Chapter Twenty-Two: Family Dynamics
“Yes,” Godric leaned back in his booth at Fangtasia after carefully examining Sookie’s wide-eyed face, “very pretty.” A lazy smile tugged at the head of the Bloodline’s lips as he folded his hand in his lap and draped his other arm over Emily’s shoulders, “And that control! I have never seen anything like it!”
“Thank you, Sir,” Sookie replied bashfully at the scrupulous examination Godric, Emily, and even Pam were giving her.
“I could not help but notice that she is a bit warm…?” Godric continued.
“Her genealogy has brought a few variations in her transformation,” Eric explained, causing Sookie to look up at him uneasily. Was her Bonded going to keep her fairy heritage and advanced telepathy between the two of them, or was he merely waiting for complete privacy before divulging their secret?
“I see,” Godric did not seem pressed for further knowledge. “Sookie,” he addressed her gently, “how are you holding up? Pamela told Emily and I about the circumstances surrounding your metamorphosis. My condolences for such a terrifying experience.”
Sookie squared her shoulders, “I’m doin’ quite well, Sir. Thank you,” she announced, making Godric smile sadly at her.
“Are you going to file assault charges against your brother?” Emily asked.
Shaking her head, Sookie placed her chin in her upturned palm, “No. I told my Captain to let it go.” Eric’s Disapproval in the Bond made Sookie take his hand and squeeze it comfortingly.
“You do not need to put up such walls with your Bloodline, Young One,” Godric encouraged her, concerned by her levity toward such a complicated situation.
The former officer’s face remained politely blank despite the familial way he spoke an affectionate pet name. If her heart could still beat, it would have constricted. Familial…
She wondered how Jason was doing, if he still hated her. The young vampire worried that she would never see him again, despite only being an hour away from Bon Temps. When would be an appropriate time to check on him? Would he detest her even more if she returned to him now as a vampire rather than just leaving him in the appalling denial that she had gone through with turning?
“Better her dead for good than becoming a soulless fanger!” still echoed painfully in her head. Her own brother wished for her death. He would rather be alone in the world than share it with his vampire sister.
“I’m fine,” Sookie whispered at her Bonded’s prodding. “I just need a drink.”
“I’ll get it,” Emily responded in a cheery way that Sookie found strangely comforting.
Watching the petite blonde skip toward the bar for a TrueBlood, Sookie could not help but feel like she reminded her of someone. When Emily returned with the bottle, that same sweet, unassuming disposition, Sookie realized of whom Emily evoked memories.
That smile which was a mask of unspoken secrets, hidden concerns, and dark, dark memories. No one could ever know her pain.
Sookie knew that her musings only drew the comparisons between Hadley and Emily because her brain was fixated so intently on family. Her throat tightened as she played with the bottle, not drinking. A pitying thought had flitted through Emily’s mind, and Sookie did not have the energy to ignore it.
“Just say it, please,” Sookie whispered.
“Say what?” Emily asked sweetly.
“I know that face. That’s the face of ‘something I’m not saying,’ and I can’t relieve concerns when I don’t know what they are,” Sookie appealed.
Emily’s spine straightened at Sookie’s gloomy expression. “It’s nothing bad, Hun,” she assured. “We’re just all worried about you is all.”
“Why?” Sookie played with her bottle, still not drinking from it.
“Let’s not pretend that Pam hasn’t been keeping Godric and I informed about you. We know so much about you already. Your home life, your isolation, your pride. It’s not unlikely that pride of yours would make you withdraw from those around you, and we don’t want that for Eric. He cannot be happy unless you are,” Emily explained.
“You’re worried I’m going to draw him into a spiral of depression?” Sookie asked.
“To be direct, yes.”
“This really is not necessary,” Eric defended. “It is reasonable for her to be unhappy with the circumstances. This is not at all what we had planned. It has only been two evenings. She needs more time.”
