Burn out the Pain
Summary: Part 3 of The Comfortably Numb Trilogy, Burn out the Pain continues the story of Eric and Sookie’s journey to find happiness. When secrets are revealed about Sookie’s family, Eric defies Appius. However, will the cost be the person Eric loves the most when Appius refuses to let Eric win?
MUST READ: This story will make no sense at all without Comfortably Numb and Touch the Flame. If you’ve not read them, I hope that you will. If you need to access one of those stories, click its banner.
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to True Blood or the Southern Vampire Mysteries novels. Those items provide the inspiration for the story; however, I do not own or profit from the fanfiction I produce using that inspiration (except in the form of your kind comments and reviews).
Special Thanks: The story banner and the character banners were done by the incomparable Sephrenia!
Story Title: The title of this sequel is from a quote by Joseph Campbell: “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
Chapter 01: Ruby Jones
Sookie was exhausted and could no longer control her yawning.
“Almost there,” Bobby assured.
Sookie nodded and thought back over her day as she checked on Ned, who was—thankfully—out like a light in the cat carrier resting on her lap.
As soon as they’d left her and Eric’s home, Henry had taken Bobby and her to the first of several vehicles that they’d traveled in that day. After that, Bobby had taken Sookie to a “colleague’s” home one building away from his own. The “colleague” hadn’t given his name, and Sookie hadn’t asked for it. All she knew was that he looked like an extra from a Godfather movie—except much scarier-looking. Luckily, he wasn’t big on conversation. While Bobby had snuck into his house so that he could be “seen” by Franklin Mott, the “mobster’s” lady friend had helped Sookie dye her hair red and had cooed over Ned, who had been pretty freaked out by the travel and the strange people.
Sookie had been mystified by how it seemed like she’d suddenly found herself in the middle of the 80’s movie Married to the Mob, but she’d rolled with the punches as Bobby had set up his own alibi. At least the surreal experience had helped her to keep her mind off of Eric—at least enough not to fall into tears every two minutes.
Via the roof passage, Bobby had gone back to his house on the fifth floor of the next building over. Apparently, Bobby had put his lights on timers so they would periodically indicate that someone was going from room to room; however, his real show for Franklin was when he went outside and amorously greeted a woman—whom, Sookie had later found out, was none other than Thalia.
Apparently, Bobby and Thalia had decided that the easiest way to work together on “Operation: Incriminate Appius” was to pretend to be an item. Having broken things off with Alcide quite a while back because he’d decided to get back together with an ex-girlfriend, Thalia had no problem with the pretense.
And that was how Sookie had ended up with red hair. Bobby figured that if Appius’s people somehow gained access to any of the many video cameras on their way to their destination, it would be better if they thought that she was Thalia, so the redhead was still at Bobby’s house—laying low with all the lights off; she would stay until morning in order to pretend that she and Bobby had spent the night together. Mott had left earlier and was stationed outside of Carmichael Tower, according to Henry.
After Sookie had spent about five hours at the “mobster’s house,” Bobby had returned and then had taken Sookie to yet another car. Then, they had driven to Queens, where there had been yet another vehicle—this one with tinted windows. By then, it had been nighttime, so the tint wasn’t as noticeable.
“So?” Sookie asked, looking over at Bobby. “Are you gonna tell me where we’re going?”
“The East Hamptons,” he responded. “My great uncle Niall has an estate there, and you’re going to be staying with him.”
“I’m staying with your great uncle?” Sookie asked with surprise.
Bobby nodded. “We talked a little about him before—remember?”
“He’s Claudine’s grandfather—right?”
Bobby nodded again. “Yeah. Niall’s a bit of an eccentric, but I trust him, and I guarantee that you will be both well-hidden and well taken care of on his estate.”
“So—uh—he won’t tell anyone about me?” Sookie asked.
“No. As I said,” Bobby paused and chuckled, “he’s a bit of an oddball—quite paranoid about his security, actually. And,” he continued after winking at Sookie, “Claudine is known to visit Niall on the weekends. Whether or not she learns about your being at the estate will be your choice, however.”
“So I could keep doing my therapy?” Sookie asked incredulously.
Bobby smiled. “Yeah. That’s one of the reasons I chose this place for you; plus, it’s not unheard of for me to visit Uncle Niall either, so I can come and go without arousing suspicion—as long as I don’t visit more than a few times a month.” He chuckled. “Like I said, Niall’s gotten a bit peculiar and reclusive, so he runs his estate like Fort Knox, complete with a big fence around it, and his employees are like family, so they can be trusted as well.”
“What have you told your uncle about me?” Sookie asked.
