MONDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2004
Sookie woke up feeling a little sore—unsurprising, given the fact that she’d been packed in a trunk like a sardine just 24 hours prior.
Not to mention the fact that she’d been staked, beaten up by Debbie Pelt, and almost killed by Bill within the last 48 hours.
She sighed. “Eric was right,” she muttered. “I really do need a guard—and probably a shrink,” she added with resignation.
She stretched out her telepathy as far as she could and sensed three two-natured minds within thirty yards of her home: one Were, one that was similar to Sam, and one that “read” only as a color in Sookie’s mind: dark blue. Likely thanks to Eric’s blood, she was able to grasp onto the thoughts of the Were and shifter. The Were was Tray Dawson. The shifter, Onawa (one of the new guards), had arrived half an hour before.
Tray was explaining the layout of the Stackhouse property to the shifter. From Tray’s mind, Sookie could tell that Onawa was an absolutely gorgeous Native American woman, though the telepath couldn’t even begin to guess the tribe or tribes she was descended from. One thing that she could definitely pick up from the shifter was that she was attracted to the Were. Sookie could also tell that Onawa had already decided not to act upon that attraction. First of all, she didn’t want to get involved with anyone she would be working with. And that was because of her second reason: she was a “love ’em, leave ’em” kind of woman in that she’d never managed to have a relationship which lasted more than a month. She had already pegged Tray as a two-week “distraction” at most.
Funnily enough, the fleeting thought of Onawa and Jason together struck the telepath. Sookie chuckled to herself and shook her head. Given that both of them seemed to share the same notions about romantic partners, they might—at least—make good “wing-men” for one another.
Getting out of her readable guards’ heads, Sookie refocused on the “dark blue” signature. She had to assume that it was being made by the werehawk that Eric had told her about—to be precise, the shifted mind of that werehawk—because that mind was well above the house!
“Willow,” she said to herself as she recalled the unusual name. Stretching her mind in a different direction, Sookie could “hear” several other Weres just coming into her range, probably the “extras” that Eric felt were needed from Long Tooth—and maybe even Maria-Star, who was Colonel Flood’s goddaughter, according to Eric. Of course, that group might have included Mustapha too, but Sookie doubted it since she assumed he would arrive with Warren, and she “heard” no human signatures in her range. They were too far away for her to hear their actual thoughts, but Sookie could tell from Tray’s head that they were, indeed, from Long Tooth.
“Eric and Thalia sure work fast,” Sookie said to herself as she rolled out of bed, put on her robe, and began making her way to the kitchen to make some coffee. She found a note on the kitchen table, the handwriting so antiquated that she could hardly make out the words. “Who knew that s’s and f’s could look so much alike?” she muttered as she began reading.
Obey the guards if they approach you, but do not approach them. I have been told you are prone to make friends. They are paid to watch over you—not socialize. Oh—and if they do—I will kill them. Their lives. Your hands.
Eric asked me to pass along the message that the Weres who aimed to kidnap or kill you are no longer an issue you should worry about.
I, however, hope that you will hold onto your worry—so that you will obey me.
Sookie huffed, “Obey her! What kind of note is that? She can’t tell me who to socialize with!” she complained.
However, Sookie had run out of steam even before she finished pouring the water into the coffee maker. Thalia, as ill-tempered as she was, was also right to a certain extent. Sookie sighed as she admitted to herself that it would have been better had Alcide and she kept a professional distance. Still—if, in the course of time, she and her guards got friendly—Thalia would have to live with it.
“Or stay dead with it,” Sookie corrected.
“Anyway, surely she wouldn’t actually kill them—would she?” the telepath murmured as she measured out her coffee grounds.
Sookie shook her head and decided not to chance being too social until she could tell when Thalia was joking—if the vampiress ever joked. She opened the refrigerator and frowned at her meager options for breakfast, even as she realized that she was famished. The night before, she’d practically had to choke down one of the sandwiches Alcide had packed for her. She’d put the second one into her fridge, and that PB & J now made her stomach growl as if the sandwich were a prime rib. She quickly decided that it would be her appetizer and that she’d cook some eggs as her main course.
She frowned as she cracked three into a bowl. Not surprisingly, the part of her personality that Gran had helped to instill itched to make a huge breakfast for her guards/”guests.” But she shook off that inclination and grabbed a fork to scramble her eggs.
“Compromise,” she said to herself.
