THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16 (Night)
“So—tell me about your night last night—after we talked,” Sookie requested as she propped up her feet on the coffee table and activated the speaker phone Willow had taught her how to use during her break at Merlotte’s that day. She put her phone on the couch next to her.
“It was underwhelming,” Eric chuckled the sound seeming to resonate in the air around her.
“Tell me anyway?” the telepath requested, before getting up, turning on the Christmas tree lights, turning off the lamp, and then sinking once more into her previous comfortable spot on the couch.
“Well—after we spoke—I did a little paperwork and discussed our relationship with Pam. Later, I went to Bobby Burnham’s residence, glamoured him to accept his dismissal gracefully, and arranged for the changing of any locks he had keys for—just in case he made copies. Finally, I spoke with Colonel Flood.”
“About that Patrick Furnan guy?” Sookie asked.
“Yes,” Eric responded. “Plus, I wanted to ensure that he had no problems with my hiring Christa Larrabee since she is a member of Long Tooth. After he voiced none, I called her. I also arranged for a rotation of two Weres to keep an eye on your brother—as we discussed last night. Then, while I finished up my paperwork at Fangtasia, Christa came down and filled out her new employment forms. So—you see? Quite boring.”
Sookie shrugged, even though he couldn’t see her action. “Wait! You said that you and Pam talked? About us?”
Eric laughed. “I was beginning to wonder if you were going to ask about that.”
“The conversation was not a long one,” he returned playfully.
“Well?” she asked again, growling this time.
He chuckled. “Dear one, you must understand that Pam is,” he paused, “used to me being another way.”
“So she doesn’t like the idea of—uh—us?” she asked, a mixture of concern and also happiness. He’d addressed her as “dearest” in his letters before, but this was the first time he’d called her by an endearment on the phone.
She found that she liked it very much. She also liked that Eric seemed to have used the endearment without thinking about doing so.
“She is surprised—about us—but not disapproving,” he responded to her question. “She is surprised by how committed I am to pursuing a relationship with you—and only you—for the foreseeable future. However, she is already coming around to the idea. And—since she quite likes you—it will not take her long to do so fully.”
Sookie chuckled. “I wouldn’t say she likes me—though she has flirted.”
“You amuse her,” Eric responded with a smile in his voice. “That makes you likable in her book. Indeed, I have heard her say that you might make your way up to being her favorite breather.”
The telepath snorted. “Lemmie guess. Ginger currently holds the position,” she deadpanned.
The vampire chuckled heartily. “No! I believe the honor still belongs to Giorgio Armani.”
Sookie laughed. “Figures.”
“So—what of your day?” he asked.
She smiled. “Well—I woke up early today—a little after 8:00 a.m.—and invited Jason over for a quick breakfast since he had to start work at 9:30. I can tell you with certainty that Thalia’s glamour worked. He thinks he was in bed—alone—by midnight last night. And when I mentioned Crystal and Hotshot, he looked a little sick.”
“Good—then he will not be tempted if he runs into the werepanther,” Eric commented.
“Hey—did I ever tell you that I can tell when someone’s been glamoured—from their thoughts?” she asked.
“I picked up on that when you were speaking with Ginger and Belinda about Long Shadow’s theft,” he said quietly—contritely—as he was reminded of how she’d been hurt that night.
“Oh, yeah. I forgot that I ran into Long Shadow’s glamour in Belinda’s thoughts that night,” the telepath returned somewhat pensively, as she recalled the attack as well.
“Sookie, I will do everything in my power to ensure that you are never hurt again like Long Shadow hurt you that night. I was not ready for the move he made,” he added, his voice still full of remorse. “I can only promise that I will never be unprepared again.”
“I know you’re sorry, Eric,” she responded with understanding. “And I know you’ll keep me as safe as you can. You already are.”
“Yes,” he agreed.
