She Wears My Ring
After Sookie left, I explained our shopping plans to Klaasje and she accepted my invitation to join Sookie and me… as long as her company wouldn’t be considered an intrusion.
Klaasje was obviously amused by something, but she wasn’t willing to say what… And was curious about something, but unwilling to ask…
She’d come a long way since she came to be ‘mine’, but she still had so far to go.
She only ever really relaxed, albeit accidentally, when we were in the company of a few friends who’d known me long enough to ignore our ranks.
She’d had her own idea for a gift for Olivia, but after hearing Pam and Jason intended to stay at the casino instead of move to a house, she decided she was going back to the drawing board… She wasn’t interested in making an enemy of Pam and Jason by giving a Royal Dane to a child who lives in an apartment.
Even if her Maker never appreciated it, one of Klaasje’s greatest attributes was pragmatism.
But the imagery of Pam cursing and ranting while she cleaned up debris caused by a bored Royal Dane amused me until dawn… Yes, ground zero of the destruction was the über-closet.
As I came back to myself, I was surprisingly warm… The stench of my fun with Sookie the night before was still heavy, but the sugary notes in the air were gone. My best guess was that she cleaned the room and took the liberty of lying down with me after she showered.
Odd, but not unwelcome.
When my arm tightened over her back, hers gave my ribs a squeeze and she let out a sleepy whimper…
But when I opened my eyes, I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
The ceiling fan was my first clue.
The bed was larger and had a carved wooden headboard… instead of the standard padded headboard of a hotel bed…
The sheets were blue Egyptian cotton, topped with a quilt… instead of white sheets and a bland duvet…
Aluminum tiled ceiling, painted white…
White board-on-board wainscoting…
A fireplace large enough to roast the fucking dog sleeping across my ankles…
If I had to guess, I’d say the house was at least a century old… and the only conclusion I could come to that wouldn’t make me furious was that something happened at the hotel and I’d been taken to a safe-house.
It was all I could manage and the dog immediately inched along my body lazily and nudged my hand.
Unfortunately, Sookie hadn’t noticed I’d risen yet.
I nudged her shoulder and took the dog’s tag. “Sookie, wake up.”
The tag read, “Tina is Property of King & Mrs. Northman. If found, contact Bon Temps Sheriff’s Dept.”
What the fuck?
Not a safe-house… Unless the dog was pretending to recognize me, this wasn’t even a prank.
Why the fuck would I be leaping? That was the only way to explain everything… Why the fuck would I be leaping? I wasn’t bonded to a Faerie. Sookie had only taken a few drops of my blood… just enough for me to be sure she wasn’t protecting her brother.
There was another heartbeat nearby.
The dog decided to ‘help’ wake Sookie by unleashing a single bark… menacing as it was, I could have sworn the fucking thing was smiling at me.
Sookie’s head shot away from my shoulder and turned away. After a moment, she groaned, “Tina, I just took you out an hour ago. Shut up, fur-brat.”
Given the way her head crashed back onto my shoulder, it was safe to say she wasn’t completely awake… and not that I was calm, but the fact that the extra heartbeat was coming closer was all the more needling.
She mumbled, “I’m tryin’. Gimme a minute.”
She smelled like me… Like how I could imagine My Sookie’s scent if we were bonded.
“Who else is here?”
Just as the doorknob to the room was grabbed, Sookie mumbled, “Just Leif. Tina’s big mouth probably woke him up too.”
I had to wait for Leif to clear the door, but I couldn’t have been more stunned when a small boy carefully closed the door behind himself.
He gave a half-smile in my direction and proceeded to climb onto the bed, nudging Tina and calling her a ‘big mouth’ before wedging himself between Sookie and me…
Sookie automatically adjusted her arm to snuggle the boy. She kissed his forehead and asked, “Hey baby, what are you up to?”
No. No. No… Pam with children was one thing… Sookie was right. I could pull off the role of uncle, doting uncle even, but… that boy’s name was Leif! Leif… and I knew damn well, Pam wouldn’t use that name for a child unless she hated it.
He grumbled, “Nuffin’… kinda firssy. Din’t wanna go downsairs.”
Sookie giggled sleepily, “Scared of an empty house, so you climb in bed with a Vampire, huh?”
The boy yawned, “You betcha. Vampires kick ass.”
Sookie giggled, “Watch that mouth. You could’ve said ‘butt’… You had a bad dream. Wanna talk about it?”
The boy nodded slightly. “Don’ wanna fink about it.”
Sookie hummed and offered, “Because you know your daddy isn’t a monster like those hateful turds said, right?”
What the fuck?
Where did the fucking kid come from?
He nodded. “Can Tina go wiff me to get a drink?”
Sookie kissed his head again and pulled her arm from his chest. “Go ahead. Don’t let her lie to you. She only gets one treat at a time, no matter how pretty she dances.”
He chuckled as he crawled to the end of the bed. “Tina says you’re stingy.”
Sookie giggled and tightened her arm across my ribs again as the boy and the dog ran down a flight of stairs… and the dog continued to run once the boy’s footsteps stopped so he could slide down the railing. His skin squeaking along the wood gave him away.
Sookie chuckled, “Little Man thinks I don’t know he does that… So… We went to see Hadley a little while ago. She’s still feeling fine other than being bored out of her mind. Leif and I took Frosties and fries, and some new movies to her. Aunt Linda’s been watching her like a hawk though…” She stopped for a long yawn and then lifted her arm cringing, “Are you sticky?”
I nodded, while I tried to decide if I was amused or annoyed.
“We brought honey and sugar to bed with us last night.”
Suddenly, Sookie was wide awake.
She shot away from me to sit up and stare for a moment before burying her face in her hands. “I really don’t need this right now… At least you seem to know who the hell I am.”
“I initially assumed I’d been moved to a safe-house… I’m a little confused about where I am and who I’m married to though. The dog’s tag said Mrs. Northman.”
She took her left hand from her face and wiggled her fingers to show a bridal set with at least ten carats of diamonds. “You’re in Bon Temps… Magnolia Creek Road, to be specific.”
