“They’re co-ordinates,” Molly pointed out, regaining some of Aelia’s esteem.
“Look it up!” Aelia continued in command mode. “Preferably on an actual map.”
“No need,” Godric interrupted. “I recognise them.”
“Where else?” he shrugged. “Bon Temps, Louisiana. The Stackhouse Homestead.”
The screen turned black with the command window appearing again. ‘I will tell you when.’
“Tell her I’m on my way.”
“I can’t,” Molly spoke with regret. “I’m locked out.”
‘Bring the golden girl and the child, no one else.’
The computer rebooted itself with a screeching sound, aggravating the sensitive earbuds of the Supernaturals present while their surroundings appeared to set themselves to rights again. “Check the perimeters,” Godric commanded, hurrying out the room himself in search of his own Childe and his family unit, only to collide with a frantic Sookie on his way out.
“Where’s Oren?” she cried out while Eric appeared to be flying at great speeds throughout the house and grounds.
“What happened?” Godric urged, trying to ease her frantic sense of mind.
“The lights,” she sobbed. “Out. Oren. Lisbet,” Sookie breathed out before buckling with the weight of it all. “Aelia, you promised,” she whimpered. “You promised to keep us all safe.”
“Get up,” Aelia spoke sternly at the puddle on the floor that once represented Sookie. “Godric, fetch your Childe.”
“I don’t-” he started to protest.
“Fetch your Childe!”
He nodded, setting off after his trace. Aelia breathed in deeply before her hands started to fill with a bright green electric charge, engulfing her entire body with the bright light till suddenly Oren materialised beside her. “You fool!” she hissed at him. “You do not separate the mother and the child!”
“I apologise.” He fell to his knees with reverence where Sookie desperately grasped for her child, looking her over for any sustained damage. Eric was quick to move in behind her, the frantic set of their eyes unwilling to relent until they knew for certain Lisbet was unharmed. “I was bound to protect the child at all costs, you may need to change her diaper.”
“Where did you go?” Sookie whispered, looking over her daughter and finding her unchanged, yet somehow changed, clothes fitting tighter than before. “She’s older, how?”
“I took her to a safe plane in Faerum,” he shrugged. “It seemed the best place for a short while, she’s only aged a week or two. I do apologise, Princess.”
“Next time,” she whispered with a sigh of relief. “Warn us.”
“Sweet home Louisiana,” Pam drawled with the sight of the barren air strip, characterised by the red dirt soil and little else worth of note. “Home of polyester, moonshine, Walmart, and backwater waitresses.”
“Hey,” Sookie protested. “There’s nothing wrong with any of those things! I was a waitress once!”
“Hand me my crown and I shall wave to the paupers!”
“Pam, be nice!”
“This is me being nice,” she grinned. “Come on, Princess Lisbet, let’s grin and bear it!”
“Why did I ever open the door to her?” Sookie grumbled, purposely removing Lisbet from Pam’s rather reckless arms.
“You like her too much,” Kristian grinned, catching Pam by the waist. “It’s an issue we’re all trying to overcome.”
“Better you than me,” she quipped back.
“I will take residence in your home,” Aelia informed Sookie, surprising her with the request that was made out as a command. She nodded in compliance while the vampiress motioned to the car that had a special car seat installed for Lisbet, but little space for anyone else, and a security guard already occupying the front seat. “Pamela, go to the palace and reassert your crown.”
“No!” Pam protested. “You can stick that title where the sun don’t shine! Give it to Cousin Annabelle.”
“Out of the question, you need to reclaim your former territory,” Aelia spoke with little interest. “Who knows how long we’ll be there?”
“As far as I can tell, I don’t need to be here at all,” Pam pointed out. “You, just don’t want to deal with Sophie Anne.” Her eyes rolled along with the little huff that moved a few hairs, delighting Lisbet with the sight, and softening up Pam to everyone’s surprise. “Not that I blame you, Sophie Anne is a real psychotic bitch. Isn’t that right Lisbet? Can you say Sophie Anne is a psychotic bitch? Yes, you can!”
“Pam, stop it!” Sookie hissed while she continued to safely tuck her child in the seat beside her.
“You know she won’t act well with us in her interim territory,” Aelia informed Pam. “She knows the position is temporary, so you best be clear with her.”
