“Remember me and smile, for it’s better to forget than to remember me and cry.”―Dr. Seuss
As I hung up the phone, I smiled a little. Eric and I had needed help, and he’d trusted my input when I’d suggested Alcide. Knowing that Alcide would need time to collect everything we needed, Eric had called him before our second exchange. After Alcide had initially told Eric to ‘fuck off,’ I’d talked to him and he’d begrudgingly agreed, despite his reservations over Eric and “the plan.” I’d not been surprised in the least when he’d called after dawn to make sure I wasn’t being compelled by Eric against my will. That conversation had taken an unpleasant thirty minutes, but Alcide had finally accepted that I wasn’t going to change my mind.
“Hey, cher,” Sam said from behind me, interrupting my thoughts.
I took a deep breath. It was time for more goodbyes.
I turned on the bench and patted the seat next to me, putting back on my shoes as Sam sat down. I couldn’t help but to think how nice Sam looked—and how happy. His mind was usually difficult for me to read, but—probably because of having both Warlow’s and Eric’s blood in quick succession, I could read his thoughts pretty easily. He had a good reason to be happy.
“Congratulations,” I said as he sat.
He looked taken aback for a moment, but then grinned. “Will you keep it to yourself?” he asked. “Nicole doesn’t even know she’s pregnant yet.”
“Of course,” I responded. “Sorry. I wasn’t fishing in your head. My shields are a mess right now because of the funeral. Plus, you’re so happy and proud that your thoughts are just radiating off of you.”
He grinned a little wider, but then frowned. “I feel bad about Luna,” he said softly. “It’s so soon after her own funeral would have been, and I,” he sighed, “really did love her. I still do. This thing with Nicole came at me out of nowhere.” He shook his head as if clearing it. “I don’t know how, but I love them both. And now the baby too.”
I smiled. “I have some experience with loving two people at the same time.”
He looked at me inquisitively. I sighed. We had been too out of the loop with each other’s lives.
“For a while there, I loved both Eric and Bill,” I shared.
“Eric Northman?” he asked, startled.
“Yeah. It’s a long story, but yeah.”
He shook his head. “We need to talk more, Sook.”
I nodded. “Yeah. Listen—I’m certainly no sage—but at first, I didn’t know how to deal with loving two people at once, and I fucked things up really badly.”
“How?” Sam asked, sitting forward a little.
“I was scared, and stupidly I thought it would be better to let them both go,” I replied. “But that was idiotic! I just managed to hurt us all more.”
Sam looked contemplative.
I sighed. “If I could go back in time, I’d make a different choice.”
“What would you do?”
“Well—for one—I would have stopped trying to live the life I thought that I wanted and just live the one that I’d been given.” I smiled. “And I would have been brave enough to actually make a choice, instead of trying to avoid it altogether. I would have really thought about the pros and cons of relationships with both Bill and Eric, and I would have picked the one that was best for me.” I scoffed at how I’d behaved in the past. “And—believe you me—it would have been an easy choice to make if I hadn’t been too chicken-shit to make it.”
“Who would you have chosen?” he asked.
“Eric,” I said with certainty. “He can drive me crazy at times, and I know that he’s done some things that would make me cringe or weep or both, but he also makes me feel something I’ve never felt before.”
“And what’s that?”
I chuckled. “Strangely enough—normal.” I shook my head. “After I found out that Bill only approached me at first because he was working for the queen, I tried hard to construct a ‘conventionally normal life’ for myself,” I said, using air quotes for effect. “But my stubbornness made me miss the fact that an ‘unconventional normal’ might be wonderful too. The second—and I mean the very second—that I truly picked Eric, I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders.” Not used to having so much to be happy about, I could feel the smile burning on my face as I continued speaking. “And even though a lot of things are fucked up and my whole life is in turmoil, I feel like I’ve moved into the eye of the storm, and I trust Eric to keep me there.”
Sam exhaled slowly. “I feel like I’ve been in a storm too, and I think that Nicole could help me make it through.”
