Rising alone annoyed me to no end. We never had any warning about when we’d skip, so knowing that I was in Bon Temps where I died didn’t offer many clues.
It was supposed to be another quiet weekend in Bon Temps. Rest, relaxation and a distinct lack of business. Family time without politics. I’d grown too fond of having my weekends off.
The gentle knock on the bedroom door while I pulled my jeans on distracted me from worrying about what reality I was in.
As soon as I uttered ‘hello’, Hunter pushed open the bedroom door wearing his usually happy grin. “Nothing’s wrong.”
“That’s good to hear. Where is everyone? Errands?”
“On the way home. There was an accident on the highway. Jason’s watching me.”
“Has Jason been behaving?”
He giggled. “I’m not his babysitter.”
“Hunter, my friend, you had to talk him out of using a blow torch to get rid of a wasp nest… You should set a rate.”
“I don’t need money.”
“You will eventually… Have you been staying out of everyone’s thoughts?” With only a week left until his birthday, keeping his gifts undisclosed had become priority #1…
His smile and nod were animated. “No hints.”
“Have you already apologized to Arlene?”
He nodded ruefully. “She lied.”
“She said it wasn’t a big deal, but she’s still upset I told Lisa and Coby that about the Tooth Fairy.”
“Sookie said that Coby already knew but was still playing along for Lisa’s benefit.”
“Miss Arlene doesn’t know I’m like Sookie, so she thinks I was robbed.”
“Just avoid mentioning the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus to her children… Humans are funny.”
“You mean about lying?”
“I meant about traditions. Most of them couldn’t explain why they go through most of their own rituals. What do you mean?”
“Coby gets grounded for lying, but Miss Arlene cried because I told him the truth.”
I chuckled as I lifted him to go upstairs. “That too.”
Since Jason had fallen asleep watching television, Hunter and I went to the kitchen table so that I could work from my computer and help Hunter with his school work…
Hunter was working his way through the Norsk alphabet for our trip to Longyearbyen for a week of the Dark Season when we heard someone step onto the porch, then let walk in…
Since I didn’t feel Sookie or Adele, I knew something was not right.
Sending Hunter through the foyer to the saferoom, past whoever was entering the house, wasn’t an option…
“Hunter, get under the table.”
He paused with a puzzled look… “But it’s just…” Even if it was ‘just’ someone we could trust, no one was expected and Sookie was still a few miles away.
Considering that erring on the side of caution was how I’d managed to last for as long as I had, I barked, “Do it. Now.”
He was barely hidden, but he was under the table when I heard the front door close…
Staying right where I was, it only took a minute to finish Hunter’s sentence… ‘It’s just…’ Sookie… She was complaining that the door had been left unlocked and none of the outdoor lights were on.
But My Sookie was still on her way back to the house… only then leaving the highway if I had to guess by her distance…
‘IT’ was happening again. Still no clues as to how it was happening or why, we were experiencing the ‘skips’ frequently… That instance was proof that waking up in the right place and with the right company didn’t necessarily mean that we wouldn’t find ourselves with very confused company.
I was still curious about how Sookie more easily detached from the other versions of us. Sookie didn’t seem to spend a lot of time thinking about them afterwards, but I consistently wondered… wondered if we’d helped or made something worse until we could meet them again. We’d come to the reasoning that Skipping helped somehow. Whether we were on the giving or receiving end of the assistance, it was a tossup… on enough occasions, I helped a Me understand His Sookie more fully while My Sookie helped herself realize that I wasn’t the asshole Bill Compton had described.
Not knowing what to prepare myself for, which Sookie we’d be dealing with, I stayed where I was and put my finger over my mouth as a signal to Hunter when he peeked out from his hiding place. He smiled… the poor boy must’ve thought it was a game.
There was a rustling of bags moving closer and my anxiety made it seem like everything was happening in slow motion.
As soon as she was in the doorway, her mouth dropped and she lost grip of the grocery bags she was carrying…
Explaining wasn’t an option.
I was too preoccupied dealing with my own shock… As the bags crashed to the floor and sounds of breaking glass cut through the frightening silence, Sookie’s body came into view.
Pregnant. Ripe at that.
Knowing of possible Bill related scenarios hadn’t given me any way to prepare for the chance that another Sookie could’ve found a tolerable human… But the brief glance I took at her left hand confirmed it…
Pregnant and married…
We’d thought all along that Sookie being with a Vampire had been the catalyst for skipping… If she was playing house with someone who could give her children, that clearly wasn’t the case.
Hunter whispered, “This is all wrong,” while I stared at the bulge in Sookie’s figure. She didn’t seem to notice his tiny voice or his mind for that matter.