“Yes, until Cousin Annabelle can get off her fat ass and take over, call her.”
“You know as well as I that she is still stuck in her current position,” Aelia pointed out. “Take back your territory!”
“I don’t want to,” she replied petulantly. “It’s not mine anymore, I don’t want it!”
Aelia glared at her, then travelling her gaze to her Maker instead, demanding he reprimand her then and there. “I will take possession of the territory,” Kristian offered. “Write it off as an inventory of the former reign until Annabelle arrives.”
“Fine!” Aelia spat out. “You can be the one to tell Sophie Anne. I don’t want to deal with her.” The two vampires nodded dutifully, Pam hiding her triumphant smirk poorly.
With little forewarning, Sookie found herself suddenly squashed against the car seat, Aelia on her other side, the engine revving to go. She was quick enough to catch the nervous glance while the ancient vampiress eyed the rest of their party, waiting on their luggage and loading up the other cars before she uttered to the driver, “Leave, slowly.”
Panic set in for Sookie with the sudden turn of events, a reassuring hand coming to rest over her from the woman beside her. “It’s better this way,” she whispered while displaying the message on her phone, indicating only a date and time in the not too far future. “They’ll only follow if they know. The instructions were clear. Me, you, and Lisbet.”
“You never mentioned Lisbet,” Sookie whispered with worry, regarding her daughter who had snoozed off with the gentle roll of the car.
“Would you have agreed to come so willingly?” Aelia pointed out. “Some things just need to be done. Remember I will be there, remember my promise.”
“Oren?” she whispered. “If anything were to happen, he’ll be there? For Lisbet?”
“It’s better for you not to know, isn’t it?” she replied with a tap to her head, alluding to the fact that the one they were about to meet could possibly possess a similar skill set to Sookie. “The less you know, the less there is to reveal.”
Sookie nodded, hating to agree with that particular logic, but unable to find fault in it. Slowly the familiar landscape began to resemble that of her childhood home, the town she’d known so intimately well, yet never seeming more foreign than ever before. They stopped in the back of the parking lot of Merlotte’s, a strange nostalgia overcoming her when she saw her former boss ready and waiting by his old jeep. “He’ll take you the rest of the way,” Aelia informed before Sookie and Lisbet exchanged one car for the other, the vampiress staying deliberately out of sight. “It’s safer this way, I’ll meet you there.” Sookie gave a nod of understanding before being engulfed by an enthusiastic Sam.
“It’s good to see you round these woods again, Cher,” her old friend greeted while she desperately tried to keep her emotions in check. Sookie felt completely unprepared for the task ahead, especially with Lisbet by her side, and now seemingly left to their own devices, unsure how much Aelia’s promises meant in that moment or with what she was dealing. “Thought with the house, we’d be seeing you sooner than now.”
“Different priorities,” she smiled weakly, proceeding to ask how things had been in the small town in her absence. She engaged in an appropriately enthusiastic manner where it was required, and displayed the right amount of remorse with any bad news, feeling and barely hearing any of it.
“Can’t believe you’re a mom now,” he grinned while regarding Lisbet in the back seat. “She’s just as pretty as her momma. You wanna come by-”
“Please don’t,” she whispered, barely holding it together as it was, if anything she couldn’t take on Sam’s consistent hungering of inserting himself as the other half in the equation of her family, hoping that the absence of Eric and her sudden return meant an opening of sorts for him. “Eric and I are as happy as we can be.”
“You certainly don’t look happy,” he murmured as they approached the final bend before the Stackhouse property. Sookie ignored the snide comment, her thoughts lost when she suddenly was confronted with her former family home restored to exactly what it was, albeit in a newer incarnation.
“Who did this?” she whispered with awe.
“This wasn’t you?” Sam frowned.
“No,” she smiled. “Had any strangers in town? Supernatural?”
“Just this little fella,” he shrugged. “Been renting the old Compton home now and then.”
“Godric,” she smiled, wiping away a tear, a happy one for a change.
“Never caught his name,” he shrugged. “Could be it. He seemed friendly enough.”
“Thanks for driving me, Sam” she said after he offloaded her luggage onto the brand new porch. “You should probably go.”
