Hunter scowled at us while we collected Alcide, the Berts, and begrudgingly Quinn. The boy was angry and accused us of ‘ditching’ him and treating him like a baby. It didn’t make him back down in the slightest when I told him that if I had my way, Sookie would be keeping him company instead of being part of the possible fray.
Count them, TWO stubborn telepaths. The universe was punishing me for complaining about Pam.
Sookie raised an eyebrow as her way of calling me a hypocrite when I told Pam she wouldn’t be joining us, giving the same reasons as Sookie had given for not wanting me to go.
Surprisingly, Pam hadn’t been indignant about holding off her plans or missing the ‘excitement’ so that she and Jason could babysit… Jason was ordering ice cream from room service and Pam was rummaging for Hunter’s Land Before Time movies when we left. Paulette was working on putting together the wards for our rooms so that she could join them… Otherwise she’d have been ‘up a wall with worry’ until we came back.
There was a collection of cars at the curb outside. Stan and Isabel were standing next to the valet service waiting for us with no less than 20 other vampires… All of them were hissing or snarling like I would’ve been if Sookie or Pam were in Ferrell’s place, but they would be the only ones I’d care enough about to be so bothered. I had to assume that they were annoyed on principle, give them the benefit of the doubt that the Church was a much bigger problem for them than they were in my Area…
I might have shown my surprise when Stan Davis opened the door to his car for Sookie. I know that no less than 4 of the ‘posse’ did.
Alcide, Sookie and I rode in Stan’s Jag while the rest of the hunting party followed in close procession.
The building looked like any normal, innocent tabernacle. A tad ostentatious considering that Christians were supposedly ‘humble’ before their God, but that’s what made it so fucking funny.
The parking lot was full of sedans and minivans and (maybe because of Hunter) I noticed that most of the vehicles had boosters of some sort. Judging by the quantity of cars, there had to be close to 50 families inside… The number of children that Newlin would have stand witness a murder, vampire or not, only added to how demented he must’ve been.
More than half of the vampires were close to bloodlust when we arrived at the church… Davis had to race to put himself in their way, running across the lawn between the parking area and the entrance, holding his arms up to command the rest of them to stop.
“We have a plan. You will adhere to it or you will be punished severely.”
A woman, too young to have any business being along for something so intricate, hissed at Stan. “Who is ‘we’?”
“The Sheriff of Louisiana, Area 5 has allowed me the use of his telepath. She is contracted by Queen Leclerq. Our King contacted me tonight to explain that I am to show her the respect due her talent.”
Another woman, older and calmer evaluated Sookie. “What could she have to offer? She seems like just another blood bag to me.” Only because she was downwind of Sookie. The Berts moved to stand on either side of us.
“She’s a very highly regarded telepath. In just over a week, she’s saved the life and standing of her Queen. She’s to be taken seriously. She’s on our side. She’s come a long way to help us find our brother. Since it’s been so long since we’ve been human, she has a lot to offer to this situation.”
The older woman showed her fangs. “We should just drain her with the rest of the…” That was all she managed to say before Alcide made his way through the crowd to grab her by the back of her neck and pin her to the ground. Score one for diplomacy. If it weren’t for the angle, she could’ve easily killed him, but he was using leverage and surprise to his advantage. And again, Quinn might as well have been licking a window.
Stan’s arms went up again. “That wouldn’t be good for your health, Ingrid. She has my protection while she’s in my Area. Is everyone clear?”
A wave of silent agreement swept over the group and when Ingrid said ‘crystal’, Alcide took his hand from her neck and offered it to help her up. The confused look she gave him when she was vertical again was adorable.
Stan introduced Sookie and took a step back to turn things over to her. She smiled nervously. Not because of the vampires or their mood; I’m sure she’d never addressed an assembly before. “Ummm… I know y’all are pissed. Not only have humans taken your friend captive, but now your sheriff is telling you to listen to one… I get it. But I’m not like them. They make me sick. I’ve seen enough hate. Humans have been doing it to each other since y’all were still breathing. You know all they need is an excuse. If you go in there, fangs out with vinegar in your veins, you’re just going to create another generation of fearing and hating and you’re the ones who have to deal with that. You’ll be around a lot longer than they will…”
A small impatient fuck stepped forward from the rear of the group. “What do you suggest we do? Leave money in their offering plate?”
She shook her head. “The worst thing we can do is leave a body count. Don’t keep anyone from running out. Let the frightened ones leave. Ferrell is why we’re here…” She closed her eyes for a moment, focusing on the people inside, but the group outside was hopelessly anxious. They wanted blood. She would be furious, but if there wasn’t an immediate improvement, I was going to put her on the roof of the building so that she wouldn’t be hurt while the bloodthirsty Texans did whatever the fuck they wanted. “…There are about 40 children and 30 women inside and out of the two dozen men in there, the few that are armed don’t know what the hell to do if they were ever faced with a vampire. Nearly everyone is in the chapel, story time… Steve Newlin and his wife are…”
Someone growled, “We should take them…”
Sookie’s eyes sprang open. “Perfect! Why don’t you go inside and drain all of them. Because that will fix your problem. Because everyone knows that the best way to get rid of bigotry is to give them what they want… They want a reason to be scared.”
