Chapter One: Extended Family
Sitting on her usual perch on Eric’s knee at Fangtasia, Sookie Stackhouse leaned her head against his shoulder, her eyes closing while the music of the club throbbed pleasantly against her membranes. It was another laid-back evening, her duties as Gatekeeper being unnecessary over the past few weeks. Given the time difference between the two realms, the telepath had to remind herself that foolish fairies would not constantly be attempting illegal entry into her world, and that patience was needed.
“You are bored,” Eric chuckled, giving her side a firm squeeze.
His Bonded laughed in reply, “I suppose I am! Those first few years as Gatekeeper were quite active and things have now calmed down so much.”
“Your reputation deterred many of your would-be opponents,” Eric explained. “Those first few years were merely a couple of months in Elfyria. Claudine’s reign was new, and the opposition keeping an open portal was a weakness for her. Now that the citizens of Elfyria know of your position, they are much warier; therefore, they will not attempt to cross through the portal as impulsively… You will need to take great care going forward. Those who attempt to cross now will strike at you immediately.” Sookie could feel how unnerved this made her Bonded and she sent him reassurance in response.
“Those opal thieves from last month weren’t even worth my time. Colman was right behind them through the portal. He’s lucky I didn’t take his head right along with them! That fool should know better than to chase fugitives into our world,” Sookie huffed.
“Yes, but your cousin made sure to insist that he not repeat his actions. I think she was more than well aware of the danger he placed himself in,” Eric countered.
“She did give him a good yellin’ at,” she chuckled.
“Yes, right there at the portal,” He laughed right alongside of her, recalling the memory Sookie had shared through their telepathic link.
“Sookie,” the telepath sat straight up in Eric’s lap when she heard Pam calling for her, “let me talk to Eric.”
Opening her mind, she addressed her Bonded, “Pam wants to speak with us,” was the only warning she gave him before Pam interrupted.
“Master, you and Sookie need to come to your office. There is someone who needs to meet with you… More Sookie than you,” Pam told them quickly.
The vampire rose, lifting Sookie from his knee, and they walked side by side through the club, ignoring the tiny squeals of a few fangbangers who became weak in the knees just by Eric’s proximity.
Once they entered the hallway, Sookie froze for a moment before cautiously following Eric into his office. A blonde woman was seated across the desk, her wavy hair knotted at the base of her skull. While she had waited, the woman read the framed news article on the wall of Eric’s office. It was a publicity photo of Eric, Pam, Longshadow, and Sookie standing in front of the club doors, looking rather menacingly into the camera.
The woman craned her neck to watch the couple enter the room, tensing at the sight of the vampire. Nevertheless, Sookie knew she had expected Eric’s presence. Hadley’s jaw was clenched, her blue eyes sunken, and red bags hung beneath them.
Eric could smell the heroin in the woman’s blood, yet, even if he had been unable, the physical signs were just as blatant. There was the agitated jerking of her leg, the accumulated beads of sweat in his comfortably cool office, and, the most telling of all, the long-sleeved shirt she wore on a Louisiana June evening to hide the track marks on her arms.
“Hadley,” Sookie said in a low monotone.
“Sookie,” Hadley responded, then a little head popped up over her shoulder after a child, too young to be called a toddler, but too old to be an infant, gazed up at her, his wheat hair and big, blue eyes staring at her in wonder.
“Eric,” Sookie gestured to the woman, “this is my cousin, Hadley.” She looked at her relative with clear apprehension, “Jason told you where to find me?”
“Yeah,” Hadley rose after depositing the child on the floor. She barely paid him any recognition afterward, “When I called him the other day, I told him not to tell you I asked about you.”
“I see,” The telepath heard all of the things her cousin did not wish to say, making her arms tense in exasperation. “Your son?” She asked, gesturing to the little boy.
Hadley’s lip twitched as if to keep from sneering, “Yeah.”
There was a long silence while the two women stared each other down, Hadley not knowing how to say what she needed, and Sookie trying to force her to say it, to utter her condemning request.
“He’s,” she looked down at the little boy who looked to be verge of tears, “like you.”
“Yes,” Sookie agreed, and Eric glanced at her so quickly, Hadley never even noticed.
“So I thought…” Hadley trailed off, expecting Sookie to know what she wanted, but the younger woman was going to make her say it. What words would she choose? Sookie wondered. Hadley finally seemed to find her voice, “Well, since you overcame it, he might be better off with you.”
“Overcame what?” Eric asked.
