“Do you really think this is a good idea?” Leonie asked Sookie.
“What?” she returned. “Letting Brady drive?”
The charismatic Were smirked. “Of course, I’m an excellent driver,” he said, channeling his inner Rain man.”
Leonie giggled at her lover and then looked back at Sookie. “You know what I mean.”
Sookie sighed. “Yeah. But Henry is at the warehouse now, and he’s sure that the area is secure. Plus, Brady made sure we weren’t seen as we were leaving—didn’t ya, Brady?”
The Were nodded. “Of course I’m not wearing underwear,” he grinned.
“He’s not,” Leonie giggled. “I was anxious and tore them.”
“TMI!” Sookie screeched.
Leonie chuckled, but then turned serious. “Sookie, Eric wouldn’t like you leaving his side—not today of all days,” she reminded.
“I know,” Sookie agreed. “I don’t like being away from him either—believe me,” she said, placing her hand over the area where she felt her and her mate’s bonds in her body.
“Do you feel the ache? Even after so short of an absence? And at so little a distance?” Leonie asked, the concern clear in her voice as she turned around in the front seat to face Sookie more fully.
“No. Nothing like that,” Sookie reassured. “I just want to be with him, but I need to see Tara. I need to know that she’s okay and that she doesn’t hate me for dragging her into all this. She is my oldest friend.”
“The actions of others are not your fault,” Leonie said soothingly.
“I know,” Sookie agreed. “But the truth is that the sociopathic vampire who kidnapped and raped Tara came to my house looking for me.” She sighed loudly. “I’ve worked hard to try to stop blaming myself for the actions of others, and Eric’s helped me.” She looked at Leonie and smiled a little. “And you’ve helped me. And Octavia. Lots of people.”
“Surely you don’t think your friend still blames you for Franklin Mott’s actions,” Brady said, looking at her in the rearview mirror.
“I don’t know,” Sookie sighed. “Truthfully, I was pretty shocked when I heard from Henry’s head that Tara and Alcide were part of the group. The last time I saw them . . . .” She paused. “Well—let’s just say that it was clear that helping vampires was the last thing that either of them would have been looking to do.”
“You’re not just making your visit in order to reconcile with your friends—are you?” Brady asked perceptively.
Sookie shook her head. “No,” she said softly. “In battle—if they saw Eric—it’s possible that they might try to harm him, and that’s the last thing we would need.”
“You didn’t tell Eric that Tara and Alcide were here—did you?” Brady smirked.
“No. I’m going to see them and read them,” she said assertively. “And—if they are truly on our side after they know that Eric and I are involved, then I’ll tell him.”
“And if they aren’t?” Leonie asked.
“Well—then we’re going to secure them somewhere where they will be out of the way and won’t pose a danger to the plan until after all of this is over, and—after that—it won’t matter,” she responded.
“You are keeping secrets from your husband?” Leonie asked. “I am surprised.”
“Why? You keep secrets from Niall,” Sookie returned.
Leonie chuckled. “That I do. But our relationship is very different from yours with your mate.”
“I know,” Sookie sighed. “I don’t like keeping things from Eric. But—if there’s one thing I’ve learned—it’s that I don’t need to know everything that Eric does in order to know that he’s working for what’s best for us.” She shrugged. “And he feels the same about me.”
Brady nodded in agreement from the front seat.
Sookie smiled at him. “Eric’s talked about us being a team lots of times, and on a team people all know the game plan, but everyone has a different job to do. So—not telling Eric about this—is a loophole I’m using to make sure Tara and Alcide get the chance to choose their side once they have all the relevant information. I owe them that.
And I want to ensure that they don’t cause us trouble tonight. I owe us that!”
Sookie was nervous as she entered the warehouse where Henry’s people had set up camp. She was covering her scent with her Fae gift, and Leonie was also covering hers, and Brady—of course—was a Were now known to them, so hardly anyone looked at the group as they walked in.
Her conversation with Leonie and Brady in the car had brought up a lot of Sookie’s own misgivings about leaving the hotel that morning. Would she have preferred staying nestled in her beloved’s arms? Yes.
Should have she told Eric of her plans?
“Maybe,” she whispered to herself even as she used her telepathy to gauge the loyalty of Henry’s people. So far, so good.
Sookie had been telling the truth that she’d been surprised to hear of Alcide and Tara’s involvement in the situation. No—she’d been shocked!