Being horrified left me tongue tied enough that she was the first to react.
With one of her arms held out as a stop, she bent over to fumble for her purse…
She wasn’t strong enough that her hand would’ve helped her if it weren’t for another man’s rings being in the place of mine…
I was speechless. Disturbed. Mortified… Weak. I’d never taken into consideration that Sookie could tolerate a readable mind. I’d never considered that Sookie would want to have children because of the risks of passing on her telepathy…
I was too affected to notice right away that her reason for looking for her purse wasn’t to call for help as I thought. Her objective had been to pull out a gun.
She stood again slowly, her condition impeding her movements. “Who are you? Why are you in my house?”
The only thing that managed to fuel me enough to answer her was feeling My Sookie’s rising panic in response to my mood. “You don’t know me at all?”
“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Eric Northman.”
“Why are you here?”
“Sookie, calm down. I’ll explain.” Or at least try to.
“How do you know who I am?”
“That’s a long explanation.”
She shook the gun nervously, urgently. “Then you’d better start talking.”
Without knowing anything about this Sookie, where the fuck was I supposed to start? “I’m a friend of the family.”
“Not my family.”
“You will most likely have a hard time believing this, but I’ve known you for a while now. You’re a telepath. You grew up in this house with your Gran after your parents died…”
She shook the revolver again, bringing my attention to the fact that the cylinder was quite loaded as she cocked the hammer back. “Wrong! Why are you here?” Wrong?
“I’m supposed to be here…”
“No. You’re. Not. My husband is going to be home any minute.” I reflexively flinched when she said ‘my husband’… those three syllables were full of the conviction that he’d defend her, that she knew he’d keep her safe… that she depended on his protection instead of mine.
“I’ll leave…” I could gather myself, wait for My Sookie, try again…
“Good. Get out!”
As soon as she said what she needed to, my un-invitation was forcing me to the door, causing Hunter to panic. The boy shoved a chair away from the table so that he could get to me and Sookie was startled enough to fire.
The pain radiating from my shoulder as I was pulled towards the front door was a relief… even the searing sensation screaming through my body that I’d been hit with a silver bullet gave me some peace… only a fraction of a second later and it would’ve gone into Hunter’s back…
She dropped the gun to the floor and clasped her hands over her mouth at the idea that she’d almost shot a child… and reeled back when it dawned on her that she’d just shot a Vampire.
Hunter’s face was just as soaked with his tears as his clothes were drenched with my blood when we crossed the threshold and I only barely managed to keep myself from stumbling back over the steps while carrying him.
Jason was scrambling out to meet us, still confused by waking up to a gunshot and only glancing at Sookie on his way to Hunter and me.
He didn’t seem to notice that he’d shoved by his swollen sister, but she certainly noticed him… The look she gave him didn’t make it seem like he should’ve been there any more than I should.
He tried to pull Hunter away from me enough to see where the blood was coming from. “What the hell is going on? Is that Hunter’s blood!?”
Still trying in vain to ignore the pain, I hissed, “She shot me.”
“Who the fuck gave Sookie a gun?”
“Her husband… we’re having some confusion again…” I moved Hunter to hold him with my more competent arm. I might have had Jason take him if the boy hadn’t already taken refuge in my bubble. “…Can you see the bullet?”
Jason grimaced as he started to inspect the wound, apologizing for having to rip an already ruined shirt so that he could see the hole better.
Sookie called from the porch, her voice shaking. “Jason? You know him?”
“You silly bitch! Yes, now invite him back in. I can’t see for shit out here!”
“He’s a Vampire though…”
“And he’s bleeding all over a baby. ASK. HIM. IN…” Hunter would’ve kicked Jason for calling him a baby.
“You’ve lost your mind if you think I’m dumb enough to…”
“Well, you’re dumb enough to shoot a guy holding a kid… Gran would fix this problem with the belt and you know it! Let them in!”
Sookie didn’t issue the invitation again until she’d gone back for the gun which only served to piss Jason off. While I situated on a kitchen chair, Jason yanked the gun out of her hand and tossed the bullets into the yard before handing the gun over to her again.
Jason practically ran to my side while Sookie stood in the doorway with her empty hand resting on her stomach. Even with the agonizing needles of a silver wound spreading from my gunshot, the picture of Sookie’s state was still exasperating.
Jason took a flashlight from a drawer to inspect the wound. “I know it’s only been a minute, but I thought you heal fast?”
“It would be mostly healed already if the bullet weren’t silver. The wound won’t start to heal until it’s out.”
Jason winced sympathetically. “How far away is everybody?”
“Not far… I need you to dig it out while they’re still gone… Sookie should be as far away as possible.”
