Lafayette whispered something into Sookie’s ear as they embraced.
Eric felt his wife’s emotions ricochet from surprise to hopefulness to anxiety. He immediately pulled her into his arms as she broke her hug with Lafayette.
“Sookie?” Eric asked.
“Gran’s really here?” Sookie whispered.
Lafayette nodded. “Yeah, and she wants to talk to you both.”
Eric was not one to be surprised often, but Lafayette’s words startled him. And then they worried him.
More and more over the years, Eric had become Jesus’s confidant. In truth, they had become each other’s confidants. And many times, Jesus had shared his concerns with Eric—concerns which revolved around Lafayette’s ability as a medium, an ability which Eric quickly learned Lafayette did not want. In fact, about four years before and at Lafayette’s request, Jesus had begun searching for a spell that would eliminate or stifle his mate’s medium abilities for good. As it was, Jesus had found no “cure,” though three and a half years before he had found a spell that let spirits know that Lafayette was—in effect—closed for business.
As odd as it might have seemed, most spirits seeking to haunt the physical plane were “polite,” as Sookie put it. They generally sought help from only willing mediums, and most of them simply wanted to get messages to their loved ones or to make sure that those they left behind were okay. Plus, when they came upon a spell such as the one Lafayette had had in place, most were respectful enough to move along immediately and to look for help elsewhere.
However, there had been a couple of persistent spirits over the years—spirits who would not take “no” for an answer and who sought to invade or even take over Lafayette’s mind. And even though Lafayette had Jesus, Sookie, Claude, Amelia, and Diantha’s help in trying to combat the spirits with magic, a fight inevitably caused Lafayette much pain. In particular, one spirit named Christopher—who was stubborning set upon using Lafayette as his vessel so that he could take revenge against the man who he felt was responsible for his death—would not leave Lafayette in peace.
Becoming more and more invasive and malicious, Christopher kept returning to Lafayette over several weeks, even after various types of magic and spells had been tried against him. Lafayette had been left exhausted by the ordeal. Even worse, on the night that Lafayette was completely taken over by Christopher for the first time, the malignant spirit had attempted to kill Jesus. The protection spell around the ætt land expelled Lafayette from the property before he could touch his beloved, but everyone in the family was shaken up, especially Lafayette when he came back to himself and realized what could have happened.
Eric and Sookie trusted Lafayette, but—to be honest—one of the reasons why the Britlingens had continued to shadow Hunter even within the ætt land was because Lafayette did have the potential to be taken over by a malevolent spirit. To Lafayette’s credit, long before the Christopher episode, he’d been the one to tell Batanya and later Breeta to watch out for any changes in him, especially when Hunter was around. And he’d always been upfront with Eric and Sookie about the time when he’d been taken over by Mavis—the murdered mother of a murdered child.
Unbeknownst to Sookie and Eric until after Christopher’s invasion, Lafayette had had initial reservations about becoming Hunter’s cook, but Jesus had assured him that the protection spell would work against spirits, just as it would work against corporeal beings. The fact that it did ended up saving Jesus’s life.
After being taken over by Christopher the first time, Lafayette had refused to step back onto the ætt land or even to be alone with anyone he cared about until the spirit was gone permanently. Instead, he’d asked Thalia to keep him locked up in one of the “holding cells” in her home. Thalia had agreed, and—also at Lafayette’s request—Eric had placed a Were guard with the medium so that he could not hurt those who visited him. Of course, everything possible was done to make sure Lafayette was comfortable, but it was clear that he’d basically incarcerated himself so that he wouldn’t harm the people he loved.
As Christopher’s attempt to fully take over Lafayette carried into its sixth week, Jesus also became a shell of himself as he watched the man he loved being slowly consumed by the malicious spirit. And when Christopher finally realized that he wasn’t going to get his way—that Lafayette had caused himself to be locked up—things got even worse. Christopher turned his ire onto Lafayette and tried to make him harm himself. After that, Henry had been forced to keep Lafayette sedated.
Seeing no other options and past desperation, Jesus had finally convinced Sookie to use her gifts to invade Lafayette’s mind so that she could—in turn—invade the spirit’s mind and compel him to leave. Sookie had been resistant to that idea, for her instincts had told her that Lafayette could be killed if she tried to force Christopher out that way. However, once it became clear that the spirit was not going to leave Lafayette alone until he was dead, she’d agreed to try.
