Sookie had known that Thalia had been nearby since a few minutes after sundown because she had begun to recognize Thalia’s particular “void.” Of course, she’d also known that the vampiress was there to protect her, and—frankly—her presence outside of Merlotte’s had comforted Sookie. However, she couldn’t imagine that Thalia’s arrival inside the bar would ease the current situation.
“You fuckin’ that one now too, Sookie?” Sam hissed, when he noticed Thalia’s quiet entrance.
“Just wait a fuckin’ minute!” Jason rose, his hands already in fists.
Surprisingly, it was Thalia who jetted in to ensure that no physical violence ensued between the two agitated men
“You were supposed to stay outside,” Sookie said quietly, even as Thalia smiled at Sam, a clear invitation for him to do or say something more.
“I was planning to keep my distance—unless you were physically threatened or distressed,” the vampiress said, even as Jason lunged at Sam. Jason was easily subdued by Thalia, though Sam looked to be about ready to shift.
Of course, Sookie understood the meaning behind Thalia’s words. She would have stayed outside, but Eric must have called her when he felt Sookie’s agitation.
The telepath wasn’t 100% sure how she felt about that. After all, it was highhanded of the Viking to try to solve her problems for her!
Looking at Sam, however, she realized that her impulse to question Eric was wrong. The vampire hadn’t sent Thalia “to her rescue” out of highhandedness; he was worried about her.
Just like he’d cared enough to fly through a thunderstorm before nightfall in order to keep her from harm. And—given the rabid look on Sam’s face, as well as the fear that she’d only just let herself start to feel because of that look—she realized that Eric had good reason to be concerned.
It was in that moment that she grasped that she trusted Eric Northman to “know” her emotions—to know them and to not take advantage of them. And, ironically enough, that knowledge made her feel strong enough to deal with those emotions.
And with Sam Merlotte.
“Please, Jason, just go,” Sookie said calmly, but firmly, even as she looked around to see that all eyes in Merlotte’s were on them.
“I’m not leaving! Not if you stay here!” Jason said stubbornly.
“Jase, I need you to go. I’ve committed to working here until the 27th, and I will do just that—unless I’m fired—or unless Sam becomes a problem and not just an annoyance,” she said just as stubbornly as her kin, though she couldn’t help but to be warmed by her brother’s protectiveness and support. “As you can see, I’ve got people looking out for me.” She gestured toward Thalia.
“That vamp needs to get out too,” Sam growled.
“No,” Sookie said in a steely voice. “If she goes, I’ll walk out with her. If you want me to work for you for the next two weeks, I will. But I won’t take another unkind word from you. Not. One. More! You can think your nastiness at me well enough that you don’t have to open your mouth,” she hissed.
“I’m not firin’ you!” Sam practically yelled.
From his thoughts, Sookie picked up desperation—as if Sam was convinced that he could influence Sookie to keep away from Eric (and all other vampires) if he just had a little more time.
“Fat chance of that workin’,” Sookie muttered.
“Why do I gotta go?” Jason almost pouted.
“Because you’re liable to get yourself hurt or arrested if you don’t, and I don’t wanna deal with either one of those things right now,” Sookie said, turning to comfort Jason by giving him a pat on his shoulder. “I’ll call you when I get home. And I meant what I said; if Sam does one more thing to piss me off, I’m out the door,” she added emphatically, though quietly.
“Fine!” Jason said, grabbing his jacket and starting to leave before turning to hand Sookie a ten-dollar bill. “Because—in the mood he’s in—he’d make you pay if I walked out on the bill,” he seethed.
Sookie couldn’t help but to smile a little at her brother’s thoughts. He had already decided that he wouldn’t be returning to Merlotte’s unless Sam apologized to his sister. Indeed, as he was leaving, Jason was already cataloguing other local “watering holes” that he could frequent, even going so far as to wonder how many of his friends he could convince to abandon Merlotte’s altogether if Sam didn’t “get his shit together.”
At this point, Sookie was angry enough at Sam not to discourage Jason if he followed through with his thoughts.
“Get back to work, and cover the bar!” Sam hissed before spinning on his heel and going to his office.
The slammed door could be heard all the way in the front of the bar.
“Geez! What crawled up his butt and died?” Holly asked tentatively as Tara sat back down at the table, looking as if she was wondering the same thing. In fact, a lot of the patrons were frowning in the direction of Sam’s office. They’d rarely seen the bar owner lose his temper—and especially not with Sookie.
For apparently no reason!
Sookie sighed and looked around the room. “Listen, folks,” she said loudly, “Sam’s just a little mad because I’ve given my notice here.”
“What?” Maxine Fortenberry asked. “You find a man to take you on? Is it that vampire?” the gossip tagged on.
Sookie rolled her eyes. It figured that Maxine would risk the stroke of midnight on the one night when there would be something gossip-worthy to witness. And it also figured that the old biddy would assume that Sookie was planning to use a man as her meal ticket. (And some people wondered why young women in the area were so worried about being misperceived as gold-diggers!)
