**A/N: So…Intermission is back, but there’s only one. This part is actually a little longer than the last but Intermission found a place to rest his weary, um, feet or whatever. (Do Intermissions have feet?) Anyway, I hope you enjoy!**
At the sound of the vehicle, a truck by the rattling of it, bouncing down the long driveway, Eric tensed and straightened in his seat. The difference in his posture drew his attention to how very comfortable he had allowed himself to become at the Stackhouse’s kitchen table, but that ease instantly disappeared.
Who or what in the hell would be so rudely coming here so late at night? Normal visiting hours are over for the mortal set… Damn, even the tiny spider in the corner has gone to its bed by now! The only group I can think of…fuck…I wouldn’t put it past the queenling to send one of her offspring… Playtime at the kitchen table is definitely over, boys and girls…
Slipping into immediate protection mode on someone else’s behalf wasn’t something he was accustomed to, but now that the contract with Sookie gave him that right, he was on it.
Cataliades, now beaming at him in the most insufferable way, subtly shook his head with a glance toward the sound of the ill-kept vehicle. Out of respect for the old demon, Eric made a show of believing him by attempting to visibly relax, but his mind raced regardless of the other male’s lack of concern.
“It’s Jason,” Sookie calmly declared from the other side of the room.
Ah, so perhaps that annoyingly lackadaisical attitude of his may have been warranted…and what’s up with the load of avuncular approval he’s been shoveling at me anyway? Next thing you know he’ll be patting my head and telling me I’m a good boy…
Eric shifted his gaze back toward Sookie in an effort to mute that disturbing line of thought.
While conducting his own unnecessarily tiresome business he had been discreetly watching her as she occasionally flitted around tidying the already spotless if shabby kitchen. While trying to create a reason to bring in a Were redecorating crew that Pam sponsored, the innate grace of Sookie’s body as she went about her chores had caught his attention and hadn’t let go yet.
She would put most vampires to shame.
The lush sway and bounce of her breasts in time with her movements would cause an entirely different reaction to most…they certainly had with him.
Too soon for his liking, the roaring sound of a motor desperately in need of a tune-up ceased as tires came to a gravel-spraying halt near the back door. He hid a grimace as the truck squeakily rocked back and forth in protest of such rough treatment and thanked Odin that none of his vehicles were parked anywhere near that oaf.
Given what he had surmised about the boy the night before and going by his appearance and manner at the bar, his support and timely actions had come as a nice surprise. Still, it grated that the male Stackhouse was interrupting what had been an oddly cozy evening.
Cozy. Now that is a weird word… Cozy… Odin help me if I ever utter such nonsense within Pam’s hearing. She’ll start buying me briefs and telling me to wear socks with sandals…books of “dad jokes” will begin suspiciously appearing on tables meant for coffee… Cozy…
Heavy footsteps stomped toward the kitchen door and an impatient hand vigorously twisted the locked doorknob several times before apparently realizing that the door wasn’t going to magically open.
Unfortunately the sour stench of stale beer and the greasy odor of second-rate shifter food permeated the wooden barrier far more easily.
“Just a minute, Jason. Geez, what’s got you in such a hurry?” To Eric’s visual delight, Sookie “bounced” over to the door.
“Is that Jason?” Gran’s voice drifted in from the living room and Eric couldn’t decide if the woman sounded hopeful or not. Sookie replied in the affirmative as she unlocked and opened the door for her newly flannel-bedecked brother to stumble into the kitchen.
Oh goodie – a drunken lumbering lumberjack…just what we need. Did Sally-Mae say yes? Did Lula-Belle test positive? Stay turned for the next episode of These Are The Nights Of Our Lives… Wonder why he changed shirts…did his watered-down beer jump from the grungy glass in a desperate bid for freedom? Did Billy-Jean’s boyfriend take offense? And we’ll be back after these important messages from our sponsors…
Although untimely and vaguely irritating especially to his sinuses, Eric wasn’t too worried about the brother’s visit interfering with the night’s Fangtasia plans. A subtle check of his watch suggested they still had ample travel and set-up time before the workers arrived for their “staff meeting”.
He wasn’t sure if she would need to get a feel for the place or whatever – telepathy was her forte, not his – but he wanted her to have time to get comfortable before tackling the staff.
Suddenly it occurred to him that she had already had what humans might consider a long night and he quickly ran a sharp gaze over her features. At this point she didn’t seem unduly fatigued but he would check again later.
No sense wearing her out this early in our agreement…wearing her out… so many possibilities… Damn, Viking – focus…
“Sam’s on his way over,” the young man gasped loudly if less drunkenly than he smelled. “He’s had all evenin’ to think about things and now he’s got a head full of steam all built up over you consortin’ with vampires, Sook. Maxine Fortenberry ain’t helped, neither, not with how she kept needlin’ him with stupid questions that weren’t none of her business.”
Sookie’s grimace at the woman’s name had not gone unnoticed and Eric felt an instant dislike for what appeared to be a paragon of nosiness and agitation.
Jason hiked his apparently-loose jeans up before continuing. “Hoyt finally had to act like he had a sick stomach so she’d shut up and go home.” Jason shook his head sadly. “Too bad he had to go with her. Even after she left, though, Sam kept on and on about how it just ain’t right. I ain’t sure what ain’t right, but I guess he is? Anyway, Sam’s on his way over, said he’s gonna straighten this situation out.”
Eric rose with a subtle growl.
