Chapter 16: Red Flags and Long Nights

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From the parking garage everyone got back in their vehicles and while Alcide headed home with the order to await further instruction, Sookie went back to looking over the book she’d found. She tried to decipher the symbols but it was no use. Whatever language it was in, she couldn’t read it. By the time the Range Rover pulled into the parking lot at Fangtasia Sookie was nothing but frustrated. She wanted to drive back to Bon Temps and search for that necklace.

“I don’t want you to travel alone,” Eric told her when she told him what she was thinking.

“Well not at night, of course, but-”

“Not at all,” Eric stopped in his tracks when he realized Sookie had done the same. “What?”

“I’m not going to be a prisoner in your house, Eric. We need answers,” Sookie argued.

“Have you forgotten that Russell has connections to the were community? Any wolf desperate for a hit of vampire blood will be more than happy to do his bidding,” Eric pointed out. “I won’t risk you.”

Damn him and his logic.

“Fine,” Sookie huffed.

She didn’t want to involve Alcide any further in all of this but she might not have a choice. She couldn’t wait around for Eric to be awake to escort her everywhere. Moving during the day was her best bet. What were the chances she was being watched? Besides, she’d had vampire blood recently; it wasn’t like she was helpless. Not to mention, she had those magic fingers of hers. Any werewolf who tried to attack her was going to get a blast of it.

Sookie went back to Eric’s office while Pam and Eric closed down the club. He was going to call a mandatory emergency meeting for all vampires in area 5 for the following evening once a strategy had been reached. Eric talked to a few contacts in Mississippi to find out if there had been any sightings of Russell anywhere. The assumption was that there hadn’t been, or Nan and the Authority would have been so far up his ass he’d be able to pick them out of his teeth.

While Eric, Bill and Pam talked strategy and watched the security footage of the parking garage, Sookie sat with her book about fairies and decided to try and draw what she was seeing so Eric would know what it was. Even if he couldn’t read it, he might be able to locate someone who could. The footage Pam had obtained didn’t reveal much. Russell had broken his way through the concrete. He emerged with cuts, scrapes and bloody hands. Almost as if he knew the cameras were there watching him, he smiled right at one of them before flashing his fangs and then disappearing.

“I need to get back to Bon Temps and speak with Nan,” Bill decided, which he wasn’t keen on.

“That bureaucratic bitch is useless,” Eric growled and began to pace a little.

Truthfully, the last person Eric wanted to involve was Nan. He didn’t see eye to eye with the vampire and never had. He thought the mainstreaming movement was bullshit. It sounded nice in theory but it was never going to work in reality—at least not for the older vampires. They were too set in their ways and weren’t going to settle for synthetic blood when they knew how easy it was to glamour a warm body into donating.

And if blood like Sookie’s was available on the market, stuff like True Blood would be completely forgotten about. There was no comparison between the two and Eric didn’t believe for a second that Nan had given up feeding on humans. No vampire her age was going to turn her back on a warm, fresh meal in favor of that bottled crap—at least not on a full-time basis.

“We all know that if the Authority was aware of Russell’s presence Nan would be here with her gay storm troopers,” Eric said as he paced.

Ultimately, Russell really was the Authority’s problem to handle. If Eric had been given the proper resources the first time around, the ancient vampire would be dead. Instead he was God knows where, doing God knows what. If there was one thing Eric despised, it was feeling like a sitting duck.

Bill departed a short time later to make his phone calls, insisting that gathering whatever information he could from the Authority was the right thing to do. Sookie didn’t say so, but she actually agreed with Bill. The more they had to work with, the better. Besides, if there was any chance in hell of getting some additional help, that could only increase their chances of survival. For someone who was so hell bent on not letting Russell win, Eric was being awfully stubborn and indecisive.

Pam was put in charge of sending the blast email to all the vampires in the area to alert them of the meeting that would be taking place as soon as a plan had been put into place. In the meantime, vampires were to be alert and watchful. If they spotted Russell, they were to contact the king immediately.

With the bar closed for the night and the human employees gone, Pam returned to her own house for the night. Being able to feel Eric’s emotions while he was plotting was an interesting experience for Sookie. He was somewhat detached from her at the moment, his mind completely focused on the battle that lie ahead of them.

