Driving The Point Home
No sooner than Sookie closed her phone, Pam whistled to her… and Sookie responded by tossing Trout’s phone and her own so that Pam could retrieve whatever information she could find.
Julian’s mouth hung open and his eyes didn’t seem to want to point in the same direction. “What’s going to happen to me?”
Sookie stared at him for a few moments to gather information. “I’d be more worried about what could happen to your wife and kids… Your house… You being on TV makes things interesting. Imagine the scandal when your daughter claims you molested her. No one would ever believe that a vampire glamoured her to believe it. Would Chanel 7 have the courtesy to ignore that headline? There are worse things than being hurt. You should be more worried about being ruined. Play nice and do what Salome asks when she calls and you’ll be fine… How were you paid?”
He breathed out a deep breath. “Uh… cash. It was left for me with the concierge at the Delacroix where we were staying.”
“Was being hired the only time you were contacted?”
“No. He contacted me from another number, his ‘private line’, but when I called him after the storm rolled through Baton Rouge, it wasn’t in service…”
“Were you ever contacted by someone personally?”
The witch directed his frown at the pail of peanuts on the table. He shook his head, obviously crushed under the weight of what an easy target he’d been. Pam let another little whistle and fired the cell phones back to Sookie. They were easily caught and Pam was quietly thanked. It was amusing to watch… It was as though the two of them had been working together as long as Pam and I had…
“Did Mickey have any kind of accent?”
He shook his head. “Nothing… I never saw him. I never picked up a hint of an accent. I never… I thought I was earning some cash to add to college funds. I was paid $100,000 to break what would’ve cost them millions to repair out of pocket. I thought I was helping someone out…” Paulette cast a knowing glance my way, but it wasn’t necessary. I already understood why she and Porter were reluctant to do any damage with their abilities. Not only were they too honorable to want to hurt anyone, they were smart enough to know they could be tricked.
Sookie nodded. “I know… Your wife is on her way back… Sorry about her purse, I just needed to get her out of the way so we could talk.” Sookie stood up taking her drink with her and went back to the table with everyone else…
They made a show of clapping, cheering and whistling… celebrating Sookie’s discovery and talent for connecting dots. Alcide went to the point of leaning back in his chair with his arms out and his eyes squeezed shut. “Go ahead. I bet you a free shot that there wasn’t anything to the AC being out… You were right. Get it over with.” She all but ignored him.
Sookie wasn’t celebrating.
She still wasn’t sharing her emotions with me and the only way to describe her appearance would be to call it downtrodden.
Jason cocked his head to the side like a curious puppy. “Sook, I know your wheels is turning. What’s up? You should be proud of yourself.”
Her brow pulled together as her eyes closed. Shaking her head slightly, she hummed as she started, “Nothing to celebrate yet… This is wrong.”
“New Orleans… Baton Rouge…”
“You thinking Alexandria, Monroe and Shreveport are next?” I was just impressed that Jason knew all three of those cities were in Louisiana.
Sookie held a finger up, still deep in thought. “No… no… it’s not the same… It’s… it’s smarter…”
Without caring if I was welcome, I took a seat at the table next to her. “You think it was someone else.”
She nodded, seemingly accepting of my presence for state business. It made me feel completely hollow. “What we know about New Orleans… human spies were booby trapped so that if they were found out and detained, the puppet masters would know right away. Smart. Humans were used to produce, deliver and detonate the bomb during the day. Smart. All of it was set up to make the church look like the guilty party. Either scaring the Queen into marrying Arkansas anyway or if she died, Arkansas would be the first to hear about it and he could move in and take over, maybe even claim that the marriage licenses gave him dibs. Smart…”
I nodded, seeing where her train of thought was going. “In this case, we have an out of state witch called in to disable air conditioning compressors…”
Sookie interrupted with a raised voice that she aimed in Trout’s direction, “I can’t believe how hot it was today. It was just sweltering!” She waited a moment before turning her attention back me. “The heat was him too. That was part of it. He was told that the insurance company was less likely to drag their feet if the hotel had to shut down.”
I gave her another nod. “Lightning strikes the compressors which fixes two problems; having an excuse to be in the building and getting rid of witnesses as they plant the bombs. By the time the bombs go off, the air conditioning isn’t on the list of possible ways they could’ve gotten in… Salome, if she survives the blast, would assume that it’s a problem with the neighbors… As would the Queen. Either way, the unknown threat is in the clear.”
Alcide raised an eyebrow. “New Orleans got a nitrogen bomb like Oklahoma City, right? Unassuming box van parked by a service entrance rips the building in half… What would they use in a hotel?”
