Chapter 24

Beautiful Morning

Jason’s POV

All I really had left was Sookie and I’d managed to push her away. I even had to be the one to call on Christmas.

I even tried to track down Hadley. If I found her I’da used telling her about Gran as my excuse. My real reason, I guess, was hoping we could keep in touch; just so I could feel like I had some family. I knew Sookie didn’t think much of me anymore, not after what I put her through over the last couple of years.

Any time I needed her, she’d drop everything to help. All I did was make her feel like shit and make things harder for her.

I even pulled her down with me when I decided to marry the first girl to be willing. Baby or not, I thought I loved Crystal. But I just loved the idea of her. I wasn’t even smart enough to know what a dumbass move that was. She was flirting with my sister’s date at our wedding for fuck sake.

I couldn’t even say that it was the cheating that fucked with me though. I would’ve fucked up eventually. I’m just too used to short term, I guess. What got to me was that my sister took better care of me than my wife did. Crystal wouldn’t cook or clean or work. She’d just go shopping with her friends. If one of my friends had a problem, Sookie’d offer to help but my wife’d shit kittens if I left the house without her. I guess you could say she was the angry, clingy type.

**

I felt better as soon as Crystal moved back in with her sister.

I had her meet me at Sam’s place to give her money for groceries and stuff on paydays. I was still hanging out with some of the guys I knew from Hotshot once in a while but, for the most part, my life was back to normal.

I was even back to eating dinner and meeting friends at Merlotte’s just to be around Sookie. Now that my hearing was better, I could keep up with the gossip about her. She still wasn’t up for spending no time with me after I chickened out and put her in the middle of that shit with me and Crystal’s family… especially since it was all for nothing.

It was nice to see her with Herveaux though. He seemed good to her. He was in there almost every time I was in the bar. When she had a break she’d sit on his lap and they’d joke around. I watched how they were with each other. Every once in a while she’d be standing behind the bar and she’d start laughing for no reason then look over at him. He was thinking jokes at her.

That was real nice to see. You never saw her laughing with that Bill guy. His sense of humor died with the rest of him I guess.

Were or not, she seemed happy. When she wasn’t working, I’d ask Arlene or Sam after her and they’d bitch that she was out of town with Herveaux again. That was real nice to hear too.

Then it got back to me about the big vampire and that she was the ‘queen’. Then I heard about that tiger being in town again, sniffing after her… I didn’t know what to think. The only vamp I ever knew was Compton really. But Calvin told me they couldn’t be trusted.

That night at Cheap Seats really fucked with me. Sookie never really dated and now I was hearing about her being with the tiger and vampires and doing girls too. It wasn’t like her and she seemed more pissed at me than usual.

I didn’t even expect her to answer when I called her the other night after I talked to Bud, but I was worried Hadley was in jail or rehab. Her being dead… Her kid… Fuck, his mom died TWICE. I thought I had it bad.

**

When I left the hospital after Crystal and the baby died, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I ended up at Sookie’s without even thinking. Like my truck drove itself.

I felt better as soon as I was in the room with her. Sad since we’d barely talked in months. But still…

**

Sunday, January 10th

Now here I am coming back from a run with a Wolf pack with one of my sister’s boyfriends…

And staring at a vampire in a room full of sunlight.

Fuck that it was cloudy. That mother fucker was up and moving around.

I almost asked if the ‘sunlight thing’ was like the ‘garlic thing’, but Alcide was just as surprised to see Eric as I was…

I couldn’t help it. I know I was staring. I sat at the bar and watched a damn vamp put my breakfast together and then the three of them went on and started talking like everything was hunky dory. It was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen in my life and I had a telepathic sister and got kidnapped by a Were panther.

I barely tasted my food. I couldn’t get past the fact that the vampire could fry and egg as good as my Gran. He stared back at me for a while and then he left. I could tell him and Sookie had something going kinda like you can tell when a foreigner does it, probably talking about me in their heads like I saw Sook doing with Alcide.

**

When he left the room, I thought he might be going to bed… coffin? I don’t know. But he came back and handed me some clothes. I guess I smelled bad. Hell, I knew I smelled bad. Fish and wet fur. And I knew vamps could smell better than Weres.

“So you can bathe and your sister can launder your clothing.”

I took them. I was surprised he didn’t just tell me to leave. “You got no idea how much I appreciate this. Thank you.”

Then him and Sookie both started talking about what she had going on for the day.

The three of them went on and on, and then I noticed Sookie’s eyes light up and she started scrambling eggs.

“Sook…?”

She must’ve been in my head, cause she answered before I had the chance to ask. “The kids just got up. They don’t like their eggs fried.”

I know being a mind reading kid had to be hard, I saw her deal with it, but being a mind reading grownup seemed to have some perks.