Why not? Pam and Jason leap to see a version where I’d brought Sookie over. Why the fuck wouldn’t I leap to meet the one I’m married to?
I chuckled at the madness of it all. “Isn’t that a little modest? The color and clarity are impressive though.”
She snorted, “Always a fulsome ass… My husband’s lucky I haven’t hurt myself with this thing.”
“Fulsome? That’s amusing considering I’ve seen you buy more lavish pieces for yourself.”
Her eyes widened. “I can’t imagine why… I’m gonna need to hear this… but… where were you when you died? Can I call to…”
When the phone on the bedside table began ringing, Sookie smiled and lunged for the phone. “PleasebeErik, pleasebeErik, pleasebeErik… Hello?”
My voice answered, “Rising on sticky sheets reminded me of how long it’s been since the Hershey incident.”
Sookie giggled, “We have a can of syrup in the pantry… Are you alone?”
“Actually… I have the company of a very sexy blonde who thinks I’m trying to repay her for a prank she played last night. I’m at the Palace in Shreveport.”
While I laughed, Sookie asked, “How the hell does she not know you’re telling the truth?”
“Maybe because she isn’t bonded to her Eric. Have you heard from Hadley today? How is Leif?”
“I just got done telling sticky Eric… She’s good, other than being bored. Leif’s holding up. He just climbed out of bed with us. He didn’t notice the difference any more than I did.”
I offered, “You aren’t easy to wake up.”
She nodded. “It’s been a long couple of nights. I’ll explain in a minute…” She tilted the receiver to her mouth to offer, “Sweetie, you weren’t dressed when you died…”
He snorted, “Neither was Sookie… Your marking was perfectly placed. I knew right away she wasn’t you.”
My Sookie argued, “Not ‘right away’, you handsy shit.”
Sookie smirked and used a single finger to push the neckline of her shirt down, revealing my initial nestled between her breasts… it looked like I’d written it myself.
Sookie winked as she continued speaking to her husband, “I could bring clothes to you, but it would be a while. Alcide could bring our bag from the lake house. I bet he could be there in just a few minutes.”
“Beautiful and brilliant…”
Sookie blushed and added, “And completely Yours. I’ll call Alcide and put him in motion. I’ll be waiting at home. Stop waking up in bed with strange women, will ya? You’re the King of Louisiana, not Charlie Sheen.”
He chuckled, “Yes ma’am,” and hung up the phone.
I sat up, taking a better look at the ‘E’, and realizing it wasn’t just drawn… Sookie had her husband’s initial tattooed over her heart.
She giggled, “It isn’t foolproof. There’s another Me with the same one. Us Sookies, we think alike. I got this because it’s Erik’s favorite place to hang out when I sunbathe and come to bed, and that’s when he kinda needs to have something obvious to let him know he’s with the right Me…”
So when he found himself between the sun-kissed breasts of the correct Sookie, that lucky prick had the added bonus of seeing she’d voluntarily branded herself.
Before I could think of something coherent and mature to say, she nudged my leg. “Get your sticky ass outta my bed so I can strip it.”
She pointed to a door and began dialing the phone again, but since her bed was already candied, I stayed to settle my curiosity.
Alcide answered after just one ring. “Good evening, Your Majesty. How can I be of service?”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “Hey cuz. It’s me.”
“I know, Queenie. What’s up?”
“My foot’s gonna be up your ass if you don’t stop calling me that… I need a favor.”
“Right… You threatened me with violence and tell me you need something. Are you sure you aren’t already a Vampire Queen?”
I chuckled, “He has a point.”
Sookie narrowed her eyes at me. “He does not. Kin does that too… Anyway, I need you to go to the lake-house and get the duffle bag from the back porch… then take it to Erik at The Palace.”
After a moment, he asked, “Why?”
“Because we’re skipping again and My Erik woke up at his hotel with the wrong Sookie. They’re naked and need a ride home.”
“Are they going to be waiting naked with the valet? What room?”
I offered, “Room 239… just in case they leave for any reason Sookie’s usual room is 802.”
Sookie narrowed her eyes curiously, but asked Alcide, “Did you catch that?”
“Yeah, yeah… 239 or 802. Hey Sook, why do you have a regular room? Is there a hooker-Sookie? Because that would be a fucking riot!”
I chuckled, “When they charge as much as Sookie does, they’re called ‘escorts’.”
Sookie gasped and dropped the phone to cover her mouth. “NO!”
Her reaction and Alcide’s wild laughter were priceless.
I shook my head and offered, “You’re a partner at the hotel. You originally kept a room there so you’d be available to cater to Supernatural guests and you still use it because of the convenience.”
She didn’t bother with the phone… she pinched her face together and began flailing her hands to slap my chest and shoulders. “You jackhole! I’m going to tell Your Sookie you called her a hooker!”
I laughed and caught her wrists. She was strong enough to leave little temporary welts behind.
She cringed and droned, “Oh God… You’re so gross. It’s like wrestling with fly-paper. I give up. Just let me go.”
I was chuckling again as I released her and she grabbed the phone, bouncing from the bed and dashing for the bathroom…
Not only did she wash her hands (probably up to her elbows), but she started the shower while she finished on the phone with Alcide.
She leaned on the door jamb and thumbed over her shoulder. “Alright. Get your butt in the shower. I’m gonna run downstairs to check on Leif and I’ll be back in a few so we can compare notes.”
Considering I didn’t learn anything finite about the boy’s origins while Sookie spoke to her husband, I stopped to ask, “How did Leif get his name?”
She raised her eyebrows and sighed, “He’s named after his father’s ‘Maker’… On the books, Shawn’s Maker is Leif Svensson.”
“Why would I bring over another Vampire?”