“Her mental illness!” Hadley spat, and Sookie knew that her cousin had the same aversion that her own mother, Linda, had toward the mentally-impaired, except, Hadley and Linda had never understood what Sookie truly was.
“Her what?” Eric snarled, and Sookie placed a comforting hand in his.
“How long would it take you to make him normal, like you?” Hadley ignored the vampire.
“He will never be normal,” Sookie replied in a rather empty voice. “He will always be special. Who is his father?”
“I don’t know,” Hadley squirmed uncomfortably. “There were a few guys around then. Didn’t catch all their names. You know how it is.”
“No, she does not,” Eric snapped. “Are you telling me that you wish for us to raise your bastard child for you because you do not know how to deal with his gift?”
“I can’t afford the same institutions that Sookie got!” Hadley replied shortly.
“Lucky him,” Eric chastised. “Although if he had needed medical attention, I am certain you could have afforded it had you not spent all of your money on drugs.” Hadley recoiled at Eric’s accurate accusation as if she had been slapped.
“Eric…” The vampire looked to Sookie then, and he felt exactly what she felt. She was full of need and determination. “I can do it. Please… I need to…”
“Who else knows of him?” Eric asked, changing his demeanor.
“He’s seven months. I mean, my mom knows about him, and I guess the doctor and nurses… Not too many people really know him. Ma noticed he had a lot of the same tells Sookie had when she was his age, and told me to…” The single mother stopped herself, but Sookie heard exactly what Linda had said.
~ “Get rid of that thing before it destroys your life, even more than you’ve already done. That freak cousin of yours destroyed my brother’s life and Jason’s. That’s exactly what that thing will do to you if you keep it!” ~
Sookie’s lip curled at the flickering memory her cousin had recollected, “Far greater things than I could have possibly conjured are what ruined so many lives, not my ability. People ruined my family, not me.” She was reaching down to scoop up the baby boy, and, once she did, she felt him lean toward Eric after she rose and stood beside him. Of course, the baby telepath would want to lean toward the silence her lover offered, and the vampire seemed to realize the same thing when he offered a long finger to the baby boy. Once his tiny fist grasped the offered digit, they all heard him coo contentedly. “You’ll get what you want, Hadley, even more than you knew.”
“What do you-” Eric caught Hadley’s gaze before she could make her inquiry.
“You know nothing of Sookie’s telepathy. There was nothing special about your son, nothing different. He died suddenly in his sleep shortly after he was born. You have come to terms with that, and have moved on,” He glamoured her, incensed at how effortlessly she seemed to accept the alterations to her memory.
Although glamouring was very effective and rarely did it not take; it was a very delicate, difficult undertaking to erase a memory of someone close, making it disappear for all time. It was considered impossible to erase the memory of a child from a parent and, sometimes, other close relatives. There were always cases when glamour could be used to ease the despair of losing a child, but not erase the child’s existence altogether. Even though Eric could not remove the child’s existence, normally there was a profound and evident resistance to the glamouring of a parents’ memories to ‘kill’ a child. Hadley did not resist whatsoever; in fact, she seemed to welcome the alteration, and this both angered and disgusted the vampire.
“Sookie, I will return your cousin to her mother’s house and alter your aunt’s memories, too. Stay in my office with your… Stay here with the child, and lock the door until I return,” Sookie nodded at Eric’s instructions, and seated herself and the baby on the leather sofa.
After Eric left her, making certain to have locked the door behind him, Sookie turned to the baby on her lap, and stared down into his big eyes, “I know my mind isn’t exactly silent, but I promise you, Little Guy, you’ll never again hear a bad thing about yourself from someone who should be lovin’ you. Never, ever again!” She squeezed him gently to her chest, “You’re never gonna wish you were anyone other than who you are,” she whispered in his ear. “You’re gonna have an Uncle Jason who thinks you’re freakin’ awesome, and I’m gonna love you to death. You’re gonna be sick of me, I’m gonna love you so much!” She held him a bit tighter. “Eric is gonna teach you so much. You’re gonna be the smartest little boy in the whole world, and you’re gonna have absolutely every advantage I can give you.”
“Sookie,” She heard Eric’s voice in her head. “please calm down. I understand, I really do understand how much this means to you. How… Important this is to you, but you need to relax. He is safe with you right now. There is no reason to be so intense.”
“Thank you, Eric. I know you feel what I do, but I don’t think you understand it,” She responded.
“You want to make his life right in the way yours never was. He is your reflection, and you are adamant on giving him everything you never had, right from the beginning. You do not wish for him to suffer all of his life before finally receiving his compensation,” Eric summarized.
