“Well—at least he’s not plannin’ to hit me over the head with his disapproval today,” Sookie muttered as she unbuckled her seat belt.
“Your shifter boss?” Onawa asked.
“It’s funny hearin’ you call him that since you’re a shifter too,” Sookie chuckled, “but to answer your question—’yes.’ Right now, Sam’s giving himself a little pep talk. He plans to apologize—sincerely—for his behavior yesterday and ask—nicely—that I keep my guards—specifically Thalia, not that I can totally blame him for that—outside today. As we speak, he’s committing himself to not sayin’ anything about my new job or vampires today.” The telepath rolled her eyes.
Onawa chuckled, even as she exited the car. Willow had decided to “fly” to Merlotte’s and would be doing a few circuits around the bar and grill before coming inside. Sookie had heard from Onawa’s thoughts that clothing had been left (in strategic positions) for all of her two-natured guards, so she wasn’t worried about the werehawk coming into Merlotte’s naked.
“Well—let me go introduce myself and explain that your guards will be inside with you today,” Onawa winked as she led Sookie in through the back door. The two bypassed Sam’s office, as Sookie’s purse would simply be left with her guards that day.
Clearly, Sam’s sense of smell had alerted him to the presence of another of his kind, and he was watching warily from the bar area as Sookie and Onawa emerged from the back.
“Mornin’, Sook,” Sam said, though his eyes were on the other shifter.
“Back at you,” the telepath greeted.
“Uh—chère, do you mind if we go to my office for a—uh—chat for a bit before you get started?”
Sookie looked around to see that there were only a few customers in the restaurant area. She slowly walked closer to Sam. “After yesterday, I do mind—quite a bit,” she said quietly. “So—whatever you need to say—you can say here. I’ve had a bit of vampire blood lately—as you kindly pointed out. So my hearing is real good if you want to keep it at a whisper.”
Yes, the reminder of the vampire blood might have been a “test” of Sam’s good behavior, and the shifter did “twitch,” but he held his countenance at neutral for the most part.
Sam nodded with resignation. “I just wanted to apologize, chère,” he said at a low volume. “I overreacted yesterday. I was upset that you had decided to leave me—uh—Merlotte’s,” he corrected.
“Well, I appreciate the apology,” Sookie returned. “But I won’t accept it until you put it into practice,” she said firmly. “Until then, you’ll forgive me if I don’t trust your sincerity.”
Sam frowned, but nodded. “I deserve that.” He looked over Sookie’s shoulder. “Who’s that?”
“My guard—one of them, at least,” she returned. “Her name’s Onawa. She and Willow will be inside for most of the day.”
Sam’s frown deepened. “Not outside? I know there were some that were outside yesterday,” he emphasized, making it clear that he’d prefer them that way again. “Uh—and I meant to ask you why you needed guards at all,” he asked with some real concern.
“Not outside,” Onawa spoke up, before moving to circle the restaurant as if studying it.
“Guards, chère?” Sam asked again after the female shifter had moved away.
“In case shit happens,” Sookie said by way of an explanation. She looked at Sam, practically daring him to ask a follow-up question.
Or step that foot—paw—out of line.
He didn’t. He simply nodded. “They’d best order something so they don’t look too conspicuous,” he said, though he didn’t say his words in a bitter way.
Sookie nodded. Sam really did think it was a good idea for them to order food and drinks so that their true purpose in the bar wouldn’t be suspected as much.
“Thank you, Sam,” she said somewhat tersely, though sincerely.
He nodded and gave her a meek smile before getting back to his prepping and—it seemed—sulking.
Meanwhile, Sookie tossed her purse to Onawa, who caught it without looking. Sookie grabbed a clean apron, as the female shifter gave Sam what seemed to be a look of warning before moving toward the back of the restaurant.
Almost as soon as Onawa found the booth she wanted to keep watch from, Willow walked through the front door. She, like the shifter, took a quick look around the restaurant space before going back to the restrooms, likely checking those out too. However, Sookie didn’t pay the two guards much more mind after that because a group of six construction workers entered and took her first table of the day.
At 4:30 p.m., Sookie put in an order for her own dinner—knowing from experience that it was better to eat a fuller meal near the end of the first half of a double shift and then catch a light snack sometime after the dinner rush.
She went to refill her guards’ drinks as Terry started her food. “Hey, y’all mind if I join you for my break?” she asked.