Jason blurted, “Deer season.” We all stared at him for a minute. He was smiling boastfully like he’d won a tractor pull. “You go hunting alone… if you fart you ain’t gonna catch nothin’. It’ll spook everything away from ya. You go with a group… ya fan out and make all the noise ya want… scare everything to the middle. Easy hunting… Y’alls rooms was at the end of a long ass hall. Three wings, 20 floors like that… right? Little bombs in some of those rooms… that wouldn’t kill many folks… So… put a bomb in y’alls room or the one under it, cuz’a Paulette’s mojo… every few floors under it… everyone gets spooked and tries to get outta Dodge… BOOM! A second batch of bombs goes off in the stairwells and in the lobby. They get EVERY. BODY… Air conditioning problems, right? Ain’t nobody gonna think about seeing someone checking vents for output, right?”
If it weren’t for everyone else’s mouths being open in shock, I wouldn’t have noticed mine was too.
Jason sat back and he cringed. “Ya know, I heard after 9-11, most e’erbody they found whole was crushed when the stairwells collapsed… fuckin sad.” Actually, what was fucking sad was that his genius reminded me of a flare gun. It burned bright enough, but unless someone witnessed it, it was fucking useless.
Sookie shook off her surprise first. “Who? If the church is preoccupied with their bonfire plans, and this isn’t Arkansas, who would benefit from scaring the Queen into a war…”
Alcide shrugged. “She’d need allies like a mother fucker. She’s got crazies to the west and north… She isn’t going to get anything but a hiding place from Edgington. He wouldn’t risk his ass to do more. He’s a ‘Me-Man’. She’d need money for funding, soldiers…”
“De Castro.” Pam and I had corresponding epiphanies.
Sookie narrowed her eyes. “The guy?” Meaning the King of Nevada who she’d promised to not work for? That would be the one.
“Why does he want Louisiana?”
“Greed. His favorite sport is squeezing money out of drunk human tourists. He’s made plenty of enemies by not playing nicely.”
Sookie let a loud groan as she slammed herself against the back of her chair, sagging her head back as she went limp. “Freakin’ peachy. Threadgill and Newlin aren’t enough, right? Let’s add in a guy who’s going to let everyone thin each other out and then pick off the few left… over what? Riverboats and cemetery tours? So much bullshit…”
Pam finished, “So little time.”
Jason snorted. “Y’all need to kill him. That dude’s invested enough… he wasn’t kibitzing… he’s all in.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. The only thing I could figure was that he’d accidently left his retardation in his other pants (or Pam’s purse). “That’s a given. How would be the more important part of this. He wouldn’t have made such a big play without insulating himself.”
While the rest of us mulled things over, the waitress came back with drink refills for everyone including Sookie. I wanted to say something about how much she’d already had… not to mention that she’d called it ‘drinking away a fight’… Her cheeks were rosy and I didn’t have to feel her to know she was drunk. Her eyes were hooded with heavy lids, her gestures were exaggerated and her speech was becoming affected. I needed her to be steady. The topic at hand aside, I needed to be able to talk to her later.
Sookie started, “If any vampire from Louisiana stepped foot in Nevada, he’d know.”
I nodded. She seemed to be thinking aloud.
“He wouldn’t be dumb enough to accept an invitation to visit the Bayou.”
“That would be too easy.”
“He needs to drop his guard.”
“How do vampires do weddings?”
“They don’t happen often… they tend to be grotesquely flamboyant.”
“Big enough to invite other vampire kings and queens?”
“What are you thinking?”
“If Sophie-Ann…” Sookie leaned towards me to whisper, “If Sophie-Ann caves, gives in, agrees to the wedding with Arkansas then all the pawns are lined up and in the same place.”
“The Queen would not marry Arkansas just to get de Castro to Louisiana.”
“She wouldn’t have to. Guests in attendance, major players in place, the marriage contracts get signed after heated last minute deliberations and everyone goes to rest for the day…”
“And how does the Queen narrowly escape marrying a king who tried to, and still plans to murder her?”
Sookie put her elbows on the table, leaning closer to me. “Because a certain telepath is about to visit Newlin’s stomping ground for routine pet scanning… If I sit down with that hate-whore Reverend… I think I could negotiate that bounty for a vampire bonfire… Everyone goes to rest for the day before the wedding, and every Second and Sheriff that Arkansas and Nevada bring with them get carted off with their kings and the church implicates themselves on the evening news.”