Oh. Hell. No. If that two-bit piece of greasy shifter shit thinks he has a chance in hell of getting in the way…
The brother turned to Eric. “He’s suddenly decided that he don’t want Sookie havin’ anything to do with ya, so just be prepared. I don’t know if it’s you specifically or vampires in general or what. I dunno…just wanted to warn y’all. Sam’s a good guy usually, but I kind of think maybe he’s been carryin’ a little something for Sookie, maybe.”
Most likely a *very* little something…something he won’t have to worry about after tonight… Wonder if any veterinarian offices are open this late? Are emergency neuter clinics a thing? They should be…
Oddly touched by Jason’s evident concern, Eric nodded his head toward Flannel-Boy but chose to remain standing.
Now obviously considering the urgent message adequately delivered, Jason ambled straight over to the refrigerator as Mrs. Stackhouse came tottering through the kitchen doorway.
Eric had heard her rising from her chair in the other room and knew she’d stopped in the hall to eavesdrop before making her appearance known.
“That Maxine…I just don’t know what to do about her,” she grumbled as she aimed toward the nearest vacant chair at the table. “And she’s got Mr. Merlotte all riled up over something that’s no business of theirs? Well I’ll just have to set Sam Merlotte straight!”
Having been attuned to Sookie’s expressions throughout her brother’s monologue…who was he kidding, he’d been studying the interesting creature all evening long… Eric had caught her half-raised brow and the quickly suppressed quirk of her lips at her grandmother’s words before turning toward the counter. Automatically preparing the elderly woman yet another cup of tea and starting what smelled to be a pot of coffee, possibly for herself given the late hour, wisely served to hide her amusement.
As Jason hauled two pies, a baked chicken, a portion of baked ham, and a bowl of what appeared to be some sort of lumpy potato mixture from the refrigerator to the nearby counter, Sookie pointedly asked, “Mr. C, would you like a snack or another cup of tea?”
“Oh, yeah,” the brother asked as stared at the visitor he had somehow apparently managed to not notice before then, “you should try the pies. Gran makes the best damn pecan pie in the whole South, and Sook makes as fine a peach pie as you’ll ever eat.”
He gestured to the chicken and stared in surprise at the drumstick in his grubby hand before setting it back on the plate.
“Gran bakes a mean chicken, too!”
He nodded to emphasize his pronouncement before eyeing his now-greasy hand with evident curiosity.
Apparently the boy believes baked chicken parts fly into his hand at will? Maybe he thinks they’re drawn to the flannel?
“You watch your mouth,” the elderly woman complained in what to Eric’s ear was apparently an habitual gripe. Judging by the small but obviously smug twist of her lips, she wasn’t as up in arms over the boy’s language as she wanted to appear.
Cataliades stood and shook his head, his expression giving every impression of a well-feigned ‘exhaustion’. Only another supe might catch the humor dancing in his dark eyes. “No, but thank you nonetheless. I must be on my way. Thank you for your hospitality this evening, Mrs. Stackhouse; it has been a pleasure making your acquaintance.” He graced the elderly grandmother with a noble half-bow before turning to Eric and Sookie who had by then moved over toward the table.
“Eric, Sookie, I look forward to hearing from you soon. When you need my services, do not hesitate to call.” He held out a previously unnoticed business card to Sookie, which she quickly took.
With somewhat less than supernatural speed the demon gathered his briefcase and, to Eric’s minor dismay, his printer, then with a general nod to those in the kitchen he allowed Sookie to walk him back through the house to the front door.
Eric automatically monitored the exodus through the gurgling sound of the coffee pot and of Jason talking to his grandmother with his mouth half-full.
Given the quiet solitude of the area and how light its late-night traffic was, it was far too easy for his exceptional hearing to also catch the sounds of two lone vehicles traveling several roads away…and he just bet one of those vehicles was being driven by a slavering dog.
Great. Because all this night needs is a visit from the fucking fleabag. At least I can end whatever his manufactured problem is before heading to Dallas. Things there will be complicated enough as it is…don’t need a lovelorn mutt sniffing around…shouldn’t take too long to be rid of him and his wet-dog stench…go to Fangtasia…maybe someone left a spare collar there…
With that thought he could feel his customary vampire facade beginning to descend and, while he welcomed it for dealing with Merlotte, he noticed a strange reluctance as well.
“That Mr. C sure seems nice,” Sookie pronounced as she reentered the kitchen a few moments later. “So, Sam’s on his way over? I can’t imagine what his problem is but I’m sure he’s thought up something especially if Maxine Fortenberry is involved.” She glanced over at the clock on the stove and frowned.
“How Hoyt turned out to be such a nice boy I’ll never understand,” Sookie’s grandmother muttered to the amusement of her grandchildren. “And Mr. Merlotte thinks it’s ok to come by at this late hour? How very rude! It’s not like he’s a vampire who can only socialize after dark,” she proclaimed with a nod to Eric.
She settled herself more comfortably into her chair with a tsk and murmured her thanks when Sookie placed a cup of tea and a small plate of cookies before her.
Still standing, Eric watched as Jason stopped chewing long enough to pile even more food onto the plate Sookie had shoved into his hands. He decided that the boy’s eating habits were worthy of scientific study.
A cloudy memory of himself as a human male tried to surface through the fog of eons past. In retrospect, his own former eating habits had likely been comparable, and he wondered briefly what “peach pie” tasted like.
“Gran, do you want some pie to go with your tea? Eric, I hate that there’s nothing here that you actually want, but there is refreshment available…,” she broke off to gesture at the refrigerator.