“Okay, so you might understand,” Sookie choked back a laugh.
“I have never understood anyone as well as I understand you,” Eric assured. “I am approaching your aunt’s home now. I will see you shortly.”
Sookie remained seated with her ward, gazing into his big, trusting eyes, “I wonder if you liked the name my cousin gave you… I wish her thoughts of you had been glamoured in there… That something sinister caused her to feel that way about you, but the only thing that made her believe all those things was her upbringing. Linda did that to her, not you, kiddo. Okay?” She brushed his soft hair with her fingertips. “My cousin called you Hunter… I don’t know that you’ll be keepin’ your name, since Eric’s gonna be erasing your existence… I wish he wouldn’t do that. Getting my birth certificate back was a really important moment for me, but that was because I’d been swept under the carpet and made like I didn’t exist for so long, but I’m not gonna shut you away from the world. You’ll learn to control your gift real early, and get to have a whole life and a real childhood. You’ll have friends and go to school, and it’ll be fun and excitin’, so don’t be mad when you’re older that we had to give you a fresh start when you were a baby. When you’re a bit older, if you want, we’ll find Hadley again, and you can show her just how amazing you are, and what an idiot she was for lettin’ go of you.”
Of course, the child could not fathom what the woman who held him was saying, but he liked the sound of her voice, and the thoughts in her head. His gift was weak and untrained; therefore, he was not being assaulted by the inappropriate thoughts of the club-goers as he would have if she had not been blocking their musings. Thankfully, her time with Octavia had taught her to conceal her thoughts, so that they could not be read, though she never would have guessed she would have needed such a skill.
Through the Bond, Sookie could feel Eric’s mood fluctuating between irritated, then vindicated pleasure once she was certain Linda’s memories had been altered. He was in flight soon after, but she knew he would be heading toward the nearest hospital to glamour an unsuspecting doctor into filling out Hunter’s death certificate. Eric accomplished all of this quickly and soon, he was “calling” to her through their connection that granted them their ability to teleport to one another. It had been a few years before Eric understood and could manipulate this gift. He had found it much easier to drag her through time and space, rather than to do it himself. As Master of the Blade that had bound them, he could both teleport to her or bring her to him within a single realm, but Sookie could only go to him, not bring him to her location. As they had learned in her fight with the fae, he could not teleport to her between realms, only return her back to his side.
Not that it mattered, she thought, after Eric’s arms encircled both her and Hunter. As long as they could get to each other when needed, it did not bother the woman that they did not possess the same power.
“I suppose we should take the young one home,” Eric whispered in her ear. “It is late for an infant, yes?”
“Mmm,” She hummed in agreement. “He is tired.”
“How are you able to tell?” Eric asked as he helped her to her feet.
“His mind. He is processing everything very slowly, but not just slow the way a baby would. It’s a tired slow,” she explained.
“Ah,” was all Eric responded with while they walked out of his office and to the back entrance of the club. “Will you inform Pam of our plans and tell her to shut down the club herself tonight?”
“Yes,” Sookie replied, doing as he asked, not at all surprised at Pam’s response to their taking on raising a hybrid child.
“Another fairy hybrid in our lives?” Pam asked mentally, trying to sound bored, but failing dreadfully. It was much more difficult for her to remain nonchalant in her head, “This is ridiculous. Your lot is supposed to be a rare breed, and now we have landed two of you in less than a decade!” She sounded exasperated.
“Yes, but he is family,” Sookie replied.
“Family!” came Pam’s annoyed reply, and the vampiress did not have to send the telepath her thoughts on family to enlighten her. Pam believed she was more Sookie’s family than any of her blood relatives would ever be. Even though Jason was of importance to her, Sookie had to agree. In the six years she had grown to know her brother, or even all the time she had known her cousin, Claudine, Sookie felt as though Eric, Godric, and Pam were her true family.
“He will be family,” Sookie corrected.
“I suppose,” Pam conceded. “Tell Eric that I will do as he says.”
“Thank you,” Sookie turned to look at her Bonded while she held Hunter snugly to her chest, “Pam’s on it… Could we stop by Wal-Mart first? I need to get a carseat for this little guy.”
“There is one behind you.” He jerked his thumb toward the back, “I liberated the one from your cousin’s vehicle seeing as she would have no need for it.”
Sookie craned her neck and looked the carseat she had not noticed, poking a rounded edge up behind her. “Oh,” she laughed.
