It was an hour later. Sookie had tried counting sheep. She’d tried counting backwards. She’d even tried counting sheep backwards, but sleep still eluded her.
She’d tossed and turned so much that her bed covers were bunching up, and then she’d tossed and turned some more to un-bunch them.
But no matter what she did, she couldn’t get her mind to shut off.
Sookie was worried about Hadley’s thoughts from earlier. After their time watching in the pool, Sookie had spent a little more time in her cousin’s mind―even though she was a little ashamed of that fact. She’d heard from Hadley’s thoughts that she longed to go into Faerie and get settled there. And she was ready to visit Hunter in person now. In fact, she hoped that after their first visit, her son would decide to stay and live with her. But she figured that he’d want to go and tell the people he was currently living with goodbye.
Sookie tried not to let herself cry as she thought about all the goodbyes Hunter would have to say if coming to Faerie were his choice. She especially tried not to think of the goodbye he’d have to say to Eric. She knew that it would cause them both immense pain—pain that she feared neither one of them would ever get over.
Sookie tossed and turned again.
Upon Hadley’s insistence, Hunter still hadn’t been told that Hadley wouldn’t be returning to the human realm. Hadley didn’t want him to be upset until it was necessary. Eric, however, was more and more antsy to tell Hunter every day, but he too didn’t want Hunter to be saddened over his inevitable choice before it was necessary. He just wanted his son to have adequate time to make his choice.
As the messenger between the two parents, Sookie felt like an arbiter most of the time, and it was difficult for her to stay outwardly unbiased in front of Hadley.
Sookie flipped to her back.
Niall had been right earlier. Truth be told, she felt that there was one right choice—only one—when it came to Hunter’s future, and she’d felt that way for a long time. She’d determined her opinion based on three things. First, and most importantly, Hunter obviously felt safer and happier with Eric than he’d ever felt in his life before. But it wasn’t just that. In fact, Sookie felt that Hunter would be safe and could be relatively happy in Faerie. However, the kind of home that Hunter enjoyed in Bon Temps could never be recreated―no matter how hard Hadley tried. It fit Hunter―plain and simple. Second, Sookie knew that Eric loved his son unconditionally. He nurtured him and really thought about him and what he needed. Third, Hadley didn’t always do that. And to Sookie, the right thing to do was also the best thing for Hunter.
She knew—absolutely knew—that Eric was the best thing that had ever happened to Hunter. She knew it with just as much certainty as she knew that he was the best thing that had ever happened to her. But she also felt sorry for Hadley, who would—once she settled into Faerie—miss her son’s life in the blink of an eye.
In the end, however, it was Hunter’s happiness that Sookie was most concerned about; that little boy deserved to live the life he needed, and Sookie’s intuition told her that that life was with Eric. She tried not to allow herself to feel just how restless she was to join that life. She also tried not to feel the guilt of knowing that if Hunter did choose Eric, then she would be able to spend more time with him than Hadley did.
Instead, Sookie had tried her hardest not to let her feelings on the matter alienate her from Hadley. In fact, as Hadley had become better and better at using her empathy, Sookie had asked Claude to help her learn how to shield her emotions from her cousin. It turned out that doing that was just like shielding people from her thoughts, and Sookie had been able to learn that skill quickly—thank goodness.
Claude knew of her true opinion regarding Hunter because they’d talked about it several times, and now Niall knew as well. But Hadley didn’t seem to know, and Sookie didn’t intend to tell her cousin unless she asked directly for her opinion.
And, of course, she’d shared her opinion with Eric, but both Eric and Hadley seemed certain that the only right choice was to let Hunter choose between them. Sookie wasn’t so sure. And she was especially unsure of that idea, given that Hadley expected Hunter to choose her—that she’d expected it all along, which was why she’d agree to the idea in the first place.
Sookie turned onto her side.
And Eric had the added stress of dealing with their “family” in Bon Temps. All of them were asking questions about why Hadley and Sookie hadn’t yet returned. And Eric realized that there was a real possibility that Hunter might choose to live with his mother in Faerie. He wanted for their family to know all this so that they could be prepared and help to prepare Hunter, but if he told them, then Hunter would read what was going on from their heads.
Of course, Eric and she had been able to discuss his fears, but Sookie could infer that he wanted to speak to Jesus about the matter as well. However, he’d held back. Eric had spoken to Pam of Hunter’s impending choice, but Pam had reacted as expected; she’d threatened full-scale war against all fairies if they took her human brother away from her. And she didn’t understand why Eric would even consider letting Hunter see a mother whom Pam considered inferior. Truth be told, Pam and Sookie’s opinion on the matter matched up pretty well―except for the killing all fairies part.
