The night air shimmered around a headstone in the Bon Temps Cemetery, unbeknownst to any of the inhabitants of the houses that bordered the spooky place. It isn’t something that is seen every day, only once every few years or so, or more often if there happens to be a pursuit. Time is relative between worlds, and though Sookie had returned from Faerie nearly two months before in earthly time, to any fairy it had been merely a couple of minutes since she had left… seconds since Claudine had disappeared and Claude had gone after her.
Claude found himself in a vaguely familiar place. He’d been at the cemetery before, but couldn’t remember it being so overgrown, or the trees being so large, or there being so many memorials to dead humans. A tiny cherub smiled upon him from its stony seat; a sober-looking headstone shined in its freshness. It must have been brand new, the marble still resplendent and white. Claude wasn’t interested in any of the headstones or sculptures, only in finding his sister and bringing her back. This earthly plane of existence was not suitable for fairies, that much was true, but neither was HIS plane of existence suitable for fairy hybrids like Sookie and her grandfather who were mostly human.
Nose to the air, he caught the scent of vampire from several directions, but the faint scent of fairy from only one: to the east. He followed it slowly, deeply aware that the two mingled scents were not a good sign. He understood how time worked here, and knew that even as fast as he’d followed his sister, there was no guarantee as to her current whereabouts. Nevertheless, he hoped that her stubbornness in following the queen’s orders hadn’t been her ultimate undoing, although with the scent of vampire becoming more and more pronounced, Claude feared that his sister’s fate had been sealed.
A house Claude had seen before rose from the cypresses and oaks surrounding the cemetery. The scent of vampire was strong enough around the house to give Claude cause to pause completely before leaving the relative safety of the tree line. The house was mostly dark, with a few spots of light on the first floor. He could hear voices, a man and a woman. He knew this was the Stackhouse property, so he had to assume the woman was Sookie, still doing well and alive. And, he thought, she had been visited by vampires very recently. The whole area reeked of the undead.
Claude disappeared from the tree line and reappeared near an illuminated window of the house. Through it he could see several chairs and other furniture, but nothing else. The voices had come from another part of the house, though now they were mute. Slowly he made his way farther back, past the front door, trying his best to avoid the bits of light that spilled from the windows. It wasn’t easy, but he managed to reach the window of another room. It was the kitchen, he thought to himself, remembering the various appliances that humans used to cook their food.
A chill ran down his spine when he realized that he could see Sookie, and she didn’t look safe at all. It seemed like a vampire – a very large vampire – was eating her where she sat on top of a counter. He was about to enter the home and pry him off her when a soft moan from her mouth stopped him. Claude listened and watched closely: the short, shallow breaths Sookie was taking, the way she had wrapped her arms and legs around the vampire, and the way he was moving around her… he wasn’t eating her! He was kissing her!
He’d been aware that Claudine had met with a vampire who had been Sookie’s lover, but the one currently in her kitchen did not resemble the dark-haired one that his sister had described to Queen Mab. Claude watched – half in wonder, half in horror – the amorous exchange taking place in front of his eyes. Sookie was far from scared of the vampire, and the vampire was not doing anything that could potentially harm her. As a matter of fact, he thought, the vampire was being exceedingly cautious, given their propensity to use their full strength when in close quarters with fairies.
“Dinner AND a show,” a low feminine voice purred behind him before Claude found himself held down on the ground by the throat. The smell of death was so strongly coming from her that he had confused the vampire now holding him for something else he could smell in the air.
Claude didn’t hesitate as her mouth closed on his neck, but it wasn’t his own power that dislodged the vampire from his body. The bolt had come from somewhere else. He didn’t waste time. As soon as he felt his body become free, he disappeared as far away as he could. He would have to wander for the rest of the night and come back to Sookie’s house during the day while it was safer. There was simply no way to visit Sookie during the night, not with the type of company she kept.
“I’m sorry!” Sookie exclaimed, running to see what kind of damage she had done to Pam. Something inside her had propelled her to save the fairy that Pam was about to drain, even if now she thought that it might have been against her better judgment. Who knew which fairy that had been? She saw it was a male, but couldn’t be sure if it had been the one who had helped her and her grandfather escape from Faerie.
