Lydia had been true to her word. Days at Sanctum were filled with things that had to be done and before Sookie knew it two months had passed. She could still find herself so exhausted she couldn’t get out of bed. Sookie realized it was another one of those mornings when she found herself blanket-less and being shoved.
Sookie groaned and moaned as she pulled on her clothes. She couldn’t remember a time when her muscles had felt so sore. It wasn’t the bruising sore that she had felt some mornings during The Time. The Time was how she still thought of her marriage to Sam Merlotte. Instead, the sore she felt was the happy sore of exercise and stretching and a body well used and used well.
It was surprising the toll The Time had taken on her body. She had spent less time walking or doing all the other things she had done before The Time. She had given up gardening and cooking. Even cleaning her house had become physically taxing. Her impression of that time was that she had been frozen in place, unable to move beyond or away. When it had ended; when she’d been rescued, there had been the long weeks where she laid first in one bed and then another. Sookie still couldn’t remember much about those times. What she could remember came in flashes at unexpected times. At first she panicked when one of these would happen. But now she found that these episodes gave her a sense of calm because it was restoring a small piece of herself that she had lost.
As she pulled socks from a drawer she found herself experiencing a flash. She remembered Dr. Ludwig licking her hand. She snorted. Lydia raised her eyebrows. Sookie glanced up from the sock she was struggling with. “You know Dr. Ludwig?”
“Amy?” Lydia asked. “Sure. She’s kind of famous in our world.”
“You ever see her lick someone’s hand? The palm I mean. Whole tongue.”
Lydia smiled and nodded her head as she rolled her eyes a little. “Yup I’ve seen it. It is a little off-putting.”
“What’s that about, do you think?”
Lydia shook her head. “I don’t know. I never asked her. Maybe she just likes the taste of people.”
Sookie pulled up the sock and sat up to look at Lydia as she gave a little shudder. “Eww. Well, that’s an image I just didn’t need. Gee – what are you trying to do? Give me more nightmares?” And Sookie laughed. It wasn’t a full-out laugh but it was more than a giggle.
Lydia smiled. Watching laughter return to her guest was gratifying. “Well, on that note you can stop stalling and get moving. You’ve missed your morning stretch and it’s already talking time. So chop-chop Ms. Stackhouse!”
Sookie slipped into the felt clogs that she had been given and both women walked down the hall that led to the main house.
Sookie was in counseling. It was individual counseling because Lydia felt the telepath was too fragile to be sharing with strangers.
Most of the work to date had been talking about the physical damage Sookie had sustained; both during The Time and before. Lydia would ask Sookie to tell about what happened in the form of a story. At first Lydia had encouraged Sookie to use third person, telling the experience as if it were people other than herself involved. Sookie found that by doing that little thing she was able to start talking more. As time went by talking about her experiences became easier and she slipped into telling stories from a first person perspective. It was as if the telling of each bad thing worked to remove the poison that had entwined itself with her.
Today Sookie told the story of the Rattrays and the day they beat her. Sookie told how surprised she had been by the attack. She created the details by telling what she had smelled and heard in the night. She told how she felt things in her own body snap and give way. She told how at a certain point she felt like she was outside herself; not that the pain had stopped but that she had seemed apart from it. Sookie talked about hearing the growl. She told how she hadn’t realized the growl was her rescue.
Then Sookie remembered something she had forgotten.
Sookie remembered the dog that licked her face as she lay on the ground. She knew that the dog had been Sam Merlotte. She stopped in her story, struck by the very real possibility that Sam had watched her being beaten that night and had done nothing. Sookie had already concluded that Bill’s being too late to prevent what had happened had been deliberate – either on Bill’s part or because of someone else. Sookie asked Lydia if she thought it possible that Sam Merlotte had been in on all the bad things that had happened to her from the beginning. When Lydia told her she would have no way of knowing Sookie continued.
