Charlaine Harris owns almost everyting. I own the rest. SeriousCrush has given me hours of her time, and for that, I must thank her.
Here’s a long one to tide you over…I’m tweaking the canon here, so be prepared to have the lines between my reality and CH’s reality blurred.
Chapter 7: Listening
Jason was obviously put out by having houseguests. Sookie wasn’t happy about the arrangement either. Gran got the spare bedroom, which left Sookie and Tina on the couch. His lumpy, funky-smelling couch. Her mind raced as she tried to get comfortable. Someone tried to break into her house. Chills went up her spine. If they hadn’t stopped at the store, or if Eric hadn’t gotten there first, she and Gran could both be dead. She frowned.
Eric had come to see her.
“He’s not interested in you like that,” she whispered to herself. He came to find out how she knew about the raid. It was important not to forget that. Suddenly, a vampire ex-lover keeping her most important secret was the least of her worries.
“Who’s not interested?” Jason’s voice startled her from the kitchen.
She pushed the itchy blankets off her shoulders and sat up. Jason was in the kitchen drinking a beer.
“Nothing. Hey, thanks for letting us stay here.” Sookie put on her best appreciative sister smile.
Jason rolled his eyes. “Just so long as it’s not a lengthy stay. I’ve got a reputation to uphold.”
Sookie shook her head. “I’m sure you can take a break from chasing women for a few days.”
Jason grimaced. It was as if she were asking him to hold his breath.
“You can’t say anything about us being here. No one. Understand?”
He frowned as he nodded. “Who do you think the Bon Temps Strangler is?”
“I don’t know. Could be anyone. Chances are, it’s someone we know. It’s definitely someone who hates vamps, and the women who date them.” She swallowed hard. Dawn and Maudette had both been with vamps. So had Sookie. “I know lots of people aren’t exactly supportive of my decision to date Vampire Bill, so for now, I’m going to keep a low profile and try to figure out who it is.” Her life depended on it. Before work the next day, she was going to turn the knife in as evidence, hoping that maybe they’d be able to figure out who the killer was and then she’d have the law on her side too.
“That’s real smart, Sook. I promise I won’t tell no one.” He drained the rest of his beer and went to bed.
As Sookie rummaged through her suitcase for her nightgown, her fingers bumped against something hard. It was a small, hinged box. A smile turned up the corner of her mouth. Maybe Eric had visited her for more than one reason.
Whatever the reason, she was grateful. Eric had inadvertently saved her life.
When she finally fell asleep, she didn’t sleep well, and when she woke, she was protecting her throat and gasping for breath.
Gran was sitting on the coffee table next to her and was touching her shoulders. Her forehead was wrinkled with worry. “That must’ve been some dream.”
Sookie sat up and nodded. She could still feel the knife sliding into her neck.
No matter how hard Sookie tried to be presentable for work, she was paying the price for living out of a suitcase. Her T-shirt was wrinkled and her pants were covered in lint.
“Everything all right, chere?” Sam rubbed the same spot on the bar as Sookie picked flecks of itchy blanket off her pants.
“Yep.” Sookie smiled a little too tightly, and touched the fairy necklace under her shirt. Sam frowned but he didn’t press her.
She spent the first part of her shift half listening in on everyone who came in. Things got particularly interesting when Bill walked in. He didn’t seem to notice the attention he was drawing, but she sure did. The room was split pretty evenly with thoughts about Bill being the killer and how crazy Sookie was for dating him. There were a few stray thoughts filled with hate, but she couldn’t pinpoint where they were coming from.
Bill waited quietly in her section, his face completely blank until she walked up to take his order.
“Would you like me to bring you a bottle of synthetic blood? They came in last night.”
Bill nodded, and as she turned to leave, he touched her elbow. In a bare whisper he said, “I went to your house—”
Sookie put her finger on his lips and shook her head. He got the hint. She mouthed, “Later,” and left to get his order.
By the end of her shift, she was no closer to discovering who the killer was. She lingered by the back door longer than usual, scanning the parking lot.
“Looking for me?” Bill’s cool voice made her jump.
She clutched her chest and pushed her heart back down her throat. “No. I was making sure it was safe.”
