It was just after three later that day when Sookie woke and dragged herself out of bed. After taking a quick shower, Sookie lathered herself in her favorite body lotion, pulled on a pair of black lace panties and matching bra, and then slid on a short purple dress. She knew the outfit would probably give Alcide the wrong idea. She refused to dress down and cover herself up just because he couldn’t get it through his thick skull that she wasn’t interested in him. Slipping her feet into a pair of black sandals, Sookie tied the laces around her ankles and made her way out of her room.
The sound of movement in the kitchen drew her attention so she lowered her shields to see who it might be. A smile spread across her face as she recognized the mind and she hurried down the stairs to her kitchen.
“Granddaddy Earl,” she cried as she laid eyes on her favorite grandparent. “What’re you doin‘ here?”
“Don’t let your Gran hear you say that,” Earl replied, hearing Sookie’s thought about her favorite grandparent. “Do I need a reason to stop by and visit my favorite granddaughter?”
“Don’t let Hadley hear you say that,” Sookie countered as she closed the short distance between them and hugged him. “Of course not. You know I always love to see you.”
“Your Gran dotes on Hadley enough for all of us,” Earl said, returning Sookie’s hug before taking a seat at the kitchen table. Earl loved all his grandchildren, even Hadley, but he wasn’t blinded by her as Adele was. He saw Hadley for what she was and refused to pander to her childish whims, something Hadley herself hated. She was so used to getting her own way she didn’t like it when Earl’s answer to her was “No.” Earl’s refusal to treat Hadley like an innocent little angel had caused more than one argument between him and Adele.
Earl’s return two and half years earlier had caused quite the commotion and upset Hadley’s spoiled life.
Two and a half years earlier.
Her car had barely come to a stop when Sookie was unbuckling her seatbelt and throwing the door open. The phone call she had received not an hour earlier had put the fear of God into her and she was desperate to get into the house to make sure her Gran was okay. Things were still not right between them after their argument six months earlier. Sookie refused to back down and rehire Hadley, and Adele refused to admit she was wrong in demanding Sookie do so.
Jumping out the car, Sookie started to run up to the porch when another car pulled up behind her. Pausing mid step, Sookie looked over her shoulder and watched as her brother climbed out of his squad car.
“Jason!” Sookie cried as her brother made his way to her. She could tell from his worried thoughts he had gotten the same call she had.
“Gran called you, too?” Jason asked, giving her a quick hug before making his way to the front door.
“Yeah,” Sookie answered, hot on his heels. “She called me ’bout fifty minutes ago. She was all upset and demandin‘ I come right over.”
“Same ‘ere,” Jason said over his shoulder as he opened the front door. “Told me to get over ‘ere right away.” Stepping into the house, Jason raced into the living room, “Gran!” He hollered, his heart pounding in his chest in fear of what he might find.
“We are in here, honey,” Adele called out, her voice hoarse.
Racing forward, Sookie froze as she stepped into the kitchen, her eyes widening in shock at the sight that greeted her.
“Sook, what is it?” Jason asked from one step behind her.
“Granddaddy Earl?!” Sookie whispered, the words coming out as a question while she questioned what her own eyes were seeing. She couldn’t be seeing what she thought she did. There was no way her dead grandfather was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee, and talking to his wife. That wasn’t possible.
“Sook, what…” Jason trailed off as he entered the kitchen and saw the exact same thing. “What the fuck?!” he said, recovering first and taking a step into the kitchen.
“Jason Stackhouse, you watch your mouth!” Adele snapped. “I will not have you using foul language in my house.”
Jason’s eyes widened as he turned his head and stared at his Gran. “Watch my mouth?!” He replied as his tone kept rising in pitch while his eyes darted between his grandparents. “Ya’ll are sittin‘ next to Granddaddy Earl like he ain’t been dead for twenty years and ya havin‘ a go at me ‘causa’ my language? Fuck that shit…” Pulling his weapon out quicker than any of them could see, Jason pointed the gun at Earl and rested his finger against the trigger. “Who the fuck are ya?!”