She told Lydia that she believed the point of the whole incident had been about getting Bill’s blood into her. Sookie found herself talking about Bill Compton. Lydia asked her if she knew at the time what taking Bill’s blood would mean. Sookie told her “No, I didn’t. Bill told me it would heal me. Even later he never really came clean about it. He didn’t tell me anything about how it was like a radar so he could track me or the libido thing or any of it until after I’d had Eric’s blood. But boy howdy! He had a lot to say about vampire blood after that!”
She talked about her intimate relationship with Bill Compton. She described how he treated her. Sookie told Lydia how she had made excuses for him, thinking he didn’t know how to treat humans because he was so old and a vampire. She told about the night she lost her virginity. She told how Bill would try to tell her how to dress. She told how he would insist that she undress when she was injured so he could inspect her. She told Lydia about how he raped her in the trunk of a car. And she told how she found out that Bill had been sent by the Queen to procure her and how everything she thought was love had been based on a lie.
When she was done, Lydia had sighed and said, “I can see how it would have been hard to trust again after that. But surely you knew how relationships were supposed to be between men and women. You had access to everyone’s thoughts. You could see which relationships worked and which didn’t. You couldn’t have been thinking that what you just described was a good relationship. Why do you think you stayed with him? “
Sookie looked at Lydia, her eyes clear. “I’ve thought about that a lot. Why I stayed. I think part of it was because he was the first man I had ever known, you know, sexually. I had grown up believing that you found your mate and you stayed faithful to them for life. That’s how my Gran raised me. ‘Course then I found out she wasn’t any too faithful. But by then Bill was out of the picture.” Sookie looked out the window at the budding tree limbs. “And Bill was different. After all those years of never fitting in, by being with him I was suddenly special. ‘Crazy Sookie’ had a boyfriend who was scary and exciting and someone everyone was curious to know. And to top it off I couldn’t hear him – you know, with my telepathy. I didn’t know what he was thinking so I just assumed that what he was saying was what he meant.”
“So his being supernatural and silent made him attractive? What about the blood?” Lydia asked. “Is it possible that it could have played a part?”
“Well, yeah. Sure.” Sookie agreed. She looked down at her hands in her lap. When she looked up there was fire in her eyes. “I think back on all that and I get really mad. I’ll never really know what part was me and what part was me being pushed. I’ll never know if the reason I got raped was because I made bad choices or because I was being controlled by blood. I was so excited to know there were vampires and then I got to meet one. But it turned out to be one nasty surprise after another.”
Lydia waited until Sookie looked away again. “Sookie? When you think of yourself do you see yourself as human or supernatural?”
Sookie looked up at Lydia. “Well, I’m human of course.”
“Are you?” Lydia asked. “Are you really?” She waited. When Sookie looked like she was going to speak Lydia held up her hand and continued. “Do humans have telepathy?”
Sookie looked defiant. “Well this one does.”
Lydia maintained a neutral look on her face. “How did you become telepathic?”
Sookie bit her lip. “Well I guess it’s because my Gran drank demon blood.”
Lydia nodded. “So you were born with a supernatural gift.” Lydia waited for Sookie to nod. “And what about the fairy part of you, the essential spark? Were you born with that too?”
Sookie was startled. She shifted in the chair and appeared suddenly nervous. Lydia waited for Sookie to settle. “Why would you think that any part of how you were born would be bad?” Lydia shook her head. “You were born the way you are with gifts. Wonderful gifts. It’s a shame you weren’t shown from an early age how to appreciate and use them. Sookie, you are so very lucky.”
Sookie snorted. “I grew up wishing that I’d never had telepathy.”
“And now?” Lydia asked.
“I don’t know,” Sookie said. “I try to keep my shields up most days. Spying on people just seems so rude.”
Lydia looked at her. “Really? And how does the not spying thing work for you? Is your life easier? Would things have been different, for example, if you’d decided to be rude and spied on Sam Merlotte?”
Sookie bit her lip and looked away. Lydia continued. “Have you ever considered how your gifts could make your life and the lives of those around you better? You could use them to support yourself. All you need to do is stop feeling like you are a bad person, or defective. You are neither. You are supernatural. You have to learn to accept that.”