Sookie was all for Hadley visiting with Hunter in the ‘in-between place’; however, she felt more strongly than ever that the only right move was to let Hunter stay with the parent he loved more than anything in the world, and that parent was not Hadley.
Sookie turned in bed again, feeling her anger at her cousin rise.
Earlier, from Hadley’s head, Sookie ‘heard’ that Niall had told her that she could settle in the ‘in-between’ place forever; Niall could build her a house there, and she could live her life there. But Hadley longed to be around more people, and though Katherine and Martha were daily visitors, Hadley wanted to spend time with other people as well.
She understood Hadley’s desire, but frankly, she was pissed off at her cousin. Hadley had a way to let Hunter stay where he was and still see him often. She had a way to live her life so that she wouldn’t lose time with him. He could visit her as much as he and Hadley wanted. Sookie also knew that Claude would likely settle in the in-between place with Hadley if she asked him to. Heck—Hadley would still be able to work on her sewing and have visitors. She could make new friends. Maybe a little village would even spring up around her. Who knew? All that Sookie knew for sure was that she’d stay right where she was if she were in Hadley’s position.
Sookie flipped over again and tried not to judge her cousin too harshly. Hadley could, after all, still change her mind, and both Claude and Niall had tremendous faith that her gift of empathy would help her to understand Hunter’s feelings so that she could do what was best for him.
Sookie did love her cousin, and she could see the positive changes in her too. So she was trying to have faith in her, but it was difficult sometimes.
Claude and Hadley had become closer friends over the last weeks, though Claude was still very careful not to push his affections onto her. Ten days earlier, however, Claude had slipped up.
He’d come to Sookie in a panic, telling her that he’d dropped his guard for a moment, and he feared that Hadley had felt his love for her.
Sure enough, that same night, Hadley had shared with Sookie that she had picked up on something from Claude. And though she liked him a great deal, Hadley―like Sookie―was initially a bit freaked out by the fact that Claude was her half-great uncle. Sookie could feel that Hadley also connected the situation to what had happened with Uncle Bartlett. The memories of that horror had come back to Hadley the week before Claude’s slip-up—just as Niall had predicted they would. Hadley had just been beginning to deal with those memories with her great-grandfather’s help.
Sookie had advised Hadley to talk to Claude about what she’d picked up on, and she’d even offered to stay with her when she did. Hadley had declined the offer but not the advice, and she’d determined to have a long talk with Claude about his feelings and her discomfort.
However, truth be told, Hadley had come back from that talk with a serious crush on the fairy. Sookie had delved into her cousin’s brain that night and had found out that Claude had not done anything to foster the crush except to be himself.
Sookie smiled at the memory of finding Claude a little while later blushing and beaming with happiness.
Claude had told Hadley that he understood her reticence, given that they were related, according to human customs. He’d vowed that he would not do anything untoward and that he would be happy to be just a friend to her―if that was what she wanted. He’d also vowed to protect her with his life and to do the same for her children. Hadley had felt the truth in Claude’s words and the purity of his feelings, and she’d been the one to change in the midst of their conversation.
Before she’d walked away from him that night, Hadley had kissed him on the cheek, which had explained Claude’s lingering blush.
Sookie sighed and smiled. She didn’t blame Hadley for becoming smitten with her fairy brother―whom she now just called Tanu, as if it were his name, since he always called her Tanah. Claude had been her lifeline during the daytime hours when she couldn’t be with Eric. She just hoped that Hadley wouldn’t take his love for granted—ever. If she did, Sookie was pretty certain that she’d kick her cousin’s ass—not enough to hurt her baby, of course—but her ass would be kicked.
Sookie smiled into the night as she felt her protective instinct for her fairy brother grow a little more.
Despite the fact that Hadley was doing better, Sookie knew that her cousin still needed a lot of time before she sought out further physical intimacy, but Hadley’s crush on Claude was encouraging for both of them, and the two had taken to having long, serious talks that also included occasional giggling fits and many blushes.
About a week before, Claude had even shown Hadley his ‘real’ appearance without his fairy glamour.
Sookie had known what to expect since she’d seen him that way before, but to her credit, Hadley had not even flinched upon seeing his true form. According to Claude, the ‘glamour’ fairies used to alter their appearances was seen as something akin to make-up in the human world. Fairies simply projected the beauty they saw within themselves to the surface, and the glamour was a natural part of their existence. However, when a fairy was in the midst of battle or was fearful, the glamour was difficult to maintain, which is why Sookie had seen him without it upon their first meeting.
