Jason paced in his front room, his nerves getting the best of him. He could hardly believe Sookie was back. The last thirteen years had been hell on him, he had moved on with his life, getting married and having a child, but there had been a big gap where his sister once was.
Michelle saw him thinking harder than, well, ever before. “Ya okay?” she asked him, her fingers stroking through his hair as she laid a gentle kiss on his lips.
“Yeah,” Jason said absentmindedly, as he pulled her into his arms. “Just a shock is all.”
She settled on his lap and kissed him again gently. “It’s getting dark now, shouldn’t you head over?”
“You don’t wanna come and meet Sook?” Jason asked, as he gently moved her off his lap so he could stand up.
Michelle hesitated. “I’m kinda scared of Vampires,” she admitted, looking up at him. “I had nightmares when they came out. And isn’t that the one you said was with her the one that killed the news anchor on TV?”
Jason nodded, “Yeah, but Sooks with him so he can’t be that bad,” he said.
“Jason . . . please? Let me stay here. I’ll make sure you have a big steak and potato dinner for when you get back. You can take Susie and spend time with your sister. I know you’ll keep her safe. And if anything happens to our little girl I expect you’ll go hunting with wooden bullets.”
“Alright,” Jason agreed reluctantly. “Susie, come here baby.”
“Daddddieeeee!” Susie squealed, running to Jason. Her arms wrapped around his legs in a hug before she released him and raised her arms to be picked up.
“Hello, pumpkin,” Jason said, as he lifted her into his arms. “Have you been good for mommy today?”
“Uh’ course!” Susie replied happily. “We had so much fun!” she said, flinging her arms around his neck in a hug. “We went on a walk and went to the park and I played on the swings! I swinged so high, Daddy! And then I eated a tuna sandwich. And Mommy made me do my homework and then I watched Zaboomafoo and the Tinkerbell movie again. Mommy said I could be her for my birthday, but that it won’t be for a while. Can I get a Tinkerbell costume now anyways?”
“Maybe next week, pumpkin,” Jason said. “Tonight we are gonna go see your aunt Sookie.”
Susie looked at her Daddy with wide eyes and then smiled and pressed her face into his shoulder, tightening her hold on his neck.
Leaning into Michelle, Jason brushed his lips over hers in a soft kiss, “Ya sure ya don’t wanna come?”
“Go,” she said with a smile, shooing them out the door.
Leading Susie to his truck, Jason buckled her in, “Ya looking forward to meeting ya aunt Sookie?” he asked, as he jumped in the driver’s side.
Susie grinned at him and shrugged her shoulders. Her tongue played with her first loose tooth — one in her lower front — and made it wiggle. She giggled at the sensation.
“I bet she’s looking real forward to meeting you,” Jason said, as he started the engine.
“Is she pretty?” Susie asked, giggling again.
“Next to your momma and you, Sookie is the prettiest girl around.” Jason replied.
“Do ya think I’ll be able to hear her?” Susie questioned.
“I don’t know, pumpkin,” Jason said, taking a quick look at his little girl. “Your aunt Sook has had a lot of practice. She might be able to keep you out of her mind.”
“Really?” Susie asked excitedly. She had worked hard with her Daddy, using techniques he remembered Gran teaching Sookie to build up her walls. She was pretty good at it, especially because Mommy made her practice so much. She had been able to hear everyone she encountered so far, except for Mr. Eric and Miss Nora. There had been some others, but she hadn’t met them. “Daddy, are we there yet?”
“Almost,” Jason chuckled, as he turned onto Hummingbird Lane.
Susie waited a few seconds. “Are we there now?”
“Count to twenty and we will be,” Jason said with an affection smile.
Susie grinned wide before counting out loud. She was in first grade this year. She could add and count by twos and fives and tens. Counting was baby stuff, but she did it. “TWENTY!” she screeched as her Daddy made the truck stop. “We’re here!” she yelled out the open window.
Jason chuckled as he opened the door and raced around to her side. “You remember to be good,” he said, as he lifted her out the truck.
Susie nodded seriously. “I will,” she whispered, spying Russell and Sookie standing at the door behind Jason’s shoulder.
“Come on, pumpkin,” Jason said, as he took her hand and led her up the porch steps. “Susie, say hello to your aunt Sookie.”