“I—uh—wanted to let you know that I barely picked up that Jason was glamoured at all. Is—uh—Thalia really good at glamouring or something?” she asked.
“Yes,” Eric responded, “though it is best if you do not share with others that she has an exceptional skill.”
“I won’t,” Sookie assured. “But it might be useful—right? Bein’ able to distinguish between different vampires’ glamours. With Longshadow, things happened so fast. But—if I practice—I might be able to find a—uh—signature to an individual vampire’s glamouring, like there is a signature to a void.”
“Interesting,” Eric commented. “Such a thing might be useful, indeed.”
“Maybe,” Sookie shrugged. “Maybe not. Either way, I think it’s interesting to be—uh—playing with my ability. I’ve never really done that—at least, not much. Oh—before I forget—I also talked to Jason about Hadley while he was over here!”
“Did you and he make any decisions?” Eric asked.
“We want to call Hadley some night—maybe on Christmas?” Sookie ventured. “Do you think we could work that out with the queen?”
“I am sure you could,” Eric assured. “I will contact Sophie-Anne to make arrangements.”
“Make sure—uh—well,” Sookie paused, “that Hadley doesn’t have big expectations or anything. Jase and I want to play things by ear. There are some hurt feelings because of how Hadley just took off like she did. And there are a lot more of those from Jason than I would’ve thought there’d be.”
“Oh?” the vampire asked.
“Jase is so laid back most of the time,” Sookie replied. “And—honestly—he’s always been sort of quiet when Gran mentioned Hadley. Since I usually try to keep out of his head, I didn’t know that was because he was so upset at Hadley. He and she were closer as kids—you see. And—when she ran off—he felt the rejection personally.”
“And you?” Eric asked.
“I was madder at her for stealing from Gran and for never contacting any of us again. I’m still mad at her for that. When I think about how sad Aunt Linda was when she realized she was going to die without ever seeing Hadley again . . . .” Sookie’s voice broke a bit as she stifled her tears. “By the end, it was hard to keep Aunt Linda’s thoughts out because they were so erratic and strong, which was opposite of her body,” she added sadly.
“I’m sorry,” Eric said sincerely. “It must have been a difficult time.”
“Yeah,” Sookie agreed. “Made more difficult because Hadley was MIA. I’ll admit that a part of me will likely never forgive Hadley for the pain she caused and for letting Gran go to her grave without knowing what had become of her eldest granddaughter.”
“You do not have to reconnect with her,” Eric reminded gently.
“I know,” Sookie said with resolve. “But Jason and I agreed to try—and to also try to forgive any past mistakes.”
“Does that include her putting you on the Supernatural radar?” the vampire asked gently.
The telepath sighed deeply. “I’ll always regret that Gran died because Bill came to Bon Temps to pursue me, which put Gran and me on Rene’s radar. But Gran would want me to forgive Hadley, so I can’t dishonor her by tryin’ to turn Rene’s actions into Hadley’s fault.” She took a deep breath. “Except for Gran bein’ gone, I don’t regret that the Supernatural world found me. I wouldn’t be where I am—right now—if it hadn’t.”
“I, too, am sorry about your grandmother, Sookie. But I am very glad you made your way into Fangtasia that night. I would not be where I am—right now—if you had not,” the vampire echoed her earnestly.
The two were silent for a moment—and they enjoyed that silence of existing together in the moment, despite the miles that separated them.
“What did you do after your breakfast with your brother?” Eric finally asked.
Sookie grinned. “Delved into my business plan.”
“You sound excited about that,” he responded with a slight chuckle, a reaction to what he was feeling through their blood tie—even from Shreveport.
“I am!” she enthused. “I was even more excited that I understood what I was reading! I was worried that it’d be in—uh . . . . What do they call that technical language?”
“Legalese,” he supplied.
“Yeah—that,” she responded. “It wasn’t.”