Sookie had been right. The process had killed Lafayette; he was dead for exactly forty-two agonizing seconds. Christopher’s last act before he was forced from Lafayette was to stop the medium’s heart. Thankfully, however, Henry had a defibrillator in hand and after three tries, Lafayette’s heart restarted. Niall, who had been present to try to help Sookie, used his healing magic to stabilize Lafayette.
Sookie, too, had collapsed following the exorcising of Christopher, and Eric had needed to give her quite a bit of blood to fully heal her.
And—of course—the whole episode shook Jesus and Lafayette greatly. There were also side effects following Christopher’s expulsion. From that point on, any contact Lafayette had with a spirit—even if it was short-lived and the spirit was benevolent—caused Lafayette physical pain and mental distress. Niall continued to use his healing light to help the medium, and Lafayette was also convinced to take some vampire blood in order to further his recovery. Pam had been the one to suggest the plan and to donate her blood.
Even with Niall and Pam’s help, however, it had taken almost a month for Lafayette’s migraines to go away, and he still hadn’t been back to “himself.” After suffering several intense panic attacks, Henry had to give Lafayette some anti-anxiety medication, but that left him listless and tired all the time, so Lafayette avoided taking the medicine when he could.
After Lafayette had been suffering from depression and nightmares for months, Pam finally stepped in to “fix him.” Of course, she chose to do the most inappropriate thing possible to accomplish that. During one of Lafayette’s nightmares, Pam activated her own blood in him, and apparently the nightmare had turned into a kinky sex dream—starring her. Strangely enough, however, the humor of the “mostly-lesbian” vampiress sending a sex dream to the flamboyantly gay medium was just what the doctor ordered for Lafayette. And after that, his depression began to fade, though he remained nervous that another spirit might try to invade him.
After Christopher had been expelled, Jesus, Claude, Amelia, and Sookie redoubled their efforts to find a way to block or eliminate Lafayette’s medium ability for good. Eric used all of his and the A.P.’s connections in the Old World to gain access to libraries and elders who might be able to help them. Unfortunately, they found nothing that could fully dampen Lafayette’s ability; however, after much work, Claude and Jesus created a spell that could hinder spirits from entering Lafayette’s mind unless he issued them an invitation. It was actually a creative variation of the kind of magic that kept vampires from entering into the homes of non-vampires.
The spell could not stop the spirits from “knocking” and speaking to Lafayette, but without his express permission, they could not enter into his mind. Thankfully, the spell had worked, and once Lafayette became more confident that no spirit—no matter how malevolent or powerful—could get into him without his permission—which he wasn’t about to give—his anxiety attacks became less and less frequent, his last one coming five months earlier.
Eric’s concerns flashing through his mind in moments, the vampire looked at Sookie, whose tears were already rising, and at Lafayette, who looked shell-shocked. The medium’s heart rate had increased and he was sweating, though he was not yet suffering from a full-fledged panic attack.
Taking charge, Eric turned to their other guests and raised his voice so that everyone could hear him. “Excuse us for just a few moments.” He looked at Jesus significantly. “Lafayette, Jesus, Sookie and I are going to check on the progress of the wedding cake.”
With that announcement, the kids bustled with excitement, which was Eric’s goal. He didn’t want Hunter to worry about his and Sookie’s absence. Immediately a concerned-looking Jesus passed Kyle to Duncan, who had well-earned his nickname “the baby whisperer” during the last several years.
“All is well?” Duncan asked Eric in a low tone.
Eric shrugged to his vampire brother. “I’ll let you know.”
Supporting his wife’s weight by tucking her into his side, Eric led her out of the tent. Intuiting that his own mate was in some distress, Jesus grabbed Lafayette’s hand as they followed the vampire. As soon as they were out of sight of the others, Eric picked up Sookie into his arms.
He looked at Lafayette. “I can carry you as well,” he said seriously.
Lafayette laughed a little. “You gotta fine ass, Northman, but only one man’s ever gonna carry me over a threshold while dressed in a wedding tux, and that ain’t you.”