**

I figured since they were in good moods, I’d ask. I’d been confused as a baby raccoon about my baby sister’s life for a while.

I didn’t think it could hurt to ask. I guess the worse they’d do is make me shut up. “How does that work? Who… you know, who’s in charge?”

Eric leaned against the counter and watched Sookie cooking. “When it comes to the children?”

I nodded.

“None of us really. They consider us all their parents. Though, Pam and I don’t have a choice but to be less hands-on.”

“All four of you? Don’t y’all ever fight about shit?”

The three of them looked back and forth at each other a few times and then they all shook their heads.

“Never?”

“No. We’ll probably disagree about something eventually. We haven’t had them for very long.”

“Y’all don’t fight? Disagree? Nothing?”

Eric nodded over to Alcide. “Pam and Alcide had a disagreement yesterday morning, but I’d hardly call it a fight.”

Alcide started laughing. “I’d be on crutches if it was a fight.”

I shook my head. “They’re already better off than me and Sook then. Our folks were always at it.”

**

When those kids came downstairs, it was more weird. It was like the room was full of happy and excited all a sudden.

They jumped up into the vamp’s arms and kissed him like they’d known him forever.

“Far! Far! You’re up! How are you in the light?”

“We aren’t sure yet, but it’s amazing to see you two in the morning. You’re both morning people, yes?”

They started nodding and it was like he was the only person in the room.

I looked over at Sook, “They really like him, huh?”

“Yeah. They really do. Me and Pam are chopped liver compared to ‘My 2 Dads’ here. Daddy and Far are the coolest thing since juice boxes.” The vamp went over and sat at the table with the kids while they ate.

Herveaux yanked her into his lap in front of the vampire, but he was too busy talking to the kids to notice I guess. “That might be true, but we are very aware that you are the best thing since a Vegas Wedding.”

“Hey! Speaking of weddings, did I tell you what I got for our trip to Manhattan? “

“What?”

“Courtside. Knicks v. Celtics!”

“Are you kidding? That’s incredible! We’ll get our asses kicked for going into the Garden in green!”

“I thought you’d appreciate that.”

Then he gave her a kiss. It’s not like there was tongue or nothing, but in front of the vampire?

“I chartered a tour to Liberty too. We’ll get to go up at night and I was thinking that one night we could take the kids to the skating rink in central park. We can do the museums and stuff with the kids during the day, take them to a matinee of Lion King. There will probably be 2 nights that you and Pam will have them on your own while we do wedding stuff. So you should sit down with her and think of a plan”

“I can take Pam shopping and you and Eric can go out too. All of a sudden I’m excited to be going to a strangers wedding.”

Sookie laughed. “You act like you haven’t met Nicki and Josh! Besides, you’ll be the highest ranking Were in the state.”

“Being the highest ranking Were at a vampire wedding is like being the prettiest pig at the Oscars. Nice try though… Think we’ll have time for some clubbing?”

“I’m sure of it. Nicki and Josh will want to show off Nite Shade, and I’m sure we can find some other places.”

“As long as we can go dancing, I’m good.”

“You can probably have some fun with the strippers at the bachelor party.”

“Right. You and Pam have me spoiled. They aren’t even worth window shopping.”

She giggled at him and gave him a kiss. “Aww. That’s sweet.”

It was crazy. It was like they were all best friends and couples at the same time.

**

Sookie started clearing the table when the kids were finished eating. “Alright, guys. We have errands to run. Teeth, shoes, jackets.”

The little one, Hunter, whined at her. “Momma, we wanna stay with Far!”

The girl started pitching a fit too and begged her with a bunch of pleases. “Momma, can’t we stay here with Far?…”

Then the boy again. “…Please!”

“Oh, I don’t think so guys, if the clouds break while we’re gone, Far will have to go to bed.”

“Hey Sook, I’ll be here. I can hang out with them if he has to turn in. It’s the least I can do. I bet we could have some fun on that playground out back, right guys?” She gave me a dirty look. I guess she didn’t trust me or the vamp to take care of the kids.

Then all three of them started to ask… it was funny to see a vampire begging.

She took a deep breath and blew it out, but they’d already won. “What are y’all waiting for? Alcide, go clean up so we can go. Kids, go to the den and do your assignments for Angela.”

She hugged the vamp and looked way up at him. “Sweetie, how are you feeling? Are you up to this?”

“I feel great. It’s nearly 9am and I feel fully rested. I haven’t felt the slightest pull. Your brother and I will go to the den and we’ll play video games and you and Alcide can take your time. If anything happens I can ‘call’ you and so can the kids. We’ll do fine.” ‘Call’?

“If you say so, Boss.” Boss? Shit. Gran was lucky Sookie listened to her all those years. My sister could be a stubborn brat when she wanted to, and now she was calling this guy ‘boss’.

