A/N: Just a reminder that, in my story, Debbie wasn’t involved in the search for Eric at all. She and Alcide are still together, although she is unhappy about how often he has gotten caught up in “Sookie’s vamp shit.”
Chapter 6: Visitations
I had honestly expected Alcide to just park himself in front of my TV all day while I did what I had to at home, but I guess I should have known better. He got bored pretty quickly with the morning shows, so I had ended up asking him to help me out while I cleaned up Eric’s cubby. Not only was he able to help me by getting the vacuum cleaner down that darned ladder, but he took the nasty pile of gore-encrusted silver chains that were still beside Eric’s bed and spent some time washing them off outside with a hose and a scrub-brush. There wasn’t all that much to do in Eric’s cubby besides give everything a good suctioning, but I did make sure the throw and pillow on the bed were straightened out and I dusted the pile of books on the bedside table.
I hadn’t really had a chance to look at them while Eric was staying with me, but I couldn’t resist now, curious to see what kind of things Eric Northman would read. I had never really thought of Eric as a reader, so I had been surprised when I had seen the big stack of volumes piled beside the bed. And I knew they weren’t just for show – I remembered how, the first time I had actually entered the cubby, one of the books had been lying open on the bed as if it had just been put down. All I could figure was that Eric must have been spending time in his little hideaway beneath my house while I was gone to Faerie, entertaining himself by reading.
A few days ago, I would have been nothing but outraged at the thought of him lollygagging in my house, making himself at home, but now – now, I wondered what the books he been reading could tell me about the Eric I didn’t know so well yet.
The first thing I learned was that the ‘real’ Eric must read several different languages. Only a couple of the books were in English, and one of them in a very old form of it at that, with weird spellings and those strange-looking s’s that looked like lower-case f’s to me. I recognized one book in French and another in German, but the rest of the languages were mysteries to me.
Fortunately, a lot of the books had illustrations and I was able to tell that most of them had something to do with faeries, including lots of pictures of what looked like dazed and dreamy-eyed humans surrounded by fae as if they had been lured away to Faerieland as I had. There was even a picture of a faerie offering a human an enticing piece of fruit that gave me chills because it looked so much like the deceptive “light fruit” I had been offered.
As I flipped through the books, my eye caught some parts where someone – presumably Eric – had underlined passages and written notes in the margin in a precise, printed hand. “Eating or drinking in Fae = trap,” read one, the final word underlined twice. Another took the form of a question: “Portals between dimensions – but how to access if not fae? Light? Water? Blood?” Still another underlined a passage that my high school French told me translated as being about a man who had spent several hundred years in Fae before returning home to his village. I didn’t know the word written in the margin beside that story, but it was scratched hard and fast into the page, deep enough to have nearly torn through the paper with the pen tip, as if Eric was upset when he wrote it. Maybe a curse word?
The largest book was written in what looked like some sort of Scandinavian alphabet, to judge from the little dots and slashes over and through some of the letters. The obviously ancient book fell open naturally to a page with what looked like one of those late medieval woodcut illustrations on it. In the drawing, a man and a woman – no, a male and female vampire – were shown naked and erotically entwined, the female’s legs wrapped around the male’s hips and her breasts prominently exposed. I blushed, thinking it must be some sort of vampire erotica, until I noticed an odd little detail: the lovers each had the other’s wrist pressed to their mouths, apparently feeding on one another, faces drawn in ecstasy as blood dripped from the mutual wounds. Above them were drawn three little symbols that looked like crescent moons. Beneath the illustration was the word “Blóðfesta.”
I may not have been able to read whatever language it was written in, but the word looked similar to how the word that Eric kept using sounded, and the drawing was – well, the drawing looked suspiciously like what Eric and I had done when we exchanged blood. Well, except that we’d been dressed for the actual blood swapping part.
I flipped a few pages before and after the drawing and as best as I could make out, there were only a couple of pages that talked about the blóðfesta and, of course, I couldn’t read a word beyond the single one that looked familiar. The rest of the book had other illustrations of both humans and vampires drinking blood, and at least one of a vampire apparently coming to the rescue of a human who was being attacked by someone else. I was still trying to puzzle out what that might be about when I heard the sound of the back door opening and closing and Alcide’s heavy work boots as he walked through the house.
“Sook? You okay down there?” Alcide called from the stop of the ladder into the cubby. I could hear him worrying mentally that he might have been outside too long and missed someone coming in from the other side of the house.
I hastily closed the big old book and put it on the bottom shelf, piling a couple of the smaller volumes on top of it.
“Yup, just got distracted for a minute,” I called up. “Can you help me get the vacuum back up the ladder? I’m all done down here.”
“Sure thing,” he answered. “I got those chains all cleaned off and I’m just letting them dry outside.” He came down the ladder for the first time, looking around curiously. “So, this is where Eric stayed while he was with you? I guess it ain’t too bad for an underground hidey-hole.” He snorted. “Nothing but books to keep him entertained, though? Huh, wouldn’t have thought Northman was much of a reader.”
