FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER
“Calvin,” Eric said with a nod of his head.
The packmaster of Hotshot—if the werepanthers could still be called a pack—looked at the three naked men, who were struggling against their own clothing, which had been ingeniously used to tie them to a sturdy oak.
“Impressive,” Calvin said, marveling at how cloth could hold his werepanthers in place. Of course, it had not escaped his attention that they’d been roughed up to a certain extent. Two were gasping because of broken ribs. Another’s eyes were so swollen that he could not see.
“Thank you,” Thalia said.
Calvin nodded toward the vampiress and then toward Eric, “Sheriff.”
The werepanther looked toward the house as his niece wailed out Jason’s name—along with a few yesses.
He looked back at his panthers, one of whom was struggling even more wildly than before. Calvin scoffed. “Felton, you knew how Crystal was when you asked for my permission to marry her,” he chastised.
The packmaster looked at the sheriff again. “Not that I don’t appreciate your makin’ sure that they didn’t kill—or bite—a human tonight, but I am curious as to why you and your associate took an interest.”
“Our interest lies in the potential victim—although he does not sound victimized right now,” Eric smirked.
Indeed, the “victim” was yelling out something that clearly indicated that his companion enjoyed “gettin’ a spankin’.”
“You’re not one to take an interest in a human,” Calvin observed, ignoring Crystal’s yells that Jason spank her harder.
“Who or what I take interest in is beyond your concern. What is important for you to know is that several people in Bon Temps have my protection. Among them are Jason and Sookie Stackhouse. Jason is the one cumming as we speak,” he added as he heard the human man—or mostly human man—bellowing out that he was doing just that.
Calvin nodded deferentially. “You’re right. It ain’t none of my business, and I don’t want no trouble with vamps over this,” he paused, “misunderstanding.”
“Whether there is trouble or not is up to you,” Eric returned evenly.
“What do you need from me?” Calvin asked.
Eric stepped closer to the werepanther. “Your pack tends to keep to themselves. I’d like for that to remain the practice. But I don’t trust these rabid kitties not to hold a grudge,” he said, kicking the one he knew to be Felton Norris. “Thus, I intend to glamour them to forget all about Jason Stackhouse and to stay out of Bon Temps. I will be glamouring your niece as well—to forget her little romp.”
“Pity. It didn’t sound half bad—for a fuck with a human,” Thalia said under her breath.
Calvin ran his hand through his hair. “Alright.”
Eric nodded, glad that the packmaster was cooperating because he was anxious to get on with his evening—anxious to speak with Sookie. “I will need you to ensure that these strays make it back to Hotshot and that any vehicles they may have in the area are taken back there too. You can explain the condition they’re in now however you see fit—as long as you keep vampire involvement out of it.”
“They’ve gone to bars and come out worse than that,” Calvin said, gesturing toward the three.
“Make sure they bathe—so that they do not smell of vampires,” Eric instructed.
“And we’ll be burning their clothing,” Thalia informed.
Calvin nodded in understanding. Not only did the clothing smell of vampires, but also it was practically shredded.
A phone rang from the ground where it had fallen out of one of those ruined garments. Thalia quickly picked it up—kicking one of the werepanthers while she was at it—and then tossed the device to Eric, who answered.
Crystal’s voice was heard—from both inside the house and through the receiver. Clearly, she was taking advantage of the fact that Jason had gone to the kitchen to get himself and her some beers. “That’s what happens when you fuck around on me, Felton!” she hissed. “And let me tell you—Jason was so much better—and bigger—than you are! What are you gonna do about it? Just stay out there all night? It figures since you put the ‘P’ in pussy!”
Eric hung up the call. “Delightful.”
Calvin sighed and hung his head a little. “Will you let me go get her? I don’t want her to end up in their condition,” he said, gesturing toward the others. “And—knowing her—she’d try to fight y’all.”
“Sounds fun,” Thalia muttered.