“I am unhappy,” Sookie murmured, “but not about being a vampire, not even about my career falling to pieces. I love Eric, and the Bond does make me extremely happy. I’m scared, I’m confused, and I don’t like any of that one bit. I’m sorry I can’t be the lovey-dovey newlywed ya’ll would expect, but I just can’t right now. I miss my Gran… I miss my brother… I miss my family, and I don’t even know why! I’d gotten to say goodbye to her a hundred times, always wondering if it was the last time, now I’ll never die and get to see her in heaven. That’s okay, I chose Eric. I finally got to make a real choice for myself, and I don’t doubt that decision. I just really miss my family,” she concluded sadly.
Godric nodded solemnly at her confession before speaking in a soft, respectful tone, “I suppose Emily and I are concerned over the radical difference between our Bonds.”
“Can you feel me?” Sookie asked.
“Yes, you are my progeny’s creation, and I can feel you just as I can Pamela. However, I cannot sense you as easily as I do Eric.”
Sookie nodded slowly, understanding from where the concerns were stemming. She and Eric did not have the same temperaments that Godric and Emily experienced after their first rising as a Bonded couple.
“That is not to say we are a fair comparison,” Emily blurted. “We didn’t have nearly the trauma that you two did!”
“I just need time,” Sookie assured quietly, almost hesitantly, before finally taking a sip of blood and restraining a cringe.
For a moment, Sookie wished she still needed to use the bathroom just for an excuse to escape the group. A small reprieve from their concerned expressions and doubts would be a godsend for her, but she knew it was wishful thinking. Instead, she let her mind wander into the thoughts of the Fangtasia patrons.
Sookie’s back straightened when she heard a thought that impulsively made her scan the room. “Addict,” she announced under her breath to Eric. “Brunette, 5’4”, red tank, black pants. She’s got a ‘hunter’ look about her. Might be a drainer.”
Eric’s eyes quickly swept over the room to spot the short, brown-haired woman his Mate had pinpointed. Immediately he was out of his seat and in pursuit.
“Old habits?” Emily teased the detective.
“It’s more of a way of life than a habit,” Sookie replied, watching her Bonded intently as he snuck up on the woman, disarming her with his stunning appearance and glamouring her to follow him.
“You are stunningly perceptive,” Godric praised. “To see so much, it must be tedious?”
“Very,” Sookie agreed, confused that Godric and Emily did not seem to know about her telepathy. Had Pam not told them of her quirk? Why not?
There was a brief temptation to pry into their thoughts intentionally, but Sookie quickly suppressed it. Godric and Emily were her family now, and she would extend the same courtesy to them as she had to Gran and Jason.
She ached at the thought of her late grandmother and her estranged brother as they quickly raced through her mind. How long would it be that even the most fleeting memory of them would bring her nothing but such consuming sadness?
“Mistress,” Pam’s voice was sharp, and Sookie quickly shot back to attention, “did you hear Master Godric?”
“Oh,” Sookie searched, trying to regain her center, “sorry, I must have wandered in my head again. It’s scary easy to do that now. I don’t remember ever being so distracted.”
“It is understandable,” Godric assured. “Young ones are quite prone to drifting in and out of attention.”
“What was your question?” Sookie asked shyly.
“Do you have plans for yourself now that you are vampire?” Godric asked again.
“Well, I don’t know much about the process for reinstating new vamps to the force, assuming they’ll have me. Vamps aren’t usually allowed in the interview rooms because defense attorneys love to presume reasonable doubt on the grounds of possible glamour or witness tampering,” she explained. “I guess we could use the earwig and I could have a human officer doing the interrogations while I remain in the observation room.”
“You plan to return to law enforcement?” Emily asked, surprised.
“Yeah,” Sookie nodded. “It’s where my heart is, but I don’t know if we can swing it. I don’t want Eric a hot mess all the time, worrying about me.”
“I was thinking,” Eric announced, returning to their table, “that you might wish to travel?”
“Travel?” Sookie cocked her head curiously.
“Yes, it would give you a chance to adjust while not feeling examined by those around you.”
“What about my dogs? We can’t travel with them on top of dying for the day,” Sookie reminded him.
“We could leave them with that shifter again. He seemed to really enjoy their company,” Eric offered.