“You didn’t… Shawn’s a really handsome man and his Maker, Leland, brought him over as a toy. Shawn was a local with three small children and wife, but the Maker didn’t leave the Area with Shawn like he was supposed to. Shawn came to My Erik, when he was Sheriff, and asked to be ended because he couldn’t stand to be so close to his family and not see them. Erik’s rarely triggered sympathy reflex combined with Stackhouse expectations, prompted a little experiment. Erik ended Leland for what’s become known as ‘pulling an Appius’ and my family helped Shawn pass as a Human so he could still see his kids…”
“That’s insane. He could have drained them all.”
“He was very closely supervised for months. The original plan was for his wife to know and be part of things, but she couldn’t handle it. Hadley and Shawn hooked up while she was helping him adjust. Tammy, Archer and Tucker are with their mom, and Leif’s hanging out with me during the day while Hadley’s on bed-rest.”
“Has no one bothered to explain to Shawn Leif can’t b-”
Sookie interrupted, “Shawn and his first wife had fertility issues. When they extracted his sperm, they froze extra so he wouldn’t have to have a needle stuck into-“
I leaned back and changed the subject as quickly as possible. “So… Your husband… adopted Shawn, yes?”
She laughed at me for not wanting to hear any story that could make me cringe. “Yeah… Kind of like Gawain took you under his wing.”
“And ‘kind of like’ Pam and Jason just adopted a little orphaned hybrid.”
Her eyes widened, “Pam and Jason!? Together!?”
I nodded. “They’re bonded, living together as ‘man and wife’… If I’m understanding these events correctly, there’s usually a reason for this to happen, yes?”
She nodded, focusing on my chest for a moment before offering, “Yeah… Yeah… either we should know about the orphan or y’all need to know about Shawn.”
She nodded. “Or this could be a political thing… I’ll be back with a notebook after I check on Mr. Upta-Sumthin.”
I much preferred the idea of an orphan (on either side) being the reason for the leap… I certainly wasn’t interested in being told annexing Louisiana was in my future. For that matter, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to know why another Me had gone to the extreme.
While I showered, I could hear Sookie moving around in the bedroom, mumbling to herself about ‘My’ sweet-tooth while she cleaned up my mess, taking a phone call from Pam and asking how she was enjoying her birthday-spree in New York, and discussing dinner plans with Leif…
As soon as I turned the water off, Sookie called out to let me know where I could find fresh clothing…
A simple walk-in closet… one side ‘his’, the other was ‘hers’…
It seemed as though everything was even between the two sides… a bulk of what was hanging on either side were jeans and casual shirts. This Sookie didn’t seem fond of dressing formally any more than Mine did.
The one difference being that among the shoes on Erik’s side of the closet there was a large plastic container… a treasure chest full of T-shirts, heavy with the scent of sunlight.
That lucky asshole.
As much as I wanted to take one, I knew how much I’d covet such a reserve of sunlight… The scent would have distracted me and I was doing my best to take part in this encounter so I could have a sense of what Pam and Jason dealt with. Putting myself in a position to be stupefied and possibly fight with myself over a shirt wasn’t the best move to make.
Sookie had already changed the bedding, leaving no hints I’d been in the bed, and as I left the bathroom she called out again to let me know the curtains had been drawn so it was safe for me to venture out of the room.
I followed the noise of rattling plastic and items being dropped… down the stairs, through a formal foyer, past My wedding portrait, to a parlor where the floor was covered with hundreds of little plastic cups.
That portrait was unavoidable, if not magnetic… I was still thinking about it when I reached the parlor…
No tuxes or formal-wear… No altar in the background…
Erik was wearing a black dress shirt and pants… Sookie was wearing a simple white sundress and a deep tan…
On a beach… a bouquet of white bougainvillea… kissing with smiles on their faces… and the way her hand seemed even smaller where it rested on my neck…
It was absolutely ridiculous that I couldn’t shake it… We were just friends with benefits.
Leif was methodically dropping two rolls of candy labeled ‘Smarties’ into each cup from one end of the room, while Sookie worked from the other.
Sookie smiled while she continued to work. “We’re in the home stretch. We have exactly one week until Halloween. Leif is helping me fill the goodie cups for the annual Fright Night festivities.”
“What does that entail?”
“Sandwich Island and the Bon Temps Drive-In host a ‘Trunk Or Treat’. The Drive-In is showing Hocus Pocus for free. We’re having a costume pageant with prizes…”
Leif offered, “Mommy says she’s goin’ as Stay Puft and Daddy’s gonna Ghostbust her.”
Sookie giggled, “She also threatened to go as Jabba the Hut… She’s still got two months left, but the twins make her feel huge…”
I chuckled, “Hadley’s probably less miserable than Julie was… As tiny as Julie is, I can’t imagine how she felt.”
Sookie raised an eyebrow. “Julie? Julie Rousseau?”
I shook my head and took a bag of chocolates to begin tossing them into the cups. Leif scowled at my accuracy as I explained, “Julie Emery Stackhouse, wife of Corbett, stepmother of Jason and Sookie, mother of Brandon, Josephine and Jessica…”
Sookie gasped, “Oh… my… God… A version where my Daddy and Julie stayed together? That’s… soooo… Were they happy?”
I shrugged. “They still seem to be. They cried on each other last night when they met their new granddaughter.”
Her chin puckered before she shoved herself to her feet and ran to another room.
Sookie eventually returned with a mini-cassette recorder.
She set it on the arm of the chair I was on. “Erik can put it all in the computer later, but I need to hear this… My mother made Daddy miserable…”
The limited information I had about my version of the Stackhouses was enough to have Sookie completely rapt…
Hearing that her mother died violently, and in ‘After School Special’ fashion didn’t faze Sookie, but hearing her father was alive and well, and married to a woman her family loved made her weep quietly while I relayed the brief family history.
My hostess lost her parents to a flash flood when she was eight years old and was raised by Adele. She didn’t meet Brandon until she was nearly nineteen and Hadley and Jason’s abilities weren’t discovered until then either. She’d been miserable for most of her life, being treated like a freak by nearly everyone but her grandmother and aunt. She was raised humbly by a woman on Social security, while My Sookie was raised in a two-income household.