“Aw shit. She’ll feel it more and God knows if you put Hunter down to do it yourself, he’ll freak out.”
I nodded. “All things considered, Alcide would have more fun doing it.”
He turned around to start looking through drawers and eventually found a pair of pliers. He took them to the sink to wash them. “You mean since you sent his dad a poker set?”
“I was promoting the idea of playing among friends for pocket money instead of with real gamblers… Flood was still laughing when he called me… Why are you washing those? It’s not as though I can get tetanus.”
He turned around, flinging the water off of them. “I don’t know. Damn! Maybe I’m not all that used to digging bullets out of people!”
“You’ll do fine. Just get it out. Sookie’s almost home.”
He cringed as he got closer and balked just before the pliers touched me. “This is gonna hurt like a sum’bitch.”
“Removing it won’t hurt as much as the silver being lodged inside my arm. Just dig it out.”
He snorted, leaning in and finally trying to get to the wad of silver. “Like it ain’t no big deal. Check the mail while we’re out of town, watch the kid so we can run to the mall… that shit ain’t no big deal… Shove some rusty ass pliers into my arm and dig out the silver bullet your sister put there… that’s a big fuckin’ deal, dude…” He grunted an apology when the pliers slipped and hit bone, but he didn’t waste any time losing his composure, that much could be said for him… “You paying attention to how close Sookie’s getting?”
“I couldn’t ignore her if I tried. She’s terrified. She’s probably reading the riot act to Alcide for not driving faster. They’re close… This side of town.” Jason ignored that our company corrected me, claiming that we were ‘high’.
“How many times you been shot, man? You’re taking this shit like a boss.”
“I stopped counting.” His nod caught my attention for some reason and the look on his face made me want to find a joke… but since every fucking move he made gave me the urge to pull something apart while Hunter was in my arms, nothing came to me.
The probing… every time the pain from the silver seemed to ease, the pliers would cause a shift, giving the silver a fresh area to burn.
Every pull only seemed to make the misery spread and there was nothing to do but wait for him to finish. While Jason labored, he continued to ramble nervously… He barked at the gun-toting version of his sister about how he should make her tend to my wound since she was always better at playing Operation. He told her that her husband was a ‘tee total fucking-tard’ to give her a gun if she wasn’t smart enough to know a threat when she saw one. And he admonished her for getting blood on Hunter’s homework.
There was a sudden spike of pain, ripping, pulling, burning… the sounds of air rushing into the wound as the bullet was finally freed wasn’t the worst I’d ever heard, but gruesome nonetheless.
The pain immediately began to wane with the silver gone.
Jason hovered. “Better?”
“Much. It’s already healing. Thank you.”
He nodded, putting the bullet in his palm to study it for a moment… he grunted ‘good’ and then hurled the bullet at Sookie with enough accuracy that she didn’t dodge it in time… He’d ruined her white sweater with a smear of vampire blood.
“Asshole! Now that you’re done playing nurse to the Vampire, care to explain why you’re even here?”
“No! I don’t care to explain! You don’t get an explanation when you almost shot Hunter and DID shoot Eric! You’re lucky I don’t knock you on your fat ass!” I couldn’t help myself. I laughed. I’d only wondered for a moment why he didn’t react to seeing Sookie pregnant… It was because he thought this Sookie was just overweight. Maybe if he’d called her fat before he removed the bullet I wouldn’t have been so amused, but as it was, the look on her face was priceless.
“I’m not exactly happy about being shot, but what would you have her do? She has no idea of who I am. Hunter startled her by lunging for me when I was uninvited.”
“You’re not pissed!?”
“If My Sookie came home to find any stranger in the kitchen, I’d be pissed if she didn’t go for a weapon. You would be too… And she’s not fat.”
His lip curled. “Alright. That’s a little more crazy than usual. I mean, 20 pounds is one thing, but she plumped out all in one place…” He stopped mid-sentence wearing a strained look while he caught up. Waiting for it… waiting for it… “FUCK! Pregnant!?”
He turned to look her over again so she nodded. “I know it’s been a few months since you saw me, but you know I’m pregnant.”
“How the fuck…? You’re having a kid with… who? JB’s the only guy I know dumb enough to give you a gun… And why would I go ‘months’ without running into…”
Jason interrupted himself to look at the front door as he heard the gravel crunching in the driveway announcing Sookie’s arrival.
My Sookie came into the house so quickly that she was standing over me before the front door bounced off of the wall. The pregnant one began to wilt… I watched as she slid down the wall to her knees. “What happened? Are you alright?”
“Knowing that I was injured, I’m more worried that you’d barge into the house without checking for threats.”