Sookie began to object, but froze on her words when she realized what her Bonded was trying to accomplish. Separation. Eric was trying to create distance between her and the dogs. They would not live forever, and their time with her would seem even more brief now that she was immortal.
“Eric,” she whispered, “are you trying to prepare me for not having them anymore?”
His jaw tightened then he admitted, “I am.” He had hoped that she would not perceive his intentions, but he reprimanded himself for his timing.
Her face fell immediately and Sookie could feel and see the red liquid building in her eyes, “I’m not ready.”
“All right,” his voice was gentle like a soft blanket offered to keep the cold at bay. “I am sorry that I suggested it.”
“You’re just trying to help me,” she said, choking back her tears.
“I really am,” he softly kissed her temple.
“I know it would be easier to give them to Sam or Trent, and walk away for a decade, pretending they were still out there running, but I don’t want that. I don’t want to abandon them when they were the only ones who stuck with me through my peak isolation. How can I say I ever cared for them, that I ever loved them, if I dumped them off on someone else just so it would be easier on me?” Sookie shook her head, causing the welling blood tears in her eyes to trickle down her cheeks. “I will love them forever for keeping me alive inside, for letting me love someone without worry or hesitation. If it weren’t for them, I couldn’t have fallen in love with you.”
“Do not say that, Sookie,” Eric ran his thumb along the red river marring her face.
“But it’s true!” she sobbed, feeling sick and self-conscious for crying so publicly. It went against her very nature to allow others to see her weak like this, but the emotion was beyond her control. The dam of her sorrow was breaking, and the thought of leaving her beloved companions behind broke the final shreds of her willpower that contained the flood, “They were my lifeline, they let me love freely, and if I hadn’t had that, I would have been a husk by the time you met me.”
It did not matter that her claims were empty in Eric’s eyes. Sookie truly believed she would not be the woman he loved if not for her canine counterparts. Rather than argue, Eric smiled and brushed away the other trail of crimson, “Then we will enjoy their remaining years together.”
“Thank you,” Sookie sighed, reining in her emotional outburst.
“Are these actual dogs?” Godric asked quietly of Pam.
“Yes, German Shepherds,” Pam answered just as quietly. “She is unreasonably attached to them, but they are very good dogs. I have met them a few times and they are remarkably well trained.”
Emily’s brow knit as she watched the newborn across the table.
“What is it, my love?” Godric asked of his Mate, sensing her concern.
After a moment of contemplation, Emily replied with a soft smile, “Nothing, Sweetheart. Just trying to suss out our newest family member.”
Godric shook his head wryly at her remark, “I think she will be remarkable for him.”
“Absolutely,” Emily agreed quickly. “All of this time you’ve felt him growing toward this, and to see them together is very reassuring. Even with all of the hardship, oh, Godric, I’m so happy for all of us!”
All of us? Sookie latched on to that final remark, wanting to resist when Eric began to pull her away from the table.
“Shall we return home now, Sookie?” Eric asked gently.
Snapping out of her curiosity, Sookie gave her Bonded a short nod and was lead out of the club.
“What did she mean by “all of us?” Sookie asked once they were in the car and driving back home.
Eric glanced at his Mate, recalling the conversation, and finally smiled, “Happiness for one is happiness for all in a Bloodline. Emily was merely remarking that she understands that even though we are encountering rough spots early on, we are still very happy. In turn, we are all happy.”
“Oh,” Sookie could not help but feel as though there was more to the comment, but she brushed it aside.
“I am sorry that the conversation brought you sorrow, especially when Mags and Junes were discussed,” Eric apologized softly.
“I understood where you were coming from. I only hope you understand where I am coming from,” Sookie responded just as quietly.
“I do,” he assured. “I still believe travel would be good for you,” he continued. “Perhaps we could stay in the continental US? Maybe go up North?”
Sookie pondered this a moment, “I’ve never seen snow before.”
“You would look beautiful in the snow,” he whispered.
“The nights are longer there too, right?” Sookie asked.