“What can I do to help?” Sookie asked once they were back at his house.

“Promise me you won’t travel without an escort,” Eric said immediately and she frowned.

“Eric…” she sighed and dropped her book on the counter in the kitchen.

“I don’t like the idea of you traveling without protection,” he said firmly.

“I do have protection,” she lifted her hands and wiggled her fingers at him.

“It’s unpredictable,” he pointed out. “You haven’t mastered control of it yet.”

“I haven’t mastered being a telepath either but if I don’t get the chance to use it, how am I ever going to be able to know what it can do?” Sookie argued and Eric hated to admit she had a point. “I’ll promise you I won’t go rushing into a dangerous situation and if I think I’m in trouble, I’ll make a run for it instead of sticking around to investigate. That’s the best I can do.”

“My worry is that by the time you sense danger, it’s already too later,” Eric leaned against the counter.

“I can’t just sit around all day when I could be doing things. What are the chances I was followed here tonight? If I get close to my house and feel someone else present I can always turn around before they even know I’m coming,” she folded her arms over her chest. “I have the advantage of being able to move in the daytime, Eric. Don’t throw that away because I might get hurt.”

“And if you get killed, what then?” Eric crossed the room in a blink of an eye and took her face in his hands. “Your death would weigh on me for eternity.”

Being able to feel his concern and the truth in him was a hard thing to ignore. Sookie put her hands on his wrists and turned her face to kiss his palm. “I know you worry about me and I love you for that, but what good are the gifts I have if I don’t use them? You wanted me to start using my telepathy as a means to support myself. I can’t really use my magic for the same purposes but I can’t keep pretending like it isn’t a part of me either. I need to understand it better and if that means having to be in a dangerous situation sometimes, I’m going to have to come to terms with that. I need to know how to defend myself and just what I’m capable of or I’m no good to anyone.”

Sookie didn’t mention that she was tired of feeling like a caged animal. Bill had always tried to hold her back. She suspected it had something to do with his need to feel like a hero in her eyes. It was all part of the manipulation and scheming. Sookie was done with waiting for someone to rescue her. She was going to start taking control of her life and the power she had, otherwise what was the point?

She might as well surrender herself to Eric, become some V addicted blood slave and stop thinking for herself entirely. She didn’t need to be protected at all times. She wasn’t stupid or defenseless but she would become that way if she wasn’t given the chance to learn new things and use the gifts she had been given. There had to be some sort of compromise they could reach.

“What did you find in the book?” Eric asked her when it became obvious neither of them was willing to back down. “I saw you taking notes while we were planning.”

Sookie went over to the book and pulled out a few sheets of paper to show him. She had copied some of the symbols she’d found and when Eric saw them, his face lit up with recognition.

“You’ve never seen these before?” Eric was smiling.

“No,” Sookie shook her head.

“This,” Eric held up a crude drawing of what looked like an oddly shaped bell to Sookie. “This is called a Mjolnir.”

“A what?”

“A Mjolnir,” Eric repeated his accent perfect. “It’s Thor’s hammer.”

Sookie’s eyes widened. “What would that be doing in a book about the fae?”

“Excellent question,” Eric continued to smile. “And these symbols…” his smile got bigger.

“What about them?” Sookie looked at the pages he’d shifted to.

Eric held up his right hand and said, “These are Runes.”

“Ooookay?”

“The language of my people,” Eric explained and again, Sookie’s eyes went wide.

“Norse?” she asked for clarification.

“Futhark, but yes, Norse. It’s all a variation of the same thing,” Eric told her and then went on to explain the variations of runic languages to her.

“What about the others?” Sookie asked when he was done.

Eric looked closely at the page of symbols she was referring to and after a moment he said, “It looks like Ogham to me.”

“What’s that?” Yet another language Sookie’d never heard of.

“Archaic Irish,” Eric smiled.

“You can read it?”

“Oh, yes,” Eric nodded, all of his pretty, pearly teeth gleaming.

“This is great!” Sookie grinned right along with him but then her smile faded. “Eric, I can’t possibly translate the whole book for you.”

