Summary: What if Sookie was given the chance to change her story with Supernaturals? What if she had full knowledge of the events that could come to pass? Could she save the people she loved the second time around? Would she look to anyone in the Supernatural world for help—or would she attempt to avoid that world altogether? Yep—I’m trying my hand at the time travel genre; it’s been done before, but I’ve not seen the device used after the end of Dead Ever After (Note: This story picks up a little more than a year after Dead Ever After.) (E/S eventually)
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No profit has been made from this work. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. The events in this story have been inspired by True Blood and the Southern Vampire Mysteries book series.
Title: Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time” has always been a favorite of mine. It helped to inspire this story, and you will notice that the story title and all chapter titles come from the song’s lyrics—but not in order.
To Kleannhouse—for your generosity and your “eagle eyes.” I appreciate the peace of mind you give me. 🙂
To Sephrenia—for always giving me your time as you create art for my stories. I love the banner for this story!!!!!!! You keep outdoing yourself!
Chapter 01: Almost Left Behind
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2007
I’d finally gotten together with Sam—after so many years of light flirting.
After what had seemed like a million “meaningful” glances between us—most of them originating from him for the last several years.
But what of that?
My amorous looks in the direction of others often signaled death, torture, or destruction.
So I’d stopped offering those looks to anyone.
And—after Eric left—I started “accepting” them and other things from Sam.
I had to admit that sex with Sam was nice. Other than Quinn—and let’s face it, my encounters with the weretiger hadn’t been as earth-shattering as he’d thought they’d been—I’d not been with a warm-blooded man.
Yes—having sex with Sam was nice.
Calm and tender. Hell—he wouldn’t even touch me during the full moon or the days right before or after it. He said that I was “too precious to risk hurting.”
I was more than happy to avoid these things.
Plus, Sam was precious to me—though my feelings for him had remained similar to how they’d always been. I loved him as a friend—and I had always been attracted to him. Of course, now I’d taken the step to make him my permanent companion.
Friends with benefits. Permanent ones.
I was just glad not to have to be alone.
Though a big part of me thought that I deserved to be just that.
I acknowledged my selfishness with a judgmental look in the rearview mirror as I parked my car at the mall. However, in my defense, I’d told Sam all about the nature of my feelings for him.
The stark truth of those feelings.
I did love him, but I wasn’t “in love” with him. My heart—battered and bruised by years of yanking and pulling—just didn’t have the energy to actively love anymore. I liked Sam. I was comfortable with him. He felt safe to me.
And I respected him way too much to mislead him about my feelings.
They were strong, but I knew they weren’t what he wanted, and I’d confessed all of these things to him.
In turn, Sam had relayed to me that he loved me as much more than a friend and that he’d done so for a really long time. Of course, he was disappointed that I couldn’t reciprocate. But we agreed that good relationships—good marriages even—were built on much flimsier foundations than friendship.
And Sam and I were enduring friends. I had no doubt that we’d remain as such, as we took our next step together.
I stared at the single diamond on my left ring finger for a moment. My finger still hadn’t gotten used to it, but I knew that was just a matter of time.
I brushed away a tear as I walked into the Rustin department store that Claudine had once worked in. I found myself remembering my “good” fairy cousin often—truly hoping that she’d managed to become a guardian angel and wondering what had happened to the unborn baby she’d been carrying.
Maybe he or she had been born in the Summerland and would forever live in that Fae afterlife. If so, I hoped that place was like the Heaven I pictured in my mind, the one where I was sure Gran was quilting or gossiping or just enjoying being reunited with her children—unless they, too, were in the Summerland since they were part fairy. I wasn’t quite sure how that worked, but I prayed that Gran didn’t have to be separated from them.
Of course, she’d have Grandpa Mitchell—at the very least.
He—not Fintan—had been the husband she’d loved each day I’d known her, but he had not fathered her children.
“Fucking mumps,” I muttered to myself of the childhood disease that had rendered Grandpa Mitchell infertile.
The mall was crowded, as one might expect three days before Christmas. I’d hoped that the early hour at which I’d arrived would save me from the masses of minds, but it hadn’t. Apparently, the mall had opened at 7:00 a.m., so the shoppers had been teeming for quite a while by the time I arrived at 9:00 a.m.