**

I went ahead and took the fresh clothes to the bathroom and got my shower. I already washed my hands, but I still had some scales under my nails.

By the time I was done cleaning up, Sookie was on her way out already. The truck was pulling out when I dropped my nasty clothes in the laundry.

After Alcide and Sookie took off, Manen and Hunter went to the den to set up ‘Game Night’ whatever that was, and that left me alone in the room with my future vamp-in-law.

It made me nervous, so I said the first thing to come to mind. “She’ll figure out that you’re full of shit, you know?”

The only part of his face to give anything away was his eyebrow when it went up. “In regards to what, exactly?”

“Being awake during the day. She’ll know.”

“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.”

“Neither am I, other than seeing you pacing around in the dark.”

That got him. “Do you have new powers?”

No. At least I didn’t think so. I shook my head.

“Bullshit. How else would you know that?” Weird part was that he didn’t look pissed. Just nosy.

I huffed at him. “I don’t know. You should be more concerned with coming clean with my sister. If she finds out on her own, you’re toast.”

“What did you ‘see’?”

I shrugged again. “I dunno. I guess it’s your room. Orange blanket on the bed. You use a laptop… Read. Sherlock Holmes? Huh. I’da figured you for an epic poem type of guy.”

“I am. I was reading it to the children… When did you get that? A while ago? Just now?”

“Dunno. Some just now. Some when y’all were talking earlier.”

“Fuck.”

When a vampire that big says ‘fuck’, ya can’t help but tense up. It don’t matter what tone he uses. “What? I won’t say nothin…”

“It’s not that. I was going to tell her anyway. It’s just been the last couple of days. I never left our room because I wasn’t sure about the sun, but even in this light, I would burn if I was going to at all.”

Confused. “Why’d you say ‘fuck’ then?”

“Because this means you’re an intuitive now. This kind of confirms what Alcide and I suspected… Sookie is not going to want to have this conversation.”

“What conversation? Something going on?”

“Sookie isn’t just a telepath any longer. She has new talents too.”

“I figured that part out when I saw her look like a glow worm the other night. What do you think is going on?”

He stared me down for a minute. “Alcide and I are sure that someone is fucking with her via her powers. If you’re affected too, then there’s a family connection.”

“Fuck.”

“I already said that.”

I laughed at him. A vampire with a sense of humor. Nice. “What about the kid?”

“He’s not experiencing any changes in his powers. I do wonder why he’s so strong though. Have you noticed any other occurrences?”

I shook my head. “Cept… I got this thing. I thought I was getting an ear infection or something at first. It’s like I can feel things happening around me that I can’t see, like a twinge or something deep in my ear.”

“Could it be that your senses are just getting stronger now that you’re a Were?”

“I dunno. You’ve been a Supe longer than me. Calvin and them out in Hotshot don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about though.”

“How specific is it?”

I pointed up to the front of the house. “You got a vamp up there.” Then I pointed past the pool. “Another one over there and the kids are sitting right next to each other in the den.”

His fucking face was a steel trap and it was starting to bother me when he finally said something. “But I snuck up on you yesterday.”

“I could tell you were back there. But you moved too fast to track. And I was freaking out a little with… you know.”

“Back where?”

I pointed to the top of steps to the part of the house over the den.

He nodded. “Was I resting or awake?”

“You were sleeping when I got here, but you woke up right after.”

“Sookie’s worry about you woke me.”

“You’re kidding?” How the fuck does that work?

He narrowed his eyes at me. “Our bond.”

“What’s that?”

“We share blood. We can feel each other’s emotions and sense where the other is.”

“WHAT?! You… She…? Since when?”

The fucker rolled his eyes at me. “For a while. September. Are you unfamiliar with these things?”

“Shit! Yes! Compton was the only other Vampire I ever knew and he didn’t say nothing to no one.”

“Vampire tend to uses bonds to control their human pets. In September, she was forced to bond with me.”

“You FORCED her?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t say that. The queen wanted Sookie to be bound to someone loyal to her. The Vampire that was intended to be bonded to your sister was a madman. I volunteered since Sookie and I were already friends and had been Lovers.”

“But she didn’t have the choice.”

He nodded. “At the time she didn’t have a choice to be bonded, only to whom. They would have made her otherwise.”

“How is it that you can control her?”

He shrugged. “Your sister can’t be glamoured. I’m not sure if I could control her through the bond either.”

“You’re not sure? You never tried?”

He shook his head. “I’ve never tried forcing…”

When he stopped, it made me think he was hiding something. “What!?”

He growled at me. “Settle down. I was going to say that I hadn’t ever tried to force her to do anything, but… I’ve used the bond to calm her down or relax her when she seemed to be looking for trouble.”