“If we kill them all…”
“IF YOU KILL THEM ALL, then people who are only marginally apprehensive are going to go ape-shit and there won’t be anyone who would watch news of the slaughter and defend you. If you kill them all, you run the risk of having the US government CLEANSE the states. Slavery, apartheid, racial cleansing, racial profiling, relocation camps, the KKK, neo-Nazis… all of it was done by humans TO humans! What the hell do you think is going to happen if 20 vampires run riot and drain a church full of innocents!? I’ll tell you what’ll happen. You’re going to need to run, write off your property and American accounts as a wash… Since news is worldwide, there won’t be a safe corner to crawl into. And in case none of you have noticed over the last few centuries, America is a global trendsetter. If they roll up the welcome mat, everyone else could follow suit and y’all end up collecting in wastelands with no population to feed from! The reality, the harsh, sad, infuriating reality is that the inmates are running the asylum. Your dinner can and will end you if they’re pushed. If you don’t like it, develop a taste for roo and go on a walkabout Down Under. Until then, try to realize for one brief second that I’m trying to help you to not get a stake in your heart before your next birthday.”
“They all get to walk away? They all get away with torturing him? How can you stand there…?”
“Just for now. In a few weeks, whatever. But we aren’t here to settle scores tonight…”
He hissed, “What would you do if it was your master?”
She gnashed her teeth to hide that she’d gotten a sudden, stabbing pain in her chest. “I’d kill every son of a bitch who tried to get in my way. I’d kill them and wouldn’t wait to hear their bodies hit the floor. But there’s a catch. I’m still human. We’ve been killing each other for long enough that it barely makes the news anymore. Y’all have to believe me. I hate this for you. Really… Can we get back on track? Ferrell could’ve fed by now.”
Everyone either nodded or acted as though they’d humor her.
“Ok. So… Give or take 40 kids, 30 women, 20 men… we’ve got a few wild cards to deal with. I’m not close enough to get anything exact, but there are 3 Weres. I haven’t heard any Bible thumping from them, but there’s a lot going on in there. Right now there is a human with Ferrell… the big shock is that there is a vampire inside… free range. I’ve felt him moving around pretty freely. Not like Ferrell. I hate to say it, but Ferrell doesn’t seem conscious… the other vampire is cool as a cucumber.”
A hoarse voice attached to a minute man with wiry hair barked, “You can hear vampire thoughts!? We were told…”
She put her hands up defensively. “Long story short, I can feel your minds. The more upset you are, the busier you mind is… If I have to compare it to something, Ferrell’s mind is like it would be if he were dead for the day.”
The woman that Alcide pinned asked softly, “Miss Stackhouse, what is the man doing with Ferrell?”
Sookie grimaced, her hand tightening around mine. “We should stop squabbling and get in there…”
I took over. “Quinn. Locate and keep watch over the Weres inside just in case they think about causing trouble. Everyone else, line up as we go in, stay close to form a gauntlet. They won’t act out because they want us to fuck up. No fangs. No violence. Be minimally defensive. Follow us. Sookie will free him of his chains and he’ll be carried out and taken to feed.”
Sookie giggled when she knocked on the door that had clearly been designed as though parishioners would ride elephants to services. The idea of ‘knocking politely’ struck an ironic nerve for her given our reason for being there.
The graying woman who opened the door noticed me, then Sookie before she plastered a fake grin over her confusion. “How can I help you?”
Sookie matched the fake smile and took a step towards her. “Well, Polly, we’re here to pick up a friend of ours.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize anyone was leaving. You see, we’re having a lock in…”
“I heard, but our friend isn’t feeling well.”
“Awwww. Shame. Who is it?”
“Just Ferrell. Don’t tell me you don’t know his name. Y’all have been starving and torturing the poor soul for nearly a week.”
The woman’s eyes widened and she tried to close the door in our faces. Sookie and I stopped it, pushing it just hard enough to get through without a show of strength. It didn’t seem like Polly had noticed the rest of the group until they were walking past her.
Sookie laughed wryly, “Never mind us. We’ll be out of your hair really quick. Ingrid, Polly is very seriously thinking about the stakes that are stashed in the coat check room. Would you mind discouraging that?”
Polly kept with us, shaking her head. “You can’t just…”
“Yes we can, Polly.”
“Yes, ma’am. We sure are. Why don’t you give the police a call. I’m sure they’ll be just as interested in the peaceful members of our rescue party as they are in the battered and abused man you have in the basement of a church.”
“He’s not human!”
Sookie shook her head and mumbled in disgust, “Neither are you.”
As Sookie and I made our way down the long hallway past the business offices with Stan, Isabel and our guards, we could hear the commotion of several people leaving in panic.
Women gasping, men grumbling, children whispering… What we didn’t hear was the first pair of fangs run out. We didn’t hear the first hiss. We didn’t hear the first growl. Somehow, Sookie managed to coax roughly 2 dozen vampires out of a bloodlust and not feel the slightest spark of pride… She was too focused on the task… determined, worried, shamed…
Her grip on my hand seemed to tighten with every step we took.
In an effort to make sure she understood, I started, “You need to get away from him the second he’s free.” I didn’t want it to be left to chance. He could very easily hurt her if she tried to stay with him, dote over him… her sweet nature could be her undoing. It had put her in too many dangerous situations already.
