WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2004
APPROXIMATELY THREE MONTHS LATER
I’d finally found the time and the courage to go to New Orleans to deal with “family business.”
I’d told Life 2’s Eric about Hunter on the second and last night I’d seen him—the night of the “debriefing.”
But Hunter had been on both of our “lists.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Eric. I did trust him—despite the fact that he’d obviously decided that a life without me in it would be better for him.
I really couldn’t blame him.
Plus, Eric was bound to be busy!
After all, I’d told him about everything I could imagine would help him: from Longshadow and Charles Twining; from Bill’s database to Peter Threadgill’s treachery; from Godfrey in Dallas to Hallow the witch; from de Castro and Madden to the Maenad; from Rhodes to Hurricane Katrina; from Freyda to Appius and Alexei. I supposed that I’d given him so much information that I’d made myself obsolete.
In my long night with Life 2’s Eric, I’d also told him many things that would certainly turn him off to anything having to do with me.
Near-final-death experiences. A lot of them.
Emotions that I doubted any Eric had ever wanted—or would ever want.
I was a trouble-making and trouble-attracting part-Fae. And I figured all Erics would know better than to get involved with one of those.
In his defense, the Eric from Life 1 hadn’t known what I was until he already had feelings for me.
Life 2’s Eric had been afforded a very different set of variables to work with.
And—as for me? I’d already accepted the fact that a life without Eric was likely the price I would have to pay in order to keep the people around me safe.
The very Sunday after I’d started Life 2, the minister at church had talked about the value of true penance for one’s sins. He’d said that a penance was sometimes imposed by society, sometimes by the church, or sometimes by God. But, just as likely, it was taken up voluntarily by an individual as an atonement for sin and error. I thought about all of my mistakes and shortcomings in Life 1 and decided that my penance would be not contacting Eric.
Even by the end of Life 1, I’d known that I didn’t deserve him. I thought about all that he’d sacrificed for me—including a century of his freedom. I just couldn’t allow for Life 2’s Eric to suffer or forfeit anything for me!
Especially not his freedom.
No—I’d be damned if Eric suffered in Life 2 because of me!
And—to ensure that didn’t happen—I needed to stay away from him.
If he chose me—chose to come to me—I knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist him. But—with each day—it seemed less and less likely that Life 2’s Eric wanted to be anywhere near me.
Penance: The minister had stated that it wasn’t easy, but it was sometimes necessary.
Also necessary was for me to try to embrace Life 2—to honor the Eric who had given it to me.
To honor Gran.
To honor everyone who had been lost in my first life.
And—though it was easier said than done—to honor myself.
So I’d been living as well as I could.
I’d been working six days a week (since Arlene still couldn’t be completely relied upon because of the René thing); however, remembering how Eric had believed that I could be so much more than a waitress, I had “continued” studying for the SAT, which I had taken in August.
I was just glad that I’d retained my knowledge from Life 1.
I’d just gotten my results, and I’d done well—considering the many minds in the testing center who’d seemingly been conspiring to give me the wrong answers. Thankfully, Eric’s blood was still in my system—still bolstering my shields.
Since I’d learned that my scores would qualify me for a lot of universities, I’d begun applying for admittance and financial aid for various online programs—because I wanted to begin my classes in the spring semester. Thankfully, there were college degrees that could be gotten totally online nowadays! And Gran felt great pride when I talked about getting an Accounting degree. Given the work I’d done at Merlotte’s in Life 1, I didn’t doubt that I was capable of bookkeeping. I just wondered if anyone would give me a job in it once I was done with school.
Perhaps irresponsibly, I’d decided to hope for the best and go for my degree—come what may.
Meanwhile, I’d been saving up all the tips that I could and planned to bet on the World Series. My first project after winning would be funding a new driveway and any part of my college expenses loans wouldn’t cover.
Oh—and I planned to save some of my winnings to bet on the Super Bowl too. I’d used my telepathy to find a reputable bookie. There were plenty who worked in the area, given the fact that the casinos on the Mississippi and in the Gulf were full of people wanting to gamble on anything they could.
Of course, I had insider information—not that anyone would ever know about that.
Being a waitress in a bar in Life 1 had been fruitful; I knew all the results of all the major sporting events. The Red Socks were going to make me a fortune when they swept the Cardinals—or, at least, as much of a fortune as my meagre savings could earn.
And then the Patriots were going to win me more money when they beat the Eagles in February—just in time for property taxes.
“A victimless crime,” I told myself. “And a new paint job that Gran would be proud of,” I added with surety.
Unfortunately, dealing with the Hadley situation was more difficult than any driveway treatment or new paint job or even new roof.
To tell Gran or not to tell Gran about Hadley being alive—and then undead since she was due to become a vampire any day—those were the questions.