“In that case, I’m really happy for you,” I said sincerely. “And I know Luna would be too. You don’t have to forget your love for her, you know. Trust me—truly loving someone only makes your capacity for love that much bigger.”
He tilted his head a little in question. “You still love Bill?”
I nodded. “Yeah—in a manner of speaking, at least. I will always love the person I thought he was. After all, he was my first love. And not fighting my feelings for him has helped to clarify that I feel so much more for Eric. So—Bill gets to have a little piece of my head.”
“And your heart?” Sam asked.
“All Eric’s,” I smiled.
Sam considered my words for a moment. “Part of me still distrusts vampires, but no species is without warts. I’m real happy for you too, Sook.” He chuckled. “This is gonna sound a little crazy, but a part of me always thought that—at the end of everything—it would be you and me together, getting ready to have kids.”
I sighed. “I’ve thought about that too, but we’d both have been settling. You’re my friend, and I’ll always love you, but you feel like a brother to me, Sam. And we both deserve a chance at ‘happily ever afters’ that truly make us happy and not just,” I paused, “satisfied.”
“You’re right.” Sam smiled. “It’s weird, but Nicole makes me feel like I could have that good ending. She’s young, but she’s also so sure of herself. And she seems to ‘get me.'”
“That’s real good, Sam.”
“Hey—listen. Thanks, cher,” he said.
“For what?” I asked.
“For telling me about Bill and Eric. In a weird way, it helps. I think I just needed to give myself permission to love both Luna and Nicole and not to let the timing bother me.
I nodded. “I think that’s smart, Sam.”
Just then, I noticed Lafayette, Arlene, Holly, and Andy coming outside. Arlene looked like she was so angry that she was getting ready to spit nails.
“I swear to God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost that if Portia tries to make herself the center of attention by tellin’ one more story about Terry, I’m gonna. . . .”
“Now just holds on there,” Lafayette cooed, “all yous needs is a little somethin’ to make Miss Portia more palatable. Yous just let Lala help you out.”
I grinned as Lafayette pulled a joint out of his pocket—not because the drug was funny, but because of the expression on Andy’s face.
“Lafayette!” Andy yelled. “You can’t be smokin’ that here! I’m an officer of the law!”
Lafayette chuckled. “I’s plannin’ to share it, sheriff.”
Andy looked mortified.
“Come on, Andy,” Holly said conciliatorily, “one little joint ain’t gonna do any of us any harm. After all, herbs are the goddess’s way of helping us get through our days.” She had a lighter out of the pocket of her cardigan before Andy could say another word.
“Well I need somethin’ after all that. Hell—the way Portia and Grandma Bellefleur are holdin’ court in there has me two minutes away from blowin’ fire,” Arlene said, grabbing the now-lit joint from Lafayette and taking a big hit off of it.
I couldn’t help the feeling of melancholy that rose inside of me as I watched Arlene, Lafayette, and Holly each giggle as they took hits off of the little marijuana cigarette before handing it to Sam, who then offered it up to Andy. Andy looked conflicted for about a second before taking a deep drag and then offering me the joint. Needing to keep a clear head, I declined.
“No thanks, those things do weird stuff to my head,” I said truthfully.
The joint had done another round before anyone spoke again.
“That’s good shit,” Arlene coughed out.
Everyone laughed, and suddenly all the tension of the day seemed to leave us—at least for the moment. Everyone took a seat on one of the benches that formed a little semicircle. The little garden that we were in was obscured from view by Mrs. Bellefleur’s prized climbing roses, so everyone—including Andy—relaxed as the joint made its final round.
“Not that I’m not grateful for gettin’ out of there and all,” Arlene said, “but why did you need to talk to us, Sook?”
I took a deep breath. “I need to tell you all goodbye.”
I was met by a whole lot of questions and protests all at once—both from their minds and from their lips. I held up my hand to try to stop them for a moment. The only one who hadn’t spoken immediately was Sam, but it didn’t take him long to take the lead.
He took my hand and squeezed it.
“You’re leaving with him—aren’t you?” he asked.
