Misery Loves Company
The week I’d been promised came and went…
Sookie called at the last minute, just after sunset to speak to me in person, to ‘apologize’ for the delay. She claimed Allecks wanted to spend a few days with the children before they left for their holiday…
I didn’t believe it.
Dinh and Saskia had already been preparing the house for Human guests for a few days before Sookie called…
She was stalling.
She was having second thoughts.
I was sure of it.
I’d rearranged my schedule to allow for spending a few nights in Eijsden…
I was struggling to digest the wealth of connections from one version to the next…
Every task on my schedule for the last seven nights had to be completed with iron will because I found myself constantly tempted to rewatch the video ‘testimonials’ by Pam. Yes, I was getting used to her name change.
It was infuriating to have the added distraction of sending someone to follow Sookie looking for information.
It never failed either… Every time one of them called to give a report, one of Pam’s videos was interrupted.
Allecks had come to stay at the townhouse in Bern, taking over the house while Sookie left to stay with a friend who lived at the other end of the street. While his activities with the children were painfully ordinary to the man watching the house, Sookie’s sudden freedom was far from stagnant.
Allecks assumed the responsibility of their schooling, prepared meals with them, read bedtime stories to them, played football with them in the garden, went riding with them… Shopping, dining out, movies… The least mundane moment during the four days they were followed was the formal museum benefit he attended with them. Even then, it was only remarkable because the children had been well behaved in spite of their limitless energy.
Sookie, on the other hand, had gone to stay close by in Allecks’s flat. Did she think I wouldn’t find her there? She enjoyed luncheons, trips to the salon, shopping, and a dinner party… She went to two appointments with a physician and spent the better part of a day at a large book shop during a book signing by the author of a mystery series for young adults. She spent the bulk of her late evenings with her laptop and when the ISP was used to track Sookie’s internet use, most of the web sites she’d been accessing were pornography and social networking sites.
In general, Sookie didn’t seem to be doing anything other than enjoying her free time away from her children.
More specifically, there wasn’t a single hint to the fact that she had any fucking intention of coming to Eijsden as promised.
I rose running through my plans for the evening.
As I had done every night since I’d been given the journal, I reached for my laptop and turned it on so I could spend my hour before sunset watching the videos of Pam again.
I wasn’t interested in spoiling the little bit of enjoyment they brought me by thinking of the argument waiting for me once I drove to Bern to confront the little cunt who was about to discover the repercussions of breaking a promise to me.
Of anything, I walked away from our meeting with the impression that she was clever enough to know I wouldn’t just forget.
Women and children weren’t ‘off limits’ as much as a last resort.
If I had to use her children as leverage, I would.
I started the first video to see Pam sit down, sighing and rolling her eyes. She toyed with her nails for a moment before chuckling with a sinister look on her face. Even her facial expressions and her cheeky behavior had been missed…
“I’m going on record right now. This is me laughing my ass off at the Vampire who never did more than feed from and fuck Humans because they were ‘too much trouble’… This is me laughing at the Vampire who always thought ten steps ahead to ‘eliminate variables’… This is me laughing at the fact that you’ve gone completely free agent, you’ve managed to sever all ties with politics, just to enjoy your retirement… And now you’re surrounded with Humans and you have forged a bond with a Human, only to shit in your own lap. Thank you. Thank you, Eric… this… as my Maker, you’ve finally taught me the ultimate lesson. I probably never would have had absolute comprehension of irony. The sacrifice you’ve made to give me this knowledge warms me to my core…”
I chuckled as I carried the laptop to the bathroom. She’d always been a brat, constantly pointing out any proof she found that I wasn’t infallible. I needed it… more now than when she was alive.
I set the computer on the counter to have a shower while I listened to her recording. Even the sound of her voice made a difference.
I showered while listening to Pam’s commentary on the path I wish I’d taken.
When I decided to leave Amsterdam, we had plenty of options… I’d given the ultimate decision to Liz and she spent more than a month searching headlines for news and business opportunities. After presenting the options to me, we decided the best of them were Paris and Hollywood. Buying a hotel as an excuse for Liz to shop or investing in the rapidly growing film industry as an excuse for Liz to shop.
Our destination was decided by a coin toss. Heads- Paris. Tails- Hollywood.
My coin put us in Paris where Liz and I lived quietly for decades before Halfdan contacted me. The other Me had been lucky enough to find himself in California until He was accused of being a Communist in 1947 thanks to being listed as a producer of ‘Un-American’ films. That Eric and Liz laughed while they packed their belongings and moved to New Orleans because of His investments in Cuba (which were partly responsible for the communism accusations).