“You’d be surprised,” I said, tugging the vacuum towards the ladder. Alcide picked the cleaning machine up easily and began to climb back up the rungs with it dangling from one large hand. I cast one more thoughtful look back at the books beside the bed before following him back up through the chute. When Alcide wasn’t around anymore, I wanted to spend some more time looking through those books.
Alcide had trailed around after me like a lost puppy for the day as I cleaned and ran errands at the store, with the were taking phone calls every now and again from what I knew was an increasingly irritated Debbie Pelt. I honestly thought about sending Alcide home to his suspicious girlfriend, but the truth was, after the amount of worry for my safety I’d felt from Eric the night before, I didn’t want to take unnecessary chances. If Eric Northman was concerned for my safety, I should be, too. Debbie could take it up with her man when he got home.
If I was a little nervous for me, it was nothing to the increasing worry I felt for Tara. As upset as I was about what she had done to Eric, I couldn’t help but think about what it must be like for her to be held prisoner by the vampire authorities. While it was daylight, I was pretty sure nothing would happen to her, but as the sun moved across the sky, I kept thinking about what might happen to her after sunset. Eric had said there would be some kind of trial, but I suspected that vampires weren’t big on lengthy hearings, especially when it came to humans who had killed vampires – especially important ones. And what kind of sentence would the vampires impose on her? Nothing I could think of sounded like a good outcome for Tara.
Alcide could tell I was getting more tense as the day went on, but he thought it had to do with my being nervous about what could happen to me once the sun went down and vampires were awake. Since I was the only human who still remembered what had happened at the tolerance rally and Tara’s involvement, I didn’t want to put Alcide in more danger by sharing that knowledge, so I just kept my mouth shut. Alcide was already putting himself at enough risk by agreeing to keep an eye on me while Eric was gone.
Given what Alcide had told me about Eric probably not being able to call me until he left wherever he was, I also found myself genuinely grateful for the connection I had with my recent lover. I know that people say vampires die for the day, but that really wasn’t what it felt like to me. I could still feel Eric, his unconscious presence like a quiet, steady little hum that I could still have identified as him in a way I couldn’t explain.
And as it drew nearer to sunset, I realized that I was kind of torn with anxiety about what would happen when Eric did wake up. Part of me was looking forward to feeling him fully awake again, and while I told myself it was just because I desperately wanted to know what was going on with Tara, if I was going to be honest with myself, that wasn’t my only motivation. Despite my fear that I might feel something hurtful from him again – and believe me, despite the apologetic and reassuring feelings from him I had experienced that morning, some part of me was still afraid of that – I still found myself missing him. I didn’t know if that was the bond in me or just that the part of me that loved some part of him, but it was there.
By the time I had to leave for work at Merlotte’s I was nearly beside myself with nervous anticipation about what would happen that night, but in my mind, it all had to do with what was going on in the seat of vampire power, wherever the hell that was. (Somewhere to the southeast of me, to judge by the direction my connection with Eric tugged me in.)
I should have known that Halloween in Bon Temps would bring enough problems of its own.
Sam had encouraged us all to dress in costume for the holiday and one of the errands I had done with Alcide that day was to pick out a costume I thought would be fun but not too skimpy for work. It took me a while, but I finally did find something that I thought would work: a simple white A-line sheath dress, covered with big, colorful dots like a Twister board, with a cute little matching spinner on a headband so that I could wear it like a hat. What could be more harmless than dressing like a board game?
It wasn’t very far into my shift before I realized that the Twister dress had been a bad idea, at least for a telepathic waitress.
Apparently, the dress with the matching spinner hat provoked an intense desire on the part of some of the customers – mostly men, but some women, too – to spin the little gizmo and then place their hands (or feet!) on one of the dots on my dress according to the hat’s directions. Unfortunately, with the slim cut of the dress, most of those dots were on places like my hips, my butt, my thighs or my boobs. No one actually tried to touch me except for one four-year-old dressed as a fireman but I could hear the variations on the thought repeatedly. “Right hand on blue…hip or boob? I’d go with hip …”
The worst were the ones who fantasized putting their hands on the big yellow dot centered right over the front of my panties. Just, ick.
I guess I should have followed Alcide’s lead and just bought a cowboy hat.
At least I wasn’t the only one in a costume. Holly was done up as a fairy (the dress wasn’t actually wasn’t too far off the real thing, if you ignored the wings) and Arlene was some kind of zombie. Sam hadn’t bothered to dress up himself, but Lafayette had more than made up for him by wearing a shiny green evening gown, a low-browed, long dark wig, and an apron, all of which he said made him one of those reality show New Jersey housewives. It was busier than a normal evening at Merlotte’s, at least early on, thanks to families stopping in to feed their kids on the way to parties or trick-or-treating. It was fun to see the little ones dressed up, including Sam’s girlfriend’s daughter, who was one of a veritable army of Disney princesses out and about.