His smile faded some and then he suggested, “I can give you a list of words or symbols to look for. If you spot them in the book, you can just copy those sections.”

It wasn’t a bad idea but it would be time consuming. What Sookie had copied for him wasn’t complete sentences. He was going to need more in order to make any sense of what was in the book. While Eric got to work on that, Sookie went back to see if she could find the picture of the amulet. She marked the page for future reference when she found it. She tried her best to copy a symbol that was near the picture but she wasn’t much of an artist. If only she could explain it through interpretive dance…

“Do you know what this means?” Sookie brought Eric a poorly replicated picture of a starburst sort of shape.

Eric looked at it closely and ran through the index of Pagan symbols in his mind. Speaking several ancient (dead) languages was finally going to come in handy for something other than muttering so Pam wouldn’t understand him. There were few vampires who would have such in depth knowledge of Runes or Ogham. Archaic Irish wasn’t a language Eric heard very often, but if there was anyone who might know it, it would be Russell. Eric had learned from Godric. In fact, it was what Queen Mab had spoken to him during their one encounter.

“It could be the magick energy symbol,” Eric guessed, since it was the closest to what he could match in his memory.

“There has to be a way for you to be able to see this. What if I had Jesus look at it?” Sookie suggested.

“It couldn’t hurt,” Eric shrugged. “I could glamour the memories from him afterward.”

“I don’t think that’ll be necessary,” Sookie said but of course Eric disagreed.

“If the memories are left behind another vampire will be able to pluck the information from his mind and its obvious the book isn’t meant to be seen by anyone who isn’t of your lineage,” Eric pointed out.

Sookie sighed and rubbed her eyes. The whole thing was starting to give her a headache. “Enough for tonight,” she closed the book and left it on Eric’s desk.

“I agree,” Eric pulled her into his lap.

She leaned against him and wasn’t the least bit surprised when he tilted her chin up and brushed his lips against hers. “You know we haven’t tried out that Jacuzzi you have down by the pool,” Sookie smiled faintly with her eyes closed.

“Last one downstairs has to go naked,” Eric said.

“Oh that’s not a fair race,” Sookie straightened up a little.

“Then how about we both go naked?” he suggested instead.

“Fine, but you have to make sure Pam isn’t going to drop in,” Sookie said as she stood up.

“Done,” Eric winked.

oOo ~ oOo ~ oOo

Knowing Sookie was going to end up in Bon Temps before sundown, Eric did his best to wear her out before sunrise in hopes that she would get a late start. He had her twice in the Jacuzzi, once in the kitchen and then again in his bed before daybreak forced him to rest for the day. He could have defied the order and suffered the bleeds but Sookie would have been pissed at him for it. Besides, she was thoroughly exhausted by the time she fell asleep and he made sure the room was pitch dark before he went to rest.

Sunset was just before 6:30 and if she was as tired as he suspected she might be, there was a chance she could sleep until late in the afternoon. By the time she ate, showered, dressed and got to Bon Temps he would be rising for the night. Of course, that was assuming Sookie slept that late. A vampire could hope.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want her to have the chance to practice using her magic; he knew she was right about developing it. What he was concerned about was the unpredictable nature of it. Not knowing what it could do, or how, exactly, she summoned the power was a problem. So far it seemed she needed to be in emotional distress before she could work up the energy. It was taxing for her, to say the least, and if by some chance she wasn’t able to conjure the right emotions the magic was useless to her anyway.

Sookie slept until just after two in the afternoon. When she realized what time it was she was a bit frustrated. She’d wanted a solid couple of hours in Bon Temps before sunset. As much as she wanted to skip eating and get straight to her house, Eric had bitten her twice last night. Sookie suspected it was all a plan to keep her from going to Bon Temps without him but she hadn’t bothered calling him out on it. If she was wrong it would just start a fight and it wasn’t worth it.

Sookie got out of bed, took a shower, got dressed and headed downstairs to eat something. A half hour later she was on the road to Bon Temps, having left Eric a note letting him know where she was going so he wouldn’t be worried; although she was sure he’d figure out where she was. Everything looked normal when she pulled up to the house. Just to look at the place a person would never know the house had seen so much tragedy and death.