“I thank you for the offer, but I am fine.” He decided that just then wasn’t exactly the right time to remind her that she did, in fact, have the perfect refreshment on hand…well, in vein as it were.
As to having something he wanted…
If his bright eyes happened to linger long enough on her neck to cause her to blush and shake her head at him, who would know? Jason and the grandmother were both fixated on the foods already before them.
After Gran shook her head, Sookie placed a slice of the nut pie onto her own plate, made herself a cup of coffee, and retook her seat…then promptly had to rise once again from the table to grab herself a fork.
Eric hid his smirk as he kept track of the vehicles, one of which seemed to be slowly rumbling toward the house.
As the humans ate at the table, he barely prevented himself from suggesting…well, ordering Sookie to go to her room to change clothing or whatever, anything to get her out of the line of fire so that he could tackle the local shifter problem without unduly frightening the chit.
Merlotte has the bad habit of saying exactly the wrong thing in the wrong tone of voice…it’s as though he lives to irritate me…and as current Sheriff of this Area…not to mention a self-respecting vampire, I can’t let him get away with such purposefully blatant disrespect.
And then there’s the possibility that in her anger Sookie might let something slip…something that the dog would be tempted to run straight to Sophie-Anne with…that is, if I allow him to leave in the first…no, this female Maxine as well as others at that hovel might know of his intention to come here and start scratching at his fleas…he’ll have to be able to leave tonight… But how do I keep Sookie out of this?
There was also a strong likelihood that Merlotte would reveal aspects about Eric’s well-earned reputation that he didn’t want her to know, things she would discover in time of course but at a slow enough pace that he could temper the knowledge and provide the logic behind his decisions.
From the side of his eye he watched as Sookie calmly enjoyed her pecan pie and coffee while engaging in sporadic conversation with her family.
If too much information about me or about the vampire world is dumped on her too soon, I won’t have a chance to smooth anything over and it’s far too late for the little chit to run scared now. How to handle this situation… She’ll need to know…but not yet…don’t want her to fear me…
It struck him as odd that he honestly didn’t want Sookie to be afraid of him, but the thought of inspiring fear in her eyes left him chilled.
In the supernatural world, fear was a useful tool that everyone understood regardless of species. It was a great motivator for getting those of lesser intelligent to do as he wished with a minimum of wasted time and whine. Fear bought him peace from most troublemakers and instant obedience from the rest.
None of that applied to Pam, of course, and somehow he knew in his gut that it most likely wouldn’t apply to Sookie, either…not that he would want it to.
He simply didn’t want to take that risk.
She would need to respect him, of course, and know when she would be free to debate with him and when she would need to quickly do his bidding for her own safety.
Luckily it seemed that she already realized, and perhaps was already depending upon, the fact that he had vast stores of knowledge and experience gained the old-fashioned way – qualities she would never be able to come close to achieving and that he was willing to employ on her behalf. If he had pegged her mental faculties correctly, that realization would gain him far more of her loyalty and respect than fear ever could.
Too bad it hadn’t worked with Pam…his best bet with the brat was to simply toss a credit card in her direction…
As he heard Merlotte’s vehicle turn onto the road that led to the Stackhouse’s driveway, he made the decision to simply take the fight away from Sookie and her family rather than risking unnecessary drama, ill-timed revelations, or, he glanced around the kitchen, broken bric-a-brac.
It’s too late in the evening for Sookie to be dealing with the riff-raff. After all, even the spider has gone to its bed… This way she can keep her grandmother calmed and Flannel-Boy can continue shoveling more bits of flora and fauna into that black hole he calls a mouth…
Plus I have a contract.
It was a genuine struggle, but Eric somehow managed to keep the self-satisfaction off his face at that final thought.
Noting that Sookie had taken her last bite of pie and had almost finished her coffee, he suggested, “I’m going to deal with Merlotte outside. You could join us if you wished, of course, or you could take this time to change clothing. Although what you’re currently wearing is perfectly fine, you might want to put on something a little warmer as we’ll be flying.”
Eric was thankful he had perfected the art of lying eons ago. Sookie positively reeked of cheap bar food and stale beer but she didn’t need to know that.
The indecision on her face invited him to slightly change tactics.
“Or you could simply enjoy another slice of pie and keep your grandmother company. Whatever Merlotte’s problem is, it is with me, not you.”
Then something about the brother’s expression caught his attention. A thought, probably a partial one but a thought nonetheless, flickering through the blond’s brain had been strong enough to cause him to actually leave his fork on his mostly-emptied plate.
What…it couldn’t be concern for the shifter. After all, Jason had been the one to warn us, me specifically, that the dog was on his way over in the first place. So what could it be?
He studied Jason’s troubled features for a moment.
Oh. Sookie is his sister and beneath all the Gump… he is, after all, a big brother. That…I can respect.
“Stackhouse?” When Jason looked up, Eric continued, “You’re with me.”
The boy’s immediate pleasure at the inclusion sealed the deal, but when the pleasure was replaced with hardened intent as he stood from his place at the table, he had to admit to being a bit surprised. Merlotte might have bitten off more than he could chew in more ways than one.
Evidence of Jason’s surprising depths spurred a few new thoughts and options.
With a nod to the grandmother, Eric, with Jason in tow, exited the kitchen door just as Sam’s vehicle turned onto the Stackhouse driveway.
Once they were standing near Jason’s truck parked outside the kitchen entrance, Eric called to the Weres stationed around the old house to gain their attention then he spoke the name of the one he wished to lead.
Luckily he had remembered the surname of the “lone wolf” who ran a thriving motorcycle repair shop. The male seemed to deal well with local clans, but he wasn’t a member of one and his reputation said he didn’t need to be.