“Make it fast, and don’t let Stackhouse know. We’ll take these to your truck while you get her,” Eric said. “And, Norris?”
“Yeah?” he replied.
“I could have killed them for threatening someone under my protection. I could have made it so that you never would have known what happened to them.”
“I know,” the beleaguered packmaster returned. “And I owe you.”
“That you do,” Eric agreed.
THIRTY MINUTES LATER
“Thank you!” Sookie gushed as soon as Eric picked up the call.
He chuckled. “I take it you like your gift.”
“Who knew that twenty different business cards could make my day?!” she enthused, even as she thumbed through them all.
“I did,” he chuckled.
“Yeah,” she sighed, her cheeks burning from the width of her smile, “you did.”
“So—do any of the names stick out to you?” he asked after a moment of silence had passed between the two.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I kind of like Stackhouse Consulting,” she chuckled, looking down at one of the many potential names for her new business. “But why aren’t any of them Northman & Stackhouse Consulting or anything?” she asked.
“Because this business is you, Sookie,” he said gently—sincerely. “If you want it to have a surname attached, it should be yours, not mine.”
Her heart beat rapidly at his words; it took her a moment to realize that it was thumping with pride. “Okay,” she said. “Do you think I should give the business my name? I noticed that some of the cards have more generic names.”
“Your name will be well-known soon enough,” Eric responded thoughtfully. “However, using one of the more generic ones might offer you a bit more anonymity.”
Sookie contemplated for a moment. “What would you do?” she asked.
“Support your choice,” he chuckled.
“No help?” she asked.
“No,” he chuckled.
“Okay,” she whispered. “Thanks. Really. I love them!”
“After you choose the name—one of those or any other you prefer—it can be put with any of the business card designs,” he relayed. “Or components from various cards can be melded together, colors changed, that kind of thing.”
“I do think I’ll get Tara’s opinion,” Sookie giggled. “She’s a lot better at design stuff than I am.”
“You should have fun choosing,” Eric emphasized. “If you feel your friend would help you to do that, consult her—by all means. But I hope that you will make the ultimate choice based on what you want.”
“I will,” she promised.
She laughed out loud. She couldn’t stop herself.
He chuckled in return. “I did not know my gift would please you this much.”
“It’s great! But it’s capped off a really good day too!”
“Tell me about it?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” she smiled, “but work first.”
“Ah—Miss Larrabee. I assume you have your assessment ready for me, Miss Stackhouse?” Eric asked playfully.
Sookie giggled. “Sure do,” she said with a nod he couldn’t see. “She really is pretty perfect—as long as you don’t think a crush on Pam will hurt anything.”
“Young Christa is interested in Pam?” Eric asked with surprise.
“Yeah—she’s got a huge crush on her actually.”
“The last I knew she was dating a male member of her pack,” Eric relayed.
“She likes both men and women,” the telepath responded matter-of-factly. Being a telepath, she actually knew of quite a few people who were attracted to both genders, though most of them followed society’s “norms” about sexuality and tried to suppress any “forbidden” attractions.
“Do you think her crush is in the same vein as Bobby’s?” Eric asked.
“Honestly—no,” Sookie responded. “She’s curious about being with a vampire, but I get the impression that she’s happy playing the field. She also had a thought that she might ‘play around’ with Pam, but that she’d likely end up married to a man. I heard Lafayette call people like her ‘LUGs’ once—’lesbians until graduation.'”
Eric chuckled. “Pam’s favorites.”
“Why?” Sookie asked curiously.
“She claims they are more adventurous and much easier to disentangle herself from—since they come with their own expiration date.”
“Oh! Well—anyway—Christa really wants to add to the pack—and give her mother some grandkids since she’s an only child.”
“Why did you just become sad?” Eric asked having felt her sudden shift in emotions.
“Christa’s dad died when she was young; she doesn’t remember him, except in pictures.”
“You are sad because you lost your father when you were young as well,” Eric observed perceptively.
