Once home from the bar Eric Northman automatically headed straight to his shower. As financially pleasing as Fangtasia was, its accumulated stench was an entirely different story. Even when his “glaring from the throne” time was cut short as it had been tonight, the pong of desperation mixed with too many chemicals still clung. Mechanically proceeding to soap up, scrub down, and rinse off, he let his thoughts wander through the night’s unusual events.
For the first time in…he couldn’t remember how long, the evening’s traditional bout of deadly, generic boredom had been shot all to hell.
Thank. Fuck. Even if it had included yet another raid for the crime of being vampire…
At this stage of the clean-up he knew he would normally be fuming over the way money kept magically disappearing – for two cents he would suspect his accountant but that human had been glamoured to within an inch of his sanity so he highly doubted the man was capable of even stealing a pencil by now. That only left a scant handful of potential suspects and…his mental rant was interrupted by the memory of eyes that dared to directly meet and hold his own.
That was unusual in and of itself – that he thought of something different and that some young chit of a girl had dared to meet his gaze without flinching or fawning.
Vampires either feared him or were drawn to him, but either way they were innately wary of both his age and the power he naturally exuded. Same thing happened with Weres but with far less “lure” and far more “fear”, thanks be.
Humans were strange creatures. Most didn’t perhaps understand why they were both scared of and drawn to him, but they were and to an annoying degree.
Regardless, few dared to meet his gaze and actively hold it.
As he lathered then rinsed his hair, he considered that the girl didn’t seem to know much about vampires, though, which honestly should have made her even less likely to meet ones’ eyes since far too many of them knew about vampire glamour.
Among other things the way she’d held out her hand to Pam had proven a lack of intimate familiarity with his kind, but despite her nervous chatter she did seem to have a backbone when it came to those pictures.
Why is she going round shoving pictures of ugly women at vampires? And why hasn’t fucking Compton filled her in on vampire etiquette, anyway? If she is supposedly “his” then that’s his fucking job. If you take on a human, you take on the job of educating them, damn it!
The fact she was on Compton’s arm said she was either stupid or naive, and Eric was pulling for the latter. Naive…he could work with naive.
As he toweled off, he caught himself almost grinning.
Compton actually thinks he can keep such a tasty little drop of sunshine that intriguing all to himself? Moron must be more mentally decomposed than I’d originally thought.
What his disease of a Maker saw in him was the question of the ages.
But…what’s he doing in my territory anyway? Isn’t he supposed to be kissing someone’s ass in the darling queen’s court now? Something must be going on…he was trying too hard to be sly tonight…
For some reason that he didn’t bother searching for, he suddenly decided to shave off the scruffy beard he’d been sporting for a while. He glared at his hair as it kept falling into his eyes, but there wasn’t much he could do about it at that moment.
After donning his tracksuit bottoms and his silk robe, he padded into his office, grabbed one of his burner phones, and sent a text to his most dependable ear at the brat-queen’s court. If anyone could find out what was going on, it’d be Rasul.
He noticed a waiting text from Pam on his regular phone and checked it as he wandered into the den, then settled before his unlit fireplace. The option of having a warm flickering fire when he wanted it was nice but it wasn’t cool enough yet to warrant one – one of the many benefits of Shreveport, Louisiana.
Bribed the bribeables and glam’d the humans, closed bar. Small fine, 2-night closure, blah blah blah. Taryn and her dinner weren’t caught but that bitch is going in a cage when I catch her. WTF was Blondie? Are there more where she came from? How did she know about the cops? I’m thirsty and I have her address – wanna split dinner?
Eric felt something in his chest tighten at the thought of Pam biting the Stackhouse girl…
Sookie Stackhouse…what a name… Had her mother been on drugs? Soo-kie…that sounds like a snotty Pomeranian dog with an overbite…she didn’t look in any way like a dog, though…not at all…a cat, maybe… She had, what had Pam said about one of her former felines? Cattitude. That would fit. Soo-kie…Sookie had plenty of cattitude for someone who looked and smelled so sweet…
He couldn’t help but wonder if she tasted as sweet as she smelled…plus, if he wasn’t mistaken and he knew he wasn’t, not with his perfected senses, she was virgin…
His fangs peeked out of the wicked smile that slowly crept across his lips.
