Sookie smiled, posing knowingly, “There’s more to your cheerfulness than Lisbet.”
“Promise not to tell?” she grinned.
“I’m a telepath,” Sookie winked. “I guard more secrets than I care for. Whatever it is, it’s safe with me.”
“I’ve met a wonderful man! He takes me dancing and we sing songs together! He plays the piano wonderfully, don’t tell anyone, please? Not even Godric.”
“He’s not like us,” she replied in a whisper. “They wouldn’t approve.”
“Human?” Sookie posed, receiving a shake of the head in return. “A Faery?”
“No, not Fae,” she tittered.
“An Impurus?” Sookie concluded at which Tulla finally nodded shyly. “He makes you happy, right?” she asked, sharing her infectious excitement.
“So much!” Tulla replied. “Look, this is him,” she beamed, pulling a carefully folded photograph from a hidden pocket.
“I’m so happy for you two,” Sookie gushed while taking the photograph. It was grainy, taken in the limited light of night, folds obstructing part of his face. It didn’t matter, her heart sank with the sight, and despite the poor lighting she’d recognise that self-satisfied smug anywhere, no matter how different the clothes and hairstyle. Eagerly Tulla awaited her response, “He’s very handsome, Tulla, but I’m sorry, I’ll have to tell Aelia. I don’t know what he told you his name was, but this, this is Bill.”
“Tell me everything you know of this cretin,” Aelia demanded while Pam, of all people, was relegated the daunting task of comforting Tulla. “Start at the beginning.”
“I really don’t know all that much,” Sookie sighed. “He moved to Bon Temps, back into his old family home. He asked me out once, I refused, he became a little insistent about it, but I made it quite clear I wasn’t interested. We were cordial after that, he promised to look out for any sign if the new owners of Gran’s house ever seemed willing to move. That’s all really.”
“That’s not all,” Eric noted, causing her to regard him with confusion. Pointedly he motioned to Pam.
She shrugged unapologetically, “There was nothing cordial about it, I commanded he stay away from you. He had no other choice but to adhere. The little shit was pissing me off.”
“Pam!” Sookie gasped.
“I’m not apologising,” she replied coolly, uncomfortably patting Tulla with a look that conveyed she had no idea whether she was doing it right. “He was overstepping his bounds, I could have punished him far worse than I did. I wish I had.”
“Your Grandmother’s property,” Aelia mused aloud. “This is the place of the portal I visited, correct?” Sookie nodded. “You lost it while fighting his ex-wife and no matter what price you offered they refused to sell it back?”
“Yes,” Sookie whispered, “Godric was the one who managed it in the end. Something about a sorcerer?”
He nodded, “A strong spell was cast, the witch noted she’d never come across something quite like it.”
“We’re such fools,” Aelia laughed melancholically. “All this time our gazes have been directed at each other, at the Impurus. This isn’t about us at all.”
“I don’t understand,” Oren posed, “What is it about then?”
“You,” she shrugged, “Faeries, but more specifically her.”
“Lisbet?” Sookie gasped with worry.
“No, you,” Aelia said with a shake of her head. “How did we not see this before, this is personal. We’re just the scenery to your tale. Bill was sent by someone, seeing that he lacks the finesse to be the mastermind of this all. Whose shit list are you on?”
“Freyda?” Sookie tried, regarding Eric carefully, “Could it be her?”
“No,” Pam interjected. “The woman can barely string two sentences together, let alone possess the knowledge about the Supernatural to be in the driving seat of this. Since we’re in full disclosure, I’ve had that cunt tracked from the moment we became friends, and I would’ve known if she was up to anything.”
“I don’t know who else it could be,” Sookie sighed. “I’m not a vindictive person.”
“A disgruntled ex, a wronged neighbour, someone from your past, maybe? It could have been anything, it could be something small,” Godric tried, remembering the tiny spats of his long existence that had snowballed far too often.
“No,” she replied, “Aside from Freyda I’ve never been on bad terms with anybody.”