In the end, I’d decided not to tell Gran. After all, Hadley hadn’t asked Sophie-Anne to find her family. She’d told her queen about her “odd” cousin in order to curry favor.
If Hadley ever decided to dial Gran’s number—a number which had belonged to Gran my whole life (and a number that was listed in the fucking phone book!)—I would support any relationship Gran wanted with my wayward cousin. But—until then—I knew that telling Gran would mean initiating relationships with people we shouldn’t know about.
Questions would be asked.
My telepathy might be discovered.
And people would likely start dying because of it.
Because of me.
As my deciding factor, I’d recalled Hadley’s Will from Life 1. She hadn’t left her things to Gran or to Aunt Linda, who had been alive when she’d left our family in her wake. No—she’d left her “estate” to me—specifically—meaning that she must have known enough about our family to recognize that her mother and Gran were both gone. But she’d never bothered to pay her respects to either of them.
Still—the prospect of Hadley dying when I could prevent it was difficult to bear. And Hadley’s death at Waldo’s hands wasn’t something I figured Eric would prioritize acting upon—though he’d put it on his list. I needed to make sure. Plus, there was Hunter to consider.
That is how I found myself driving to New Orleans—praying to God that my car would last the trip. Of course, I’d used my winnings from the few regular season football games that I could clearly remember to take my yellow eye-sore to Tray Dawson for a seeing-to, and “she” was running better than ever. But “she” still complained at any speed over 55 miles per hour.
Oh well. I was used to getting passed—left behind.
I shook myself from that thought and once again second-guessed the lie I’d told Gran to explain my two-day trip to New Orleans.
I had told her that I was meeting with Eric for a job. It was a cruel lie—given the amount of hope that the invocation of Eric’s name had brought to her. But it was a necessary lie.
After all, I had to tell her a reason for me going to New Orleans.
I had no friends there.
And I wouldn’t vacation without Gran!
Not that I’d ever vacationed.
Thus, the trip had to be about business, and Eric’s was the only name I could come up with when telling Gran who would hire me for anything beyond waitressing.
Of course, Eric wasn’t really meeting me in the Big Easy. In fact, he hadn’t contacted me in any way since the last time I saw him.
However, I could no longer wait. My conscious compelled me to make sure that Hadley was warned about Waldo. And I needed to—somehow—look in on Hunter.
Plus—with every passing day—a weight pushed upon me: Niall. I needed to ensure that he never contacted me.
And the only answer I could come up with for any of these issues was Desmond Cataliades.
Thus, I’d dialed the phone number he’d had me memorize in Life 1, and I’d made an appointment with him.
And then I’d sent Eric a letter, asking him to corroborate my “alibi” if Gran asked—though I doubted that Eric would get the letter until I was already back in Bon Temps.
In truth, I’d thought about calling the demon lawyer about a thousand times. After all, he’d helped me in Life 1. But it was probable that he didn’t know about my telepathy in Life 2 because Hadley’s stories about me had never been confirmed by Bill.
Hell—I didn’t even know if Hadley was a vampire yet in Life 2!
Life 1’s Hadley hadn’t known about Hunter’s ability. Life 1’s Remy had told me that the last time she’d contacted him was when Hunter was only a few months old—well before the little boy could talk.
And betray his “gift.”
However, Hadley was a wildcard in Life 2.
Once the queen had been “disappointed” in not getting a telepath, how had things changed for my cousin? Had she been killed? Had she been turned “early?” Had she been punished somehow? Would she actually decide to be a mother to her child in Life 2?
I didn’t like Hadley being a variable. I didn’t like that she might eventually recognize Hunter’s telepathy in Life 2. I didn’t doubt that she’d tell the queen if she did.
Of course—in Life 1, it had been me who had put Hunter onto the Supernatural radar when I’d asked Niall to help me find Remy Savoy. But it had been Copley Carmichael—of all people—who had mentioned knowing Hadley’s ex and child! Before that, I’d had no idea about Hunter! And Copley’s involvement couldn’t be a “good” sign.
Granted, so much was different in Life 2—already. Thus, the fact that Copely knew about the ex-husband and child of a person who’d rented an apartment from Amelia likely wouldn’t matter to him at all—because I wasn’t going to enter his life this time around. But I still didn’t like the fact that Copley had found Remy so “interesting” in Life 1—that he’d seemingly kept better track of Hunter and Remy than Hadley had!
Yes! Something had to be done to protect the little boy—even if I couldn’t do it directly.
I checked into the Holiday Inn.
Officially, it was my “first” hotel room since Life 2 me hadn’t stayed in the hotel in Dallas or Rhodes.
I figured that—if Life 2 me was a virgin—then other things Life 1 me had done with my body didn’t much count either. Moreover, neither Life 1 me nor Life 2 me had ever booked her—my—own hotel room before. So that was new no matter what!
