**December 22, 2003**
*Two and a half years later*
For two weeks, my working vacation, I watched Sookie… We were either visiting or working, or had gone our separate ways for what she called ‘grunting time’. Tyson began joking that I was practically sewn to my ‘wee protégé’.
Publically, she was the perfect employee. The attitude that inspired my concerns for her well-being hadn’t been the rule; it had been the exception. She knew her ability and Human nature, and she proved herself to be completely invaluable long before I left London. She knew she was talented, but she didn’t allow her ego to keep her from realizing her limits or admitting to them… To be honest, my contract in Louisiana was the only reason I convinced myself to leave without extending my stay.
Sookie never won her battle of wills against Gawain. I was annoyed until Sookie and I discussed the situation while we ran an errand. As amusing as it was for her to torture him on ‘Foreplay Friday’ and the imagery inspired by the holiday, she rationalized his secret in a way I couldn’t begrudge him for… She reminded me there were some people she couldn’t trust to know about her ability.
As for trying to prove Sookie’s Fae heritage without suffering grundle abuse… I’d resolved to the concept of discussing Sookie’s fears with Adele and proposing that I sample a droplet of blood from the other Stackhouses. I hated the idea of confirming her suspicions, but in the arena Sookie was playing in, ignorance wasn’t bliss; it was a death sentence. But there was a phone call, just a few nights before I was due to return to Louisiana… Sookie was talking to Adele, and Gawain overheard Linda asking for latex gloves so she could cut lemons. As it turned out, Linda could juggle lemons, or wear citrus body wash, but the juice irritated her skin and left a flakey rash. Bingo. I would still need to taste them to confirm that they were something other than Human, but knowing about Linda’s reaction to citrus made the task seem less unnerving. In fact, thinking of a way to sample Sookie’s blood came to me more easily as well… I simply waited for her to misbehave, and pricked her finger, claiming that I was checking to see if she was spoiled.
When I called to tell Sookie what I’d learned after comparing blood samples, her relief came to her in violent tears… Admittedly, I’d thought Asa had been exaggerating her feeling on the matter, but she personified the saying ‘still waters run deep’. She’d mastered the art of hiding pain.
Adele had been waiting for me at the airport when I returned, not just because of the ‘goodies’ I returned with, but the theories regarding the Stackhouses’ genealogy. I was ordered to make myself available for Sunday suppers whenever possible from then on… I would have been lying if I tried to deny that news about Sookie wasn’t a weekly highlight. After three months with Tyson, Sookie came home with a slight English accent she’d accidentally ‘caught’ from the house staff. She suffered a similar effect from living in New York for three months…
I’d been in Bon Temps when Hadley’s water broke, and then when Jason proposed to Marcy.
Sookie was home for Christmas, cooing over her new cousin, and doing everything in her power to distract herself from the fact that Asa was marrying Valerie while he was in Amarillo for the holiday.
After Christmas, Sookie returned to Europe with Asa as though his wedding hadn’t happened. They were, from everything I’d seen and heard, getting on like they always had.
Nicholas was her first referral (through Francesca) and after a month in Rhineland, she worked for Wouter in Saxony for a month. After a vacation with Asa, she spent two months with Rodrigo, sussing out his undesirable employees and contacts, and then she moved on to Florida (with Saâd) and Antilles (with Wyannie). She spent three months in France, replacing nearly everyone, followed by four months in Italy and its annexes. There was a brief stay in Australia with Johan, and another in India with Thomas John… Most recently, Zhang had been lucky enough to have Sookie in China for four months.
She sent letters to me, usually a flashback to one of the hidden notes I’d missed because something reminded her of why she’d written it the first time. She continued the practice of sending accent pillows as postcards, and there was usually a bottle of bubble bath or mud mask for me in the care packages she sent home.
All the while, Sookie came home for at least a couple of weeks between contracts, but the first time she came home without Asa, since his wedding, was between her contracts in Australia and India.
After multiple attempts with insemination, Valerie was pregnant, so Asa had gone to Amarillo instead.