“Safe? The Rattray’s—”
Sookie shook her head. “Not them.” She pulled him into the storage room behind Sam’s office where no one would be able to hear them. “Someone came to my house last night and tried to break in. They carved a big chunk out of the door. I think I’m next.” Bill didn’t need to know that Eric had been there too.
Bill’s eyes narrowed. “Stay with me. You’ll be safe there.”
Sookie resisted the urge to laugh. “Like the night I came over to discuss contractors and narrowly escaped becoming dinner to those three horrid vampires you know?”
“You’re mine. They won’t touch you.”
“You keep saying that like I agreed to it.” Sookie frowned. “What does that even mean?”
“I have had your blood and you have had mine, so I can claim you as my own. I can protect you.” Bill took a step closer to her. He was staring at her neck as if their discussion was making him hungry.
“I’m not a piece of property, or a walking meal. I’m a person. A person who’s being hunted by a murderer because I’m with you. That doesn’t feel like protection to me.” She pushed on his chest, making her fingers ache. “I’m leaving, while the coast is clear.” She didn’t wait for his response she just walked around him and then ran to her car.
Everywhere Sookie went over the next two days, she listened. It was harder than she anticipated. Opening herself to their minds meant finding out exactly what most folks thought of her. She was crazy Sookie before, now she was vampire-crazy Sookie.
Maybe she was a little vampire-crazy. It was all she thought about, whether it was Bill, Eric, or the murderer, it was all vampire related.
While Sookie was waiting for an order, Arlene sidled up next to her at the bar.
“Hey Sookie.” She shook her red hair over her shoulders and fixed her lipstick in the mirror.
“Hey Arlene.” Sookie smiled at Arlene’s reflection.
“Things okay at home?” She pursed her lips together and made a popping sound.
“Sure, why do you—”
“Order’s up.” Lafayette sang from the kitchen.
Sookie smiled and grabbed the plate. She’d been a little too slow that night and her tips were suffering. Arlene’s question sent up a red flag and no matter how hard she worked that night, she couldn’t shake the unsettling feeling that she needed to know more.
Her shift was very busy, and she never got a chance to find out what Arlene meant. To top it off, Bill showed up a half hour before closing. He had something important to discuss with her and was obviously planning to wait until she was done with her shift.
As soon as she hung up her apron, he was by her side, ruining her last chance to talk to Arlene. In the parking lot, he ushered her into the passenger seat of his car.
“Sookie, Eric told me to bring you to Shreveport again.”
“You mean he ordered you to bring me there?” Her mouth hung open. “You have to do this, don’t you?”
“I don’t want to go see him.” Her fingers instinctively ran against the tiny fairy against her chest.
“That makes no difference. He’s older than me. Stronger.”
“So he’s the head of Vampire Region Ten or something?”
“Something like that.” His face was completely unreadable.
“What does he want? What will happen if I don’t go?”
“He’ll send someone.”
“Other vampires.” She swallowed hard.
“I guess I have to go. Is that where you’re taking me?” She pointed to the keys in his hand, which were already in the ignition.
Another cool nod. “Before we go…” He tilted his head thoughtfully. “I think you should drink from me.”
She made a face. “Ick.”
“It’ll make you stronger. Make us stronger.”
A long sigh escaped her throat. It was a thinly veiled attempt to renew his claim on her. “No.”
“Sookie, I’m going to insist.” Bill scooted closer.
“And I’m going to resist. Keep in mind, Bill, that my boss is standing about ten feet away. Anything happens to me, and there will be hell to pay.” She hoped he believed her bluff.
He turned, faced forward, and started the car. It worked.
They drove in silence until he pulled in front of Fangtasia. “Let me do the talking, and please, don’t hit Eric again.” Bill’s voice was icy.
“Fine.” She opened her door and got out before Bill could help. Being treated like a lady was one thing, but being treated like an incompetent child was another.
Bill knocked, three quick, two spaced apart.
Pam opened the door. Although they hadn’t been introduced, there was no forgetting her sweet, beautiful face.
Eric’s presence dominated his office. Bill nodded deeply to Eric and then acknowledged Long Shadow and Pam with a slight bob of his head.