Sookie took her time getting out of the Range Rover and headed up to the front door. The house still reeked of the chemicals used to clean up after Tara’s death. Sookie set the book she was carrying on the dining room table and made her way to the kitchen. She stepped slowly, almost like she was worried someone might be in there waiting for her. She’d done a quick scan for brains before getting out of the car but had sensed nothing.

She wasn’t being followed and there was no one in the house. She breathed a small sigh of relief but then the memories of not just Tara’s body, but Gran’s as well, filled her mind and she felt her eyes fill with tears. Both women had been murdered and in such violent ways. There was something about Gran’s death that had always bothered Sookie. Somehow the pieces didn’t quite fit together for her and it wasn’t until that moment that she was able to figure it out.

Gran’s death had been unsettling but she had figured it was just because it had been so sudden. The last thing Sookie had expected was to come home from an awful date to find Gran dead on the kitchen floor, blood everywhere she looked. Even more shocking was finding out it was Rene that had done it. Seeing those memories in his mind had hurt her in ways she couldn’t have possibly prepared herself for. Seeing Gran’s final moments and the fighting Gran had done for her life… it was overwhelming.

Sookie suspected Tara’s death, while still violent, hadn’t been like it was for Gran. For Tara, the fight was over before she even knew it was going to happen. All it took was walking into the room and Debbie pulling the trigger. Tara didn’t even have a chance to react. There were no defensive wounds, no attempts to fight back. It was a single gunshot wound to the head and it had been enough.

Sookie blinked back her tears which wasn’t easy to do. She took a few deep breaths before forcing herself over to the fridge. It needed to be cleaned out. There wasn’t much in there but it needed to be emptied all the same. The sight of True Blood sitting inside made her smile. She thought back on the time that Eric had been under Marnie’s spell and wondered where she would be if that spell hadn’t happened.

The crazy thing about Eric was that even when he was beyond frustrating and getting on her last nerve, she still wanted him. Eric just letting himself into her house and walking in on her while she was undressed wasn’t all that surprising, as inappropriate as it was. Sookie distinctly remembered questioning Eric’s motives for buying her house but he made it pretty clear what his line of thinking was when he did it.

He wanted her to be his. She’d known this, on some level, from the night they met. Eric had never been shy about his attraction to her. But it was different after she’d been gone for a year. Why buy her house if everyone else had assumed she was dead? That wasn’t the action of a man who was looking for a quick fuck. Her mind reeled back to when Eric had bitten her after Russell did.

She recalled the way his fingers had so delicately moved over her hair; his attempts to calm her had been gentle and sweet. She had seen the regret in his eyes for what he was about to do and even though he bit her anyway, there was a part of her that knew he didn’t want it. The interesting thing was that Eric had never been in a rush to get his fangs into her. Even when he was cursed and desperately needed to feed, he had been reluctant to bite her. He had waited until she offered it before taking her blood.

It was little things like that, she realized, that were the most telling about Eric’s feelings for her. He didn’t want to keep her healthy and safe because she was his favorite treat, but because he valued her as a person. To him she wasn’t just a meal and she was pretty sure he would rather lose his fangs than make her feel that way.

Once the refrigerator was cleared out Sookie headed back through the dining room to go upstairs. Everything was in its proper place and she continued on to the attic. The room wasn’t anywhere near as organized as it had been when she’d first ventured up there with Tara. Boxes had been moved, as had furniture. She was going to have to shift even more things around if she was going to find Gran’s jewelry.

She said a quick prayer to whoever might be listening that she would find what she was looking for. There was no guarantee that necklace would hold the answer to any of her questions but just the chance that it might was reason enough to search for it. Sookie located Gran’s old jewelry box and then a cardboard box that was marked with the words ‘costume jewelry.’ Gran hadn’t had much in the way of expensive pieces. A good deal of what Gran had was passed down from one generation to another and she hardly ever wore it.