Lafayette’s joke helped to break the tension a little as the four moved toward the house.
“I’s okay to walk,” Lafayette added as Jesus looked like he was about ready to hoist his husband over his shoulder.
Once in the living room, Eric gently set Sookie down onto the couch and stoked the fire before sitting next to her. Lafayette, his eyes bright and almost other-worldly, was guided into a chair next to the couch by Jesus, who crouched down before him.
“What’s going on, honey?” Jesus asked as he took Lafayette’s hands in his.
“Gran,” Lafayette said, his voice shaking a bit. “She’s here.” He gestured toward his head.
Eric looked at Lafayette closely, even as he handed Sookie a handkerchief. She already needed it.
“Are you in pain?” Eric asked Lafayette, even as he pulled his bonded closer into his side.
Lafayette shook his head. “Not really. There’s just a little pressure, and,” he said sheepishly, “it freaked me out at first. Gran’s askin’ to speak to y’all, but I haven’t let her come inside yet. She’s lingerin’ and waitin’ while I decide.”
“Laf,” Jesus said, the concern etched into his face.
Lafayette gave Jesus a little smile. “I’m just a little shaken. I’m okay.”
Sookie sat forward, Eric following the movement of her body with his own. She grasped her friend’s forearm. Eric could feel the conflicting emotions within her. On the one hand, she desperately wanted to speak to her grandmother. On the other, she was concerned that Lafayette would be hurt if he allowed her into his mind.
“Oh, Lala,” she sobbed. “I can’t let you do this. It’ll hurt you.”
“But it’s Gran,” Lafayette said. “She ain’t gonna hurt me none.”
Eric scrutinized Lafayette; using his senses, he could tell that Lafayette’s pulse rate had slowed down a bit, but it was still heightened, and he was still sweating—despite having just been outside in the cool night.
Eric spoke softly, “Sookie is right, Lafayette. We have no idea what the effects will be if you let a spirit—even Gran—past the barriers of your spell.”
Lafayette tried to sound unconcerned, though his anxiety was clear. “I knows what happened before, but this is different from that. And Gran’s been in here before.” He tapped his head. “I might feel a little pain, but it’d be worth it if y’all got to talk to Gran.” He gave them a weary grin. “I’ll be okay. I’m not even scared.”
“Yes you are,” Sookie said quietly, but with certainty. Eric could tell that she was reading Lafayette’s thoughts.
“Okay, I is,” Lafayette admitted, “but I still don’t think Gran bein’ in my head will hurt me.” He scoffed a little at Sookie, “And you ain’t ‘sposed to be in my head without askin’, hooker.”
Sookie shook her head. “Just tell Gran that you can’t let her in because of what happened before; I know she won’t wanna risk your being hurt.” She sighed. “You can tell her that we love her, Lala. And you can tell her that we are so thankful that she looked in on us. That’ll be enough.”
Lafayette rolled his eyes. “Sook,” he said gently as a look of resolution entered his eyes, “we gots you two a new set of throw pillows for that couch for your wedding gift.” He pointed to where they were sitting.
Sookie looked confused. “Well thanks, but . . . .”
Lafayette interrupted her with a chuckle. “What I’s sayin’, bitch, is that it’s not enough—not after all you’s two has done for us. You saved my life from that fuckin’ ghost, Sook.” He looked at Eric. “And my old house woulda fallen on my head if you hadn’t been there during that tornado, Eric. You’s is my family, and if I can give you’s the gift of visitin’ with Gran for a little while, I wanna do it.”
Sookie’s look had also become determined. “You are our family, Lala. And I won’t see you hurt! Gran will understand.”
With practicality and concern both determining his tone, Eric spoke, “Can you tell if she is here with some kind of warning?” Eric straightened a little and sent his wife comfort. “If not, Lafayette, it is too much of a risk to you. We thank you, but we don’t want you to put yourself in harm’s way for this. Last time,” he paused, “you weren’t yourself for a while.”
“Eric’s right,” Sookie said. “You give us so much already. You help us take care of our son, Lala. Don’t ever say that what you do isn’t enough.” She squeezed his hand. “We couldn’t do without you.”