Henry had assured her that they’d been on the list of people whom Klymene had provided, and Sookie was certain that that list had come from the Ancient Pythoness herself. However, none of Henry’s people had heard Sookie or Eric’s name when it came to their mission.
They did know that they were helping vampires solidify the mainstreaming power structure, but most of them had chosen to help Henry because they wanted to eliminate the V-fueled pack of Weres that Russell Edgington controlled. All of them recognized the dangers of such a pack; in fact, many of them knew about those dangers firsthand.
The warehouse was made up of a large central area where many of the Weres were gathered. Most of them were playing cards as they waited for their signal to go to the hotel where they’d face off against Russell’s Weres later that night. Ideally, they would ambush them before they could even enter the hotel. Sookie could also sense quite a few Weres in the smaller rooms that framed the central area. Most of those individuals were sleeping.
At the corner of the warehouse, Sookie sensed two familiar minds, made even louder because of the strengthening of her telepathy: Alcide and Tara.
She was somewhat surprised to hear that their thoughts were concentrated upon a kiss that they were sharing. And those thoughts weren’t just about lust either; they were about real affection. “Good for them,” she muttered to herself.
She nodded at Henry who was standing nearby the door of the room her friends were in. She took a breath, knowing that she was about to interrupt them by shocking them—by showing them a ghost.
But there was no answer.
Sookie made sure to make plenty of noise as she entered the room, but it still took Tara and Alcide a second or two to end their kiss.
“What is it?” Alcide growled. His back was to the door, and he was obviously pissed off at the interruption.
Tara was the first to see Sookie.
She gasped. “What the fuck? Sook!”
Alcide spun around. “Sookie!” he exclaimed, just as surprised as Tara.
“Uh—hi,” Sookie waved rather awkwardly.
After that, they all stood silently for a few seconds before Tara rushed to embrace her friend.
“We thought that you were dead,” she cried.
“I’m not,” Sookie said, stating the obvious. In truth, it was difficult to know where to begin with her explanations. So she began by talking about them. “I’m glad you and Alcide are safe.”
“You too,” Tara said, holding her even tighter. “I’m so sorry, Sook. Sorry about the things I said to you in the hospital.”
“I’m sorry too, Tara.”
“What are you doing here?” Tara asked after another minute.
“Let’s sit,” Sookie responded gently as she reached out to pat Alcide’s arm in greeting.
Tara stroked a piece of Sookie’s hair. “You’re brunette?”
Sookie chuckled. “Sometimes.” In fact, she’d once again colored her blond locks as an extra precaution since she was leaving the hotel. However, she was more than ready to be a blonde again—permanently.
“I can’t smell you,” Alcide said, somewhat suspiciously.
“I’ve been working on my fairy gifts,” Sookie explained.
“Huh?” Tara asked.
“It’s a long story, but I’m part fairy. And I’ve learned how to inhibit my scent,” Sookie explained.
“Fairy?” Alcide asked, his surprise clear. “But I thought they were a myth.”
“Nope. They’re real. Believe me,” Sookie smirked, letting her scent come through just long enough to let Alcide take a whiff.
His eyes and mouth opened in surprise. “It is you!”
“Yep,” the telepath nodded.
Sookie took in her friends. They were clearly a couple now. They’d both sat down on the cot that had been set up in the room. And their hands had clasped together in the kind of unconscious way that Sookie knew that she and Eric always reached out for connection.
“What are you doing here?” Alcide asked, repeating Tara’s earlier question. “Are you helping the vamps?”
“Yes,” she responded. “And they are helping me too. As long as Russell’s alive, I won’t be safe. And neither will Eric,” she added, waiting to gauge their reactions and their thoughts about her mate.
“Northman,” Alcide growled.
“Sookie, he stole you from that hospital,” Tara said, her voice full of anger. “We thought he’d killed you! Why are you helping him?”
“He did not steal me,” Sookie returned. “And I’m not just helping him,” she explained evenly. “I’m with him. After he helped me to break the blood tie I had with Bill—and with himself—we got closer. And we eventually became a couple by choice. We are bonded now,” she said to Alcide, knowing that he’d understand the significance of that.
“But, Sookie, you’ll never be able to get away from him now,” Alcide objected.
“I don’t want to get away from him,” she responded, her voice firm. “I bonded with him willingly,” she added, now speaking of both of their bonds. “And—when we formed the vampire bond—I knew exactly what I was getting into. Moreover, we’re not just bonded in the vampire way. We are married according to fairy traditions and bound by Fae magic. And we’ve pledged. Eric and I are one, and we love each other.”