“He’ll be weak and Stan and I will have a hold on him, but he’s still a danger to you.”
“Sookie, are you alright?”
She nodded and gulped air.
“What are you doing? What are you keeping from the bond?”
“Just the urge to barf. The last thing we need is for both of us to feel sick.”
Siegbert chuckled from just behind us. “Too kind. Not alone. Some vampire shame own too.” He would know better than most since he was Hadley’s ‘big brodder’.
She forced a grin and glanced at him over her shoulder. “I guess you’re right, but it still surprises me.”
“Understand with time. You are baby.”
She mumbled, “I hope not. I don’t want to get used to it. I want it to go away.”
“Your lips, God’s ears. Is saying, yes?” A saying she’d used barely an hour earlier.
She giggled, casting another smile over her shoulder. That one was more genuine. “Amen.”
I couldn’t help but be surprised when Stan, both Berts, Alcide and Isabel echoed her ‘amen’ quietly.
The stench of scorched flesh and blood rushed out of the basement as soon as the door opened. The silence and feigned calm behind us was a contrast to the insanity waiting at the bottom of the stairs.
Sookie ejected my hand from hers, picking up speed… whether it was the sadistic thoughts of Ferrell’s torturer or the vampire’s reflexive groans that made her so anxious to get to the door to Ferrell’s cell, I wasn’t sure.
The door was left cracked… the lunatic inside was boastfully certain that he’d be uninterrupted during his games.
Sookie’s hands touched the door when she stopped. Her chin was trembling before she choked on the faintest whisper. “Ferrell, we’re gonna get you outta here.” By the time she turned around, her face was streaked with tears. “He’s too weak to respond… nothing… nothing about his mind… I don’t think he knows where he is… The guy… he… we need a… he’s covered in blood and some kind of… foil… we need a… a… blanket or…”
Silver leafing. It would stick to nearly anything moist… it was so light that it would pucker with the burning flesh under it, fusing into the wounds. I knew the technique well. Sookie’s concern for the vampire’s state was nothing compared to how worried I was for her. Rene’s escapades would pale in comparison once she saw what was waiting on the other side of the door she could barely bring herself to touch.
Before she could finish asking, Isabel left in a silent blur, returning only a moment later with a sleeping bag with a large cartoon samurai on it.
Sookie thanked her with a nod. “He’s got silver… on his hands…”
Stan nodded. “We’ll move quickly. Where is he?”
Sookie turned to face the door again. “11 o’clock. 10 feet in…” She took a couple of steps back and stared at the door, waiting. Finally… “His back is to the door.”
The human never saw us enter the room. He was too busy pressing sheets of leafing into Ferrell’s chest… the vampire was too weak to react from his crucified position against the wall.
He’d been stripped of his pride. His clothes were gone. His skin had been burned with silver and a small torch. He’d been pissed on and spit on… and there were Bible verses written along his arms and legs that were blurred by all of the blood that had been dumped on him rather than fed to him… Even the jugs of butcher shop pigs’ blood would’ve been tempting to him after a day or two in the silver shackles that had dug into his wrists and ankles to expose the bone underneath.
While the Berts held the bigot against another wall, Alcide yanked the man’s shirt over his head and pulled it down over his silver polluted hands… Everything happened too quickly for him to think about putting up a fight before Wybert pressed his thumb into his neck until he slumped into unconsciousness.
Sookie ran to the far corner, slipping on the putrid slick of blood… picking up and shaking empty bottle after empty bottle, hoping to find a True Blood that hadn’t been dumped over Ferrell’s head as a measure of cruelty. Feeling only slightly victorious when she found two…
She walked over to Ferrell, rubbing the bottles furiously over her hips as she moved… tucking one between her thighs as she opened the first and sobbing her apology for the fact that it was cold as she used his hair to tilt his head back and inch the bottle to his lips.
She asked for water so that she could rinse away the silver caked into his wounds while she trickled True Blood down his throat without a hint that he was going to recover… After only a week of human torture, he shouldn’t have been so comatose…
Patting his cheeks to provoke a stir didn’t work for her. She grabbed his chin to shake his head only to have synthetic dribble out of his mouth and down her arm. “Eric? I don’t get it… Why would he…?”
At a loss, I shook my head. “Unless he’s been fed silver, I can’t think of a reason…” When Isabel returned again, this time with an arm full of water bottles, I took my own to start rinsing the scum away from him. “He isn’t conscious so don’t worry about hurting him… sweep the silver away and move on to the next area.”
She choked, “Like a Band-Aid” to no one in particular, trembling enough that I felt like I was too. She wasn’t holding up well at all.
She started at his wrist, next to his shackle, pouring the water and pushing the silver particles away, whimpering when they were stuck, crying harder when she had to dig small bits out of his underarm with her fingernails…
“Son of a bitch!” She stopped working for a moment to study his neck. “Look around… they’ve been injecting him with something… it looks like there was a catheter in his neck.”
Isabel started studying the floor. “A catheter?”
Sookie went back to her task of rinsing Ferrell again. “It’s a medical device… Clear. Plastic. Doctors use it when they want to keep veins open… like with regular medications… It can leave a big bruise and… the tape leaves a film behind, like a shadow.”