It had been far longer than he cared to bother remembering since someone had last captured his attention so fully. He freely admitted that he had gotten both lazy and bored since setting up the all-you-care-to-eat buffet known as Fangtasia. Feed and fucks were a dime a dozen even if the drugs, communicable diseases, and pleather marred what should have been mediocre dinners…
He was so fucking bored – dangerously bored – but what could he expect with a constant diet of fast food, easy fucks, and bad music?
Of course that splash of sunshine in the pretty blonde bottle had attracted his attention…but now that she had it, what should he do about it?
In theory Compton had ‘claimed’ her, but she didn’t look – nor did she act or smell – like she belonged to the hairy cretin.
He’d bet Pam’s Chanel originals the Stackhouse girl had no real knowledge about vampire ways…much less how a vampire’s blood would affect her.
For some reason that whiff of Compton’s blood he’d detected in the girl grated on his nerves. It just felt…wrong. Something strange in his gut made him want to…
Well, this was his Area – he was the Sheriff and it was his responsibility to oversee the involvement of anyone caught up in vampire affairs.
And she’s definitely going to be caught up in my affairs…
Plus, if the girl truly was a precog or a telepath, she’d definitely be an asset… Even though he was highly skilled at glamouring anything out of anyone and thus didn’t actually need a mindreader, if she was a pregoc, that would be an entirely different story. And even if she was a telepath, he needed to claim her first to prevent anyone else from doing so.
Fuck Compton and his irrelevant ass…and whatever he’s up to in my area.
He grabbed his phone.
No. Mine. Address, now.
As he waited for Pam’s reply, he remembered the telepath he’d briefly known so long ago, and it dawned on him that maybe Godric had known one or the other, too.
His Maker had been around next door to forever so it was entirely possible.
Hmm…it’s been too long since I last spoke with him. I wonder what the old man’s been up to…
For the first time that decade, Eric consciously opened the bond he shared with his Maker and felt…not much. While the lack of feeling wasn’t too worrisome – the old man had started keeping his emotional cards close to his chest after evolving from Death – he made a mental note to himself to check in with him far more often.
He and Godric had always respected each other’s privacy emotional and otherwise so he wasn’t worried when sometimes years would go by without contact, but the fact that there hadn’t been any phone calls, much less visits, in so long honestly was cause for concern.
Eric unexpectedly decided that it just might be time to drop in on his Maker. Maybe he’d take a bag of laundry… Wasn’t that what kids did when they went home on those “college breaks” the annoying frat boys droned on about far too loudly while working their way through watered-down drinks and flirting badly with the female vampires doing their floor-time?
Without knowing exactly why he did so, he went ahead and pinged Godric with a curiosity query through their bond and held himself still as he waited for a reply that was taking a little too long for comfort.
Finally his Maker sent a burst of what Eric could only describe as a too-vague but unusually weary response.
That was not…comforting. Although they hadn’t been in each other’s nightly lives in what he suddenly realized was far too long, Godric meant the world to him. From the night of his death, all that he had, all that he was, all that he could be was because of his Maker.
Seconds later Eric sent the ancient being a text asking for a room in his official Sheriff’s residence or in his true home for a week starting two nights hence.
Along with immediate acceptance that brought him a much stronger wave of curiosity and burst of surprise, and Eric smirked.
Teach that old dog to be weary.
With a lighter step he went to his desk, flicked on his PC, and quickly cleared his calendar. The upcoming agenda was technically heavy but the issues were light, so Pam should have no problems acting in his stead. She would be pissed, but she would get over it. Concern for his Maker overrode whatever she would complain about, but knowing Pam as he did, once she discovered that his visit concerned Godric…she would still complain but at least it would only be out of habit.
She was a brat, but she was a good brat.
Almost five minutes after he’d asked Pam for Sookie’s address his child texted back. Her reply, unusually brief with just the address made Eric grin. He could feel her irritated disappointment through their bond, but knew his spoiled progeny already had her own meals on heels put aside for the evening.
Not that he’d have shared with her anyway. His nights of catching prey for his child were long over and she was more than capable of luring in her own bloodbags. She had odd tastes in pets of both the human and animal variety but she treated them quite well, at least according to vampire standards.
He checked the clock, noted with surprise how unusually early it still was, and proceeded to dress in a blur. The raid had happened not too long after opening – bad for the night’s take, but good for everything else.