“Yeah. I have some memories of him,” she shared, “but they’re fuzzy, and sometimes my own get confused with those I saw in Gran’s and Jason’s heads. I do remember that he loved me a lot though. I remember the feeling of that. I guess hearing Christa think about the dad she never got to meet makes me appreciate the memories I do have of my own.”
“Yet you are sad?” Eric asked.
“It’s bittersweet,” she clarified. “I don’t think about him or my mom that often. I kind of like it when I do though—when I remember them.”
The vampire was silent for a moment. “I do not think about my human family often either. But I am glad to remember them sometimes,” he shared. “All other memory of them ever being in this world is gone,” he added softly.
“Bittersweet,” she commented just as faintly.
“Yes,” he agreed.
Sookie brushed a tear from her cheek.
Hearing her quiet sob, Eric felt almost compelled to turn around his car and drive back toward Bon Temps. But he didn’t. However, he did change the topic so that her tears would stop. “So—other than Miss Larrabee’s crush on Pam?”
Sookie sniffled, but was grateful—given how emotional the day had already been—to return to a lighter subject.
“I think you should give her the job,” the telepath offered her opinion, “unless you have better candidates in mind. But I figure that you sent your most promising one to me first.”
“Why do you think that?” he asked with a smile in his voice.
“Just a theory,” she said with a shrug. “You’ve already been employing her for errands several times a week—for a while now. At least for Were-related stuff. I’m thinking you already had a good idea of her character, and I’m guessin’ that the fact that she’s a Were puts her at the top of the list.”
“I will admit that I had thought to replace Bobby with her months ago,” he admitted.
“Why didn’t you?”
“I was not sure if she would change her mind about wanting to pursue college full-time after her first semester. I also wanted to confirm the loyalty of her family to Flood. Employing and ally of Furnan would have been a slap in the face to the Colonel.”
“Oh—I can see that. Will Furnan be a problem? I read in Christa’s thoughts that he’d come to visit her grandmother and had tried to get her on his side, but she denied him and warned him to keep his ambitions in check.”
“Flood knows that Furnan is unhappy,” Eric conveyed. “The Colonel has roots in the Shreveport area, but was raised on various army bases and then became a career military man himself. When the previous packmaster got sick and called Flood to return to his roots, the Colonel accepted, but a few pack-members continue to view him as an outsider. I will make sure that he knows about Furnan’s visit to the Larrabee matriarch.”
“Okay,” Sookie said softly. “Oh—and—just so you know, Christa is plannin’ to keep going to school, but just part-time. She thinks working for you full-time would be a good thing, though she hopes she’ll never be given a task like guard duty.” The telepath chuckled. “She knew Maria-Star, of course, and was thinkin’ that she would never want a job like her. It’s not the danger that bugs her either; it’s the thought that she might have to be violent. I didn’t know that a Were could be a pacifist.”
Eric laughed. “To be honest, it’s a rare thing, but certainly not unheard of. My day-people tend to be kept out of troublesome situations, so she need not worry.”
“I figured as much—because of how Bobby is,” Sookie returned sarcastically.
“So—you have no other hesitations about Miss Larrabee?” Eric asked meaningfully.
“Uh—no. Why? Should I? Was there something I should have picked up on that I didn’t?”
“No,” Eric responded. “I just wanted to make sure that you would not be bothered if I hired a female day-person.”
“Oh!” Sookie said with understanding. “And a young and pretty one at that.”
“Yes,” the vampire said.
“You wouldn’t be happy—uh—gratified somehow—if I got jealous?” she asked playfully.
“No. I am with you; I would consider no other,” Eric answered quickly and firmly, clearly not willing to even joke about the topic. “Jealousy is indicative of doubt, and I do not wish for you to ever doubt me, Sookie Stackhouse.
