I couldn’t have been asleep for very long, but I’d been so upset over what I heard when I stopped by Merlotte’s that my first thought had been to go straight to Eric’s side as soon as I got home. It was stupid considering I knew I couldn’t wake him up, but I didn’t want to be alone and selfishly knew I could at least have a one-sided hug. Comforting hugs for me were about as common as leprechauns in Louisiana. So even if he hadn’t been the only one at home, the fact was Eric was the only one I could touch without being overwhelmed by thoughts that weren’t mine.
And mine had been bad enough.
But hearing my brother’s voice echo into the room and feeling Eric’s body tense next to mine, while his chest began to rumble – a precursor to an ass whoopin’ from what I’d come to learn from Sam’s visit – I did the first thing I could think of.
I flung my body on top of his and wrapped myself around Eric, like I was a koala and he was a leafy eucalyptus tree.
“It’s just my brother Jason,” I said quickly, hoping to keep Eric from going all ‘When Vampires Attack’ on my one and only sibling.
“Yeah, it’s just your brother,” Jason stupidly confirmed, like I wouldn’t know who he was. “Now who’s this fella you got in your brother’s bed?”
“Jason Stackhouse!” I huffed out. “You haven’t lived in this house since you turned eighteen. It’s not your bed anymore!” Never mind that I completely ignored the ‘fella’ part of his question.
Eric was the elephant in the room that I didn’t want to discuss.
“That ain’t answerin’ my question,” he huffed back and when I turned to look at him, he’d crossed his arms over his chest and gave me a ‘Well?’ look to go with it.
Nope. Not discussing it.
Jason was pretty simpleminded so I hoped to distract him by asking, “What are you doing here anyway?”
He must have had his Wheaties for breakfast because he was in rare form when he said, “Still ain’t tellin’ me what to call this guy other than ‘Get off my sister, mister.’”
His voice had dropped an octave on the tail end, not knowing he had no hope of intimidating Eric, but I flamed bright red when it was Eric who replied, “It is your sister who is on me. Not that I mind…”
Ugh…I knew I was forgetting something this morning. Church!
It was hard to decide whether or not saving Jason’s life just a moment ago was a good or bad thing, but I quickly hopped up and off of Eric, telling Jason, “He’s just a friend of mine. Don’t you worry about who he is and you keep your big yap shut about him. I’ll put a hurtin’ on you if I hear otherwise.”
“Looks to me like he’s a good friend,” he said knowingly (because Jason had more than his fair share of good friends), “but it’s not like I’d go tellin’ people I found my baby sister in my bed with some guy. Still don’t see why you won’t fess up to who he is though. He on America’s Most Wanted or somethin’? What if he makes me an uncle? I gotta know whose ass I’m gunnin’ for when he leaves ya high and dry with a youngin’ to raise all by yourself. We could use the reward money to help pay for it. ‘Course my truck could use a new exhaust pipe. Chrome would look reeaaall nice…”
“Jason,” I snarled while smacking his head. “Focus! It’s not like that. He’s not a wanted criminal and who says he’d leave me?” I asked with another smack to the back of his head. And then I smacked him again as I added, “And who says we were doing anything that could make you an uncle? Just because you’re willing to whittle your stick in any knot you can find, doesn’t mean everybody is up to no good.”
I heard Eric’s chuckle just as Jason grabbed me in a headlock and he started laughing too while he tried to give me a noogey on top of my head. That is until I swung for his nuts and very nearly made a perfect bullseye, but it was close enough to get his attention. He let go of me to bend over at the waist and tried to get the air back into his lungs while I snickered, “Aww…now I might never be an aunt. God knows you practice with that thing enough.”
“Jeez Sook! I was just messin’ around. Boy, a guy can’t even stop by for Sunday supper without gettin’ his balls whacked. What would Jesus say?”
“It’s ‘What Would Jesus Do’ moron and he’d probably punish you by making your little buddy there only be able to sit up and take notice around Jane Bodehouse.” He turned green at the thought, but I ignored him and said, “You know Gran is on her trip with her club. What makes you think I’d be cooking Sunday supper for you?”