Pam deadpanned, “I have a boner.” She wasn’t the only one.
The devil was in the details. “Sophie-Ann couldn’t take control of Nevada.”
Sookie shrugged. “So. As far as I know, she doesn’t want it. She can let New Mexico and Arizona, or whoever pick that carcass… At least de Castro is out of her hair.”
“Some of them could stir if they’re bothered during the day.”
“Travel boxes… All Sophie-Ann would have to do is remind everyone about the ‘church’ bombing and suggest everyone brings their own just in case. They’d make the job of killing them easier out of paranoia.”
“We would need a small militia to get through their security. They wouldn’t die for the day without protection.”
Paulette shook her head. She’d been quietly observing the plotting, but she finally offered, “I got it.”
“Porter, Mags and I… we’ll knock them all out. They’ll feel like they were sleeping.”
“You haven’t wanted…”
She interrupted, “I can justify it. By knocking them out, they won’t die trying to defend their kings… and if y’all don’t do something, every vampire in Louisiana, including my employer, could be toast by the time the dust clears… It’s fine. I’m fine with it. We’ll play sandman.”
“Would something like that work for Dae?”
She nodded. “If all three of us work together, you and Pam could take a nap.”
“And you can exclude humans?”
“Everyone has a weakness. Steel, gold, iron, silver, mercury… it’ll be expensive but we’ll make sure to be specific to who we’re knocking out so that humans can move freely.” I didn’t like the idea of Paulette working with mercury, but I had to trust that she knew what she was doing.
Sookie raised her eyebrows and added, “And if anyone notices that travel boxes are getting carted out of wherever… a bomb threat would be the cover…” It all seemed perfect.
“It would take time.”
Sookie leaned back again. “And a lot of smooth talking, but Threadgill isn’t going to let things sit. He’s going to jump at the chance so the Queen doesn’t change her mind again.”
“You won’t go to Newlin alone.”
She raised an eyebrow at me as though she was tempted to do it, just to terrify me. “I don’t have any intention to.”
“How do you think you’ll go about your meeting then?”
“Giving him a few of the spies I find in the Dallas nests. He listens or we leave with them.”
“Who is we?”
“Us. This group. Stan can’t be involved because the implication for Texas could whip back and take his head off. We go to Newlin’s house. Where he keeps his family.”
“Newlin would die. He’d be a martyr. Two states would be after him.”
“Wasn’t he already working on that?”
“Threadgill could want to do the wedding in Little Rock.”
Sookie shrugged again. “Sophie-Ann needs to insist on doing it at the Abbey for sentimental reasons… or because she already had Quinn line everything up… whatever.”
Alcide snorted. “Is de Castro cocky enough to stay at the Seven Veils? It would be fitting and all, but Sookie’s already scanned the shit out of all of those employees… All she’d have when we get back is EEE’s staff.”
I shrugged. “It’s certainly big enough…” I stood and held my hand out to Sookie. “I suppose we have a Queen to call.”
She’d taken my hand, but as soon as we were outside, she dropped it…
That is what Sookie was like when she pretended to be a pet.
I leaned against the siding clad wall of the restaurant while Sookie wandered circles over the asphalt with her hands tucked into the back pockets of her jean shorts.
She really wasn’t needed for the conversation. As I relayed the think tank’s thoughts and recommended plan to Andre and Sophie-Ann, Sookie was only asked to clarify trivial details that could’ve been worked out later. I just didn’t want to let her out of my sight.
The only surprise that the call offered was that Sophie-Ann mentioned that all of the guests would be disappointed if there wasn’t a wedding of some kind… Because of information we’d gotten from our company, Sookie offhandedly suggested that Andre get fitted for a tux… the lack of shock coming from them gave me notice.
I ended the call, agreeing with the Queen and her Second that things would be set into motion as soon as we received word from Salome… If Sookie was right about the bombing attempt… Louisiana was going to be overthrowing the monarchies of two states on the word of a human… without question.
Sookie was lazily, maybe unsteadily walking back to the front of the restaurant as I put my phone back into my pocket.
She stopped and turned to face me. “Why? Do you suspect something?”
“Yes… But I want to talk to you.”
She huffed as she rolled her eyes. “What do you suspect?” It didn’t escape me that she had no interest in hearing about anything but suspicions.
“Since our company described their Andre’s reaction to the marriage suggestion as ‘uppity shock’, I’m even more sure than I was before that your cousin’s coupling with the Queen caused the same thing as our being together.”
She shrugged and bumped a rock with her toe. “I don’t see how it matters.”