The good thing about the relatively festive mood was that it did give me something else to think about other than worrying about Eric and Tara. And while I’m not normally a fan of vampire glamouring, I felt guiltily relieved that Lafayette didn’t remember anything about what Tara had done and what she was facing. He was happily cooking up a storm in the kitchen, talking mockingly in a fake “New Joisey” accent as his called out completed orders.
It was just short of 6:15 when I finally felt Eric wake up. Although I had been expecting it, I was caught off guard at first because it was still a good ten minutes before sunset in Bon Temps, but then it occurred to me that if he was down to my southeast, the sun was going to rise and set a little earlier than where I was. Just to see if it might be possible later to figure out where he was by the clue of when he woke up, I jotted down the time on my order pad and stuck the sheet in my pocket as I ran to pick up my order.
And I guess whatever it was compelling me to long for the full connection with Eric must have been the same on his end, because the first thing I felt when he came to – from both of us – was a tremendous sense of relief and a kind of satisfied pleasure that the bond was flowing between us. It was like a knot I had been carrying in me all day loosened once he was awake and it helped me relax just a bit.
Since I was in the busiest part of dinner service, there wasn’t a lot of time to be standing around paying attention to my inner feelings, so I just turned my mind back to getting my work done, satisfied that I would now know if there was anything worth knowing tonight. Eric must have been similarly content with what he found in checking in on me. I was sure he could detect my nervousness, because I could feel the reassurance he sent my way, but as soon as I acknowledged it, his mood quickly turned to one of focus and determination.
In between orders, I kept checking in with Eric to see if I could tell what was going on, but the only thing I picked up as the time ticked by was an increasing sense of his boredom and irritation. Apparently, not a whole lot was happening in the stronghold of the Authority. Was that good or bad?
I was so focused on trying to figure out what that big ol’ sea of nothing meant that I missed it when Lafayette first started acting weird.
It was Holly who brought it to my attention after Lafayette dropped a bowl of gumbo for one of her tables. After she had rushed behind the counter to help him clean up the mess and get another bowl ready to go, she had muttered to me in passing, “I don’t know if it’s that waning full moon or the veil being so thin tonight, but something has Lafayette spooked. That’s the third fumble he’s had in the last hour or so.”
“The ‘veil being so thin?’” I had asked, bewildered. “What do you mean?”
“Aww, honey, Halloween isn’t just a night for trick or treating and parties. In Wicca, it’s supposed to be the night of the year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. The spirits are out and about tonight. Makes me jumpy.” Holly didn’t say it out loud, but I heard her thinking, “Like whatever the hell that was that took over Marnie for that spell the other night. No thanks, I’m not opening the door any time soon to any spirits I don’t know enough about. Screw that shit.”
I glanced at Lafayette, who was muttering under his breath in the kitchen. Sam had looked over when the dish had clattered, but was tied up tending the bar. My boss nodded at me as if to encourage me to go check on Lafayette in his stead. “I don’t mind asking how Laf is doin’,” I said to Holly. “You go, your table is waitin’ for that gumbo.”
I went around the counter right into the kitchen to talk to Lafayette, whose easy relaxation from earlier in the evening seemed to have disappeared. “Lafayette? Everything okay in here?”
The cook’s dark eyes glanced at me and I could see how miserable he was. He stole a look out into the dining room before leaning over and saying to me in a low voice, “Fuck, Sook, if this is what you go through every motherfuckin’ day, it is a wonder you ain’t totally fucked-up crazy. The non-stop talkin’ is drivin’ me batshit.”
It took me a minute to realize what he was talking about because I just wasn’t used to Lafayette’s new ability as a medium. “You mean…spirits?” I hissed at him. “You can hear them?”
The beautifully made-up eyes rolled. “Motherfuckin’ dead folk apparently can not shut the fuck up,” he growled. “And not just hearin’ them, either. They is all around tonight, getting’ in my way.” He raised his voice and said a little more loudly, but still not loud enough to be heard in the dining room. “I gots a job to do tonight, people, so why don’t y’all just fuck off to the cemetery or whatever else you supposed to be doin’ on Halloween night.” He waved the spatula in his hand menacingly at the air. “Get on outta my kit-chen!”
“Holly said that the veil between worlds is thin tonight,” I said. “So maybe this is just a Halloween-only kind of thing,” I suggested, trying to be comforting.
“I sure as shit hope so,” Lafayette said, scraping his metal spatula on the grill. “Because I am goddamn tired of it being like Grand Central fucking Station in here.” His voice was rising again and I knew it wasn’t me that he was really talking to.
I had a sudden horrible thought. What if something happened to Tara tonight thanks to the vampires and she – well, her spirit – showed up to say goodbye to her cousin?
“Lafayette,” I said tentatively. “Is Jesús stopping by tonight? Maybe he’ll have some ideas on how to hush the spirits up, him being a witch and all.”