My Sookie couldn’t have cared less that our visitor was very pregnant (if she even noticed). She was too busy helping me to understand Adele’s complaints about ‘fuss’ while Adele and Alcide came into the house at a more Human speed. “You’re fine now. You wouldn’t be if there was something I needed to worry about. Now, what happened? I felt like someone was taking an iron to my arm.” Fitting description.
“This Sookie has no idea who I am, so she was defending herself with a gun. She only fired because she was startled. It was only complicated by the bullet being silver. We should do our best to clean up before reviving Hunter, I think.”
Jason didn’t wait for his sister to order him because she wouldn’t have been gentle in her worried state. He turned to go to the back of the house mumbling that Hunter would be pissed that his favorite shirt was ruined.
Adele announced that she would start mopping and began trudging through the kitchen.
“Gran? Is that you?”
Adele stopped to look down at a very confused Sookie while Mine used scissors to cut Hunter’s clothing off. “Yes baby, it is. We’ll sit down and get straightened out in a few minutes. Are you feeling ok?”
Sookie shook her head. “Other than a Vampire, another me and my dead grandmother being in my kitchen… Yeah. Fabulous…” Alcide made himself useful by offering a hand to help her up. “…Who are you? The ghost of Christmases Yet To Come?”
He was not amused. “The big bad wolf. Give me that.” He snatched the gun out of her hand and put it on top of a cabinet out of her reach.
“Uhhhh, my husband should be home any minute with the kids…”
My Sookie finally acknowledged her double. “You have more? You mean you don’t shoot at every kid you see?”
“I didn’t… I didn’t mean to shoot at all! I didn’t even know the kid was here!”
“Well Pop N Fresh, I’m sure your asshole husband will be happy to know you can at least work a gun better than a condom.” I couldn’t help but laugh at how nasty My Sookie being… I wasn’t the only one. Adele made a choking noise while she filled the mop bucket and Alcide held his fist over his mouth.
“He just wanted me to be safe. He doesn’t like me not being protected…”
“Good for him. It’s a real sign of chivalry that he wanted you to have silver rounds too.”
“Sam didn’t tell me they were silver. I wouldn’t know the difference anyway.” Sam? Sam Merlotte?
Alcide snorted. “Figures that chicken shit Shifter would make sure she was armed…”
“Wait, you know him? What’s a Shifter?”
Crickets. The first time I heard Pam use the expression, I made the mistake of asking for clarification. I was forced to watch Michigan J Frog clips on YouTube until she found the one she was looking for to explain. ‘Crickets’ apparently meant a long, dramatic, awkward silence. That Sookie was married to a Shifter and had no fucking clue what a Shifter was… That she had bred with a Shifter and had no idea… If anything deserved ‘crickets’, that would’ve won the prize.
My Sookie was the first to think of something. “Sam… Merlotte?”
“Yeah. How do you know him?”
Alcide was next. “Are the kids his or…”
“YES! They’re his! Of course they’re his!”It might’ve been better if they were the mailman’s.
My Sookie shook her head. “Did you bother telling him that you’re a telepath or are your kids walking genetic time-bombs?”
She tensed and looked like she might cry. Her lack of answer, eye contact for that matter, was answer enough.
Sookie blurted, “That’s just unfuckingbelievable!” Alcide looked just as pissed at the situation as Sookie did.
“What!? How do you know him? What is a Shifter? Why is Jason here? How is my grandmother alive? What the hell is going on here!?”
Her questions were all but ignored for the time being so the mess could be taken care of.
Redressing and washing my blood from Hunter without making him break contact had been more of an undertaking than we’d thought and My Sookie and I found ourselves laughing about it even if the rest of the situation we were dealing with was as far from funny as anything that came to mind. I’d thought to ask if she’d dozed off while she was stuck in traffic, but both Sookie’s confirmed that they hadn’t slept at any point during the day… shooting down our theory that being at rest was a factor.
Once my blood and our visitor’s groceries had been cleaned up, everyone gathered and made themselves as comfortable as possible.
Hunter refused to leave my lap after the trauma he’d suffered, but no one had really expected any differently… Telepathy had proven to come with a stubborn streak as well as a preference for Vampires. The two telepaths in my life joked too often about who I ‘belonged to’.
My Sookie was sitting as close to me as she could without being in my lap and Alcide made it a point to stand between our company and the gun he’d relieved her of.
Adele led the conversation, bright eyed and as chipper as she ever was when she had the promise of learning something new. “How did I die?”
The other Sookie scoffed, “You don’t know?”
“Of course not. I’m perfectly fit obviously, but I’ve been murdered by a serial killer and died of a heart attack in other versions.”
“Other versions? What the hell?”