“She’s all right,” Eric said, already tending to Pam. “Just stunned.”
“I just… I don’t know if that fairy was good or bad or what,” Sookie said honestly, looking around to see if the fairy had stayed. If he was smart, he would have gone very far and not remained anywhere close to Sookie’s house. But who could tell with fairies?
“Is my hair burning?” Pam asked while still lying on the ground.
“Not that I can tell, but…” Eric began, and took a deep breath of the air around his child. “The smell of death is dissipating,” he finished, watching Pam closely. The witch’s curse seemed to be lifting right before his eyes. Sookie had done it again.
“If a zap from Sookie’s hands was all it took, then why didn’t she zap me earlier? That hurt, by the way,” Pam said, giving Sookie a dirty look and getting up from the ground with a lot of effort, using Eric’s arm for leverage. She thought this was the way humans felt every morning: slow to wake, slow to move, creaky and achy. For one brief moment she actually felt a bit of empathy for the human condition.
“I’m sorry, Pam,” Sookie repeated, keeping her distance. A pissed off Pam was the last thing she needed. She already had one, maybe two, vampires after her.
“Let’s go inside and talk,” Eric said looking around them. He was feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable outside of the house and the protection it provided against uninvited vampires.
Sookie returned to the kitchen and continued cooking her meal for the night, an endeavor that had been interrupted by Eric’s sudden need to claim her for himself again. Not that she had minded. She smiled to herself remembering how Eric had hugged her as she stirred some pasta, then lifted her onto the counter and kissed her ever so slowly and deliberately. Eric’s keen sense of hearing and smell had interrupted their exchange when he said there was a fairy outside. He’d been right.
“So unfair,” Pam grumbled. “I was really looking forward to fairy for dinner.”
“I don’t feel like chasing you all day like I did with Eric. You wouldn’t be half as easy to catch,” Sookie said, grumbling too.
“I sure am not,” Pam said with a sly smile.
“Enough,” Eric said rolling his eyes at Pam. “How are you feeling?”
“Like the kitchen is spinning.” Pam sat at the table with a less than graceful motion, which was very unlike her. “I suppose this is what humans feel like when they are drunk.”
“You’ll be fine in a few minutes. For now you should concentrate on the fact that the curse has been lifted thanks to Sookie,” Eric said. It was high time Pam learned some manners. She was supremely smart, except when it came to Sookie, and the jealousy had to stop already.
Pam remained quiet for several seconds, trying her best to avoid Eric’s insistent gaze. He towered over her where he stood, a force to be reckoned with. She knew better than to defy him, and she really WAS feeling much better thanks to Sookie. “Thank you for lifting the curse, Sookie,” she said, adopting the best tone of voice she could manage.
“My pleasure,” Sookie said and continued with her cooking.
“Why are there fairies roaming your property, Sookie? I understand they’re your kin, but it is… irregular,” Eric commented, taking a seat at the table next to Pam.
Sookie took a deep breath. How was she supposed to explain THAT particular mess? It was no use lying and saying she didn’t know the fairies’ agenda because Eric could read her like a book, and what purpose would it serve anyhow? It wasn’t like she wanted to go back to Faerie anyway. She hated to see anybody get hurt or killed, but perhaps having vampires on the lookout for fairies would be best.
“The fairy you drained,” Sookie began, turning to Eric, “was here trying to get me to go back to Faerie.”
“Back to Faerie?” Pam asked. “So that’s where you were.”
Sookie nodded sadly, remembering the very brief reunion with her grandfather, and all the other hybrid humans who had no choice now but to remain in Faerie. “Her name was Claudine. She was working for the Queen. The Queen of the fairies wants to bring all the hybrids like me back to Faerie.”
Eric gave a wry chuckle. “That’s impossible. What would be the point anyway? Their world is dying.”
“Yes, I noticed,” Sookie agreed, serving herself some dinner although she had lost her appetite. She offered the vampires some True Bloods before sitting down to eat.
“So now we have to worry about Sookie’s safety on two fronts: Russell’s zombies and the fairies,” Pam pointed out, looking at Sookie as she ate. Such a small person causing so much trouble… Perhaps she SHOULD eat more, fatten up, and make her girth proportional to the trouble she’d caused.