“Jason, you put that gun away right this instance,” Adele said, a hand going to her chest as she stood up.
“Hell fuckin‘ no,” Jason retorted, moving slowly to the side so he had a better shot. “I ain’t puttin’ shit away ‘til this chump stain tells us who the fuck he is and what he wants.”
“He’s your grandfather,” Adele said heatedly, not liking Jason refusing to do as she said.
“No, he ain’t…
“Do you think I don’t know my own husband when I see him!” Adele snapped. “He is Earl. I know he is…”
“I think that heart attack done fucked with ya mind,” Jason replied. “Granddaddy Earl is dead… and if he wasn’t he’d be in his seventies now, not lookin‘ like he did when he disappeared twenty years ago.”
“Don’t you talk to me like that…” Adele trailed off as Earl placed a hand on her arm and stood up.
Earl eyed the gun carefully as he moved around the table. His movements were slow and measured as he approached his only grandson. “It’s me, Jason,” he said, his voice low and even.
“No!” Jason denied, tightening his grip on the gun. “He’s dead!”
A stab of pain shot through Earl at Jason’s words and he cursed those who had kept him away from his family for so long. It wasn’t fair to them or him, and it certainly wasn’t right. “I know you all thought that, and I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to leave you all and I definitely didn’t mean to stay away for so long…”
“You’re not him!” Jason shouted, pushing the gun against Earl’s chest. “So stop pretendin‘ ya are.”
“When you were a little boy I used to take you fishing at the lake by your parents’ house…”
“Everyone knew that,” Jason said, cutting him off.
“Yes, but not everyone knew that when you were eight you decided the best way to catch the fish was to just jump in the water and use your hands,” Earl continued, recalling one of his fishing trips with his grandson. “I was just setting up the lines when you came running down the dock me and your Daddy built and dived into the water…” Earl smiled as he pictured the blond-haired little boy running down toward the lake, his face lit up with happiness. “Only as you dived in you accidently caught one of the fishing rods and pulled it in with you and broke it…”
Jason trembled as he remembered the incident Earl was talking about and tears welled in his eyes. “It was Daddy’s favorite rod and I thought he’d be so angry at me for breakin’ it. So… So…” he trailed off, overcome with emotion.
“So I told you it would be our little secret and I’d tell your Daddy that I broke it,” Earl finished for him. “And I never told anyone about that until today…”
Jason’s hand shook as he lowered the gun and tears spilled from his eyes. “Gra…” he stuttered before turning his head slightly towards his sister. “ Sook?” He asked, seeking confirmation.
“It’s him, Jason,” Sookie said softly, tears streaming down her face as she stared at her brother and grandfather. She had been just as shocked to see Earl as Jason was, and had silently questioned his real identity. Like Jason, Sookie hadn’t believed he was really Earl Stackhouse, even with all she knew and had seen, she didn’t believe that he had simply come back after twenty years of being dead. She had been content to let Jason question him verbally, using her own skills to try and discover the truth while he did. It had only taken a quick dip inside his head for Sookie to realize that the man was, in fact, Earl Mitchell Stackhouse but even though his mind had told her that she had still hung onto her suspicious. She knew better than most the way a mind could lie. It wasn’t until she listened to him tell Jason about their fishing trip did she really believe it was true. She had watched the scene play out in both their minds, but with subtle differences. Jason’s memory had been childlike; he remembered the thrill of jumping off the dock, the chill of the water as he hit it, and the upset he felt as he realized he had broken his Daddy’s fishing rod. Earl had remembered the fear he felt when Jason jumped into the water and got tangled in the line. Earl remembered it from an adult’s perspective.
“But… how?” Jason asked, re-holstering his gun before wrapping his arms around his grandfather and hugging him for the first time in twenty years.