She took a deep breath; she needed one—and a moment to compose her thoughts—after that declaration from him. “I’m startin’ to wonder why I ever did doubt you,” she returned solemnly. “And thank you. I don’t ever want to be jealous.”
“So—will you tell me about the rest of your day now?” he asked after a moment of reflection for both of them—remembrance of how they’d started and silent acknowledgment of how their relationship was evolving already.
“Yeah,” she said as she settled more comfortably into the couch cushions. She watched her blinking Christmas tree lights as she launched into her air-cleaning conversation with Sam before telling him all about her negotiations with Thalia.
After that, they discussed the queen and Andre before moving on to topics as diverse as Hadley, Hotshot (and the glamouring of Crystal and her fiancé), Tara’s knowledge of the Supe world, and Eric’s time in Japan.
Of the queen and her eldest child, the two agreed that giving Sophie-Anne the benefit of the doubt was likely very wise, while not turning their back on Andre was even wiser.
Of Hadley, Sookie shared that she would be speaking with Jason about her “return to the land of the ‘living'” the next day. She also determined that it would be best if Jason were glamoured to not pursue Crystal Norris since Jason didn’t know about the two-natured yet, though the new “couple” decided to revisit the topic of whether or not to tell him, given the fact that Sookie’s day guards, including the one Jason wanted to sleep with, were not human.
Eric agreed with Sookie that Tara ought to be glamoured as well, but just to not speak about what she knew of the Supernatural world—unless it was with Sookie herself. The telepath was grateful that the memory of the Supe world wouldn’t be wiped out of Tara’s head fully so that her human sounding board wouldn’t have a big blank spot.
Finally, of Japan, Sookie listened enraptured—before Eric told her that he was still on good terms with the monarch there and could arrange for them to have a nice vacation—even if Sookie didn’t think she could do work for him since she didn’t know Japanese.
“Yet. You don’t know it yet,” Eric had said.
It was more than two hours after they’d begun talking before the two finally said good night.
A reluctant one.
A/N: Well—I hope you liked my panther solution. I have other plans for Jason in this storyline, and they don’t include becoming a bitten were-panther. What did you think of Eric’s “gift” to Sookie? And their conversation? I’m having fun writing this courtship between them. Also, I’ve had some comments about the timeline, including some concerns that I might have my days/nights wrong. Both Kleannhouse and I work hard on consistency, but I was still paranoid enough to check things out, and things look fine. Still, I understand the confusion since each day and night get several chapters. Below is a timeline reference, just in case you need it. Remember, for those of you who don’t love the plodding, The Trunk was a single day long only. The Boot is going to be about a week and a day long—ending the Monday night/Tuesday morning after it starts. There is a third part to follow, which begins on Christmas Eve. FYI: the timeline was quickly written and not proofread at all; it’s a rough reference only.
Timeline for The Trunk / The Boot
Sunday, Dec. 12 (DAY):
- Sookie gets Bill and leaves Russell’s mansion / fights with Debbie / Put into trunk / Eric awakens well before sundown to feel Sookie’s fear (he uses the storm to set out to get to her before sundown.
Sunday, Dec. 12 Monday, Dec. 13 (NIGHT: SUNDOWN TO SUNRISE):
- Eric gets to the trunk before Bill can rape and drain Sookie, though Bill has bitten her / Sookie takes Eric’s blood to heal after Eric tells her the basics of blood ties and bonds / Eric confronts Bill / Alcide tries to convince Sookie to stay / Eric flies Sookie to Louisiana in his plane & then takes her home (the two have a long talk during the flight) / Sookie agrees to guards
- Sookie agrees to pursue a relationship with Eric, but asks for time to gain “mental closure” with Bill and actually closure through a confrontation she will have with him on that Friday. He agrees to offer her space, but makes certain she knows that she can call him any time that week. They also make plans for a date on Sunday night and share a sweet kiss.
- The Boot (Ch. 1) begins in the few hours before dawn. Weres were found by Thalia on Sookie’s property. Eric questions them and calls Russell to deal w/ the issue.