Willow frowned, while Onawa kept her eyes moving around the restaurant—as if a foe might jump out from behind the jukebox or one of the pockets of the pool table.
“That isn’t possible,” Onawa stated.
“We have orders from Thalia and Maria-Star not to do anything even resembling socializing with you,” Willow added, her tone apologetic.
Onawa’s eyes fell on Sookie for a moment. “No offense. But I like this job.”
Sookie sighed loudly and shook her head, determined to revisit what qualified as reasonable socializing with Eric, Thalia, Maria-Star, and the damned Pope if need be. But—for that day—she didn’t want to get her guards into trouble or make them uncomfortable.
“That’s okay,” she said with understanding. “Let me know when y’all are ready for dinner though—okay?”
Willow nodded, still looking sorry.
“Not very friendly—huh?” Sam asked when Sookie took her food to the bar to eat it.
It was the first sentence that he’d uttered even approaching thorny since she’d begun her shift.
“Just professional,” she replied succinctly, shutting down any further comments Sam might make by taking a big bite of her sandwich as she pulled out her phone to send a text.
It was her first—ever.
Sam was annoyed that he didn’t have her attention, but he was keeping to his plan of not pushing things with her that day, so he refrained from trying to engage her again as she ate and played with her phone.
After she’d figured out how to send her text and had carefully typed in her message—between bites—she hit send.
It was to Eric: I enjoyed the training. Will call later with the results.
For the rest of her break—one which she kept short—she figured out how to add Tara and Jason into her phone as contacts, and she reviewed the number codes for each of the contacts that were already programmed in, memorizing who went with each number.
Not long after she’d finished her meal, Jason came in with Hoyt. Her brother announced loudly that he was there only to look after his sister—just in case dumbasses were ‘on the job’ that night. Sookie appreciated her brother’s loyalty and quietly laughed to herself when Jason “thought at her” that he really wanted a pitcher of beer, but didn’t feel right about getting one until Sam apologized.
Deciding to help her brother out, Sookie approached the bar and her boss. “Hey, Sam?”
“Yeah, chère!” the shifter responded hopefully, as it was the first time she’d initiated a conversation with him all day.
“You should apologize to Jason so that he can order some beer,” she informed quietly.
“Apologize?” Sam asked.
Sookie rolled her eyes. “You apologized to me. Sayin’ you’re sorry to him for insinuating that I am a slut who’d mess around with any and all vampires I know would go a long way toward proving you were sincere about that apology.”
Sam looked like he might argue, but decided against it, even as he started pouring a pitcher. Sookie read from her boss’s mind that he figured an apology would be both easier to give and to receive if it were accompanied by free booze.
The telepath figured he was right.
More amusing than Sam’s stuttering—and quite lame—explanation and apology for his behavior the night before—really? low blood sugar?—was the fact that Hoyt and Jason both zeroed in on her guards as “romantic interests” within moments of starting their beers and ordering food from Sookie.
As amusing as it was watching Onawa shut down Jason with a sneer and Willow deny Hoyt with an apologetic wink, Sookie let the guys “off the hook” by telling them that the two were her guards and wouldn’t socialize at all while working.
True to character, with that information in hand, Jason practically yelled a “loaded” question across the restaurant, “When do y’all pretty ladies get off?”
Onawa smirked at the double meaning, but said nothing.
Meanwhile, Hoyt and Willow blushed almost matching shades of crimson, though it took them both a few seconds to get the joke and do it.
After that, Jason and Hoyt tucked into their food, and Onawa and Willow continued their almost-silent watching. Sookie found herself wondering is the “no socializing” rule extended to within the guard group itself.
With about fifteen minutes left until sunset, Sookie’s two-natured guards ordered food for six to go and then left Merlotte’s with it as soon as Thalia strode in.
Sookie was momentarily amused as Jason and Hoyt looked childlike with the departure of her day guards, as if someone had stolen their GI Joes or something.
The telepath chuckled, but then tensed for a few minutes as Thalia and Sam had a Supernatural staring contest. Thankfully—after a while—things calmed down again as the restaurant got busier.
In fact, a lot of people had come to Merlotte’s hoping for a repeat of the drama of the night before, but—much to Sookie’s relief—no such drama happened. Happily, that didn’t stop the tips from flowing, and she and Holly enjoyed a bounty that night.