Sookie sat quietly. This was not the first time she had thought along these lines. She remembered how the FBI had looked at her as something other. But hearing someone declare her as supernatural was unsettling.
Lydia smiled at her and waited until the telepath smiled back. “Sookie, you grew up believing that the world was one way. When you found out it included people that were different like you were different, it made you happy. But then you decided to keep those different people at arm’s length. You spent all your time and energy trying to fit back into the life you had never been a part of. If I didn’t know better I’d think that you did that because you didn’t think you deserved any better. Could it be that some part of you believes that you need to be punished; that you don’t deserve happiness?”
Sookie felt tears come to her eyes. “All I ever wanted was to be normal. You know – a house and a husband and kids. Just to be accepted and… I don’t know… normal. But I know now that was never in the cards for me. I can’t have normal. “
Lydia looked at her again. She took her hand. “Sookie, think about your life before Sam. Didn’t you have a home?”
“Weren’t you being invited to baby showers and weddings and parties?”
Sookie thought about that, and then nodded again.
“Weren’t you married to a successful businessman?”
Sookie felt a tear slip from her eye. “Eric,” Sookie said.
Lydia continued. “I know that there were no children, but that’s not so different from lots of couples. So explain to me again why that life didn’t meet your definition of normal.”
Sookie sobbed. “I was overrun with all this supernatural stuff. There was Alcide Herveaux, the Pack Master. He wanted me to be his shaman. He drugged me. I mean I agreed but I had no idea what would happen. I had a Grandfather who showed up and was some kind of fairy prince. He was telling me he loved me but he had danger following him all around. Everything I believed about my Gran was wrong. Turns out that every time my Grandpa Mitchell was smiling, it was really Fintan in disguise. I had a fairy cousin who moved into my house and turns out he had it in for me. Every time I turned around I was in danger. And I had no one to turn to.”
“No one?” Lydia asked. And she waited. “It seems to me you did have someone. You had a husband who understood the rules of our world. He offered you his protection. Sookie, what would have changed if you had accepted what Eric Northman offered?” Sookie’s mouth opened but no words came out.
Lydia nodded. “Sometimes our being happy is because we decide to be happy. You seem to think you had no choices; that what you are was forced on you and that it was a bad thing. Your brother Jason is coming to see you. He blames himself for not protecting you.”
“Jason?” Sookie found herself suddenly happy. “When will he be here? Is he bringing Michele?”
“No,” said Lydia. “He is coming by himself.” Lydia closed her notebook. “It occurs to me that for your brother he truly had no choice in becoming what he is. I wonder how he feels about that.”
Sookie found herself wondering too.
The memorial services had concluded and the outward signs of funeral and mourning had been cleared away by the time Eric Northman’s first child arrived from Europe.
Eric looked on with pride as Karin, his first child pledged fealty to Felipe de Castro. The king and his retinue would be leaving this same evening. Karin’s timing was perfect. She was early enough to make the obligatory gesture but late enough to not have to visit with the Nevada vampires.
Sandy Seacrest arrival in the previous month had kick started the forensic analysis of the kingdom’s financial state. Eric knew he would be spending long hours with Sandy in the weeks to come. But for now he would devote time to his progeny.
Events had played well for him so far. The story of Freyda’s demise had been accepted by most. The police had confirmed their ruling as accidental death and the investigation was officially closed. Publically, Felipe and Angie had played the part of the supportive best friends. Within the supernatural community, Horst had played the part of enforcer. For the most part there had been little friction or unrest among any of the factions. The general consensus had been one of relief.
Felipe had been surprised at the number, or rather lack, of vampires in Oklahoma. Eric explained and Sandy had confirmed that the climate had not been hospitable to those seeking opportunities. Eric’s plan was to change that.
Sandy’s review had revealed that Freyda had invested heavily in real estate. The economic outlook in the state was not bad; it was on par with the rest of the country. As a result the returns on investment were steady but ran slim profit margins. Freyda had also invested in smaller businesses; restaurants, retail. These decisions appeared to have been chiefly motivated by a desire to be tied to people in the community she thought might prove influential. She had some minor investment in natural gas operations.