I felt like I was rubbing salt in her wounds by explaining My Sookie and Brandon had the luxury of being raised together and enjoyed homeschooling, but… Sookie tried to see the bright side and mentioned there were still versions they met during ‘skips’ who hadn’t met Brandon at all.
For the half hour Sookie and I compared Stackhouse family notes, I continued tossing candies into cups with one hand and, with the other, made notes for both versions whenever Sookie and I came across a difference. King and Mrs. Northman had been keeping a calendar and notes to keep track of their ‘skipping’, but previous versions rarely had anything to do with new skips. I almost didn’t opt for a copy of their records, but it occurred to me they could be helpful to Pam and Jason.
Leif and I were ‘arguing’ about who his mother was married to when there was a knock on the door.
Leif blew a raspberry at me as he ran out of the room. “You’ll see. My Daddy’s a Vampire!”
That was probably the most bizarre sentence I’d heard all century.
Sure enough, the Vampire in question walked into the parlor carrying an impossibly large Hadley and set her on the sofa.
“How do you tell an empath ‘no’?”
Sookie pouted her lip and offered, “When she just wants a change of scenery… I don’t think it makes much difference which sofa she chills on, Sweetie. Don’t worry so much.”
Shawn kissed her cheek and pulled over a nearby chair. Leif was climbing onto his father’s lap before he was settled.
“Tha’s not Uncle Erik. Tha’s a skip-Eric. He says Mommy’s married to a debil.”
I chuckled, “Daemon. Hadley Herveaux Cataliades…”
Leif corrected, “Hadley INGRAM!”
“Is married to Jupiter Cataliades. Their daughter is Minerva.”
Leif said, “It’s a stupid name.”
“It was Jupiter’s mother’s name. Family names are allowed to be stupid… Has Pam missed the opportunity to make shrubbery jokes about your name?”
Shawn chuckled, “She says we should name the twins Dandelion and Buttercup.”
“My Pam just adopted a little girl. Her name is Olivia, but the girl chose the name herself. If I think of any jokes about the name, I imagine I should wait until she’s older.”
Shawn snorted out a laugh and asked, “Did your world run out of Nair-cats?”
“Funny, but no… My Sookie will be able to provide more information about Olivia…” I paused when the front door opened, but since no one else reacted, I continued, “She was found in Maryland, wandering when she was two years old. She’s been in foster care since then and it took having a Daemon assigned as her Guardian Ad Litem before anyone knew she’s a hybrid…”
A little girl walked into the parlor with Brandon just behind her… she happily climbed onto my lap and kissed my cheek… and then Brandon kissed the other. “S’up Chief?”
The little girl looked like she was close to Olivia’s age… for that matter, they looked like they could be ‘Irish twins’. The major difference between them came down to their complexions. Olivia’s skin was fair, delicately so, and little girl on my lap had the trademark golden coloring of a Stackhouse.
Hadley held her bulge with both arms and began laughing about the look on my face, so her husband scowled at Sookie. “This is why there’s a difference between couches, Sook. She’s gonna laugh herself into labor over here.”
The little girl turned to look at me. “You’re not My Erik?”
I shook my head. “No. Who are you?”
“I’m Jules. Aunt Sookie takes care of My Erik for me while I’m at school.”
If the concept of a child being so attached to Me wasn’t so bizarre, I would have laughed.
“How old are you, Jules?”
“I’m six. I’m in second grade. My father is Brandon.”
“And your mother?”
“Her name is Amy, but she wasn’t ready to be a mom.”
“It’s almost funny, but when I first laid eyes on Olivia last night, I assumed she was a wild oat…”
Sookie gasped, “You think you might end up looking for Jules when you get home?”
I shrugged. “It seems like Sookie and I will be in the neighborhood looking for Shawn regardless. We might as well ask Brandon if he was involved with a girl named Amy seven years ago.”
Shawn shook his head. “Why would you be looking for me?”
“I didn’t renew my contract with Sophie-Anne. Pam took over for me as Sheriff. Sookie should be familiar with you, since she’s an integral part of Pam’s operations.”
“I doubt I’m around. If Erik hadn’t been willing to give me a chance, I would’ve pushed Leland to end me… or suicided by cop or something.”
I shrugged again. “I don’t want to overlook anything. This is my first experience of this nature… Since your Erik is King of Louisiana and I’m King of the Northern Empire, I doubt we have any political notes to share. If anything, My Sookie would be comparing chronologies with him as we speak…”
Hearing Erik had become King of Louisiana in a similar fashion as my own ascent to the throne was mildly amusing… It seemed like both of our ‘worlds’ had learned not to threaten my child. Sophie-Anne had taken Pam and held her as collateral, demanding Erik hand over his young telepathic bride. A perfectly timed ‘skip’ (as they called them) allowed a visiting Sookie to offer herself in trade and by the time Sophie-Anne’s stooges arrived in Bon Temps to retrieve the hybrid who ‘disappeared’ from her cell, Erik was quite ready for them. With Andre and the Berts out of the way, Sophie-Anne’s head was as good as gone.
I continued, “The only other leap I’ve been party to was in February. Pam and Jason hosted another version of themselves. It seemed meeting My Sookie, our reactions to one another, triggered the leap… Their version of Us met earlier and there was an attack. Sookie was brought over and a complicated landslide of misunderstandings was initiated while Sookie was in seclusion.”
Hadley breathed, “Wow… So how long have you been with your Sookie?”
“I’m not. She’s an active partner in The Palace and my Empire is 5000 miles away. We enjoy one another’s company when I visit, but we’re ‘friends with benefits’.”
While everyone else laughed, Brandon snorted, “Right… and how many girls have you had benefits with? You might as well start ring shopping now, Chief. You’re a goner.”
It was nice that everyone else was amused.
Ha ha ha.
In an effort to stay on topic, I asked, “Are any of you in the market for a seven year old geodetic hybrid?”
Shawn’s eyes bulged. “Geodetic?”