“You know it?”
“I held my aunt’s hand through several…”
Alcide interrupted by growling. “Got something… bro… brodi… fucking medicine names… Why can’t they just call shit what it does?”
Sookie was suddenly fighting the urge to be sick again, but she didn’t have it in her to block it from me. I was trying to not be overwhelmed when her voice shook, “Brodifacoum?”
“Bingo! Nothing but the label left. The bottle was crushed. You know what it is?”
Sookie covered her mouth and stared up at Ferrell. “It’s… it’s rat poison… an… anticoagulant… those bastards…”
Alcide scowled at the lump of shit bigot on the floor. “They turned him into a hemophiliac?”
She nodded, still hiding behind her hand for a moment before she turned to Stan. “The donors… he needs them… This synthetic crap isn’t going to help, is it?”
“Is there an antidote? Something…”
Her throat clenched as she turned to finish cleaning Ferrell, summoning some steel from an unexpected reserve. “Humans need vitamin K when they can’t clot… umm… I know grapes, kiwi… broccoli… would that help undo it…? Maybe if the donors gorge on some?”
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and called someone to have them start force-feeding fruit and vitamins to the waiting donors if necessary.
It took a lot of work (and a well’s worth of tears) before we were ready to move.
Sookie was close to hyperventilating when she freed Ferrell’s ankles from the shackles holding his feet to the floor… the slight shift when his legs were free to go limp was enough for the True Blood Sookie had poured so carefully into his mouth to spill out of his lower orifices. Isabel gasped, “Typhoid” at the sight of the horrifying symptom and shed a few tears of her own.
There was still some silver imbedded in Ferrell’s torso when Stan and I wrapped him in the sleepingbag… scaling was going to be the only way to get some of the silver out of his skin… Live donors and a proper bath were going to be necessary if his condition was going to improve at all… Not possible with the timebomb waiting upstairs.
There was still a hearty gathering of gawking humans left in the chapel as we left the hallway, carrying Ferrell from his hell. The room stunk of fear induced adrenaline thanks to the dozen or so adults in the room. Three of them had video cameras and one had the audacity to approach us to document Ferrell’s condition.
Sookie and I seemed to notice that Steve Newlin himself was in attendance at the same time.
He raised his voice for the effect of the echo. “The Whore of Babylon!”
Sookie knew that he was talking about her. She scoffed, still wiping tears from her face. “What does that make you? The mayor of Gomorrah?”
“Rescuing him was pointless. He’ll meet his final judgment.”
“As will we all, Mr. Newlin, but it won’t happen at the hands of a monster like you.”
“I’m the monster!? Look at them. What do you call vampires?”
“Animals. We’re all animals. Near as I can tell, the only things that separate us from all the other animals are thumbs and a book that you’ve interpreted to justify the torture of a feeling, thinking being…” She turned her attention from him to his flock. “Let me ask y’all something. If you found out that your neighbor had done THAT to a dog, how likely are you to welcome that lunatic into your home, have him talk to your children, ask him to advise you on anything?”
She was met with emotionless faces and Newlin’s chuckling. “They’re lower than dogs. They’re an abomination.”
“The Bible doesn’t own the word abomination. Pride, greed, vanity… abominations… that almost everyone is guilty of at one point or another. The word just means something to hate… like gas prices.” A few of the vampires thought it was worth a chuckle.
“God will judge me. Not you.”
Her head tilted to the side, stopping in her tracks to turn to him. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Ferrell would’ve been on a collision course with the stone floor, I’d have grabbed her and taken her outside. I felt her snap. It felt like my own breaking point. Her emotions, the positive ones that kept her human, shut off. She wasn’t blocking them from me. They just disappeared. “Who are you to judge them then? Who are you to say that their lives are wrong? Standing here in your ‘church’ are 6 vampires older than Christianity, old enough to tell stories about the good old days before jerks like you started hiding behind Christ. You need to read your Bible again if you’ve forgotten who Christ was. He’d have embraced vampires, learned from them, accepted them as one of his father’s creations. You. Are. Not. God. You are a pathetic little man who hides his ignorance under a veil of righteousness. You’ve raised a pulpit on the rock of shock value and I have the utmost faith in my God that you’ll burn for the lies and hate you spread against a race of people who want nothing more than to live the lives they lose every morning and miraculously get back every night. In all your little speeches that are nothing more than an excuse to hear yourself talk, I’ve heard you quote the Bible backwards and forwards and every time you manage to miss the passages that include vampires…”
“There are no vampires in the Bible!” I was expecting her to mention her grandmother’s theory about Adam and Eve, or maybe mention that she subscribed to the more common belief that Lazarus was a vampire…
“Oh… how wrong you are… Methuselah was nearly a thousand years old and he was considered righteous enough to be spared from the flood… And I think that you might be forgetting the best part of all of this. The irony. You’re such a good Christian… I’m sure you know that after Christ died, and he rose 3 nights later, his mother took his pet, Mary Magdalene to him. They tended to him… and then he rose to heaven. How’s that for theory, Smarty Pants? I think I’ll form my own church since we’re allowed to infer whatever we want. I think, given the Bible’s timeline and longevity claims that humans are an offshoot of vampires and not the other way around. Lives got shorter. Only the righteous enjoyed long lives or were given special abilities… and the only way to become a vampire is to be chosen. There’s a vampire in this room who can walk on water… another who can heal the injured… JUST LIKE JESUS! You know, GOD’S SON! In fact, you should call God to be sure, since you claim to have a direct line and all, but some of those saints lived a while too. I like it.” I couldn’t walk on water, I could just float over it… but it was an amusing point… and I couldn’t help but be proud of her for leaving the healing attributes vague.