“Yeah. Since Sookie’s a telepath and Eric is a Vampire, the two of them being together makes this weird thing happen. They’ve seen other versions of ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’. The rest of us have seen it a few times though. Everything’s going to be fine. It’ll all go back to normal on its own. So out with it. How’d I die?”
She stared at Adele blinking wildly. “So this isn’t real?”
“Of course it is. We’re pretty sure that all of them are. Am I gonna have to whop you to find out how I died in your version?”
“You died in a car accident. You were babysitting me and Jason when we were little and the bridge washed out after you dropped us off. You drowned…” The biggest of all the differences so far… nearly 20 years rather than the single year that had already held the record. “…Did that… I mean, did you live through it or did it just not happen…?”
Adele shook her head, misty eyed. “No… for us, your mother and father were the ones who were in that accident on their way to pick you up.”
She shook her head. “Mom died last year. She was a drunk for years and drowned in the tub… Dad’s good though… they’d been divorced for a long time…”
Jason mangled his face in an attempt to hide that his eyes were watering over the idea of not losing his parents. “Who raised you?”
“I lived with Mom and Calvin, my stepfather… He’s sweet as he can be… You mean… You don’t have a half sister?”
“No. Our parents died in that river. Gran raised us.”
“Well, Beth is weird, but teenagers just are. I’m… I… I’m supposed to be taking her Christmas shopping tonight. How the hell am I supposed to… I guess I’m not going out to Hotshot tonight if…”
“HOTSHOT!?” Alcide’s sudden outburst made the pregnant Sookie jump.
“Yeah. That’s where Calvin and Beth live…”
“Your stepfather is Calvin Norris? You were raised in Hotshot?” Oh shit. Adding to the mountain of naiveté she was suffering… She was raised by a Were and had no fucking clue that she was married to one…
“Well, yeah. Since I was 11. Why?”
Alcide shook his head. “You know, I think I’m going to be sick.”
Adele cleared her throat. “What about Linda?”
“Daddy moved her in with him when she got sick. Cancer. She didn’t make it though. Hadley’s coming down with the kids for Thanksgiving.”
That got Hunter’s attention. “She has kids?”
“Yeah… Misty and Jenny. I haven’t seen them in two years, because they live in Arkansas. Jason’s even coming home from California with his family… Lauren and their son Junior.”
More silence. The Stackhouse family had become aware of how differently their lives could’ve been, but hearing such a drastic difference was even troubling for me. Adele was overwrought… no doubt thinking that her death would’ve prevented the death of her son and granddaughter. Since our first bizarre confusion, Adele had thought of the circumstances as amusing. That clearly wasn’t the case any longer.
Sookie had finally had enough. “How is it that you’re so fucking stupid? How do you not know the difference?”
“Difference in what?”
“Brains. How don’t you know that Calvin and Beth, your lying sack of shit husband, your kids… How do you not know that they’re different?”
“I… I don’t know… Some folks are just different… I don’t listen anyway. I haven’t listened in years.”
“My mom… she sent me away when I was little because she thought I was crazy. There was a nurse at the home. She was the only one who believed me… She taught me how to sort of build up a wall. I never would’ve gotten through high school without it either. I still call her once in a while to keep in touch. I haven’t seen Claudine in years though.”
“Stupid bitch… How old were you? You didn’t think anything of the fact that not only was she the only person to believe you, but she knew you could block thoughts? That she knew you had shields at all? What the crispy fuck?”
“I was only 10! I’ve thought about it, but I decided to just be grateful for it! I would’ve been crazy without her help!”
“No. No you wouldn’t. Gran didn’t send me to some nuthouse and I was fine. There were times when I thought it might make me nuts, but I managed. And now, in all your infinite wisdom, you’re raising kids who you’ve never read. They could be hearing every thought for miles and you wouldn’t know.”
“I doubt it.”
“You should’ve listened.”
“Because your children have a lot more to deal with than just being telepaths.”
“Do you… Do you know something?”
Sookie leaned over the table. “I know that I was raised by Gran, who is the only person that ever believed that I wasn’t crazy. It was the only thing that got me and Hadley away from Uncle Bartlett. I know that Vampires are an amazing break from having to listen to other people’s thoughts constantly. Because I’m with Eric, I know that you were raised by a man who isn’t just different because he’s sweet. I can tell you that your half sister isn’t just weird because she’s a hormonal teenager. I know that the next time I see the Sam Merlotte I know, I’m going to kick him in his lying nuts on principal alone. You NEED to listen, sweetheart, because you’ve been lied to for a long time.”
“I don’t understand. What’s the big deal? Everyone has secrets.”
“Not around me they don’t. And the secrets that have been kept from you are doozies, lemme tell ya. He’d want to be with you anyway, but kids are a huge issue.”