Her meal finished and the few dishes she’d used washed, Sookie grabbed the house phone since her cellphone was still in its charger upstairs. She smiled to herself as she recalled that she and Gran had splurged on the cordless phone two Christmases before—as their presents to one another. Her smile quickly turned into a frown, however, as she moved into the living room and sat on the couch.
She closed her eyes so that she wouldn’t have to see the empty corner where the Christmas tree had always gone—when Gran was alive. Sookie hadn’t put one up this year. With everything that had been happening with Bill’s “disappearance,” she hadn’t even thought much about Christmas.
Now, with only twelve days left until the holiday, she wondered if putting up a tree would even be worth the bother. After all, it was just her now. But then she shook herself from that thought.
“I’ll put one up—for me,” she resolved, even making the decision that she’d get a real tree, instead of using the artificial one in the attic. Grandpa Mitchell had been allergic to the real ones, Sookie recalled. And Gran had stuck with the decades-old artificial tree because it was less of a hassle than a real one; plus, it had reminded her of her husband.
Sookie had admired how Gran had done little things to keep Grandpa Mitchell “with” her after his death, but the telepath had always secretly wanted a real tree.
With that thought in mind, she decided to dial Jason before speaking with Sam.
“Sook?” her brother asked upon answering.
Sookie rolled her eyes, wondering who else her brother might think was calling him from her number.
“Yeah,” she affirmed all the same.
“What’s up?” Jason asked. “Thought you was gonna be outta town longer. Bill with ya?”
Sookie cringed at the sound of her would-be rapist and murder’s name. “Uh—no. But he’s fine and will probably be back in Bon Temps soon.” She’d not told her brother much about why she was leaving town when she’d asked him to check on the house and bring in her mail, and she wasn’t in the frame of mind to tell him much now, but she knew she should tell him something. “Listen, Jase. Uh—Bill and I . . . , “she paused.
“Bill and you what?” Jason asked after a few seconds. “You ain’t gettin’ married are ya?”
“No!” Sookie responded quickly and firmly. “Very much the opposite—actually. I’m breaking up with him. I’ve broken up with him.”
“Oh!” Jason reacted with some surprise in his voice. “I mean—I’m sorry?” he half-stated and half-asked. “I was—uh—startin’ to get used to the idea of you datin’ a vamp.”
Sookie shook her head. Leave it to Jason to think about his own reactions when she was the one who had ended a relationship—her first relationship. “Well,” she sighed, “it wasn’t working out with him even before he left town. Anyway, that’s not why I called. I was wondering if you’d help me out. I wanna get a Christmas tree—a real one—for the house, and I’d appreciate it if I could use your truck to haul it. And—uh—if you’re not busy, I could use some help bringing it in too?” she asked, turning her request into a question.
“Oh—sure, Sook!” Jason said quickly, a bit of child-like excitement in his tone. “Want me to come over there after I get offa work? ‘Round 4:30? There’s still some decent trees over in that lot next to the football field.”
“Thanks!” Sookie effused, feeling a smile spread over her lips. “That’d be great! And I’ll cook you dinner too—if we can stop by the grocery store on the way home and if you don’t have other plans already.”
“It’d take better plans than a beer with Hoyt for me to turn down homemade vittles!” Jason chuckled. “And—uh—maybe I can help with the decoratin’? It’d be nice to do that,” he said with a hint of melancholy in his tone.
Neither of the siblings needed to remind the other that it would be their first Christmas without Gran.
“I’d like that a lot,” Sookie said softly.
“Hey—uh—I’d better get back to the crew,” Jason said, a little choked up.
“Sure, Jase. See you around 4:30,” Sookie returned before hanging up. After giving herself a few moments to stave away the tears that were rising in her eyes, she dialed Merlotte’s number. Even if she wasn’t exactly sure what she was going to do about work in the future, she knew that not working in the meantime wouldn’t help out her pocketbook any. Plus, she didn’t want to never work at Merlotte’s again; that thought just seemed wrong to her, given how much the place had meant to her.
“Merlotte’s,” Arlene answered the phone a little breathlessly after the second ring.
“Hey, Arlene! Is Sam around?” Sookie asked.
“Sure thing, sug. You back? ‘Cause if you are, I could really use a favor. I gotta date offer for tomorrow night, but since I took your shift when you left town, I had to . . . .”