“Dawson,” he called out. He could smell the feckless Herveaux’s odor inside the wooded area behind the old house but knew it would be most unwise of him to deal with the pup just yet. Dead Weres couldn’t replay debts. However, singling out the other Were had in effect made Dawson leader of this crew which would do for now.
Once the tall, muscular wolf appeared in human form at the wood line, he spoke quickly.
“The shifter Merlotte approaches. I will deal with him. The hothead’s antics may be used by others as a diversion so you guys need to be ready for anything.” With a nod he dismissed them to their duties and they seemed to melt back into the woods as the unwanted visitor slammed his vehicle into park and cut the engine.
To Jason’s curious yet not unduly shocked expression, Eric explained as the irate shifter huffed and puffed and slammed his SUV door in a glorious display of churlish anger, “I’ll tell you later.”
When Merlotte and his fuzzy head of steam came into striking distance, Eric glared down into the smaller man’s wound up gaze.
“Sit down and shut the hell up.”
To Jason’s visible surprise, Sam complied although he chose to sit on the truck’s dropped tailgate rather than the damp ground.
Pity…but I expect the seat of his pants will be wet enough by the time he leaves anyway…pathetic little chest beater… Does he even know what a shower is? Fucking vampire senses…
The brother, with his arms now folded across his broad chest in the manner of tough guys everywhere, moved to stand near the obviously angry shifter.
“What the fuck are you…”
“Here is what you need to know,” Eric impatiently interrupted as he loomed over the red-faced shifter. “Jason, pay attention. Merlotte here heard much of this earlier tonight but apparently didn’t care enough about your sister to remember any of it.”
The shifter attempted to growl a denial of the truth but a brief snarl from the Viking promptly shut him up.
Eric could have sworn he heard a whimper.
“Bill Compton was sent to this Area by the vampire queen to investigate and procure Sookie’s particular set of skills.”
Eric looked over at Jason who had started to say something but changed his mind.
“In the vampire world, to procure something means to obtain it by any means necessary. Any,” he emphasized as it seemed the information was finally hitting home according to the way the boy’s eyes widened, “means necessary.”
“You mean Sookie’s…,” his voice trailed off as he tapped the side of his head.
When Eric nodded, Jason continued.
“But how would she know about that? We don’t talk about that kind of thing around here…hey, wait a minute! You vampires have a queen? I remember hearin’ Vampire Bill sayin’ that he’s here on some queen’s business but I though he’s just talkin’ out the other side’a his mouth.”
Eric hid a grin.
Odin love ya, kid. You do have a unique perception of the world, don’t you…
“We know exactly how Her Majesty,” he pronounced the queen’s title with heavy sarcasm, “came to know of Sookie’s gift, which we will deal with later. And yes, vampires have royalty who govern their areas.”
“Yeah and how the hell are you going to keep Sookie safe from The Queen?”
It appeared Merlotte had kept his muzzle shut as long as he could and his voice held a bit too much awe of the female monarch for Eric’s comfort. He sure as hell wasn’t going to reveal anything useful to the temperamental shifter as he didn’t trust the dog not to run yipping to whomever he thought held the most power.
“I have my ways, a fact you would do well to remember,” Eric snarled in response before grabbing the collar of the shifter’s shirt and jerking him up to eye level with his bared fangs.
“The real question is how were you planning to keep Sookie safe – were you going to run off with her like a scared dog?”
“That’s it – that’s exactly what you were planning to do.” He hissed, his temper rising dangerously. “Did you really think Sookie would enjoy a life on the run with you? Living in the shadows, staying in seedy hotels and eating at third-rate diners until the money ran out? What were you going to offer her after that – a lot in a kennel somewhere while she whelped litters for you?”
When Merlotte’s expression confirmed at least part of his theory, Eric’s fist on the shifter’s collar tightened even further. Ending the dog’s life then and there was far too tempting given the circumstances.
How dare he disrespect Sookie in such a way? What the hell is wrong with that cowardly bastard? Doesn’t he *know* Sookie at all? If he had any true concern whatsoever for the girl, he’d fucking know better…would realize that I alone am her ticket to any sort of reliable freedom…
Eric’s mind raced.
He didn’t want to end the bastard’s life but it was looking as though that might become a viable option. He would kill when he needed to without compunction, of course, but he had always avoided unnecessary deaths whenever he could. Unfortunately, if Merlotte continued in this vein, the shifter might need to suffer some sort of…accident…but later.
Too many people would know about the dog’s plan to visit Sookie’s house this night.
First, however, he would see how far his glamour might hold. The mind control wasn’t nearly as effective on were-kind as it was on human-kind, but it still had its uses. A younger vampire’s attempt would have been pitiful at best, but at his advanced age and with his power?
With an internal shrug, he focused his strongest glare into the red-head’s eyes and hoped the shifter got the damn point.
Here puppy…puppy…puppy… Here boy…come let me at least try to save your greasy, stupid, flea-ridden life…
Besides, spilled shifter blood was fucking rank.
“Sookie is not your concern. You will no longer bother her. You will cease asking questions. Sookie quit. Get over it. Go home. Take a flea bath. Hire another waitress. Leave now.”
Patience with the dangling moron finally ended, Eric tossed the man past Jason’s truck where he landed in a rather satisfying heap.
And yes, his pants are wet…pew…
With jerky motions as he obviously fought but lost the battle with Eric’s powerful glamour, Merlotte lurched over to his SUV and quickly sped from the premises.