It had been a very long time since the thought of keeping a pet had even entered his mind. They were useful in past ages, certainly, but they could only be glamoured so many times before their brains were full of holes.
He felt the briefest flicker of pity for Ginger. The situation with her had never felt exactly fair. Maybe it was time to set her free with a wad of cash and a DayMinder so she could do whatever it was that brain-muddled screamers aspired to. The bar was doing far better than he’d expected even with the theft so it wasn’t as though they couldn’t hire another human to come in early and set everything up and do all the other crap she usually did…increasingly badly.
Memory of one of her screams ripped through his skull and he rolled his eyes.
It was definitely time to set Ginger free.
Now if there was only some way he could find out who was stealing…if this Sookie truly could read minds, maybe she would be useful in identifying the culprit?
If she became his asset, he could certainly ask her…if she truly could read minds.
At any rate he was convinced she couldn’t read vampires – the thoughts he’d been sending the chit while sitting right beside her should have at least made her blush if not throw up and run screaming from the building.
It was doubtful, however, that she would be of much use when it came to finding the thief.
Logically he suspected Long Shadow. No one else had the opportunity to steal that much from him except for Pam, and he knew she had his credit card numbers memorized. If she needed something substantial she would simply come to him anyway; it’s what she was supposed to do as his progeny and she well knew it.
Long Shadow had to be the thief – the problem was finding incontrovertible proof. He was living on borrowed “benefit of the doubt” time as it was simply because he wasn’t worth he fine he’d have to pay for killing his overdramatic ass without that proof.
And why was Sookie going on about those two pathetic fangbangers? What were they to her?
These mysteries, he decided, needed to be solved.
He checked the route to…Bon Temps?
People actually lived there? I thought it was full of shifters and inbred Werefolk…no, that was Hot Spot…Hot Shot…something…
…and chose to fly rather than drive. It was a beautiful night and flying straight-line was markedly faster.
Once he reached the area he did a couple fly-bys over her old run-down home and its adjacent outbuildings and included the abandoned-looking house nearby in his narrowing sweeps. The old abandoned structure smelled vaguely familiar but he was by far more drawn to the Stackhouse residence. For some reason her area smelled sweeter than he would have expected considering the omnipresent stench of decay common in the state.
When he saw the condition of her driveway, he congratulated himself on not risking his ‘vette. Driving over that mess would have required a realignment and probably a paint job.
We’re at the more/less half-way point, so go pee and grab a coffee, toss the laundry in the dryer, grab a snack, um, poke anyone who’s snoring but wait until you’re finished reading before dropping any large, echo-y pots/pans, turn off the stove you forgot was on (or is that just me?)…
Although there were numerous scents on the property, there were only two heartbeats in the house – Sookie, and a much older woman judging by the scent, presumably a relative…possibly a grandmother? He drifted closer to better overhear the conversation taking place in among the clattering of what sounded like plates and cutlery.
Time for some recon…
“…all over town by now that they suspect Jason of killin’ them both because he’d been involved with them both…like that counts for anything considering he’s been involved with about ninety percent of the woman in the parish at some time or another. Stupid Andy Bellefleur all but dragged him out of Dawn’s place in handcuffs and shoved him in the police car then shut the door and made him sit in there and bake in the hot sun. He’s such a huge jerk.”
Never having met the officer in question Eric decided he’d have to take Sookie’s word for it, but he couldn’t blame this Jason for sampling Dawn’s widely-available wares. A little bland but nice enough, should have gone into fashion design if he was thinking of the right ‘banger. After a while they all tended to blur. He refused to think of the other one pictured…Maudette? She had been too pathetic…obviously this Jason had no standards.
“That old biddy Maxine and her mouth…and that Andy! He has always thought a little too highly of himself. I remember when he was a beefy little boy on the playground trying to bully the other children. It’s no wonder he became a small-town officer. Now you know as well as I do that Jason wouldn’t hurt a fly. You know that, right?”
Hum…interesting…how would this Sookie “know” that? What is her connection to this Jason? And why is the old woman putting such emphasis on whether or not she would “know” something? The ability could be real, then?