“Do you not like kids or something?”
“Love kids. Happy as hell to hear that your Jason and Hadley are enjoying their families… but I’m not interested. I have Hunter. I’m good.”
“Is that just because you’re with a Vampire though?”
“No. It’s because I wouldn’t want to risk passing my peculiar genes on… It’s the same reason that Alcide isn’t interested in having any.” At least she confirmed that much for me. It didn’t register as a lie, but… knowing how much Hunter embraced his ability because he had the benefit of being around others like him, her reasoning didn’t make much sense… unless it was just something Sookie had gotten used to telling herself.
She looked over to him. “You’re a telepath too?”
“No. I’m a Wolf.”
“Oh, har har.”
“Really. And if your husband wasn’t such a lying douche, you wouldn’t think I’m joking…” Perfect timing… Alcide stopped himself so that we could all hear a car coming up the driveway and My Sookie gave him a nod to confirm it was Merlotte. “You know what? Never mind. Watch. Prince Charming isn’t going to say jack shit about Jason being on the wrong coast. He’s going to be staring me down like looks can kill.”
Sam walked into the kitchen with a small child on each hip without taking his eyes off of Alcide long enough to notice me or another version of his wife. While Adele seemed excited to see the children, My Sookie and Hunter exchanged sad looks.
“Hey honey, are you going to introduce me to your company?”
“Uh… Sam. I’m not sure I can.”
“What? Why not?”
My Sookie was angry enough to not care about how he took the information. “Because you lying, shifting son of a bitch, you’re our company.”
He finally took his eyes from Alcide to realize he was in the company of others. “Sookie?”
“Yeah. I’m a different version of the Sookie you know, but I’m still Sookie. Mind explaining why you’d let her marry you without telling her what you are, let alone passing your genes on to your oldest there?”
“Passing… What the hell is going on? Why is the Sheriff here?” Hunter started giggling that I was still a sheriff, teasing me about my ‘promotion’.
Adele smiled at Sam, standing and offering to take the children to Hunter’s room to play. While the other Sookie agreed and told ‘Tina and Shelly’ to play nicely, Hunter’s giggle became a full laugh. “They want Eric to go with us.”
“I should stay here.”
“I know, but they like you.”
My Sookie nodded. “Yeah. There’s something peaceful about you.” Her bitter tone confirmed that their interest in me was how quiet my mind was. She was scowling at the children’s mother.
Hunter stared at Tina as he slid from my legs, so that Sookie could take his place. “They say Junior is like them too.” The whole family?
Paulette and Porter were going to have a field day with that information. Pam had been collaborating with them for months over the theorem that there was a Witch in the Stackhouse woodpile.
Without his children in the room, Sam stood against the sink with his arms folded over his chest and stared at all of us in turn. “Do you think I can hear what the hell is going on now?”
My Sookie snapped, “Maybe we should wait five fucking years until someone forces us to explain.”
“What are you talking about? Sookie, what is she talking about? Who the hell are you people? Why are you in our house? How the hell did the Vampire get in? Tell me you weren’t dumb enough to invite him.” His appreciation for Sookie wasn’t even better when he was married to her.
My Sookie shook her head. “Our house. Look around. Your things aren’t here. Your kids’ things aren’t here. You came to us. YOU have a lot of explaining to do.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean. Calvin has an excuse because he isn’t blood and it wouldn’t affect her, but you got her pregnant and she’s on baby #3 having no clue that Tina is a Shifter.”
His jaw hit the floor and Alcide snorted out a laugh.
“What does Sookie think you do for full moons?”
He gaped at her, shaking his head slightly.
“How the hell do you plan on explaining Tina’s teens?”
“That’s none of your business!” He looked furious enough to hit her… It would make sense… after all, it was all My Sookie’s fault that he’d been lying to his wife for years. Perfectly reasonable.
“Sure it is. Even the version of you I know lied about who you were until you were outed. Come to think of it, yet another version of you hid it until you accidentally revealed yourself. Out with it… for that matter, Sookie, why don’t you just go in and get it instead of waiting for him to say it.”
Sam shook his head. “Seriously. What the hell is going on?”
“You’ve stumbled into another version of your wife’s life. My Gran raised me after my parents died in the accident that killed her instead. Hadley was turned into a Vampire four years ago when she had Hunter. That was only a year after Linda died of cancer. Jason hasn’t even dated a girl named Lauren, nor does he have any kids. I only ever worked for you as a waitress until I met Eric. We’ve been together for a few months. Bonded. It turns out that Hadley’s boy is just like me. A telepath. I can read minds. I’ve been able to read minds for as long as I can remember. You were always different to me, but Eric is the one that had to tell me why. Now explain to your wife what a Shifter is so that she has about ten years to adjust before Tina shifts.”