It wasn’t until Adele had taken Sookie to the airport for her flight to Beijing that she told anyone that she’d broken up with Asa a month earlier. She knew he wanted to be with his child and jokingly blamed Adele for not raising her to be selfish enough to keep him to herself… I actually called her. She claimed to be ‘fine’ because she’d known all along that Asa wouldn’t be able to have his cake and eat it too, not forever. She refused to begrudge him for loving his daughter. Even though the child hadn’t been born yet, the draw to go home had taken even him by surprise. I believed her when she told me she considered herself to be lucky to have spent more than five years with Asa, and when they parted ways, they didn’t regret any of the time they’d spent together. At the time I talked to her, she was trying to ignore the temptation to move to Amarillo because Asa and Valerie had both issued the invitation, but she knew better than to think his pack would accept that. She knew she just needed to move on.
My friends, the ones who had been guarding her, hadn’t mentioned the breakup or the fact that Sookie would have needed a new daytime guard. Gawain, Atum, Mee and Simza had all taken turns enjoying Sookie as a charge. She was unanimously voted the most fun Human they’d ever protected, but that might have had something to do with the fact that they’d enjoyed watching Tyson, Maximo, Rodrigo and Clovis make fools of themselves, trying to impress her.
The thing that bothered me the most was the way she’d told Adele, as though ending a five year relationship could be slipped into a visit as a postscript, meant that she was avoiding Adele’s reaction… Just like I’d helped her do when she was little.
She didn’t lose Asa because they stopped loving each other. She lost him because she loved him too much to keep him from his daughter. I spent plenty of time with them, and once I realized he was more than a beautiful statue and he actually had a personality, I was happy for her. I’d even assured Adele that he treated her properly, and offered testimony to the fact that he’d asked Sookie to marry him.
Sookie and Asa’s breakup was the first Human(ish) melodrama I’d ever spent any amount of time pondering… and that said something considering Shawn and Hadley were expecting again.
I’d been expecting to see her. Last Sunday, Sookie’s return to Bon Temps was all Adele could talk about since it had been the longest stretch Sookie had ever been away from home…
I didn’t know what I was going to say to her though… Since she could detect moods, she’d probably know that I pitied her again, that I was proud of her for not coming between Asa and his obligations… she probably wouldn’t realize how many times in the past four months I considered driving to Amarillo to beat the shit out of Asa on behalf of hindsight. If he’d only abdicated beforehand, Sookie wouldn’t have needed to go through losing him to a family he wouldn’t have had. Their only obligations would have been contractual and short term.
As it turned out, the first thing I said to her was, “You aren’t supposed to be home until tomorrow morning.”
I’d gone to Fangtasia as soon as the sun set to tend to paperwork in the peace and quiet… Pam and I had family obligations in Bon Temps for most of the week. When the back door opened, I assumed one of the employees had come to steal liquor for a holiday party, but when I looked up from my invoices, Sookie was smiling at me.
I wouldn’t have expected to see her at Fangtasia anyway, much less after the passage from Beijing.
She was wearing a plush sweater over jeans and a T-shirt… she wasn’t wearing makeup, and she seemed completely exhausted.
She sighed, “What are you up to?”
“I’m clearing out my inbox so I can have tomorrow night free for the Christmas pageant at Sandwich Island, Christmas Eve free to play Santa, and Christmas night free for Christmas dinner. Pam is endlessly amused that Adele convinced me to take part in so many holiday activities and has declared her a saint. We’re only waiting on the papal decree before we make the announcement.”
“So… Where are we at? You and me?”
Not only was her question completely bizarre, but there was something off about her in general. The longer I studied her, the more sure I was that there was something, but less sure about what it was.
“Do I get a hint?”
She nibbled her lip for a moment before asking, “What… Okay, you said I shouldn’t be home until tomorrow. Home from where?”
“Are you feeling well?”
I left my seat, feeling more justified for worrying about her, and furious with myself for not going to China to check on her.
She nodded. “I’m fine…” When she backed away from me, she held her hands up and her tattoo was gone.
I grabbed them, not really thinking, hoping my eyes were playing tricks on me, and realizing that not only was the tattoo gone, but she was wearing a generous diamond engagement ring accompanied by a wedding ring…
“Did you reconcile with Asa?”