That coin toss led to a Me being offered a quiet job in Louisiana’s Area 5 as Sheriff. The presence of a former Knight in her Kingdom made Sophie-Anne anxious. Since the Area was only home to a few dozen Vampires at the time, that Me accepted the offer to remain closer to his business interests.
As Pam prattled the synopsis with an air of boredom, I rued that coin toss. I hadn’t enjoyed Paris when I was there before. The air was miserably thick with political posturing, Human, Vampire and Were alike. As soon as the coin was in the air, I knew I preferred the idea of moving to California, even if base curiosity about America was to blame.
I lost Liz because of a coin toss.
It didn’t matter that the other versions had found the most infinitesimal of pebbles had sparked a tsunami of differences. As many times as I’d read it, hoping I wasn’t the only one to have lost Liz, I was it. I was the only one known to have suffered that loss. Even the Eric who was forced to turn Sookie when Pam was ended had been distracted from the pain with new responsibility. He hadn’t had time to mourn yet.
A fucking coin toss.
The next video was beginning, Pam with a pair of little boys on her lap, when I stepped out of the shower. Sad that I even missed how she used to lean on the counter (occasionally flushing the toilet) while I showered.
I knew, from experience, I would have time to watch the video three times before sunset…
Then I would have five hours en route to Bern to formulate my plan… Since I already had eyes on Sookie, finding her wouldn’t be a problem… but given that Sookie had been eating at restaurants every night and lingering at the bar afterwards, I was going to need a plan for getting my point across…
Pinning her and forcing my blood down her throat… publically… in another Kingdom… when Clovis and I already had a strained relationship…
I was going to have to put on the appearance of being passive until we were in a secluded location for that.
I used Pam’s video as company while I read and sent emails until the sun had fully set… Enjoying the sound of her voice while I worked more than I used to because I used to take it for granted.
The only things missing were the scent of Chanel No. 5 and a joke about how dull work was.
Before I left, I itemized the contents of my trunk… hoping Sookie could be convinced with less drastic measures, but completely prepared to abduct her while her children were with the ex-husband. I’d thought to pad the trunk with a featherbed and include a pillow, so she couldn’t complain about comfort.
I had just put the key in the ignition when Dinh trotted out of the house waving his arms as though he was landing a plane.
I growled at the delay as I stepped out of my car. “What do you want?”
His eyes widened. “Mrs. Auers is insisting they go out for dinner, but Saskia and I don’t want to take our leave until you dismiss us. Mrs. Auers refuses to let Saskia know what she’s looking for to stock the pantry…”
“She’s here?” Unfuckingbelievable. Sookie actually showed up.
He nodded, “Yes sir. They arrived just a few hours ago. She… She told me she informed you…” Yes, but she’d also told me she’d be arriving four days ago too.
“I hadn’t received confirmation.” If I’d been expecting her to actually follow through, I might have sampled the air before I left the house. It usually reeked of my guards, so I hadn’t bothered.
“Oh… They’ve been here for a while. They unpacked their things and Atja gave her a tour of the town. They ate lunch at a café, she called to inquire about a house for sale, and she brought some groceries back with her. They retired to their rooms to get some rest.” As I turned to greet my guests, Dinh cleared his throat. “Sir, should I have Saskia prepare dinner?”
I shook my head without turning back. “No. If Sookie has dinner plans, there isn’t a point in that. You and your sister are free to go, but I could call or email you later with notes.”
I arrived at the door to the room Saskia happily prepared for Sookie, only to hear, “Come in,” before I could knock.
When I opened the door, Sookie was sitting on the bed with her laptop on her legs… She held her finger up and finished typing before closing the computer and leaving the bed to walk towards me.
She stopped just inches away and folded her arms. “I’m going to assume that you sent someone to follow us because you aren’t used to being able to trust anyone and you were worried I was having second thoughts after I called about the kids spending a few days with Allecks before we made the trip.”
“As opposed to what?”
“As opposed to gathering information about me to use it coerce me to follow through with my promise to bond with you… And no, it didn’t escape me you didn’t deny having us followed. At least that’s a step in the right direction.”
“How did you know I had you followed?”
“I’m a mind reader, Eric. Pieter was following me and Albert was following the girls. I’m glad it wasn’t the other way around since Pieter’s a disgusting pervert. By the way, the neighbor’s teenage boy is the one who spends all of his time in chat rooms and surfing for porn. He uses Allecks’s router once his parents are in bed. I only really use the internet for research so anytime the ISP registered a hit for a baby naming website or Wikipedia, that was me… Were you really that worried I’d back out?”