Sookie wasn’t sure about the make-up analogy given the huge difference in looks it could create in some of the Fae; Mab’s revolting appearance came to mind. That had seemed more like a time-consuming visit to a plastic surgeon rather than a little make-up.
Personally, however, she didn’t care about what Claude looked like on the outside because he was her tanu niir—her big brother—and she loved him. However, she’d been worried about Hadley’s reaction, but her cousin had pleasantly surprised her.
Hadley had quickly accepted both Claude’s explanation and his appearance without his glamour. Then, Hadley had asked Niall to show himself to her as well. As Sookie had expected, Niall had looked pretty much the same with or without his glamour. He just had pointier teeth and was a bit scruffier without it.
Hadley and Claude had then had an hour-long discussion over what the baby would look like, and Sookie had been surprised to hear Hadley’s ambivalence in her thoughts when Claude told her that pretty much every hybrid he’d ever seen had looked human, and the glamour hadn’t been needed, though sometimes the ears were a bit pointier and the teeth did come in a bit sharper.
Sookie had laughed when she thought of the slight point to Jason’s ears that she and the “boys” had once found during a tequila-fest. Sookie had run her tongue across her canine teeth too. She’d always noticed that they were a bit more pointy compared to most people’s teeth, but she’d not thought much of it. She’d grinned, thinking about how those teeth had enabled her to more easily bite into her husband at times.
Yes—she had definitely blushed as she thought about that particular perk of having fairy genes.
She turned over again.
Sookie thought for a moment. It wasn’t really that Hadley had been ambivalent about the appearance of the baby. It was just that Sookie could clearly hear from Hadley that she didn’t care what the baby looked like. She’d love her regardless. She was committed to do right by her child this time. Tears rose in Sookie’s eyes as she thought about what Hadley was already calling the child in her own thoughts: Adele.
In truth, Sookie had been jealous that it was Hadley and not her who would get the privilege to carry on Adele’s name.
She turned onto her back and threw her way-too-soft pillow to the side.
Sookie had also been surprised to hear from Hadley’s thoughts that she’d not named Hunter. He’d been named by Remy, who’d come up with “Hunter” because he’d had to hunt for the baby in the nursery since the last name on Hadley’s driver’s license hadn’t matched the name she’d gone by when they’d been together. Of course, Hunter’s last name had ended up being “Savoy” due to his birth father’s last name.
When Sookie had told this information about Hunter’s name to Eric during a shared dream, she’d been even more surprised to find out from her husband that Hunter’s birth certificate included no middle name; neither of his parents, it seemed, had bothered themselves much with giving him a name.
That thought had drawn tears from Sookie’s eyes.
Eric had told her about Hunter being sad about not knowing his middle name one night about two months before. Earlier that day, Hunter had wondered why his uncle Lala sometimes called Tara―“Tara Mae.” Lafayette hadn’t thought anything about it as he’d told Hunter that “Mae” was Tara’s middle name. Then Lafayette had asked Hunter what his middle name was, and Hunter hadn’t known. That’s why Eric had sent Pam to glamour a county clerk so that they could secretly get a copy of Hunter’s birth certificate and find out his middle name.
The night that Eric had told Hunter that he didn’t have a middle name had been hard for them both. Eric told Sookie that Hunter had tried to act like it didn’t bother him, but Eric had known that it had, so they’d had a long talk about it—a talk which had included tears from Hunter.
Sookie knew how Hunter’s tears upset her husband; she wished that she’d been there for both of them that night.
Hunter had finally felt better when Eric told him that he didn’t have a middle name either, and that middle names weren’t even used when Eric was a human.
Sookie flipped onto her other side.
She sighed deeply. Although Hadley seemed to accept and love the child inside of her fully, her thoughts about Hunter—even before tonight—had troubled Sookie.
Sookie knew that her cousin loved her son; however, there was almost always a ‘but’ attached to her love somewhere. She loved him, but part of her was glad that she didn’t have to worry about him right now. She loved him, but she hated the memories attached to the period of her life before she met Sophie-Anne. She loved him, but a lot of that love was founded upon guilt. She loved him, but she remembered all of her feelings of wishing he was like other kids, and those feelings were still mixed into her love.
And after what she’d heard earlier, Sookie wondered if Hadley wanted Hunter back just so that she could make things up to him and get her own redemption—so to speak. If that were true, Sookie couldn’t let that happen—wouldn’t let it happen.
Sookie tossed and turned again.
She knew that she needed to turn her thoughts to something else that didn’t make her so agitated in order to go to sleep, but that was easier said than done.