“Sookie, you’re actually scaring me. What’s happened? You aren’t acting like yourself.”
She cringed. “I kinda feel a bit weird, but that’s not exactly new… I guess we should have a long talk.”
Yes. Definitely. A long talk was certainly called for after a secret wedding, but…
“I’m tempted to take you to a hospital.”
She shook her head, taking her hands from me. “I’ll pass. I’ve had enough of those. Look…” She shrugged her sweater from her shoulders and…
That’s when I smelled it… Her… Me.
Sookie smelled like me even though I hadn’t laid eyes on her in months.
“Sookie,” I leaned closer to her, touching my nose to her neck as I made sure, without any doubts, that I wasn’t imagining anything. “You smell…”
She breathed, “Like we’re bonded.”
I hadn’t backed away from her enough for it to be considered a polite distance, but…
Her heart started racing and her eyes welled… She whimpered, “Jesus, I miss you,” and lifted her chin to kiss me.
I was so confused, and I thought for a split second that I should call Adele, but what the fuck was I supposed to tell her? Say Sookie was home and suffering some sort of delusions? I couldn’t even begin to guess how the fuck she smelled like me. How the fuck could she be bonded to ME!?
I leaned away, taking her wrists to pull her hands from my hair. “Sookie-”
“You didn’t kiss me back.”
“I’m worried about you.”
She gulped and shook her head. “Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. Just a scary couple of nights and the timing was horrible with you being so far away.”
“Something happened in Beijing?”
She shook her head and leaned towards me, resting her forehead on my chest. “No… Hadley almost died. There was a problem… Shawn called for an ambulance, but his fangs were down because she was bleeding, so when they got there they had him arrested because they were spooked… It was right before dawn… He couldn’t…” She started gasping for air. “Hadley was on life support… he gave her blood… and now we’re waiting… She didn’t wake up, Eric. Why wouldn’t she wake up?”
Why was she asking me? Nicholas’s Morphbaas had invited Sookie to experiment with coma patients at the hospital his wife worked at… Sookie actually passed messages from coma patients to their loved ones, but there were a couple of patients being kept alive for nothing. She knew the difference.
“Have you been to see her?”
She nodded as much as she could with her head buried against my chest, wailing, “True Blood is bullshit! It doesn’t help anyone! It’s completely useless!”
I wrapped my arms around her even though I knew there wasn’t any way to calm her down. “Is Hadley thinking?”
She nodded again. “She wants to see… She’s confused, but she’s in there.”
“If her brain is functioning enough for her to think, then it’s only a matter of time.”
“Shawn’s afraid to give her too much after she hemorrhaged.”
“I’m sure… I’ll take you to the hospital. I’ll look into it…”
She shook her head, tightening her grip on my shirt. “You can’t.”
“They aren’t letting anyone see her?”
She had a chill that made her shudder and she heaved out a ragged breath, “Just family.”
“How much blood has Shawn given her?”
“Only a couple a vials. A few tablespoons. He used a syringe to draw it. We put it in through her IV.”
At Shawn’s age, that wasn’t enough blood to heal much more than a scraped knee, but at least he wasn’t publically opening his wrist.
“Has her bleeding stopped? Is she stabilized?”
She nodded and cried, “No machines. She’s just laying there!”
I pulled her, leading her out of my office to take her to the bar, and leaving her on a barstool…
Cutting my wrist with the knife meant for garnish…
Bleeding myself into a glass meant for margaritas…
Dumping out a bottle of Perrier because it was the most harmless container I could find that was tinted…
It was a crude improvisation, but it was the only way I could think of to give my blood to Hadley.
Sookie stared at the bottle of my blood and sobbed for the duration of the drive to the hospital.
Getting an answer about why she smelled like me would wait, and every other thing about her odd behavior could be explained by how completely devastated she was. As much ‘baby bogarting’ as she’d done with Arianna when she was home, and how excited she’d been to hear that Shawn and Hadley were expecting again, the miscarriage would have been enough of a disappointment without having the added stress about Hadley’s health.
I could wait, even if it was just to give her some peace of mind.
If Hadley’s brain was functioning, and machines were only monitoring her, then the amount of blood I’d given her would cause an immediate, if not complete, improvement…
Of course, then there would be the grieving for the baby.