Going through the jewelry box proved to be unsuccessful. Unfortunately, she forgot to bring a knife upstairs with her so Sookie had to go back down to get one so she could open the box. She hadn’t realized how much time had passed and the sky was dangerously close to full dark. Her phone started to ring on the dining room table. Her purse was parked beside the fairy book and she moved to extract the phone. It was Eric calling, of course.

“Hello,” she said with a smile on her face.

“You couldn’t wait for me,” Eric was frustrated.

“I’m fine, Eric. I haven’t found anything yet. I got a little sidetracked cleaning my kitchen,” she told him.

“Will you please stay there until I can get to you? I don’t like the idea of you going out alone, especially since I don’t know if the ownership status on your house has been changed yet,” Eric pointed out.

Shit. That was a factor Sookie hadn’t considered.

“I’m sure I’ll be fine, but yes, I’ll wait here for you. I have at least one more box to go through before I call it quits anyway,” Sookie said while she got a knife from the butcher block.

There was a knock at the back door and she turned around to see Jessica standing there, waving at her. Full dark had apparently fallen.

“Who’s there?” Eric asked.

“Just Jessica,” Sookie said and tried to give him some reassurance through their bond but she wasn’t sure it would work. “Can you feel me right now?”

“Just your presence, but I can’t pinpoint your exact feelings,” Eric told her. “Can you feel me?”

“No,” Sookie said and gestured for Jessica to wait a minute. She was suddenly glad she hadn’t dumped the True Blood after all. “Is that normal?”

“We’ll have to do some playing around to see if there’s a way to increase the distance we can have between us, but I’m hoping we won’t need to,” Eric said.

“What?” Was he suggesting what she thought he was?

“We’ll discuss it later. I’ll be leaving shortly. I need to stop by Bill’s and then I will come for you,” Eric promised her.

“I’ll be here. Take your time. I love you,” she said.

“I love you, too, and I plan to show you how much when we get home,” Eric warned her and even though she couldn’t feel him, the tone of his voice left no doubt it was, in fact, a warning.

“See you soon,” Sookie said and then hung up before Eric could start talking dirty to her because, no doubt, he would. “Hey, Jessica,” she said when she opened the back door.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to intrude on ya. I was just out and I saw lights on here so I wanted to make sure nothing weird was goin’ on,” Jessica stayed on the porch.

“It’s fine. Hey, do you need an invitation to come in?” Sookie asked, figuring this was as good a time as any to test whether or not her house was vampire safe again.

“No, but you’ve invited me in before,” Jessica pointed out.

“Oh. Well, then I rescind your invitation,” Sookie said and then motioned for Jessica to come in. When she passed through the door without any trouble, Sookie grimaced.

“What’s wrong?” Jessica asked when she was inside and Sookie locked the door behind her.

“Eric bought the house after I disappeared and the ownership hasn’t transferred back to me yet,” Sookie said and Jessica looked appropriately disturbed by that information.

“So I guess with Russell being on the loose, it’s probably not a good idea for you to be alone, huh?” Jessica asked and Sookie shot her a slightly frustrated look. “Not that you can’t handle yourself, but Russell’s pretty strong.”

Sookie assumed that Jessica had been briefed on the whole Russell situation but since she didn’t know what, exactly, the young vampire had been told she kept her opinions to herself. Jessica wasn’t her responsibility and while Sookie liked her, it was probably best if they didn’t pal around too much.

“So how’ve you been?” Sookie asked, recalling the condition of Jason’s face at the funeral.

“Alright, I guess,” Jessica said somewhat sheepishly. “I uh… I’m a little worried about Jason.”

Sookie took a deep breath. Of course Jason would come up. “You haven’t seen him?”

“He’s avoiding me,” Jessica said sadly. “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen, Sookie. I swear, it just… I don’t know what came over me.”

“I want to help you, Jessica, but he’s my brother. I don’t feel right about getting in the middle of this. It seems like there’s already too many people involved,” Sookie said as gently as she could.

“I know and I’m not asking you to talk to him for me. I don’t expect you to do me any favors. I guess I was just kinda hopin’ you’d understand where I’m comin’ from since you know… you were kinda caught between Eric and Bill,” Jessica fidgeted nervously.

Sookie sighed and asked, “Can I get you a blood or anything?”