“I don’t really think it matters, but we might be able to learn something about it if we talk to them.”
“What point would there be in that though?”
“They could know how to do it purposely or how to avoid it. Your cousin has been with the Queen for 5 years… our company had been together for less than a month… They probably have more experience with whatever it is.”
She snorted, “Why would anyone do it on purpose?”
“I can’t think of anything off hand… but…”
“Your grandmother is still alive in their version.”
She balked. Every part of her body froze for a moment before she started her trek back to the restaurant, mumbling that I was a ‘cruel bastard’.
I moved quickly to put myself in front of her. “Sookie, I only mentioned it because it’s a possibility. I was thinking that learning more could save us from some confusion.”
Her eyes were already filling when they met mine and her lip was trembling when she opened her mouth to speak. “So you weren’t thinking that you’d distract me from being pissed at you by suggesting I could see Gran again? Really… that was low.”
“I wasn’t…” She stepped to the side, trying to leave me before I could explain and I had seen enough of her walking away from me for a lifetime.
I slipped my arm around her waist only to have her start fighting against me, beating my chest. Shushing her and asking her to calm down weren’t doing any good either. She made it unexpectedly difficult, but I managed to get my other arm around her to hold her and lift us from the ground. “God dammit, Eric… Leave me alone… I’ll hide…”
I barked, “No. You won’t. You promised that you wouldn’t do that anymore.”
She clutched the backs of my arms and wrapped her legs around one of mine as though I’d drop her. “Let me go then.”
“I want to talk to you. You’ll just run away.”
She clenched her jaw and hissed, “You promised to not make me feel helpless.”
“How are you helpless?”
“You’ve got me 20 feet in the damn air! I don’t have a choice but to listen to you.”
“Why won’t you talk to me?”
“Because you were an asshole. You made me feel like nothing. I have every right to be pissed at you.”
“I was worried. As soon as you said that you had gotten so far away from me, endless possibilities crossed my mind. I panicked. I interrupted you and kept you from explaining your completely justified reason for leaving the hotel and your inspired way to fill your suddenly free day. I acted like an idiot because I’m not used to being scared. You forgive your brother for being an idiot all the time. Why don’t I get any clemency?”
She sneered. “Because I expect it from him… it hurts more when you do it.”
“Not good enough.”
“What can I do?”
“Why don’t you start by explaining why you can trust me to deal with the cops at the casino, those fellowship jerks that were after Franklin Mott, and the witch just now… Why do you let me take the lead, trust me to handle that kind of thing and then treat me like something on your shoe…?”
“It’s not a matter of the trust I have in you. It’s that you’re the only one I do trust. I don’t trust anyone fully with your safety. I’ve been by your side every possible waking moment because I can’t trust that anyone else is willing to die to keep you safe. Not even Pam.”
“You couldn’t have done anything anyway. You were dead. If something happened to me today, I’d have been just as dead if it happened in New Orleans or happened in the hotel.”
“I hate that. I hate that I have to die. I hate leaving you unprotected…”
“You think for a second I liked leaving you there unprotected? I worried all damn day that anything could’ve happened to you. It’s something we have to deal with… I’d like to point out that I didn’t scream at you for having to die.”
“I told you that I’m sorry…”
“Not done… I know that I’m only as free as you let me be…”
“Stop. When I mentioned trusting you with your freedom, I wasn’t trying to remind you that I could treat you like an actual pet by taking your independence from you… I was referring to not giving you a set of finite safety measures…”
“I’m supposed to believe that threatening me with a short leash was the same thing?”
“Yes. I was too upset and worried, and by then furious, to explain it suitably.”
“And would those finite safety measures have included procedures for what happens when a weather witch summons a freak storm that cripples the cooling system, forcing the temperature up to 110°?”
“No… because there wasn’t any way to plan for that… You did everything imaginable to see to my safety as well as your own. You did it because you are a very clever girl who is exceptional at thinking outside of the box… Suggesting that you needed to be given rules was fear driven… I know better than to think you would be careless… or do anything stupid.”
“You’re an asshole.”
“How am I an asshole?” I knew of nearly a thousand ways, but I needed her to more specific.
“You hurt me like no one else EVER has… and you expect me to just forget it ever happened!”
“You can forget if you want to, but I’m going to remember very well that not giving you the chance to explain yourself made you threaten to leave me… Hurt goes both ways, Sookie.”
“How could I possibly leave you? I’m stuck no matter what.”
“No you’re not. If you hate me so much, you could find another master. I’m sure Salome would take very good care of you. I want you, not a prisoner.”