I almost laughed. That shit woulda come in handy with Sookie since she was little. “So she’s had your blood, what? Three times?”

He folded his arms across his chest and started chuckling on his way back to the den. “The children are waiting. Would you like to play Sorry! with us?”

“Fuck. Northman…”

He turned around and gave me look like he was having fun. “Yes?”

“How many times has she had your blood?”

He smiled ear to ear. “This week?”

“WHAT?”

“We share blood often.”

“When was the last time?”

“What time is it?”

Asshole. I looked at my watch. “It’s almost ten… NO! Today!?”

He didn’t say anything. He just stared down at me.

“Can’t you turn her into a vampire!?”

“Anytime I want to.”

“I mean by accident.”

“I don’t have accidents.” He looked dead serious and he turned around and started walking to the den again. “Come along. Manen and Hunter are anxious to play.”

**

I don’t know why, but I followed him. He handed me a controller and when he sat down, both the kids jumped onto his lap.

He started laughing. “Which one of you gave me the girly avatar?”

They started laughing and Hunter pointed at Manen.

“You gave Uncle Jason the alien! And I get a flower?”

Manen kept giggling and nodded. “I should go online and buy a hundred yellow party dresses and hide your JEANS!” He said it like it was a bad thing. I know Sookie woulda loved to have one party dress when she was that little.

She pretended to believe him and yanked his controller away and fixed it so that ‘FAR’ had a guitar.

**

When we were done with the first game (Eric won) they decided to play Yahtzee. Hunter won that game.

I couldn’t help but wonder. “Why don’t you play a normal board game. You know, like with a board?”

Eric started laughing. “Because these little monsters cheat. Manen especially.”

“How do you cheat at a board game?”

“Hunter can read your mind to see your next move so strategy games are impossible. Manen can move things with her mind, so anything with actual dice is out of the question.”

“Seriously?”

“It doesn’t help that Alcide let her cheat. Yesterday she raided the Chuck E Cheese of hundreds of tickets.”

I watched Manen shoot a dirty look at Hunter.

Whatever she was thinking wasn’t nice and he yelled at her. “I didn’t tell! Daddy did!”

“Why would Daddy tell Far!? You’re the one that told Daddy that I was warned!”

Eric broke it up. “Daddy told me because he was impressed with your abilities.”

Her heels were cooled right off. “He was?”

“Yes. He was fascinated with both of you yesterday. He said that you robbed the arcade blind and that Hunter was keeping track of Momma’s thoughts so that the three of you could have as much fun as her mood would allow so that everything could still get done.”

The both of them started snickering.

**

I sat and watched the three of them for a few minutes. It was better than watching TV. Who’d a thought? Other than needing a tan, needing one BAD, if I ran into him on the street I woulda thought he was just another dude hanging out with his kids.

They eventually slid out of his lap. Manen disappeared and came back with a PSP while Hunter pulled out a big bin of Legos.

I watched him get up and put away the Wii controllers and when he sat back down, he handed me another one. “You have a PS3 too?”

He nodded. “I bore easily. Buffy?”

Buffy? I was confused until I looked up at the TV. He picked a Buffy the Vampire Slayer game to play.

I started laughing. “What’s wrong with Castlevania?”

He was smiling as he clicked through the menus. “It’s a single player game.”

He really was a funny sum bitch when he wasn’t being scary as shit. So, there I was, playing a ‘kill the vampire’ game… against a fucking vampire.

**

It wasn’t really fair. He’d kicked my ass in Slayer Challenge mode like 6 times. He was too fast for me to keep up.

Shit head.

“Hey Eric, is she happy? Sookie? She’s… I don’t know. This is weird.”

“When was the last time your sister kept her mouth shut about anything that irritated her?”

I laughed. “Got me there.”

“Jason, if you’re curious about something just ask.”

“Will you answer me?”

“That depends on what you ask.”

“Fine. You gonna turn her into a vampire?”

“If she still wants me to, once the kids are grown, yes.”

“She wants you to turn her?”

I saw him nod from the corner of my eye. He won another round. “Eventually, but rest assured that I won’t do it without her consent.”

“It’s not natural.”

“Neither is being a Bitten, but you seem to have acclimated.”

“I hate it though.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I felt him feeling sorry for me. “Ah, but you were not only robbed of your choice in the matter, you were blindly yanked into a state of being you had no knowledge of. Sookie isn’t ignorant.”

“I don’t know how I feel about my sister being dead. She’s all I have left.” Saying it out loud actually made my eyes well up.

“It seems that you have two choices then.”

“I’m listening.”

“You can try to not think of it as her being dead.”

“But she would be.”

“Her heart wouldn’t beat, but everything else would be the same, and she would be immortal. The change would be akin to her becoming a vegetarian.”