“Let me help you get settled,” he offered eagerly. “I was so excited to receive your text.”
“Text?” Sookie frowned just as she caught the event travelling through his mind. It appeared Aelia had certainly caught up with modern technology quickly, the sentence structure betraying the sender could only be her, despite it being Sookie’s name signed at the bottom. “Let me just walk around a bit with Lisbet, then I’ll call you later. We can have dinner or something?”
She hated giving him this incentive, but knew it was the quickest way to rid herself of him, considering the prescribed time as she had seen it on Aelia’s phone was imminent. Sam beamed with the prospect, his mind already running the scenarios that included a Sookie without Eric after their ‘date.’ “I’d love that,” he smiled. “Just call me and I’ll come pick you up.”
“Sure,” she smiled, resurfacing that crazy smile she had been forced to work so long, Sam not even noticing it was anything but genuine, whistling merrily while he got back into his car and waving his arm out of the open window happily before driving off.
“I thought he would never leave,” Aelia growled, startling Sookie with her sudden appearance beside her.
“Were you aware of this?” Sookie asked, gesturing at the new structure.
“No,” she replied, the vampiress turned the front door handle, finding it open and peering inside suspiciously upon seeing it furnished and seemingly lived in. “Invite me in.”
Sookie did as asked while following her in. The home was sparsely furnished with nothing resembling the former decor that now resided in her Lake House.
“Welcome,” a generated voice suddenly greeted, startling Sookie while Aelia distinctively held her cool.
“Hadley?” Sookie called out. “Please come out, I’m sorry, okay?”
“What do you know of Hadley?” a male voice asked, the direction difficult to determine. She cast out her mental telepathic net, brushing up against the other mind hidden in the house, but shut out of it as soon as she tried to take a peek. She gestured her finger upstairs, indicating to Aelia where she had located the foreign mind.
“Is she like you?” the strange mind asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied honestly while glancing at her unperturbed daughter, not keeping him out as effectively, and figuring honesty was best. “We’re not sure.”
“Leave her, she will be safe with me.”
Aelia’s hand wrapped tensely around her forearm, demanding her attention. The vampiress mouthed the word ‘gun’, clearly distinguishing the distant sound of it cocking with her supernatural speed. Sookie stiffened, engaging her shields around her own mind as tightly as possible.
“I can’t do that,” she replied audibly, hoping that if Aelia at least heard half the conversation it would be of some use. “I can’t leave her behind.”
“Shame,” he said coolly, chilling her to the bone, “It means you’ll all die.”
“Let me talk to you,” she pleaded. “It’s what you wanted isn’t it? A conversation?” Aelia eyed her carefully, her eyes indicating the approximate location for confirmation from Sookie. She moved too fast for Sookie to follow, all she heard was a thud and a flood of electric currents of opposing colours flowing through the house. She held Lisbet close to her body before she carefully moved upstairs, the mind she had just conversed with now definitively silent while Aelia appeared as quiet as ever.
“Do you know him?” Aelia demanded, her grip still tight on the unconscious man. She shook her head, finding nothing familiar at all. She looked around the room curiously, it was filled to the brink with monitors, servers, and desktops, all humming with noise. A single bed stood in the corner with a small table and a single lamp. He was slight, pale from not venturing outside, and his hair a dirty blonde that vaguely resembled Lisbet’s. A small portrait of Hadley was the only thing on the nightstand, and she studied it curiously, “I guess he knows her.”
“Don’t touch that!” he suddenly cried out, surprising both women with his sudden cognisant state. Aelia’s grip on him was relentless, more painful than most could stand, let alone one so weakened as him. He laughed maniacally, “Do your best! I’ve suffered far worse than the likes of you!”
Aelia studied him carefully, he wasn’t even bothering to resist his hold and carefully, she pushed up his t-shirt, baring his scarred stomach. A hint of sadness brimmed in her eyes, and carefully she posed, “Lochlan and Neave?”
He nodded, his empty gaze reverting back to the covered window. Tenderly she traced the thickened skin, grown over itself multiple times. He rolled over compliantly, as if trained to do so, while she moved to his back where the ugliest of his wounds resided. “Why?” Aelia whispered. “Why you?”
His vacant gaze drifted to where Sookie stood, next to the portrait. “Her,” he spat out. “It’s all her fault.”