“We’re getting help with Russell. It should arrive tomorrow night. In the meantime,” Eric turned to Sookie, “you should speak to Merlotte and tell him what is going on. He is strong enough to watch over you during the day, at least while you’re at work.”
Sookie frowned. “I don’t know if you noticed, but the fairies are coming here, and any zombie can come here too before I even get to work.”
“I think it’s time your brother started helping out as well. Can’t he see you to work safely? Why do you always have to be alone?” Pam stood up. It was true that she resented Sookie about many things, but some things were obviously beyond the girl’s control.
“I wish Lafayette hadn’t left,” Sookie said in a low voice between bites. The situation was dire and she needed all the help she could get wherever she could get it. Her brother was flaky at best. Having Lafayette around would help her immensely, at least during the day.
There wasn’t anything that could have made Lafayette go back to Sookie’s house other than the very real threat to her safety. Eric’s promise to pay for his mother’s care until she passed away also had a bit to do with his final decision to return to Sookie’s. Of course, being in his house by himself was not all that great either.
“I’m just a medium. What can I do?” Lafayette asked as he sat at Sookie’s table. It had been a long night. It was nearly two in the morning by the time he had arrived at the house.
“You know enough magic to safeguard the house,” Eric answered.
Eric was right. Lafayette knew enough now to be able to put a spell around the property that would repel anybody that wasn’t invited. His body had played host to three different entities, two of whom had been well-versed in the art of magic. Between what he had retained from them, and what Jesús had taught him, Lafayette was more powerful than he’d ever been.
“I’ll do it, but only for Sookie’s sake,” Lafayette said finally, pointing at both Eric and Pam. He felt Sookie’s soft hand on his, a gesture of gratitude. She was the only one left – other than his mother – that he gave two shits about. If anything happened to that little blond girl he would never forgive himself. And that was the point, wasn’t it? He’d been the one who had gotten in deep with the vampires by selling vampire blood. He had been the one to allow Marnie to influence both him and Jesús. He could have set his foot down, or backed away, but ultimately it had been Sookie who had saved them all from the witch and her spirit.
The next morning he began working around the house with Sookie humming happily in the kitchen as she made breakfast. He suspected she enjoyed having company as much as he did. He finally made his way into the kitchen to set up the wards there, just as Sookie was finishing making their meal.
“You cook just like Gran,” Lafayette commented. The whole house smelled like bacon and biscuits.
“I learned from the best. Even when times were lean, she always tried to feed everybody,” Sookie said smiling. It was nice having someone to cook for, even if it wasn’t her boyfriend. She remembered her silly wish to share a morning meal with Bill, and wondered at her sanity when it came to relationships. At least Eric didn’t take so much blood that she ended up feeling, quite literally, drained. She actually felt pretty energized that morning.
The doorbell rang and startled both Sookie and Lafayette. They both looked at each other and exchanged a glance with the same question. Neither had been expecting company.
“I’ll go,” Lafayette said, leaving Sookie to finish in the kitchen. He opened the door to a very angry werewolf.
“I need to see Sookie,” Alcide said in a very deep voice that carried through the house. His footsteps followed, stomping over and around Lafayette.
“What the fuck is your problem?” Lafayette asked, closing and locking the front door and following Alcide to the kitchen.
“My problem is that these fucking vampires left Sookie alone and she’s in danger,” Alcide answered, his voice booming. “Sookie you need to come with me, now!”
“Um… no,” Sookie said looking at Alcide as if he’d grown an extra head.
“Did they tell you that Russell Edgington is still alive? He’s alive and is raising an army of zombies. He wants you and wants to start a war against humans,” Alcide finally explained.
Sookie tried her best to keep an even, calm tone of voice. “I know all about it. Why didn’t you tell me earlier than now?”
“I just found out. Russell’s been raiding fresh graves, and soon he’ll be killing people to turn them into his own dead soldiers.”
“I guess he gave up on the likes of you,” Lafayette pointed out, having a suspicion that Alcide had worked directly for Russell no matter what he’d said to Eric.