As I pulled to a stop in front of the hospital, I realized that I was actually disappointed for them. Shawn had surprised me enough that I was incredibly jealous of his circumstances. I couldn’t even begin to guess if he’d have the consolation of eventually being able to try again, but I would eventually remind him how fortunate he was in spite of one loss if it was needed. He was very lucky to have any children given the horrifying childhood trauma to his balls.
Sookie hugged my neck, and told me she wished I could go with her because she needed me… She agreed that if she wasn’t back in half an hour, I should try to glamour my way into the ICU on the fourth floor.
That would be simple… Glamouring a few nurses to ignore my presence. I’d glamoured my way into Area-51 just to settle Pam’s curiosity. I could gain access to a hospital without a problem.
It was the thirty minutes I was supposed to wait that were impossible.
Thirty fucking minutes.
That was all.
Thirty fucking minutes, for a Vampire my age?
That was nothing.
I managed to wait 23 minutes.
I walked into the hospital and followed the signs to the elevator bays, then pressed the button for the fourth floor…
The ICU was defended by a nurse who was so rotund her arms seemed dwarfed, and she was the only one behind the window next to the electronically controlled doors.
“I’m here to see Hadley Ingram.”
“Yous gonna have to be a family member.”
And why the fuck didn’t I think of that before and just come in with Sookie instead of fidgeting in my fucking car?
She raised an amused eyebrow at me and snorted when she laughed, “Church a’Zoolander don’t count, baby. You got ID?”
I nodded and pulled my clergy badge from my wallet to slide it into the feed tray.
She wheezed, “Well I’ll be. You gotta start preachin’ at my church… I might stay awake… Who you hur to see again?”
Her entire body moved when she inhaled and began typing.
“H A D L E Y I N G R A M.”
After a moment she shook her head. “Spell it again.”
“H A D L E Y I N G R A M.”
She shook her head again. “You sure you got the right place?”
“I imagine she could have been moved. Could you check other units?”
“I did that. She ain’t hur… and before you go flipping out on me, if she passed, she’d still be in hur. If she checked out t’day, she’d be in hur. I think you got the wrong hospital.”
“Her cousin is here. I brought her here and was delayed by a phone call.”
“I don’t know what to tell ya, baby. No Hadleys. No Ingrams, ‘less you looking for Maurice Ingram, but he in outpatient.”
Because the rest of my evening hadn’t already been baffling enough.
“Is there a way to page someone? The cousin was very upset. It’s possible she was confused.”
“What’s the name?”
“Any member of the Stackhouse family will be fine.” It was easy to imagine a waiting area nearby where the family would be anxiously expecting updates. Stackhouse wasn’t a common name. Someone would respond.
So. I. Thought.
Coralita called for the Stackhouse family several times and I waited at the ICU entrance for longer than I waited in my fucking car.
I was almost sure I’d be back when I left…
Questioning her competence, I took the elevators to the first floor and asked for Hadley’s room with the patient information desk.
With no other ideas, I tracked her.
Sookie shouldn’t have been difficult to find…
The sliding doors at the entrance… past the patient information desk… down a long corridor…
In spite of the noxiously astringent odor typical of hospitals, Sookie’s scent was still potent enough.
Past the cafeteria… another long corridor… realizing I was headed towards the ‘telemetry’ unit…
Finally arriving in a large waiting room… but it was empty in spite of how strong Sookie’s scent was…
Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, wondering if it was possible Sookie had waited there for news at some point during the day, I looked for clues, traces of the rest of the family…
I found an envelope… nothing more.
On a padded bench just long enough that I could picture Sookie curled up to take a nap.
A yellow greeting card envelope, and it looked I’d written ‘Eric’ on it myself.
What the fuck?
I found a sheet of hospital letterhead inside.
I hate that I didn’t give you any answers, but if you’re reading this, I don’t think you were meant to get any. You are, without a doubt, the Patron Saint of Stackhouse. I’m sorry for being so selfish, and I promise to make it up to you if I ever see you again. Thank you.
Love always –S”
If she ever saw me again?
Where the fuck would she go and what the fuck did she need half of a pint of my fucking blood for!?