Eric and Sandy concurred that the smart investment would be to get both feet into gas recovery and they started the onerous task of liquidating assets to create capital for investment.
There was also the problem of service firms that had latched their financial fingers onto the kingdom. Freyda had an unfortunate tendency to equate more accountants and more attorneys with greater success. Expenses had been considerable. Sandy suggested that they pare their representation to one firm for each discipline.
Eric approached Mr. Cataliades. He had been surprised when the demon lawyer had declined the opportunity to represent Oklahoma. “I have a personal tie that could present a conflict of interest,” he told Eric. Then the demon had formally bowed and declined to explain further.
As the qualification and selection process ground on, Sandy asked Eric if he thought that a telepath could be found to help in screening final choices. Eric had placed a call to Stan to ask about Barry Horowitz.
Stan and Eric had a long-standing relationship. Eric had been happy to hear the news that reports of Stan’s demise had been premature. Eric was also aware that Barry the telepath had run afoul of the king. Barry had been indiscrete with information on the king’s resting place with a former lover. His slip had led to the assassination attempt that caused Stan to go into hiding. That kind of mistake was often fatal. Stan had decided not to end the telepath. Barry also had ties to the demon lawyer, Mr. Cataliades. Stan knew it never paid to make enemies of the Dae. But Stan did keep Barry on a short leash and had assigned him a handler.
When Eric asked for the loan of the telepath Stan’s first response was, “What about Sookie Stackhouse?”
Eric had quickly answered, “No. She is not acceptable to me.” Stan had agreed to contract Barry’s services for a period of one week. It was understood that accommodations would be provided for both Barry and his handler.
Sandy also mentioned that if Eric was serious about starting or buying into natural gas drilling operations then supply sources should be reviewed. The primary expense in the investment Freyda had made was silica sand. She was purchasing sand imported from China. Sandy suggested that Eric approach Maude of Minnesota. Her operations controlled the largest silica mine in the United States. She might be willing to give him a better deal.
Eric agreed and a meeting in Minnesota was to be arranged after the Clan Summits had concluded.
It had taken some time but it was now usual for the Summits of the four clans to all happen within the same month. They usually staggered each other by a matter of days. This allowed members of competing clans to attend each other’s gatherings. Sometimes these appearances were to negotiate alliances through marriage but more often they were to negotiate alliances through trade. As a new member of Narayana Clan Eric would be expected to appear in Los Angeles for this year’s Summit. Sandy had suggested that they petition Felipe de Castro to also attend Zeus and Amun Summits. Both Clans were involved in gas extraction and had territories that bordered Oklahoma. Deals would need to be struck to use pipeline and other shared resources. Felipe had agreed.
Within days of Sandy’s arrival, she had encouraged Eric to become the public face of Oklahoma. “Your name means something here,” she said. “You have a reputation for being a sharp but fair trader. Take advantage of it.” Eric allowed the public relations team to book him as a guest speaker on a financial markets television show. He talked about the future of gas exploration in Oklahoma. The interview went viral and Eric found himself inundated with requests for more interviews. It seemed that vampire and success were hot commodities in America and Eric’s face was starting to show up on television, newsprint and magazines.
Karin’s arrival allowed her to be cast in the role of Eric’s personal assistant. The public relations team suggested that Karin be introduced as his child which would be deliberately translated as daughter for human sensibilities. As both blood relative and personal assistant she would be expected to be at his side for all his social obligations. What human society didn’t need to know, but the supernatural world did, was that Karin was also deadly. She deserved her fame as a brutal and efficient killer. Eric would have no need to watch his back while his progeny stood beside him.
Karin had been so happy to hear from Eric. Pam had teased her in the past that her loyalty to their maker was obsessive. Karin disagreed. Karin knew that she owed Eric Northman everything.