“She finds things. Apparently, Olivia’s Guardian Ad Litem was mumbling to himself and asked where he was going to find a home for a hybrid. She immediately envisioned The Palace. Jason needed witnesses to attest that Pam wasn’t a danger to him or his family, but a Daemon judge approved of the adoption.”
Hadley cringed and whimpered, “She’s in foster care?”
“Jason called it a group home. Olivia was sharing a room with seven other girls… Your version of her could still be with her parents or adopted already… Or she could have died of exposure while she was wandering.”
When Hadley whimpered again, Shawn sighed, “You want another one? With twins on the way? Baby, that’s crazy.”
Hadley sniffled, “But you know we’re sitting ducks without protection, hon. Older kids aren’t too physically demanding…”
Brandon offered, “That’ll put y’all at seven. Lucky number and all that.”
Glancing at my notes to remind myself… Tammy, Tucker and Archer were his children with his first wife… Leif and the twins were conceived posthumously.
Hadley continued to stare at her husband while her chin trembled and if I didn’t know she was empathic, I would have wanted to take in Olivia myself.
Shawn finally shook his head. “No. You talk to Erik. Between your ability and our bond, I can’t tell if I just feel sorry for her or if I actually want to take her in.”
Leif argued, “We don’t need another stinkin’ girl! Tammy’s enough!”
Sookie giggled, “Little man, you know the twins are girls…”
“Nooooooo. I told ‘em to get boy parts.”
While the Stackhouses laughed at him, he scowled.
Shawn tried, “Even if your ability worked that well, it doesn’t work on Jules, so I doubt it’ll work on them.”
I couldn’t have been more curious. “What’s his ability?”
Shawn boasted, “He’s a pusher…”
Leif nodded, “I can glamour like Daddy.”
That was actually cute.
It wasn’t long before I heard the engine of a large truck pull up to the house and stop…
Sookie was teasing Alcide about his universal appreciation for Dodge Rams as they walked onto the porch.
Erik wasted no time making his way to his Sookie, sitting on the sofa and kissing her, asking if I behaved while Jules abandoned my lap for his.
Tina looked back and forth between us until she looked like she was shaking her head.
My Sookie stopped so suddenly Alcide bumped into her. She was glaring at Shawn.
Her eyes never left the young Vampire.
After a moment, Hadley asked, “What’s wrong, Sook? Why are you… are you scared?”
“Ummm… one of you Erics… someone really needs to get that baby off of Archer’s lap.”
Leif turned to look at his father, clearly confused. He argued, “Dis is Shawn Ingram. Not Archer.”
Sookie shook her head. “Tucker Archer is a bad seed. He’s been in Pam’s freckle-box twice that I know of. He likes kids enough to be caught watching little league games. The only reason Pam hasn’t staked him is because we can’t find any proof he’s hurting kids.”
Not only did Sookie think of a way to explain her suspicions without being too graphic for the children, but… she had the nerve to make those accusations in his company.
Erik asked, “In Minden?”
Sookie nodded slowly. “I think so. Why does that matter?”
“Because he was probably watching his own children play. That’s where Shawn lived with his family before he was brought over. Tucker and Archer are the names of his oldest sons.”
Shawn asked, “Tucker Archer… the other Me, what happened to his Maker?”
“He moved on without you. He told Pam you were 35. It wasn’t until later we found out it was Human years. He released you and didn’t leave a forwarding address.”
“Or I killed him.”
“We suspect as much, but Archer hasn’t made a claim on the will.”
Since I’d gotten more than enough information about Shawn’s situation, I asked, “Did you stumble over any information you think could be a reason for our leap?”
My Sookie huffed, “Well, not really. I mean, Erik’s got a lock on Louisiana. de Castro and Threadgill backed off as soon as he took over.”
“Did you warn him about Halfdan?”
She shrugged. “For all the good it does. Erik’s a King in his own right now. It would take major stones to try to hire him now.”
“Major stones or severe mental incapacity. Halfdan tried to leverage me by using Pam.”
“Yeah. Fair enough.”
“Not that he has the influence as an American King to make it happen, but did you mention blood therapy?”
She nodded. “And his wheels started turning right away… Are you confident you know enough about my family to have filled them in?”
“Given that we leapt just after Olivia’s not-a baby shower, I found three possibilities and concentrated on those matters as much as possible… Shawn’s family might need some sort of assistance. You called him a bad seed, so perhaps he’s gone too far this time.”
Sookie nodded. “I need to look him up when we get back. If he was stalking his own kids, he might’ve tried to take them.”
“Or he tried to see them and his ex-wife staked him. We’ll see… Another possible reason to be here is their version of Olivia might still need a home…”
“Yeah, but Erik told me Pam just bought Armani and Versace. She’s still on athletic brunettes and Jason’s on a ginger kick. They wing-man for each other.”
That seemed so much more like my Pam…
“Hadley was just trying to convince her husband to look for Olivia… The third possibility is on Erik’s lap. Did Brandon, by chance, have a girlfriend named Amy? It would have been just before you left for Nevada.”
Sookie eyes widened as she studied Jules. “Picture Amy…”
After a moment, she gasped.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Brandon growled, “She came to me with papers. She wanted to put Jules up for adoption… If your Brandon doesn’t know, it’s possible she faked his signature or something.”
She shook her head in disbelief for a moment before breathing, “You were the same age as Josie and Jessie…”
Brandon asked, “Who are they?”
“My kid sisters… uhhhh… Long story short, Daddy went back to Michelle just long enough for me to happen, but then Daddy got smart and went back to Julie. When my mother killed herself, DWI, Julie raised me and Jason. Josie and Jessie are twins. Gorgeous 17-year olds… they look just like Mom, only taller.”
“Yeah? Are they telepathic too?”
“Nope… they’re pushers. They’ve done everything from convince bartenders their library cards are legal IDs, to using Monopoly money for shopping sprees. They’re a handful when they get bored.”
Shawn nudged Leif’s leg and mumbled, “Don’t even think about it.”