“No problem! I’ll take the shift back,” Sookie said, cutting Arlene off before she’d even finished her request.
“Great! I’ll get you Sam,” Arlene said with a smile in her tone (and likely a skip in her step).
Sookie had no idea who Arlene’s current love interest was, but she knew that it was better to help out her friend when she could, as opposed to giving the redhead a reason to be irritated. Sookie sighed, acknowledging that Arlene really wasn’t that good of a friend when things didn’t go her way. Regardless, Sookie didn’t mind the shift; in fact, she was grateful for it.
“Cher?” Sam greeted. “You back from your trip already? Everything go okay?” he asked a little cautiously, having had a better idea than the others about why Sookie had been out of town.
“Yeah, Sam,” Sookie fibbed. In truth, everything most certainly had not gone okay, but she was feeling more and more like her life could get to “okay”—better than okay, in fact. “Um—I got back before I thought I would—actually. And I know I asked to be off till next Monday, but I was wondering if you could fit me back on the schedule before then. I’ll still need off Friday and Sunday nights this week, but I could work any other times you need me for. And—uh—if you don’t need me—just keep me in mind if someone calls in?” she finished.
“I figured you were good to work when Arlene announced that you were a goddess for taking her shift tomorrow night!” Sam chuckled. “I’ll see if anyone wants to give up a shift, but I know offhand that I could use you on Saturday. We were gonna be shorthanded.”
“Thanks, Sam!” Sookie enthused.
“No problem, cher,” he replied warmly. “It’ll be good to have you back. I know you were only gone for a couple of days, but this place just ain’t the same without you.”
Feeling a little guilty, Sookie took a deep breath. “Sam—uh—I do have something that I want you to know about—uh—before I decide on it for sure. I don’t want you to be blindsided or anything,” she added tentatively.
“What is it?” Sam asked, trepidation in his tone. Sookie wondered for a moment if Sam was worried that she’d gotten engaged to Bill too.
“The thing is—uh—I don’t know how long I’m gonna need to,” she paused, suddenly quite nervous, “stay on the schedule.”
The line was silent for a moment.
“You’re quittin’?” Sam finally asked gruffly.
“I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I’m leaning in that direction. Um—I’ll give you two weeks’ notice when I am sure, but—uh—like I said, I wanted to give you a heads-up now—time to start lookin’ for a full-time replacement for me. I didn’t wanna leave you in the lurch,” Sookie rambled.
After a few moments of awkward silence, she could hear Sam’s office door closing.
“Does this have to do with them damned vampires?” Sam growled in a low voice.
Sookie sighed. “Yes, Sam,” she answered honestly. “But probably not in the way you’re thinking.”
“You don’t know what I’m thinking?” Sam practically snarled.
Upset at his tone, Sookie closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I know more than I should about what you think of vampires. And what you think of my having dated Bill.”
“Sookie, I . . . .”
“Look, Sam, we don’t have to talk this all out over the phone. I just wanted to let you know that I’m weighin’ my options about my future.”
“What? You gonna let Bill take care of you like some high-class mistress?” the shifter asked bitterly.
Sookie gasped, feeling his words like a shot to her gut.
“Fuck!” Sam murmured immediately. “I didn’t mean that, Sook! Listen, I’m sorry! I know I’m overreacting. I just . . . ,” he stammered out an incomplete apology.
Sookie took a deep breath. “You’ve been a good friend to me, Sam Merlotte. That’s why I’m glad I’m not there right now to hear if your thoughts match the hurtful words you just said.” She took in, held, and then let out another deep breath. “Not that I owe you any explanation after what you just said to me—the kind of person you just accused me of being—but Bill and I aren’t together anymore.” She paused. “Things have happened between us.”
“Nothing that is any of your business right now,” Sookie replied, keeping a check on the hurt and anger that Sam’s thoughtless words had provoked within her.
“I deserve that, Sook. I really am sorry,” he reiterated.
“I hope so,” she sighed.
“So—uh—you and Bill are done?” he asked hopefully.
“Yeah,” she confirmed. “And—as for the future—I’m considering using my telepathy as a job of sorts. Eric thinks it’ll be better than the alternative of others trying to use me for my telepathy. I’ll be in control of who I work for.”
“Northman!” Sam jeered, back to growling.
“Yes. Eric Northman—Sheriff of Area 5 and my friend,” Sookie returned stubbornly. “And the man who saved my life—more than my life—more than once in the past 48 hours.”