Eric had saved her from final death. When he had found her she had been beaten bloody and left on the side of the road to die. It was a time when finding the dead or dying victims of hedgerow thieves was not uncommon. What had caught Eric’s attention had been the two men she had killed in her struggle using nothing more than the tree limbs and rocks that were around her. Eric admired fire in any creature. He had only recently separated from Appius and had found that he missed companionship. Even through the injuries he could see that Karin was beautiful. So he made his decision to become a maker. Knowing that her death was imminent he had opened his wrist and massaged her throat to swallow. Then he had taken her to ground.
Karin had embraced her vampire existence. She had awoken with a powerful combination of hunger and rage. During her brief time as a human she had known the injustice and oppression that was a woman’s lot. She had never accepted her place as being less than men. Her attitude had cost her. Eric found out later that she had been on the road to escape those from her own village, people who had known her all her life and who had accused her of being a witch. Had she stayed she would have been burned alive.
As maker and child Karin and Eric had a short period of time when they were also sexual partners. Karin had been a virgin when he found her. Although that time as bed fellows had been fiery Karin quickly realized that she preferred to channel her energies to fighting and hunting. Eric felt no need to compel her and they became comfortable companions often traveling as brother and sister.
Karin rejoiced in her abilities. It was now within her power to right every wrong that she felt had been done her or others like her. Eric’s support and acceptance of her as an equal had secured her affection and loyalty. It was a devotion that transcended the demands of the maker’s bond. Eric had recognized her extreme dependency on him but failed to address it. Eric believed it was his own lack of discipline with her that was at the root of her separation issues. When he had finally insisted she leave for her period of independence Karin had become despondent. Eric had had to return to her several times. Eventually they were able to go separate ways.
Karin roamed the world. She found a constant demand for her fighting skills. No one suspected a dainty and demure woman to be a trained killer. It had made for an interesting and lucrative career. Karin never forgot that this wonderful life and her sense of purpose were entirely due to Eric Northman.
During these past few years Karin had found herself troubled by thoughts of Sookie Stackhouse. She knew that Eric had loved this woman and had been prepared to bring her to his side without making her vampire. Karin knew that this made others of their kind view him as weak. Karin also knew that in the end this woman had hurt her maker. This had led to her decision to honor the requirements of Eric’s wish; that she guard Sookie for a year after he left for Oklahoma, but she would not honor the spirit. She had spent her year on the borders of the property. As the shifter had become a more regular guest and then moved into Hummingbird Lane this arrangement suited her more and more.
In spite of her reservations, she had done her best to warn Sookie about marrying the shifter. Karin had known with an instinct born of years of watching male predators that things were not as they appeared. While she had no evidence that Merlotte was aggressive or a victimizer, her instincts warned her it was just a matter of time. But the shifter was always careful about what he said and did when Karin was around.
Sookie argued for Sam. They were married and Karin was not invited. The contract expired and Karin left. Karin had heard through the supe grapevine that once she was gone the shifter had dropped his mask. Karin wondered if she should have tried harder to keep Sookie from harm.
These thoughts played through her head as she stood before her maker. As soon as the Nevada king and his retinue left, Karin and Eric settled into chairs in a comfortable room to catch up on news of each other and mutual acquaintances. Karin was sorry she missed Pam and promised she would make an effort to contact her sister.
Then Karin brought up the telepath. “Now that you are free, will you contact Sookie?” Eric had opened the bond between them and Karin could feel the turmoil boiling through from her maker.
“Sookie is no longer mine. I do not wish to hear of her again. It is the way things were meant to be.” The words reminded Karin of the conversation she had with Sookie so long ago in the days before the telepath’s marriage to Sam Merlotte. Karin could feel Eric’s unsettled feelings through the bond. It felt like the hurt of a child. Although she thought it was a wrong course, she bowed her head. She would never question Eric. If her maker wished the Stackhouse woman confined to history, she would make it her duty to support that decision.
Karin found that decision challenged within 24 hours of her arrival.
