**A/N: Hi! It’s about time for another chapter of this underdoggie story of mine, right? It’s only been…*checks watch*…a while now. Between the holidays, January blear, the posting of a complete story, and February power outages… Yeah…it’s been a while. This chapter is totally and apologetically pandering to the E/S crowd but there’s a word or three about our G/C pairing, too, and they’re definitely in the next chapter. So, sit back and enjoy!**
Several nights later Sookie sat in what, if she squinted just right, could laughably be considered a “quieter” corner of the main lower bar/club in Fangtasia.
She’d had plans to go to a movie with a couple of her friends that evening but at a little after four that afternoon she’d received a call from Eric requesting her telepathic services for the night. When she’d seen his number on her caller ID, her initial reaction had been to refuse whatever it was he was calling about – it wasn’t as though he’d ever called to ask how her day had gone but, for better or for worse, that wasn’t the kind of relationship they had. The fact that he had genuinely requested, and it was an actual request and not a command couched behind slightly nicer terms, her services with more respect than usual had swayed her decision.
In a moment of harsh self-honesty, though, she’d admitted if only to herself that she’d have likely gone anyway. Sure, he paid her well for her time, but it was more than that. If she’d been brought in to listen to a specific person then she had the ability to ensure that the innocent weren’t mistakenly thought guilty, and that the vampires found out everything possible – information that might save both lives and unlives.
If she were called in to listen to the bar crowds, well, there had been several times she’d managed to keep both unsuspecting girls and guys from leaving with people who most certainly did not have their best intentions in mind.
Sookie Stackhouse: savin’ the world, one person at a time…who’da thunk it?
That she was spending time in Eric’s increasingly irresistible presence was just a bonus…like a great tip that she wouldn’t have wanted to spend anyway.
When she had arrived about an hour ago, Eric had been busy dealing with some vampire problem, but he’d taken a few minutes to talk to her. After calling Pam to let his child know about her arrival, he had given Sookie a paper with several names on it for her to listen for and then had stood around looking uncharacteristically ill at ease. Eventually he had mentioned having time free after dealing with that night’s business and that he would see her later, and had basically fled back to his office.
Although brief, the whole meeting had left Sookie slightly bemused. Eric had acted for all the world as though he’d suddenly become a gawky teenager asking his first girl out on a date!
As if any girl in her right mind would have turned him down…well, she had, but then, all he’d been after, at least then, was just sex. Maybe he was interested in more than only that now?
Interesting thought…but that was for later tonight, maybe.
So, there she sat fiddling with her straw while listening for anyone, human or Were, involved in some sort of “blood slaves for the vampires” ring. This whole thing had to do with Godric’s… girlfriend? mate? “significant other”? Cara . She had a feeling that if any Weres or humans either one were stupid enough to get caught up in whatever was going on, they wouldn’t be long for this world.
She still didn’t consider Nat’s “unfortunate” demise all that…unfortunate. The bastard had even murdered the poor girl’s cat!
Cara herself had seemed like a really nice person, she thought as she scanned the crowded room. She was funny, a little weird maybe, but genuinely nice. Heck, she even shared her chocolate! Plus, there was just something about her that felt comfortable and oddly familiar considering she didn’t know her from Adam’s housecat. There weren’t enough genuinely nice people in the world no matter their heredity or current supe status, anyway.
Sookie doubted she herself would be as nice if she’d woke up one afternoon with fangs in her mouth…but at least the semi-vamp could still eat and drink what she wanted.
As she let her gaze lightly drift over the assembled bar creatures – why couldn’t suspicious people ever just go to the restaurant portion of the place? Too simple? – she wondered briefly what it would be like to be half vamp and half human. It’d have to have its advantages…
She was glad for Cara that she still had her human aspects and wondered how she was getting along now. Maybe she’d come in later? It’d be nice to have a real friend who was also a supe. She had some friends, sure, but they were all-human and either didn’t know about the other part of her world or didn’t know enough to count, and it was safest for them that they didn’t.