Sookie nodded, “And… beware of mall Santas… we had three of them break-in one Christmas. The girls pushed them to bring new bikes and Barbie stuff.”
Leif winced. “You can stop now.”
She giggled at him and continued, “And he’s gonna need ‘the talk’ really early too because his gift is an instant roofie… and the bad news is that unlike glamouring, pushing doesn’t leave the trademark burn behind… Oh! And don’t let him argue with umps or refs either.”
Leif groaned, “Isn’t it time for you to go home?”
She was spoiling his fun.
While his father admonished him for being disrespectful, I stood… I was sure I was on to something with my train of thought. Children were somehow related to our reason to leap… Sookie’s experience with Josie and Jessie’s ability, and the very helpful advice she had to offer, only supported my theory. Shawn’s family, Olivia, and Jules… those differences were too obvious to ignore.
“If we missed something, we shouldn’t return. Am I right?”
My Sookie nodded. “Right… Hadley’s obsessing over Olivia… Did they get the details?”
“No. I knew you’d have more specifics.”
She turned to Erik and offered, “Priscus Athanasiadis is the lawyer. He went to school with Jupiter. Olivia’s original name was Farrah Lee Smith because she was found in Fairlee, Maryland. She was wandering on April 29th of 1995. The poor thing’s birthday is estimated as two years earlier. They don’t have any proof, but they think her parents were Burroughs. We found articles about her online. The Virginia-Pilot and The Baltimore Sun. You might want to confirm it even happened, before…”
Hadley began struggling to leave the sofa, so Shawn quickly put his son on the floor and scooped up his determined wife. He sighed, “Lemme guess… We’re going to Erik’s office.”
She giggled, “Mind reader,” and kissed his cheek while My Sookie shook her head.
Sookie raised her eyebrows. “When we get back, we need to track down Pam and Jason…”
“I think we can run the errands of finding Amy and Shawn. If we have any problems, we can wait for them to return after shopping.”
“Klaasje will probably enjoy the extra errands. Something new and all.”
There was no doubt about that. She was completely fascinated by the phenomenon when it happened in Eijsden.
“Are you ready?”
She narrowed her eyes and studied my chest for a moment before nodding. “Yeah. I think so.”
Alcide snorted, “I fuckin’ hope so. She’s been talking nonstop since I got to the hotel.”
She showed him her middle finger and blew a raspberry at him.
Jules giggled, but her eyes lit up. “Oooooh! Gran’s birthday party! Pictures! Everybody was there! Tammy, Tucker, Archer, P-Paw, everybody…”
Erik nodded. “There’s a disk in the top drawer of my desk.”
When Jules ran out of the room, the dog took her place on Erik’s lap.
Once Sookie had the disk full of photos in hand, and I had several pages of notes and a copy of the ‘skip diary’, we made our way upstairs…
As much as I tried to ignore the wedding portrait this time, Sookie didn’t let me. She stopped suddenly enough that I nearly pulled her over… And it was only then that I realized she was holding my hand.
She breathed, “Holy shit,” but that seemed to be all she had to say while she studied the picture.
“I doubt it was holy…”
She snorted, “I can’t count how many different ways that’s fucked up.”
Part of me was offended… but at the same time I agreed with her.
“White isn’t a very flattering color, but you don’t look horrible.”
All I could do is hope she wasn’t paying attention to know I was lying… She was absolutely stunning.
She pinched her lips together and elbowed me. “I look amazing, you turd… but I was 19. Who gets married at 19?”
I shrugged. “Who the fuck gets married at a thousand?”
She shook her head and started walking again. “Fair enough.”
She watched the gallery of other photos as I led her to the bedroom I rose in, but she didn’t stop for any of them. Weddings and birthdays, five years’ worth, hanging in the formal stairwell and through the large hall upstairs… The one photo that had brought her to a standstill was the same one to leave me slack-jawed.
When we walked into the master bedroom, Sookie rolled her eyes and laughed, “Leave it to Gran! Only she would quilt the Louisiana flag! That’s a riot!”
Erik offered from the parlor, “I prefer my Swedish flag, but some asshole didn’t shower before dying.”
Somehow it didn’t surprise me that the woman who convinced Bubba to take the stage again would be quilting for a Vampire King.
Sookie made a step towards our ‘magic carpet’, but she balked. “You know what… If I don’t find out now, I’ll never shake it. Do you mind waiting long enough to find out if there’s an Olivia here?”
“Even if there is, I think it’ll be worth the time to look for Amy and Shawn.”
She nodded. “I know, but I’m still curious… considering how askew everything is here, we might be able to learn something.”
It couldn’t hurt. Sookie had assured me that since they were hosting, when we returned to our reality, our evening would just be starting.
While Sookie worked with Shawn and Hadley in Erik’s office, I wandered on the second story. I found two guest rooms that hadn’t been used in a while and a third that was intended for children…
It was more of a playroom with a bunk bed. The carpeting looked like confetti and the bedding was just as colorful. There was a large entertainment center with several video game systems. Beanbags, activity tables, neatly stacked bins full of toys…
Leif had boasted about sleepovers with Aunt Sookie and Uncle Erik being better than ‘Chuckie Cheese’. I had to take his word for it. It wasn’t as though I had any experience with cheese.
The large window seat set into built-in book shelves full of children’s books had three layers of curtains… pushing them back gave me a decent view of the neighborhood.
It was picturesque as far as neighborhoods were concerned, and occupied by houses with ‘Gone With The Wind’ airs of an antebellum community. I found myself wishing I’d known about the town all along. Quiet neighborhoods were worth their weight in gold.
I found what seemed to be Sookie’s ‘office’… A sewing machine and a crafting table… organized cabinets full of gift wrapping supplies, ribbons, paper, beads, fabric, notions, and yarns… Apparently, Sookie and Erik would be dressed as a pirate and a wench for ‘Fright Night’. The window in that room overlooked the neighboring yard where an elderly couple sipped from tall glasses while a pair of dachshunds wrestled for control of a section of rope. The man noticed me and offered a friendly wave… and reminded me it was ‘trash night’.