Lafayette shrugged. “He was going to do some offerings to his ancestors or something tonight, but he might be by later,” he answered.
I touched Lafayette on the arm and was instantly bombarded with what he was hearing in his head. “Please, tell my sister Mama and I are waiting for her.” “If my husband doesn’t wrap up those rose bushes of mine for the winter, I’m going to be haunting him until the day he dies, I swear.” “My daughter needs to bear a message to my son.” “Tell my brother I didn’t mean to. I just wasn’t thinking straight.” I jerked my hand back, overwhelmed. “Oh my God, Lafayette,” I said, concerned. “No wonder you’re all rattled. That’s way worse than what I go through ‘cause it sounds like they’re all trying to talk to you, all at once! Please, please call Jesús and ask him to come over soon, see if he can help.”
With a sigh, Lafayette pulled out his cell phone and started to dial. “Fine, if you sayin’ it ain’t gonna get better than this unless I try somethin’, I gots to take that seriously.”
Sam appeared at the counter. “Everything okay, Sookie?” My boss looked to me, since Lafayette was on the phone.
“I’ll let Lafayette fill you in when he gets a chance,” I answered. “But he’s asking Jesús to come on over and hang out for a bit to, well, calm his nerves, I guess.”
Sam frowned at first, as if confused, but then looked thoughtful. “I guess I can see still being skittish after what happened the other night at that rally in Shreveport. Getting to be that you can’t go anywhere without some haters trying to make their hate known.” He shook his head. “Lafayette,” he said as soon as the cook was off the phone, “You let me know if you want to close up the kitchen early or anything. Dinner hour is winding up, and people aren’t going to live or die if they don’t have their onion rings tonight.”
“Thanks, Sam,” Lafayette nodded gratefully. “But I’ll be fine. Jesús is coming by in a bit. Might help things settle down.” He shot a dark, sideways look around the kitchen.
I was relieved that, whatever Jesús was doing with the spirits of his ancestors on Halloween night, he was going to come help Lafayette deal with his own ghosts. Especially if one of them turned out to be someone we all knew and loved, I thought anxiously.
I was bored. When I’d risen with the sunset, my first thought had been to check in on Sookie, but as far as I could tell, she was fine. Slightly worried off and on, but not intensely so, although I suspected she was keeping busy to keep her anxiety at bay.
I should be so lucky. Except for the delivery of a heated carafe of blood (“collected from willing donors,” I had been assured by the guard who delivered it), I hadn’t seen another soul since I rose. The guard had told me that I’d be called when I was required and that in the meanwhile, I could entertain myself in my room.
The accommodations were nice enough, but the fact that I couldn’t leave it didn’t make it any less of a prison, no matter how attractive the furnishings.
The only books to be had were a couple of recent best-selling vampire autobiographies – which were pointless to read, as no intelligent vampire would commit the uncensored truth of his history to print – and some recent fiction. One of the books was frankly erotic, but even that didn’t hold my interest, as erotica made me think of Sookie and dwelling on thoughts of Sookie made me tense up with anxiety about keeping her out of the clutches of my fellow vampires.
The offerings on TV were not much better, although I was at least able to catch up on the “official” version of what happened at the Shreveport tolerance rally. Numerous talking heads, both human and vampire, were reporting in solemn tones on the tragic death of the late Nan Flanagan, recapping what was known about her 816 years of life. I snorted at some of the highlights being disseminated by the Authority as part of Nan’s official biography. Only humans would be gullible enough to believe Nan Flanagan was actually her given name, to start with, although I could imagine her marching with suffragettes before World War I as was claimed.
While they were acknowledging that the AVL representative had died at the rally, I noticed that they were still claiming to be “investigating” the circumstances of her death. There was talk of “persons of interest” being interviewed, but no mention of Tara Thornton being arrested, and while speculation about a “rogue anti-vampire terrorist” was a favorite theory, no official conclusion had been reached by “the authorities.”
I was watching Nancy Grace hold forth angrily on a conspiracy theory about what might have happened to Nan – a personal friend of the TV host and frequent guest on the show, when expertise concerning vampire hate crimes was required – when the guard knocked and opened the door to my room. “Sheriff Northman, Chancellor Kader is here to speak with you.”
I flicked off the television as the Chancellor entered my room and stood to bow with the proper deference due someone of her position. “Catching up on the news?” she said lightly. “Naturally, we’re not sharing all the details of the story until we’re certain what the story will be.” She crossed to a pair of heavily cushioned chairs set to one side of the room and lowered herself gracefully into one. “Come join me, Sheriff.” She gestured with an elegant hand towards the other seat. “I apologize if the seats are not entirely suitable for someone of your size. Obviously, we are not all Vikings.” She smiled wryly.
“No problem,” I said shortly, folding myself into the chair, which was, indeed, a little low in the seat for someone with legs as long as mine. I clasped my hands together loosely and leaned forward to rest my elbows on my thighs.