Fuck speed limits.
I spent most of the drive to Bon Temps oblivious to everything but the road in front of me, trying to decipher Sookie’s cryptic note. If it was her note. It looked so much like my handwriting Pam might have thought I wrote it. She usually signed her notes to me with an E. More than a dozen fucking postcard pillows were my evidence to that.
I was past upset and worried. I was livid.
I’d been willing to wait for answers, but not anymore.
Someone had just conned me out of my blood… when, in all honesty, she had only needed to ask.
It was Sookie. Not random worthless slag. If Sookie needed my blood for something, if she’d gotten into trouble…
Adele’s house was dark. Her car was gone. And Sookie’s Jeep was gone.
Sandwich Island was bustling, but after passing through the parking lot and studying the interior through the windows, it was safe to say Terry and Lafayette were manning the restaurant for the evening.
Leaving Shawn and Hadley’s house as my next attempt.
And… before I parked my car, I heard singing… Happy Birthday, dear Tucker, Happy Birthday to you!
Laughing, clapping, children bickering over who would get a piece of cake with an icing balloon on it.
Even Auntie Pam was there…
Not at all what one would expect to hear while approaching a house grieving for a miscarriage and a coma.
No pain. No angst. No death. No grief.
Tucker’s birthday party.
I felt like an asshole for it, but when Hadley greeted me in perfect health, wearing a bright smile, I wanted to kill something.
I probably would have if Pam and Sookie were to jump out of the kitchen to shout ‘Happy Asshole Day!’
“Is Sookie here?”
The confused look she gave me answered the question before she offered, “She called from San Francisco an hour ago while she was on a layover. She’ll be home dark and early.”
“You haven’t seen her?”
Her face fell as she shook her head. “No. What’s wrong? What happened?”
“I need some sort of proof that she’s in San Francisco, Hadley.”
“Um…” She stepped back and pushed the door open. “Come on in. I’ll… With all the noise I didn’t hear my cell in time. She left a voicemail, but I called her right back. Background noise, maybe?”
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
I shook my head. “Not until I know where Sookie is.”
I ignored the greeting from the family so I could take Hadley’s phone to the back patio.
Sookie started the message with a sigh, “Jesus, long flight. So, I’m in Frisco. I’m here for three hours. It’s not too bad though. I’ll grab a book from the gift shop and take a long dinner break. I’ve been completely nocturnal with Zhang and Atum for so long I’m not sure I know what to do about that bright-ass orange thing in the sky. I’m just glad Atum wanted to keep Dali until Ubasti was older. I’d hate to have a kitten and a mama cat to deal with right now. Anyway, tell Tucker I’ll take him out to lunch and a movie to make up for missing his party. He’ll be king for a day. He loved it last year, but I still hate missing stuff. I’m glad to be home, or at least closer. Love you guys. See you… not soon enough.”
I replayed the message to listen to the background noise because I’d been distracted by how normal she sounded in the call.
The one-minute message was riddled with proof it was recorded in San Francisco… ‘now boarding’ announcements, several overlapping conversations, including a child screaming in the distance about wanting to see the sharks while a woman tried to explain there wasn’t time to visit the aquarium.
Just to be sure…
I redialed the number, hoping she hadn’t boarded her connecting flight already.
She picked up during the second ring. “Happy birthday, little man. Do you know what movie you’re going to take me to see?”
“Erica, it’s Eric.”
“Oh wow. Hey you. Couldn’t ignore the lure of free cake, huh?”
“I need proof you’re in San Francisco.”
“Want me to bring you a newspaper?”
“No. I need it now.”
She was quiet for a moment, giving me the chance to overhear a television with a San Francisco weather report while she sipped from her drink.
I finally heard her ask, “Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt your dinner, but I’m on a layover and a friend of mine told me I should try to swing by Fisherman’s Wharf while I’m here.”
A man snorted, “Are you going to fly home with a lap full of fish?”
“She likes seals. She wants pictures.”
He groaned, “They’re sea lions. If your friend doesn’t know the difference, don’t risk missing your flight. You won’t get another one this close to Christmas.”
“Very good point. Thanks…” She cleared her throat and asked, “Was that enough or do you need more?”