I’d leapt to Mayberry.
Taking the back stairwell, I passed the door to the back porch decorated with paper mache pumpkins, spider webs, and muslin ghosts… then passed through a den stacked with boxes of cups like the ones I’d helped fill…
I’d been following the frustrated conversation regarding the search for ‘Baby Fairlee’, but when I arrived in the office Sookie said, “Found something…”
Shawn was looming over his wife’s shoulder at the desk, while My Sookie’s legs were curled up under her on a leather sofa. She’d commandeered a laptop.
“I actually found a phone listing for a ‘TR Burroughs’ in Fairlee, Maryland. It’s the only one… so I looked up the address and it looks like a little farm surrounded by woods.”
Hadley snatched a phone from the desk and demanded, “Gimme the number.”
Sookie snorted and set the laptop down as she stood. “Why don’t you let me make the call, Miss Emotional?”
Hadley hissed at Sookie, but she surrendered the phone.
“You’ll be able to hear, right? Since you’re bonded?”
Sookie was already dialing the phone, before Hadley nodded.
While the phone rang, Shawn moved to stand behind Hadley and began massaging her shoulders… Given what Sookie knew about ‘Tucker Archer’, and what I’d seen for myself, it all made sense. The madness and grief caused by leaving a family behind made its mark on nearly all of us.
A man answered the phone by saying ‘hello’.
Sookie started, “I’m trying to reach Tim and Lacie Burroughs.”
“Sorry ma’am. We’re on the Do Not Call list…”
Sookie interrupted, “I’m not a telemarketer.”
“No sir. I’m a Faerie hybrid.”
Well, that was one way to get his attention.
For the next few seconds, we were all on pins and needles… either waiting for Tim Burroughs to begin laughing hysterically or hang up.
The finally argued, “That’s not funny.”
Sookie probed, “Tim, you have a little girl. She’s about seven years old.”
After a hard gulp, he choked, “Who the hell are you?”
She repeated, “I’m a Faerie hybrid… Look, I don’t want anything from you except information. I called to confirm your daughter is safe and sound, and still in your care.”
“Why wouldn’t she be alright?”
“Are you a Faerie too, Tim, or is it your wife?”
“We both are… Her mother was a matchmaker.”
“Never heard of that one before. How does that work?”
“She looked for another Faerie to pair her daughter with… Thought of me…”
Sookie closed her eyes and smiled. “Olivia’s gift works the same way…”
“Well, since you’re a Faerie… If you call this number back, you won’t be talking to me, but another version of Me. I’m just visiting a different version of reality…”
“Holy shit! That’s real!?”
Sookie snorted, “And the good news is I don’t have to tell the long version of that story… Okay, so I’m Sookie and in my version of events, my brother is bonded to a lovely Vampire. They just adopted a little girl who’d been found wandering in the woods. She was about two years old, five years ago. They estimated her birthday as April 29th, 1993. They searched nearby homes and yours was found deserted, but they couldn’t find any records on the baby.”
“She was a homebirth… I… Denise. Denise Ashley Burroughs… Her birthday is June 20th. She was born on Father’s Day… You called her Olivia though.”
“She picked it herself when my brother adopted her. Because there weren’t any birth records, she was given the name Farrah Lee Smith. She hated it.”
The man was understandably silent for a moment, giving his wife the time to tell him his dinner was getting cold.
Sookie asked, “Did you owe money to anyone at the time? When Jason asked Olivia where her parents are, she pictured the Chesapeake Bay.”
He cleared his throat and called to his wife, “Hey honey, do you remember when the Walters family up and left?”
After a moment the woman offered, “Denise was still itty-bitty… Come to think of it, we heard about it when we got back from Indiana for that family reunion. It had to be early in ’95. Why’d you think of that?”
The family reunion had saved them from being randomly murdered by drifters… ‘My car broke down and I was hoping you’d let me use your phone.’ It was the fastest way to get an invitation into a home from a stranger… I’d used the method hundreds of times… but I’d never left orphans. That’s what glamouring was for.
The man grumbled to his wife, “I’ll explain in a minute.”
Sookie offered, “So since I’m visiting, and Olivia just joined the family last night, your version of my empathic hybrid cousin wanted to research Olivia to see if she needs a home. They already have four, with twins on the way, but the idea of a hybrid not having a family made her twitchy…” She tilted the phone away from her mouth and reached to take a note pad and pen from the desk. “Fuck. Y’all help me out. What would you want to know? I’m not going back to Olivia with nothing but names.”
Shawn offered, “Who does she favor?”
Hadley thought aloud, “Well, you have her real name and birthday now… siblings? What were her first words? At two, she wouldn’t have been talking-talking because she isn’t a telepath, but you know.”
I asked, “How tall are they?”
Sookie giggled and gave me a wink. “Did you catch that, Tim? What can I tell Olivia about herself?”
He cleared his throat and sighed, “She looks like my sister did, but she died a few years ago… Ummm, her first word was ‘pretty’. Denise has always loved dressing up. Even in hand-me-downs that were too big for her… She’s an only child… What was the other question?”
“How tall are you and your wife?”
“Why would she want to know that?”
“Because last night when she met her adoptive family, she mentioned she didn’t know if she was going to be tall because she doesn’t remember her parents. She was looking waaaay up at her new uncle at the time.”
Yes, I was surprised Sookie didn’t take the chance to call me ‘grand-Maker’.
“I’m 5’10”. Lacie is too though, so she could be average to tall.”
“K… Tim, do you have any family she can connect with?”
“None to speak of. My father’s an only child. Lacie’s mom had a brother though. He married a Human, but he had a kid. Adam Love. I can’t remember the kid’s name though.”
“I’m sure that’s enough. If I can’t find him my way, Olivia can find him.”
“Yeah, guess so. Did you say she was adopted by a Vampire?”
“Yes sir. Pam’s Maker is a King. She’s beautiful and has an amazing sense of humor…”
I added, “She’s never failed to accomplish anything she put her mind to. I don’t have any doubts she’ll be a wonderful mother.”