“Sookie, Bill,” Eric greeted them. “You remember Long Shadow and Pam?” He was talking to Sookie.
Sookie glanced around the room. A nervous man sat in a chair in front of Eric’s desk. He was sweating bullets and clutching a briefcase. “Why am I here?” She decided cutting to the chase was the best option.
“Listen to Bruce.” Eric said casually.
“What exactly am I listening for?” Rage burned through her. She was being used and she didn’t like it. Not one bit.
“Someone has embezzled about sixty thousand dollars from us,” Eric said calmly. “Instead of putting my employees to death or torturing them, we thought perhaps you would look into their minds and tell us who it was.”
There it was, her secret, exposed to everyone in the room. Curiously, Bruce was the only one who was surprised. The news of her differentness washed over Bill as if he’d heard it a thousand times. How did he know? She intended to find out later, when Bruce’s life wasn’t at stake.
“What then? You turn whoever it is over to the police?” She held his gaze.
“Of course.” His smile was a little too sweet.
“What if it’s not a human?”
Eric mulled her question over and looked at Pam and Long Shadow. “I’ll still get the police involved, of course.”
Sookie shivered. She didn’t like the hard edge in his voice. “If you really do turn the guilty person over the cops, I’ll do this for you again. Whenever you want.”
The corner of Eric’s mouth lifted in smile. “Kind of you to offer.”
“I think it’s better if I offer. No one likes to be forced into reading someone’s mind at two in the morning.”
“Of course. Now begin.” He nodded to the sweaty man as he took a seat behind his desk.
She took a step between the desk and the chair, turning her back to Eric. Sookie had been honing her telepathy all week trying to find the murderer, so the second she looked into Bruce’s eyes, she was bombarded with his story. He didn’t take the money, but he knew it was missing. He was the one who told Eric. He was worried about his wife and kids, not so much about dying, but leaving them behind. He blamed himself for not noticing it earlier.
“How would you’ve noticed it earlier?” Sookie asked as if Bruce had spoken out loud.
Bruce frowned and narrowed his eyes. “Did you hear me think that?”
Sookie nodded. “Sure did. Now answer my question.”
“Maybe if I’d checked the ledger weekly I would’ve noticed.” He gulped and looked at Eric.
“Did you take the money?” She asked, knowing full well he didn’t, but Eric needed to hear it from him directly.
“No. I swear. It wasn’t me. That would be crazy, and I’m not crazy.” His eyes pleaded with her.
“He’s telling the truth. Bruce, do you know who did?” She touched him, strengthening the link to his mind, but nothing new came to his thoughts. She glanced at Eric and shook her head. “It’s not him, he doesn’t know anything.”
“Next!” Eric directed from his massive chair. Pam escorted Bruce out of his office and returned with a server she recognized from her previous visit. “Ginger, answer this woman’s questions.”
Ginger smiled at him sweetly and nodded. “As you wish, Master.”
Sookie choked back bile and reached out to touch her.
Ginger recoiled as if she’d been burned. “Don’t touch me!”
“Pam, hold her still so Sookie may proceed.” Eric never moved from his chair.
Ginger’s jaw clenched tight and her dull eyes shot daggers at Sookie the second time she touched her.
“Did you take the money?” Sookie listened to the fragmented thoughts that seeped out of her skull. “She knows who did. She can’t say the name. He’s bitten her.” She frowned. There wasn’t anything else. “She can’t even picture him. It’s strange.”
“She’s been glamoured,” Pam said. She and Eric exchanged knowing glances.
“Bring in her friend.” Eric leaned over his desk and then stood.
Pam carried Ginger out of the room and brought in another server.
“Belinda, what vampire has Ginger been seeing?” Eric asked as he paced behind the chair holding the woman.
Sookie reached out to touch her and heard Belinda’s words before she spoke them.
“Anyone that would have her.” Belinda scoffed, and then an image popped into her head: Ginger and Long Shadow in an embrace.