“Sook, don’t break things off with one bloodsucker just to pick up with a worse one! Stop bein’ so fuckin’ stupid!” Sam exclaimed with frustration.
Maybe it was the fact that she’d almost died less than twenty-four hours before that caused Sookie’s already thin patience to run out. Maybe it was the judgment in Sam’s tone—or his already thoughtless words—which had been meant to play upon what he knew to be her insecurity regarding others believing her to be a “kept woman.” Maybe it was that she’d already decided—though she’d not spoken it aloud to herself or made it “official”—that she was going to take Eric up on his offer of helping her to be the one in control of her telepathy.
The one in control of her life.
Suddenly, she had no doubts about what she wanted to be now that she’d “grown up.”
She was going to try earning her living from her “curse”—really try! That thought both frightened and thrilled her.
Using all the control that she had and truly hoping to preserve her relationship with one of her very few friends and remembering that it was around the time of the full moon when all two-natured creatures lost a bit of control over their emotions, Sookie did not say the words she was thinking—words that had likely never been said or even thought in Gran’s living room.
Words that included a lot of “fucks” and a lot of “yous.”
Sookie took another deep breath. “Unless you’re firin’ me on the spot, I’ll still take Arlene’s shift tomorrow. And I’ll take any others you wanna give me through December 27, which is exactly two weeks from today. But that’s it, Sam,” she said before hanging up.
She ignored the phone when it rang in her hands; instead, she got up to put the receiver into its cradle in the kitchen just in time to hear Sam issue a hurried apology on her answering machine and assure her that she wasn’t fired and that he really hoped she’d reconsider leaving. Then, he begged her to talk things over with him before she made her final decision about anything. And, after reminding her that he’d lived in the Supe world a lot longer than she had, he asked her if they could talk before her shift the next afternoon. Next, he offered to keep her on the schedule—even if it was on a limited basis—after the 27th, just in case her new job didn’t work out for some reason.
Sookie sighed as she wondered how long her “telepath for hire” business would take to be up and running. And then she spent a minute or two worrying about the fact that she didn’t even know how to go about starting such a business! At that point, panic almost drove her to call Sam back, but she didn’t. Instead, she took several deep breaths and calmed herself. “Eric wouldn’t have brought up the new business idea if he’d not already thought everything out,” she assured herself.
She glanced at Gran’s old cast iron pan. Just looking at the sturdy, well-seasoned item made her feel warm. She closed her eyes, imagining how Gran would approve of her new venture. The older woman always had great hopes for her.
“It’s time I did the same,” Sookie thought, though she couldn’t help but to wonder how she’d pay for the food to go into that pan until her new business got up and running.
She frowned as she recalled how Bill had taken her payment from Dallas and wondered if Eric would lend her some money if she did need it. Of course, she had no doubt that Eric would make her a loan. After all, he was paying God knows what for the guards! And—though it had been too long in coming—she now trusted him not to hold such a loan over her head or to look down upon her for asking.
Still—even the thought of asking for money made her cringe. Borrowing money was something Gran had never been willing to do.
“Stubborn pride,” Sookie admitted, knowing that she’d inherited a large dosage of the same from her Matriarch.
Before she could contemplate her finances any longer, however, an unfamiliar human mind “appeared” on her radar. She couldn’t help but to tense up at the negative stream of thoughts flowing through that mind—thoughts that were cursing Sookie Stackhouse!
A/N: Hi all! Thanks to everyone who has already plugged into this sequel! It’s made my week to see all the comments on my blog as well as on the “favorites,” “follows,” and comments on other sites I post on! I’m so glad you are already enjoying this piece.
Most of you seemed to be all for my portrayal of Russel. I’m still trying to figure out how I will portray Sophie-Anne. I’m thinking something a lot more nuanced than the television show did to her, something that matches more to the books. As for Sam, I struggled with that one too. Ultimately, I felt that there were a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle moments in the books that demonstrated that Sam was unhappy with Sookie’s involvement with vampires. Indeed, I speculate that he would have been much, much worse if Sookie ever really committed herself to a relationship with Eric or if she took a job with them. I always figured that he was able to dial things back because she was so wishy-washy. Sorry if you think his reaction is OOC. I really went back and forth about what to do with him, given the changes that Sookie is making in her life.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the chapter. As always, please give me a comment if you have the time and inclination.