“But, Sook, vampires are dangerous to you,” Tara said reasonably. “After what happened in that van with Bill, I can’t believe that you would . . . .”
Sookie interrupted with a growl. “Eric is nothing like Bill. Eric is honorable, and he is my chosen mate. I came here to make sure that you both understood that you will not just be fighting against Russell’s Weres tonight; you will be fighting for Eric and me. If you can’t do that, then you need to bow out now.” She looked at Tara. “I love you like a sister, and I’m so sorry about all that you’ve been through because others wanted to use my telepathy. But Eric’s my husband and my partner—in every way that matters. My life is his, and his is mine. And anyone who can’t accept that—and be happy for me—won’t have a place in my life. A life I very much want to try to rebuild if we can defeat Russell and his people. And it’s a life I would love for you to be a part of, but you have to accept my choices—and me. And not just when you agree with my actions,” she finished.
The three were silent for a few long and tense moments.
“I haven’t been very good at that—accepting you for yourself—have I?” Tara finally asked guiltily.
“I always knew that you loved me, Tara,” Sookie said tactfully. “And I know that it was hard on everyone—because I was different.”
“But I never really took into account that it was hardest on you—and that you only felt so different because that’s how we thought of you. All of us.”
Tara looked up at Alcide and continued, “When Sam first told me about his shifting—I freaked out, and I’m sure I made him feel like some kind of freak in the process.” She shook her head and turned back to Sookie. “And that’s the last thing I should have done! But that just makes me think about all the times I freaked out on you—all the times I blamed you for listening in on me. As if you had a choice!” She sighed. “I should have supported you—like you always supported me. But I’m here now,” she added, straightening her body. “Better late than never—right?”
Sookie brushed away a few tears and reached out to take her friend’s free hand. Tara’s thoughts matched her words exactly.
“You supported me just fine, Tara.” She looked at Alcide. Though he was less than thrilled that she was involved with Eric—bonded with him—the Were was thinking about how, given Debbie, he didn’t have any right to tell Sookie how to live her life. And he was wishing the best for her. Most importantly, his thoughts made clear that he was willing to fight with her—and Eric.
Sookie stood up. “I’m glad we were able to see each other—before everything happens.”
“What is happening?” Alcide asked. “Henry hasn’t told us much.”
“A war,” Sookie said soberly. “But if y’all can help take out Russell’s Weres, then it’ll be a lot easier for the vampires to,” she sighed and shook her head, “focus on killing each other.”
“And you?” Tara asked. “Where will you be in all of this?”
“Next to my husband,” Sookie said with a little smile. “Right where I need to be. Where I belong.”
Tara and Sookie shared a look that was full of meaning—full of the context of innumerable memories. Both of them had struggled with finding a place where they belonged. Both of them had suffered prejudice and hate for things that were part of their genetics—things that no sane person should have ever asked them to apologize for.
They each recognized the mistakes that they’d made in their own relationship, yet they both hoped that the future—if they made it there—would be better.
Sookie took a small vial from her pocket. She handed it to Alcide. “Debbie is working with Russell. But if you rub this potion into your forehead, she won’t be able to smell you.” She then looked at Tara. “You are tougher than anyone I know, Tara, but you are still human. And I need to ask you to stay here tonight.”
“But . . . ,” Tara started.
“Please,” Alcide chimed in. “I need to know that you are safe too.”
Tara put her hands on her hips. “There has to be something I can do to help.”
“There is,” Sookie said, reaching for her friend’s hand. “If I don’t make it, tell Jason I love him? And Lala. And Sam. Hell—even Arlene. And also tell them that I have been happier than I’ve ever been before during my time with Eric. Tell them that I found love—the kind that makes you feel like you can fly. The kind that takes you flying!”
Tara looked like she was going to refuse, but then sighed. “Those are things you should tell them your goddamned self.”
“I hope to do just that,” Sookie whispered. “But I need you to be my back-up plan.”
Tara looked at Alcide and then back at Sookie.
“Okay,” she finally agreed.
A/N: Hello! I hope that you enjoyed this chapter. Tara is always a difficult character for me to deal with. Starting this story in the middle of S3 helped b/c Tara was so annoying at that point and after the Franklin situation, I could definitely feel more sympathy for her. I decided that Tara wouldn’t really have a place during the battle, but-mostly-in this chapter, I was anxious to let Sookie come to terms w/ a very important part of her life.
As always, thanks to Kleannhouse and to Seph!