“Jason’s got a temper, Gran, that I do know, but I don’t think he killed anybody. He ain’t got no reason to go after Maudette, and from what I heard he’d been trying to get back with Dawn. I don’t know whose garden…” Sookie’s voice tapered off and she was curiously silent for a moment. “I don’t know whose garden he stole them from,” she began again with an odd note in her voice, “but he even had flowers in his hand when he came by her place.”
“It’s just so sad,” the old woman said without apparently noticing the strange lapse in the younger woman’s conversation, “losing two young girls like that. But we can’t let anyone pin this on Jason, Sookie. Now you use your gift and you find out who’s responsible, you hear? You can’t let him go to jail,” she ordered firmly.
So…there have been two murders, obviously the girls in the pictures the chit was showing around…and exactly how is she supposed to go about proving this man’s innocence? Why is this old woman putting all the responsibility specifically on Sookie’s shoulders – can this Jason not fend for himself? Is he damaged in some way? And why would she think to bring the pictures to a vampire bar – were vampires being thought responsible?
There was a clattering of dishes then the older woman’s strident nagging began again.
“I wish you had found out something useful at that vampire bar. At least that nice Mr. Compton agreed to escort you so that you didn’t have to go there by yourself. Do you think you can persuade him to take you back again? He seems to like you just fine and you’re not getting any younger, Sookie. Now you get him to take you back to that place so you can find out who is really responsible so you can clear your brother’s name. You’ll leave no stone unturned, you hear?”
That “nice” Mr. Compton? Old lady, have you even met him?… What…not getting any younger? What the…what is she, maybe 22? 23? I should have asked Pam… What would her age have to do with anything? What is wrong with that old woman?
Ahhh – so this Jason is Sookie’s brother…
Suddenly feeling more charitable and at the same time oddly irate on Sookie’s behalf for the way the older woman was treating her, he lowered himself to the front porch and knocked on the door.
If anyone was going to be escorting Sookie to his bar, it would be him.
He clearly heard the elderly voice ask Sookie in a loud whisper about who was at the door to which the younger woman replied normally, “I’m not sure but I think I know.”
Two chairs scraped then one set of footsteps wandered away from what he thought must be the kitchen toward another area of the house. The other set, lighter and quicker, neared him as they came toward the front of the house. A moment later the porch light came on and the door opened.
As he thought, it was Sookie who answered the door.
Why is she answering the door without protection? Any “safety” offered by the lightweight outer door between them would be laughable.
In his day, back when he had days at least, no woman would answer a door after dark without having in hand something to…
“Eric Northman…well, this is a surprise.”
He couldn’t prevent the small quirk of a smile that seemed to spontaneously appear.
“And yet you don’t seem very surprised.”
She just shook her head and stared at him in a considering manner for a long moment.
Finally she said as she raised her eyes to the sky, “Nope.”
How did she…maybe she could read vampire minds after all?
Eric focused and strongly directed the most lascivious, the most bluntly sexual feed-and-fuck thoughts he could to her. When she didn’t react in any way other than to return her gaze to him, he breathed easier…then sniffed again.
Fuck she smells even sweeter, even more mouthwatering than before!
He eyed her clothing – an old t-shirt, a faded pair of jeans that seemed to fit nice and snug with lightly tanned bare feet and painted toenails peeking out…obviously these were clothes she wore frequently and would carry her scent even after a wash.
With reluctance he firmly kept his fangs sheathed when he wanted nothing more than to cradle her on his lap and nuzzle her neck.
I bet I would even purr… Where the fuck did that come from? I sound like that cat I smell!
In the background he heard the elderly woman’s shuffling gait coming closer.
He straightened and tried to capture Sookie’s eyes with his but failed.
“Sookie, who is at the door, dear?”
The “love” dripping from the old woman’s tone as she hurriedly shuffled toward the door set Eric’s fangs on edge.
“It’s Eric Northman, Gran, from the vampire bar” Sookie called back, then turned to face him again. “That’s my grandmother.”
Soon enough the short, rounded figure of Sookie’s grandmother slowly rushed to the door, her faded, old-fashioned housecoat buttoned from stem to stern. Although her hair was grayed and her face was softened with age, her eyes were sharply roaming in a way that Eric immediately classified as “crafty”.
The moment she spotted him, she scanned his long form and by the time she reached his face, her expression had become firmly calculating. His intuition told him that Sookie’s affections were in danger of being summarily removed from Compton and sold to the obviously more powerful, better looking vampire currently on the porch…whether the younger Ms. Stackhouse agreed or not.