“No,” he screamed, turning red with anger that soon turned into tears. “HER!”
His loss of control opened his mind to Sookie though he was quick to close it again, but she’d seen enough to know all. She fell to her knees beside him, Lisbet safely tucked in her side. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered while caressing his sweaty mop of hair. “I didn’t know! I didn’t know!”
He struggled against Aelia’s hold with vigour, “Don’t touch me! Don’t YOU touch me!”
Sookie backed off tears in her eyes, “I’m sorry,” she continued to whimper.
“Calm down,” Aelia urged to little avail.
“She doesn’t understand!” he screamed out. “She can never understand!”
“But I do,” Aelia spoke lowly, he stared at her questioningly, carefully she loosened one hand and when he remained calm, she slowly unbuttoned her blouse, lowering it to his gaze to display similar scars by the same makers. His free hand traced them, mapping the expanse of her skin like she had just done to him. She flinched momentarily with the memory, breathing in and out to control the impact. “It gets better,” she offered weakly, not entirely convincing him or herself.
“The same?” he whispered, sounding every bit a child. She nodded while helping him sit up, a small cough escaping him. “How?”
She smiled indulgently while he struggled to find the words to create the sentence he wished to express. Finally he asked, “How did you make the nightmares go away?”
“I took matters into my own hands,” she answered simply. “Certainly not by trying to blame those that failed to stop it from happening. However, there was a moment when that was all I felt.”
“What did you do?”
“I became something else,” Aelia smiled. “Something better, they can’t hurt me anymore.”
“Only in your dreams?” he asked.
“I no longer dream.”
He stared at her in wonder momentarily, “It all stops?” She nodded, her seductive gaze making him forget anything beyond the two of them, Sookie and Lisbet no longer a concern or interest to him.
“Is it okay if Sookie leaves now? With Lisbet?” Aelia posed gently, as if he had any say in this dark seduction. He nodded, whispering a word of sorry to Sookie before she left the room in tears herself. She ran out of the house, frantically searching for her phone to call Sam only to spot Godric and Eric on the horizon, one holding the other back with all his might. She carried on her sprint, holding Lisbet close to her body, happy to see Godric releasing his hold in the same instant. She’d never been more thankful than in that moment to be in Eric’s grasp, sobbing as she did with relief and remorse while reassuring that she and Lisbet were unharmed, that they were all safe now.
A retching noise sounded out through their reunion, silencing even the surrounding wildlife with the chilling promise, Sookie’s wet face seeking out the pensive stance of Godric’s, “She’s going to kill him, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” Godric replied. “Yes, she is. It’s for the best.”
“If only I’d known, Eric,” she whispered while safely tucked in their old bed in his old home that had become their home, his surrounding arms barely leaving her body for even a second since their reunion at the farmhouse, Lisbet happily sleeping beside them in her crib. “His dad gave him away to a pair of insane Faeries for a bag of coke. He heard Hadley’s mind on the phone that day, how I’d never want him. What a cold hearted bitch I was.”
“That was her drugged out mind,” he sighed. “He was barely three, and he’s been living under the torture of two murderous Faeries, and in isolation since he managed to escape their grasp.”
“I didn’t believe Hadley when she said she had a baby to care for, that she was pregnant.”
“She wasn’t pregnant,” he pointed out. “His mother put him in that situation, not you. She didn’t love him enough to do what was best for him. She was swindling you for cash, how can you be at fault for seeing right through her? She never let you know about him, how could you have helped? The bitch didn’t even bother registering she’d given birth to him.”
“If I’d given it more attention, I could have helped, if I’d stopped writing off everything she said as a lie.”
“You can’t fix what’s already passed,” Eric whispered in her ears. “This world is harsh, the Supernatural one more so. The best we can do is make sure to avoid it happening again, and spare our own daughter such pain.”
“Years, Eric,” she said in horror. “Years they spent torturing a child. A child, Eric!”
“Niall has promised to show no mercy,” he supplied. “Aelia seems especially gleeful at that.”