“Someone from that swamp town of yours?” Pam posed. “You didn’t exactly share the wealth like they would have liked and they always treated you like shit. How about the mooning shifter who doesn’t know where to roll his tongue when he’s around you?”
“Not Sam! Or any of them, their minds would have betrayed them,” Sookie countered. “If what Aelia assumes is true, it’s been going on for a long time, longer than we were even aware there were such things as vampires, Weres, and faeries.”
The room fell silent while Sookie desperately tried to recall in her memories what she could have done to cause someone to act against her. “You’re sure it’s not Freyda?” she asked Pam.
“It’s not her,” Eric stated with a conviction that made her slightly uncomfortable, angering her more than she’d like to admit.
“Hadley,” Jason whispered.
“She’s dead, Jas!” Sookie cried out.
“Yeah, I know,” he shrugged, “You were cold with her, Sook, frosty as fuck. Never saw you like that before.”
“You weren’t there before,” she whispered. “She took everything that Gran had; to snort up her nose and stick in her veins, and if Gran hadn’t, I would never have been in the position I was when she died. We woulda never have lost the house.”
“Still,” he replied carefully. “You left her out in the cold when she needed it most. When you had all the money in the world to spare. You chose not to help her out.”
“You think I made the wrong call,” she whispered.
He nodded carefully, owning up to some of his own guilt he felt over the situation, “Gran always said, ‘Family be family, no matter what.’”
“We saw the body. It can’t be.”
“Before we revealed ourselves, it was not unusual to hold a funeral, disappearing bodies always raised too many questions. Once turned, they would be retrieved from the ground. The crueler Makers would let them crawl out themselves,” Kristian supplied.
“Not me,” Pam beamed at her Maker. “You made sure I had the prettiest funeral.”
He smiled back, their first true interaction since they arrived, catching her off guard in the process, she was supposed to still be mad at him after all. It didn’t matter that a teenaged wolf had made her entire grudge seem frivolous, Pam wasn’t supposed to be the one to crack first, children’s rights and all that.
“If she turned,” Sookie wondered aloud, the possibility boggling her mind, “you would know of her, wouldn’t you?”
“If she turned Sanguine,” Aelia corrected, “I will have Shahbaz will look into it.”
“No,” Sookie returned with determination. “I’m tired of sitting and waiting. Tulla, take me to meet Bill.”
“I’m coming with you,” Eric repeated for maybe the third or fourth time. Sookie was too tired to keep track at that point, rather, tired was an understatement, the machine pumping milk from her breast doing nothing to relieve her of the stress of travelling with a newborn and being thrust into the midst of vampire-faery politics where everyone seemed to hold an eternal grudge, then again they were residing in the Eternal City, so it really shouldn’t have been that surprising after all.
“Aelia already overruled you,” Sookie pointed out. “And she’s right, I’ll be safest with her. Besides one of us needs to be here with Lisbet, it’s hard enough as it is leaving her here. I need you here, Louvelle’s a child.”
“I don’t like this,” he pointed out. “I don’t like this at all.”
“Neither do I,” she shrugged. “It’s why I’m putting an end to this.”
“Don’t be a fucking martyr,” Eric pleaded. “This isn’t your fault.”
“What if it is?” she whispered, unable to look him in the eye. “What if it’s all my fault?”
“Than the whiny bitch needs to get over herself,” he growled. “I would have done the same thing as you.”
“No, Jason was right, I should have helped. I left her out in the cold.” She wiped away a tear carefully, hoping the sucking noises from the breast pump would mask their presence, but Eric was quick to catch on, kneeling beside her and holding her as closely as possible considering the contraption at her breasts. He switched it off, noting the large volume she had prepared and the damage it had done to her body.
“Wait,” she protested. “Lisbet needs more!”
“No,” he replied sternly. “You’re not going to be gone that long, and this far more than she needs. You’re coming back. Promise me that.”