“I’m here now, so you’ll chill out a little bit, right?” Probably not.
“I don’t know. Why is it so important to you that I ‘chill out’?”
“Because of the notes Sookie left for me. You need to get your shit together. You’re so fucked up that you let a breathing being with a heartbeat sneak up on you in the shower. Your head could’ve been lobbed off before you knew you had company. She was very worried about you…”
“No. She was confusing herself. She would have been worried about her Eric if…”
“Don’t pull that deflecting bullshit with me… Someone waltzed into your house, pushed your guards back until they were within a few feet of the door to your room… your reaction to that was having the incompetent guards take the possible assassin to local Human officials. I might be new here, but I would’ve tied a bitch to a chair and gotten answers before I declared it rubber ducky time, buddy.”
“I had every intention of questioning her once she was secure.”
“You gave the fools who were struggling to hold her another chance to let her get to you, which actually happened… If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you’re suicidal…”
I opened my mouth to tell her to save her theories, but she didn’t give me the chance. I was close to breaking her fucking jaw just so she’d stop talking.
“I know you don’t give a shit about us or our wellbeing any further than knowing as long as I’m alive, you’ll get occasional vacations to see Pam, but I’m allowed to have my own agenda. That includes living long enough to tell my grandchildren embarrassing stories about their mothers… Is seeing Pam again going to help you get your head back in the game at all?”
“I’m not sure you know enough about me to assume I haven’t always had my head in the game.”
“I’m not sure you know me well enough to excuse that you think I’m too stupid to notice someone is watching every move I make. I’d like to mention that you didn’t notice I had a spy of my own.”
“You had me followed?”
She raised her eyebrow and tilted her head. “Checkmate. Eleven days later, and I had to tell you. Are you prepared to think about it yet?”
“When was I followed?”
“From the night we met.”
I growled, “Proof.”
“You came back here that night and read your guards the riot act about how lax they were. The next night you flew to Antwerp, fed from a redhead Lord Johan offered you, then flew to Brussels to meet with Lord Francoise. The next night you went to Rotterdam. You didn’t have to be so rough with the blonde donor Lord Cornelius offered you, but I guess, better her than me… Should I keep going or would you like for me to skip ahead to the part where I suggest we take a look in your trunk?” For a split second, I thought she read someone’s mind, but no one Human knew all of that information.
“I’m not amused. Who did you hire?”
“How does that matter? I can rationalize my reasons for having you watched just as much as you can.”
“I’d love to hear you try to justify having me followed.”
“I’ve already told you… You aren’t the same Eric I met. There’s nearly a century of different experiences, including that you were devastated by a loss He didn’t suffer. You let a little of your temper shine through when you grabbed me as I rescinded your invitation to my house. While I’ve read the journals enough to know you have the potential to be a good man, I’m not willing to take any chances where my children are concerned. You wouldn’t ever have advertised Pam’s resting place either so I’m sure you can understand why I’m protective.”
“Is this the negotiation I was expecting?”
“No. This is me asking if there’s any fucking point to bonding. Is there any point to inviting the chaos theory to have its way with my life? I want to help you, but I don’t want to subject myself to your attitude if you’re a lost cause.”
I shook my head. “You think you know me because of the journal.”
“Did you read it?”
“Of course I did.”
“Did you skim through everything and concentrate on all things Pam?” Yes.
She sighed, “That was rhetorical, Eric… If you paid any attention to the rest of the journal, you would’ve known better than to assign a Human to follow me. Any other Eric, because they aren’t basket cases, would’ve sent Dae or Vampire spies because I can hear Human and Were minds too clearly. Shit Eric, at least one who doesn’t think in English or German.”
“It didn’t occur to me you’d be able to hear Pieter’s thoughts. How close did he get to you?”
“He stayed a ways away from me, about fifty meters or so, for a couple of days. I knew he was following me before he mingled at the book store…” Lesson learned. I wouldn’t underestimate her range again. “Eric, please… at least admit to yourself that you need to get it together.”
“Stop talking to me as though you know me. The journal…”
She sighed, and her eyes became glassy. “Fine. What did you come up here to talk about then?”
“I don’t want to talk.”
“Then you came to my room to give me your blood and then go about your business.” She made that sound like a bad thing.