“I don’t hate you.”
“Then why are you treating me like you do?”
“Because I’m pissed and I’m hurt… I didn’t do anything to deserve the way you went off on me…”
“No, you didn’t. I can’t promise to stop worrying about you, but I’m sure that I’ve learned my lesson about giving you a chance to explain.”
“I wasn’t trying to teach you a lesson.”
“I’m not sure it matters if it was conscious or accidental. I should have listened because I trust you and you were obviously in perfect health… I was overreacting and I became more livid when you yelled at me.”
“This is my fault?”
“Did I say that?”
“You said that I made it worse.”
“No… I said that I was worse because of your reaction… However… since my charming bonded pet has been force feeding me the silent treatment, I’ve had the chance to realize that you began lashing out when I did.”
She gave me a level stare and relaxed marginally. “I flipped because you flipped?”
“By the time you blocked your feelings, the damage had been done…”
Her eyes dropped to my chest for a moment before coming back to mine. “I only did it because I didn’t want to make an ass out of myself in front of Salome. Everyone else had heard us arguing.”
“Why did you continue?”
She cringed and muttered sheepishly, “Because it pissed you off… and then because you told me to stop.”
“You can still feel my feelings?”
“I have to do it on purpose, but yeah.” Only vampires should be able to control a bond the way she could…
“I warned you that this could happen, but I wasn’t expecting for it to cause an avoidable argument.”
“Why didn’t I feel it like I did when you calmed me down?”
“Maybe because it isn’t conscious.”
Her eyes widened a little. “We’ve pretty much been in the same exact mood for days.”
“So I’m noticing. At least no one was killed.”
“I hate that we argued… I don’t want to do it anymore.”
I nodded, agreeing with her understatement. “You need to get it out of your head that being my pet is anything more than a shelter. It just protects you from certain elements… And I know what you’ve been through because of your ability and I’m sure that it’s done some damage, so you need to do your best to believe that nothing scares me more than losing you for any reason. As you so elegantly reminded me earlier, I could go back to fucking my fans, but I’m even less interested in them now than I was before you came along. It was cruel of you to threaten to leave me… Don’t do it anymore.”
She pouted, “That sounded like an order.”
“It was a command.”
She studied me for a moment. “You’re… you’re going to use the IOU? To keep me from leaving?” As though I was dumb enough to think it would have the desired effect.
“No. I’m using it to keep you from threatening me with leaving. I hate it. You said it just to be malicious. Hurting you was unintentional because my hasty reaction didn’t allow for wording myself more clearly… I’ve apologized for my part of our disagreement. I’m promising to try to resist panicking about your wellbeing and I’m using the IOU to command you to not use how important you are to me against me when we butt heads.”
She nodded, fighting back tears… As much as I hated to see her cry, it was a relief to see something other than rage. “I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone… It scares me… I just… that’s why I/it hurt so much when I thought you were slipping… You were so upset… I thought I’d been snowed again… that you’re just a better actor… I should know better… I’m sorry.” More Bill-baggage… we should have kept him alive.
“Good. Now that that’s settled, I think we’re supposed to have make-up sex.”
She smiled, laughing through her nose. “We’re ok?”
“We’re better off now that we know about situations that only enflame our moods… You can’t stand the idea of being used any more than I’m interested in being without you. We can understand that in one another and try to avoid a repeat of tonight’s performance.”
She sighed. “I feel really stupid.”
I raised my eyebrow. “I wouldn’t know.” She still had complete control over her emotions.
Her chin started to tremble. “I think I’m going to be sick…”
“I don’t think…”
She shook her head and took her hands away from my arms to pat my chest. “No. Put me down… I’m feeling sick…”
The complicated part was putting us on the ground quickly without making her dizzy.
I stayed behind her until we were inside… When she ran for the restrooms, I went back to the table after taking care of the bill.
Everyone seemed to be staring at me. I couldn’t be sure if they were all pensive about the call to the Queen or if they were worried about the way Sookie darted through the restaurant.
Pam was the only one I could identify with. She was distressed about the overall situation between Sookie and me… and very anxious to hear about the call. She raised her eyebrows. “Well?”
“We’re just waiting for word from Salome… Then we have full approval for every facet and maneuver…” I nudged the back of Alcide’s shoulder to congratulate him. “The Queen is practically gushing over the prospect of being married at the Seven Veils.”
He gave a nod. “What’s up with Sookie?”
“She’s had too much to drink. She’s feeling ill.”