“It depends on where we go,” he explained. “The most noticeable area would be the Arctic Circle.”
“That seems a bit too extreme,” Sookie scrunched her nose with disapproval. “Too isolated, I’d get bored.”
“You would get bored with me in a matter of three months?” Eric asked with a playfully wounded expression and tone.
Sookie pouted at what she had implied, “No, but what would we do for three months of nearly endless night?”
“I can think of many things,” Eric purred matter-of-factly, his hand trailing up from her knees toward her thigh. Lips pursing to attempt hiding her amusement, Sookie brushed his hand away, silently telling him she wanted further convincing. “We could go to Alaska,” he continued, placing his hand back on her knee and giving it a squeeze. “Drive north with Mags and Junes, stopping as we needed to until arriving in the Seward Peninsula where I will have already had a vacation home built for us by the time we arrived.”
“So, road trip?” Sookie laughed.
“Have you ever been on one?” Eric asked, tracing small symbols into her kneecap.
“Darlin’, the only road trip I’ve ever been on is the one between Bon Temps and Shreveport.”
“You have not even been to New Orleans?” he asked with surprise.
“Nope,” she confessed.
“How does my plan sound to you?”
“Interesting,” she smiled, placing her hand over his and squeezing it, “but how in the world would we make that work for the dogs?”
“I can glamour a handler at the locations we are forced to take rest in. They will take care of the dogs until we rise and can leave for the evening.”
“I don’t like the idea of forcing people to take care of them,” Sookie admitted.
“It is the way we have done things a long time now, Dear One,” Eric assured.
Sookie sighed, “I suppose it’s as good a plan as any to spend the first year of being a vamp. I can’t even reapply to the police department during my first year.”
“You plan to return to the force?” Eric tried to sound supportive, but the Bond betrayed his Concern.
“I don’t know,” she whispered.
“Maybe a year off will give you some perspective on your wants and needs,” he consoled.
“Maybe,” she bowed her head in thought. “Any chance I can swing over to my Gran’s place?”
Eric glanced at the mile marker and replied, “I can turn around at the next exit-”
“No, I mean just me,” she continued, staring at her knees. “I want to see her again, and I want to walk through the house…”
“I see,” Eric took his hand from her knee and placed it on the steering wheel.
“Are you mad at me?” she asked.
“You know that I am not,” he answered sharply.
“You’re frustrated,” she accused.
“Not with you,” he assured.
“Myself, our circumstances, this. All of this,” he waved his hand in an all-encompassing gesture.
“I’m sorry I can’t wrap it all up yet,” Sookie replied quietly, on the verge of tears again.
“Please, do not cry again,” Eric beseeched.
“I can’t help it,” she tried to brush away the crimson tears, only managing to make herself appear more gruesome.
“Do you really wish to visit Bon Temps without me?” Eric asked.
“I do,” she choked back tears once more.
“Then we will return to the house and you can take your own car,” he told her. “You need to pick up the key and code anyway.”
“You’re mad at me,” she sobbed.
“I am NOT mad at you!” Eric roared.
Shrinking back into her seat, the pair remained silent for the duration of the drive back to the house. When they arrived, Sookie slunk into the house to retrieve the new key to her Gran’s home and the security system code. She watched painfully as Eric stormed past her and slammed the door to the den.
“Mags, Junes,” Sookie squeaked at the dogs, calling them to follow her to her Toyota. The dogs quickly took to her heels and the three drove into the darkness to Bon Temps. “Why am I acting so completely imbalanced?” she asked her dogs as she pulled off the highway.
Junes whined at the inquiry, licking Sookie’s jaw comfortingly from the backseat.
“I want so much to just accept the cards I was dealt,” she told them. “I want that so much, but everything hurts. Why does it hurt so much?” Junes placed her face on Sookie’s shoulder as Mags anxiously circled several times in the backseat. “Great, now I’m upsetting you guys too!”
Pulling up to the cemetery, Sookie stepped out, her dogs trailing in her starlit shadow.