Alcide didn’t acknowledge Lafayette’s remark. “Sookie, you need to come with me. I’m the only one who can protect you. Pack up your things.”
“I already said no. I’m not leaving my house, and I can protect myself plenty well, thank you very much! Now get out of my house before I show you how I do the protecting,” Sookie said, feeling her fingers prickle with electricity when she wanted them to for the first time ever. That was something almost worth celebrating, if she hadn’t been so mad. She was done with werewolves. Bunch of lunatics, literally!
“You heard the lady. Now get!” Lafayette said, taking a couple of steps forward. He, like Sookie, knew that Alcide’s bitch had killed Tara. Unfortunately, neither of them could say anything to Alcide because Sookie had then killed Debbie, and it wouldn’t be fair for Sookie to pay for that crime when she had done it to protect her own life. Besides, what would Alcide’s reaction be? Nobody wanted to find out.
“Fine!” Alcide said putting up his hands in surrender before pointing an accusatory finger at Sookie. “Don’t come to me if you need help. I’m done trying to do right by you.”
“Nobody asked you to!” Sookie said exasperated. “Eric paid you to keep me safe in Jackson, and you didn’t! You let Russell find me and take me. And then…” Sookie was going to throw Debbie’s attempt on her life when she felt Lafayette’s hand reach for hers.
“And then what?” Alcide pressed.
“Nothing. It’s all over now. Please leave my house,” Sookie said in a more subdued voice.
Alcide turned and left. Lafayette followed to make sure the door was locked behind him. He returned to the kitchen to find Sookie holding her upper half against the table.
“I feel so guilty,” she mumbled. “He should know what Debbie was capable of.”
“He knew, girl. Believe me, he knew what she could do but decided not to notice. She was an addict. It was just a matter of time for her to repeat what she’d already done before.” Lafayette put his arm around Sookie. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” she said, leaning against Lafayette. It was good to have one friend who cared and didn’t have any hidden agendas, like wanting to get in her pants.
“What you said about Alcide letting Russell find you… Do you believe that? Because I’ll tell you something, girl: I wouldn’t trust that motherfuckin’ wolf as far as I can throw his overgrown ass.”
Sookie thought about it. “I said it in the heat of the moment, but… I don’t know.” She stopped talking when something moved inside her. “Um…” she frowned, “let me go check on Eric,” she said, unsure of why she felt the urge to go see him in the middle of the day.
“You go check, I’ll get breakfast on the table. At some point we gonna eat,” said Lafayette, giving her a soft squeeze before releasing her.
As soon as Sookie stepped close to the cubby, she heard the locks disengage. Obviously Eric was up in the middle of the day. She made her way down slowly, finding Eric walking back and forth inside the cubby like a caged animal, holding his shirt against his nose.
“Alcide was here,” she said before he asked, even though she could tell Eric knew very well all about the unexpected visit.
“I heard everything. Don’t let him in the house during the day. If he comes again, call the cops. Someone like him wouldn’t want trouble with the police. It would damage his reputation,” Eric said, his voice even but his thoughts evidently in chaos.
“All right, will do,” Sookie agreed readily. She wasn’t about to let Alcide back in the house anyway.
“I thought he was the lesser of all evils. I thought that I had enough on him to keep him in line,” Eric shook his head. “One of my many mistakes.”
“Let’s just move forward, okay? I’m tired of all this guilt you’re carrying around. There’s nothing in your set of skills that tells me you can go back in time and fix your mistakes, so…” Sookie shrugged. “Can’t we just move on?”
Eric didn’t answer right away, although he was looking at Sookie with new eyes. “You’ve changed.”
“Yes, I guess I have. If I kept thinking about the mistakes I made, I’d go nuts. Lafayette just reminded me that I’m a lot like my Gran, and if I want to do justice to her memory, I need to start behaving more like her.”
“She must have been a wise woman,” Eric agreed and sat on the bed.
“She was the best,” Sookie said and put her hands on Eric’s shoulders, guiding him back to a prone position. “Go back to sleep. We’ll talk more tonight.” She kissed him softly and watched as his eyes closed with the weight of the day.
Next Chapter (Coming Soon!)