I decided to order room service instead of going out to dinner on the first night of my stay. No need to tempt fate.
Given my luck, I’d run headlong into Andre on Bourbon Street!
I ate poached salmon and fried potatoes, and I turned in early, though I was too anxious to sleep comfortably.
Thankfully, my name had been enough to get me a meeting with Desmond Cataliades—and an escort to his office—and I was ready at 9:00 a.m. when Gladiola knocked. I spent a moment adding her to the list of “alive” people who’d died in Life 1. Gladiola was so full of life and cheer that I found myself smiling widely at her the whole time she escorted me to her uncle’s office—though I couldn’t understand a word she said since she talked so quickly!
Likely, she thought I was crazy as I grinned at her.
But such a thought wouldn’t be the first time. And her mind stayed like static to me. I was grateful for that.
“Miss Stackhouse,” Mr. Cataliades greeted me, before leading me into his office and to a comfortable chair.
Coffee was offered and accepted, and as the “round” fellow fixed me a cup, I took him in.
I recalled that I’d interacted with him with almost indifference when I’d seen him the last time in Life 1—even though he’d given me choices that not even Niall was willing to give. I should have told him “thank you”—at the very least.
Now—in the middle of Life 2—I wanted to hug him. But he didn’t know me—or anything about me—beyond my name.
However, as soon as he sat down, I remedied that. Apart from Eric, he was the only person I knew deserved the truth.
“I am a time-traveler and a telepath—because of you,” I told the demon before he’d even made his rotund body comfortable.
Mr. Cataliades said nothing—in fact, he hardly moved a muscle—as I told him about his part in my “reincarnation.”
After I was done with my explanation and my requests regarding Hadley, Hunter, and Niall, I waited for the demon lawyer to speak—even as I became more and more concerned that he’d be calling the people with the straightjackets to come and get me.
But he didn’t.
“You want me to threaten Niall, the Prince of the Sky Fae?” he opened—when he finally did speak.
“Um—no. But yes. Uh—I just wanna make sure that Niall never contacts me. Can you help me with that?” I asked.
Mr. Cataliades frowned. “Claudine hasn’t come to you? Not like before?”
“No,” I whispered. Not contacting her had been difficult, but I’d thought it was for the best.
“Given the fact that no connection has been made—perhaps none will be,” he suggested.
“But what if it is?” I asked, fearing the prospect of Gran being home alone when Neave and Lochlan appeared.
Mr. Cataliades contemplated for a while, seeming to run several scenarios through his head, even as he dabbed his brow and neck with a handkerchief over and over again.
“I think that I can persuade Niall not to approach you,” the demon lawyer finally said.
I nodded, allowing him to see my hope and gratefulness. But I didn’t ask him “how” he planned to accomplish his goal. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to know. “What about Hadley? Hunter?” I asked.
“I am Hadley’s attorney, and I can tell you that Adele Stackhouse is her beneficiary.”
“Good—that’s good,” I said.
“And Waldo won’t be an issue.”
“He won’t?” I asked.
“Waldo died two months ago,” the demon stated.
“How?” I asked.
“No one knows,” he responded.
An image of Eric flew into my mind.
“Is Hadley a vampire yet?” I asked.
“Yes. Shortly after Waldo died. It was a few days before the queen turned her that I was called in to do a Will for Hadley.”
I was silent for a moment. “What about Hunter?”
“Hadley has nothing to do with him. She wants nothing to do with him. In fact, she didn’t even tell me about him. When I was drawing up her Will, I “heard” about
Remy and Hunter from Hadley’s head. The image of the child was of an infant. She plans never to see the boy again because she doesn’t want to complicate things with the queen, who doesn’t let her talk about her family anymore.”
“That’s good,” I whispered.
“I figured that—like you—Hunter was well-removed from the possibility of inheriting the spark, so I haven’t visited him. Now that I know he has the spark and—therefore—my ability, I will see to him,” he said.
“How? How will you see to him?” I asked.
“I can teach him how to control his telepathy,” the demon said. “I could teach you, too.”
“Better that I never have contact with you again,” I said firmly. “But—please—do help Hunter if it can keep him secret.”
“You don’t want help?” he asked with a frown.
I shook my head. “The queen currently believes me to be without an ability, but if it became known that I was visiting with you or that you were visiting me, she might wonder why. Uh—are you sure the queen doesn’t know about Hunter?”
The demon lawyer frowned. “I don’t think so, but I will find out for sure. If she knows, I will hide him. If not—based upon what you told me—I will act to keep his ability a secret from her.”
I smiled. “Thank you. Um—please—let me know if I can help. But—uh—for now I’m afraid to . . . .” My voice trailed off.
“Afraid to?” he probed.