He shrugged and gave a chuckle in Paulette’s direction. “Glad she isn’t riding in my truck.”
She gasped and threw a spoon at him…
He caught it and jokingly scowled. “You’re spending too much time with Sookie if you’re throwing shit at me.”
Jason snorted as he started getting up. “At least she ain’t hitting yet… Sookie got that shit from Gran. She didn’t beat us, but she’d give us a whop before we could see it coming. She called it an ‘attitude adjustment’… We should go on out to the cars and wait… When Sook comes out, don’t ask how she is. She gets embarrassed whenever she drinks too much.”
Alcide’s brow furrowed as he relieved me from asking. “She drink a lot when she isn’t working?”
Jason shook his head and cast a glance in my direction. “No. Only like 5 times that I’ve ever seen… She played with booze a few times to see if she could go numb. You know, ignore other people’s thoughts… She said it didn’t work though.”
“She try anything but alcohol?”
Jason nodded. “Our mom put her on some medication when we was kids. She spent a whole summer propped up on the arm of the couch. She had to go off of it when school started because she couldn’t stay awake. That was ugly… She went a whole summer barely hearing her own thoughts and Mom just took her of the meds cold turkey. Mom was pissed. Sookie was hearing stuff again when she missed the first pill. She freaked out and locked herself in her room. She couldn’t stand any noise… She used to disappear into the woods for hours. It was the only peace and quiet she could get. Whatever those shields are, I don’t think it’s part of the mind reading… They got messed up by the drugs, but the mind reading was fine.”
Pam actually felt sympathetic to Sookie’s suffering… I’d turned her and gone to ground with her in relative seclusion near her home in the countryside… every new vampire has a complaint or two, adjustments that weren’t fast enough. Even though she’d come to terms with it and come to use it in her favor, Pam’s bane had been her enhanced hearing. She’d threatened suicide because of it… Knowing that Sookie had practically shared that experience warmed her to the telepath more than either of us expected.
As everyone else went to wait in the cars, Pam stayed with me.
“Is it safe to ask yet?”
“When she mentioned that she went to New Orleans, I got angry and didn’t give her the chance to tell me why. I said something that she mistook…”
She rolled her eyes, interrupting before I could finish. As I let myself get irritated, I was further annoyed by my double standard since that’s what I’d done to Sookie. “Don’t bullshit.”
“I told her that I shouldn’t have trusted her with her freedom. She took it that I was reminding her that she’s a pet instead of the fact that I was regretting not making myself more clear about staying close.”
She started chuckling. “Have you made up?”
“Yes. What the fuck is so funny about that?”
“So that I’m clear, you panicked because you’re in love with her and thought she was careless about her safety.”
“I’m still waiting to hear why you’re laughing.”
“Because in the alternate reality we came head to head with, you two had the same damn argument… but she was the one who went crazy when he was dismissive of her safety concerns.”
He had only mentioned an argument in passing. We hadn’t gone into details. “I remember something about that. I’m still not amused.”
“You should be. You’ve really met your match… Only you could figure out how to argue about something like that.”
“Something like what?”
“Arguing with someone who already agrees with you and reciprocates the return. I’d like to point out what your mood has been like since I rose.”
“I argued with Sookie and we pushed each other until I broke the bathroom door in to get to her. I’m aware of what mood I’ve been in.”
“You know what it reminds me of?”
“It reminds me of what you were like before you met her.”
“You’re a pain in the ass.”
“A pain in the ass that’s happy for you. You two are going to argue; it’s the first relationship either of you have ever been in….”
“No it’s not.”
“I’m not counting your human wife because you didn’t choose her…”
“I wasn’t either. I was talking about Sookie.”
“I’m sure as hell not counting Compton.”
“Neither was I. I don’t have details on her other relationships…” I stopped myself when I felt Pam’s surprise. “What?”
“You don’t know?”
“Compton was her first.”
“Everyone knows that he’s the first vampire…”
“First anything, you giant idiot. She’d barely kissed anyone before him. She couldn’t stand to touch them… You two have the same amount of time logged in the romance register since your marriage was based on support and procreation and her only other relationship was based on lies…”
“She told you that?”
“The other Sookie did… She said she didn’t know if our Sookie needed to be punched or hugged… She said she was glad her Eric was her first… And felt sorry for this one because she lost her virginity on a con…”
“He used the word ‘inexperienced’… I assumed that she hadn’t been in many relationships because of her telepathy… and the abuse from her Uncle.”