She remained painfully silent, forcing him to demand it again, “Remember why we ran, it wasn’t for us. Lisbet needs her mom. I need you. Promise me you won’t do anything to threaten that.”
“Okay,” she whispered. “I’ll try.”
He pulled her downturned face up to meet his, “You did the right thing at the time. Remember that if it is her.”
She shook her head, “No, I was being selfish. Worse, I was being vindictive. All I cared about was one-upping Freyda because of her poisoned mind, I was so caught up in fighting her I never cared about the money or your legacy. I just cared about being righteous. I treated Hadley just the same! I deser-”
“You don’t deserve this!” he cried out. “I refuse to let you believe that! You’re incredibly good! Far too good for the likes of me, I still don’t know why you’d want me with all that goodness. If anyone is underserving it’s me!”
Sookie smiled weakly, resting her forehead against his, only noticing in that moment she was in a state of undress, her breasts extremely sensitised and any semblance of makeup that Pam had insisted on trailing in streams across her face. An attempt was made to cover herself again, wipe away the worst of the stains, but Sookie still felt like a mess, and instinctively she pressed her lips against his seeking comfort, “It would have been so easy if it was just Freyda.”
“It’s not her,” he repeated again, holding her closer, her head coming to rest in the crook of his neck with an ill ease.
“I’m really missing the bond right now,” she murmured into his skin.
“Me too,” he agreed, “How about this, you ask, and I’ll tell you what I feel, well as much as a guy can.”
She tittered softly before finding his earnest eyes, “How can you be so sure? Do I have to worry?”
“You and Freyda, you know so certainly it’s not her,” she sighed. “Makes a girl insecure.”
“Ah,” he mused. “You’re not the only one who regrets the cold actions of their past. I wasn’t exactly the best husband I could be, our relationship was anything but ordinary, but-”
“It didn’t mean you deserved to die,” she finished for him.
“Yeah,” he smiled softly, “See we don’t need that bond at all, and you don’t need to carry all that transplanted guilt.”
“Maybe,” she shrugged, “Still doesn’t explain why you’re so damn sure it isn’t her.”
“My guilty conscious stalks her on Facebook now and then,” he offered in explanation causing Sookie to audibly gasp with wide eyes. “Just to make sure she’s really as happy with her own little family unit as she claims. Well, as much as one can on Facebook.”
“You talk to her?!”
“Only in the aftermath of some legal things, we have a better rapport now than when we were married,” he shrugged. “She even sent us a gift for Lisbet before we ran, suggested we set up a play date sometime in the future with the boy she was expecting. I politely declined, especially when she mentioned our kids could get married to each other.”
“And you’re still sure it’s not her?” she voiced sceptically, eyes narrowing with distrust.
Eric could barely contain his chuckle, he’d never seen Sookie this jealous before and it was rather endearing, “Yeah,” he assured. “This really isn’t her style.”
“What is her style?” Sookie huffed.
“She’d kill you like she did me,” he shrugged. “Freyda never was one for the long game, it’s why I never objected to marrying her, knew it would be in my favour in the end.”
“Except that it got you killed,” she pointed out with a frown.
“Even that worked in my favour,” he grinned. “Got me you.”
“We could have worked out before,” she whispered. “If it didn’t get us both killed first.”
“Maybe,” he shrugged, “but not for the long haul, we both know that. It’s why neither one of us ever made a move.”
“Yeah,” she agreed with a whisper. It had gone unspoken but both knew that he may have once thought the nicest things about her, endearing him to her like no other, but he was no saint, and even if he was, his mind certainly wasn’t, and his human thoughts combined with her telepathy at some point would have eroded something worthwhile, not to mention the difference in their mortal states.
“Let’s get you some rest, okay?” he smiled. “Pretend we’re back home, a lazy afternoon in bed, you, me, and Lisbet?”
“I miss our home,” she murmured.
“Yeah,” Eric sighed, “Me too.”