“Hey, Gran, I’m back. Shoot, I forgot flowers again,” she grumbled. “Sorry, I’ve never been good about those things…”
The young vampire sat down in the dewy grass, her dogs flopping on either side of her as they curled up before the headstone. “I’m really screwing up so many things right now,” Sookie began. “I ran so fast into Eric when we first met. I grabbed him and ran with him. Now that we’re ‘forever,’ I’m getting cold feet… Everything changed so fast, Gran!” she exclaimed. “I went from so much isolation I thought I’d go nuts to constant company. It’s nice, but strange. Well, different, not strange. No, definitely strange,” Sookie committed to her first response. “I just wish I knew what I was doing,” she confessed. “I wish you could tell me what to do, Gran. I really need someone to point me in the right direction again. I feel like I’m still underground and I don’t know which way the sky is. I don’t know which way to dig…”
Standing up, Sookie called her dogs to follow her up to the farmhouse on the hill. When she arrived at the door of her childhood home, she unlocked it, and turned off the security system. Her dogs jumped up on the sheet covered sofa, making themselves comfortable while Sookie wandered the narrow hallways.
Even with her new sensitivity to sound, the noise of that familiar truck was still the same. The way the gravel crunched under its tires and the engine rattled slightly out of time when it idled were key indicators that Jason Stackhouse had pulled up to the house. Mags and Junes promptly jumped off the couch to greet the wayward brother.
“Figured y’all wouldn’ stay away long,” Jason’s voice was harsh as he flung open the screen door and entered the house. Contrary to his vehemence, he still scratched and petted the dogs as they danced at his feet.
“I’m havin’ a real bad night, Jason,” Sookie cried as her accent automatically thickened as it only did anymore around her brother. “I really can’t deal with ya hollerin’ tonight.”
Jason snorted, “Ya think I give a shit if it’s convenient fer ya? What the fuck you think I owe ya anyways?”
“Nothing,” Sookie flung her arms in the air. “You owe me nothing. Hopefully you know that goes both ways by now.”
“Listen, I just wanna git my shit outta here. Couldn’ do that while you was underground cause them lawyers had the cops watchin’ the place til ya got dug up. Then I come up here day after, an’ the locks was changed, an’ there’s a new security system,” Jason sneered at her audacity to keep him from taking what was his.
“I just did that to protect the things that weren’t yours,” Sookie defended her actions. “You were real angry at me the day I died.”
“I still am real fuckin’ angry at ya,” Jason snapped. “Why the fuck didn’t ya tell me Gran was dead!?”
“I was shot!” Sookie shouted. “I just found out about Gran, Trent was gonna drive me home so I could calm down t’ call ya in private, and I was fucking SHOT on the way out the station! I almost died that morning and was only saved by the fact Eric sent me to work with his blood. If you hadn’t screamed at me and hit me, I might not be a vampire right now! I might still be alive and have had more time to come to grips with what I was gonna become in the future! I might have been able to stay on the force! I might have got to actually enjoy living for a little while longer after twenty-five years of being a shell.”
“You was the one who chose it,” Jason gestured to her transformed body.
“But I never chose this!” Sookie pointed to her head. “I never chose this. This… And now I don’t even know what to do with it anymore. What can I do with it now? I can’t be a police officer anymore, Jason! I can’t be the one thing that made sense; that gave it a purpose.”
“Yeah, well,” Jason scratched his head uncomfortably, and looked away from her, “sounds like a pro’lem,” Shouldering past her, he headed upstairs to his old bedroom. “It sounds like yer pro’lem.”
Sookie watched his back as he ascended the staircase, longing to just reach out and hug her brother again like when they were teenagers. When no one was looking, and he could just be Jason, her big brother, when no one could see that the star QB actually loved the little sister he made fun of in public.
“I deserved so much more than you,” Sookie whispered to herself as she crumpled onto the floor of the living room and cried softly to herself until he left without a single acknowledgement.
There was a puddle of bloody teardrops in her lap by the time her distress was interrupted again.
“Oh, now this is just something else,” Pam’s voice caused Sookie’s tears to stutter to an abrupt halt, and she blinked up in surprise at the blonde. Wiping at the evidence of her breakdown, Pam merely shook her head at the attempt. “You don’t have normal tears anymore. They’re going to betray you every time now.”