Of all the stupid, illogical, asinine, ill-planned, badly timed, fucked up…thought he could run off with Sookie and, what, hide out for the next 60, 80 years? Really? And how many litters would the poor girl have ended up whelping? I saw how he looked at her ass… Yeah, that is definitely not. going. to. fucking. happen. Mother fucking…his mother should have ended him at birth.
Even with the Viking’s best effort, nearly a full minute passed before he could force his fangs to retract.
Hello, I am Intermission. Please allow me to introduce myself.
Oh, right, I’ve already done that. So sorry…
To refresh your memory, not that it is lacking or anything, oh, no, I wouldn’t presume to even hint at such a thing. But anyway, this is where you run to the toilet or grab a drink/snack/fractious offspring/nagging kitty and do the things which must be done.
And you do it well, so well, with style and grace and fluent use of only the finest of curse words.
Or is that me…
Either way, it matters not. Onward and upward I always say. Oh, I don’t? But I thought I did? Ah, so sorry…
Well then, this now concludes me. Sorry to see you go and all….
Fully expecting a volley of questions from the brother, with resignation Eric turned to Jason but found the boy had a thoughtful look on his face as he gazed out into the woods.
He waited a moment but when Jason scratched his head and appeared to become even more puzzled, Eric prompted, “What?”
After scuffing the dirt with his boot for a moment he eventually asked in a confused, worried tone, “But don’t that mean she’s your queen, too?”
Out of all the questions he could have asked…but that is the crux of the matter, my boy. He may not be scholarship material…judging by his moves earlier in the bar he’s far more jock than book hound, but there’s a native intelligence lurking in that murk between his likely filthy ears.
He had to give Jason credit for sensing the seriousness of the situation. And that worry, if he wasn’t mistaken, was also for his own thousand-year-old hide. Oddly that consideration made him almost want to check behind the boy’s ears to see if he’d actually washed there since high school.
“Yes, she is. Let’s go back inside now.” He darted his eyes meaningfully back toward the kitchen door and could tell the instant Jason realized his intent.
It was vaguely amusing to watch the thought take root.
With a nod Jason began walking but instead of heading toward the door of the house, he went to the door of his truck…and extracted a large cloth bag.
“Might’s well see ’bout my laundry while I’m here,” he said in explanation as he hefted the load over his shoulder.
Eric quirked a brow.
“You do not have a washer and dryer at your place?”
“Sure I do. I live in our mom and dad’s old house so I got all that stuff, but Gran an’ Sook do a lot better job of it than I do. Dunno how I did it but one time all my t-shirts turned pink. That wasn’t fun.”
“So you drive around with your laundry in your truck until you find someone to do it?” Eric worked hard to keep the unexpected laughter from his voice. Pam would have a blast with the kid.
“Yhep,” Jason agreed with a nod as he shifted the obviously heavy load around. “That’s about it.”
A plan formed in Eric’s lightening fast mind just before they reached the kitchen door.
“Why don’t you just move back here? Wouldn’t that be easier?”
Jason stopped then dropped the load. After scratching an apparently urgent itch on his elbow, he hedged, “Eh, yeah, in a way I guess but this is Sook’s place. I mean, it’s Gran’s house and it’ll always be Gran’s house, but in my mind it’s also Sookie’s. Like, it’s her place or somethin’.”
His voice trailed off as though his mind couldn’t handle speaking while remembering something, so out of courtesy Eric simply waited for the boy to start back up again.
“I got our parent’s old house and I keep it up and all, but it ain’t home, not really. It’s real purdy bein’ out near the lake an’ all, and it’s a great place to take th’ girls,” he added, and Eric’s opinion of the male before him rose when the explanation was not accompanied by any rude gestures or eyebrow wags. “But this here’s home. It’s where I grew up after our parents died, ya know? That other place…yeah, it’s home and all, but it don’t quite feel right. It’s too still or somethin’ out there. It just don’t smell right, either, like the air’s stale or old or…I dunno. But this is Sook’s place now; it ain’t mine. I can’t take that from’er.”
Despite neither having nor wanting full use of the damn thing for countless centuries, Eric felt what had to be his heart lurch at the boy’s bluntly heartbreaking words.
You can’t go home again.
The old axiom floated through his mind with searing intensity.
Fuck that. Fuck that to hell and back. Yes, you absolutely can go home again. Things won’t be exactly the same because people regardless of species do change, but home is still…home. Hell, I’m going home tomorrow night and I’m 36, 37 times his age, so if I can, he sure as fuck can.
Concentrating on the Weres in the surrounding woodlands proved they were unlikely to be within easy hearing distance, so he gazed levelly into Jason’s somber eyes.
“Without going into unnecessary detail at this time, there is a very good chance that your sister may be moving in the very near future. We are leaving tomorrow night to visit my Maker in Dallas so that your sister can investigate certain job opportunities. While she is gone, and likely thereafter as well, someone will need to keep an eye on your grandmother and on this old house.” He paused to let the words sink in.
“It’s time for you to come home, Jason.”
Unaccountably curious as to the boy’s reaction, Eric carefully monitored Jason’s features as the suggestion seemed to hover around a bit before finally beginning to take hold. In the background he listened as Sookie helped her grandmother up from the kitchen chair so that the elderly woman could visit the restroom… listened as nighttime insects and small mammals lived their tiny lives…listened as Tina slowly forgave Sookie for the grave injustice of allowing smelly visitors into her home…
“She’s gonna hafta leave here because of Vampire Bill an’ that queen, ain’t she.”