“Afraid to have anything to do with Hunter,” I said firmly. “I’m afraid to have anything else to do with you either, Mr. Cataliades. I’m sorry, but one meeting might be explained. Um—however, if I came here again—uh—and I were seen . . . .”
He smiled at me kindly. “I understand. And I am glad that I was able to help you find this new life,” he said. “I’m sorry I failed you in the other one.”
I shook my head and brushed away a tear. “Just—please—keep Hunter safe. And keep Niall away from both of us if you can.”
“I swear that I will do my best,” he said sincerely.
I got up to leave.
“You know—you look like him. Your eyes. Your chin,” he whispered.
“Fintan,” I sighed. “I haven’t even gotten up the courage to ask Gran about him yet—even though I’ve found the cluviel dor—from this life,” I said significantly. “Do you think it will work?”
He shrugged. “I don’t see why it wouldn’t. Everything seems to have been reset.”
I looked at him seriously. “If Hunter’s ever in danger, call me. I’ll use it on him. Otherwise, I think it’s best that he never knows me, and that means that Gran can’t know him.” I let out a sob—so overwhelmed by my guilt of keeping Hunter away from Gran so that he could be kept away from me. Rationally, I knew that it was Life 2’s Hadley that had kept herself and Hunter from Gran, but in that moment, I felt completely responsible for the secret.
“Just—uh—make sure that Hunter knows he’s not alone,” I whispered, wiping away tears as I spoke. “Let him know that he’s not the only telepath in the world. And—if you think he needs,” I paused, “love—please tell me. I—uh—I’ve tried to do what I can to stay out of people’s lives since I was like Typhoid Mary in Life 1, but I don’t want Hunter to have to be alone. If he needs,” I paused again to let out a sob, “Gran, let me know.”
“And what would you do then?” the demon asked me.
“Go away, of course,” I said quickly. “He could be with Gran. She would love him.”
“But . . . .”
I interrupted him with the raising of my hand. “The only reason I haven’t disappeared already is that—if I do—it might draw attention to everyone I love. In fact, I’m doin’ my level best to convince everyone—even my brother—that I never really could read minds. But Hunter—well—we barely knew each other before, and he mainly just wanted someone to help him to not feel so very alone. And—uh—Remy is a good man. He’ll be even better once Hunter’s gettin’ help, and this time, that’s gonna happen so much sooner!”
Mr. Cataliades looked like he was going to argue with me for a moment, but he didn’t. Instead, he spoke to me in his lawyerly voice. I appreciated that.
“For now, Hadley is fine; she is the queen’s favored pet. Now that I’m aware of Hunter, I will begin working with him right away. And I will contact you if the cluviel dor is needed for him. You may rest assured.”
I felt about a thousand pounds lighter as I nodded to him. “Thank you. Thank you so much,” I whispered through my emotions.
“I failed you during your first life,” he said. “I won’t fail Hunter this time. I swear it.”
I was grateful for Mr. Cataliades’s words.
“Can I do anything else—for you?” he asked.
“Just keep Niall away from me and from Hunter,” I said.
A/N: Hello all! Just FYI, I revised a significant amount of this after Kleannhouse saw it, so if there are errors, I’m sure that they are mine.
Okay—so I know what you are thinking: That Sookie is screwing up Life 2 because she’s not with Eric. But as several of you have pointed out, Eric and Sookie wouldn’t be themselves if they were good at communicating with each other. Given what happened to her in Life 1, I think that Life 2 Sookie has done whatever she could do avoid the Supernatural, which—in some ways—is an existential dilemma for her. She IS a Supernatural person. And she didn’t embrace that in Life 1 either. She’s trying to keep everyone safe, so she can’t embrace it in Life 2 either.
In a lot of ways, she left her fate up to Eric this time. She told him everything and put the ball in his court. She exchanged blood with him. He would have been able to tell how she felt about him; plus, she told him how she felt. (The “I love you.”) She left the choice up to Eric. I think if he would have come back, she would have moved cautiously into the Supe world, though I also believe she would have tried to keep her telepathy a secret. She would have trusted Eric with the secret and her safety.
Yes, she could get help with her telepathy from Mr. Cataliades, but what would interacting with him mean? And she didn’t exactly want to initiate contact with the fairies. Yes—Claudine would have helped her, but book Sookie had no “light-shooting” power. She had a spark and telepathy, but nothing else “extra.” So initiating with Claudine would have opened the can of worms she’s trying to keep shut.
But that leaves her living a “normal” life as an “abnormal” person. And that leaves her wanting to be with Eric, but not going to him because she doesn’t think Eric 2 wants her like that. So—yep—the more things change, the more they stay the same.
And that’s the angst.
Expect more time jumps. They are another reason for the story’s title.
I hope you are still liking this piece.
Thanks to Seph and Kleannhouse as always!