“I will secure it in your BMW after we get to the house, and you may go shopping with him tomorrow for any other necessities then.” Eric was in a peculiar mood, and it left Sookie presuming.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered in apology for having placed him in such a situation.
“Why are you apologizing?” Eric asked, brow furrowed.
“I’m sorry that this is goin’ to completely disrupt our lives, and you’re only doin’ it because you know it’s what I want,” she said softly.
“You are my life,” Eric told her as he stared ahead at the dark road. “Besides, children grow quickly, especially quick for those of us who do not age. He will be an adult in a short time, and you will not have aged much by that time either. We lose nothing by taking him in, but,” he looked directly at Sookie then for a long moment, “you will gain much in this experience, of that I am certain.”
Sookie smiled at him in that instant he looked at her, “I love you, you know.”
“Yes, I do know, and I love you, too,” He gave her a quick wink before looking back at the road.
“So, what are we goin’ to tell people, or vampires for that matter?” Sookie asked.
“I have arranged that Hunter Delahoussaye is dead,” Eric replied after a moment. “I will be giving him a new identity shortly. As to the origin of his identity, and his purpose for coming to us… I have yet to make any definite decisions. This was not a possibility I was prepared for on any level,” he admitted. “Still, the child’s ability and origin are best kept secret.” He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye before asking, “Do you have any suggestions on the matter? We will need to think of a name for him as well.”
“Could he keep his first name?” she asked.
“It is not advisable. I would prefer that we minimize any connections to his previous life,” Eric smiled apologetically.
“I figured you would say somethin’ like that,” She smiled back ruefully. “Guess I should think of a name, too, to put on his new birth certificate…”
“Are we going to invent a last name for him, or would you wish for him to take your surname?” Eric asked.
“I thought maybe he could take yours,” She stuck her tongue out at him playfully. “After all, if they ever allow vampire marriage, I’m takin’ your name.”
“You could take my name now, if you wished. The government cannot keep you from doing that. Only, at this time, we may not have a legally-recognized wedding. We could always have a ceremony, though, one that would be recognized by the Supernatural community,” and then Eric took her hand, kissing the back of it.
“Isn’t that what our Bonding ceremony was?” Sookie asked.
“That was not what I wanted to give you,” He frowned, remembering their rushed bonding ceremony those six years ago. “That was more of an elopement than a wedding. We could do something special, instead.”
Sookie shook her head quickly and laughingly said, “Wait, wait… How did we get on weddings!? We have a lot more to take care of than that right now!”
“Just another thing to think about and consider,” He chuckled, letting go of her hand and allowing it to return to cradling the child who had dozed off.
“Should we tell Jason the truth?” she asked, staring out into the thickets of bushes and trees along the road.
“It would be…”
“Unadvisable,” Sookie sighed. “It’s a good thing you don’t die for the day and I don’t sleep much… We’re goin’ to have a lot to figure out before dawn…”
Eric was pulling into the garage a short time later, and Sookie carried her ward into the house as carefully and quietly as she could. He only stirred slightly as she settled on to the couch, and Eric silently deposited the diaper bag he had commandeered from Hadley on the floor next to it.
“Well, Lover, shall we begin our planning?” Eric asked softly, in deference to the infant’s sleeping state, as he sat down beside Sookie.
“I don’t even know where to start,” Sookie confessed.
“We shall begin with the child’s origins,” Eric submitted.
“Well, you already worked it so he won’t be Hadley’s, and he can’t be mine, or questions of my fidelity will be called into question.” He felt her blood boil with the thought of the latter possibility.
“Very true. Then there are the legal issues of our adopting him, given that you would not be known as a blood relative, and vampires have not been approved to become legal guardians of human children,” Eric nodded thoughtfully.
“Where does that leave us?” Sookie griped.
“With a lot of red tape to cut, and a good amount of money to forge documents,” Eric breathed out.
Sookie gazed down at the boy who slumbered against her chest. He did not seem comfortable, so the woman turned on the sofa to rest her legs in Eric’s lap and her head on the couch’s arm, so they could both lay more comfortably. Her hand settled on the child’s back, feeling the gentle rise and fall of his ribs as he breathed.
“What do you suggest?” she asked gently.
“The Supernatural community is well adept at accepting one Supe becoming guardian to another with or without blood relation. It is how many of them survive and thrive. It is common practice among Were and shifter packs. Weres take care of Were children as well as orphaned shifters. They are not as much of a worry as humans.” He looked to Sookie, “We could forge documents stating that he is your child to appease the humans, but the Supernatural world would know him as an orphaned Supe.”