Jessica smiled faintly and said, “No, thank you. Bill keeps donors.”

Of course he did. Sookie refused to let herself react to that. So much for all his preaching about the virtues of mainstreaming.

“Well I have to go back up to the attic. I need to find a necklace before Eric gets here,” Sookie picked up the knife she needed and Jessica followed her back upstairs.

“I never told you this before, but I really love your house. It always felt so real here,” Jessica said as she looked at the pictures that were hanging on the walls.

Sookie didn’t need to ask what it was like for Jessica growing up. The little bit of time she’d spent with the Hambys was enough to give her an idea and it was obvious that as sweet as Jessica could be, her childhood hadn’t been a happy one. Unfortunately, families like Jessica’s weren’t really all that uncommon. There were tons of families that looked completely normal from the outside; it was what lurked beneath the surface that no one ever really got a chance to see that mattered.

“So what are we lookin’ for, exactly?” Jessica asked once they were up in the attic.

“It’s an old necklace of my Gran’s. It had a gold chain, a mineral rock that had gold around it and then a red stone on top of it. Looks like something you would see someone dressed like a gypsy wearing,” Sookie said and Jessica nodded.

They got the box open and started to sort through everything in it. Unfortunately, they didn’t find the necklace they were looking for. Maybe it was down in Gran’s bedroom. It was possible Sookie had missed it. She hadn’t really looked in there since coming back so it was entirely possible it was still in one of the jewelry boxes on the old dresser in there. Sookie closed up the box and headed back downstairs with Jessica behind her.

Nearly an hour had passed and Sookie was surprised Eric hadn’t arrived yet. Then again she’d told him to take his time, but she didn’t even feel him getting closer. Jessica followed Sookie to Gran’s room and stood back while Sookie looked through the various drawers and things in hopes of finding what she was looking for. Just as Sookie was about to give up, she felt Eric come into range and he started to get closer. She smiled in spite of herself.

“Did you find it?” Jessica asked with excitement.

“Oh, no,” Sookie shook her head.

“Then what’re you smilin’ about?” Jessica took a step closer.

“Eric’s on his way,” Sookie said quietly.

Talking about Eric with Jessica felt wrong. Maybe if there wasn’t the Bill connection it wouldn’t feel that way but since Bill was Jessica’s maker, Sookie knew there was loyalty there she couldn’t ask Jessica to breach.

“You know, I may not understand why you and Bill aren’t together anymore and I know it’s none of my business. I’ll just say that if Eric is what makes you happy, then you made the right choice,” Jessica offered.

Sookie stopped looking in the drawer she had open and turned to Jessica. “Now do you understand why it’s complicated?”

“More than I’d like to,” Jessica looked genuinely pained.

“He likes you, Jessica. That’s why he’s avoiding you. He’s not used to feeling this way and Hoyt’s been his best friend for as long as I can remember. Jason’s not really known for having much of a conscience when it comes to girls, or anything, for that matter. This is the first time he’s really been tested with something and there isn’t a way for him to have his cake and eat it too without hurting somebody,” Sookie explained and Jessica nodded.

“I don’t want to hurt anyone,” she said sadly.

“You already have,” Sookie said as kindly as she could. “That’s the problem with being in love with one man and wanting another.”

The two women shared a look that told them both they perfectly understood one another. Nothing about the situations either of them was in was simple. Sookie would never go back to Bill but she hoped that someday she would be able to say she forgave him. Holding onto the things he’d done wrong would only poison her in the end. She just wasn’t ready to let go and forgive him just yet.

“I should start getting some more of my things together to take back to Eric’s,” Sookie started for the stairs but then felt a brain approaching. It was a human brain. More importantly, it was a familiar thought pattern but it wasn’t exactly right. In fact, something was very, very wrong. Sookie whipped around at the same time Jessica did.

“Jason!” they said simultaneously and ran for the front door.

Next

One thought on “Chapter 16: Red Flags and Long Nights

  1. that was a great chapter and damn if Russell didn’t go after Jason or am i off on that one. Looking forward to finding out. Plus what’s up with the love birds not feeling one another HMMMM KY

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