“I didn’t want to lie about it.”
“Were you just hoping that your kid wouldn’t change?”
The other Sookie yelled, “CHANGE HOW!? So help me, Sam! I can’t believe you lied to me!”
My Sookie laughed at her. “Sweetheart, just because he hasn’t said something yet, doesn’t mean he’s not tripping over your little lie. I mean, granted you haven’t been reading minds all this time, but you have no less than 2 babies who will never be surprised at Christmas. You’re just as guilty as he is.”
“Will one of you please tell me what the hell a Shifter is!?”
Sam huffed. “I shift. I’m a Shifter. I can turn into an animal.” Such an artistic approach. Even I was better at sugar-coating than that. And nevermind that it only took him 2 seconds to tell her.
“Really. Those fishing trips I go on with Calvin every month… I joined their pack when we got engaged.”
“You turn into an animal. Like… are you trying to convince me that I married a Werewolf?”
“No. There’s a Werewolf behind you though. I can turn into whatever… Werewolves are stuck with wolves. I’ve been turning into a Panther because that’s what Calvin is. The whole pack.”
“Pack? You’ve got to be shitting me!”
“When you told me that you were pregnant with Tina, I just hoped she wouldn’t be a Shifter too… We could have ten more kids, but the damage is done. She’s the only one that’ll shift.”
“Well, the other kids could have kids that change, but only if the other parent is a Were.”
“Well, maybe I should just hope that their husbands would tell them something like that! Seriously, Sam, what if something happened to you!? How the hell would Tina manage!?”
My Sookie cleared her throat to get their attention. “Uh, idiot! They already know!”
The other Sookie and Sam jerked their heads in her direction. “What!?”
“They. Read. Minds. They’ve been reading minds all along… You’ve never noticed how damn quiet they are? They’re communicating telepathically. As soon as Sam came in, Shelly thought to Tina that Alcide ‘thinks like Daddy’. And the reason they listened to Eric was because Hunter told them to ‘check it out’ when he introduced everyone. Hell, I’ll bet that once in a while, you wonder what they’re staring at because they forget to say things out loud.”
The two of them shared an unhappy ‘that would explain things’ look before Sookie started crying and laid her head down on the table. “I didn’t know. Jason is normal. Hadley is normal. I didn’t even think about it.”
Alcide growled, “At least you have a better excuse. The kids can CHOOSE to not read minds.”
“Tina can’t avoid changing?”
Even though it was obvious that Merlotte should explain, Alcide was the one to answer her when Sam seemed to refuse. “No. Since she’s only half Shifter, she’ll only have full moons to deal with. Unless there’s extra Faerie weirdness involved. God only knows about that shit.”
Sam shook his head. “What do Faeries have to do with anything?”
“Sookie’s part Fae… that’s where they’re assuming the mind reading comes from…”
My Sookie nodded in agreement. “Gran’s thoughts are normal though. I’m still hoping that we’ll run into a version where Grampa’s still alive to get some clues.”
Sookie Merlotte went over to her purse and pulled out her wallet. “I never noticed anything different…”
“You were raised by a Were too though.”
“I knew they were different, I just figured there were different types… Since he’s been dead in your version… Here ya go… that’s Dad and Grampa with Jason and Junior. Four generations of Stackhouses. He died a couple months later. Junior is the only one of the great grandkids that met him.”
Sookie passed the wallet to Jason and giggled, “He’s so old… 20 years makes a difference I guess.”
Jason gave a confused look. “Which one?”
“Both of them, I guess…”
“Hey Sookie, you got a picture of Lauren?”
Sookie Merlotte shrugged, “Why? You want to look her up?”
“Naw. I want to avoid her. That’s an ugly fuckin’ kid.”
She shrieked, “HE. IS. NOT!” Yes he was.
Jason argued, “Looks like a cross between Mr. Potato Head and Yoda.”
“HE. DOES. NOT!”
“You gotta say that because he’s your nephew and all. That ain’t my kid. All I have to do is make sure that face doesn’t end up on my Christmas cards.” He shuddered as he stepped back.
I laughed at him. “Pam would be beside herself to hear you say anything about settling down anyway.”
“She’ll have to deal with it. We can’t be each other’s wingmen forever.”
“I think that’s exactly what she has in mind.”
“She. Ain’t. Turnin’. Me. Not until they make beer flavored blood… Ooh speaking of which…” He reached into the fridge and tossed beers back to Alcide and Sam and keeping one for himself.
Sam thanked Jason with a nod. “So… not for nothing… how the fuck do we get home if this isn’t our place?”