She shut her eyes and pictured Eric’s face. She’d gone to bed early that night, anticipating that it might take her a while to go to sleep, but she knew that he was now waiting for her to call him into her dream, and making him wait was yet another thing she was mad at herself about. She sighed.
Her husband was incredible, and she felt like chicken shit.
Eric had become much more involved in the equality movement for vampires and all minority groups during the many months that she’d been gone. Miranda had written legislation that had been introduced in the Louisiana House of Representatives the previous year that would allow for marriage to be seen as a Civil Right that should not face any encumbrance due to race, gender, sexual orientation, or supernatural status as long as the legal age of decision—eighteen in Louisiana—had been reached. The legislation had been voted down in the fall, but it would be reintroduced with minor changes in wording in the spring. Miranda and—unbelievably—Tara were now apparently drafting a similar piece of legislation that would allow for legal adoption by all qualified candidates, including vampires.
A tear fell from Sookie’s eye. One night as Eric and she had lain holding each other under the peach trees where Sookie had dreamed them, Eric had quietly told her of his dream that they could one day adopt Hunter if he chose to stay in the human realm. Eric wished for Hunter to take his last name. He’d talked of his joy in thinking about Hunter calling himself ‘Hunter Northman.’ He’d spoken of the pride he would feel if that name were passed on by Hunter to his own children one day.
Eric had whispered even more quietly about his secret wish that Hunter would take his own name as a middle name, just as Sookie had been given Adele’s name as her middle name by her parents. Eric had whispered “Hunter Eric Northman” into the dark as he’d held her hand and looked up at the peach blossoms.
Sookie hadn’t needed the vampire bond to understand her husband’s heart that night.
That name was a sacred wish that her beautiful vampire was afraid to say too loudly, and Sookie had fallen more deeply in love with him than ever before in that moment.
Sookie rolled over again.
She wanted to get to that beautiful vampire right gosh-darned now! She felt herself becoming even more frustrated.
As was happening more and more frequently, she was having a hard time getting to sleep, which translated into less time for Eric and her.
She tossed again.
She felt starved for time with Eric; she felt free of the ache of the bonding sickness only in her dreams with him or when she was watching him in the pool.
She felt greedy for her vampire. She also felt downright territorial. That was the only word that even came close to describing her emotions.
She’d fallen into tears one night about two weeks before when Eric had told her that he was the one who did Hunter and his laundry for the most part, except on those days when Miranda or Lafayette might do a random load. Her skin had crawled with jealousy, and to make her feel better, Eric had promised to do it all from then on. But even that had helped very little, and Sookie had felt selfish when she’d awoken.
But she missed doing her husband’s laundry—their laundry. She missed a thousand things from their day-to-day life. But for some reason, the laundry was the task that she missed the most. Doing that task had appealed to the domestic side in her—to the woman that craved to take care of her mate. She’d been able to smell him on his clothing as she’d put it into the machine. She had smelled their mingling scents.
She’d almost cried again when she got him to admit that he’d not hung up the sheets outside to dry in the daylight since she’d been gone. She’d made him promise to do it the next time there was going to be a sunny day.
She turned again, looking for comfort on her other side.
The restlessness she felt being away from her husband was only growing, and that restlessness was a constant source of consternation to Niall, who rightly pointed out that it affected Sookie’s attitude during her training sessions.
Niall had been mentioning more and more that she needed to better feel the essence of her own magic—her Fae side—and according to both Claude and Niall, she’d be more likely to do that in Faerie. However, Sookie didn’t know how to tell when the “time was right” to take that step.
Just that afternoon, she and Niall had had a long discussion about going into Faerie. Niall had made it clear that she was improving —though her progression had slowed down a little. In truth, Sookie didn’t know what to do, especially given the fact that the A.P. had told Niall that Eric might die while she was in Faerie if she did go. And Felipe still seemed to be gathering forces, so both Eric and she hoped they’d have more time.
Once more, she flipped over.
When she’d told Eric of the information Niall had given her about the premonition that he’d be near death and about her perhaps needing to go back into Faerie, he’d grown quiet for a long time before telling her that they ought to consider it—if it would keep her safer and if it was the only way. Sookie had redoubled her efforts to master her abilities every day since then, but try as she might, she just couldn’t feel her magic as she needed to—unless, of course, Niall elicited an emotional response from her.
Sookie flopped onto her back, squeezed her eyes shut, and tried to relax, but neither relaxation nor sleep came to her as the minutes of Eric’s night ticked away.
“Damn!” she said loudly.
“You will never find sleep if you curse into the night, young Sookie,” a strange voice said from above her.