I tried to strengthen my shields, but they’d been slipping more and more lately. For all the problems that some vampires had created in my life, one gift that I’d failed to appreciate fully until it had worn out was vampire blood.
And its effects on my shields.
I had thought that it had been practice which had helped me to strengthen my mental defenses. If anything, I thought that it was the vampire blood that had helped.
I’d been so wrong. Vampire blood had been the main booster to my shields.
The practice? As it turned out—it had been the “helper” to the blood.
Constructing my shields was like playing football with pads and a helmet on. When someone’s thoughts “tackled me,” the protective gear certainly helped. But repeated tackling tired me out—no matter how thick the pads.
On the other hand, vampire blood had the power to quite literally lift me off of the field—almost as if I were hovering above it. There, I was more-less safe from the thoughts thrumming on the field of “play.”
However, it had been more than a year and a half since I’d last had vampire blood. I remembered the moment well. Once Eric and I had gotten “together” after he regained his memories, the vampire wasn’t shy about how pleased he was when I took his blood—especially when we had sex.
Our last “sharing” had been on May 4, 2006—less than a month before I severed our blood bond. And, of course, not long after that, I’d learned that Eric had been “contracted” to Freyda.
I sighed. Even though Eric had been completely gone from my life for more than a year, the loss of him still hurt—acutely.
And I didn’t even need the ol’ Word-of-the-Day calendar to know that word. I’d been studying for the SAT test because I planned to apply for college and get my business degree. I already did a lot of the paperwork at Merlotte’s, but I felt I could do more—that I could be more. And the SAT vocabulary lists put my old calendars to shame.
“Can I help you, ma’am?” a pretty brunette saleswoman asked me as I thumbed through some ties, which Sam would never have cause to wear. Weeks ago, I’d bought gifts for everyone on my Christmas list—even Pam, though I didn’t expect to see her for the holiday. I had already sent her gift to Fangtasia as I’d done last year. In fact, I’d not seen her since right after Eric went to Oklahoma, though—oddly enough—we exchanged an occasional card or letter.
We didn’t mention Eric. There was no need to. I knew where he was. And I’d seen the pictures from his “wedding” in the news clippings Bill had “anonymously” sent to me.
The problem with Bill’s attempt at anonymity was that Sam—who’d stayed over and been on a “run” as Dean the dog—just happened to see Bill putting the manila folder with the clippings into my mailbox.
So much for secrecy.
At least—when confronted—Bill didn’t deny it. He confessed that he wanted to make sure I understood that I was better off without the Viking—that Eric could never have been faithful to me because he was “too vampire.” Of course, Bill presented himself as the contrary—a concerned “humanish” friend who just wanted the best for me.
But—as I’d looked at the posed photos of Eric smiling next to Freyda, I’d stumbled upon more than one truth.
Eric’s smile was fake. Though he looked amazing, the wrinkles next to his eyes were missing.
Likewise, Bill’s “concern” for me was fake—just as fake as his so-called humanity. Even as he told me that he still loved me and was hoping for another chance—when I was ready, of course—he’d been studying my reaction to the photos of Eric.
He’d wanted me to hate Eric.
He’d wanted me to lose a little more of my heart—so that I’d be all the more vulnerable.
That had been the last night that I saw Bill Compton.
I am unashamed to say that I played the “guardian card,” one that hadn’t helped me in any other practical way before. But—that time—Mr. Cataliades came through. By the end of the week, Bill had moved to New Orleans, where he now had a big office building—at least according to Hoyt Fortenberry, who’d taken Holly on a mini-vacation to the Big Easy. Apparently, they’d run into Bill at a fancy restaurant in the city.
Hoyt had reported that Bill “looked like always” and was in charge of a big company that did “stuff with computers and such.”
I figured that de Castro had expanded the database project and had hired a team for Bill to oversee. Honestly, despite everything, I hoped that Bill would find some happiness in his “un-death”—even if it was just in his work.