Protocol demanded that I remain silent until spoken to in this situation, so I sat, my own gaze carefully neutral, as I felt her dark eyes study me for an unnervingly long time. “I have spent the time since we rose this evening with Miss Tara Thornton,” she finally said. “I thought it wise to debrief the witness before any of us spoke in official capacity at the trial so that there were no…unexpected surprises.” She paused and leaned towards me slightly. “Miss Thornton was very forthcoming about her motivations in killing Nan Flanagan, Sheriff. She does not seem to be someone who is … capable … of keeping her own counsel in the best of circumstances, and when glamoured, she was like a –” She sought the right words and I was reminded that however smooth her English was now, it was not Theodora Kader’s native tongue. “—like a broken dam pouring forth information.”
Fuck. If Tara had been glamoured, she had probably confessed that she had ended Nan in order to protect Sookie. I should have found a way to glamour Tara myself before she was arrested. I should have ripped her tongue out instead of wasting my energies on that fucking witch–
My entwined fingers tightened slightly even as I tried to hide the desperation suddenly choking me.
Chancellor Kader sighed. “So, Sheriff Northman,” she said gently, “Please tell me about Sookie Stackhouse. And why you would so in explicably risk yourself to protect her, even from the highest of vampire authorities. ”
I admit, I didn’t really relax again until Jesús came in the door and headed straight for the kitchen to Lafayette. As the two men had a whispered exchange in the kitchen, someone else came in the door, someone I was way less excited to see: Debbie Pelt, dressed in a too-short miniskirt and sheer top over a barely-there bra. I figured (rather cattily, I admit) that while me wearing something like that would indicate I was dressing up as a streetwalker for Halloween, on Debbie, it was just normal going-out-to-the-bar clothes.
Alcide didn’t look happy, but Debbie gave me a big, bright, fake-as-can-be smile and waved at me as she headed towards the pool table where her fiancé was playing a pick-up game with some other guys. I returned an equally-as-phony smile back at her and made a note to myself to tell Eric that next time he wanted to hire a bodyguard for me, it needed to be someone without a crazy-jealous were girlfriend who insisted on checking up on him at all hours. God only knew what we were going to do if Alcide’s job “babysitting” me wasn’t done by closing time tonight, and to judge by the boredom and irritation on Eric’s end of the bond, that seemed like a real possibility.
Jesús came around to the dining room and settled himself in at the bar as Sam poured him a beer, and I came on over to say hi, now that that the dinner traffic was finally starting to slow down.
The witch smiled at my Twister costume but then said, “I don’t imagine that has worked out quite the way you planned, Sookie. Even I’m wondering what I would end up touching if I spun that dial on your head.” He shook his head in sympathy.
I rolled my eyes. “You have no idea.” I glanced around. “You think if I took the spinner off, it might get people’s minds off of putting their hands all over me? Looks like it’s quieting down some, so we’re not likely to get any more kids in this time of night and that’s really who I was doing it for.” I tugged the elastic hatband off my head with relief and then smiled at Jesús. “I’m so glad you came,” I said. “Lafayette tell you what was going on?”
Jesús’s smile faded. “Yes, and I feel like a fool for not realizing that this might not be the best night for a medium to be out and about in public, especially such a new one as Lafayette. At least if Lala was home, we might not catch so much attention in the spirit world. Have to keep that in mind for next year.”
“Is there anything you can do to help him?” I asked, frowning with concern. “I heard what is going on in his head, Jesús, and I don’t think he’s going to get much peace with all that racket. Can you maybe do a spell or something?”
Jesús sipped at his beer and then said, “Already did what little I could in a public place, Sookie. My cute-as-a-button New Jersey housewife is now sprinkled with salt and a blessing. It should at least keep the malevolent spirits away for the rest of the evening. It won’t shut every spirit up entirely, but it should dim the noise a little.” He played with the base of his beer glass. “You have more experience with mental barriers than I do, though, you know. Maybe when we have some time, we can all get together and you can work with him a little on building up his strength that way? Obviously, we can’t do much tonight, but I want him to be able to live with this gift, the way you’ve learned to live with yours.”
I snorted. “Oh, I don’t know about that. The ‘living with it’ thing, not the helping thing, I mean.” I fiddled with the spinner on my hat, which I had placed flat on the bar. “You know I’ll be happy to work with Lafayette on building up his shields, though.” And then I had a thought. Maybe Jesús could help me – well, me and Eric – figure out the magical details of our bond. “And maybe, you can help me with something, too? Nothing I can tell you about right now, but maybe we can help each other?”
“You know it, Sookie,” Jesús said, sipping at his beer again. He glanced at Lafayette, who was flipping something on the grill, and then looked back at me, his expression suddenly very solemn. “Have you heard anything yet about what the vampires might decide to do with Tara?” he thought at me.