“That’s completely ridiculous!”
She made a show of scanning Newlin’s followers. “I think you’ve already proven that some idiots will believe just about anything if the lie comes in a flashy suit and hair gel. If you’ll excuse us, we need to tend to the man you objectified… then I’m going shopping for an offering plate and a fill-in-the-blanks Bible like yours. I’ll see you around, Sport… Godfrey, I know you’re listening from the balcony, you coward. Word to the wise… Every man stumbles along his path, but only a fool lets another man drag him down theirs. Whatever your plans are, you need to unhitch your wagon.”
On her way to the door, she snatched the video camera out of the annoying cameraman’s hands and ejected the cartridge. “Just do an internet search for ‘Steve Newlin Vampire Torture’. You’ll find it.” She held the tape in the air as she strolled out. “Hey Steve, when you talk to God, tell him I said thanks for sending me someone I can trust. I’m suddenly blessed with marvelous company.”
Sookie asked Stan who would be tending to Ferrell during the day, volunteering for the job so that she could be sure he’d be taken care of, but he graciously declined and explained that Ferrell would be well cared for, promising that she’d get word by dawn. I wouldn’t have allowed it anyway, but she’d have been willing to argue about it.
While Sookie dotingly watched us load Ferrell’s body into the back seat of an SUV, she explained that ‘Godfrey’, AKA Godric, had gone to the Church as a renouncer. His suicide plans were only sweetened by his offer to bring them another vampire to burn… Polly was proud enough to have been thinking that Godfrey was doing the ‘right thing’ and that Hugo was probably to blame for their spoiled plans.
Ingrid carefully approached us to explain that it would be her honor to take our party back to our hotel.
Sookie settled against my side on the middle row of seats in Ingrid’s Expedition, careful to keep her hands tucked under her arms, with Alcide in the front and Quinn sandwiched between the Berts in the back.
We were nearly back to our hotel before anyone said anything.
It had to be Quinn. “Vampire Church, huh?”
Sookie didn’t move other than to say, “One joke and I will have you dragged through a cactus farm by your junk. I was proving a point.”
“I was just kidding… Hey, those Weres inside. They’re uh… checking things out. Spies for the local packs. You know, for when we go public. That’s all…”
“I know. I heard.”
“Oh… I didn’t realize you were listening…”
“I listened to everyone.”
“Cool. I got a phone number… Luna…”
Without warning, Sookie spun around and leaned over the seat to put her face directly in his. “That’s awesome! While you were lining up a piece of ass, I was watching True Blood spill out of the body of a poisoned vampire who was too weak to realize that he was being rescued! Yay for Quinn and his booty call! I’ll make sure Ferrell knows he was the reason you might get laid while we’re here! I’m sure knowing that you get to scratch your itch will soften the blow of having to be filleted to get some of the silver out of his skin! Do you have any idea where those freaks put silver to him!?” When she backed up, we all thought she was going to sit down again… wrong. She punched his nose with enough force that his head whipped back. “You hit your word limit, asswipe!”
Lucky for Quinn, he was just smart enough to take her warning seriously. The only noise he made for the rest of the drive was snorting and sniffling because of his broken nose. Wybert, so generously, realigned it for him. Gently, of course.
On the elevator, Alcide motioned to the blood smeared all over Sookie and me. “Why don’t y’all use one of the redundant rooms to clean up so Hunter doesn’t see that. I’ll go to your room and get Pam to run some fresh stuff over to you… Sookie could probably use some time to settle down before dealing with Hunter anyway.” Sookie was numb. She wasn’t doing it purposefully, but she’d seen the most disgusting thing she’d ever laid eyes on… it was her only defense. Even after the bombing and sorting through ashes and puddles, her concern for Pam had saved her from feeling for those who were ended.
“That’s if he’s awake. It’s nearly 3.”
She nodded as we stepped out of the elevator. “He’s up. They’re watching the second movie. He’s waiting for Pam to cry again like she did when the mother died in the first one.”
“Shit. Does it bother him?” I hadn’t thought she’d have a weepy episode over a dinosaur cartoon.
She shook her head and reached for my hand before she thought better of it. “He thinks it’s funny… that she’s so sensitive because she tries to hide it.”
“I meant the bloody tears.”
“Nope. Doesn’t seem to have a problem with it… well, he will when he realizes that there’s a drop on his new T Rex PJs.”
“She cried on him?”
“And ‘squzzed’ him.”
“You should’ve seen her when the shot rang out in Bambi. I had to carry her out of the theater with her face under a coat… She sent Walt Disney hate mail until he died.”
Alcide snorted out a laugh. “What was that, 25 years?”