“No. I figured you’d appreciate something more straightforward. I’m afraid that the official paperwork to set up the business and the contracts we form with those you work for will be more technical; however, the lawyer that we will be working with, Desmond Cataliades, will be able to answer any questions that you have—as will I.”
“Oh. Okay,” she said. “Well—I have to say that I like what I’ve read so far!”
“As soon as you settle upon the name, I’ll have Cataliades begin the official paperwork then.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “I’ve decided I like Sunset Consulting. It’s not one of the names on the sample business cards, though.”
“But it’s a good name,” Eric responded. “As long as it is not already in use close by, I see no problem with the selection.”
“Cool. Uh—how will I know if it’s in use?” she asked.
“I’m already checking online,” the vampire responded, even as Sookie discerned the sound of keyboard keys being tapped.
“Wow! You can check for stuff like that?” she asked. “I need to get a computer and the Internet out here—now that I’ll be employed and a college student—so that I can learn about things. And don’t you even think about getting me that stuff!” she said preemptively, causing him to chuckle.
“You were already thinking about it,” she accused playfully, “weren’t you?”
“You will have to deal with the fact that I’ll be inclined to spoil you,” he responded, as his admission that she was right.
“And you will have to deal with stifling those inclinations—most of the time,” she returned.
“I’ll work on it,” he chuckled.
“Honestly, it’s nice to be able to get stuff like a computer for myself,” Sookie shared.
“I can feel that you are,” the vampire paused, “relieved by your new monetary situation, Sookie. I am happy for you,” he said sincerely.
“Thank you,” she smiled.
“So—there are a few businesses with the name, Sunset Consulting,” the vampire reported a few seconds later. “The closest is in Oklahoma.”
“Oh—does that mean I can’t use the name?” Sookie asked.
“On the contrary, I don’t see an issue with your using it,” he replied. “There would really only be a problem if the name were in use in Northern Louisiana, which it is not.”
“Oh—okay,” Sookie smiled. “Well—I’d like to move forward with that.”
“And will Sunset Consulting be billing Merlotte?” Eric asked.
Sookie giggled. “No, we will not.”
“How did your day at work go? Given the fact that you called me before your double shift would have been over, it seems as if Merlotte has continued to behave.”
“Yeah. He feels really bad about what he said to me and all the double shifts he’d planned to give me—by the way. So he sent me home as soon as the dinner rush was over.”
“Well—that is something,” the vampire said evenly.
The telepath sighed. “Sam’s still got his reservations about things, but—after we zipped through the interviews today—he couldn’t deny how useful my ability is for—uh—consulting stuff.”
“So—I take it the interview process was a success?”
Sookie sat up, smiling widely—and proudly. “Yep! I know it’s a little thing, but Sam and I talked to six potential servers, and I was able to point him in the direction of the perfect two to hire! Both of them have some experience too. I will be training them on Saturday, and that’s gonna be my last day of work—unless Sam needs me for an emergency fill-in since it’s flu season.”
“You sound very happy that your last planned work day is Saturday,” Eric observed.
“I’m ready,” the telepath responded after a few moments of consideration. “And I am happy too. I’m excited to start training with my telepathy. I’ve been a waitress for so long that doing something new is exciting! And I’m proud that I was able to help Sam!”
“You should be proud,” Eric said, conveying his pride for her in his tone. “You will have many opportunities to help others in similar ways.”
“I know,” she sighed. “Thank you, Eric. Thank you for encouraging me to do this. I—uh—wouldn’t have thought all this was possible. But the plan you wrote makes it seem more than possible.”
“In your new work, there will be times when you become uncomfortable,” he cautioned. “It is impossible to know what could be in people’s minds, and you may find yourself in trying situations.”
“I know,” she acknowledged. “I’ve heard enough thoughts to know they aren’t all pretty. But—uh . . . .” She stopped midsentence.
“But?” he asked.
“But you’ll be there,” she said warmly, even as she pressed her cool hands against her cheeks, which had become heated by a pleasant blush.