I remembered back to the time when he’d first been developing his database—after Dallas, before Lorena called him. He’d been happy as a clam, buried in his work and virtually ignoring me. I couldn’t help but to hope that history was repeating itself.
Yes. Bill had hurt me. And he’d kept right on hurting me in the name of love—or, at least, his twisted version of it. But, nowadays, when I thought of Bill at all, I felt pity for him, mostly because I wasn’t sure if he was capable of being truly happy.
Of course, I sometimes wondered the same thing about myself.
I won’t lie and say that looking at the beautiful pictures of Eric and Freyda in the society pages wasn’t difficult—despite the fakeness of Eric’s smile. Seeing them on a special edition of Anderson Cooper 360 a few months later had been even more difficult.
Ironically, Freyda and Eric appeared on the show exactly one year to the day after I’d broken my and Eric’s blood bond.
Or maybe it wasn’t irony. Perhaps it was simply comeuppance for all of the mistakes I’d made with him.
For all the things I should have told him, but didn’t.
For all the actions I should have taken for him—and for us—but didn’t.
I supposed hindsight was the cruelest of teachers. After the craziness with Claude and Copley Carmichael, I had jumped into bed with Sam—hoping that he could help me forget about the mental and physical wounds I’d suffered since I’d met Bill. And—in some ways—my “strategy” had worked. But—whenever I was alone during those first few months without Eric in my life—I’d found myself looking in the mirror a lot.
And in the mirror, I scrutinized every moment I could remember of my life.
After all was said and done, I found that I regretted ever being with Bill. His lies and manipulations aside, we were ill-matched in personality. It might have been the influence of Bill’s blood that made me think that I was in love with him, but I’d learned that Eric had been telling me the truth when he’d claimed—off-handedly once—that vampire blood didn’t make anyone do anything he or she truly didn’t want to do.
I’d confirmed that fact with Octavia, but—why I hadn’t asked her at a time when that information could have been helpful—remained a mystery to me.
Maybe I’d been afraid of the truth at the time.
My only rational explanation for not asking was that I’d somehow decided that the only way I could navigate through the Supernatural world and not hate everyone in it was to keep blinders over my eyes—like the horses that pulled the carriages around Central Park or the ones ridden by mounted policemen in big cities. I’d seen enough movies to know that the horses’ blinders were meant to keep them for being spooked by traffic.
Of course, because of my time “in the mirror” I’d realized that the blinders I’d worn hadn’t really kept me from being “spooked” because I still imagined the “traffic”—sometimes envisioning it as worse than it really was. But, unlike a horse, I had the capability of judging my environment—real and exaggerated.
I’d judged Eric particularly harshly.
“Miss, are you okay?” the saleswoman asked.
Oops. I’d forgotten she was there.
No doubt—those blinders again. But more and more, I was using them to blind me to my “normal” life.
Now that was ironic!
“Oh—I’m so sorry!” I told the saleswoman. “I—uh—was just lost in my thoughts.”
She offered me a kind smile that wasn’t even a little impatient. Honestly, I wondered if she could be part Supe—since I couldn’t imagine anyone without supernatural powers working in retail with a real smile on her face during this time of year.
But Margie’s mind told me that she was all human.
“Can I help you find something?” she asked, her smile not fading.
“I—uh—my boyfriend asked me to marry him last week, and I said yes,” I shared.
“Well congratulations!” she said sincerely. “Are you looking for an engagement gift for him?”
“Uh—no! Um—should I get one of those?” I asked with a frown. “Um—actually—I was just thinkin’ that the scarf I was plannin’ on givin’ him for Christmas—before we were engaged, that is—is a little—uh . . . .”
“Impersonal?” she helped.
“Exactly,” I sighed. “Um—do you think I need an engagement gift too?” I asked, my voice laden with anxiety.
Margie patted my hand. “No. That’s an old tradition really. And—since it’s almost Christmas—your gift for him can serve as both,” she comforted.
I smiled in the wake of her kindness. Margie’s own smile was accompanied by shallow crow’s-feet, which made it look just that much more real. The other wrinkles on her face told me that she was likely around 50, though it was hard to tell since her hair was dyed to keep the gray out.
“So—what is your fiancé like? What does he enjoy?” she asked.