“I just can’t stop,” Sookie sobbed.
“So I see,” Pam nodded, and went toward the kitchen to dampen a rag, which she used to scrub the blood off the youngling’s face.
“Why are you here?” Sookie sniffled.
“Eric sent me.”
“Of course he did,” Sookie accepted the towel and continued to blot at tears that kept welling.
“You have had a very tough evening,” Pam shrugged. “Between last night, and tonight with the added bonus of super vampire emotions, we all anticipated a break.”
“Eric’s mad at me still? That’s why he sent you?” Sookie stammered.
Pam sighed, “He has not been mad at you once in your entire life.”
“Then why did you come and not him?” Sookie asked.
“Because despite the fact you can feel everything he feels; you are still adamant that he is angry with you!” Pam flung her arms in exasperation. “Why do you think everyone is mad at you!? Why can’t they just be concerned or worried?”
“You’re mad at me!” Sookie pointed out.
“You’re damn right I am! Eric is a mess with you like this, and you seem hell bent on prolonging his suffering.”
“I’m not trying to!” Sookie protested.
“Then snap out of it, clean up your face, change your clothes, and fake it ’til you make it, Missy!” Pam ordered. “If you keep dwelling, of course you’ll stay sad. Instead, focus on him. Focus on fun. Focus on eternity. Your dumb-ass brother will be dead in a few decades, sooner if I get my way, and he won’t be able to hurt you anymore!”
“That’s not what I want,” Sookie dabbed at another red river.
“You have been living a harsh life for how long, Missy? Did you really think you’d come here tonight and have some grand reconciliation?” Pam demanded.
“Then what were you expecting?” she stomped her thinly heeled foot.
“Did you get it?” Pam’s posture relaxed as she understood.
“Less than I wanted, more than I expected,” Sookie told her. “I think I needed a verbal scrap to find out what I was holding in.” Sookie laughed bitterly as she spat, “Ironic, right? I’m stronger, faster and heal quicker than lightning, but I’ve never felt more vulnerable and weak than I ever did as a human. You know what the icing on the cake is? I’m a telepath who can’t figure out what she’s thinking.”
“Did that verbal scrap shake anything loose?” Pam pressed, ignoring the following confessions Sookie had made. Those were problems for Eric to handle with his Bonded. Pam’s mission was to stabilize the young vampire enough so that she would come home. It annoyed the older progeny that Eric would not just use his Maker’s Command to force his Bonded back home, but she understood that Sookie needed to come back from her break down as naturally as possible.
“My career as an officer is over,” Sookie took a shuddering breath. “What made it the outlet I needed is no longer applicable. Vampire officers can only work vampire crimes, and I’m far too young to be any sort of officer in that department. Even if I could, I’d be putting myself, my Bonded, and my Bloodline in too great a danger. It’s a pointless venture.”
“What else did you find out tonight?” Pam asked, coming to sit on the couch, her face a mask of disinterest, despite the inquiry.
“I’m really sad,” she admitted the dark secret aloud. “I wasn’t ready for this. All I feel is sadness and guilt, and knowing that’s hurting Eric only makes it worse. I know he feels responsible, and it’s not his fault. It’s not his burden, and I’m making him shoulder it.”
“So, what are you going to do about it?” Pam nudged her.
Looking up toward the ceiling, Sookie took a deep breath and replied, “I’m going to go try to figure out what there is for me.”
“Did you ever wonder,” Pam began, “what it is you would have done if you were never a telepath?”
“No,” Sookie answered.
“Maybe you should.”
Sookie continued staring at the ceiling a moment longer before rising from the floor. “We should be heading back to Shreveport. I don’t want Eric worrying if I push it too close to dawn.”
Realizing that the conversation was over, Pam merely nodded and walked out the front door. Sookie ushered her dogs out the entry way and armed the security system. As she locked and closed the door behind her, she stood a beat longer than needed before shutting that front door for the last time.