I wasn’t buying that. Vegetarians don’t feed on other people and can go out during the day. “What’s my other choice.”

“To sleep on it. Maybe once you’re more accustomed to us, you’ll find yourself less afraid of that one small detail. As I said, there will be plenty of time. Sookie has no designs on becoming vampire soon.”

“Alright… I guess I can try to not think about it. What’s going on with all of the king and queen stuff? Ain’t you just a sheriff?”

He snorted at me. “I was until you’re sister planned a coup to help out a friend that ended up in my ruling Louisiana and Arkansas.”

“WHAT!? Sookie?”

He started laughing, and kicked my ass in another challenge while he told me, “She found out that we were in danger and called in re-enforcements. When the dust cleared, they didn’t want the extra territories.”

“Ever notice that when Sookie ‘helps’ out, shit ends up smelling like roses?”

“There’s a rub though. She usually ends up nearly killed.”

“What?”

“The pattern I’ve noticed. When Sookie got involved trying to clear your name, she was nearly beaten to death. When I hired her to help find a missing vampire, she was beaten and nearly raped and was in a car accident during her escape then shot at. When she was beaten up just before last Christmas, that was after finding Compton when he was kidnapped. She wasn’t injured in Rhodes, but she stayed to get people out and was very nearly blown up in the process. She’s been shot at and beaten up and bitten more times since I met her than I have in the last 20 years.”

I knew… almost none of that. I knew what happened with Rene. I knew she’d been at Rhodes. I wished more than anything that we were close enough that she’d have trusted me to tell me what’s been going on in her life. I couldn’t think of much to say… “Bitten too?”

“Were and Vampire. There isn’t a target painted on her anywhere though. I’ve looked.”

“She sounds like an adrenaline junkie.”

“Who isn’t? I think the reason she helps anyone at all though is because of the telepathy. It caused her so much grief growing up that the uses it for things like that so she doesn’t hate it. Like a coping mechanism.”

Manen’s eyes shot up at him like said a dirty word or something, but she went back to her game.

I just shook my head. “I just always thought she liked the attention.”

“For a while she did, but because she thought being helpful would sway people away from thinking of her as crazy. By the time I met her, she was starting to get harder. It’s eerie that being around vampires made her feel more normal.”

“I never thought of it that way.”

He looked at me, and he was still kicking my ass… Shit head. “You know, vampires feel more normal around her too. I can’t put my finger on why. As near as I can figure it’s because she can relax because she can’t hear our thoughts so she doesn’t have to worry about her shields. Most humans don’t approach us without reeking of anxiety. They usually have an agenda.”

I gave him a nod. “It makes sense, I guess. What kind of agendas?”

“Work, curiosity, wanting to be turned or just bitten, etcetera… etcetera.”

“Like you’re rock-stars or something?”

“Except that rock stars aren’t asked to kill their devotees, yes.”

“Shit, man. That’s gotta suck. How do you deal with it?”

He started laughing and it was just fucking creepy. “I make Pam work the door of the bar and I get to kick the assholes that try to touch me.”

I started laughing too. “That’s not fair! When does she get to have any fun?”

“I let her do it a few times until she nearly impaled a man with the heel on her shoe. She was unapologetic and more concerned with the blood on her shoes, turns out they were Fendi.”

I laughed so hard, I nearly pissed myself. And he beat me in another challenge! “I give up! I haven’t even gotten close to winning one.”

“But you make good practice meat… Come on Stackhouse! You have to know Vampires are superior. Here, I’ll help you out.”

That son of a bitch turned around on the couch and played without looking at the TV! AND he was STILL winning! “You suck.”

He turned and looked at me for a minute and then he busted out laughing. I did too once I realized I just told a vamp that he sucked. Har har.

He laughed hard enough that I almost had him beat. When he realized it, he pushed the down button and his character ducked down and I couldn’t land any good hits.

“Get up you stupid vampire so I can finish you!”

“What makes you think you could take me out?”

Sookie and Alcide had gotten back and came running back, to check on things, I guess.

Alcide snorted. “Shit Eric. I can’t trust you for a minute. I go to the grocery store and you’re already cheating on me!” They both started laughing as Alcide bounced over the back of the couch and sat next to Eric and took the controller from him.

Sookie patted mine and Eric’s shoulders. “Ok boys, I’m going to go get dinner started and put out some lunch.”

Eric looked back at her over his shoulder while Alcide finished the ass beating Eric stared. “You’re starting dinner this early? Can I help?”

“Sure. I’d like that.”  Both the guys got up to help, thank God. I was starting to hate that damn video game.

**

I stood up and stretched. “Hey Manen, Hunter, your folks are gonna go make lunch. Y’all wanna go show me that playground of yours while they’re busy?”

Alcide grumbled at them that they weren’t going anywhere until the legos were picked up.