“Politics dictated they were never held accountable for what they did to her,” Sookie spoke with a tremble in her voice, the horror of what she’d read in Hunter’s mind alongside the brief insight Aelia had granted them both into hers when trying to convey to the traumatised boy, no matter what his appearance he remained a boy, what she had endured by the same hands would never leave Sookie’s mind, no matter how hard she tried. “She was forced to interact with them for the good of relations, after!”
“Shhh,” he whispered, kissing her neck softly. “It’s over now.”
“How can I ever make this right?” she sobbed. “I had the money, I had all the possibilities in the world to save him.”
“If you’d known,” he reminded. “Do you blame Jason?”
“No,” she replied with a frown. “Why would I blame Jason?”
“Was he not in the same position? Did he not have the money to make it all happen too?”
“I told him not to help her,” she protested. “I threatened to cut him off if he did.”
Eric shrugged, “He still could have done it, and we both know even if you found out you would have never followed through with that threat, and Jason knows that too. Money would have never helped that situation, only delayed the inevitable. Sookie, they abducted him and killed his parents the one night she called you and asked for money. They told him they were sent by you, so how would you have made a difference? You logic is as skewed as his.”
“It still doesn’t erase the fact that I should have helped, if not money, then in some other way.”
“That’s a lesson learned then,” he sighed. “It doesn’t amount for the sheer quantity of guilt you feel right now, nor will it fix the past.”
“Stop abusing the bond,” she harrumphed, making her annoyance with his sudden ability to read her with ease known in every way possible.
“No,” he grinned.
“Seriously, you can’t be that horny all the time.”
“Around you I am,” he replied with a waggle of his brows.
She rolled her eyes, getting up to warm a bottle for Lisbet in time for her scheduled feeding. He was quick to close the gap between them, hindering her greatly with nips at her neck while she tried to get the bottle ready. “Stop it,” she warned, still too emotionally raw to deal with any of his advances in this moment in time.
“He’ll come around,” Eric promised, hugging her tightly without the sexual overtures.
“You think so?”
He hummed, alleviating her of the task warming breast milk with ease, pulling Lisbet from her crib while instructing her to remain seated in her Gran’s rocking chair. “Aelia is a good Maker. When he adjusts to his new state Hunter will come to his senses. You’ll get a second chance with him. She’ll treat him well, she wouldn’t have turned him otherwise, no matter that he’s an exceptionally powerful being.”
“He’s blamed me for everything for a long time Eric,” she sighed, softening as Lisbet happily cooed in her hold with the promise of her bottle. “All those years in Faerum, he’s supposed to be six, but he’s going on thirty-five. He’s lived longer than I have at this point with the accelerated time difference between here and there, not a single bright point in his life. He thought he was saving Lisbet from the horrible creature that I am and the fate he was subjected to. He wanted to save her from me. Maybe he’s right.”
“All he’s ever wanted is a mother and family, Sookie,” he reminded, “He’ll have that now with the Aurelies, and that includes you and Lisbet. It may take time, but he’ll come to his senses at some point, and in the meantime, you’ll have every opportunity to prove him wrong.”
“By being a great mom to Lisbet, a task you’d happily have taken on for him if you’d known, that not even once through this all have you ever blamed him, while he’s been anything but a saint,” Eric spoke rationally. “You’re fucking good, Sookie Stackhouse, I still say you’re too good for me, but luckily I tricked you, and you’re stuck with me now.”
Sookie laughed softly in return, remembering those words he’d thought of her once, “’She’s too good to simply be my mistress. She deserves someone for life, I can only give her for now,’” she recited from memory. “Do you still believe that?”
“Every waking moment,” he grinned. “Well, except the second half, I made sure I was that someone for life and that there was more to give than just now.”
“You sure did,” she smiled, reaching up for a kiss. “Guess you’re good enough after all.”
A/N: Yep that’s it I’m afraid, a little bittersweet but an ending nonetheless. It wasn’t Hadley after all but in a sense she was a source of all the anguish, as msbuffy told me, ‘it’s no wonder there’s so little sympathy for her character.’ I hope you enjoyed, I never had planned to extend the original one-shots and had many moments of frustration on whether it had been a good choice to pursue or not but I’m satisfied on how this story evolved and I hoped you all enjoyed it and its conclusion too.
Thanks to msbuffy for jumping in on the ride and her stellar editing work throughout.
Now I did the writing bit… you all do the comment bit 😉