“And to encourage you to take advantage of Dinh and Saskia’s services.”
She shook her head as though she was disappointed in a child. “Fine… Let’s get on with it.”
“Did you speak to your physician about the effects of Vampire blood on your pregnancy?”
Her throat clenched and she shook her head. “No.”
“Did you research it on your own?”
“No. Stop asking as though you care…” I didn’t care per se. I was simply curious. “We know from the journal the blood exchanges don’t have any effects on a pregnancy. Well, I know that because I didn’t skip the meat of the journal to get to the Pam-gravy like an obsessed fan-girl. I wouldn’t have agreed to a bond if there was any question. I would’ve told you to wait six months.”
“You’re behaving defensively.”
“You’ve made it clear that I’m a means to an end for you. I’d rather be friends since we’re going to have to work together from time to time, but I can handle that… I do expect you to display a modicum of consideration for my kids. It’s not their fault the preview was better than the movie… Let’s go. Get on with it. I’m not feeding you though. You have plenty of donors at your disposal. You only need to feed from me once to complete the bond.”
“And occasionally to maintain it.”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. If bonding doesn’t help, there’s no point in maintaining the bond and suffering one another.”
“You think you’re suffering me?” How quaint.
“If you aren’t going to give me your blood now, I should get ready to go. We have plans.”
“Do you see the irony there? You think my etiquette is lacking, yet you’re in my house as a guest and you make dinner plans on your first night here.”
She rolled her eyes. “The girls and I are in the mood for corned beef and cabbage. Since I read the journal I know you aren’t fond of the smell of cabbage, so I offered to buy Atja dinner in exchange for showing me how to get to the restaurant instead of having Saskia stink up your house.” When she wasn’t behaving like a cunt, she could actually be considerate. Who knew?
“My estate is crawling with Weres. I’m not in the practice of smelling my surroundings when I’m here…”
“You’re welcome. Are we done? Not that it makes a difference to you, but since I’ve never had Vampire blood before, I want to get it over with.”
I studied her for a moment… second guessing myself. If her cousin could be glamoured, she’d be a more agreeable pet. As a minimum, there would be a way to shut her the fuck up. But… Sookie was here. I’d already waited too long… and the sooner I completed a bond with her, the sooner I could be rid of her.
I lowered my fangs and bit into my wrist… I almost laughed at the way Sookie looked disgusted as she put her mouth to the wound.
Her mouth was close enough that I felt her breath when I thought to brace myself… I read enough of the journal to remember the warnings about the reaction it caused…
As she pulled from the wound, I was surprised to not feel much more than I would have anticipated from giving my blood to anyone.
Granted, her emotions came to me more quickly than I expected, none of which were surprising given what a bitch she was being. Other than that, the only sensation worth mentioning was a bizarre feeling in the pit of my stomach, which seemed to be waning by the second as she swallowed my blood.
When my wound closed, I was tempted to reopen it to rush things along (there was only so much of her I was willing to tolerate), but I left instead.
With my luck, I’d give her enough to find out she could be turned accidentally and I really would be stuck with her forever.
She was already in her bathroom when I closed her bedroom door behind me…
But there were three faces waiting for me in the hallway. The children had their arms folded and were lined up along the railing of the landing. Unlike the last time we met, they all had very serious expressions on their faces.
Jenny gave a nod while the others remained stoic. “Are you bonded now?”
“I’m not sure your mother would want you to know…”
“We know about bonding because of the journal. Are you bonded?”
“If you read the journal, you should know a bond takes more than one exchange.”
“Can you feel her?” As insistent and serious as she was, I couldn’t help but think something was… off.
“If you’re annoyed that I had you followed, it was…”
Misty interrupted, “This isn’t about you. God, you’re an egomaniac… Can you feel Sookie?” Part of me wanted to congratulate Sookie for Misty’s vocabulary.
“You shouldn’t speak to adults that way…” When I walked towards the staircase, my path was blocked by the insolent little twit. My eyes actually rolled. “What are you doing?”
“Still trying to get you to answer the question. Can you feel Sookie?”
I answered, “Yes,” hoping I’d be ‘allowed’ to take my leave once she had her answer.
“Is she okay?”
“You’re the telepath. You tell me.”
“She’s been blocking us and even had Onkel come stay with us. She says she’s fine when we ask, but she’s still blocking us.”
“Yes, she feels fine. Why wouldn’t she be?”
Misty opened her mouth to answer, but Lindy beat her to it by snapping, “Because she lost the baby after some giant jerk shook her!”