Eric asked Karin to clean out the former Queen’s chambers. He told her he wanted them stripped and any reminder of her; furnishings, rugs, wall color removed. Karin could feel the anger and disgust that formed Eric’s feelings when he spoke of Freyda. It was clear that he wanted her and every memory of her expunged. Karin had bowed in agreement and assembled a crew to assist in the effort.
Karin had the locks that had been put in place following the coup struck off to doors. She had taken time to examine each item before it was removed from the premises and sent to charities or consignment. Some pieces appeared to have significant value. Karin arranged for those to be sent to appraisers as a precursor to being sold at auction.
Karin personally took charge of the jewelry, papers, journals and the computer. She spent several days reading through any and all written material. What she found was troubling. There was a clear connection between Freyda and Sam Merlotte. Especially in the months immediately preceding and the year following the Oklahoma Queen’s marriage to Eric Freyda had documented a steady stream of money and tasks assigned between her and the shifter. It was the journals that led Karin to the movies on Freyda’s laptop. The brutality of the material was such that it took Karin minutes to register what she was seeing. There was a long list of clips representing a chronicle of the abuse Sam had inflicted on Sookie Stackhouse over a period of years. Karin found herself shaking in rage, her fists clenched. Her first impulse had been to stop the first clip she saw and to delete the file.
Then she thought of the woman she knew and the place that woman had held in her maker’s heart. Karin was certain that even if Eric never saw her again he would also never be truly free of the hold that Sookie had over him. Karin centered herself and then made herself watch each video one after the other. She committed each act; each moment to memory. She felt the rage rise within her. She knew that Eric could sense it and would ask her what had caused her to feel such anger. She would find an excuse to give him.
To reveal what she had found to Eric would be to cause him pain and perhaps add confusion about the decisions that lay ahead of him. He would want revenge. This would distract him and could prove dangerous. Karin would never do anything that could place him in harm’s way.
Karin’s lip curled as she deleted the files from the computer and ran a cleaning utility to remove any trace. She was vampire. She would never forget. Sam Merlotte would pay and Eric Northman would never be implicated.
‘Hey little sis!” Jason Stackhouse wrapped his long arms around his sister. As he hugged her he registered that her frame was thinner. It pulled at his heart that to think about how she had looked when he’d seen her in the super hospital and he had to fight to keep the smile on his face. But he could also see that she was looking better. Her face had a pink glow and her eyes were bright. “Looking good!”
Sookie hugged right back. She admitted to herself that she had been nervous about seeing Jason. She knew that she had no reason to be uncertain. Jason had always been a ‘go with the flow’ kind of guy. Sometimes that made her crazy, but recently she’d come to appreciate that it allowed him to change with the times.
Bottom line, Sookie felt guilty. Jason and Michele had invited her to come to their house or to come to special events so many times during her marriage to Sam, but Sookie had been too afraid to say yes. She knew that her brushing them off had hurt Michele. Sookie had seen Jason more often when he had come into the restaurant. Sookie had been able to catch up with him, but always under Sam’s watchful eye. She wondered if Jason was a little angry with her for being such a bad sister.
But there was no hesitation in him. He pulled back and grinned at her. “You really do look good, sis.” Then had had wrapped her in his arms again and laid his head against her own. They had just stood that way for a bit and Sookie had felt the warmth of him down to her bones.
When they separated Sookie realized she had tears in her eyes. She laughed a little and brushed the moisture away, waving her hand in apology. “I’m just so silly! Don’t mind me!” Then she’d taken his hand and led him to a couple chairs that looked out over the beautiful landscape.
The siblings spent the hours talking about everyone they knew in Bon Temps. Jason filled her in on Hoyt and Tara and J.B. and her godchild. They talked about Halleigh and Andy and all the other Bellefleurs.
Jason told her that Merlotte’s Restaurant was still closed up. The restaurant hadn’t employed a lot of people but for those who had relied on it the loss was keenly felt. For most folks Merlotte’s had become a place to gather and grab a quick lunch or dinner. It was an inexpensive place you could go with friends or a place you could take your whole family. People had come to depend on its being there. Jason asked Sookie if she knew what would happen with the place but Sookie didn’t know what to tell him.