“Um—we own a bar and grill together,” I supplied.
She frowned. “Well—that’s great. Uh—what about his pastimes?” she tried.
I bit my tongue to keep myself from telling her that he liked to go for runs—as a dog. A new pair of Nikes wouldn’t exactly be appropriate for him.
And a chew toy? Apparently demeaning.
Of course, the two-natured had “come out,” and I wasn’t ashamed of Sam’s otherness in the least. But I also didn’t want to invite any potential prejudice to muddy the already murky shopping waters.
“He—uh—well—uh . . . .” I found myself searching my brain for what Sam liked. And, of course, that made me a little more depressed. Why didn’t I know my friend better? Why didn’t I know my new fiancé on a more “personal” level? What the fuck was wrong with me?!
“We like to watch movies together,” I finally said. “But he just moved into my house, and he has a huge television and all the fixings already,” I shared.
“What about furniture. Does he need a new dresser or something like that to feel more at home?” she tried.
“No—uh—between all of our things, the house is bursting as it is.”
“Does he wear jewelry?” Margie asked.
At the mention of jewelry, I immediately thought of Eric—and the pendant he always wore on a leather band. Somehow the thought of buying Sam a necklace of any kind seemed wrong. And—of course—a ring should wait for the wedding. Right?
“Um—I’ve seen him wear a bracelet before. Something leather,” I recalled.
She nodded. “So—your fella sounds like he’s low-key, casual, and masculine.” She grinned. “I’m bettin’ that he’s a fan of flannel.”
I chuckled. “Yep. But he has a closetful of flannel shirts already. And I can barely fit all his jeans into his dresser—since he wasn’t much of a laundry-doer when he was on his own.”
Margie giggled. “Let me guess. He has lots more clothes than he needs ’cause he only went to the laundromat once a month when he was a bachelor.”
“If that,” I grinned.
“Okay—so I have some ideas. What’s your price range?” she asked.
“I don’t really have one,” I shared. “But Sam’s not the kind who would like something just ’cause it’s gotta hefty price attached.”
“Of course not,” Margie said.
I dipped into her mind and found that she wasn’t trying to get me to spend more than I could afford. She simply didn’t want to show me things out of my price range just to leave me disappointed if I couldn’t afford them.
I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and then asked to see anything she had in mind. She suggested four items: a nice cologne that smelled of the crisp outdoors, a thick gold bracelet that was quite masculine, a beautiful leather belt, and an equally lovely leather wallet.
In the end, I opted for the cologne for Christmas and the bracelet as an engagement gift—which I figured would be a nice gesture to get. Since I was now wearing Sam’s engagement ring, it only seemed fair that he would have some jewelry too. I filed away the belt and wallet ideas for his birthday.
Margie, as it turned out, was as “full-service” as salespeople went (of course, though busy, the store was literally crawling with employees who were all working for commissions or bonuses). Margie offered to giftwrap my items for me, even as she asked me if I wanted to have Sam’s bracelet engraved.
I frowned. “Do people usually do that?”
“About half and half. But if your engagement ring is engraved, it might be a nice complement,” she suggested.
I tilted my head and looked at the diamond solitaire on my finger. I truly didn’t know if the ring was engraved, for I’d left it on my finger since Sam had put it there. In truth, I was concerned that Sam, who was already a little insecure about us—given the inequity of our feelings—might view it as a slight if I removed the ring to shower or to do dishes or to bus tables. And—thankfully—the ring was snug enough that I didn’t have to worry about it falling off, even when my hands were wet.
“You know—I don’t know if it’s engraved or not,” I stated with a little shame.
Margie smiled without judgment. “Kept it on your finger—have you?” she asked.
“And your fella doesn’t seem like the kind to brag about such things,” she added. “Why don’t you take a look now?”
I bit my lower lip and tried to pull the ring from my finger, but—though it didn’t press too hard against my finger itself, my knuckle (swollen a bit because I was on my period) was another story.
Out of nowhere, Margie produced lotion.
I thanked her and was able to get the ring off using the lubrication.
Holding my breath, I looked at the inner side of the band. “Forever Yours,” I read in a whisper.