“Yes. I will,” Eric replied.
The two were silent for a few moments.
“Sookie, I have been uncertain about how to broach a particular topic with you, but I want you to know that more people than just me will be available to help you with any difficulties that arise,” the vampire ventured.
“Why do I get the feeling you aren’t referring to my guards—or Pam?” the perceptive telepath asked.
“Because I’m not,” he sighed. “It is just that . . . .” His voice trailed off as he was uncharacteristically unable to find the words he was looking for.
Sookie gave him a moment before probing. “What’s wrong, Eric? Is it really that bad?”
“Delicate,” the vampire replied. “It’s just a delicate topic. And my introducing it could most definitely be interpreted as highhanded—even meddlesome.”
It was her turn to sigh. “Consider me braced then. But I do want to hear anything you have to say to me,” she added stalwartly.
“Alright,” he relented. “I have been in contact with one of Dr. Ludwig’s colleagues, a psychologist named Dr. Aphra Smith.”
“Oh!” Sookie said with realization. “You think I need to see a shrink?” she asked tentatively, her tone indicating vulnerability.
“I would not presume to tell you what I think you need when it comes to your mental wellbeing,” the vampire responded honestly. “But Dr. Smith is part Britlingen.”
“Britlingen?” Sookie asked.
“A species from another dimension,” Eric answered. “I cannot risk telling you too much over the phone, but they are rare in this world. Generally, they are paid bodyguards; indeed, they are very well-paid since it requires much magic for them to come to this world and, once here, they are stuck for decades as their bodies regenerate the needed magic to return to their home world.”
“Wow,” Sookie reacted.
“I have seen two in battle,” Eric said with respect in his tone. “They were magnificent to behold—well worth the price of bringing them to this realm.”
“So—uh—like fairies, the—uh—Britlingens mix with humans and—uh—make babies?” she asked, blushing.
Eric chuckled—as if he could see the pink tinge to her cheeks. “Yes—though such couplings are much rarer than human-fairy pairs. And—honestly—I don’t know if you would be able to hear Dr. Smith’s thoughts or not.”
“That’s why you thought of her? For me?” Sookie asked.
The vampire sighed. “Yes. She understands the Supernatural world, and having someone,” he paused, “more neutral than I could ever be regarding you and your welfare might be beneficial as you begin truly navigating our world.” His voice lowered. “And, of course, there are also the traumas you have had to face during your life.”
The two were quiet for a moment as Sookie realized tears were falling from her cheeks.
“I have upset you,” Eric said apologetically, hearing her almost-silent sob and also feeling her sadness in the blood tie.
“No,” Sookie corrected. “I’m grateful that you thought of this. It’s just—uh—hard to think that I need help. Like lots of Southern girls, I was raised to cover up things that were wrong. And—with my ability—I had a lot more to cover up than most.”
“Even the need that you had to do that—for so long,” Eric said softly, “might be a topic of discussion for you and the doctor—if you wish to meet her.”
“She’d been willing—uh—to see me?” Sookie asked after a few silent seconds.
“She would,” Eric responded. “And you need not decide tonight.”
“I’ve already decided,” the telepath sighed again. “And I’d like to meet with her—just to see. I mean—if I can hear her—the whole thing’s sort of a moot point. But—if I can’t hear her . . . .” She stopped for a moment. “If I can’t, it would be nice to have someone neutral and knowledgeable to talk to things about. There’s a long list—now that I think about it. My parents dyin’ when I was so young and my uncle’s abuse would be enough. But this last year has added a lot of the list,” she commented sadly.
“I am sorry,” the vampire said, “for my part in any of those items.”
“I know,” Sookie indicated softly. “You know—dealing with things really sounds good. And—there will be more anxieties with my new job, as you said. And our new relationship too.”
“I hope those will be the positive kinds of anxieties,” Eric commented.