I sucked my breath in and then leaned in to say, very softly so that no one else would hear, “No. Nothing yet.” I stared at him, concerned. “I thought you weren’t supposed to remember any of that,” I commented cautiously. I had been right there when Pam had glamoured Jesús and Bill had glamoured Lafayette into forgetting what had happened at the tolerance rally – or so both vampires had believed. If anyone in the Vampire Authority knew that any humans had walked out of the Dorchester Hotel with their memories of that night intact, it would be bad.
“The glamour didn’t take,” Jesús thought at me. “I don’t know why. I’m not telling anyone but you I remember, though, not even Lafayette.” His eyes went to his boyfriend again, his expression sad and protective. “I don’t want him upset about Tara until he has to be. He wouldn’t be able to function.” His eyes shifted to me again. “But I don’t know why the glamour didn’t work.” “Maybe that is something we can figure out, too, when we work on the stuff with Lafayette,” he said out loud.
“Anything you need,” I said. I licked my lips, thinking back to my earlier fear for Lafayette, that he might learn Tara was dead by seeing her spirit. “And if Lafayette gets any…news about Tara before I do, will you let me know?”
Jesús swore in Spanish under his breath. “I hadn’t even thought of that possibility,” he said grimly. “Yeah, I’ll keep you informed.”
I caught sight of the people at Table 2 trying to get my attention and gave Jesús a consoling pat on the back as I went to see what they needed.
Whatever Jesús had done with the salt must have done something because Lafayette’s light mood was back and he was swaying the glittering hips of his costume to some beat in his head as he cooked.
Not too long after Jesús and I had talked, Eric got worried for me. Very worried. I tensed up, unsure of how I ought to react at first, but I finally decided that so long as Eric wasn’t sending me some kind of message like “Run, run!” I was just going to sit tight. Especially since I was beginning to realize that Eric seemed to spend a lot of time worrying about me. Since I didn’t know if he felt this way about me in general or whether I really had good reason to be concerned, I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Another question to add to my list of “things to talk to Eric about” when I saw him again. If I saw him again.
The worried feeling from Eric eased up a bit after a while, but never totally went away. I couldn’t tell Alcide what I was feeling without revealing to him the way that Eric and I had bonded, but I did make a point of stopping by the pool table where Alcide was hanging out with Debbie with a couple of beers I had paid for out of my own pocket. I had thanked both of them for spending their evening keeping an eye on me, being especially nice to Debbie about it, although she wasn’t officially part of Eric’s arrangement.
Not that my gesture had made much of an impact on Debbie after her initial gratitude for the free beer.
Alcide had taken a break from the pool table to sit at a table with his girlfriend, but their conversation hadn’t looked very happy from a distance. I stayed the heck out of both of their heads, but I could tell from Debbie’s body language that she was getting impatient with staying at the bar, especially after Alcide had switched from beer to soda, I assume to keep his wits about him in case he really did end up having to protect me from someone or something. I would have loved to tell Alcide to just go on home with Debbie so I didn’t have to deal with her sulking, but with Eric worried for me, I was feeling selfish enough not to want to risk it. Hopefully the worry on Eric’s part was a sign that at least something was happening where he was and he’d be back sooner rather than later.
Things finally came to a head with my “bodyguard” and his girlfriend when we started to close up just before midnight. Jesús had gone into the kitchen with Lafayette, and Holly had already left, telling Sam that she wanted to be home a little early to make sure her boys hadn’t gotten into any Halloween mischief.
I had stopped by Alcide’s table and told him that he was welcome to sack out in my guest room for the night if he wanted to, rather than lurk around outside the house. I figured it would be more comfortable for him, and my thinking was that if Debbie knew about the sleeping arrangements upfront, she’d realize that I had no designs on her man.
I should have known that having Alcide anywhere in my house – more comfortable for him or not – wouldn’t fly with her. She didn’t say anything while I was there, but no sooner was I across the room wiping down tables before I could hear the were couple begin to bicker.
“Well, I don’t know why you have to go home with her,” Debbie was hissing at Alcide at their table. I would like to think that she wasn’t aware I could hear her, but I wouldn’t want to bet money on it. “You’ve been with her all fucking day, Alcide.”
“And I told Eric Northman I would not leave her alone until he got back from his business,” Alcide had replied stubbornly. At least he was trying to keep his voice down.
“Oh, and you owe a vamp this much time out of your day, no matter what he pays you? Where is your self-respect, Alcide?” Debbie shook her auburn hair in disgust.
“Don’t forget he sent work my way last year when he didn’t need to,” Alcide responded with a low growl. “And this isn’t about Eric Northman, it’s about keeping my friend Sookie out of trouble.”
“Oh, yeah, it’s about Sookie, alright,” Debbie muttered bitterly.
Alcide stood up and nodded towards the door. “We’ll talk about this outside,” he said, his voice grim. “I enjoyed having you around tonight, Debbie, but the rest of tonight is business. You need to go home.”
“Fuck you, Alcide Herveaux,” Debbie had spit beneath her breath as she headed for the door.