The conversation found a place where it just naturally seemed to slow. Sookie sensed that Jason had something he wanted to say. He had reached over and taken her hand. Then he had turned his attention to the windows. Then he looked and her and then looked out the windows again.
“Ok, Jason. You know you have something you want to tell me. You haven’t changed a lick and I can tell that whatever it is has you all worried. But you should know that you never tell me anything I can’t handle. Stop worrying and just let it fall.”
Jason looked in her eyes then. He cleared his voice a little and then he smiled. “Sook, it’s about the house; Gran’s house.”
Sookie closed her eyes. Somehow she knew before the words came from him that the family house was gone. She took a deep breath and pulled a smile on her face. “Jase, you better tell me. It’s okay.”
And then he did. He told her about the investigation. He told her about the search and then finding the dead were girl, April. He told her that everyone was pretty sure that Sam Merlotte was responsible for all of it. Sam had disappeared and the police were saying that they didn’t have enough proof to press charges, but that Sam was considered a person of interest. Then Jason told her that the proof had been taken by Alcide and turned over to Pam Ravenscroft.
Sookie had nodded. “I understand that, Jase. There’s a part of me that wants the police to know what happened and throw that dirty skunk in jail. But if they poke too far who knows what will turn up.” Sookie thought about how the work she had done following the Rhodes explosion had led to her being haunted by the FBI. “No good deed goes unpunished,” might not be what Gran believed, but it was what Sookie knew.
They sat together in silence then for a while. Sookie didn’t know if she was sad or relieved. That house had been the place of so many good memories. She thought of times around the table with Gran and Jason. She thought of Amelia and Octavia laughing in the kitchen. She thought of Bubba sitting next to her on the porch swing singing quiet and low just for her. She thought of Dermot and how proud he had been of his carpentry skills when he lived in her attic. With a flush she remembered Eric and how they had made love on just about every surface in that house. But it had also been the home of so many bad memories.
Sookie could see Jason’s worry. She finally took a deep breath and squeezed his hand. “Jason, I think it’s okay. I’m not happy to lose all Gran’s stuff. But somehow this makes me feel free too.”
Jason squeezed her hand back and they sat there quietly a little while longer. Sookie remembered all the times she had been so happy for her brother. She remembered when they had been little and he’d held her hand and told her everything would be alright.
She looked at him and smiled. “Jason, can I ask you something?”
“Anything Sookie. You know that.”
She looked at their hands. “Are you happy being a were panther?” Sookie remembered how sad she had felt when she heard that her brother had been bitten and might turn on the next full moon. She had been the one to take him to Calvin Norris, the head of the were panther pack on that first turning to make sure he would be okay. She and Jason had talked about it a little but Sookie had really not asked him about it since.
Jason looked as her and then a lopsided grin lit his face. “Sure I am!” he told her. “I know it probably sounds crazy to you but I think I was meant to be one.” He shook his head and his eyes got dreamy. “I can’t explain it. When I’m running in the night I feel amazing, like all of this life is in the palm of my hand. I’m more alive in those moments. I can see everything!”
Sookie smiled. It made her happy to see him so happy. “That’s good to know, Jason.”
“Gee Sook, I thought you knew that. It turned out to be a gift. I couldn’t imagine being any other way now.”
Sookie looked down toward the floor, and then back up at her brother’s smiling face. “I got to ask you and I know this might sound crazy. Do you think of yourself as human?”
“Nah,” he said. “Not really. Why?”
Sookie was startled by how much his answer surprised her. It had never occurred to her that Jason would feel this way. “Really? I guess I don’t know how to feel about that, Jason.”
Jason shook his head a little. “Geez Sook, you’ve never been human either; not really. You were different from the beginning. When we found out we had fairy blood that explained a lot to me. It was kind of a relief to know that it was just what I was and not something wrong. You know?”
Sookie smiled back. Somehow Jason’s reaction was making it better. “So you’re really happy then?”