Lafayette’s eyes welled up. “Let me do this, Sook. Let me do this for you’s both. It’ll be my weddin’ gift. Plus,” he paused and looked at Eric, “Gran ain’t never met you, and I can tell that she wants to.”
Sookie was shaking her head, “No,” even as Lafayette’s whole demeanor changed. Suddenly, he was sitting up a little straighter, and Sookie recognized the upturned smile on his lips as belonging to Gran—not Lafayette. Obviously, her friend had let Gran in, despite their protestations.
“Don’t you fret, honey,” came Gran’s words through Lafayette’s mouth. “I wouldn’t hurt Lafayette for anything. I’ll be in and out of here before he feels more than a little tickle.”
Sookie was stunned into silence as Jesus tipped back on his heels, even as he moved his fingers over his beloved’s pulse-point on his wrist. Jesus sighed with relief as Lafayette’s pulse-rate evened out.
Lafayette’s hand patted Jesus’s comfortingly, but Jesus knew it wasn’t his mate who had touched him.
“You are a sweet young man,” Gran told Jesus. “Our Lafayette is lucky to have found you. Don’t you worry none,” she assured. “He’ll be just fine.”
“But,” Sookie said. “He’s been hurt before.”
Eric sent more comfort into the bond. “I have sent for Pam—just in case. She will give him her blood again if need be.”
Gran winked at them. “I’m bein’ real careful. I promise. He’ll be back before you know it—a little tuckered maybe, but no worse for wear.”
Everyone seemed to relax a little at her assurances.
Sookie sniffled and nodded before reaching out and taking Lafayette’s—Gran’s—hand.
“Gran,” Sookie said quietly—reverently—as she tried to accept the fact that her grandmother’s presence wouldn’t hurt Lafayette so that she could enjoy the moment. Sookie was at a loss for what to say. She leaned against Eric’s comforting body and wiped her tears away with the handkerchief that had found its way into her hand.
“No tears, baby girl,” Gran said in a tone that was half-playful and half-scolding. “You need to pull yourself together now. You have become a truly wonderful matriarch for this family, and I wanted you to know that I couldn’t be prouder of you.” Gran smiled. “We couldn’t be prouder of you.”
“Gran,” Sookie said again.
“I just had to be here on your weddin’ day, baby. When you were growin’ up, I always knew that you didn’t believe that you could find love—that you didn’t believe in your own worth. God forgive me—I was the one that called your telepathy a ‘disability’ the first time, and you took that careless phrase so much to heart that I could never get you to call it anything else after that. I need your forgiveness for that, Sookie.”
“Gran, no. You did your best with me. I know I was difficult to raise because of how I was.”
“No you weren’t,” Gran said as a tear trailed down Lafayette’s face. “That’s what I needed to tell you—what I needed you to understand once and for all. You weren’t difficult, honey. You were the best child that anyone could have. I know that I was your grandmamma, but after you came to live with me, I always thought of you as my own daughter, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. I’m sorry that I never told you that, honey. I just always thought that we’d have more time.”
Sookie’s expression clouded over with guilt, and Eric flooded the bond with his love, wishing desperately that he could protect his wife from her sorrows, but recognizing that she needed to face them—finally face them and let them go, just as he had needed to do with Godric.
“Gran, you died because of me.” Sookie buried her face into her hands. “Rene was after me.”
“Stop that right now!” Gran scolded. “You’ve been holdin’ on to that guilt for too long, and it’s high time you stopped doin’ that—you hear?”
Sookie nodded but didn’t meet Gran’s eyes.
“Sookie Stackhouse!” Gran said loudly. She chuckled a little. “I’m mean, Sookie Stackhouse-Northman, you look at me right now!”
Sookie quickly obeyed.
“Stop it,” Gran said more softly. “What happened to me was not your fault.”
“I know that,” Sookie said dejectedly before smiling ruefully. “It’s just hard to really believe it sometimes.”
“Well—you’d better believe it from now on, young lady. God’s will is God’s will, and it was my time. And I am right where I was meant to be.” She shook her head almost fearfully. “If you would have been home when Rene came, I would have lost you.” She sighed loudly. “Eric would have lost you.” She patted Eric’s hand as the vampire stiffened. “And Hunter would have never even had you to start with.”