Susie hugged her Daddy’s leg and pressed her face into it before glancing up to her Aunt and Russell. “Hi Aunt Sookie,” Susie giggled again and pressed her face back against Jason’s leg, hiding.
“Hi, Susie,” Sookie said, bending down so she was at eye level with the little girl.
The six-year-old glanced at her, and reflexively reached out with her mind to feel how Sookie’s and her friend’s head felt. Daddy had her checking on everyone and being aware of everything since she was old enough. Her eyes lit up when they were silent. Daddy had warned her about silent heads before, but she just loved trying to push harder to find her way in. It was a game: finding any cracks. Susie concentrated, pulling down her walls to try to listen for anything from her aunt.
“Hello,” Sookie said telepathically making Susie jump.
Susie’s eyes went wide and she giggled again. “You too?!” Susie asked with her mind.
“Yes,” Sookie replied, still speaking telepathically to her niece. “Hello, Jason.” she added aloud as she smiled at her brother.
Russell nodded at Jason and leaned down to examine the mini-human. She smelled sweet. Sweeter than Jason. “Are you like Sookie?” Russell asked the girl.
“She is,” Sookie answered for her as she watched Susie duck behind Jason’s legs again. “Couldn’t your wife make it, Jason?”
“Nah, she’s busy,” Jason replied, seeing Sookie’s raise her eyebrow, he let out a laugh as he added, “and you scare the crap out of her.”
“We scare a lot of people,” Sookie said shamelessly. “But not this little one,” she added with a smile as she turned her gaze back to Susie. “She’s just pretending to be scared.”
Susie giggled again and looked up at the vampires. “You won’t hurt me,” Susie said confidently.
Russell’s eyebrows raised and he looked to Sookie. “I won’t,” He responded. “You?”
“You should be used to us Stackhouse women by now, Russell,” Sookie said with a laugh. “No one will hurt you here, Susie.”
“I know,” Susie said, stepping forward to take a closer look at her aunt. “You are pretty!” she grinned.
Russell stepped back; “Invite them in, Sookie! You weren’t raised in a shack of a home like me.”
Sookie shook her head as she bowed theatrically to Susie, “Won’t you please come in?”
Russell went through the kitchen to the couch — it was one Eric had bought — and sat down. He just liked to watch Jason, who was aging beautifully. He had not met the boy before he took Sookie, but had he; he definitely would have had a romp. Even now — if Sookie and Jason didn’t protest. He had maybe less muscle tone, but his face showed some wisdom that came from hard years, maybe when he had believed his sister lost.
Susie clung to her Daddy’s arm as they walked inside. “This is my Daddy’s old home,” Susie informed Sookie. She eyeballed Russell and probed with her mind, trying to find his cracks. It wasn’t often, but occasionally she’d been able to get into Mr. Eric’s mind if she worked hard enough. Daddy always told her to keep what she learned from minds quiet, so she hadn’t told him or anyone, but she always liked when she would see visions. Snowy areas or sometimes blue eyes that were like hers, only different. She only took glances, but she always liked what she saw in his mind.
“It is,” Sookie agreed. “Me and your daddy lived here together for a while.”
Susie smiled as she got in Russell’s mind; she heard words she did know and a few pictures that her mommy had scolded her daddy for explaining. Big boy and girl stuff.
Susie dragged her daddy to the couch and had him sit so she could perch in his lap. “Were you little like me when you lived here?” Susie asked Sookie.
“I was,” Sookie said. “My gran helped me with it, just like your daddy helps you.”
Susie giggled as her aunt misunderstood. “Nooo,” she scolded, laughing. “I mean were you six too? Daddy says he was six at our house and ten here.”
“Yes,” Sookie laughed. “I think I was six or maybe seven when we moved in here with gran. She would’ve loved you.”
Susie smirked like Eric did and curled her legs up on Jason’s lap. She laid her head on his chest and just watched her Aunt.
“How long ya gonna be in town for?” Jason asked, as he wrapped his arm around Susie.
“Not sure yet,” Sookie shrugged. “We have some business to take care of. How is everyone else?” she asked, changing the subject before Jason could poke at it.
“Some good, some bad,” Jason replied. “Lafayette and his husband are still here. They’re happy.”
“Husband?” Sookie questioned.
“Yeah, Lafayette got married about seven years ago to a guy named Jesus,” Jason told her. “He’s alright, and you like him don’t ya, pumpkin?”