“Sook!” Alcide called to me. I looked up as if I hadn’t picked up any of what they had been saying. “I’ll wait outside for you after I tell Debbie goodnight.”
“Alright. ‘Night, Debbie, happy Halloween,” I said brightly. “And thanks again for stopping by.”
Debbie just flapped a hand at me in goodbye, her lips still pinched as if she was biting her tongue.
“Gonna be a long night,” I sighed to Sam, picking up condiment bottles and stacking them in a tray.
“Do I even want to know why Alcide Herveaux is sending his girlfriend home and sounding like he’s going to be spending the night with you?” Sam asked drily.
I squeezed another bottle of ketchup into the tray. “I was at that rally in Shreveport,” I finally said. “And some of the out-of-state vampires may have picked up on my being a telepath.”
Sam’s face fell. “Jesus, Sook. You think some might be coming for you or something?”
I swallowed. “I hope not, but it seemed like a good idea not to take any chances. Both Eric and Bill are away dealing with the follow up of the rally, so Alcide’s keeping an eye on me. Just in case.”
“Follow up, huh?” Sam said with a snort. “I can just imagine what the real story is there.”
“You don’t want to,” I said shortly, wiping down a pair of salt and peppershakers. “Trust me on that.”
In the kitchen, I could hear the low rumble of Jesús and Lafayette laughing about something. It was a nice sound after the earlier worry about Lafayette’s little visitation problem.
Sam scrubbed at what looked like a dried sticky spot of beer on a table before saying quietly, “You going to tell me what’s really going on with Lafayette?”
I bit my lip. “Well, honestly, it’s not my story to tell,” I answered finally. While I suspect Lafayette wouldn’t mind Sam knowing about his newfound ability to communicate with the dead, it only seemed fair to let Lafayette share the news when he was ready to.
Sam stared down at a napkin holder he was wiping down with unnecessary intensity. “And what about the story that is yours to tell?” His soft, brown eyes rose to my face. “You should know a shifter is going to notice a change in scent, Sookie. So, what’s the story with you and Eric Northman?”
“Oh, for God’s sake, not you, too,” I grumbled, rolling my eyes. “So does every shapeshifting supe in Renard Parish know about me and Eric by my smell?”
“So there is something to know?” Sam said, his disappointment clear on his face. “Sookie, what the hell are you thinking? Bill Compton I could kind of understand, but Eric Northman? He’s a whole new level of dangerous to you.” I could feel his reaction was mostly genuine worry for me. Mostly.
“He’s dangerous, all right, but not to me, Sam,” I said firmly. “I’m not going to go into it with you, close as we are, because what’s going on between me and Eric is still between me and Eric, but I can promise you, he’s no danger to me. Not a bit.” Sam regarded me doubtfully.
“Sookie!” Jesús was suddenly behind the kitchen counter, hands planted on the flat surface, face strained. “Can you come into the kitchen for a minute?” I could hear a steady stream of what sounded like cursing in Spanish from his head, so I dropped the cloth in my hand and hurried towards him, Sam right behind me.
Lafayette was standing in the kitchen, the wig from his costume clutched in a hand, his face bewildered. “This who you mean?” he said to the air in front of him. At some kind of unseen acknowledgement, his looked to me. “Sookie, somebody here is sayin’ you is his daughter and he has a message for you for his son, but I know he ain’t your daddy because I still remember your daddy and this sure as shit ain’t him. Less he got way shorter in the afterlife.” He glanced in the direction of the apparent spirit. “No offense.”
I looked at Jesús, confused. “I thought you said the salt would keep spirits away from Lafayette.”
“Well, bad spirits, anyhow,” the witch conceded. “But this one seems real persistent. He’s been hanging around all night, according to Lala, and doesn’t seem to want to take ‘no’ for an answer. Any idea who it could be if it isn’t really your father?”
I remembered how I had been able to hear my Gran’s voice in Marnie’s head the time I had visited the other witch in Moon Goddess Emporium. “No, but I have an idea how I might be able to find out.” I reached out and took Lafayette’s hand. “Lafayette, you don’t even need to talk. Just let me listen in,” I said to my friend. “Whoever you are, I’m listening. You say you got a message for me?” I spoke to the air.
“Sookie,” the voice said in Lafayette’s head. “I do have a message for you – and for Eric.”
“Godric?” I blurted out loud in surprise. I squinted as I thought I saw something – no, someone – standing in the kitchen in the direction that Lafayette was looking. “Oh. My. God. Godric, I can see you.” The figure of Eric’s late maker was translucent but clearly visible to me. What in the hell?
I felt Lafayette’s hand twitch in mine. “Seriously? You see him, too? Short, young guy, dark hair?” Lafayette asked. “You a medium now, too, Sook?”
“No,” Godric answered, a little smile turning up the corner of his mouth. He was a hazy, light-filled mass, standing there in Merlotte’s kitchen. “The bond you share with my son means you share one another’s gifts, Sookie. He sees me; so now you see me. But he doesn’t always trust what he sees, and this message is too important for him to ignore. For everyone’s sakes.”