Alcide threw his bottle cap at Sam’s head. “You let Gran play with her grandbabies and feed them dinner… Then y’all put them to bed and settle in. You’ll reset on your own. In the meantime, we’re fucking stuck with your ass.”
“Me? You say that like I’m excited to be here with Northman and… who the fuck are you?”
“Alcide Herveaux. Sookie’s guard.”
Sam shot a look to My Sookie. “Why the hell do you need a guard?”
“Ummm… I’m a very powerful telepath who dances in Vampire political circles. I’m safe just belonging to Eric, so Alcide being my guard is kind of like having a friend who’s paid to take me shopping.”
When Pam and Paulette joined the fray, Alcide’s mood improved. Paulette greeted her boyfriend, he pointed into the kitchen. “Everything’s Skippy.”
Paulette lit up as she came into the kitchen. “This is so exciting. I haven’t seen one yet!” Bright as ever.
Alcide snorted, “Exciting is a good word… Until you consider that Fat Sookie shot our Eric. Turns out She’s married to Sam and She just found out He’s a Shifter…”
Without warning, my pleasant, kind hearted day-girl scowled at him and started muttering under her breath in Latin.
Never. A. Good. Sign.
Alcide cleared his throat so that he wouldn’t laugh. “Sugar, what are you doing?”
She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Flaccidity spell.”
Even though Sookie had been on my lap, I was the first one out of the room with Jason and Alcide on my heels and Sam yelling his appreciation for the back-up.
Yes, I was cowering. I’d seen what Paulette could do. I was leaving nothing to chance.
Alcide had an attack of conscience and shouted towards the kitchen (from our hiding place in the back hallway), “Paulette, I think that might be overkill! In all fairness, Fat Sookie didn’t tell Him She’s a telepath either.”
“You’re just afraid I’ll get you too!”
“That’s not the point!”
“What is the point?”
“Um… What if you get the baby? It’s not his fault his parents are lying assholes!”
A Sookie yelled to the back, “It’s alright! It’s another girl!”
Sam growled, “Would you shut up!”
Alcide turned to look at me. “His own wife?”
I shrugged. “He kept a big secret.”
Alcide seemed to give up his defense of Sam’s masculinity and yelled. “Alright! When you’re done I’ll be in Hunter’s room, playing with Sookie’s kittens.”
Paulette squealed, “BAY beeeez! Why didn’t you just say so?” as she ran to the back of the house.
Adele’s Shoo Fly Pie was blamed for why Tina and Shelly were unable to settle down. Even though the house was much quieter once Pam and Jason left to ‘test drive’ a new bar in Minden and Alcide and Paulette went home, the fact that there were 5 telepaths under one roof wasn’t helping…
While the Merlottes sat in an awkward silence, Sookie and I listened to Hunter coach them to focus on my mind to help them relax.
On more than one occasion I felt all but battered by the swells of rage Sookie was having, so I was anxious to hear what Merlotte had been thinking to cause so much insult.
The usual skips offered a typical silence or two while My Sookie explained something to her other self telepathically. I’d come to be able to identify the sensation easily. It was as though she was in both places at once as far as the bond was concerned. That time, she didn’t even seem to make the attempt.
She was livid and I was in a holding pattern, waiting for our company to leave so that I could find out why.
She finally had enough after nearly an hour… She left my side, grabbing a handful of his hair on the way by him and used it as a leash to drag him to the front yard… ‘Fat Sookie’ and I followed and watched as she punched his nose and kneed his groin.
“Listen, you piece of shit… Not only do you have no business thinking about what I do with a man who never lies to me, but your fucking kids are trying to go to sleep… Instead of thinking about Halloween costumes, they’re watching their mommy fuck a stranger in your mind! Knock it the fuck off.”
“They can hear that!?”
“Yeah. They can hear you better than your wife can, but since I WASN’T raised by someone who thought I was crazy and I’m NOT with a man who treats me like an idiot, I’ve been getting plenty of practice!”
He barked back, “That’s where you’re wrong. You aren’t with a man at all!”
I chuckled when she punched him again.
‘Fat Sookie’ stood next to me, watching her husband get his ass beaten ‘by a girl’. She whispered, “Sorry, I shot you.”
“I don’t blame you for defending yourself. I know you didn’t mean to fire.”
“I’m still sorry about it.”
“Then apology accepted.”
“Thanks… If a telepath just walked in off the street and offered to read minds for you, would you hire them?”
“Are you asking if your version of me would hire you?”
“Yeah. I guess.”
“I’d audition you first, but I’m sure I would.”
“Thinking of getting some practice?”
“No. I’m thinking that when I throw Sam out on his lying ass, I’ll need a job.”