“Forever Yours. Oh that’s lovely!” Margie smiled, handing me a Kleenex when a tear slipped from my eye.
The sad thing was that it wasn’t Sam’s wonderful sentiment that had made me feel like crying.
It was the idea of “forever.” It was the knowledge of what “yours” could really mean. And it was the memory of the vampire who’d once wanted to “keep me” forever—the one who had tried to claim me again and again.
A/N: Hello! I know that I SHOULD be working on things that are already started. I hope you trust me when I tell you that I don’t plan to leave any stories unfinished.
But—sometimes—I find myself in a mood that doesn’t match one of my works in progress, and I write a lot more when the story reflects my disposition. As for this story, the good news is that it’s all drafted. In fact, it’s been both drafted AND revised. Thus, all that needs to be done is for the story to get one more revision/edit from me and then a beta-pass by Kleannhouse. Therefore, I’m hoping that I will be able to post two chapters a week: on Saturdays and Wednesdays.
By the way, this story will have 20 chapters.
Some of you might wonder what mood I was in to inspire this story. I think it was frustration. After putting it off for a long time, I actually read Dead Ever After over my Winter break from classes. It had been a “chore” that I was putting off—to tell you the truth. I had skimmed the book before, but I finally read all of it. It was more painful than I’d feared it would be. I knew—of course—that Sookie ended up with Sam, but what struck me was just how unlikable every character in the series had become. I have often critiqued Charlaine Harris for seeming to hate Eric in the end. But I think a case could be made that she didn’t like any of them. Maybe she just got burned out on the world she’d made—jaded that people couldn’t be “good” once they were touched by the Supernatural. In the end, her premise of vampires coming out and existing alongside humans (and then shifters doing the same) just didn’t get treated fully, which is a real shame. Sookie (part Supe) was a kind of bridge between these worlds for us. Sam—if anything—becomes less accepting of his own kind after they come out publicly. Bill becomes more human—ironically—when he adopts pettiness concerning Eric, even hurting Sookie needlessly for the sake of that pettiness. Eric becomes exactly what Sookie always feared he would be—someone who leaves her without a fight—someone who doesn’t seem upset enough that he’s having to give up his pledged. Of course, we get all this through the jaded, “self-fulfilling prophesy” eyes of Sookie. And the whole Copley Carmichael/Claude plot? Sigh. It just wasn’t that interesting, and it seemed to come out of nowhere. In the end, the whole world just felt unresolved to me.
I think my major disappointed was that C.H.’s Sookie seemed capable of looking back at her life, but incapable of learning from her experiences. The best thing to be said about her is that she tries to push through her disappointments, but she just never understands that she caused some of those disappointments for herself (through inaction). Anyway, needless to say, I felt cheated out of the promise that C.H. had made with this world.
So—in my frustrated—I decided to “cheat” (which—let’s face it—that’s what time travel narratives are in a way—a cheat). I’ve read other time travel pieces before. Some of them are really interesting. Others—not so much. But I found myself intrigued by the notion of Sookie going back to the “beginning” of her interactions with vampires—knowing everything that she knows at the end of the series. But I also wanted for more than a year to have passed since the end of the novels (so that everyone was on their way to ending up as they did in After Dead). In that year, I want to believe that Sookie has learned the consequences of “settling” with Sam—even if doing that is still her choice. I also wanted her to have time to more objectively gauge the actions of the vampires in her life.
I hope that you will like the story! At first, I understand that many of you won’t like Sookie so much. Since I was frustrated with her, I’m sure some of that will show. There was also always a sense of powerlessness surrounding Sookie. Things happened “to” her and she reacted to them (or not). She didn’t learn to be proactive (with the exceptions of a few earlier incidents like Rhodes, but even then, she reacts to the threat by saving Eric but isn’t proactive in asking herself “why” she chose him to save—she assumes it had to be the bond). She actually did very little on her own behalf (besides surviving)—but instead of seeming selfless, she just ended up seeming short-sighted.
Anyway I wanted to give Sookie a gift that C.H. didn’t—the ability to learn from her mistakes if she could do it all over again.
I hope you enjoy!