He could feel what he thought was his stomach turning.
“Ohhh, my,” breathed the old lady as though about to fall into an attack of antique vapors, “are you a vampire? Well, don’t keep your visitor standing on the porch, dear, invite him in! I’m sorry, Mr. Northman, please excuse my granddaughter’s lack of manners. Won’t you come in?”
Sookie smirked – that’s the only way Eric could describe the expression on her beautiful face. Anyone else would have been rightfully insulted by being treated like an ill-trained maid, but Sookie…smirked.
“Eric, please meet my grandmother, Adele Stackhouse, and yes, Eric, won’t you please come in?” she echoed, her eyes gleaming with humor, and then she winked at him as she opened the storm door.
The chit’s irreverent cockiness struck him as…delightful, in its own way. Of all things, he couldn’t remember the last time he had been given such a cheeky…wink.
He was Eric Northman – people simply did not wink at him, not out of humor at least.
She held the door open for him then walked by his side into the living room where the grandmother, satisfied that she had gotten her way, was already settling into what was obviously her chair.
Apparently she is now going to hold court. Splendid… How long do I have to wait until I can politely glamour her to go the hell to bed? I have no desire to pay homage to antique human customs…but to investigate this sweet-smelling potential telepath it seems I must.
Normally at least somewhat respectful of the elderly by nature, there was something oddly offensive about the old gal in the chair that managed to set his extremely sharp fangs on edge.
Why exactly was it Sookie’s job to clear her brother?
“Sookie, don’t be rude. Go and get our guest one of those True Bloods from the refrigerator and heat it up just right for Mr. Northman, and I could enjoy a nice up of chamomile tea while you’re in there.”
Am I Sookie’s visitor or your mutual guest? Make up your damn mind, woman.
“No thank you, Mrs. Stackhouse. I find artificial blood disgusting, but thank you for offering on your granddaughter’s behalf.” He turned to Sookie. “If you wish to complete your grandmother’s order, Ms. Stackhouse, feel free to wait on her. I’ll…visit with you in the kitchen if you wish.”
Obviously struggling to contain her laughter, Sookie nodded then extended her hand with the grace of a game show hostess. “Right this way.”
Both ignored Adele’s gasp of self-righteous indignation.
Once in the kitchen Eric leaned against the counter and watched while Sookie partially filled a kettle with water and placed it on the stove to heat. With the same economical movements she arranged a cup on a saucer then grabbed an object from a small box and plopped it into the cup.
He watched in surprise as she walked over afterward and hauled herself up to sit on the counter beside him. They weren’t touching but her actions didn’t show the least bit of reticence. He simply wasn’t accustomed to anyone, especially humans, acting so very comfortably around him, not in a nonsexual way at any rate.
Fear, caution, even obsession…those he could understand. Such friendly but unassuming familiarity and ease? Not so much…especially considering the circumstances of their one previous meeting.
Eric had to be extremely conscious of his reputation in the vampire world and used his public facade in the bar to support and enhance the more negative aspects of that reputation. That’s simply how things had to be. He also knew there was nothing about her previous encounter with him that would logically cause her to feel so inexplicably comfortable around him.
It was all rather mystifying.
“You’ll have to forgive her,” she said after leaning close enough to whisper. “She’s set in her ways and they’re from sometime in the ’40s or ’50s or something, but she raised me and my brother after our parents died, so cut her some slack. Now, why are you here?”
The 1640s? Ahh, now this “direct” and “to the point” approach I do understand.
“We have much to discuss,” he replied after leaning down closer than necessary to whisper into her ear. He inhaled discretely and his eyes almost rolled back in pleasure. “How soon will she take herself off to her bed?”
“Did you just sniff me?”
She may have hissed the words but her eyes were still dancing with humor.
How strange…still no fear or even hesitation…normally when I sniff someone they either soil themselves or …
“Yes. Now, how soon will we be alone so that we may speak freely?”
Sookie answered after obviously stifling a laugh, “I’ll have you know that I did shower today, and I don’t know when she’s going to go to bed. It depends on how badly you insulted her in there and how much you know about the Regrettable Civil War.”