He gestured towards Eric and said, “Well now that you got a man and all, you should know the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so shouldn’t you be workin’ on keepin’ him fed? And, you know, if I happen to be here then it shouldn’t be too much trouble to make a plate for me too.”
Trust me, you don’t want to see what I’m feeding him nor do you want any.
“Knock it off Jason,” I said with a punch to his arm. “He’s not my man. He’s my friend and anyhow, he’s got a…a girlfriend!”
“Does he now…” Jason asked with undisguised anger. He even went so far as to pull up the waist of his jeans like he was getting ready to…what?
I would’ve laughed at the thought, but Eric’s next words nearly gave me whiplash when I turned to face him hearing his denial. “He does not have a girlfriend.”
It was pretty obvious Jason had no clue Eric was a vampire and even if I didn’t know what the proper term was for a vampire’s significant other, I couldn’t use it now. So I looked into Eric’s eyes trying to convey ‘Ix-nay on the ampire-vay ild-chay,’ but he only managed to look confused.
Why couldn’t my telepathy be like a two-way radio?
“So then you’re just usin’ my baby sister?” Jason asked while – Lord help me – pushing up his sleeves and cracking his knuckles.
My decision to keep him in the dark over Bill’s stalking had been a wise one.
I guess Jason didn’t consider how he treated women to be exactly like what he was accusing Eric of and while it was nice he was trying to be a good big brother to me, I preferred him alive. So I pushed him back towards the door and said, “Knock it off. He’s not using me. Now go on downstairs and I’ll be down in a minute to make you something to eat, alright?”
Hearing he now had a home cooked meal in his immediate future had him straightening up with a smile and he kissed the top of my head, saying, “Knew I liked you for a reason,” before skipping from the room. I turned back to Eric and opened my mouth to explain, but before anything could come out we both heard what sounded like a herd of jackasses falling down the stairs. Followed by a single braying jackass laughing out, “M’alright, but watch yer step! One a them’s a doozy!”
My eyes rolled so far back into my head I was certain I could see a past life, but they focused on Eric when he snorted, “Are you sure you have the same parents?”
“Yeah,” I sighed. “But I think it all went to hell in a hand basket when we were little and Jason tried to have a ‘Who can hold your breath the longest’ contest with a snapper turtle in the pond out behind his house.” Eric laughed at my sadly true childhood anecdote, but I knew it was only a matter of time before he asked why I’d been in the bed with him. Lord knew once he heard, he wouldn’t be able to keep his vampire nature hidden. I could practically already see his angry fangs at just the thought, so I followed up with, “Listen, do you mind if we don’t tell my brother you’re a vampire? He doesn’t have anything against you all or anything, but he’s a talker and he’d go tellin’ everyone he came across. Once he’s done eating, he’ll get bored and leave.”
“I don’t know,” Eric smirked. “It seems to me like he’s gearing up to stand sentry with a shotgun in his hands while the local preacher marries us.”
“Don’t be silly,” I said, while not admitting that exact thought had run through Jason’s mind. “Um, what should we say your name is? If he mentions his sister’s new friend ‘Eric’, well then…he works with Rene.”
He growled just hearing his name, but that just proved he’d likely do a lot worse when I told him what I’d overheard at Merlotte’s earlier. Hoping to get him back on track and out of his vampire killing mood, I offered, “What about Ted?”
“Ted?” he asked, as though I’d suggested ‘Bundy’ be his last name.
“What’s wrong with Ted?”
“I’ve just never…I don’t think I’ve ever met a vampire named Ted.”
Again he’d said the name like it was just as foreign to him as Pig Latin eye gestures were. But honestly, it was no worse than Bill, so all I did was smile and say, “Exactly. Now, when we go down, I know you can’t eat whatever I make, but we’ll just tell him you have a stomach bug and that’s why you were laying down. Jason won’t care because that’ll just mean more food for him. Sound good?”
