, your Me stayed with the guy I dated the summer I went to Bern after high school. I don’t know the details because I can only ask so much… OH! MySpace!”
“What about it?”
She flopped onto my bed and began typing. “Lauren’s the one who turned me onto it. If she’s… If she’s the same, she might have still turned the rest of the family onto it because she was looking for a way for us to keep in touch. I was in Bon Temps. She’s in Frisco. Hadley was in Tallahassee at the time…” As she typed and searched, Sookie explained, “I went to college in San Francisco so I could stay with my brother and save myself the headaches of paying room and board. I walled up my mind back when I was a kid, so it’s possible Your Sookie still isn’t using her gift. It’s also highly likely Jason doesn’t know he’s an empath, or his son is a telepath… I bet no one knows about Brandon… BINGO! Sookie Stackhouse Auers. Bon Temps High School. Living in Bern, Switzerland… Awww…” She turned the computer to show me a picture of a little blonde girl. “Little Lindy’s precious… Her 6th birthday is in March, so if I had to guess, I stayed in Bern and got knocked up… Does your maid keep spare clothes here?”
“I’d have to ask. Why?”
“Because I can’t necessarily go all the way to Switzerland in this. I need to introduce you to Sookie in at least a pair of jeans and a dry shirt.”