“Leavin’ with whom?” Lafayette asked.
I sighed. “Eric. Yes.”
“That vamp?” Arlene asked. “The big, blond one?”
“Girl, you got a death wish?” Lafayette piped in.
“Maybe,” I chuckled. “But I’d prefer to think of it as a life wish.”
Everyone was silent for a moment.
It was Sam who spoke. “What do you need for us to do?”
I looked at Arlene guiltily.
“What is it?” she asked.
I inhaled. “I need for you all to pretend that I’m dead.”
Again there was silence for a moment.
“Why?” Arlene asked.
“Bill and this vampire-fairy hybrid named Warlow or—uh—Ben have had my blood. Tonight or—uh—early in the morning, I’m gonna disappear from their radar—so to speak. I need to stay off of it, and that’s where y’all come in.”
“But there’s no way to break a blood tie—not even by witchcraft,” Holly said.
“There’s one way,” I returned.
“No!” Sam said in warning.
“It’s what I want,” I told him.
“What are y’all talkin’ about?” Arlene asked, looking from Sam to me.
“It’s better that you don’t know the specifics,” I said, giving Sam a pointed look.
He nodded. “Yeah, it’s better that way,” he agreed. “But are you sure? That kinda thing can’t be undone.”
“I know,” I said.
He sighed, but didn’t make any more arguments.
I looked around at the gathered group. “I’m telling y’all that I’m leaving because I love you, and I want you to know the truth. And I don’t want y’all to mourn for me. There’s been too much of that already. I want y’all to know that I’m gonna be happy.” I didn’t mention the ‘if I survive’ part.
Arlene moved toward me and gave me a big hug. “And you’re happy with your vamp, Sook?” she asked.
“Yeah. And I think it’ll only get better once it’s just him and me,” I answered.
Arlene looked at me with penetrating and understanding eyes. It was almost disconcerting—but certainly heart-warming—to hear her thoughts, telling me that I should seize what time I could with the man I loved while I could do it.
“Thank you,” I whispered in answer to her unspoken words.
Lafayette sighed. “I’m gonna miss the fuck out of you, baby girl.”
“I’ll miss you too,” I returned, “but I should be able to call y’all once some time passes.”
“Won’t Bill—or this Warlow character—try to glamour us for information about you?” Sam asked astutely.
I nodded. “That’s what Eric would do. And that’s why Eric’s sending someone loyal to him to glamour y’all tonight—at first dark.” I looked at Holly. “Arlene mentioned your vampire friend, and he owes Eric a favor for saving his life from drainers. He’s gonna glamour y’all so that you won’t be able to say anything about this conversation or about the fact that I’m still alive. In fact, if you’re glamoured and asked about me by another vampire, then you’ll get upset and talk about me as if I’m dead, but after you’re released from the glamour, you’ll know the truth.”
“Um,” Andy said rather awkwardly, “begging your pardon, Sookie, but why am I here? You and I aren’t particularly,” he paused, “all that friendly.”
I smiled at him. “I know, but I needed to talk to you. In a way—my whole plan hinges on you.”
Andy looked confused. “How?”
I sighed. “I gave my word to Bill that I would try to make sure no one in town harmed Jessica for what she did to your girls.” I looked down. “I can’t even imagine what it was like for you to lose them. And it doesn’t matter that they grew up so fast. The truth is that you loved them as if you’d been their father forever.”
Andy gasped. “How do you know that?”
I tapped my head. “Your thoughts are very clear. And the love you felt for them is very beautiful,” I observed. “I wouldn’t blame you for wanting justice.”
“I need to keep the other one alive even more,” Andy said gruffly. Holly’s hand linked with his.
I nodded. “Listen, Andy, I know this doesn’t excuse Jessica, but fairy blood is like crack to a vampire. I truly believe that Bill would agree to make sure your remaining daughter is protected from all other vampires in the area if you don’t seek a punishment for Jessica.” I sighed again. “I don’t know what I’d do in your shoes, but I promised Bill that I would try to help to protect Jessica. If you tell me that you won’t go after her for what she’s done, I’ll be free to leave.”