“If you hadn’t already, you’d have to forgive her… The only intimacy she had before you was betrayal… She’s going to carry that baggage around for a long time… It’s not going to make her love you less, but every time you screw up she’s going to be scared that she fucked up, let herself believe lies… Take it easy on her. She told me that she wished she could be glamoured to forget Compton ever ‘happened’ to her… She hates that he’s still in her head.”
“She told me that… After the meeting at the Abbey.”
“She asked me to try… To see if it worked when she wanted it.” Suddenly I was the one feeling ill. “When it didn’t work, I thought I was going to cry for her, Eric… She hates that what he put her through chinked her armor.”
“Am I allowed to mention how out of character that is for you?”
“Sure, I’ll just mention that you love her more than you’ve ever loved anything and blame your little fae-witch for getting to both of us.”
“You really are slipping… We know that she’s part Fae because of her taste, yes? We know that telepathy is a witch talent… While you’ve been ‘lost in love’, I’ve been ruminating… Hadley, Jason and Sookie all have that allure, but Hadley seems relatively useless other than the possibility that she and the Queen have been skipping from plane to plane… Jason and Sookie are more active in their gifts. My hypothesis is that their faerie heritage came from their father’s side of the family and their mother had something to offer to the gene pool. Perhaps a recessive or dormant witch aspect… Shopping with Paulette gave me the chance to ask… Her and Porter are both more powerful than their parents were combined. Porter is stronger… All of their aunts and uncles are powerless… Maggie, Porter’s wife, isn’t very strong at all, but Chris, their little one can get memories from objects. When he was 2, they received handed down clothing from family friends and when he wore a set of PJs he discovered that the other child’s babysitter wasn’t ‘kid friendly’…”
“You think that Sookie ended up with telepathy as a fluke of genetics?”
She shrugged. “Jason accidentally agreed with me just now. He doesn’t think that her shields and her telepathy are from the same thing either. Both Stackhouses are more of a force of nature and if they’re walking mosaics of supernatural beings, that would explain it. I’m going to be looking for a witch in mommy’s woodpile. I’d guess that one of their maternal grandparents was natural… and strong. Paulette agrees. I talked to her about it in the vaguest of senses.”
“I would assume that Michelle would have noticed. Witches thoughts are different.”
“With the lack of experience she has and the over stimulation of everyone around her? Besides, Jason can feel Sookie invade his thoughts. He has an active ability even if it is just being able to sense how trustworthy a person is. I think perhaps he could be just as unpracticed with his ability as Michelle. His forte seems to be easily misread as instinct. Oh yeah, and I’m pretty sure that Jason clued Sookie in about the weather-witch. She was wallowing until he started staring.”
“You make some excellent points.”
“You know I’m right and I expect to be rewarded accordingly when you realize it. Something platinum.”
“We’ll see in Dallas, I suppose… since he’ll be practicing.”
She wiggled her eyebrows. “I’m hoping to learn a lot in Dallas… I’m going to go wait in the car.”
When Sookie finally left the bathroom, she still looked ill.
She raised an eyebrow when she noticed that a busboy was clearing the table where everyone sat… “Tell me they didn’t leave so we could fly home.”
“They’re waiting in the cars… We could fly if you want.”
She closed her eyes and shook her head. “God no. I’d rather not discover the velocity of sick. Thanks.”
“You don’t feel any better?” She was still being stingy with her emotions.
She started walking towards the door. “I probably would if I could get sick… I guess we should get going.”
I surprised her by catching up to her and put my arms around her gently since she wasn’t feeling well. “When was it decided that I would have to spend the night without you and why wasn’t I consulted?”
“While we were driving to New Orleans… I suggested it because Paulette would’ve had a lot of logistical problems going back to New Orleans and then catching up to us in Dallas. She’s just going to stay with me until the house you line up is ready.”
“Stay with me tonight.”
She shook her head as she put her arms over mine. “I painted myself into a corner. Paulette needs to get settled in and she needs me for the wards…”
“I’ll stay in Bon Temps.”
“My house isn’t light-tight.”
“Tomorrow night then? You’ll already be in Shreveport.”
“I want to, but that would be rude to just leave Paulette alone.”
“That’s more motivation than I need. I’ll make sure her house is ready immediately.”
“Because you assume I’ll want to spend every night with you, huh?”
“No. Because I want to spend every night with you and want to eliminate obstacles.”
She giggled quietly and tilted her head back to look at me. “Good answer… We’ll figure it out.”
“When Paulette moves out, maybe I can talk you into light proofing your room.”
“Maybe I was already thinking about it… We think a lot alike.”