Godric caressed his Maker’s hand softly while she continued to stare desolately out of the car window. He kissed the bare expanse of her shoulder softly, whispering, “I’m sorry.” She shook out of her stupor momentarily, eyeing him carefully from the side.
“I was foolish to fall for his lies, this isn’t anyone’s fault but my own,” she smiled kindly. “I should have known better. This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.”
“I’ll always be here,” he replied, moving an obscuring lock from her face.
She kissed the palm of his hand, exerting a small nod. “I know, but it’s not the same.” Her face turned back to the world outside, the bright lights and noises passing them by. “Do you ever think there’s something wrong with us?” Tulla asked in a whisper, as if voicing the thought aloud would instantly affirm the supposition as truth. “That there’s nothing for us outside of this familial line?”
“We’ve never really bothered to find out have we?” he replied, “After this is done, let’s go somewhere, just you and me. This place, it’s too reminiscent of the past.”
“I forgot,” she whispered while the car came to a standstill. “You hate it here. Let’s go somewhere exotic.” Tulla turned to face him once more, adjusting the fit of her dress, drifting seamlessly into a woman deeply in love and giddy to meet her secret lover. “How do I look?”
“Perfect,” he replied. “Remember I’ll be here the whole time.” She smiled, taking a deep breath before opening the car door and walking the last few blocks to Bill’s home. With a wide grin, the door opened, the two conversing in Italian as if nothing was amiss, the language still feeling strange to her rather than the situation, despite it resembling her native Latin.
“A friend is coming by,” she smiled while he massaged her shoulders. “If that’s okay?”
“Of course, darling. Anyone I’d know?” he posed innocently. Giacomo, or rather Bill, wasn’t supposed to know anyone she knew, at least that was the charade of his making. Tulla held her lips carefully, staring up at his reflection in the mirror, finally seeing the deceit for what it was without the aid of rose tinted glasses.
“Just a friend,” she smiled. “She’ll keep our secret.”
“A ‘she’ is it?” he grinned lasciviously. “Am I in for a treat?”
“Something like that,” she uttered, falling out of character momentarily, thankfully it went unnoticed as that was the moment the doorbell rang. He was quick to move, but she stopped him gently, “Let me.”
Bill eyed her suspiciously and fearing he was catching on, she tittered, “Don’t look so scared, it’ll be a good surprise!” To abate the worst of his suspicions, she kissed him gently, a tear escaping her eye briefly while his apprehension melted away, he held her longer than necessary while she studied every small movement of his face, “If you keep holding me like this you’ll never get your surprise.”
“Right,” he grinned, letting her go but for a quick peck to her hand. She flounced down the steps, as if positively giddy and embodying the careless spirit he had been able to evoke from her, that his attention had brought her, coming to a shuffling standstill at the front door. Wordlessly she opened it, letting Aelia and Sookie in with a nod. Without pause, they moved up the stairs while she wrapped herself in her coat, tears flying in earnest before running across the road, not caring for the downpour of rain that had started to fall from the angered sky. She flung herself into Godric’s waiting arms, who stood at the ready under a large umbrella, and she sobbed.
“Introduce me to your friend, darling,” Bill said while preening in front of the mirror when he heard the soft thud of female footsteps approach. “We’re going to have ourselves a grand old time.”
“We certainly are,” Aelia spat out.
“Empress,” he whispered, falling down to kneel quickly before her in subservience. “You honour me with your presence.”
“I’m not here by choice,” she growled. “Rise!”
Warily he moved himself up from his knees, “I swear, she never said anything of her lineage, I did not know she was an Aurelie!”
“Save your lies,” Aelia spoke coolly, switching to English. “You knew exactly who she was.”
“Sookie?” Bill spoke in surprise as she stepped into view.
“You have some nerve, Bill Compton!” she hissed. “Now take us to your employer!”
A/N: Yep it’s certainly getting exciting! Love hearing your thoughts as always, could it really be Hadley all along?
Much thanks to msbuffy as always.