“And if not?” Andy asked.
“Then I’ll have to stay and tell Bill if your thoughts turn hostile against Jessica,” I sighed. “It was the deal I had to make with Bill in order to gain my freedom from Warlow, and I won’t go back on my word.”
“What did Northman have to say about that?” Sam asked.
I smirked at him. “He wasn’t happy, but he respected that I needed to keep my word so that I could leave with a clear conscience.”
Sam nodded, seeming to respect Eric’s response. Frankly, I’d been a little surprised by his acceptance myself—though I shouldn’t have been. Eric had a contingency plan if Andy didn’t agree to let matters go. It would mean sticking around a while longer—which wouldn’t be ideal—but, according to Eric, it might be doable.
Luckily, I didn’t think we’d need that particular Plan B.
Andy seemed to be contemplating all his options, and I wasn’t about to rush him, considering all he’d been through. He closed his eyes tightly. “I’d always liked Jessica,” he said in his gruff manner, “before all this. She was pleasant enough for a vamp.”
“She still is,” I said. “She just couldn’t stop herself from biting when she smelled their blood. It would be like what you would feel if you found water in the desert after a few days without any. You’d think about nothing but it and do anything to get it. But I understand if you feel the need to seek justice for the deaths of your girls. I agreed to try to advocate for Jessica’s life and freedom, and I have. And I agreed to tell Bill what you’re thinking about doin’ as long as he doesn’t hurt anyone, and I will. But that doesn’t make what Jessica did okay. Nothing could do that!”
Andy sighed. “Why doesn’t Vampire Bill just glamour us all—me especially, since I’m the law and all—not to do anything?”
I sighed. “He’s actually got an honorable reason for that,” I said, giving credit where credit was due. “He seems to think that he’d need to take some of your memories of your daughters away in order to effectively glamour you. And he doesn’t want to do that.”
While Andy further contemplated his choices, I unapologetically stayed inside of his head to listen to his thought process. At heart, Andy was a peaceful man who didn’t like conflict. He’d become a policeman because he believed in the words “to serve and to protect”; however, he saw himself as a “peacekeeper” more than anything else. He also wanted to safeguard his remaining daughter, Adilyn—even if it meant sacrificing his own life. In his heart, he truly believed that Jessica hadn’t been able to help herself when she drained his other girls—even though a part of him still wanted to stake her. As a cop, he knew that he should seek justice, but he just wasn’t sure what would be most “right” in this situation. Plus, in the end, he blamed Bill a lot more than he blamed Jessica; however, he was scared to death of Bill right now. He also felt guilty—afraid that his girls had died because he was a bad father, just like his own had been.
He made up his mind with a heavy sigh—almost a groan.
“Uh—do you think that Vampire Bill would really—uh—protect Adilyn?” Andy asked.
“He’s still the vampire king of the state—at least officially. And others—vampires too—are just as scared of him as you are.” I sighed. “I don’t think he’d harm Adilyn, and I think that he is truly sorry for what happened to your other girls. Plus, he could command Jessica—once she gets back—not to come within a certain distance of Adilyn.”
Why Bill hadn’t controlled Jessica with a maker’s command before was beyond me, but I didn’t mention my opinions about Bill’s coldness/thoughtlessness to Andy.
I continued, “Bill also has influence with other vampires in the area. But you should probably keep Adilyn inside at night—at least until she learns to protect herself with that fairy light I told you about. She’s just half-blooded, but she’ll still smell really tempting to vampires unless,” I paused and looked at Holly.
“Unless?” Andy asked.
“I think my great-grandfather knows a way to mask his scent. He’s a fairy, but he’s not around right now. If he can be found, I think that he’d help Adilyn if he could. He could at least help her figure out how to turn on her light. I’m sorry I couldn’t.” I shook my head sadly. I’d tried that morning before the funeral to help Andy’s remaining daughter produce light, but it hadn’t worked; maybe she was just too young. Or maybe she had to be truly afraid in order to use it for the first time.