Sookie’s eyes met Eric’s for a brief moment and then she spun on her heel to face Long Shadow. He was moving so fast Sookie only had enough time to shield her face with her arms. Long Shadow’s body fell on top of hers, pinning her to Eric’s desk. Something sharp dug into her side as Long Shadow’s fangs ripped into her forearm. A strangled scream escaped her throat. He lunged forward, squeezing the last bit of air out of her lungs. If she didn’t bleeding to death, she was surely going to suffocate. Her head swam and the fear started to ooze out of her body as she fought to remain conscious.
Just as suddenly as she’d been flattened against the desk, Long Shadow’s weight lifted. His crazy eyes went flat and then his face crumpled. Sookie couldn’t look away as blood gushed out of the folds in his skin saturating her clothes. Eventually, all that was left of him was a black pool of gelatinous goo.
Sookie sat up slowly, letting her arms fall away from their protective position. Eric came from one side, with a stake in his hand, while Bill came from the other.
“You’re bleeding,” they said in unison. Their fangs were out.
She remembered the night Bill had saved her, and how he said she tasted different. Maybe her blood smelled different too. She glanced down at her arms and watched in amazement as the gashes began to heal. Some of the blood was Long Shadow’s and it was healing her. “I’ll never get used to that,” she said in a daze.
The vampires around her all had the same intense hungry look on their faces. Bill and Eric had something a little extra: anger directed at each other. She suddenly felt like a hunk of meat in a swarm of sharks. Belinda didn’t seem to mind the way Pam was looking at her, but Sookie’s instincts told her to run.
She backed away from the edge of the desk. Eric and Bill were too preoccupied with snarling at each other to notice her retreat until her hand was on the doorknob. “I’m going to wash to up and then I’m going home.” When she opened the door, Ginger practically fell on top of her. She immediately ran between Eric and Bill and started rubbing against them.
Sookie slammed the door, trying to erase the image of what would probably be a feeding frenzy. She shook her head and found the bathroom.
Visiting a room with mirrors was a bad idea. Sookie’s face was streaked with blood and her arms were much worse. She bathed what she could over the small square sink, but her shirt was sticking to her body with the remnants of Long Shadow. She grimaced as a flash of his body exploding came to mind. She lifted the hem of her shirt and then paused. What now? I walk out of her topless? No. She needed help.
Reluctantly, she went back to Eric’s office and opened the door. Pam was still holding Belinda, but in a much more intimate embrace. Heat burned her cheeks as she found Eric and Bill leaning over Ginger, feeding from her simultaneously. “Sorry to interrupt, but do you have a shirt I can change into?” She wanted to scream and slap them both, but it didn’t seem like a good idea at the moment.
Eric released his grip on Ginger’s arm and smiled. His teeth were stained red. Bill made no move to leave Ginger, and hardly seemed to register her presence. He moaned and closed his eyes.
“Follow me.” Eric moved in a blur out of his office.
Sookie closed the door behind her and had to guess where Eric was by the trail of lights leading to the front of the club. He was standing behind the bar holding a black T-shirt.
“This should fit.” He unfolded it and held it up to her so she could change. It was almost as long as some of the dresses she had.
Sookie scrunched her nose. “I’ll change in the bathroom, thank you very much.”
“And risk getting blood all over your face?” He lifted an eyebrow.
She cringed. Her Merlotte’s T-shirt was skin-tight. Removing it was going to be messy.
“Here,” Eric walked around the bar and stood in front of her. He touched the neckline of her shirt and tugged, ripping the material open several inches.
“What? It’s ruined anyway. Right?” His fingers lingered against her shirt.
Her shoulders sagged as she sighed. “I guess.” She looked down to find her tiny fairy cradled in his fingertips.
“You found it.” He was smiling, which was fairly disturbing since his fangs were still fully extended. How had she missed those on their first night together?
“It’s pretty. Thank you,” she whispered.
Sookie cleared her throat and tried to finish ripping her shirt, but the saturated knit slipped through her fingers.
He put his fingers on top of hers. “Let me do it.”
She shook her head. Undressing in front of him wasn’t on her list of things to do that night. Or ever again. “I’ll turn around so you can rip the back.”
“Why so modest?” Eric touched the side of her neck.
“You had your chance, buddy. You blew it.” She spun on her heel and held the shirt away from her skin as much as she could as he tugged on the opposite side. His fingers trailed down her spine as he tore a seam into her shirt, leaving it hanging open.