By the time Sookie made last call at 12:45 a.m., all the customers had vacated Merlotte’s except for a weary-looking Hoyt, who’d been joined by his gossip-hungry mother (whom Sookie was beginning to suspect never slept); Jason, who’d found consolation for Onawa leaving in the form of a pretty two-natured young woman named Crystal; and Jane Bodehouse, who seemed to be flirting with an empty bottle of rum that Sam had absentmindedly left on the counter before going to his office to start his paperwork.
Sookie hadn’t had the heart to move it, though she had called Marvin to come and collect his mother.
With Sam on his best behavior, Holly had left at 11:00 p.m., and Terry already had the kitchen looking ready to go for the next day.
All in all, it had been a great day at work!
Yet Sookie had not wanted to be there for any of it.
And it was that revelation that started the telepath’s feet heading toward Sam’s office. “Terry—watch things up here—will you?” she asked as she passed the kitchen.
The cook nodded and grunted out what sounded like, “Sure.”
Of course, Sookie was cut off in the hallway before she could get to Sam’s office.
Thalia said nothing—simply looking at Sookie with a raised eyebrow.
“I need to talk to Sam,” Sookie said with some sadness in her tone. “And I’d like to try it alone—though I’ll leave the door open.”
The vampiress seemed to study the telepath’s features for a moment before giving her an almost imperceptible nod.
Sookie nodded her appreciation and took a deep breath before continuing to Sam’s office. She could hear numbers in her boss’s head as he tallied the register for the night.
She could register his surprise and then some hope in his thoughts as she knocked, but that hope disappeared when he saw the gloomy look on her face.
“You got a minute?” she asked from the doorway.
He nodded. “Sure, Sook.”
She smiled slightly before entering, and he clearly noted when she didn’t shut the door behind her. She could see Sam inhaling and knew that he could discern that Thalia had stayed in the hallway, though she was near the entrance to the kitchen, rather than closer to the office.
Sookie knew that that was as far as the petite vampiress would go when it came to giving her and Sam privacy. The telepath was okay with that.
Given Sookie’s expression, Sam’s shoulders seemed to slump as he quickly went over the events of the day in his thoughts and tried to figure out when he might have done or said something “wrong.”
“You were fine,” Sookie said with a sigh as she sat down in the chair opposite Sam’s desk. “And I really do appreciate your efforts today.”
“You used to have a difficult time hearing my thoughts,” Sam said softly.
“I used to try not to. Now I listen to anyone who might be a . . . .” Her voice trailed off.
“Threat?” he asked, clearly dejected.
“Lately, your thoughts haven’t been particularly nonviolent or,” she paused, “nice when the topic of vampires comes up. It’s past time that I used my ability to know things like that,” she added with a sigh.
He nodded. “Has taking vampire blood helped you? With reading folks’ thoughts?”
Sookie nodded in confirmation.
“You could stop then. Make your ability—uh—normal again?” he asked somewhat hopefully.
She shook her head. “Normal isn’t something I’m able to pretend to be anymore, Sam,” she said softly.
He looked down, his eyes shining as he fought tears. His mind told her that he was mourning an idea that he’d had locked up inside of his mind for a while: a future where they were married and had children. Four of them.
Sookie exited Sam’s thoughts for a moment. To be honest, a week before, she might have been tempted by those thoughts, by Sam’s sincere vision for their future life. But a lot had happened since then, the main thing being that she’d stopped clinging to fantasies about a “normal” life. After all, in such a life, she would have to suppress a lot of what made her up. And she did not want that.
She took a deep breath. “I know you hate that I associate with vampires, Sam. And I know that a lot of that stems from worry about me. But there’s more to it than that? Will you tell me why you have such negativity towards them?”
Sam frowned deeply. “It’s ancient history, Sook. And—honestly—the story doesn’t make me look that great either.”
“Will you tell me anyway?” she requested. “It might be the only way we can keep our friendship.”
The shifter sighed deeply and ran his fingers through his hair. “I’ll tell you,” he said with some resignation. “It involves my dad. Did you know that he was in the military?”
“Yeah,” Sookie nodded. “You mentioned it when you and Terry were talking about how you’d served in the army for a few years.”