I nodded. “Including that we don’t want anything to happen to one another and that Compton gets too much press.”
“Eric, I’m really sorry… I…”
I shushed her and kissed her forehead, understanding more than ever since my talk with Pam how easy it would be for Sookie to doubt our situation at times. “I know. I am too.”
Most of the ride back to Shreveport was quiet other than sound of the keys on Pam’s laptop and the occasional cursing of her satellite card. I assumed that she was shopping for the ‘something platinum’ she’d mentioned while I was going over her little hypothesis and couldn’t think of a way to argue with her.
As it turned out, she was shopping, but not for jewelry…
We were only half an hour from Shreveport, just passing the Kingston exit, when she handed her laptop to me… She’d been house shopping and found a pair of houses for sale in my neighborhood. Four bedrooms each. Both had a pool… one street over from mine and on adjoining properties.
One house was for the Simonette family. The other was for her since her house’s location was too well known. She wanted to keep her old house and use it as storage and a ‘love shack’, but needed a new resting place. She rattled on for the rest of the drive about the perks of having a house so close to mine. Every argument I made against the purchase was bullshit and she knew it. After waking up the real estate agent with the listings, Pam excitedly texted Paulette about her appointment to look at the houses.
The house was how it was left, as it always was. The only difference was that there were several small packages on the kitchen counter that Bobby had been instructed to leave before he was fired. Alcide and I were still unloading Pam’s ‘precious cargo’ when I finally began feeling Sookie’s emotions.
I’d taken my ring off only a few minutes after Paulette took the ramp off of I-49… It hadn’t taken long for the ring to turn the growing space between Sookie and I into an ache… I’d snuck the ring back onto my finger as we entered Shreveport, but I actually felt like I was being pulled to Sookie… Like she was ‘calling’ me and it was all too tempting to follow the pull… As it was, the ring pulsed in my pocket.
But as I began feeling Sookie again, I wanted to be close to her all the more. I needed to know why she was feeling the way she was. I’d thought we’d talked through our problem, made our apologies and promises…
Rage, depression, hatred, shame and fear… and drunk… she’d managed to dam up all of her feelings including her intoxication. It was intense enough that even with our distance, I’d gotten lightheaded enough to sway.
I was anxious to call her and to not call her.
Judging by the distance, she’d only just gotten to Bon Temps and I was worried that she was starting to second guess my apology.
I had to force myself to wait until Alcide left.
She sounded sleepy when she answered. “Hey.”
She was quiet for a moment and I finally heard a door close. “I’m a hateful bitch… and an idiot… I hate that I hurt you. I don’t want you to turn me. I don’t want to be like this forever. I don’t want to be horrible eternally.” New baggage… Of the Hadley variety.
“All of this you’re feeling is directed at yourself?”
“I can’t not be pissed at myself. I’m going to wallow… I screwed up big. I wish tonight didn’t happen.”
“We can’t undo anything. We could salvage what’s left… I can be there in 20 minutes.”
“No… With my luck, someone would shoot you out of the sky.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time. If you don’t want me to come to you, then what are you wearing?”
She snorted, “Jerk.”
“I’m not a brat.”
“You’re my brat.”
“You might want to look into getting a refund.”
“No, but I am getting the extended warrantee.”
“Because I want you. I don’t have any intentions of letting you go. You’re mine. You always will be… Get some rest. I want you to be in a much better mood when I rise.”
“Are you ordering me to cheer up?”
“Yes. I like feeling your good mood.”
“What if I can’t?”
“Then you’ll have to face the punishment.”
“You’ll either lighten your mood or you’ll have to face being dressed by Pam for a week.”
She laughed, “After what I did to her while she was dead!? Are you high?”
“I might be slightly drunk thanks to you… You’re laughing.”
“Yeah. I am… thanks… I’ll see you tomorrow night.” Not soon enough.
“Good night, Sookie.”
I moved through my house autonomously, for the rest of the morning… laundry, unpacking, repacking, emails and voicemails, Paulette’s list…
Until Pam and I crawled into my bed, all I could think about was how to convince Sookie to start staying with me by the time we got back from Dallas…
Not having her with me didn’t feel right.
Being ‘home’ did nothing for me other than remind me that Sookie was too…
I’d felt more comfortable arguing with her in a parking lot than I was in my own bed.
And it was amplified by the loneliness Sookie was feeling.
She seemed to be just as fucked without me as I was without her.
The difference being that Sookie wasn’t forced to listen to Pam chuckle at her until dawn took her just before it took me.