“It’s a long story,” Earl answered, laughing as he returned Jason’s hug. Pulling back, he smiled at Jason before turning to face Sookie, “Look at you all grown up,” he said, taking a step toward her. “You’re not the little girl who used to follow me around anymore,” he added as he closed the distance and pulled her into his arms before she had a chance to reply. “You’ve grown into a beautiful young woman, Sookie.”
None of them missed Hadley’s snort of displeasure, but they all chose to ignore it, choosing instead to focus on the happiness of Earl’s return.
Once they had all gotten over the initial shock of Earl’s sudden reappearance, they had all sat down and had a nice tear-filled, accusation-flying, long chat. Earl had explained how he had been trapped in the Faery realm for the last twenty years, although to him it only felt like an hour, and how an old friend had rescued him, returning him home. Once he got his explanation out of the way, Earl had turned his full attention onto his family and wanted to know everything that had gone on in his absence. He had been heartbroken to hear about the deaths of both his children and daughter-in-law, and without having to be told he knew the same faction of faeries that had taken him were responsible for at least the deaths of Corbett and Michelle. His heartbreak had given way to shock, then anger when he heard how Adele had thrown Sookie out of his house for firing Hadley from a job she didn’t even want. He had railed against Adele, criticizing her for putting one grandchild above the other. Things had been tense between them all for months after his return. Earl had refused to pander to Hadley the same way Adele did and even forced his lazy, selfish granddaughter to get a job and pay her own way instead of relying on her grandmother.
“Now more than ever,” Sookie snorted, thinking about Hadley’s latest stunt to try and wheedle her way into an easy life and keeping Adele’s attention.
Earl just smiled and said nothing. There wasn’t anything he really could say. He knew Sookie was speaking the truth. Adele had been showering Hadley with affection and her attention more so lately than ever. She even asked Hadley to move back into the farmhouse with the two of them, something that Earl had quickly vetoed. He had kicked Hadley out of the house six months after he returned, despite Adele’s objections. As far as he was concerned, if Jason and Sookie could have places of their own and stand on their own two feet, so could Hadley. He had found her a little apartment, paid the first and last month’s rent for her and that was it. He didn’t mind helping out any of his grandchildren from time to time, but he wouldn’t support them full time.
Sookie patted Earl on the shoulder before moving toward her coffee maker and pouring herself a cup of coffee. “Not that I’m not pleased to see you, Granddaddy, but why’re you here?”
Earl nodded at Sookie as she handed him the cup of coffee before making herself one. “I wanted to know if you’ve seen Warlow lately,” he told her as he sweetened his drink.
“Not lately. Last time I saw him was ’bout four months ago,” Sookie replied, recalling the last time she’d seen her faery-vampire hybrid godfather. “I spoke to him a couple of weeks back; he’s in Eastern Europe enjoyin‘ the hospitality of the Queen of Estonia.”
“Did he say when he’s going to be back?” Earl asked casually.
“No,” Sookie answered, her eyes narrowing in suspicion as she stared at her grandfather. “Why? Is there something wrong?”
“No,” Earl said quickly, trying to allay any fears Sookie might be having. “There’s nothing wrong…”
“Granddaddy…” Sookie’s accent thickened as she drawled out the word; her concern was clear to see on her face.
“Honestly, honey, there’s nothing wrong… At least not at the moment.”
“You think there could be soon?” Sookie queried.
“I’m a telepath, Sookie, not a psychic,” Earl replied jokingly, trying to lighten the tension that had descended over them. He hadn’t meant to worry Sookie and he truthfully didn’t know if anything was going to happen. It wasn’t as if he could see the future, but given the current conditions of his granddaughter and granddaughter-in-law, he wanted to err on the side of caution by getting his old friend and rescuer to check it out.