“Uncle Jesus is so awesome, Aunt Sookie! He’s nice and he’s harder to hear,” she went to wink her eye, like her Daddy did, but wound up just blinking obviously. “And Uncle LaLa is so funny!” She giggled thinking about how he would joke with her.
Sookie grinned as she listened to her niece talk about her uncles; she hadn’t met Jesus personally, but she was sure he had to be a good guy if Lafayette married him. Lafayette wouldn’t settle for anything less. “What about the others? Tara? Sam? Terry?”
“Terry’s here. He’s married to that lady you don’t like, Daddy. She’s not nice anyways,” Susie said, replying about the only person she knew in her list.
“Arlene?” Sookie questioned, even though she already knew the answer.
“Yeah, her and Terry got hitched about a year after you disappeared,” Jason said. “Tara up and took off about six months after as well. No one knows where she went, or really cares. She went on a vampire hating jag and nearly got herself killed. And Sam got married to a girl named Luna and he moved away with her and her daughter.”
Susie cocked her head to the side. “Can you show me how to keep people out of my head too?” Susie asked Sookie. No matter what she did, she couldn’t get into Sookie’s mind. There wasn’t a crack or a hole she could slip through.
“Of course, sweetie,” Sookie said. “Maybe you and your daddy can come by in a few days and I will help you then. I will teach you some of the tricks I learned.”
Susie nodded and slipped off her Daddy’s lap to look around. At first she just stayed in the living room while the grownups talked, but she eventually wandered to other rooms too.
“She’s gorgeous, Jason,” Sookie said, as she watched Susie wander off.
“Looks delicious,” Russell confirmed with a wink.
“What? No!” Jason cried, jumping to his feet ready to protect his daughter. “My baby girl isn’t delicious, she’s my baby.”
“Russell, stop it,” Sookie said, a small smile turning her lips. “Jason, no one will hurt her.”
“Sorry, Jason. When you’re my age, you need to find humor in life. I wouldn’t hurt her. She looks like a miniature Sookie,” Russell said. He looked up when there was a knock on the back door and got up to answer it. Susie ran from the hallway past him and into the kitchen. She had her hand on the doorknob before Russell had reached it. “Susie!” Russell said, slightly scolding. “You always need to wait for an adult to answer the door if you don’t know who is on the other side.”
Susie dropped her hand and looked at Russell wide eyed, mouth slightly open. “It’s Mister Eric,” she said quietly.
“Are you positive?”
Susie stopped for a moment to concentrate, her tongue poking out between her teeth. She grinned at the vision, one of her Aunt Sookie last night on the front porch. She nodded enthusiastically, returning her hand to the doorknob and wrenching it open. “Mister Eric!” Susie said excitedly.
Eric grinned as he saw Susie pull open the door; he nodded at Russell before allowing the miniature Stackhouse inside. “Miss Susie,” he responded.
“Up!” Susie demanded, raising her arms. Eric was so tall, he could fly her like an airplane around their house and she would almost touch the ceiling. The thousand-year-old vampire bent down and lifted the blonde little girl, doing exactly as she desired and flying her over his head to the living room where her daddy waited.
Russell made sure the door was closed before he followed them into the room.
Jason smiled as he heard his little girls squeals of delight, “Did you say please, pumpkin before you demanded Eric pick you and fly you around?”
“Noooo…” Susie said. She looked down at her own Vampire ride. “Please Mister Eric.”
“That’s better,” Jason said.
Susie screamed as Eric almost flew her into the chandelier, banking right at the last instant. “Mister Eric! We almost crashed!”
Sookie laughed as she watched them. Her niece obviously loved Eric and Jason trusted him around her. She wondered what had happened that made them closer, and then realized it was probably her disappearance.
Eric flew Susie into Jason’s arms, letting her go only when he knew Jason had her securely.
“Sookie, Russell, I’m sure you both know typical protocol. Most areas take monetary compensation to contribute to state funds. I take care of that. Instead, all I ask for is your time. Two nights per week at five hours in Fangtasia; I don’t care when you come or if you come together as long as you’re there. And don’t worry about Pam. She doesn’t have a say or stake in the company or Area. She works as a bartender most nights, but if you feel uncomfortable or weary of possible consequences, let me know when you’ll be there and I’ll make sure those are her nights off.”
“That seems okay,” Sookie replied. She was leery about being around Pam, but she wasn’t going to let her affect her in anyway. “Russell?”