The old, resigned look that came over the boy’s face caused Eric’s fist to clench in a shockingly strong need to meet Compton’s damn skull.
“Fuck. I hate that fuckin’ prick. Mother…fucker! That lady with you at the bar – did she take’im away to some place where he could be locked up?”
“Oh yes,” he was glad to reply, his smug sneer absolutely justified. “He will remain incarcerated for, shall we say, the duration.”
“Good. Hope ‘at som’bitch has a meetin’ with tha sun sometime real soon.”
Eric waited a long moment before confirming, “You may rest assured.”
Suddenly unusually serious, Jason met his eyes with an impressively straight look before eventually nodding.
“Is my gran gonna be safe here?”
The boy, he realized, wasn’t slow, not at all; his mind simply worked in a different way.
Curious… Odd how the minds of both siblings veer from the standard for most mortals… Although Sookie’s is sweeter, both have a delightful scent, too, a scent not carried by the elder Stackhouse…wonder if this difference comes from the mother as the father is a direct descendant of the grandmother? Maybe from the grandfather? Curious indeed…
Eric nodded toward the woods.
“Yes, as much as possible.”
Come on, Stackhouse…here’s your excuse…come on, bite like a good little muscle-y blond fishie…come on…
He’d left the rest unsaid, that while he could provide some sort of protection, that protection could well prove inadequate, and moments later, Jason did not disappoint.
With a look of strong contemplation, the brother posited, “So maybe I might could move on back in for a bit, you know, just to keep an eye on Gran. She’s gettin’ on up in years, and this house does need some work, don’t it…”
Inwardly cheering while managing to nod wisely as though Jason had just singlehandedly solved the world’s problems, Eric solemnly agreed.
“I think that would be wise.”
“An’ if I need the little house, it ain’t like it’s gonna disappear or nothin’,” he added, obviously considering the kinds of extracurricular activities of which his Gran would not approve.
Grin still well hidden, he tipped his head toward the far younger man.
“Also a good call.”
As they entered the kitchen soon after, he had to wonder at Sookie’s restraint when it came to letting him deal with Merlotte.
Passively allowing someone else to handle problems that she considered hers did not seem to fit in with his current knowledge of her personality, and until mere hours ago the mutt had been her apparently well-liked boss.
Granted she had remained in the kitchen during the entire flea-fest… Given her gift, he suspected she had been rightly listening in, and he had to wonder not only how much she had been able to sense from the shifter, but how much of her brother’s homesickness she may have sensed.
When she glanced up from the sink where she had been standing, the look on her face said she had heard everything.
The moment Jason caught her gaze, he knew it too.
“Aww, Sook, you wuddn’ listenin’ in on me were ya?”
As big tears spilled from her eyes down her cheeks, Jason’s large laundry bag thumped to the floor as he held his arms open. With a sniff Sookie flew into her brother’s hug.
“Dammit, Jason, just…dammit! You know you can move back home anytime you want, you know that!”
After much sniffing and some awkward back thumps, the siblings parted.
“Gran,” Sookie’s voice carried surprisingly well through the house, “Jason’s moving back in!”
“What, like I’m gonna give you enough time to talk yourself out of it? You’re here so you’re stayin’ and that’s all there is to it.”
Eric closed the kitchen door and leaned back against it as he watched the warm family drama play out.
With almost military precision, Sookie commanded Jason to take his laundry to the washer then went to re-inform, albeit at a more civil volume, her grandmother of Jason’s intentions. Then she grabbed Jason a clean set of sheets from a suspected closet in the hall and instructed the apparently stunned young man to “go get your bed ready”. She overrode his protests with the fact that he “had to be at work in the morning” and so he “needed to get your butt in the bed already”.
With a smirk, Eric simply raised a brow at Jason when the boy had turned to him for support.
“Tick tock, Mister Stackhouse. And don’t forget to brush your teeth and wash behind both ears.”
After throwing his empty hand in the air in an almost believable show of exasperation, the male Stackhouse complied.
Eric pretended not to notice the relief in his eyes as he did his sister’s bidding and chose to check his phones in the kitchen while Sookie dealt with her grandmother. Judging by the excited chatter, the elder woman seemed most pleased to have her grandson back under her roof.
Neither of his phones had sounded an alarm so he knew no urgent messages had come in, but nevertheless…
A text from Rasul had come in on the burner phone about the queen being in a particularly bad snit but no one seemed to know why. The coded message did not imply any sort of danger so he simply replied with a generic “lol”.
Pam’s series of bored texts revealed that nothing unusual had taken place in her little corner of the world. Compton was whining and crying and carrying on but poor Pam had no idea what he was saying because he had that silly gag in his mouth.
I can see it now…Compton secured in silver to the wall, Pam standing before him constantly asking him to repeat himself, that she can’t understand a word he’s saying and why won’t he just remove that silver-enhanced ball gag so he could speak properly for once?
In between taunting Compton and gathering the items from his list, she had called in one of her tastier pets for a feeding. That in itself had been a wise move on her part as it helped maintain the facade of a normal night for the temporarily closed bar.
Knowing Pam, it had probably been the one she’d named AB+ Red Heels.
Taryn had yet to be located but at this point neither he nor Pam honestly gave a fuck. She would be the next Sheriff’s problem.
“What? That’s tomorrow night?” The elder Stackhouse’s wail interrupted his perusal of Pam’s bored-text list of comparisons she was currently building to describe Compton’s lack of manly honor and/or penis/testicle size.