“That was enough. Are you traveling with a guard?”
“Yeah. He’s flying out of Shreveport towards London right after we land though.”
“Where is he?”
She cleared her throat and sighed, “I put him in a corner.”
“It’s just Miles. You remember him. I picked up a copy of Jane Eyre in the gift shop. That asshat asked me if it was the one about the trashy single mom who went to work for a lawyer to cure cancer. He confused Jane Eyre with Erin Brockovich, so yeah, I put him in a corner. He’s lucky I don’t have a cone hat.”
“Behave…. And be careful. I’ll explain later.”
“That’s all I get?”
“I don’t know anything yet. Hopefully I’ll know more tomorrow night. Lay low once you’re home.”
“You say, I do. Yes sir.”
“Thank you. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
Pam and Hadley had been hovering while I was using the phone, but I would have been surprised if they hadn’t been given my behavior and mood.
“Would it be a major imposition to call a family meeting? Just the adults?”
Hadley left us where we were standing and huffed, “Any damn thing to get some answers. I’ll be right back.”
I listened to the family as Hadley explained that I needed to have a ‘grownup talk’. They quickly served cake and ice cream to distract the children and, one by one, everyone joined me on the porch.
Adele, Linda, Trey, Pam, Jason, Marcy, Shawn and Hadley… Zee was left inside to supervise.
“If anyone feels the need to test my sanity, Pam, Marcy, Trey, Shawn, you’re welcome to sample the interior of my car… I was working at Fangtasia when Sookie arrived. There was something bizarre about her, her demeanor, perhaps, but something wasn’t right. I dismissed it relatively quickly once she began explaining. I assumed she’d returned from China on an earlier flight… She told me something had happened to Hadley, that she began hemorrhaging, that Shawn dialed 9-1-1, and when the ambulance arrived they had Shawn arrested because they were threatened by the panicking Vampire. Hadley was on life support until Shawn gave her some of his blood. It wasn’t enough. Sookie said Hadley’s mind was addled, but intact, and she wasn’t conscious. She also told me I wouldn’t be able to visit unless I was family, which is why I provided several ounces of my blood to-go. I drove Sookie to the hospital myself and waited outside for a while before going in after her. Of course, Hadley isn’t a patient there because she’s in perfect health. I tracked Sookie to a waiting room to find this waiting for me…” I handed the envelope to Adele. “Her trail vanished… Somewhere, there is a perfect Sookie doppelganger with a substantial amount of my blood. The one difference is that her tattoo is missing.”
Pam made the I’m-not-falling-for-it face until she darted from the porch… and Shawn opted to sample the envelope in Adele’s hand.
Pam shouted, “FUCKING HELL!” from the street so loudly that the Humans probably didn’t hear Shawn breathe, “What the fuck?”
Adele was too shocked to whop either of them.
Everyone was still frozen when Pam returned, shaking her head. “Sookie… and tears. Buckets… Are you sure that was her on the phone?”
“I’m more sure of the Sookie I spoke to on the phone than the Sookie I actually laid hands on at Fangtasia. I told you, something was off about her. I couldn’t decide if she’d gained weight while she’d been away, or if she was blonder… But that was another point: she was wearing a bridal set, and when I asked if she’d reconciled with Asa, she didn’t know who I was talking about. She smelled like me… not as though she could have found my resting place, because I would have noticed her scent when I rose, but as though she was bonded to me.”
Pam opened her mouth to say something and closed it again… by the time I stopped her, she looked like a starving goldfish.
“Just say it.”
“I… it sounds like… if you’re sure…”
“Am I supposed to be filling blanks?”
She growled, “Nothing fits unless you’re willing to accept a magical wild card… unless there’s a twin…”
I sighed, “There obviously is a second Sookie, Pam.”
“Right. Okay. Secret-Evil-Twin-Sookie shows up at Fangtasia already bonded to you…”
“I couldn’t feel her.”
“Fuck. Nope. Nothing. I was going to suggest that someone had been bleeding you while you rest.”