“That sounds right… She’s still pissed about Mufasa too.” And Tarzan, and she managed to be upset about what Lord Farquaad did to the Gingerbread man in Shrek. She was still carrying a grudge against John Lithgow on principle.
“Is it animals or cartoons?”
“Her birthday is next month, right?”
“My dad’s receptionist has a monkey she’s trying to find a home for. Marmoset, I think.”
I couldn’t resist. “Why?”
“Damn thing flings food and tries to rape her dog.” PERFECT!
“$800. Pam wouldn’t hurt it, would she… if it shat in her shoes?”
“No. She’d spoil the dammed thing until the only way to make it behave is to spoil it more.” Both of them stopped to stare at me. It only took a moment for me to realize what I’d said to make them both look at me like I’d forgotten my helmet… That was exactly how I’d ‘tamed’ Pam. Fuck. Before either of them had the chance to say anything, because they didn’t need to, I continued, “Call the receptionist. Tell her I’ll give her an extra grand to hold on to it until next month.” Maybe spending $1800 on a gag gift wasn’t the best way to deny anything… $5000 by the time Pam was done making sure it had clothes and jewelry to match hers and whatever other convoluted accessories the thing would ‘need’.
Alcide started laughing and continued walking when we stopped short at another door. “Aye, aye captain.”
Sookie went straight to the bathroom sink and started scrubbing her hands as though she wanted her skin to come off. When I started filling the tub, she shook her head. “I don’t want to soak in it. I want to rinse it away.”
I nodded and turned the knob for the shower head. “As far as I’ve seen…”
She shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I like your church idea. It could be fun. You could hold services on YouTube… Humans would buy it…”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it.” She started stripping off her clothes like they irritated her.
“Can we talk about how you punched Quinn?” Because that was stunning.
“Especially not that.”
When she stepped into the tub, I started removing my clothes to get in with her. “Why not?”
She was quiet until I stepped in behind her. “Because… that was horrible. I don’t want to think about it anymore.”
“Then all I’ll say is that I’m proud of you. You were perfect.”
“I’m… Ok.” It bothered me that she didn’t know what to do with the compliment.
“Try to relax. That’s probably the worst that you’ll see for a while.”
She nodded, letting me take the shampoo to do her hair for her. Her mood was still too intense when Pam came into the room a few minutes later to bring our clothes…
I could only assume that Alcide had given Pam an account of our ‘adventure’ since she didn’t linger to get one from me… She silently left our things on the counter without as much as a glance in our direction.
Once Sookie and I were washed, I wrapped my arm around her to keep her from leaving and started filling the tub. She mumbled that she wanted our phones at hand in case Stan called. She set a towel and our phones on the edge of the tub and climbed back in, letting me put us in the bottom of the tub… She was still wallowing, failing at not thinking about ‘it’.
“You’re horrible at disregarding things.”
“You want to stop thinking about what happened tonight, but you haven’t managed.”
“Oh. My. God. Are you serious? How am I supposed to stop thinking about what I saw? What they did to him?”
“Think about something else.”
“Is it that easy for you?”
“For me, yes. I’ve seen much worse… I understand that set a precedent for you, but you aren’t doing yourself any favors by thinking about Ferrell.”
“They could’ve killed him.”
“He could still be ended by what they did.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
“No. It’s a reality that I want you to be prepared for. None of us have any idea how Ferrell’s body will react to the poison. If he doesn’t start to absorb something tonight, regain consciousness, show some kind of improvement, they’ll end him to spare him from withering.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.”
“You need to think about something else.”
“How? You saw him. He was so… wretched. It was pitiful.”
“You’re a pain in the ass.”
“Yes, you. You are so kind and loving that you refuse to accept that there are ugly things in the world… you want to change it all.” A trait that contradicts her Fae heritage.
“Is that so wrong?”
“No. I’m going to take some of the blame too. Since you’ve managed to make me happy and give me something to look forward to, you think it’ll be that easy with everyone.”
She snorted, “Jerk.”
“I’m not a jerk. I’m a monster, but I’m a perversely content monster thanks to you… you need to realize that while those humans heard nothing you said, you’re a rock star to the vampires of Dallas at the moment. Vampires aren’t as easily swayed as humans… Your influence has a bigger impact on them than the humans who ignored you.”
“You said it yourself. Fangs and aggression would have just inspired more fear. They followed your direction tonight in the interest of keeping themselves safe, but it was still a step in the right direction. Humans will continue to provoke us, but because we have nothing if not our survival instinct, we’ll fight back quietly. Things will change slowly, as they always do. You’ll be around to see it.”
“If I don’t press my luck, I might live long enough. They were not happy that Davis let me talk to them.” I knew why he’d done it. It wouldn’t improve her mood to find out that the only reason was because if she had been wrong, they could still run amok and kill everyone. Giving Sookie’s tactic a chance to fail wasn’t respect; it was his ‘plan A’. If everything had gone ‘wrong’, he’d have had a fall girl, but since everything had gone as well as it could have, he bolstered her reputation and made himself look like a genius for hiring her.
“We’re used to change. We’ve seen a lot of it. Public relations were thrust at us, recently at that. You are helping to change that… even if it is just a few of us at a time.”