I will never view nickels, dimes, or pencils the same way again. Or miniature albino garter snakes. Or bald caterpillars. Or tweezers. Or those tiny fuzzy pompoms people used to apply to lampshades and socks then bitch because the cats played with them… Thank you, Pam… Oh, yes, thank you so much. I sense your collection stored in that Monterey unit is about to suffer a truly unexpected bout of rain damage…
Eric welcomed the woman’s vocal intrusion.
“Yes ma’am, it sure is. In fact, I need to talk to Eric for a minute.”
When Sookie appeared in the kitchen, a glance at her weary face told Eric all he needed to know.
The night’s plans were immediately cancelled.
She was exhausted. Apparently the events of the evening had finally caught up with his little trooper, and he couldn’t blame her. It took a lot for a vampire to even begin tiring, but after enduring the contract marathon, he’d began to wonder about his own endurance.
He could only imagine what that torture had been like for a mortal.
As he began thinking of ways to suggest delaying the trip to Fangtasia until the next evening, she spoke.
“Eric, I’m really tired now,” she said as she approached him. “I’d hoped that the coffee earlier would perk me up but it ain’t doing its job. That’s the main reason I didn’t bother goin’ out to deal with Sam – I was just too tired to deal with his problems. Between waking up earlier today than I’d wanted and dealing with all that stuff at the bar then meeting with my first demon and then add in all that con…”
With a soft twinkle in his eyes, Eric placed his phone on the table as he lowered his head and ended her litany in the most effective way possible. Slow, soft, and sweet, he kept the kiss firm enough to enjoy yet light enough to stop it from building into something they couldn’t finish that night.
His hands, however, didn’t receive the same message and slid down her back to cup the tempting curves of her ass.
A bit later he raised his head smiled down into her tired, flushed face. He tried to make his hands get with the program and slide up to her waist, but they wisely refused for the moment.
His hands were perfectly happy palming their individual treasures.
“This has been a long evening for you, Sookie. Do not worry about going to Fangtasia tonight; it can easily be rescheduled for tomorrow about an hour or so after first dark. Once we conclude our business there, if everything goes well we can easily head straight to Dallas. In fact, hang on a second.”
Out of loyalty to his hands that had served him well throughout both his lifetimes, he allowed each a gentle squeeze of the flesh that they did not wish to leave before stepping back. Upon noting the satisfying blush on her face, he winked and was pleased to see the color of her cheeks deepen.
After rapidly texting Pam to reschedule tonight’s “staff meeting” until an hour and a half after first dark tomorrow, he put the phone back on the table and drew Sookie into his lap as he sat back into what he was coming to consider “his” chair at the kitchen table.
Sookie laughed a little at his vampire-speed antics then leaned sideways into his chest.
“What I was also going to say before I was so rudely interrupted,” she began with faux emphasis on the ‘rudely’, “was that I still need to pack for tomorrow night but I don’t know what to take or how much or anything like that. I don’t even have any luggage.”
Eric could have slapped himself.
Damn… Of course she wouldn’t have any luggage! Why the fuck did I not think of that? The girl has never been…anywhere… Clothes…she will need the proper attire for meeting King Texas, too…and I am certain her closet wouldn’t… Fuck…
He reached for his phone again but dialed Pam’s number instead of texting.
“Pam, Sookie needs a decent,” he stressed, “set of luggage delivered to her home tomorrow.”
“No I don’t,” Sookie automatically began to protest only to be softly shushed before Eric’s arm tightened about her waist.
Several moments later he asked the lady on his lap, “What color do you prefer: Radiant Pink, Black, Burnt Orange, Caribbean Blue, or Teal?”
She attempted to glare at him but had to laugh when he faux-glared right back at her then raised an eyebrow as he wiggled his phone.
“Radian Pink sounds nice,” she finally decided with a grin still showing.
Eric held the phone away from his ear – Pam’s deafening squeal proved she’d heard Sookie’s reply and loudly approved of her choice.
He listened as she tapped away at a keyboard, his sensitive hearing even detecting the extremely faint sounds of Compton’s badly-tuned caterwauling.
Finally his brows rose in shock just before repeating Pam’s message to Sookie.
“Pam apologizes but given the late hour, only one set of Radiant Pink Samsonite will be delivered by currier tomorrow. The set of three will arrive between two and four in the afternoon, but the second set plus additional pieces is scheduled to arrive at Godric’s residence the day after. She wants you to know that even though it is not one of her preferred designer brands, Samsonite will, as she says, do you until she can arrange for you to receive something better.”
The shock on Sookie’s face made that odd place in his chest feel unaccountably…lighter? Before he could stop himself, he tilted his head down to kiss her temple then wondered what the hell he had done…
“But I don’t need that much,” she finally stuttered. “I…I don’t even have that many clothes in my closet and drawers combined!”
“Yes, you will, and by the way, what are your sizes?”
“My sizes? For…for what?”
He thought her confusion was adorable.
“Pam needs to know what sizes you wear in shirts, blouses,” he began, obviously repeating Pam’s list, “sweaters, skirts, pants, dresses, jackets, that sort of thing.”
“Eric, I can’t ask…”
“She volunteered. Do not fret – Pam loves shopping as much as your brother loves eating…if not more so. Now, sizes?”
Sookie relayed her numbers in a daze and while he concentrated on the information for his own future reference, his overriding thought was about how comfortably she fit on his lap….even if parts of his anatomy were currently becoming quite swollen.
“And your shoe size?”
He hid a grin when she raised her left foot up as if to look at it.
Once she gave her shoe size, he relayed Pam’s next question.