Sookie’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. “I’m sooooo telling her you said that.”
“Don’t. I want to.”
She bit her lip but her chin still trembled.
She cleared her throat and turned her attention back to Tim Burroughs. “My brother is an empath. He’s the only one out of five kids though. The others are telepaths and pushers. My mom is Human, but Daddy is a harbinger. His sister is retrocognitive and married to a Were. My cousin is an empath married to a Daemon… So Olivia is going to be raised in a very Supernatural family.”
“Sounds like it… Tell her… Tell her we wouldn’t…” He paused to clear his throat. “Something horrible had to happen. We wouldn’t have left her.”
“I’m sure of that… Is there anything else?”
“Uhhhh, she loves carousels. When she was little, there was a mechanical horse in front of the local market and she’d have a fit if we didn’t have a quarter for it. Now that she’s bigger, that’s her thing. She doodles ‘em, and they’re the first and last thing she rides at fairs. She doesn’t care for riding real horses. Says real ones are ‘bumpy and smelly’… She’s allergic to something in Tide, you know, the detergent. Makes her itch, but doesn’t cause hives… Sensitive skin in general. Sunburns really easy…”
His wife interrupted, “Why does is sound like you’re selling Denise?”
He grumbled, “Because I kinda am… Another version of us ended up like the Walkers and Denise was found wandering around. I’m on the phone with another hybrid. She’s in the braid. In her strand, her brother just adopted our Denise.”
“The braid is lore, Tim. It’s just Faerie tales.”
Sookie snorted, “At least y’all had the lore. We hadn’t ever heard of it before it started happening to us.”
Tim scoffed, “Fine. Don’t believe it. Play pretend. Say we stayed home from the family reunion and we were the ones who disappeared off the face of the earth and someone else ended up raising our baby. What would you say if she didn’t remember us?”
After a long pause, her voice shook, “Tell her she means everything to us. Tell her it’s my fault she hates her hair. Tell her it’s Tim’s fault she has big feet. She laughs like Tim and pouts like me. Tell her she’s perfect… I gotta… I’m gonna go hug my baby.”
Tim cleared his throat again. “Right behind you… Sookie, are we done?”
“Just in case this happens again, would you consider putting together some pictures and sending them to King Northman of Louisiana? I’m sure she’d like to see them.”
“Consider it done.”
Sookie said, “Thanks Tim,’ but the call was disconnected before she said his name.
Sookie’s eyes were misty, but she pointed at Hadley and clicked her tongue. “Six and holding.”
Hadley gave a snotty laugh and nodded, “I’m good with that. I just… just didn’t want her to be all alone.”
Shawn put his mouth to his wife’s ear and whispered, “Then stop cryin’. Vampires aren’t supposed to have headaches and chest pains.”
She giggled and put her hands over his…
Judging by the way Sookie watched the interaction, Tucker Archer was going to be a steep contrast to Shawn Ingram.
Sookie tried to shake off her surprise. “So… Olivia’s… mother’s… mother’s… brother’s… son… would be… Olivia has a cousin out there. Hopefully the Human mom hasn’t remarried and her name is still Love. I’m gonna owe Trey a blow job for this record search.”
I shook my head. “I have insurance.”
She giggled, “You can’t complain if I deliver it while the sun is up.”
Yes I could.
“Are you ready to go now?”
“Bet your ass… We’ve got two leads on issues in our reality, and shopping to do… Olivia likes carrousels.”
“Denise likes carrousels. It could be an affinity that developed later. Instead of going overboard, we should find something small to test her.”
Sookie’s eyes widened, before she ran towards the stairs.
She shouted back, “Betcha a blow job I can find a carrousel music box first!”
Since I’d wandered and knew about the second stairwell, I was already comfortably situated on the bed when she arrived in the doorway.
I warned, “Finding it and buying it are two different things. I’m faster.”
“Maybe I’ll let you buy the trinket… and then build a real one at my estate.”
She bounced onto the bed and offered, “Maybe I’ll find a horsey-horse for her room. That’s what we called the one in front of the barber shop when we were little.”
I shook my head as she snuggled to my side like the other Sookie had been when I rose. “A real carrousel still wins.”
She growled, “Fuck your castle.”
I chuckled, “The difficult part will be tying a carousel to brat lessons.”
Sookie hummed for a moment before offering, “Brat Lesson #1: Appreciate diversity. Everyone rides a different horse. You don’t have to like their horse, but don’t knock them off of theirs.”
Absolutely fucking perfect.
“That sounds like it could be your family’s motto.”
“Not bad, huh? I like it… I think I’ll have it embroidered on her horse’s custom-made saddle.”
“Perhaps I’ll have it painted on the carrousel… in English and Dutch, of course.”
“Seriously. Fuck… your… castle.”
“Now that I know about carrousels, I might look into Olivia Park. There’s a piece of land not far from…”
“Oh no you don’t. If you’re dedicating a park to her, I’m shopping alone.”
“Too late. It’s already sunset. Unless you want to wait until dawn, I can just follow you.”
She growled again and thumped my ribs. “You bitch. I know where you die for the day.”
“Do you? That’s good… I thought I died on a sticky bed in Shreveport…”
“I ate a huge breakfast, made calls about ballet and karate, and slipped into a coma… I definitely have sympathy for what Jason and Pam go through now…”
“You didn’t before?”
“Sort of. The whole idea was more interesting than anything. I didn’t realize how weird it was… and I just woke up with another You and He already expected to be in bed with Me.”
At least the feeling was mutual… I was just about to say as much when there was a knock on the door.
When I opened my eyes, I was looking at an empty corner where King and Mrs. Northman’s bedroom door should have been…
We’d already leapt back?
Sookie sat up, taking a sharp breath. “Holy shit! That was fast! I didn’t feel anything.”
From the other side of my hotel room’s door, Alcide laughed, “Don’t worry, Eric. I hear it happens to everyone.”