When he nodded, I returned it and said, “Kay, and I noticed earlier that your hands are all better so you don’t have to worry about hidin’ them. Come on down whenever you’re ready.”
I hurried out of the room and down the stairs, but I jumped seeing Eric was right behind me. He was still chuckling from startling me when I hissed in a whispered voice, “Make some noise, will ya? Jason’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he’s watched enough Jackie Chan movies that he’ll ask you for ninja lessons.”
He adopted a serious expression and took a step back so he could theatrically bow before solemnly saying, “To be a ninja, first one must master the art of descending stairs.”
God he was so perfect…
I quickly shook that thought away and laughed at the now stomping to make some noise goofy vampire sheriff all the way into the kitchen. Jason was already sitting with a beer in his hands and his eyes trained on the table like he was hoping to magically will the food in front of him. Ignoring my urge to put a helmet on him, I pulled some pork chops out of the fridge and asked him, “So what have you been up to Jase?”
I hardly saw him anymore since I hadn’t been working nights and that was when he usually stopped by Merlotte’s, so it had been a week since we last talked.
“Eh…a ‘lil this, a ‘lil that,” he replied distractedly.
The only topic Jason loved more than himself was the Bon Temps High School football team – and then only during the years he played on it – so I turned and saw he was trying to stare a hole into the side of Eric’s amused face.
“Quit starin’ at Er…Ted, Jason! That’s just rude.”
“Ahh…” he said, finally sitting back and adding, “Got a name now, does he? Teeedd? Tell me, Ted, what do you do for a livin’ and how is it you know my baby sister well enough to be snuggled up to her in my bed?”
Before I could yell at him for being an ass, Eric spoke up answering, “I have several business interests. I stopped by for a friendly visit and unexpectedly fell ill, so your sister was gracious enough to offer me the use of the room upstairs to lie down. She was merely checking on me when you walked into a house you don’t live in and entered a closed bedroom, without having the decency to knock first, before accusing your baby sister of conceiving illegitimate children by a wanted fugitive. I’ve known your sister for a while now, so I know up until recently she had been working nights at a bar. And now that your grandmother is well again, she’ll be returning to that shift, I suspect, because the tips are better. My question for you is if you care so much for your baby sister that you’re willing to hunt down a wanted felon –who potentially fathered your future bastard niece or nephew – for the reward money to pay for them as well as your new chrome exhaust pipe – why is it you aren’t willing to support the women in your family so they’re not left to manage on their own? Why do you so easily accept your baby sister working in an environment just begging for her to be subjected to drunken unwanted advances? Not to mention she has to make her way home all alone in the dead of night in a car that is unreliable at best?”
Given Jason’s expression, if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought he’d spotted one of those rare Louisiana leprechauns. But even if he’d meant well, my gruff got up hearing Eric’s antiquated viewpoint on women in the workforce. Granted, he was older than…well…nearly everything, but since he’d managed to shut Jason up I figured I could do the same.
I dipped into Jason’s head here and there while I made our dinner just making sure he hadn’t cottoned onto the fact Eric was a vampire, but after his unexpected tongue lashing he wouldn’t even look at him. All he kept thinking about was questioning his own actions and if he should’ve done more for me and Gran, which only softened me towards him more.
My brother might be a dunderhead, but he was mine.
Eric seemed to be amusing himself in the silence that followed by trying to stare a hole into the side of Jason’s face, so it wasn’t until I was putting the plates on the table when Jason finally looked up and asked, “Hey Sook? You all need any firewood? There’s a couple trees that blew down over the summer during one a them storms out by my place. I could cut them up and haul the wood over for ya if ya want.”
My suddenly glassy eyes looked over at Eric to see a satisfied smile on his face, but I turned back to Jason and said, “That would be great, Jase. Now eat up before it gets cold.”