“Butterflies,” Sookie smiled. “Yeah. But even those can be overwhelming. I’m so glad that Tara’s back in my life—and Jason too! But there are some things that I just wouldn’t want to share with them.”
“Well—you could rest assured that all you say to Dr. Smith would be confidential. Britlingens are known for an inability to do anything,” he paused, “underhanded.”
“Really?” Sookie asked.
“That is why they are such trusted guards,” Eric informed. “In the course of their duty, they are completely incapable of betraying those whom they serve. Dr. Smith—though only part-Britlingen—is like this.”
“When can I meet her?” Sookie asked with resolve.
“I’m going to give you her number. I’ll text it. That way, you can decide on a time in your own time,” the vampire responded.
“Thank you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you right now,” she said, wiping a tear from her cheek. “I know it’s weird, but this doctor is like the new driveway!”
Eric could help but to chuckle. “How so?”
“Well. I would have never asked for it. Initially, I wanted to resist the idea of it. But—ultimately—I think it would make my life less,” she paused, “dangerous and—uh—smoother. If I’m the car in the analogy, that is,” she chuckled.
“Your mind is an interesting thing to follow, Dearest One,” Eric said.
Sookie’s pulse quickened at that endearment.
“Eric, I—uh—well—I’ve enjoyed talking to you these past few nights. Uh—I know that our first official date isn’t until Sunday, and I haven’t even met with Bill yet, but that all just seems like just a formality to me now. I—uh—just wanted you to know that,” she stammered somewhat nervously, “the more I talk to you—the more we share—the more certain I am that you and I could really turn out to be something special.”
“I feel the same,” he rejoined earnestly.
“Will you come by tomorrow night? Before I meet with Bill?” she asked.
“I will be there as soon after sunset as I can be,” he replied.
She sighed with relief. “Good. I’ve missed seeing you. And—uh—I’ve missed your void being nearby.”
“That pleases me,” he said. “I have missed feeling that you are close by as well.”
They were silent for a moment.
“I’m gonna try to get some sleep,” she finally said. “It might be hard to sleep though. I’ve been tryin’ to figure out what all I’m gonna say to Bill tomorrow night.”
“Would you like to call me if you have trouble sleeping? We could talk some more, or I could tell you another story about my experiences.”
“I’d like that—very much,” she smiled.
A/N: Hi all! Well—for those of you keeping track, we “skipped” the daytime for Thursday. This doesn’t have anything to do with people asking me to “hurry up” the story. Indeed, I had this section into Kleannhouse before the complaints started. I “skipped” Thursday because I didn’t think it would be very exciting to follow Sookie at work, though I wanted readers to know about her day. I figured that her telling Eric about it would tell us at the same time.
What I wanted to focus on in this chapter is simply a continuation of Eric and Sookie’s relationship and development of closeness. This is there last long phone call like this, and I was a little sad to see them go. With these phone calls, I was trying to capture that wonderful sense of talking to a new “boyfriend/girlfriend” for hours; I realized Sookie never had that experience of talking for hours and then not wanting to hang up. Do you know the one? Also, it has given them a good opportunity to get to know each other in a way that can be “easier” than face-to-face. I figured Sookie needed something easy after the trunk incident and all the changes coming her way, and—as I’ve said before—the Eric in this piece is conscientious because he’s accepted his strong feelings for her, though I think he’s still trying to understand them fully. Another issue I wanted to deal with in this piece was Sookie’s mental health. I always felt that she could use some therapy—given all she’d endured up to this point in the books. I know that Bill didn’t actually rape her in this piece, but he tried. And there were many other traumas before—not to mention the changes coming in her life. I’m a great believer in the benefits of therapy (having worked with therapists during a variety of times in my life). And—again—I wanted the Eric and Sookie in this piece to ultimately form a much more “adult” partnership, so I’m introducing Aphra Smith (though I don’t think her “species” was known in that story). She’s actually appeared in another of my stories. Remember which?
Have a great week!