Eric knew Sookie detested the mere notion that her fidelity could be called into question by anyone, even humans. “It would not necessarily have to be your child through extramarital affairs…” he told her carefully.
“What do you mean?” Sookie asked.
“We could say you wished to bear a child and became artificially impregnated since I lack the capacity to perform that need for you,” He was cautious while he made this suggestion.
“Wouldn’t they do a blood test?” Sookie asked.
Eric shook his head, “No, all of his papers will need to be forged because no proof of his life remains any longer.”
Sookie nodded slowly, “I would like to have Ludwig examine him… Hadley has a drug problem. I want to be certain that he is healthy.”
“That is a good idea. I could smell heroin in her blood during our meeting with her. There is a strong possibility that she was addicted throughout her pregnancy. Although I believe he is well long past the breastfeeding stage, it would be good to know if he suffered any damage prior,” Eric was agreeable. “Shall I call her now?”
“Let’s get a bit more figured out beforehand,” Sookie closed her eyes, enjoying the fluttering heartbeat of the baby against her hand.
Eric smiled at her euphoric expression. Though Sookie had never shown a maternal impulse before, he was astonished to find she had the capacity. It awoke a primal response in him, one he had not experienced ever since his human existence.
“Mmm, you’re enjoyin’ seein’ me with a baby,” she chuckled quietly.
“There is nothing more beautiful than a woman with a baby… One who wishes to have that baby, that is,” he added after remembering Hadley’s lack of interest in the boy.
“I want to name him Lukas,” Sookie informed him after a moment.
“Lukas?” Eric asked curiously.
Her eyes opened slightly, still hooded with the sedation of holding the baby, “It means “Light”.”
“I know this,” he laughed, “but why did you choose it?”
“Because he will be my light… Maybe he will be what keeps me from fallin’ back into darkness again,” she whispered.
Eric was quiet after the admission she had made. In the past five years, they had never spoken aloud of the fear Sookie had about revisiting the darkness of her role as Gatekeeper, nor her rampage that had claimed the lives of nearly five-score fairies. He knew very well that, despite her external nonchalance over her kills, Sookie always wondered, deep down, if she was truly a monster.
~ “Did I lose my light?” Sookie asked one night, sobbing into his chest.
“Whatever do you mean, my Bonded?” Eric responded worriedly.
“My light. Godric told me not to lose it. I think it’s gone out.”
“You will always be my light.” ~
“How do you know the name ‘Lukas’?” Eric asked.
“I was bored and looked up the meaning of your name,” Sookie shrugged. “’Eternal Ruler’,” she chuckled. “It works for an immortal like you. Lukas was listed right near it because they were about the same level of popularity, and I remembered seeing it’s meaning. It sort of stuck with me. Maybe this was why?”
“I like it,” Eric smiled at her. “And you wished for him to take my last name?”
“Yes,” her eyes opened fully, “and I want us to have a marriage ceremony, even if it won’t be a legal one.” She glanced down at the engagement ring she had worn for nearly six years, “This ring is getting lonesome,” she teased, wriggling her fingers at him.
Eric laughed right back and gave her leg a little squeeze, “Marriage and a baby, Miss Stackhouse, you have domesticated me more fully than I ever thought would be possible.”
“That’s me, your own personal world-upside-down-turner,” She grinned up at him.
“Life has been a great adventure since you became a part of it. When you become as old as I am, it is enjoyable to have freshness, no matter the costs,” Eric placed his hand over hers, over Lukas’ back. “What’s more, I know how much this means to you.”
Smiling at her understanding Bonded, Sookie merely nodded and closed her eyes once more. There was no more need for words. The most pressing issues had been resolved in that they had made their decisions. Now, Eric would only need time to secure the proper documents for their newest family member, and get a few points across to the Supernatural community. Thankfully, the child’s age was right in the range between negotiations with humans and the opening of Fangtasia. That meant Sookie could say he was born before the opening, but not showing at the time she had been dealing with humans. If anyone questioned why the baby had never been seen, they could merely reply that they had been waiting for him to grow a bit before bringing him near the club. Luckily, Pam had brought Hadley in through the back entrance, minimizing her exposure to the rest of their world. In the event someone had noticed her, Eric and Sookie could say she had been their babysitter.
They both doubted that any humans would ask too many questions; in fact, they counted on it.
Still, none of this made Sookie anxious. The feel of the baby resting against her body was both soothing and exciting. Nothing mattered more than him in that moment, and she was happy to keep it as such. After all, it was not every day one became a mother.