Andy exhaled loudly. “Thanks. And—uh—you can tell Vampire Bill that I ain’t gonna do anything to Jessica. Just tell him to keep her away from Adilyn! I don’t want no more dyin’,” he finished.
I could see the tears glistening in his eyes and the defeated slump of his shoulders. I exited his head, knowing that his thoughts matched his words. I wished that there was something I could do. The situation was horrible. From what I could figure, Jessica had been trying to make sure the fairy girls weren’t harmed as Bill’s doctor experimented with their blood. But Jessica had lost control and now felt tremendous guilt because of that. I felt guilt too; if I had agreed to be Bill’s guinea pig in the first place, the girls would all still be alive.
I reached out and squeezed Andy’s hand. “For what it’s worth, Bill no longer needs Adilyn’s blood for what he’s doin’; he’s got another donor.”
Andy nodded. It was only a small consolation to him, but at least it was something to help his peace of mind.
I took a deep breath and then rose. “I need to go. I’ll call you all when it’s safe for me to do so.”
Sam stood too, followed by the others. “Cher, you could stay. We’d all protect you.”
They all immediately agreed in concert.
I shook my head. “I don’t want any of y’all hurt because of me. And I don’t think Warlow will stop pursuing me.” I sighed. “He wants to turn me into what he is, and I don’t want to be turned—at least not by him.”
“You gonna let Eric turn you?” Arlene asked with surprise.
“I don’t know,” I said honestly. “I’ve given him permission to do it if I’m dying and there’s no other way, but I really want to try liking who I am for a change—rather than becomin’ something else right now.”
Holly moved so that she was right in front of me and gave me a big hug. “You take care, okay? And I’ll be workin’ on getting’ your great-grandfather back.”
“Thanks,” I said with a smile.
Andy surprised me by stepping in for my next hug. “I ain’t always been nice to you—um—about that thing you can do with your head. But you’re good people, Sookie Stackhouse. Lots of folks wouldn’t have taken care of their grandma like you did. And lots of folks wouldn’t have been as nice to Terry as you were. This town’ll miss you.”
I stepped back from the hug and looked at him skeptically.
“Well—at least some people in this town,” he modified.
I laughed a little.
Arlene was the next to hug me, and we embraced tightly. She didn’t say anything aloud because she feared crying again if she did, and she really needed a break from crying. I couldn’t blame her. I could “hear” that she was tired of losing people and didn’t want me to go, but that she hoped I would be happy.
“Come here, baby girl,” Lafayette said as Arlene released me. I stepped toward him, and he held me so tightly that I thought I might break. He got a few of my tears on his shirt for his trouble, but he didn’t seem to care. “You’s be careful—okay?”
“I’ll try,” I promised. I’d decided not to tell them of the danger faced by Tara and probably Jason. If Eric’s plan worked, they’d be okay, and if it didn’t—well—no one would have to pretend to grieve for them.
Sam was the last to take his hug.
“How dangerous is this plan of Eric’s—your plan to get away?” he asked in a whisper.
I managed to control my tears a little and speak. “For me—it’s not too bad.”
“Good,” he said at a barely audible level, “’cause we love you, Sookie Stackhouse.”
My tears falling in earnest now, I broke the hug and looked at each friend circled around me. Leaving was difficult, and a few months before, I wouldn’t have even entertained the notion, but a lot had changed.
I had come to realize two very important things. The first was that there was no going back to my life as it had been before vampires came into it. And the second was that I no longer wanted to go back; that was going backwards. Moreover, if Eric and I could get a little luck tonight, then I would soon have more love in my life than I’d ever had in the past. I’d have Eric, and though a part of me didn’t think I deserved him, the only thing that really mattered was that he did.
I was done taking that fact—and him—for granted.
I was moving forward—come what may.
I hope that you liked this chapter, and I really want to thank you for your continued responses and support for this story. I’ll do my best to end this one better than TB (season 6), though a nude scene on a Swedish mountain doesn’t seem like such a bad idea—if it’s in the right hands. I’ll take “it” in hand for us all. 😉