A/N: I don’t normally do this, but I wanted to give everyone a heads up– my HD containing all of my stories, notes, timelines and everything else has been corrupted. Recovering it may not be possible. However, there is good news. I DID have my writing backed up, including what was prepared for Catalyst, and it will hopefully continue as scheduled. Unfortunately, I only have my laptop at my disposal, and let’s just say it is not as cooperative a writing medium to my muse. We will see what happens, and I will keep everyone informed about chapter delays in the comments sections from here on out. Thank you for your patience!
Chapter Fifty-Three: The Other Side of the Situation
I’m not going to pretend that having two vampire roommates doesn’t come with its challenges. A few days after they had come to stay with us, Quigley came out of his light safe compartment after dusk and gave me a high five for my after school sex special. He said I was one ‘wild lass’, and I’d spent the rest of the night blushing. Since I’ve never hung out with vampires that died for the day, I forgot that older ones rose earlier than sunset!
Diedre is mostly quiet and withdrawn. She hardly leaves her room past the light tight compartment. Since she’s so flipping old she doesn’t need blood much more than once a month when she was in peak condition. Godric said that injuries or great feats of strength would deplete blood reservoirs, but with never leaving her room, Diedre could probably go two whole weeks without blood despite her injuries!
I am definitely learning a lot about vampires these past few weeks.
I’m also learning that my best friend is hiding something. She’s very distracted as of late, and I’m starting to worry. Not to mention, she even spent her lunch hour with Eric today! I hope it doesn’t become a new trend. I’d miss having lunch with my friend, and I know Godric’s noticed me sulking about it.
I know he’s noticed because as he comes into the kitchen while I make my dinner, he raises his eyebrows and asks, “Is something bothering you?”
My lips pout at the question, but I answer honestly, “Sookie met up with Eric for lunch and ditched me and Jason. She spends so much time with him, and now she’s starting to let whatever distraction she’s got cut into our time at school together.”
“Distracted how?” he asks me patiently. His eyes look patient, but there’s this undercurrent of amusement in the Bond that I find frustrating. He probably knows exactly what’s going on, I think a bit petulantly.
I lift my shoulders in a shrug. “She’s just quiet and every time I want to hang out, she says she’s grading papers! We all three used to do that together, but now she wants to do it by herself? It’s like she’s avoiding me!”
Godric’s lips quirk. “I am certain she is not being distant on purpose.”
“I know, and I’m trying not to take it personally,” I tell him earnestly. “I just feel…”
“Excluded?” He hazards a guess and I nod. “Sometimes when we are distant with others, it is because we want closeness with someone specific. Perhaps right now you could focus on befriending Diedre? She is very alone and saddened. I am sure she would desire some empathy.”
I flinch a bit. Diedre makes me nervous. She’s so old beneath that youthful exterior, and what could someone as young as me say to comfort her? I mean, technically, I only have eight and a half years worth of experiences! What does that compare to four thousand years? What could I possibly empathize with her?
What could someone who literally had to relearn everything about themselves have to offer someone who’s reinvented their life a hundred times over? What could I tell her that she hasn’t experienced a thousand times? I can’t even remember my greatest loss, and now I want totry to coach someone through their worst experience in four thousand years?
Despite all the good things in my life, and how much I love where I am and whom I’m with; it doesn’t always feel like enough. Sometimes I find myself staring in the mirror and wondering what my previous life was like. How much of who I am was changed by what was done to me, and how much of who I was remained who I am? What have a kept from my previous life and don’t even know it?
Suddenly I realize something I can relate to this ancient creature…
Leaving my food preparation half completed on the counter, I dash upstairs and knock briskly on the guest room door. Diedre opens the door and looks at me with a touch of suspicion. No doubt, she knows I take great pains to avoid her. She has also heard my conversation with my husband and is probably apprehensive about what dubious thoughts I might have on her tragedy.
“Yes?” Diedre greets a bit cautiously but still polite.
With an encouraging smile I ask, “Would you mind a bit of company?”
Diedre opens the door a bit wider, staring at me with a dash more curiosity and far less caution. I don’t ask to sit, but flop myself down on the bed like Sookie did when we first met. I smile up at Diedre and say, “I don’t know the pain of losing a loved one. Everyone I loved before my life with the Gaul line isn’t even a memory to me. Grissom took away that entire life, so I can’t really sympathize with you on your loss.” Diedre stares at me, standing like a statue on that one formerly charred leg Ludwig didn’t see fit to amputate. That leg is already mostly healed, which surprises me a lot. Her good arm cradles what is left of the other in a surprisingly natural way, and her eyes look a little crisp. “But I can totally sympathize with the lost, hopeless feeling you’re having right now.”