“You want Warlow to check out Portia and Hadley to see if they’re alright?” Sookie questioned, confusion coloring her tone as she took the thoughts straight from his mind.. “Why? They’re both…” she trailed off as the answer came to her and she let out a small groan. “Of course. I can get in touch with him later and ask him to help,” she promised before Earl even had to ask. “It shouldn’t be a problem. Portia won’t mind and Hadley… Well, Hadley will as she’s not a big fan of vampires, or Warlow in particular…”
Sookie couldn’t help but smile as she recalled her cousin throwing herself at the handsome faery-vampire hybrid and Warlow repeatedly knocking her back, much to Hadley’s embarrassment. Hadley wasn’t used to men not falling over themselves to be with her so it was quite the ego blow to her to have an ancient and powerful man like Warlow dismiss her so easily…especially when he showed so much interest in Sookie.
“Thank you,” Earl said sincerely, happy that Sookie was well-connected. Unlike Adele, and despite his occasional joke to the contrary, Earl didn’t have a favorite grandchild. He didn’t dote on one at the expense of the others, but he couldn’t deny that out of the three of them he was most proud of Sookie. She had found her place in the Supernatural world and made her name on her own. He didn’t approve of all the things she did and he questioned some of her behavior, but he couldn’t refute the fact that she fit right into the world in which she now walked. She had always been a part of that world, even if she didn’t know it. The faery blood running through her veins and her telepathy saw to that, but unlike others, him included, she had made a home for herself in it. She didn’t straddle the line between the Supernatural world and the human one. She walked in both and she did it with her head held high.
“You’re welcome,” she replied.
After catching up on the local gossip with her grandfather, Sookie had enjoyed a quiet meal with him before unfortunately having to cut their time together short due to her meeting. After promising Earl she would drop by for dinner at the farmhouse soon, Sookie hugged her grandfather and bade him farewell before climbing into her new car and heading to Bon Temps.
Why Alcide had requested to meet at Merlotte’s, Sookie didn’t know. It would’ve been easier for them all to meet in Shreveport; not only was her offices and home there, but Alcide also had a place there. There was no need for them all to be driving an hour out of the way, but Alcide had insisted. Normally Sookie would’ve refused, but this gave her a reason to visit with Jason and Portia.
Pulling into Merlotte’s about an hour later, Sookie killed the engine and climbed out of her car. She let out a sigh as she looked up at the old bar. It seemed like a lifetime ago now when she worked as a waitress at the place. The greatest thing she ever did was quit. It would’ve been so easy for her to have fallen into a routine and not chase after something better. Adele and Hadley had certainly not encouraged her… Adele had gone so far as to ask Sam if she could have her job back two days after she quit, but Sookie had stuck to her guns and searched for something better. It had taken a few years and setbacks, but she had achieved her goals.
Grabbing her purse, Sookie slammed her car door shut and locked it before strolling to the entrance. All eyes turned to her as she entered the bar and she smiled and waved at a few familiar faces before making her way to a booth to wait for Alcide.
“What’re you doin‘ here?” A harsh voice asked, and Sookie smiled as she turned her head and looked up at the scowling face of her waitress.
“Hadley,” Sookie greeted with barely concealed mirth as she ran her eyes over her cousin, her eyes lingering briefly at the bump just beginning to show. “I’m meetin‘ a client,” she continued, answering her question.
“Humph,” Hadley huffed, crossing her arms over her too tight, white Merlotte’s shirt. “Well, ya needn’t think I’m gonna serve ya.”
“Hadley, I wouldn’t think you’d serve anyone; that’d mean you’d actually have to do some work,” Sookie replied dryly. “And we both know you’re incapable of that.”
A look of anger flashed across Hadley’s face and she clenched her fist as she dropped her arms to her sides. “I can too,” she said childishly, glowering at Sookie as she stomped her foot. “I‘m a good waitress. I just won’t serve selfish, ungrateful trash like you.”
“You really should read something other than phone numbers off the bathroom walls and actually learn what those words mean before throwing them around,” a cool voice cut in, startling Hadley. “Because if you did know, you would realize they applied to you, not your cousin.”
“Portia,” Sookie greeted warmly as she smiled up at her sister-in-law. “I was hopin‘ to see you while I was here.”