The rest of dinner was filled with Jason catching me up on the latest Bon Temps gossip and doing a poor job over hiding his glee that he would have to eat Ted’s portion, so it didn’t go to waste since he was sick.
When it was apparent Jason was getting ready to leave – because there were now dirty dishes to do – Eric made himself busy by getting a fire started in the fireplace. That way it put him on the opposite side of the room and kept his hands occupied so he wouldn’t have to shake hands with Jason as we said our goodbyes. As soon as he finished, Eric sat down next to me on the couch, so I said, “Jason means well. He’s just a little self-absorbed.”
“He should do more for your family,” he huffed. “As the man it is his responsibility to see to the welfare of the women and any children, illegitimate or not.”
“Yeah?” I asked and laughed out, “That include imaginary ones?“ He smirked back at me, but I still let him have it with, “I’ll have you know I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Just because you’re old enough you probably had a pet T-Rex growing up, doesn’t mean we’re still living in the ice age.”
“Sookie,” he said seriously. “I am not old enough to have had a pet dinosaur.” When I looked over he was grinning outright as he added nostalgically, “But I do miss my pet dragon…Fluffy.”
I giggled and pulled on his pant legs saying, “Watch it now. I don’t think these are flame retardant, so your pants might go up in smoke if you keep telling tall tales like that one.”
“Pull harder,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows. “You just might be able to meet my pet snake if you do.”
“Eric!” I yelled and jumped to the far end of the couch away from him and his pet snake. “What would Pam say?”
He only shrugged and said, “She’d likely ask you to pull her pants off instead, only she doesn’t have a pet snake. So she would ask you to pet her pus…”
He laughed at my mortified expression and doubled over when Tina chose that moment to jump up onto his lap. But I didn’t need to be able to read vampire minds to know what he was thinking when he looked at me and started petting her either.
Stupid dirty vampire.
I really wished I’d gone to church.
I was still a bit tongue tied, so Eric took advantage of my stupor to ask, “Why did you tell your brother I have a girlfriend? Was it just to make our lie more plausible?”
“No,” I said, while stifling the urge to fan my reddened face that had nothing to do with the roaring fire. “I don’t know what you all call your significant others, but I was talking about Pam.”
Eric stared back at me like I was a Louisiana leprechaun and asked, “You think Pam and I are…lovers?”
My face somehow managed to heat up even more and I was sure, from the neck down, I was as pale as him since all of my blood had to be north of my shoulders. But all I could do was nod in response.
“Sookie,” he said with a soft grin. “Pam and I aren’t a couple. She is my child and I am her Maker. That is the extent of our relationship.”
Who woulda thunk? There was a Louisiana leprechaun right there on my couch and he looked just like Eric.
He continued to smile at me as he said, “Based on the conversation we had on the night we met, I assume you recognized me from your co-worker’s thoughts. Dawn, yes?”
My skin continued to burn bright red while I nodded, but he didn’t mention it and only said, “I do not remember her, but I can assume what it was you likely…witnessed. Given that encounter, why would you assume Pam and I are a couple?”
All I could do was shrug and mumble, “I’m a telepath Eric. I’ve seen enough to know there’s no tried and true definition of what makes a relationship work. Open relationships are a lot more common than people think and for all I knew Pam was part of you all’s party that night, but Dawn was only remembering the parts with you. I hopped out of her head just as soon as I realized what it was I was seeing.”
His expression said he seemed to understand where my confusion came from and even though it was none of my business, I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “So…you and Pam…you never? You know…you aren’t…you were never…like that? She’s so pretty.”
Shut up Sookie!
His smirk was back as he said, “I never said that. Vampire have many urges, especially when we are young. But it didn’t take long for Pamela to realize – much like her Maker – she preferred the fairer sex. We have not done that together in a very long time.”
“But you turned her into a vampire. You must have had some sort of feelings for her to do that,” my mouth with its own mind argued.
Shut UP Sookie!