“That you’re the sister of a college friend of mine from Georgia—a friend who got into a little trouble with the mob.”
“The mob?” Sookie asked incredulously.
Bobby nodded. “Yep. Niall is aware that I have somewhat questionable associations, and I told him that your brother’s actions have put you into danger and that you need a safe place to keep off the radar for a while.”
“And your uncle’s just going to let me stay with him?” Sookie asked skeptically.
“Yeah. I told him that you were completely innocent—but that the people your brother worked for thought you might know something incriminating about them. I asked if you could stay with him until I got things straightened out for you.”
Sookie shook her head. “I can’t believe your uncle would just open up his home to someone in trouble with the mafia like that.”
Bobby chuckled. “Trust me—Niall reveled in the story I told him about you. I think he likes to feel needed, and he enjoys a little intrigue.” Bobby’s tone became more serious, and there was a twinge of guilt in it. “And he’s a bit lonely; I really should visit him more.” He sighed. “But I’m sure Niall’s looking forward to your company!”
“Won’t he ask questions about me?” Sookie asked.
Bobby shrugged. “He might be curious about you, but he won’t push if you say you would prefer not to talk about things.” He chuckled. “Niall’s much too polite to be overtly nosey! However, we should come up with an alias for you to go by with him and his staff. ‘Sookie’ is too unique of a name, and I’d hate for an accidental slip-up to give away your location. Too many people from Manhattan frequent the Hamptons.”
Sookie nodded and thought for a moment. She looked down at her ring. “How about Ruby?” she suggested, thinking about the woman described in the history of her family’s ring. Ruby had been sent to Georgia, which was where she was supposedly from.
“Like the gemstone?” Bobby clarified.
“Got a preference for a last name?” he asked.
Sookie shook her head.
“Then something simple. How about Jones? I can have some new identity papers prepared for you by the end of the week. And—if Niall asks—just say that your brother’s name is Jason, but don’t volunteer anything else about him.”
Sookie nodded. “At least that’s easy to remember,” she said somewhat sourly as she thought of her own brother.
“And if your tone is a little embittered when you say his name, so much the better,” Bobby added.
There were a few minutes of silence between them.
“What’s Niall like?” Sookie asked in order to distract herself from the sorrow that was building up in her as she thought about leaving Eric behind.
Bobby smiled. “You’ll like him. He used to run the pharmaceutical company that I told you about a few months ago. And, for a long time, he was quite the power-player in Manhattan. However, now he prefers a quiet life. His favorite thing is tennis.”
“Tennis?” Sookie asked with a little chuckle.
Bobby nodded. “He’s obsessed with it really. He had several courts built on his estate. Do you play?”
Sookie shook her head.
“Give it a week,” Bobby intoned. “Oh—and don’t bother him when Maria Sharapova is playing on television.”
“Uh—who’s that?” Sookie asked.
“His latest crush,” Bobby sighed, rolling his eyes. “She’s a professional tennis player. He met her at a charity function about two years ago, and he’s been mooning over her ever since. I think he even invested in a candy company she owns. She’s his favorite player and—like I said—he’s sweet on her.” He looked at her mischievously. “It’s probably for the best that you’re not a blonde anymore,” he teased, hoping to cheer Sookie up a bit.
“Oh!” Sookie said, suddenly feeling a little nervous. “But the color’s only temporary.”
Bobby chuckled heartily. “Don’t worry, Sook. Niall really is harmless. And he has no love-loss for Appius Northman, so there’s no danger of them having any interaction.”
“He knows Appius?” Sookie asked with some trepidation.
Bobby nodded. “Sure. But—like I said—he has no idea why you need to hide out, and he doesn’t know at all about your connection to Appius or Eric.”
“But your uncle knows Eric too—right?” Sookie asked.
Bobby nodded. “Yeah—when Eric was an undergrad at Harvard and had to vacate the dorms for the winter holiday, he would stay with me in the city. All told, he stayed with me for five winters, and we came up here one year.”
Sookie sighed loudly and moved the topic off of Eric so that she could hold her tears at bay. “So—um—I’m gonna be Ruby Jones from Georgia?”
“Yeah. I trust Niall and his staff, but—like I said—it would be safer if they didn’t know your real name.”
Sookie looked out the window and took another deep breath, watching the lights and buildings become less dense. She hoped that was a sign that they were getting close to their destination so that she could finally fall apart.
“We’re here,” Bobby said as he turned off the main road and pulled up to a small guard station.
Sookie sat up straighter and looked around. However, she couldn’t see much—not in the darkness. A tall wrought iron fence emanated from both sides of the gate, and large trees and bushes were planted thickly on both sides of the fence, obviously to maintain the privacy of the property.