“I found a better job,” Sookie returned, standing a little straighter.
“Oh yeah? As what?” Maxine pushed.
“Something better than waitressing,” Sookie returned. “And something Gran would have approved of,” she added pointedly, when she “heard” Maxine’s thoughts spinning towards nastiness. “Now—the show’s over, y’all. Sam’s just havin’ a bad day. We all get them. I will be around to get your tables caught up in a jiffy!” she finished, sounding more chipper than she felt.
“I’m gonna stay till close,” Holly announced in a low voice, even as she looked back toward Sam’s office.
“Thanks, but it’s really not that busy,” Sookie assured.
Holly patted Sookie’s hand. “It could get busier if Maxine stirs things up and people come down here to see if there will be more to the ‘show,'” she scoffed. “Heck, she’s already grabbin’ for poor Hoyt’s cellphone so that she can start her gossipin’. Plus, Cody’s with his daddy tonight, and all I had goin’ on is a meeting with one of my wiccan friends, Angela,” she said in a whisper so that only Sookie could hear.
And Thalia, of course.
“I’d hate for you to miss your meeting,” Sookie frowned.
“Don’t worry about it,” Holly said brightly. “Angela was gonna talk to me about maybe joining a new coven in the Shreveport area, but—to be honest—I got a funny feeling when Angela was describing the coven leader.”
“Why?” Sookie asked.
Holly shrugged. “I think the leader—uh, Marnie Stonebrook’s her name—might be dabbling in black magic, according to some of the things Angela told me. Actually, Marnie goes by the name Hallow in her work,” Holly added with a roll of her eyes. “And feeling the need to have a professional name—and only one at that—is never a good sign with witches.”
“Why’s that?” Sookie asked as she moved to fill a couple of pitchers. She noticed that Thalia was listening carefully too.
“They’re either the kind that thinks too much of themselves—as if they were Cher or somethin’,” she rolled her eyes. “Or they’re the kind that truly believes they will make a mark on the world.” She shivered. “Sometimes dealin’ with that second kind can be a little more intense than I’m comfortable with. And dealin’ with the first kind is f-in annoyin’! Anyway,” she said, her tone casual again, “I’m just gonna make a quick call to Angela and tell her that I’m stuck at work and would prefer it if she didn’t mention me to Marnie after all.”
“Thanks,” Sookie said sincerely. “You really don’t have to stay though.”
“I won’t leave you to man—actually woman—both the bar and all the tables!” Holly said with a wink as she went toward the bathroom where there was a payphone. “I’ll be back in a jiffy!”
For the rest of the night, Sam stayed in his office, and Sookie covered the bar and a few tables, while Holly took the rest. Luckily, though things did get a little busier than on a normal Tuesday night—thanks to Maxine Fortenberry, who was definitely a “busier body” than anyone ought to be—the two women weren’t overwhelmed.
Ever-watchful, Thalia stayed in a corner booth. With a sigh, Sookie figured it was likely that Thalia’s nights of watching from outside the bar & grill had ended now that the door had been opened for her proximity, but the telepath found herself strangely comforted by the unpleasant vampiress’s presence. Perhaps it was childish of her to take pleasure in the fact that she could make Sam feel uncomfortable in his own place of business.
However, Sam had made Sookie feel that way first!
And even more childish when she thought about him dealing with Maria-Star and/or her other Were guards being inside from then on.
But Sam really could just fire her if he didn’t like it!
And—due to his behavior the last two days—he could kiss her ass while he was at it!
She and Sam were friends, and she’d been more than willing to overlook his “shifterness” and all the lying by omission he’d been guilty of because he’d given her a job and treated her fairly for years! But now he was treating her like a child—patronizing her in a way that poked at something deeper than her stubbornness. It poked at her very notion of her “self”—the “self” she’d been working on understanding ever since she’d promised to do so in the trunk.
The independent “self” that Sam seemed to want to squash before it even saw the light of day—or night—properly.
Meanwhile, Eric was presenting her with ways that she could be more independent. Sookie was beginning to see just how “small” she was in Sam’s eyes—how he saw her as incapable of moving beyond Bon Temps, let alone her job as a waitress.
Well that was just too damned bad—for Sam!
The telepath was already beyond Sam’s small vision for her. In fact, she was beginning to be excited as she asked herself many versions of the “what if” question. What if she and Eric worked out? What if she got to travel to places she’d thought that pictures would have to suffice for? What if she did jobs where she could save lives? What if she was in a position that she could learn what “personal fulfillment” really was—for her? What if she no longer had to worry at all about being accepted by—and acceptable to—those around her?
Because she was acceptable to herself!
What if? What if? What if?
That was so much better than contemplating “what now?”, which was what she’d been asking with Bill for a while now.
And it was also better than not asking anything at all of herself or those around her.
And it was exponentially better than thinking she had no right or business asking anything at all!
“Hey, Hon,” Tara yawned at about midnight. “I’m gonna take off, but call if you need anything—okay?”