“Favorite colors, or rather, are there any colors, fabrics, or textures you absolutely refuse to wear? Here, talk to Pam. This will go faster if you do.”
With wide eyes she took the phone and while the conversation had a rather awkward beginning, soon enough he came to realize that the two of them had far more in common than he should probably like.
As they chatted he mentally reevaluated the plans he had already made, added items to his growing list of things to do once they arrived in Dallas the next night, and noted that Sookie’s grandmother had dozed off into a light sleep according to the soft snores coming from the living room.
Eventually the conversation ended and Sookie stated as she handed him his phone, “Pam said that she’s going to have the stuff sent express to Godric’s place, that she’s going to make sure I look the part when I meet the king of Texas. Should I be scared?”
“Terrified, considering how very much Pam enjoys shopping – think “avalanche”, not “light dusting of snow”, but don’t worry. Pam will make sure that you look perfect. Don’t let her Fangtasia costumes fool you – she has impeccable taste and will order exactly what you need. And then some.”
Eric could only imagine the unholy glee in Pam’s eyes as she logged on to her top 50 favorite sites. With her memory she most assuredly would have Sookie’s shape and coloring in mind during the frenzy already likely occurring, but just to be safe…
He flicked his hair away from his eyes yet again, then in a flash he had his phone held out at full selfie length and the camera accessed.
“Smile,” he coaxed as he waved the phone to grab Sookie’s attention.
Three presses of the camera button later he had three photos of Sookie sitting on his lap. In the first she appeared adorably confused; in the second she appeared adorably shocked, and in the third, his favorite, she appeared adorably…happy as she laughed.
He tucked his phone into his pocket at vamp speed.
“Eric, you cheater! My hair looks awful!”
“Your hair, what about mine?”
He unnecessarily swept the mess away from his eyes for the billionth time that night.
Although she couldn’t really see him all that well considering that she still sat sideways on his lap, she leaned around enough to get a good glimpse.
“Yep, a trim really wouldn’t hurt to keep it out of your eyes, but you have really pretty hair. I’d hate to see it all go.”
A predatory gleam came into his eyes before being replaced by mock outrage.
“Pretty? You think my hair is…pretty?”
She thinks my hair is pretty? Pretty? Pretty isn’t bad…she thought my eyes were pretty last night…so pretty can actually be rather nice… Pretty is definitely better than nice which is what she called my hair last night… I can live with pretty…but…
He straightened up and audibly dropped his fangs with a hiss into her ear…and she giggled.
She giggled…and he knew he was in trouble.
I go full vampire on her and she…she giggles! Vampires the world over have all-but shat themselves when I vamp out on them but my woman…
His chest filled with warm pride.
My woman giggles…
In a fluid motion he rose from his chair with her in his arms, his heart lighter than he could ever remember. To the sound of her laughter he twirled them both around the small kitchen as his nimble fingers tickled wherever they could and she laughed and wiggled and even managed to land her own few attacks when she wasn’t clutching him as they floated in the air.
After exacting his “revenge” – although he wasn’t sure he’d actually “won” considering how tight his pants were afterward – he finally let Sookie slide down his body to stand on her own two feet.
“I should leave you to your rest now,” he admitted, his voice huskier than he’d have thought as his lips grazed hers.
Sookie shrugged and lightly nipped at his upper lip. “I guess.”
I may be imagining things but it seems she’s as reluctant to end the night as I am.
He trailed his nose along her jaw before nuzzling her neck. A deep inhale told him that she definitely wasn’t ready for their night to end either, but the fatigue he’d seen in her eyes convinced him otherwise.
“I will return to collect you about half an hour or so after first dark. If anything happens in the meantime, anything suspicious, anything at all, you will call me, yes?”
Sookie, leaning against his chest with her nose near his chin, nodded.
“I will instruct Dawson and his crew to continue their watch and they have permission to end any who would dare threaten you or yours.”
Her nose now trailing along his skin, she inhaled deeply in a manner which set fire to his blood.
She’s scenting me. She may not be aware of it, but she’s taking my scent into her body and leaving hers on my skin. Ahhh fuck…
Somewhat surprised at her reply, Eric drew back from the dangerous temptation of her body and her scent to look into her eyes…although he did keep his hands about her waist.
“Yeah, good. I don’t think Sam will be back here, but if he comes by without callin’ first, I can’t think his visit will be for my benefit, so he deserves what he gets. Did he really think I would agree to go runnin’ off to God knows where with him? Really? Is he stupid? And that queen of y’all’s, I don’t give a crap about her or anybody she’d send to kidnap me, and we both know that’s what it’d be, so all those nasty pieces of work deserve what they’d get, too.”
“I agree. Anyone showing up here unannounced during this time can only mean bad news.”
Sookie nodded again.
“Exactly. I didn’t ask for any of this to happen, but between us we’ve figured out a way to use at least some of this to my, well, our advantage. I don’t intend on lettin’ any of those bastards rob us of this chance. Plus I want to go to Dallas and I want to meet your Maker and maybe even meet this king guy. Screw Sam and his big no-tell-motel plans and that queen and whatever the hell her deal was. We’ve got our own plans.”
Eyes almost glowing with proud approval and affection, Eric leaned down to kiss her senseless, and silently crowed when she met him halfway.
Minutes later, each more than a little breathless, they reluctantly parted. Not trusting himself to behave a moment longer, Eric headed directly to the kitchen door.
“I will see you later tonight.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
**A/N: Thus ends The Second Night. So…what did you think? Anyone interested in heading to, I dunno…Dallas?**