“Oh, Gran,” Sookie cried as she leaned forward and placed herself into her gran’s arms.
“I’m sorry you’ve had to go through so many trials, honey. But you have to stop blaming yourself for the things you cannot control. My death was not your fault. Your parents’ deaths were not your fault. The rejections you faced because of your telepathy were not your fault. Eric’s bein’ hurt by Russell was not your fault.”
A strangled cry left Sookie’s throat as she sobbed into her gran’s arms. She felt Eric’s strong hands on her back, supporting her and seeming to reiterate her gran’s words.
“I’m sorry that I couldn’t help you to see the truth about your worth before I died, child,” Gran whispered, “because you always were and always will be worth so much to me.”
Sookie shook her head as she broke her embrace with Gran and leaned back against her mate’s strong chest. “You did everything for me Gran. You showed me such love. You made me the person I am today.”
Gran smiled. “I may have helped to guide you, and I always had faith in you, but I did not make you the woman you are today. You did that.” She took one of Eric’s hands into hers even as she kept ahold of Sookie with her other hand. “And he was the one who helped you, child—just as you helped him.” She squeezed both of their hands and smiled. “That’s your job—after all.” She chuckled. “I feel how special you two are together even from where I am.” She paused. “I don’t need to tell you to hold onto what you two have together—to keep hold of it with both hands. I know you know that already.” She looked at Eric.
“I do, ma’am,” he responded.
“Pish, posh,” she said with a little blush. “I ain’t no ma’am to you. You’d better call me Gran before I get Lafayette’s body to get me a switch so that I can tan your hide.”
Eric chuckled. “I see where Sookie gets her fire.”
Gran looked at Sookie proudly. “You look so beautiful, baby girl, and we couldn’t be happier for you both.”
“We?” Sookie asked, her voice thick with her emotion, as she registered that Gran had said “we” for the second time.
“Me and Earl, of course,” Gran answered with a grin and a deeper blush. “I haven’t let that man out of my sight since he got here, and I don’t intend to either.”
“I wish you were both here, Gran,” Sookie said, somewhere between a sob and a chuckle.
“We are here,” Gran comforted, “just not how we would want.”
“You take care of your man and your little boy,” Gran said with a sniffle. She looked at Eric. “And you keep takin’ care of my precious grandbaby and great-grandbaby.”
Eric nodded. “I will, Gran. I swear it.”
“I know,” Gran patted his hand and smiled as he called her ‘Gran.’ “You’ve turned out quite well, Eric,” she said. “I would have liked to have met you—spent some time with you—before I had to move on.”
“I feel the same,” Eric said.
A playful look came to Gran’s eyes. “If you’d just stop over-pruning that white rose bush on the south side of the house, you’d be the perfect grandson-in-law. That particular bush always did better if it was allowed to be a little wild.” She winked at Eric.
Eric chuckled. “I will remember that.”
Gran looked back at Sookie. “Your granddaddy and I love you very much, baby.”
Sookie sniffled. “I love you, Gran. Tell Granddaddy I love him.”
“I will. Now, I want you to make Lafayette one of my rhubarb pies.” She winked. “But don’t go and tell him the secret ingredient. I did so love to tease him about that.”
Sookie chuckled. “I won’t, Gran.”
Gran squeezed and then patted both Eric’s and Sookie’s hands one last time before pulling back from them. “I have to go now and let our Lafayette get back to himself, but you two be sure to remember how proud we are of you—both of you—and you give that little boy of yours kisses from his great-grandmamma.”
With those words, the air shifted a little and then settled as Lafayette came back to himself.
“You okay?” Eric asked, even as Jesus set about assessing his mate.
Lafayette blinked a few times before nodding. “Yeah. I’m fine. Just a little tired. It didn’t even hurt this time.”
Sookie launched herself into her friend’s arms and gave him a tearful thank you before sinking back into the comforting embrace of her mate while Jesus took her place and covered Lala’s face with tender kisses.
At that moment, Pam walked into the room slowly—almost cautiously. She’d been called by her maker, but, through their bond, he had “told” her to wait outside until then.