“Right. I’d be more tempted to tease you for that asinine idea if it hadn’t occurred to me already. I also considered that she could have been discovered and leveraged to help blood-traders because she has a list of ancient allies as long as my arm. That’s more plausible, but wouldn’t explain how she already smelled like me or how she vanished into thin air… You still haven’t read the note yet either.”
Adele finally looked at the envelope and narrowed her eyes. “This isn’t Sookie’s handwriting. It’s more like yours.”
I nodded. “Agreed… We’ve shared written correspondence, but I’m not sure why anyone would try to pass off my hand for hers.” Unless our ‘-E’ confused them.
Linda nodded. “If she was being forced to write something to you, I could see her mimicking your handwriting as a signal…”
I shook my head. “She sounded fine when I spoke to her just now. Unless we’re assuming there’s a second Sookie, nothing makes sense.”
Jason rubbed his hands over his face as though he was trying to cause a spark. “We have to be. If one Sookie is in San Francisco, and another is in Shreveport, the twin thing is the only thing that… Fuck, it doesn’t make sense, but two Sookies is all we’ve got… And-”
Without warning, Hadley grabbed the front of my shirt and began pulling me from the porch to the garage…
She slammed the door and started, “Did she ask you any questions that seemed retarded or weird or leading? Like about herself?”
“Why do I get the suspicion that you know something?”
She crossed her arms, tightening her sweater to reveal she was showing. “I’m not sure if I do or not. Have you ever heard that pregnant women have weird dreams?”
I nodded. “Are you suggesting I’m pregnant?”
She cackled and slapped my shoulder. “You’re such an ass!”
I wasn’t trying to be funny.
I waited for her to settle down before I urged, “Pregnant women and weird dreams.”
She nodded. “Well, when Shawn and I first decided to try for Ari, they put me on drugs that would encourage things… Like a week later, I dreamt I woke up with myself.”
“It was vivid enough for you to still remember it?”
She tilted her head to the side and sighed, “It’s not every day you see yourself die…”
Hormones? Curious as that was, it wasn’t likely to have any bearing on my encounter with a ‘bonus’ Sookie.
“I know you think I’m nuts to bring it up, but… I… I went to sleep with Shawn at sunrise. I woke up in a pretty little apartment in New Orleans. I followed a trail of blood from the bed to the bathroom. I saw another me laying in the tub with a beautiful little baby boy on her chest. She was surrounded with blood. The weird part was that she didn’t seem surprised to see another version of me. She told me to leave a note for someone named Sophie, and say that she had Hunter sent to stay with Sookie because he’d need her. Sophie would send someone named Mr. C to take care of the rest.”
“Just ‘Mr. C’. She told me ‘Jake’ would help me take the baby to Sookie… It. Was. So. Surreal. That’s all I got from her before she passed out and I checked her pulse, but there was nothing. I called the Jake guy. He came to the apartment. Wolf. He wasn’t surprised to see two Mes either. We drove from New Orleans to Bon Temps, but Gran’s house was closed up. Jake called a friend of his, a cop, and found out Sookie married JB DuRone.”
When she stopped, I asked, “Why does that name sound familiar?”
“Because Sookie dated him for about ten minutes in high school. He was at my wedding… So we tracked her down in Bossier City. She was living there with Gran and her little boy. So… we were just pulling into the neighborhood when Jake got a call from ‘Sophie’. He told her what happened and she said she’d take care of things on her end. Said Mr. C, who’s a lawyer, would take care of the adoption stuff and whatnot… Get this. Sophie was all choked up about the other Me dying, but she didn’t want to talk to me. Jake told me ‘this shit happens’. That I should get used to it. That I should leave the baby, and then Jake would take me back to New Orleans so some cat named Andre could tell me what’s what.”
I repeated, “This shit happens?”
She raised her eyebrows and tilted her head. “Yeah. She was really helpful. I left the baby with Gran while Sookie was at work. I dozed off in Jake’s car, but instead of waking up in New Orleans, I woke up snuggled with Shawn in our bed. Like it never happened… Except… I smelled like Jake and blood. I was wearing the clothes I took from the pretty little apartment… Oh, and it was just then sunset, but it was ten o’clock when I dozed off.”
My first thought was to make sure my mouth stayed closed so I wouldn’t look like an imbecile. There was no fucking way any of that happened.