Behind me, I heard Sam ask Jesús in a shocked voice, “Lafayette’s a medium?”
“What message, Godric?” I asked. I’d have to ask Eric about the whole “seeing Godric” thing when I saw him; that sure as shootin’ hadn’t come up yet.
“There is a change coming among vampires that will put you and Eric at risk because of the bond you have formed. You might be tempted to end your union. But I want you to understand that everything is connected, Sookie, and your bond has influence beyond the two of you.”
The ancient vampire’s expression was solemn. “I know you fear the power it has created in you, but understand that it makes the two of you stronger, both as individuals and together. And you will need that shared strength in what is to come.”
Godric’s dark eyes had been compassionate as he acknowledged my fear of the bond, but then something that looked suspiciously like hope lit up his face as he continued. “But bringing growth to the two of you is not the limit of this magic’s power, Sookie. The bond between you has the potential to change everything – for both our kinds – forever. The choice about how you will respond remains yours and Eric’s, but I implore you: consider the good that can come of it for both vampire and fae and don’t react to the bond out of fear. Instead, I ask you to embrace this gift you have given one another. Be brave and learn its ways. Much good – or evil – to come depends on your choice in this.”
“But, Godric,” I stammered. “Even Eric didn’t understand what we were getting into and he knows way more about it than I do. How are we supposed to ‘learn the ways’ of this thing?” My tone may have sounded a little sarcastic as I imitated the gravity with which he’d said that last part, but I didn’t mean to be rude. I was just baffled.
Godric nodded with understanding. “Your people will have the answer to that, Sookie. You must seek them out. Both you and Eric must understand the roots of who you are – and who you can be.”
“By ‘my people’ do you mean my – my fae relatives?” I was dimly conscious of a ripple of shock among my audience of friends, but I ignored it. “Because, A, the queen closed that portal to the fae realms, for good I hope, and B, I’m not going anywhere where they want to imprison me, Godric. I just can’t. Not again!”
“Sookie, my daughter, you don’t have to go so far as you think for the answers. And both you and my son will be safe going there when the time comes, so long as you complete the bond by then,” Godric cautioned.
“Wait, complete the bond? I thought it was complete already?” My heart began to trip and somewhere to my southeast, I felt Eric detect my increased tension and react with concern.
“Your friend the witch can indeed help you understand more about this magic,” Godric replied, gesturing at Jesús. “He may not know the language in which the texts are written, but he will understand the symbols. And, Sookie –” Godric’s eyes softened with affection. “I am proud to claim you both you and Eric as my blood. Tell my son I am happy with his choices.” A sadness passed over his face just then, but he said no more, turning away from Lafayette and me, only to vanish.
“Ho-ly shit,” Lafayette breathed, releasing my hand. “Jesus Christ, Sookie, good thing you could hear all that directly because ain’t no motherfuckin’ way I could even begin to explain all that to you.” He shook his head. “And, lover,” he said to Jesús, “The man want you to use your witchy skills to help Sookie find answers. “And it sound to me like it’s important that you do it if even half of what he said was true.”
I sank against the kitchen counter, suddenly exhausted by the whole evening, my mind whirling with the message Godric had delivered. I could feel Eric, his concern for me tugging with an anxious persistence. I reassured him that I was fine, safe…puzzled and even awed by what had just happened. And in return, I felt him relax a bit, although the worried little knot of worry for me never disappeared entirely.
And while I was still disturbed by the tension I could feel nagging at me through our bond, I suddenly realized that perhaps the most important part of the message at that moment was in what Godric had not said to me.
Godric had spoken without hesitation as if Eric would come home safely from his encounter with the Authority and that whatever challenges we had ahead of us were, well, ahead of us.
And while Eric might not have realized that yet, to judge by the worry he was still experiencing, I was going to embrace it as an article of faith. I still didn’t know what would happen to Tara, but I was going to choose to believe that Eric would return and we would start tackling the meaning of our bond when he did.
I let the relief flow through my body, just as Sam looked from me to Lafayette to Jesús and blurted out, “So, let me get this straight. Lafayette is a medium, Sookie’s a fairy and Jesús, you’re a witch?” He looked accusingly again at all three of us. “Why the fuck doesn’t anyone in this town tell me anything, goddammit?” And it was my giddy relief for Eric that made me begin to laugh hysterically at the annoyed expression on my shifter friend’s face.
A/N: For those of you who are wondering why Pam wasn’t successful in glamouring Jesús, I’m going with the idea expressed on the show that the more supernatural you are, the less you are able to be glamoured. With his demon inside him, Jesus is no longer subject to glamour – not that I’d be too quick to reveal that information to anyone. Lafayette, on the other hand, is still human enough – at least at this point – to be subject to glamouring. That may, however, change in future…
The Twister costume, btw, is real! : http://www.halloweencostumes.com/sexy-twister-costume.html