He only shook his head with a smile and explained, “The first time Pamela saw me was when she first rose as vampire. I saw her sneaking across the courtyard to climb back into her bedroom window one night. It was in London during Victorian times and she’d snuck out to meet a boy – something that would’ve been highly frowned upon at the time given her station, even at the age of nineteen years old. But I felt drawn towards her – an instinctual pull that I acted on and that is why I chose her for my child. Thankfully, my instincts did not fail me. Children normally leave to venture out on their own once they’ve been released by their Maker, but Pam has chosen to stay at my side for most of her three hundred years. I could not ask for a more loyal child than she.”
Everything he’d just told me was frighteningly beautiful – I mean, he did kill her and all, but it was obvious he cared about her. And if she’d stayed with him for so long, I was sure she didn’t hold that whole ‘you murdered me’ thing against him.
But talking about her only brought back why I’d gone to his bedroom in the first place and my tears made a speedy return, prompting Eric to ask, “What is wrong? I hate it when you cry.”
I couldn’t even manage to smile at his sweet admission and sniffled out, “Oh Eric.”
He waited for me to get my bearings and I was eventually able to say, “I went to Merlotte’s this afternoon – you know – to get the True Blood.” Hoping I could put off telling him for just a few minutes longer, I asked, “Would you like one? I hid them in the pantry.”
The disgusted face he made told me his answer before he ever said, “No, thank you. Now, what happened at the bar that upset you?”
Knowing I was out of distractions, I swallowed the lump in my throat and said, “Rene…he was at the bar with some man I didn’t recognize, but I could hear in his head…he…he has Pam or at least he knows where she is.”
He stiffened at my side and looked murderous, asking, “Who is he? Where does he have her?”
Even though he was angry enough for his fangs to come down, Eric still put his arm around my shoulders to comfort me and I only felt a little guilty for enjoying the contact, but I managed to answer, “Gabe. His name is Gabe and he’s, I guess, in charge of the Fellowship soldiers or something. He came into town to meet up with Rene to help prepare for Steve Newlin’s visit on Friday. He’s…he’s one of the ones who were at your bar the night you all were kidnapped. He was the one that drove away with Pam.”
“Where to?” Eric growled, but his hand never stopped rubbing up and down my arm.
“Dallas, I think, but I’m not sure where exactly.”
He didn’t say anything at first, so I gave him the time to process what I’d told him. But knowing that wasn’t the worst of it, I ripped off the band-aid and blurted out, “He…he…likes her.”
“What?” he asked confusedly. “What do you mean, he likes her?”
I really didn’t want to have to spell it out for him, but he needed to know the truth – the danger she was in – so I swallowed the newest lump in my throat and answered, “He thinks she’s pretty, but she’s still too strong for him to try…anything with her. And he’s too…too…man enough to tie her down.”
It felt like I was starting to hyperventilate, but I needed to get it out so I tried to concentrate on my breathing while I explained, “They…they…they’re slowly draining her and only giving her a little bit of True Blood to sustain her. But they know she’ll weaken over time and he’s hoping when he goes back to Dallas on Saturday that she’ll be…she’ll be…ready. He…he wants her…sexually.”
Time seemed to stop – Eric’s rubbing hand certainly did – and other than the sound of me swallowing the bile in my throat, the only other sounds in the room were my breathing and the crackling fire. It felt like an eternity passed before he asked in a frighteningly low voice, “He means to rape my child?”
“Yes,” I whispered while more tears fell down my cheeks. I knew all too well what it was like to have someone force themselves on you and even though I’d never actually been raped it was bad enough. I couldn’t stand to think of what would happen to Pam if we didn’t get to her in time.
I chanced a glance at Eric and could see the true predator he was just as he asked, “If I were to capture him, you would be able to read his thoughts when I questioned him, yes?”
I had a good feeling Eric’s idea of questioning would be a lot more brutal than anything I’d ever seen on Law and Order. But after seeing in his thoughts what Gabe was planning to do to Pam, I didn’t feel the least bit guilty in agreeing, “Yes.”
I was almost certain God would understand.