“I do not-”
“You don’t even know where to begin starting over. You feel like you should be trying to reconstruct your entire world around what it used to be instead of starting a brand new one,” I interrupt. “Because it’s easier to try and make the world like it was, it’s terrifying to experience it all over again and rediscover what really matters to you.”
“After four thousand years, I know who I am,” Diedre tells me sternly. Somehow she makes her movements fluid on one leg, and she goes to sit at the vanity. Even though her missing arm and leg are still regrowing, the scorching around her face has already healed, and her beautiful, big eyes are no longer obscured by the crisped, melted flesh of her cheek.
“I know,” I agree with a nod, “but now, after two and a half thousand years; you have to know who you are without Cassandra.”
Diedre deflates heavily at the vanity at my words. I sit up, take her cool hand and squeeze it gently. “I’ve heard it a few times now… That Bonding is like finding your soul mate. What if Cassandra’s spirit returns to this world, and you get to meet her again? What if you get to fall in love all over again, and this time, you get to finally have that connection the two of you always wanted? What if that is what Cassandra saw in the future? Not her final death, but finally being with you the way you two have wanted for so long?”
The vampiress takes a sharp breath, “To find her again? What if it takes a thousand years of hurting like this? Child, you cannot understand this pain,” she insists, her little stump of a left arm pressing against where her heart beat so many lifetimes ago.
“Well, maybe if you got out of your room, the pain wouldn’t be on the forefront of your mind. Maybe it will always hurt a little, but it doesn’t have to hurt this bad. Not all the time?” I try to suggest, but I know it is too soon to go gallivanting. Especially in her current condition.
Diedre nods slowly, “It has only been a few weeks, though.”
“You can continue to grieve and live, Diedre,” I assure. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not saying you have to leave your room this second, but if you want to; do it. Don’t stay hidden away in here forever just because you think that’s what you are obligated to do. You won’t find Cassandra again in this room. Maybe go out with Pam and pick up some chicks when you’re up to it again?” I suggest with a smidge of humor. Maybe Ludwig can make some temporary prosthetic for her? The way she moves on one leg is disturbing.
…something out of nightmares…
Diedre frowns, “If Cassandra were reborn, I pray that she come back as a man for me.”
I look at the vampire with surprise, “You’re straight!?”
She looks at me and the first actual smirk I have ever seen alights her face, “Vampires are never straight nor gay, we merely lean one way more than another. I prefer making love to males, but I was in love with Cassandra. If I find love again, I would hope that the vessel of that spirit is male.”
“No wonder you’re so uptight. I’d be too if I’d been waiting over two thousand years for a good dicking!” I say aloud and hear Quigley roaring with laughter downstairs. “Damn it!” I can feel Godric’s own amusement as well, double damn it!
“Got yourself a lil’ spitfire,” Quigley chuckles as he leans back into the sofa and reaches for his cigarettes.
“I do,” I agree with my own laugh. “And could you not smoke in the house?” I request for the hundredth time since he and Diedre took refuge with us. The former priest grins at me momentarily. I know that he only reaches for the cigarettes to poke fun at the vampire who forbids smoking in his home despite the fact it cannot harm anyone in said home. That does not mean I need my house to reek for days.
Thick chords of muscle flex as my guest puts his hands behind his head and closes his eyes rather than plucking the pack of cigarettes from the end table. “She’s good for Diedre,” he comments. “She needs a friend right now, and at four thousand years old, friends aren’t easy to come by.”
“I understand entirely,” Is my reply. “That was why I felt Camilla might be a good, sympathetic ear. Though their losses are not the same, as you heard, the road to healing is quite similar.” And I needed her to stop focusing so much on Sookie’s distance. After all, what more would you expect from a couple bringing a new life into the world? That last thought fills me with a bit of smugness. However, I will not let my insider knowledge ruin the reveal for my Child and his Bonded.
“She’s a sweet girl,” Quigley tells me with a soft, genuine smile. “That stuff she said about Cassie… That’s an interesting thought.”
“How do you mean?” I ask him.
Quigley shrugs, “Cassandra had been on edge the past few months before she got killed, but she never let me know why. I thought maybe she’d confided in Diedre, but now I’m not so sure. In a way, I think she didn’t mind what was coming. In a way, I think your Bonded may have been right. Maybe Cassie saw her reincarnation. Maybe she saw this death as a gift. I know she didn’t want to be a Seer. You think she could have spun the wheel and hoped she’d be reborn without that gift?”