“You’re suggesting, because you had a surreal dream about yourself, that I could have had a surreal experience with Sookie even though she was thousands of miles away at the time.”
“You said her tattoo was gone. You said she was married. You said she was thicker. You said she was blonder. You said I was on life support… I’m suggesting, because Sookie was at work while I was leaving Hunter with Gran, that it suggests that not only are there two Hadleys, but two Sookies. The way Jake was going on, I think more Mes, at least.”
“How the fuck is that possible? The Hadley you dreamed about was dead. The one Sookie was trying to save wasn’t.”
“Maybe this is a job for that Gawain dude. He’s the guy who pegged us as hybrids. Maybe he knows something. I mean, a duplicate of me, a couple of years ago, and now a duplicate Sookie. We obviously know jackshit about what we are, and since Gawain already knows, there doesn’t seem any harm in asking him.”
“I’d like to think he’d mention the possibilities of Stackhouse doppelgangers… Is there anything else I should mention?”
“I don’t think so, but my wheels were already starting to spin before I caught a glimpse of the note Sookie left you… I remember asking Jake how I’d get home. He complained, told me I should have thought about that before I bonded to a Vampire. He said I’d come home when I was ‘finished’, whatever that meant, and then he started asking me about Shawn.”
“When you were finished?”
She nodded. “And Sookie’s note says that if you’re reading it, you didn’t need answers.”
“Does your family know about your dream?”
“Shawn does… remember how he wouldn’t leave my side while I was pregnant with Ari? It scared the shit out of him to think I could die. I mean, it was pretty foreboding to have a ‘died in childbirth’ dream right after we started lining things up to try. He didn’t want me to be alone during the day.”
I did remember that.
I nodded. “Go fill in your family. I took the wording of the letter with finality. It could frighten Adele… I’ll call that Gawain dude.”
Hadley was just beginning to repeat details of her dream to her family when Gawain answered, “Miss me?”
“Immeasurably. Are you alone?”
He chuckled, “Want to talk dirty? What are you wearing?”
He actually managed to make me chuckle.
“I want to ask your advice on a very peculiar topic.”
“Oh my… I thought I’d be bored tonight… So what is the topic, and why am I your Gal Friday?”
“The topic is a strange visit I had with Erica earlier. The reason I’m calling you is a long shot, but you’re the one who knew about Erica’s heritage.”
After a pause, he offered, “Alright. What was peculiar?”
“She arrived at Fangtasia while I was doing paperwork.”
“What’s peculiar about that?”
“I haven’t seen her in five months, and I’ve never given her my blood, but she smelled as though she was bonded to me… After she vanished into thin air, I discovered that she’s actually on a layover in San Francisco.”
“Erica was in Shreveport and San Francisco at the same time.”
“Since you don’t spend much time in the States, it’s the equivalent of being in Edinburgh and Athens simultaneously.”
“One Erica vanished?”
“I followed her trail to a dead end. She left a note for me, as though she knew I’d find it.”
“Did you flush it down the toilet so no one else could read it?”
“That happened over two years ago. Are you still harping?”
“Yes. It isn’t Asshole Day either.”
“This. Is. Not. A. Prank.”
“Would you be willing to swear on Pam?”
“Let me rephrase…”
He laughed, “Ha! I knew it!”
“Wait. As far as I know, this isn’t a prank. If it is, I’m the dupe. I’d swear to that.”
“Fuck… This is serious. More details.”
“Her tattoo was gone. She’d gained weight. Her hair was lighter…”
“False. I saw her two months ago. Her tattoo was still quite there. Her hair’s slightly darker now because she’s all but nocturnal. She still smells like Atum from being healed.”
“The note said she’d apologize if she ever saw me again. It also said that if I was meant to have answers, I wouldn’t be reading it.”
“What did she want?”
“My blood. She said her cousin had a medical emergency. When Erica vanished, she took some of my blood with her. I’ve since learned that her cousin is in perfect health… Speaking of the cousin though, once I tried to explain the encounter to her family, her cousin revealed that she’d had a similar experience-”
Hadley shouted from the porch, “Eric!” I’d barely stepped into the doorway before she continued, “Jason too!”