The supes for their part…all the ones Sookie had met up until that point hadn’t known exactly how to take her. Some automatically looked down on her for being a fairy hybrid because she wasn’t a full-blooded supe, and others pitied her for being weak like a human and almost as “disposable”. Most vamps just wanted to drink her blood while using her as a sex toy while most weres and Weres just wanted to take her to bed or gaze at her in creepy adoration because of that strange fairy “attractiveness” that pulled them to her. It wouldn’t have been so bad if some of them hadn’t eventually acted like they were dogs and she was the bone.
True Weres were weird, though. They had an arrogant delusion that just because they turned into furry bitey things at will and during the full moon somehow meant they were special when all it really meant was that they killed and ate raw worm-infested forest creatures and needed regular flea baths.
As she was wondering if were-bunnies were a supe that existed, a new Were entered the building, so she paused in her mental ramblings to scan his thoughts, which were as initially as blurry as they all were. Finally she was able to get a lock on his “frequency”, she supposed it was called, and while his intentions for being in the area weren’t completely above-board, his thoughts didn’t reveal anything to do with any blood slaves or vampire rings. Why he thought meeting his buddies in a vampire bar to collect on a card bet was a good idea she’d never know…
She glanced around for the waitress to replace her drink since the one in front of her was weak with melted ice, shook her head so Pam would know to stand down, and finally spotted the waitress in question.
Mission accomplished, she boredly returned to her mental meanderings but made a note to revisit that particular Were’s thoughts a little later on. He was definitely a shifty one.
Sadly, in her experience with Weres, that wasn’t unusual.
Even after having been a telepath for her entire life and therefore knowing far too much about the human condition at far too young an age, she still couldn’t understand why Weres and some other supes couldn’t just be happy with their enhanced senses and physical strength.
They had been given those awesome tools and could do twice the work twice as fast as regular humans could – why couldn’t they just work and get what they wanted that way instead of always trying to find a way around the rules and ugh…
They didn’t even have to work hard – just work smart!
Sookie accepted her new drink and took a sip as she chastised herself for thinking so negatively.
In the course of her time working for Eric and dealing with the supe world she’d met some truly nice, caring, respectable Weres…but she’d met more examples of the other kind of supes.
Maybe Weres weren’t so far removed from regular ol’ humans after all…or maybe Eric just needed to find better acquaintances. She made a mental note to talk to him about that.
Regardless, though, she would definitely make sure that whoever she heard was guilty – really guilty – before pointing them out to Pam who was keeping a close eye on her for just such a signal. Cara meant a lot to Godric therefore she meant a lot to the rest of them, too, so there wouldn’t be any candy and roses for whoever she indicated.
Twenty minutes later nature decided to call, so with a huff she caught Pam’s eye and stood. As expected the blonde vampire met her en route to the Ladies, and Sookie shook her head. Nothing had ever happened to her in any of Fangtasia’s restrooms so she didn’t understand the need for an escort, but whatever. It wasn’t as though she could read Pam’s silent mind for answers.
The public restrooms were full with a line waiting for the toilets, so they went on down a secured hallway where she could use one reserved for staff. While she was washing her hands afterward, Pam asked if there had been any “nibbles”.
“Well, there was that one guy, the last Were that came in,” she answered somewhat reluctantly. “He was thinkin’ about meeting some guy who owed him money from a card game, but there was something that just seemed shifty about him.” She grabbed one of the nicer paper towels from the dispenser – a perk of using one of the staff facilities – and dried her hands, then suggested, “When we go back out there, let’s do a walk around the perimeter. I need to move around a little bit before my butt goes numb and I’d like to get a read on who he’s sittin’ with anyway.”
Pam nodded, and, to Sookie’s lack of surprise, offered to “do her part” to alleviate any potential numbness.
Accustomed to Pam’s personality, she knew the other woman was only teasing her since she loved trying to get a rise out of her “little telepathic friend”, but Sookie also knew that if she ever accepted she’d find herself naked and splayed out on Pam’s desk at vamp speed.
After going only a third the way around the large first-floor club area she spotted the Were sitting with a couple of humans. She leaned against the wall and concentrated while, unbeknownst to her, Pam glamoured a small table of overly-happy clubbers to go dance elsewhere. When the table suddenly became empty, Sookie sent Pam a raised-brow look but sat in one of the chairs as the table offered a diagonal view of the Were and his friends.
Pam took the seat to her side presumably so she could keep a surreptitious eye on everything.