“Yes I am. Right as rain,” Jason told her. Then Jason looked in his sister’s eyes. “Sis, can I ask you a question now?”
Sookie smiled and nodded. “Sure Jase. Anything.”
Jason looked at her. “Why didn’t you tell me about what was going on with Sam Merlotte?”
Sookie looked at her brother. She wasn’t sure what she could tell him. She wasn’t really sure she knew the answer herself. “Well, Jason,” she started. “Part of it was I was so ashamed. Gran sure didn’t raise me to be someone that would allow some man to hit her. But there I was. I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror much less say something like that out loud to my own brother.” Sookie stopped and looked in her brother’s eyes. It was his concern and lack of pity that allowed her to continue. “And I guess I was in some kind of denial. I kept thinking that if I just tried harder or kept my head down it would stop and then wouldn’t I feel foolish for crying wolf.”
“Sook, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way. But Sam Merlotte? I sure would have never guessed.”
Sookie nodded. “I know what you mean. I couldn’t really believe it either. Here was a guy everyone knew. Or I guess we thought we knew.”
Jason pulled her close and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “Sis, you just got to know that I would always believe you. Wouldn’t matter what you said. I learned my lesson with Uncle Bartlett. Don’t you ever feel like you can’t come to me. I’ll do whatever I need to. You’re family.”
Sookie snuggled into him. She felt like all the things that had ever been wrong between them were fixed now. Jason turned his head and kissed the top of her head. Then he said, “Whatever happened with Eric Northman?” Sookie jumped a little and bit her lip. But Jason continued to hold her. “I mean I heard some stuff but I always wondered why you left him.”
Sookie took a deep breath and looked toward the floor. She still wasn’t sure she was ready to talk about any of this. But this was her brother. “Well I didn’t leave him. He left me.”
“Wow. Sookie, I’m sorry. I mean that’s not how I heard it from Alcide and the others.”
Sookie pulled back and looked in her brother’s eyes. “How did they say it happened, Jason?”
Jason took a deep breath. “Well, they said that you kind of wanted him gone. They said that you married him according to their laws but then you denied it.” Jason looked deep in her eyes so she could see that he didn’t want to hurt her. “Alcide told me that it was common knowledge you refused to live with Eric. Said you made a point of parading men through your life so everyone would know that you didn’t want him. Alcide said he even landed in your bed one night.” Sookie drew a breath in shock as she remembered how Amelia had given Alcide the impression that Sookie would welcome that advance. She had been so angry she had thrown the werewolf out of her house and told him not to return. Jason continued, “So Alcide said when his vampire daddy sold him into a contract he just went.”
Sookie set her lips in a straight line. “It really wasn’t like that. There was a contract. It was some vampire arranged marriage. Eric felt like he had some kind of obligation so he divorced me. Not like it was that much of a hardship for him. She was beautiful and rich. Besides, since when did you ever like Eric Northman? I thought you hated him.”
Jason snorted. “I never said I didn’t like him, Sookie. Hell, I thought he was a good guy to know. He sure knew his way around a party but could be a real badass when he needed to be. He looked at you like you hung the moon. I always thought he was a better choice for you than Sam Merlotte.”
Sookie couldn’t believe what her brother was saying. “Jason, when did you change your mind?”
‘Sook, I think you got it all wrong. I stayed cool because it looked to me like you didn’t like him. You know, I heard him call you his wife once. You got all worked up and kind of put a beat down on him. I figured there was some story there, but you’re my sister. I’ll always back you.” Jason shrugged. “I mean you never really looked like you were happy to see him. I figured if you really loved the guy you would have been living together and all. God knows you lived with everyone and their brother, but never him. I figured you had your reasons.”
Sookie felt like Jason had held a big mirror up to her and she didn’t like what she saw. She had treated Eric like he meant nothing to her. Sookie wondered at herself; at the crazy stubborn foolishness that had caused her to act the way she did. She wondered why it was that when you finally figured things out it always seemed to be too late.