Surprised that he suddenly had to stifle his own laugh, Eric took a partial second to compose himself. The way Sookie had mockingly thrown an extra syllable into “war” by over-pronouncing it as “waw-wer” had caught him off guard.
Yes, that had to be why he’d almost…laughed.
“I’m certain you did,” he replied more gravely than he felt. “Well, as I know nothing of that sad occasion, perhaps I should bore her with tales from Fangtasia. After all, she has no problem sending you there, surely she wouldn’t be surprised to hear of involuntary feedings and minor death situations?”
Sookie lifted a brow.
“So involuntary feedings and minor deaths are normal, every-night occurrences, huh?”
Eric wasn’t sure why needling the bossy, insulting old woman was so tempting…but it was. His eyes narrowed evilly.
“No, but she couldn’t know that.”
Her shocked but delighted expression made some stale thing in his chest twitch. He sensed a burst of concerned curiosity coming from Pam but ignored it.
Just then the kettle began whistling and they eventually returned to the living room, he with noticeable reluctance.
I am not here to entertain manipulative old biddies, damn it. But…she is Sookie’s grandmother…she’s Sookie’s grandmother…she’s Sookie’s grandmother…
The elderly woman hadn’t remained nearly miffed enough in Eric’s opinion.
He resigned himself to paying attendance to the ‘queen’ on her sadly upholstered ‘throne’…but he didn’t make it overly easy for her. Being “old-fashioned” in no way excused such blatant rudeness to one’s own family.
To his surprise Sookie handled the old woman with kind kid gloves, easily shrugging off the slowing barrage of insults obviously presumed to be sly while still maintaining a respectful tone and attitude.
He felt his admiration for the younger Ms. Stackhouse growing by leaps and bounds.
Eventually Adele was heartily and, in Eric’s mind, laughably disappointed when he firmly informed her of his lack of participation in the Regrettable Civil Waw-wer, but her obvious disappointment mostly lifted when she was assured that he was, in fact, well over a thousand years old and quite well-travelled.
When she discovered that Eric owned “that vampire bar”, he was quickly promoted to Sookie’s “gentleman caller” and thankfully soon thereafter Adele decided to take herself off to her bed.
Eric was relieved in more ways than one. He detested being fawned over – ungraciously accepted that it was a part of the show he put on for his reputation’s sake at Fangtasia, but it wasn’t something he would abide in his private life. He found it sickening that the old gal did so much more noticeably after being told he owned the bar.
Why doesn’t she rent the town square for the afternoon and sell Sookie off to the highest bidder? If she knew about even a twentieth of my other holdings the old termagant would leak all over herself.
Alone at last, he eased back on the small sofa and let himself finally relax. His hair drifted over his eyes and he once again contemplated cutting it off as he brushed it aside – it was becoming more annoying by the hour. In the bar he didn’t mind having his vision partially obscured as there was nothing there that he actually wanted to see, but…
“Ok, so, now that we’re alone and can talk freely, what’s up?”
Finally the difference in Sookie’s behavior at the bar and here at her home struck him.
“First, you seem different here, less restrained than you were at the bar. Why is that?”
She shrugged and moved from the chair to the sofa with casual grace.
“Well, on the way over Bill told me some stuff about how to act and what to expect when we got to Fangtasia and he had me scared half to death to say or do the wrong thing. Here, well, here I’m home, and I know that if I need to, all I have to do is rescind your invitation. I heard that on the news a little while back.”
Eric felt relieved, albeit in a strange way, that she knew she had that ability. Still, his gut told him that, as far as vampires were concerned, that tidbit was probably about all she actually knew.
He nodded then asked, his voice on the tight side of neutral, “Why did you agree that you were Bill’s? Are you his? Do you truly know what it means when a vampire claims a human as theirs?”
Sookie looked at him as she thought about her answer, and he could almost hear the wheels in her mind turning.
“That, umm… Well, no, not really. Bill hasn’t told me that much about vampires or anything. He’s talked a lot about that war Gran loves and he’s tried to get me to be more than friends with him and all, but he doesn’t seem to like talking about vampire stuff. But no, I’m not. His, that is, at least I don’t think I am. I don’t want to be, anyway.”
“Then why did you agree before me that you are?”
“He was my ride home.”
**A/N: Oh, Sookie…but she had her reason…or something… Ok, so, you know the drill you gorgeous readers-mine – what do you think about it so far?**