Monday, Dec. 13 (DAY):
- Chapters 2 & 3
- Sookie speaks with Sam about being back and gives him the heads up that she might be giving her notice soon to work with Eric. Sam flies off the handle about her being mixed up in vampire shit. Bobby arrives and give Sookie a check from Eric to cover Dallas (since Bill had withheld it). Sookie calls Jason to see if he will help her get a Christmas tree that afternoon.
Monday, Dec. 13 Tuesday, Dec. 14 (NIGHT: SUNDOWN TO SUNRISE):
- Chapters 4 & 5
- Knowing Bill has arrived in Bon Temps, Eric pays him a visit (and uses Bill’s body to “redecorate” a little). Sookie calls Eric to thank him for the driveway gift.
- Eric and Thalia speak about guarding Sookie, what Supernatural being she might be, and the problems Bill might continue to cause.
- Jason and Sookie put up the Christmas tree in her home, reconnecting.
Tuesday, Dec. 14 (DAY):
- Chapters 6-8 (first half)
- Tara shows up upset. Franklin has broken off the relationship (due to Sookie and Eric’s conversation about Franklin and concerns of him passing Tara around). Tara and Sookie spend two chapters reconnecting and promise to make their friendship more of a priority.
- Sookie’s first shift back at work – this is the one that Sam acts like a huge jackass. Sookie takes his behavior on the chin and continues work. She takes her break with Jason and Tara. Sam’s attitude becomes extremely offensive.
Tuesday, Dec. 14 Wednesday, Dec. 15 (NIGHT: SUNDOWN TO SUNRISE):
- Chapter 8 (last part) to Chapter 14
- Thalia comes into Merlotte’s, causing Sam to back down; Sookie gives him an ultimatum: he behaves or she walks right away. (Ch. 8-9 and some of 10)
- After work, Sookie arrives home to find Bubba there; then she calls Eric and the two have a long talk about many things, including her thoughts about Bobby; he decides to fire him. (Ch. 10-11)
- Meanwhile in New Orleans, Bill has gone to court to complain to Sophie-Anne, who’s not really buying his shit. Sophie-Anne does realize she has potential problems though, and she calls Russell and then Eric to smooth things over. Away from the throne room, Bill tries to align with Andre and promises to be his spy. (Chapters 12-14)
Wednesday, Dec. 15 (DAY):
- Chapter 15 to the first part of Chapter 16
- Eric has sent Sookie a note, telling her about his call from Sophie-Anne. He also asks if she wants to begin training right away by “interviewing” a new potential “day-person.” She meets and talks with Christa Larrabee (Ch. 15)
- Though Sookie dreads work, Sam is actually trying to behave, so things go smoothly overall (Ch. 16 – transitions to night)
Wednesday, Dec. 15 Thursday, Dec. 16 (NIGHT: SUNDOWN TO SUNRISE):
- Chapters 16 to 19 – so far.
- Despite the work day going well, Sookie realizes she doesn’t work out the rest of her two weeks; she does want to try one last time to leave things on good terms with Sam and gives him the chance to tell her about why he dislikes vampires so much; he tells her the story of his father’s murder. Sookie has pity for him, but won’t let his jaded views affect how she thinks of vampires, especially Eric. She says she’ll work to help him with interviews and training of new people, but then she’s going to start her new career. He’s trying to accept that. (Chapters 16-17)
- Thalia takes Sookie home and they talk about how Sookie wants to be friendly with her guards (the ones that want to be)—the two reach a compromise. (Ch. 18—first part)
- Thalia and Eric meet up at Jason’s. Eric had been scouting the area to assess how many guards would be needed for him. While there, he’d stumbled upon the panther situation . . . (Chapters 18-19)
- After the panther situation is closed, Sookie calls Eric. She gives him her assessment of Christa and they have a long conversation. (Chapter 19 – last part)
So that’s where we are.