“Hey, Bobby. How are you?” a guard asked as Bobby cracked his window.
“Hey, Sean. Not bad.”
Despite Sean’s only having said five words, Sookie was able to discern a very strong Boston accent from the guard. She’d come to love hearing the different accents in the area, and his was one of the thickest she’d heard.
Sean peered into the car. “You must be the visitor who’s gonna stay with us,” he said, smiling in an easy way. He looked to be in his early 40’s or late 30’s.
Sookie nodded. “Ruby Jones,” she said by way of an introduction as she gave the guard a little wave.
“Nice to meet you, Miss Jones,” Sean said.
“Just Ruby,” Sookie said, trying to smile.
“Alright, Ruby. I’m Sean. You have a nice trip here?” the guard asked congenially.
Sookie nodded. “Yes—uh—it was a peaceful drive,” she lied.
Sean stepped back and opened the gate. “You guys have a good evening,” he said, giving them a little wave. It was only then that Sookie noticed a German shepherd trailing him.
Bobby chuckled as he rolled up the window and progressed through the gate. “There are ten German shepherds on the grounds, but don’t worry. Niall will introduce you to them tomorrow, and if they associate you with him, they’ll adore you.”
“Uh—okay,” Sookie said, nervously looking down at Ned.
“They don’t go inside the house, so Ned will be just fine—not that they’d hurt him anyway,” he smiled. “There are a couple of outdoor cats around, and they cuddle in with the dogs on cold nights.”
Sookie sighed a little with relief as Bobby continued, “Sean—the guy at the gate—is actually one of two brothers who oversee security. They also drive Niall around when he leaves the estate. The other brother’s name is Mikey, and you’ll likely meet him tomorrow. They took over the security when their dad retired. Sean and Mikey’s aunt, Louise oversees the house like a general. She’s also the cook. Her husband, Jake, is the estate’s gardener. Their daughter, Karen, helps out Louise when she’s not at school.”
“So it’s all one family?” Sookie asked.
“Yeah—the Foresters,” Bobby responded. “They have worked for my great uncle for three generations—mostly taking care of this estate. Of course, some of the kids have moved on and done other things, and Niall sends them off to college as if they were his own. Niall built the Foresters a house of their own on the property, though I think that Hal and Bernice—those are Mikey and Sean’s parents—are off traveling in Australia right now.”
Sookie gasped a little as they drove up to a huge house.
Bobby chuckled. “I used to call this place ‘stately Wayne manor’ when I was a kid, so I know what you mean. I think I told you that this branch of my family is quite a bit wealthier than the Burnhams, and we’re pretty goddamned rich!” He chuckled again as he looked around. “This kind of estate seems excessive to me, but—then again—I saw how hard Uncle Niall worked for most of his life. And—unlike some greedy bastards—Uncle Niall never drove up the prices of the pharmaceuticals that his company produced. In fact, he was pretty much single-handedly responsible for the development of the generic medicine industry, and has taken the profits from that and funded so many hospital wings that I can’t even remember where they all are.”
Sookie smiled. “He sounds like a good man.”
Bobby nodded. “He is.” He turned to her and winked as he parked the car. “Of course, he’s still got plenty of money, so no need to worry about him.”
Sookie didn’t have time to say anything else as an older man—probably in his late seventies, but moving more like he was in his fifties—came out to greet them. From the lights illuminating the front entryway of the house, Sookie could see that he was smiling excitedly.
Niall had her door opened as soon as Bobby turned off the engine.
“Well hello, my dear!” Niall exclaimed, reaching into the car to take Sookie’s hand. Bobby took Ned so that Niall could help Sookie out of the vehicle.
“This is Ruby, Uncle Niall. Ruby Jones,” Bobby said as he got out of the car.
“Thanks so much for letting me stay here,” Sookie said, even as Niall was shaking his head and squeezing her hand in a friendly manner.
“Think nothing of it, Miss Jones.”
“Uh—call me Ruby, please,” Sookie said.
Niall smiled. “And I’m sure that Bobby told you that I am Niall Brigant, but I hope you will call me Niall.”
A/N: Hello all! I hope that you enjoyed Chapter 1 of Burn out the Pain! I’m so honored that you have chosen to continue this journey with me.
Certainly, this chapter is just a kind of intro into this section of the story, but I hope you enjoyed getting to know a bit about Niall and his people. Niall, certainly, will be a major character in this third installment.
Next up: Sookie learns about Eric’s “arrangement” with Isabel. And Niall has a feeling that he knows Sookie from somewhere.