Russell nodded, so Eric continued. “I expect all vampires be employed in some aspect, whether it owns property and gaining wealth that way or some other job, mostly for the government. I can help in that aspect if you need. Additionally, I would go into residences and behavioral expectations. However, I don’t expect we’ll see another event like we did on live television thirteen years ago.”
Russell bristled slightly. It was only due to Eric’s actions that he had gone as far as he did thirteen years ago. Instead, Russell smiled and inclined his head, but his eyes stared at Eric’s intently.
“Any news from your sister?” Sookie asked, sensing the tension in the room and wanting to put a stop to it.
“They’re on their way as we speak, which is why I figured we’d get the formalities over with and go over some other information. I don’t know if you want everyone here for this discussion, or for their entrance. The AVL, your Compton included, might love to know it’s not just your looks that runs in the family,” Eric replied.
Sookie turned her gaze to her brother, “Jason, you might wanna take Susie home,” she said getting Eric’s meaning. “Innocent eyes don’t need to witness any of this.”
Jason looked from Sookie to Eric and back again before he nodded slowly. He loved his sister and was happy she was back, but by the sounds of it something big and possible bad was about to happen and she was right when she said Susie didn’t need to witness it. Ten years ago, he would’ve stayed with her, but now he had Susie, and she would always come first.
Susie held out her arms. “Hugs! . . . please!” she demanded, the please an afterthought.
Sookie laughed as she bent down and wrapped her niece up in her arms. “It was nice to meet you.”
Susie wrapped her arms around her Aunt’s neck. “I like you, Aunt Sookie,” she whispered, pressing her lips to her cheek in a delicate kiss.
“I like you too, sweetie,” Sookie replied before pulling back and standing up. “And I will help you shield better soon, I promise.”
Susie nodded and turned to Eric, extending her arms. He gave her a hug and she wrapped her arms around his neck, swinging there for a moment before placing her feet down. She looked cautiously at Russell before extending her hand.
Russell laughed at her decorum and bent down to a knee, gently shaking her hand, which she returned with a firm shake, just like Daddy taught. She eyeballed him for a moment once he stood before quickly hugging his knees and then running back to Daddy.
“I’ll call once everything is okay,” Sookie said addressing Jason.
“Hopefully by then Michelle will be more open to seeing you,” Jason said, as he scooped Susie up and made his way to the door.
“Bye, Susie,” Sookie said with a wave, as Jason carried her out the house.
“Bye Aunt Sookie! Bye Mister Russell!” she screamed over her dad’s shoulder. “Bye Mister Eric!!!” was her loudest cry, now through the window of the truck once she was situated.
Once the truck was out of sight, Sookie stepped closer to Russell as she faced Eric, “What do you think they will do? The AVL?”
“They should be here within the hour,” Eric responded. “With the numbers and vehicles, they’ll probably take you back to the headquarters again. Let them. Roman is there, as is Nora. I will follow the vehicle’s overhead to make sure nothing deviates. At the Authority, Roman will back you up. I can almost guarantee they’ll separate you again. From there, expect Roman, Nora, and I to interfere and assist you. At minimum, Salome, Nan, and Bill should be destroyed. Beyond that . . . feel free to take care of anyone who is obviously aligned with them. The humans are all paid guards, try to incapacitate rather than kill them.”
“Kill the vamps, spare the humans,” Sookie summarized. “I think we can do that.”
“Then get ready; because they’re here,” Eric replied, hearing the cars come down the driveway. He slipped out the back door and flew up to the roof to watch.
“This should be fun,” Sookie said, as she heard someone bang on the front door.
Russell opened the door, letting the AVL’s dumbass storm troopers in followed by Nan, looking, as ever, constipated.
Sookie tilted her head to the side as they all walked in “Can I keep one, Daddy?” she giggled, feigning madness.
“Of course, Princess!” Russell said with a laugh. “What brings you to our humble abode, Nan?”
“Shut up, Edgington. You both need to come to the Authority for questioning. No silver this time, just information about where you’ve been and how you evaded notice. Roman requested it.”
“Well, if Roman requested it who are we to refuse,” Sookie said. She paused as she took a step forward; a frown creased her brow as she added, “Who’s Roman?”
“You remember him, Princess,” Russell said pleasantly. “We met him a few days ago.” He slipped his arm behind her, leading her by the small of her back to the car Eric had left for them to take.