Very soon thereafter a new glass of sweet tea arrived, and to her surprise, a dark blue glass that she knew contained real blood for the vampires was placed before Pam.
This change in events made her curious. She and Pam got along fine but she’d rarely offered to join her.
The thoughts of the four people at the table, three humans and the one Were, ranged from “jittery drug addict” to “damn this place smells” to “how long is this shit going to take…gotta go to Cob’s and I can’t be late” to…
Pam watched as Sookie’s face went purposefully blank before pulling a piece of paper out of her pocket. When the telepath glanced down at it, she inhaled sharply, then lifted her head to “not stare” once again at the table with the ugly humans and the generic Were.
“Is Eric busy?”
The whispered question along with Sookie’s verification of some writing on the paper that smelled of her Maker told Pam that not only was something up, but it was something big. She checked her bond with Eric and found him to be preoccupied and slightly annoyed but pinged him to come anyway.
Sookie never sounded an alert unless she had reason and the intensity of her focus hinted at reason enough. Her telepathic friend had lowered her gaze to her drink but she knew Sookie’s attention was focused on the thoughts of someone at that table.
Within a minute Eric arrived at their table and crouched down between the two ladies.
Sookie had been concentrating so strongly that his touch on her shoulder made her jump. She looked over at the serious face so close to hers, and swallowed.
“See that table over there,” she glanced down at her finger where she was subtly pointing, “with the three humans and the Were? Ok, see the younger looking human in the black shirt with the bad goatee fiddlin’ with his beer? He just thought about the name of that bar you wrote down on this list, Cob’s. He has an appointment or something there and he’s worried that he can’t be late to it.”
“And the other three?” Eric had leaned over to whisper the question into her ear and she could have sworn that he sniffed her.
“They’re just generic low-lifes. You could glamour them to find out for sure, but so far I haven’t gotten anything relevant from them.”
Eric nodded then conversed with Pam so quietly and rapidly she didn’t even try to follow their conversation.
A moment later Eric and Pam rose, and Pam blurred off while Eric held his hand out to Sookie.
“Come join me in my office. Godric and Cara will be along shortly, and Godric, at least, will wish to spend some time with this human.”
Sookie took his hand and didn’t dare risk glancing back over at the table where the men still sat.
They walked in silence until entering a private hallway at which point she asked, “I take it they’ll leave but won’t quite make it to their cars?”
Eric smiled grimly. “Exactly.”
Once in his large, well appointed office, she took her usual seat on his comfy leather couch and, when asked what she would like to drink, ordered a Singapore Sling without lime. A headache was creeping up from straining so hard to listen to the Were while at the same time keeping tabs on the other three humans, and besides, her work was over now anyway.
At Eric’s questioning look since her usual drink, as far as he knew, was gin and tonic, she said, “Well, it has gin in it…”
He smirked and placed her order via intercom, then looked at her more closely.
“Your head hurts.”
Somewhat surprised by his observation, she nodded.
“Does using your telepathy cause you pain?”
Definitely surprised now, she replied, “Not usually, not if I don’t do it for long at a time, but the longer I listen the more likely I am to get a headache. Why?”
Sookie worked to keep her question neutral. Eric had never once asked how her telepathy worked beyond making sure she couldn’t hear vampires so his sudden interest was noteworthy.
“I realized the other day that I have no idea how using your gift affects you and while it is extremely valuable, I have no wish to cause you pain.”
His sincerity as he leaned back against his desk was obvious, so although she was bemused by his sudden interest, she readily answered.
“You know that I can read humans a heck of a lot easier than I can read Weres, and that I can’t read vampires at all, right? Well, if I concentrate hard enough, I can usually find the right frequency, I guess you’d call it, for that particular Were. It takes a little while to find it and it takes a lot of mental energy to do it, but it can be done, but, yeah, it makes my head pound after not too long. Being around too many humans will, too, but not if I can keep my shields up while I’m around them.”
Eric nodded with a contemplative expression, then went to what appeared to Sookie to be a blank wall. After touching it in a certain place, the panel opened as if it were a small door, and Eric withdrew a plastic box with a red cross on it.
“Would,” he looked down at the list of contents, “ibuprofen or acetaminophen help?”