Sam smiled a little. “My dad was a real hard-ass, but a stand-up guy too. He was a career military guy, and—when he retired—he found it difficult to find his place.” He paused for a moment. “He was the one who taught me to be wary of other Supes, though—in the army—he was part of a mostly Were squad. You see—all two-natureds in the service end up in ‘special squads.’ Otherwise, humans would find out about us when we have to shift while deployed.” He frowned. “It’s not always easy for a shifter to mix with the rest of his or her squad though,” he said, speaking from experience. “Most soldiers are Weres, with the next largest group being some kind of feline—like cougar or panther. Werebirds like your younger guard today are occasionally in the mix, but pure shifters are the rarest of the two-natured and—therefore—the rarest to be found in the military. We’re naturally anti-pack too.”
“Anti-pack?” Sookie asked.
“Just isolated,” Sam responded. “And not because we dislike other groups of two-natured folks either—though most Weres think that’s the case. Shifters are just naturally closed off to others; I don’t know how else to describe it.” He shrugged. “Heck! Even having a bar like this in a little town like Bon Temps is pretty out there for a shifter!” He chuckled. “My mom calls me the most social shifter she’s ever met! And you know how I like keeping to myself most of the time. Even when married to another of our kind, shifters tend to run alone at the full moon.”
The telepath nodded for Sam to go on when he’d paused for a few moments.
The shifter ran his hand through his hair again. “My dad was quiet—liked to keep to himself. But he still did well in the military, though he never rose above the rank of a Private. He just didn’t have any desire to lead others. Once he retired from the army, it took him a while to find a place. Eventually, he started driving trucks.” Sam shrugged. “It suited him really—all the hours alone on the road. He worked for a company owned by a Were, so he was even able to take off the nights of full moons with no questions bein’ asked.”
Sam looked away, his expression turning sadder than any Sookie had ever seen from him.
“What happened?” Sookie asked.
“Since my dad worked for a Supe boss, he drove a lot of shipments for the Supe world. Dad didn’t ask no questions; he didn’t get into no trouble.” He shrugged. “It was the military man in him that made him so good at following orders quickly and efficiently. Eventually, when my brother and sister both showed some interest in college, my mom pressured him to take even more jobs than he was takin’. And he started takin’ routes further and further west.”
Sam looked down and shook his head, his eyes moistening again. “The jobs his boss set up for vamps paid the most. And my dad didn’t shy away when his boss told him that the highest payin’ of them all were a bit shady.”
The shifter closed his eyes tightly. “It happened while I was in the military—after I’d deployed for the first time; I was in Afghanistan.”
“What happened?” Sookie urged, her voice soft with compassion as she picked up Sam’s sorrowful mood spinning in red swirls in his brain. He was too emotional for any clear thoughts to come through.
“Dad’s body was found in the Nevada desert. Clearly, it was never meant to be found. There was no identification on him. He’d been tortured. He was naked and riddled with bites—vampire bites,” Sam said angrily. “It was only by luck that a Were cop found him and took an interest in tracing who he was, rather than just burning the corpse immediately in order to cover up the evidence of vampires; it was back before they came out of the coffin, you see.”
Sookie nodded in understanding.
“Anyway, because my dad was military, his prints were in the system, though it took a while for the cop to track down my mom since my parents had moved after Dad got out of the service.” Sam shook his head. “By the time the cop tracked down Mom, Dad’s body had been cremated, but I talked to the cop when I got back state-side.” The shifter’s anger seemed ready to boil over. “That’s how I know the kinds of things the blood-suckers did to my dad.” He shook his head as if to shake away the anger a little. Sookie noticed that his irises were momentarily yellow, but returned to their normal color after a few seconds.
“Dad’s truck was found in Kansas almost a year later, but it had been wiped of all prints. I tried digging around a little, but I,” Sam looked away, “got into some trouble I almost couldn’t get out of in Nevada.”
Sookie gasped as the image of Sam brutally beating and killing a man popped into his mind—and, therefore, into hers!
A/N: Hi all. Sorry about tonight’s late post. I’ve had a very busy weekend of grading and am just coming up for air. I hope you enjoyed this little insight to Sam’s story. There will be more on it next week. I wish I had more time to tell you what I was thinking when I decided to make Sam a bit more likeable again. I think I just remembered how he was in the early books, which was tolerable to me. Also, I think that the Sookie in this piece is trying to make her life on her own terms. She kept “bugging me.” She wanted her Merlotte’s chapter to end on her terms—not because of Sam, but because of her own decisions. And she and I both wanted to know why Sam has it in for vampires, so I’m giving him a little missing backstory. I hope you enjoyed the chapter. Have a good week!