“Thanks for sticking around for a while after all that,” Sookie said softly as she hugged her friend goodbye.
At 12:45 a.m., Sookie announced last call—the normal time Sam did it on a weeknight—and she and Holly went about the last steps of their closing routine. Once Jane Bodehouse was picked up at 1:05 a.m., Sookie flipped the dead-bolt, and she and Holly looked at each other nervously.
“We gotta get our purses—huh?” Holly asked.
“I left mine in the kitchen tonight,” Sookie confessed. “But I’ll go with you to get yours. Probably best if we leave together.”
“I will retrieve your purse. I have words to say with the shifter,” Thalia informed stiffly and firmly.
“Thalia!” Sookie hissed quietly—so that only the vampiress would hear. “Holly doesn’t know about Sam!”
“Of course she knows about Weres and shifters,” Thalia said loudly and with certainty. “She is a witch, though not that powerful of one,” Thalia observed, looking Holly up and down with a certain amount of disdain.
“Thalia! That’s just mean!” Sookie exclaimed.
Holly batted the air with her hand. “Don’t worry about it, Sook,” she laughed the comment off. “I’m actually pretty proud that a vampire noticed magic in me at all. And, for the record, I didn’t know what type of creature Sam was. Given that Hotshot’s so close, I would have guessed panther,” she mused. “But I could sense the magic around him.” The waitress turned to look at the vampiress. “And thanks. I appreciate your getting my purse for me.”
Thalia simply nodded. Sookie knew that the gesture wasn’t out of the kindness of the vampiress’s heart. Indeed, she was likely looking for an excuse to “talk” with Sam, or she was trying to keep him away from Sookie.
Either way, Sookie found herself grateful and hoped that Sam had calmed down.
She got her own purse from the kitchen as Terry quickly moved toward the employee entrance, looking a little shell-shocked. Given that he suffered from PTSD, he’d absorbed a lot of the earlier tension of the night, and Sookie could tell that he was anxious to leave and get home to the dogs that served as his source of solace and comfort.
Holly and she waited for only a few minutes, and the vampiress reappeared without any sounds of violence having occurred in Sam’s office. For that, Sookie was also grateful.
“Your schedule—for the rest of your time here—until the 27th of December,” Thalia said, shoving a piece of paper at Sookie. “If you want him broken for it, I will be happy to comply,” the vampiress offered, looking as if she’d relish the task.
“Huh?” Sookie asked as she looked at the piece of paper.
“Geez!” Holly exclaimed, as she leaned over to look along with Sookie. “Doubles four days a week?” she frowned. “Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Wait! I thought we were closed on Christmas!”
“We were,” Sookie intoned, looking at the two weeks ahead of her. Sam had given her that Friday and Sunday off, but—other than those days—she had only one more day off: December the 23rd. The rest of the time, she worked every night, along with the doubles Holly had mentioned.
“He tryin’ to get you to quit?” Holly asked.
“Probably the opposite,” Sookie sighed. “Probably tryin’ to get me tired enough to actually listen to him.”
“Or punish you for not cowing to him,” Thalia said with distaste. “Manipulative. Cowardly,” she judged. “Reminds me of men I have known,” she added grimly. “From centuries past.”
As Thalia turned to leave Merlotte’s, Sookie couldn’t help but to wonder how long such men had lasted in the vampiress’s acquaintance.
Given how quickly Holly said her goodbyes and made her way to her vehicle, Sookie figured she was thinking the same thing.
“You wanna ride back?” Sookie asked Thalia as she approached her car. Since the vampiress had not been awake when Sookie left for Merlotte’s, the telepath had no idea how the vampiress’s had gotten to the bar.
The vampiress shook her head as if riding in a car—perhaps, especially the well-used car before them—was beneath her. “He said you could call him.”
The him was no mystery.
“Did he want me to?” Sookie asked.
The vampiress took a moment to answer. “Want? Yes; I believe his want is no mystery. But does he require contact from you this night? No.”
“My choice,” Sookie chuckled. “He’s a vampire of his word, but a highhanded one.”
“Don’t forget to give him hell for the new phone too,” Thalia reminded with a smirk as Sookie got into her car.
The telepath still had no idea how Thalia “traveled,” but—when she arrived at her home less than ten minutes after leaving Merlotte’s—the petite vampiress was sitting on the porch-swing as if she’d been there all night.
And she wasn’t alone.
A/N: Hello all! I’m officially sad tonight because my Patriots lost (Oh well. Congrats Eagles fans!).
I know that many of you wanted Eric to be the vampire that came into Merlotte’s but he promised to give her some time, so he’s keeping his distance. Of course, he still made sure Sookie was okay. Like most of you, I would have told Sam to stick his job where the sun didn’t shine by this point. But some of you-especially on WordPress-had me laughing my butt off with the suggestions for things you wanted me to have Sam glamoured to shift into!
Anyway, all I have to say is that Sookie’s a better person, but she really has laid down the law with Sam and won’t be taking his crap anymore.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter; I also hope you post a comment if you have the time and/or inclination.