“Peaceful resistance doesn’t really have a lot of miles on it though…”
“Things will settle down and luckily we have the longevity to wait it out. Vampires are just the new niggers…”
She shot away from me, sloshing water out of the tub to get to the other end. “ERIC! I can’t believe you just said that!”
I laughed. Between the look on her face and the indignation she was feeling, I couldn’t help myself. “I guess you’re right… even though it makes up most of America’s history of intolerance, Towel Heads and Fags are more recent.”
“Oh. My. GOD! Stop talking like that!” She started lifting herself out of the water.
I grabbed her hand, stopping her since I’d goaded her intentionally. “Hold on. I meant that, at the moment, Vampire is a ‘dirty’ word to certain people just like the others.”
“Tell me you don’t talk like that. That’s horrible!”
“You realize that I know how to offend nearly everyone and everything in several different languages, yes?”
“Gran would’ve shoved soap into your mouth so fast YOU couldn’t have seen it coming!” I could actually picture the little woman coming towards me with a bar.
“I don’t use racial slurs. I’ve met too many to disparage an entire race based on one individual. When I slur someone, I attack their character. It’s more fun.”
“No. I’m lying so that you don’t try to fill my mouth with body wash.”
She made an angry face and slapped the back of my hand. “Sarcastic ass!”
I laughed again. “I think your grandmother would forgive the usage considering the context.”
She narrowed her eyes, realizing that I wasn’t insulting anyone, just trying to put the bigotry in question into perspective. “Maybe… I don’t like that language. Don’t talk like that, please.”
“Or… I’ll stop breaking in your shirts for you.” She raised her eyebrow, inviting me to volley.
“On the other hand, if I refrain from using such ‘language’, you would see no point in depriving me of my treats.”
She very seriously nodded. “Of course.”
“Now that I understand the consequences of said behavior, more importantly, you’ve agreed to scenting my shirts whenever possible, I need to confess something.”
“That I only said the ‘N’ word to piss you off. You needed to be distracted.”
She narrowed her eyes in spite of the smile threatening the corners of her mouth. “You devious jerk.”
“You love me though.”
She inched closer to kiss me. “I absolutely love you.”
“You were amazing tonight. Very impressive.”
“Really? I was afraid I was getting annoying… I just couldn’t make myself stop crying. I couldn’t concentrate to stop feeling. I was a mess.”
“It endeared you to them. They were all very surprised to see that your feelings contradicted the mauks from the church.”
“I’m going to default to you then. I was embarrassed… I guess I should apologize to Quinn too…”
“Don’t you dare. He doesn’t deserve it. That dolt was trolling for a date while he should’ve been working. He didn’t notice that you’d been threatened. He deserved…”
“Then why did you get pissed when I did it?”
“Because I haven’t gotten the chance to hit him. You and Alcide are being greedy.”
She giggled, kissing me again. “Don’t whine about it. I’m sure he’ll give you a reason soon enough.”
I actually did whine when we left the spare hotel room without putting more water on the floor. It was just after 4am and Sookie felt guilty for having robbed Pam and Jason.
I was wearing a new pair of pajama pants when we went back to our suite. Sookie had made them a priority on her shopping list.
I almost didn’t notice them given the night gown and robe that Sookie had bought herself… the light blue lace of the short, backless gown was miserably hidden under the matching silk robe. I called it a tease, only to be corrected… Sookie called it gift wrap. I couldn’t have been discouraged by that if I tried.
Pam and Jason left as we returned without much more than a ‘goodnight’ and Alcide only stayed long enough to say that he’d already called down to the front desk to apply the do-not-disturb to our rooms and take a Red Bull since they seem to evaporate around Sookie.
As soon as the door was closed, Hunter completely abandoned his movie to hop over the back of the sofa. “Is he ok!?”
Sookie shook her head. “We don’t know yet, Sweetie. He was really messed up when we got to the poor guy. We’ll have to wait and see.”
“Did he go to the hospital?”
“No. Hospitals don’t do vampires any good. They heal themselves if they can.”
“Yeah, but he was barely alive… Did you have fun?” A blatant attempt to change the subject.
“Yeah! I told Pam about my hobby. She ordered a children’s atlas for me! It’s getting delivered tomorrow. It’s fat. She says I should do cities too because I could get bored waiting for some of the countries.”
“She’s right. We should get you a pack of Post-its so you can make notes.”
“I can’t spell yet.”
“You need to learn anyway. We’ll help you. Did you get your bath and everything? It’s time we should start to settle in for the night.”
“Yeah. I made a mess with my ice cream so I took a bath between movies.”
“Have you brushed your teeth since Jason let you get loaded up on sugar?”
The ‘whoops’ that appeared on his face made Sookie giggle as he ran to his room.
She busily ejected Hunter’s movie and put it back in its case, closing the entertainment center. She took the dishes from their snack and rolled the room service cart out to the hallway…
I sat on the sofa next to an end table with a pair of watery glasses on it, knowing that I’d be on her housekeeping course and waited.
She gathered Hunter’s laundry and put it into a bright green mesh hamper, then put ours into a black one…
She dropped his crayons and markers into a bag and arranged the coloring books neatly on the dinette.
When she finally noticed the glasses next to me, I got my chance.
She squeaked when I pulled her onto my legs.
“You’ve done enough today.”