The kids looked down at the floor like the job was too big so I had fun showing them how to use the lid to the bin like a snowplow to gather them up.

The kids strapped their shoes on and ran out the doors in the den without their jackets. I figured I get in trouble with Sook if they caught cold, so I went through the kitchen to grab them on the way out.

The three of them barely looked up at me when I went by. They were too busy playing around while they put away groceries.

**

Those were the biggest fucking jungle gyms I’d ever seen! Crazy big. I know for a fact that Reynard Parrish didn’t have anything that big ’cause I knew every acre of land from being on the road crew for so long.
Drawbridges, tunnels, swings, poles… 8 slides altogether.

Me and the kids ran around and played for a while. Just having fun.

It was weird to have a niece and nephew all a sudden. Not bad. Just weird.

With the shitty childhood Sookie had, I always wanted her to find a guy that loved her and would take care of her. Settling down had always been at the top of my list for both of us.

It might be fucking impossible for me to wrap my head around everything, but she found a guy that seems to love her and wants to take care of her. She found that times two. Even if the blood shit freaked me right out.

And now my baby sister has kids. Sure they’re second hand, but they’re cute as hell. And if she’s gonna marry a vampire, she’d a had a hell of a time convincing an adoption agency to give her a kid.

At least she was happy. Eric was right; Sookie don’t let nothing slide. That girl was a conniption fit just waiting for a place to happen. If she wasn’t happy, it’d be on the news.

**

I was pushing them on the swings before any of us said much more than ‘tag, you’re it’.

Manen asked me what I turn into.

“Uhhh… I’m bitten so I only get half way to a Panther.”

She gave me a dirty look. “I’m gonna run as a Cheetah tonight. Can you keep up?”

I laughed. She was a cocky little brat. “I’ll do my best… So how is it that you can shift so young?”

“I’m lucky.”

“Yeah. Yeah, you are. I hear most of y’all can shift until you’re teenagers.”

“Most of US, Uncle Jason. You’re a Shifter too.”

“Not really. I…”

“You’re just lazy. You’re not trying hard enough.”

Man! That kid was a cocky know-it-all… It made me wonder if she really was Sookie and Eric’s. I wasn’t about to argue with a kid though, so I let it go.

I’m pretty sure Hunter ‘heard’ me ’cause he giggled and gave me a look over his shoulder before he took over the conversation. “Did you know my mommy when she was a vampire?”

“Uhhhh, no. I hadn’t talked to her in a long time. Not since she moved from Bon Temps.”

“Why not?”

“Cause Hadley didn’t leave us a way to get in touch. I would’ve, you know, called her once in a while, just to check on her. I didn’t know about you or your dad or the vampire thing until the other night when I came over.”

“You and Momma were little when your parents died too.”

It didn’t really seem like a question. More like he was just thinking out loud. “Yeah. We weren’t much older than y’all.”

“You liked living with Gran though.”

“We did. We loved her more than anything, but it was hard. We still missed our parents. How are y’all holding up?”

Hunter shrugged. I guess his wounds were a little fresh and it was like Manen picked up on it, ’cause Chatty Kathy pulled her string again.

“My other mommy died a few months ago, so I’m more used to stuff.”

“What about your Dad?”

“He’s been dead a couple years. There was an accident where he worked. 4 guys died.”

“Wow…”

I’d never been so happy to be interrupted in all my life. When Alcide slid the back door open and hollered that lunch was ready, I felt like I could kiss him.

**

We were eating probably the best sandwiches I could remember (stuff always tastes better when someone else makes it) when Alcide dropped a bomb…

“Eric, did Sookie tell you she was thinking of getting a tattoo?”

Sookie lunged for the sink when she started choking on her drink and gave him a dirty as shit look. “Oh! You are SO going to pay later.”

Alcide sat there and laughed at her threat and I couldn’t figure out why Sookie’d be pissed unless she thought Eric was going to flip his lid.

Eric kinda loomed over her. “Tell me Lover, where were you thinking of putting this tattoo?”

“I was thinking about getting it low on my back. Really low.”

“And what were you thinking of for the design?”

“Something feminine. Flowers, maybe birds. I was going to let you and Alcide decide since I never check out my own butt.” Both of them? Well, that oughta start a fight.

Eric turned around. “Alcide, do you know of a place in the area?”

“Yeah. There’s a place just about 10 minutes from here. A guy in the pack owns it. He does great work. He’d be honored to do her.”

“Would the shop be open tonight?”

“Sure. I can call him to make sure he’s there to do it too.”

Eric smiled right before he blurred outta the room and came right back with a computer. I couldn’t believe my eyes… The two of them started shopping for her damn tattoo!

They sat next to each other at the bar and laughed at a few tattoos, they agreed that butterflies were trashy, tribal was cliché since she wasn’t in a tribe of any kind…

“Sookie, you’re really getting a tramp stamp?”