“I suppose it is possible,” I frown. “After all, such a gift requires a lot of elements to align. Perhaps the one who chooses her next destiny will take pity.”
Quigley nods slowly, almost like he is casting out a prayer on the Ancient Pythoness’s behalf. When that moment of prayer has ended, the former priest looks at me and asks, “Has Northman come across any new information about what’s happened?”
“Not really. Isabel had all documents forwarded to her after the Fellowship of the Sun was infiltrated by police. She sent everything to Eric, but he still has not found any information linking to the true informant that may, or may not, have anything to do with Nevada. The only real information we recovered is the scheduled assassination date of the Big Mark. Not a whole lot of good that gives us since we still have no idea who it is, and the assassination is scheduled for the end of this week.
“One of our informants insists there is nothing linked to Louisiana,” I continue, “and I am inclined to believe him. Sophie-Anne is not experienced enough to pull off such a thing, and Grissom is not stupid enough, nor ambitious enough. He would have rather waited until next year to see if the Trafficking Ban is lifted than make his move now,” I answer.
“You don’t think a youngling could be responsible?” Quigley presses.
“I suppose if they were well organized,” I respond begrudgingly. “They often forget their limitations.” The vampire gives me a disbelieving look and I smile, “But I have serious doubts that there is any connection between the Fellowship and a vampire younger than an ancient. Only an ancient could gamble at executing Cassandra and have any hope of continuing to exist afterward.”
“I s’pose that’s true,” Quigley agrees. “And what about the Nevada number? Isn’t that run by de Castro?”
“It is,” I confirm. “However, de Castro has always been opportunistic, not usually one who creates his own opportunities. This does not eliminate him from my suspect list, because he would not be as old as he is if he did not make a little opportunity for himself every so often. Unfortunately, I have at least four other suspects, and they are just as difficult to accuse or clear on the matter.”
My hands clasp in front of me briefly as I consider our conversation. I do not like talking about these things within earshot of Diedre, but I can only guess that Diedre is the one who insisted that Quigley pump me for information. Instead of giving away any more of my suspicions, I change the subject.
“There is something I was hoping you could help our family with while you are staying,” I tell my guest slowly, and Quigley leans in. I do believe he thinks I have a mission for him.
“What’s that now?” Quigley’s eyes shine a bit. For a former priest, vampirism has certainly come to agree with him despite his rough entry into the community.
“It is about Sookie,” I reply softly.
“Northman’s woman?” Quigley leans back, a looming disappointment in his eyes. “What about her?”
“I think Eric and Sookie could use your expertise,” I answer, thinking of Sookie’s crisis of faith. With the birth of their first child now on the horizon, I am certain this is a matter both of them would prefer to resolve.
“They wanna Devil’s Threesome?” He guesses with a wiggle of his eyebrows and I snort on a laugh.
“I doubt they would ever let someone else into their bed,” I tell him with more amused chortling.
“Then what do the need from me?” Quigley leans back with a soft, playful smile. He is certainly a master of lightening up a mood. In a way, he reminds me of Jason.
“Sookie has been suffering a crisis of faith these past years, and I was hoping you might be able to speak with her about it. Other than Jason, no one in my bloodline has ever been spiritually motivated. Jason, however, does not seem to be suffering from the same uncertainties as his sister,” I explain delicately.
Quigley shrugs, “Jason doesn’t seem as hung up on details as his sister. He’s a smart kid, but he doesn’t get so hung up on things making sense.” I want to protest that assessment, having witnessed Jason’s ability to think out a situation and plan ahead. Quigley must see the objection on my face because he smiles and answers my unasked question, “He can have faith because he feels that faith and fact don’t need to hold hands. His sister is probably taking the teachings of the church too literal, and that’s where her crisis is coming from.”
My guest seems intrigued by the situation and moves to stand. “Are you going to speak with her?” I ask, rising as well.
Quigley nods and reaches for his pack of cigarettes, “Yes. You got the priest in me raring to help a lost sheep.”
“Perhaps you should call ahead,” I suggest, feeling that Eric is in an entertaining mood. Quigley raises his eyebrows questioningly. “Sookie has been quite affectionate these past few days.”
The vampire chuckles as he plucks a cigarette from the pack with his teeth. The tube of tobacco shifts between his teeth as Quigley heads for the front door.
Once he has gone, I take out my phone to warn Eric of the impending arrival. Much like Endymion, Quigley has a habit of popping in on intimate moments unannounced.