Ah, a first aid box…
She shook her head sadly.
“Nope, but thank you anyway. This doesn’t seem to be the kind of pain that pain relievers will touch. Sometimes alcohol does but mainly it just relaxes me.”
Eric replaced the box with a frown.
“What does help?”
“Time, silence, and sleep,” she answered wryly.
Eric immediately thought of Sookie having to drive home, alone, long after dark, after having put in several hours’ work for him, and was disgusted with himself.
Just then her drink arrived, and after making sure she was settled comfortably on the couch with a small never-before-used pillow behind her head, he returned to his desk. A few minutes later, he collected a slip of paper from his silent printer and moved to sit beside Sookie.
She took another sip of her quickly disappearing drink then placed it on a coaster on the table to her side, then gave him her full if tired attention.
He handed her the printout.
“I don’t know if you’re aware or not, but this place also has private suites.” A smile briefly crossed his face as he continued, “In fact, Godric and Cara have been staying in his since the other night. They are lightsafe, of course, but of more interest to you, they are heavily insulated against outside noise and have a direct line to room service. This one is now yours.”
Sookie looked at the sheet and the phrase “permanent reservation” caught her attention.
“But this is too much! I don’t need…” she began only to be surprisingly interrupted by Eric…who never interrupted.
“Yes, you do.” The firm look he gave her dared her to contradict him. “I refuse to have you driving back home alone and in pain at night. The suite is yours. You can move in tonight and never leave, you can keep some clothes stored here and only stay over when you work, or you can pretend it isn’t there, your choice, but the suite and the options are yours.”
Sookie was astonished and not only by Eric’s sudden kindness although that was certainly the biggest shock of all. Judging by the refined elegance of his office she could only imagine how nice the private suites would be, especially if his own beloved Maker had one, so she knew the value of the gift was astronomical, but it was so much more than that.
Even if it had been an as-needed offer to rent her a room down at the nearby “no-tell mo-tell” so she wouldn’t have to drive all the way home in pain after dark, the offer itself would have meant the world to her.
She blinked rapidly as she felt her eyes growing suspiciously moist, and pretended to study the paper. It was too much, entirely too much, but there was no way she could refuse. The look in his eyes wouldn’t let her.
“Thank you, Eric, I really appreciate this. In fact, I might stay over tonight if it’s not too much effort?”
“The suite became yours the moment I entered the order, and as your prints have already been entered into our security system, your fingertip will be your key. Would you like to go on up now?”
Sookie debated for a moment.
“I was kind of hoping to see Cara tonight since I’m here. Is she going to be around?”
Eric glanced at his watch then focused his eyes “in the middle distance” – a look Sookie had come to understand meant he was somehow checking in with either Pam or Godric.
“I believe they’re on their way down even as we speak,” he finally replied.
He thought quickly. This would work out well as he had a bit of information to pass along to his Maker that Cara didn’t necessarily need to hear. It could wait, of course, but he would far rather tend to business sooner than later.
Sookie drained her glass and shook her head when Eric raised a brow in offer of another.
“I’ll wait, then. How’s she been doing?”
Eric made himself comfortable on the couch.
“Better than can be expected, honestly. They of course are besotted with each other, but she seems to have taken to her vampire hybrid state easily enough.”
“But why are they staying here? I’d have thought she’d have been more comfortable in a house with fewer people around.”
“Yes, that would make sense, but vampires have excellent hearing and,” he answered then graced her with a lidded gaze, “their bedroom activities are far from quiet, a fact which causes her needless embarrassment.”
His heavy-lidded gaze relaxed into a small but genuine smile as Sookie’s cheeks turned a very becoming pink.
“Well, I can’t say I blame her, and could you order me a coffee, please?”
Delighted by her prim and proper attitude, Eric nodded his head in congenial acquiescence and grabbed his phone from his pocket to place her order.
**A/N: So, what did you think? If you’re interested, here’s a recipe for the Singapore Sling mentioned above: http://www.food.com/recipe/the-raffles-hotel-original-singapore-gin-sling-cocktail-283673. More Godric and Cara, and a tie-up of a long-ago-mentioned mini-side-plot point (I’m trying to think of other phrases where I could use more dashes here…) coming in the next chapter.**