“Yes, Jason, it appears that I am.”

“I heard that they really hurt and they take a long time to heal.” I‘d been with plenty girls with tattoos and when I asked they told me all about how much they hurt.

She just grinned at me though. “I heard that too.”

I watched her go around and sit half way on BOTH their laps. And the three of them planned out her tattoo for a long time. They probably woulda sat there forever if the gate didn’t buzz. She left to ‘show them where to set up’.

**

Eric looked over at me, “You’re being very quiet, Stackhouse. Something on your mind?”

“I can’t believe she wants a tattoo is all.”

“Why not?”

“I heard ‘em compared to child birth.”

Alcide started laughing. “Jason! You’re sister can take an ass beating better than me! I’ve seen her so many kinds of fucked up… I bet you a grand she falls asleep from the sound of the machine.”

“You didn’t see her after Rene got to her.”

“I’ve seen her raped and drained by a vampire though.”

“What?”

Eric’s jaw clenched. “Bill.”

“That Mother FUCKER!”

Alcide nudged Eric. “Why was it that you didn’t kill him then?”

“Because she was still claiming to be his. Unfortunately, he had the right to do whatever the fuck he wanted to her.”

“She wasn’t his in my apartment the night before.”

“Or in Russell’s house.”

Alcide started laughing. “That bitch is dangerous! She could straighten Russell out. Hell, she almost did that too.”

I gotta admit I was kinda lost. Eric just shook his head. “Cat nip for Supes…”

I was about to ask them what they were talking about, when Sook came back in.

**

She called after the kids and told them that they needed to rest up for tonight and I watched the kids give all three of their ‘parents’ kisses and hugs… and then me before they ran out to the den again.

Then Sookie got my attention. “Jason, you should go sack out on the couch for a while too.”

She wasn’t gonna get any argument outta me. I coulda gone to sleep after breakfast.

The kids were already settled into one couch. Their eyes were shut but they weren’t out yet.

The TV was on the Disney Channel and I managed to stay awake just long enough to decide Zack and Cody were dumber than me.

**

I woke up to the sound of damn near a party in the kitchen and the smell of chicken frying.

It was nearly 5…

The kitchen was full. Standing room only, pretty much. Febes, Dozer and Tray were there and a couple guys Alcide introduced me to while I ate my piece of stolen chicken. Chip and Azo.

Sookie was slinging drinks and Eric was helping her cook again. I nearly choked at the look on Pam’s face when she came around the corner and saw Eric spooning out chili like he was volunteering at a soup kitchen. It was probably the same look I had this morning.

When that other vampire woke up, Sookie did the whole ‘Angela, you remember my brother’ thing. So while Manen was cheating at thumb wrestling, I decided to track her down.

After she drank a couple bottles of blood, I watched her go through a door under the back stairs so I followed her.

When she answered the door she actually looked scared of me.

“Hey. I’m gonna bet you remember how I acted the other night better than I do.”

“Safe bet.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I told you the other night that it was no big deal.”

“The other night I was drunk. I just wanted to let you know that I’m sorry about it when no one is ordering me to be. K?”

She smiled a little. “Okay. Thank you.”

“You alright? I was over the other night when there was some trouble, but I passed out before everybody got back. I think I was annoying Pam and she glamoured me.”

She laughed. “Sounds like Pam. I’m alright. I need to get ready though. Pam and I are taking Hunter out while Manen runs.”

“That’s nice. So he doesn’t feel left out, huh?”

She nodded. “That’s the idea.”

I told her to have fun and went ahead and left her alone. She was acting skittish and I couldn’t remember how bad I’d acted the other night. No wonder Sookie didn’t talk to me any more often than she does.

**

I got back to the kitchen just in time for Alcide to come in to fetch me and Manen. It felt like we walked forever, but me and Tray and the four guards followed Alcide out to the back end of the clearing the house was sitting on.

Manen was so excited, I could feel it. The guards were just doubtful.

Alcide set her down and everyone looked at her like she had three heads or something. “Alright girlie, did you figure out what you’re doing tonight?”

She had a big ole shit eating grin on when she nodded.

“Well what are you waiting for?”

She started kicking off her shoes and pulling off her clothes. She didn’t even make a lot of the noise that happens when she turned. It didn’t even seem like it took her long enough. But before I could blink, I was looking down at a fucking cheetah. Sure as a shit. That little girl was fucking awesome.

Alcide just gave the rest of us an ‘I told you so’ look and started kicking off his shoes and yanking his shirt over his head. The rest of us went ahead and turned. I had a hard time. It hurt, but I was surprised I could do it at all. The full moon had been it for me so far.

Everyone waited for me since they could turn faster and Manen was pacing in and out of the trees.