“Everything okay?” the vampiress asked.
Eric used his senses to assess Lafayette. His heartbeat was regular, and his face showed no signs of distress. He nodded to Pam, who came into the room and silently sat down as she took in the scene.
“Gran spoke through Lafayette,” Eric reported quietly.
Immediately, Pam’s eyes showed a flash of concern as she took in Lafayette. “Do you need blood?” she asked him.
“Hooker, the last thing I needs is another fucked up dream from you,” he laughed, though his voice betrayed his weariness.
“We have discussed this before,” Pam deadpanned as she scanned her nails. “I am no longer a hooker.” She paused dramatically and then leered at him. “And I think that you liked that dream—no matter what you said at the time.”
Lafayette rolled his eyes.
“I think the lady doth protest too much,” Pam intoned.
“Keep tellin’ yourself that,” Lafayette joked. “You’s the one that sent that crazy-ass dream. I think you couldn’t help but to fantasize about this piece of man-flesh.” He gestured toward himself dramatically.
“Why won’t you give me the details?” Pam asked, leering at him.
Everyone in the room chuckled a little. Pam’s begging Lafayette to tell her about the dream that he’d had was a long-standing topic of amusement among the family. Much to her chagrin, Eric had commanded her never to glamour the information from him.
Pam had been told nothing, and all Eric knew was that Pam had been dressed in a ringmaster’s outfit and had had a whip. Thankfully, according to Jesus, Lafayette had woken up before the “deed was done.” Eric did not want to know what “deed” was being referred to, so he hadn’t asked for clarification.
Lafayette went to stand up and immediately Jesus was supporting him. Pam was also on her feet.
“I really is okay,” Lafayette assured as he placed a light kiss onto Jesus’s nose. “But deal or no deal―you’s gonna be the one to stay up with Kyle tonight.”
Jesus smiled. “Duncan has him.”
Lafayette chuckled. “Thank God we beat Alcide and Maria-Star in being the first to get to him tonight.”
Jesus chuckled and nodded. The competition for Duncan’s babysitting skills was often quite fierce when the children became fussy. Of course, Becky had arrived a little earlier and was planning to babysit the younger children after the meal was over so that the adults could “party.”
The situation worked out well for Becky too. The young Werepanther was still living with Sam and Luna; however, she took as many babysitting jobs as she could in order to pay for the classes that she was taking at Bossier City Community College. She was hoping to eventually become a kindergarten teacher.
“Well, let’s go and check on that cake for real,” Lafayette told Jesus. “And you’s gonna go get your face fixed up,” he said as he looked at Sookie. “I don’t want Gran to come back and rile me for lettin’ you go to your own reception with your face all over the damned place.”
Sookie gasped as she raised her hands to her face. “It’s not that bad—is it?”
“Worse,” Pam said sarcastically. “I will help you.”
Eric growled from behind Sookie before turning her quickly around in his arms and placing a toe-curling kiss onto her lips.”
When he finally broke it almost a minute later, Sookie was panting. “What was that for?”
Eric smirked and his eyebrow quirked up. “Everything.”
She rolled her eyes. “Specifically?”
“Well,” he grinned, “since you are going to get fixed up anyway, I knew that you wouldn’t mind me messing up what was left of your lipstick. And—no matter what Lafayette and Pam say—I think you look beautiful, min kván,” Eric said sincerely.
“I know you think so,” Sookie chuckled, “but I also know you’re biased.”
“I am much more than biased,” he whispered into her hair as he leaned into her and let her feel his arousal. “But that doesn’t make you any less beautiful.”
Pam scoffed from across the room. “Either get a room or let Sookie go so that we can fix her.”
Eric leered at Sookie. “I like the first idea, lover. And we already have a room.”
Pam and Lafayette seemed to be competing for the most epic eye roll.
“No you don’t, mister,” Sookie said as she pulled away from her mate even as he tried to tighten his grip on her. “I want cake.”
Eric couldn’t hide his disappointment—or his erection—very well. “Fine,” he pouted.
Sookie grinned and then turned to take Lafayette’s hand into hers. “Thanks,” she said in a whisper.
“Consider the throw pillows a bonus, bitch” Lafayette said, squeezing her hand.