She giggled, raising her eyebrow. “Ok. I’ll just go to sleep then.”
She giggled again. “Yes it is. Besides, Hunter’s still up. I’m just making use of the time.”
“Until we can go to bed.”
“Has everyone else retired for the day?”
She closed her eyes to concentrate and I actually felt as though part of her drifted away from me slightly. “Paulette is dreaming about a trip she took with her brother when they were kids. Alcide is in the shower. The Berts are in their rooms with their donors from before. Quinn is watching wrestling.”
“I’m assuming that you don’t want to know what Pam and your brother are doing.”
She widened her eyes and shook her head vehemently.
I was still chuckling when Hunter joined us by bouncing onto the sofa next to us.
He announced, “All fresh! G’night.” When he leaned past me to kiss Sookie, I noticed three tiny stains on his shoulder, but I didn’t have the chance to be amused with Pam’s dinosaur induced crying jag before he surprised me by kissing my cheek too.
Sookie returned his ‘goodnight’ and offered to tuck him in as he ran out of the room again, but he declined cheerfully and shut his door.
She turned back to me with a strange smile on her face. “I’m pretty sure that it’s mandatory for women to swoon when a sexy guy is great with kids.”
I couldn’t help but think that she was giving me an ‘out’, a way to not linger on the fact that a child had just given me a goodnight kiss and how strange it felt. “Mandatory?”
“Sure. I think the rule is that as long as you don’t have a suit made out of human skin, I’m to yield to your every craving.” She slid off of my lap, taking my hand…
Like I needed to be encouraged to take the invitation…
She untied the sash of her robe slowly, letting it fall to the floor behind where she was standing between my knees. My hands itched as they helped her shrug away the blue shroud to reveal the sexy little slip I hadn’t seen enough of before…
The pale pink of her nipples peaked through the tats of the lace as I pushed the hem over her thighs…
Just in time for my fucking phone to ring.
Sookie froze… waiting. Not answering wasn’t an option.
“Sheriff. Isabel. My sheriff asked me to call. He asked that I apologize that he didn’t call himself, but he’s with Ferrell.”
“Is there news?”
“It’s taken 5 donors, but he’s bleeding less and less. His body is absorbing some sustenance finally. He’s hardly coherent, but he is responsive.” As Sookie smiled, I felt her worry fall away, leaving nothing behind but her typical lightness.
“Sookie is excited to hear of his improvement. She’s been plagued by concern for him.” She put her hand in the middle of my chest, pushing slightly to persuade me to lie back and hovered over me, nibbling along my ribs.
“We know. Since we’ve returned to our nest and explained how she’s helped, there are several of our comrades who are anxious for her services. Hugo’s betrayal is a large factor. I’m to ask if Sookie would have the stamina to proceed with a clinic tonight.” Sookie smiled against the skin of my stomach and drew a Y with the tip of her nose, releasing a long warm breath as she slipped lower and lower, hooking her fingers into my waistband and pulling my pants away.
Forcing words past the growl trapped in my throat was not painless. “She’ll be fine once she’s rested.” The path her devilish little mouth was taking punched my skin with chills and I caught myself taking an anticipated breath. She nipped the crease of my hip and bit my thigh before dragging her tongue over the length of my cock, teasing my tip over her lips … looking at me the whole time and enjoying every bit of my torment.
“How do you prefer to execute the clinic? Is there a process that works best for her?” Sookie took more and more, creeping her lips down around me, pushing me to the back of her throat only to drag her teeth away… and back again.
“You’ll need a sizable waiting area, but Sookie does her screenings privately. She only needs a small area for that.” Sookie spelled I W A N T Y O U along my body with her tongue, one agonizing letter at a time…
“We’d originally thought that she’d perform here at our nest, but in light of the desire for her services, we’re sure there isn’t room. What was once going to be a requirement has become a privilege. Would you approve of using the conference and meeting facilities at the hotel?” Sookie was straddling my legs, gripping my cock… her strokes were slow, deliberate, cruel as she leaned to put herself eye to eye with me.
“That would be acceptable.” She mouthed ‘I need you’ just before her face disappeared into the crook of my neck. She was hell bent on making sure she had my attention. She teased until my free hand wrapped into her hair…
“Then I’m to make as many arrangements as possible before dawn. Who should I have the hotel coordinate with during the day?” She lifted away, stilling her hand to lower herself on to my dick, tensing around me and hissing her amusement when I gave a grunt.
“Her guard, Alcide Herveaux. He’ll be able to see to security measures and since he has experience with Sookie’s practices, he’ll be suitable to act as my daytime proxy.” Her hips rocked, her eyes still locked on mine while she ran her fingertips over my chest, scratching and kneading.
“Are there any comfort measures I should see to?” The longer Sookie teased, the more heat she radiated… Lying under a blanket of warm torture made it nearly impossible to give the phone call even a fraction of my attention.
“Catering is the only thing I can imagine. There are several chewers in our party.” When Sookie reached between us, intentionally building my curiosity by moving slowly to finally rub her clit…
“Yes Sheriff. Thank you…” I threw my phone across the room, finally letting my fangs down and grabbing her ass with both hands to move her.
“That was wicked.”
She bit her lip, whimpering, finally free to make noise… tightening before she answered… “You love me though.”