Then we were off. Alcide let her take the lead and gave her some room. All of us sat at the base of a tree and watched her climb up until we couldn’t see her. It was amazing.

When we got out near the pond, I got the feeling that we weren’t alone anymore. I stopped while everyone moved ahead. Dozer had joked after we changed back this morning that I had radar.

It wasn’t as strong when I was shifted, but I still had it. When I figured out what and where things were, I caught up to Manen.

I crouched down next to her and pointed in the right direction and put 6 cuts in the dirt with my claw so she’d know how many. It was fucking crazy, but she smiled at me. In cheetah form. She smiled right before she tore off in the right direction moving so fast that Febes was the only other cat with us. By the time us guys had all caught up to her, Manen was on top of a buck. She had her teeth sunk into its neck and she gave it a shake, snapping his neck. Even if I could talk, I woulda been speechless. I had a $3000 rifle at home that couldn’t have taken that buck down so fast.

That little girl managed to bag a royal on her first run. Fucking awesome.

I was glad I went. Not just because I got to see Manen in action, I was the only one that coulda carried the damn thing back to the house since the rest of them weren’t upright.

**

Everyone else went home after the run, so me, Alcide and Manen went our separate ways to get a shower. That damn buck bled out all the way down my side.

Manen had dragged a chair out into the yard and was sitting over it by the time me and Alcide were cleaned up. She was waiting with the camera so that she could take pictures of the stripping even though Febes had taken a bunch of pictures before the rest of us turned back. It was cute.

Alcide gave me a look. “You got any idea how to field dress a deer?”

I laughed at him. I couldn’t help it. “You don’t know?”

“2 words. Butcher counter.”

I laughed the whole time I was in the house getting stuff, and all the way back out.

“Salt, trash bags, rope and a knife? That’s what you need?”

“She wants it for dinner tomorrow night, you gotta start tenderizing it now. Unless you got a bone saw, this’ll do.”

“Alright, MacGyver. What are we doing?”

I shook my head at him and dropped everything over by the spigot and dragged the deer over. He really didn’t know how to clean the damn thing so I just had him help move the thing around while I pulled the cuts away.

I listened to him bragging on Manen when Eric called to check in. When Manen started looking like she was gonna fall asleep in the chair, he sent her to bed and she gave us both hugs and kisses before she drug her sleepy butt in the house.

“She’s the coolest fucking little girl I ever met.”

He laughed at me. “Impressive is an understatement. I’ve never seen anything like her. How’d you know about the mob?”

“I could kinda just sense them.”

“Nice. They were downwind. The rest of us didn’t know they were there until she had him.”

“It was the coolest fucking thing I ever saw.”

He laughed and helped me flip the deer over so I could work on the other side.

After a while I figured I’d ask him about the other night.

“Hey, how bad was I the other night at Cheap Seats?”

“What do you mean?”

“I tried telling Angela I was sorry when I meant it. You know, not when Eric was freaking me out with that fucking stare of his. She acted like she was scared of me. How big an ass was I being?”

He didn’t say anything for a minute, so I was starting to freak out… “It isn’t anything you did. You just made a few passes. Thursday night when you came over and we all took off… She was attacked.”

“You mean like… mugged?”

“I mean like raped.”

Holy shit. I dropped the knife. “Fuck! I went and cornered her in her room trying to apologize! How bad?”

“She’ll be alright. I’ll talk to her. The house was full of strangers. She’s probably going to be a bit freaked out for the next few days with all the company.”

“Shit. Poor thing.”

“Yeah… You staying over tonight?”

“Nah. I should head home when this is done. I’ll take the carcass with me. With all the Weres and Vamps gonna be here, you don’t want it sitting around. I can burn it out at my place. I’ll strip the rack for Manen.”

“Oh, she’ll love the shit out of that. You hunt a lot?”

“Not so much anymore. I started hunting with my Dad. I got my first rifle for my 6th birthday.”

“We never brought anything home when we ran. Suburbs.”

I laughed. “I guess it’d be hard to explain to the neighbors why you drug home a gored critter.”

“You could say that.”

“Something to be said for country living, I guess.”

**

It didn’t take too much longer to finish up, so I headed home. I was tired as hell and needed to sleep in my own bed.

I barely managed to stay awake for the drive and when I got home, I set up the bonfire.

I put my trash out.

I ran a load of laundry.

I grabbed a beer.

I sat down in my deck chair with a lot to think about.

That was the last thing I remember.

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Chapter 24

  1. Kristie Yamber says:

    Jason ever the clever one. He got along famously with his brothers-in-law, he will fit in just fine my best kristie

  2. loveallsvmtb says:

    You could almost hear Jason’s growing pains. you can tell he’s trying. I love it each time i read it.

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