“You’re hurt.” He touched a spot on her side.
“Oh, yeah, something on your desk got me.” She pushed his hand out of the way so she could tug on the skin and investigate it for herself. It was just a scratch.
Sookie shrugged out of her shirt, folding it so the stickiest parts were wrapped with bright white. She dabbed at the splotches on her chest that had soaked through, but they were dry and wouldn’t budge. “Can you get me a wet towel or something?” she asked over her shoulder. Eric was standing right behind her and his eyes were fixed on her back, all glazed over. “Eric? Towel?”
He blinked and then sauntered behind the bar. He ran the water for a good twenty seconds before he finally came back to her. “Nice and warm.”
“Thanks.” She contorted her body to snatch it out of his hands. Still facing away from him, she wiped the bloodstains off her skin and noticed the mark on her bra. “Shit. This is a new bra.” No matter how many times she wiped at the blood, it wouldn’t come out.
“Would you like me to help?” Eric put his hands gently on her shoulders.
She squeezed her eyes shut. “I’m not really in the mood, if it’s all the same to you.”
“Maybe you’d like Bill’s help.” His voice took on a hard edge.
Bill. Ha. He doesn’t even know I’m alive right now. “I can take care of it myself. Can you hand me the shirt please?” Her hand opened and closed several times until he gave it to her, and then she tugged the extra-extra-large black T-shirt over her head. It hung off her shoulders and the bottom hem fell against her thighs. She touched her pants. They were also bloodstained, although it was impossible to see since they were black. Since the shirt was so large, she tugged her pants down, kicking them off. She bent over carefully to bundle her soiled clothes together. “Thank you.”
She looked at Eric’s face and saw an echo of the desire she had seen before. He touched her face, his thumb rubbing against her temple.
“You have a little blood here.” He used the damp towel to wipe it off.
“Why did you kill him?” Sookie asked as she held still.
“He was hurting you, and he stole from me. Quite a lot.” Eric nodded.
“Sure, but, couldn’t you just get it back from him?” She was pretty sure the same rules didn’t apply in the human world. She couldn’t recall a single time she’d heard of a thief being put to death. At least not in in the twenty-first century.
He opened his mouth to speak when Bill interrupted.
“Get your hands off her.” He was growling.
Sookie pulled out of Eric’s hands, turned to face Bill, and put her hands on her hips. “Now you’re ready to claim me again? I suppose you’re finished with Ginger?”
“What have you been doing with him?” Bill wouldn’t look past Sookie.
“Getting out of my bloody clothes. Eric was kind enough to help me find a clean shirt, which is more than I can say for you.”
Eric made a triumphant, “Huh.”
She spun to face Eric. “Watch it. You’re the one that got me in this mess in the first place.” She poked his chest. “The next time you need my help, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t kill a vampire on top of me, okay?”
“So you would’ve liked me to let him eat you whole?” A smile was tugging up the corner of his mouth.
“Shut up.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I’ve had enough. Bill, take me to my car.” She tucked her ruined clothes under her arm and stormed outside. Bill joined her and silently unlocked her door and then started the car. He smelled like Ginger.
“Sookie, I—” Bill began once they were on the road.
“You need to shut up too.” She crossed her arms over her chest and turned away from him, looking out the window. They didn’t speak another word until they were next to her car in the parking lot of Merlotte’s.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
Sorry for what? Dragging me out in the middle of the night? Standing by while a crazed vamp bit me? Or feeding from that fangbanger? She glared at him and pressed her lips together. He didn’t deserve the chance to defend himself.
She left him there, staring stupidly at her as if he were waiting for her to say something. By the time she got to Jason’s, most of her anger had evaporated. The sun would be coming up soon, and before it did, Sookie needed to get rid of the bloody clothes. She opened the barbeque and tossed the heap inside. A little lighter fluid and a single match turned the pile into a blazing inferno. Watching the flames devour the material seemed to erase the tension from her body, and when it had died down to a smoldering pile of ash, she was finally ready for a shower and sleep.
Good ol’ Eric, helping her get out of her bloody clothes. Such a gentleman. 🙂