“I’m not selfish or ungrateful,” Hadley interjected before Portia had a chance to reply. “You’re both just jealous ’cause Gran loves me the most.” Hadley sneered at the two women before stomping away and sitting at the bar.
“She is still as delusional as ever, I see,” Portia snorted as she slipped into the other side of the booth.
“She wouldn’t be Hadley if she wasn’t,” Sookie replied as she flagged down a waitress and ordered a drink. “I didn’t realize she would be workin‘ tonight… or at all, given her condition. I figured she would’ve quit by now.”
“She did try, but Earl made it quite clear that she couldn’t move back into the farmhouse, and the father refuses to support her financially until after the baby is born and he is sure it’s his,” Portia told her, filling her in on the gossip that Earl failed to mention.
Sookie frowned as she cast her gaze over to Hadley. “I didn’t think there was any doubt about who the father is,” she said, eyeing her cousin curiously before turning back to her sister-in-law. “I mean she’s told everybody who it is; I know normally that wouldn’t mean much, but this time she’s tellin‘ the truth… I mean she did it on purpose so she should know,” she added, voicing what she had learned shortly after her cousin had announced her pregnancy.
“She did it on purpose,” Portia repeated, her brow furrowing in confusion.
“Yes,” Sookie replied with a nod of her head. Seeing Portia’s confused look, Sookie let out a soft sigh as she added, “She was scared…”
“Of what?” Portia asked, cutting in. She knew if her grandmother would’ve heard her interrupting people she wouldn’t have been happy. Then again, little she did pleased her grandmother, ‘Miss Caroline’ Bellefleur. The matriarch of the Bellefleur family had nothing but contempt for the decisions Portia made. She still didn’t approve of her marriage to Jason and was waiting for Portia to ‘come to her senses’ as she put it, despite the fact that they had been married nearly fifteen years.
“Of that,” Sookie said, gesturing to Portia’s very obvious baby bump with a flick of her finger.
“She’s scared of my baby?” Portia asked, rubbing a hand over her bump protectively.
“Not so much of the baby, but of what it might mean to her,” Sookie replied, a small smile curling her lips as she thought about her nephew or niece. “Hadley was afraid Gran would shower her love and attention on the first great-grandchild, so…”
“She got herself pregnant?!”
“Yeah. I picked the thoughts up outta her head a few weeks back,” Sookie said before reaching for her drink and taking a sip. “She figured if she could give Gran a grandchild first she’ll keep her place as her favorite, and then she and the baby will be spoiled… She hasn’t actually realized that your baby will be born first yet.”
“How can she not realize that?” Portia asked genuinely bewildered. She wasn’t Hadley’s biggest fan and she questioned her intelligence nearly every time they met, but even Hadley couldn’t honestly think she would have her baby first when Portia was two months further along than her.
“I have no idea what goes through her mind half the time,” Sookie admitted truthfully. “And I can read it.” Sookie shook her head at the bizarreness of her own words. If someone would have told her six years ago, she’d be sitting in Merlotte’s with her pregnant sister-in-law openly talking about her telepathy, she would’ve called them a liar and then told them they were crazy.
Six years ago, she would’ve been the one waitressing, trying to avoid the friendlier customer’s hands and ignore the puppy dog looks Sam gave her. So much had changed in six years and the vampires coming out of the coffins had been the catalyst for it all.
Vampires revealing themselves to the public had shown Sookie that she wasn’t alone, that she wasn’t the only one who was different. She no longer thought of herself as a freak among humans. If vampires existed, then it stood to reason other kinds of creatures did too, and maybe her abilities were normal after all…not normal to humans, but normal to the Supernatural. She wasn’t a freak or cursed… She was gifted!
It was shortly after the Great Revelation, as the media was calling it, that Sookie discovered the truth about Sam’s otherness. Sookie had been slightly hurt to find that Sam was different as well, not because he was a shifter, but because he hadn’t trusted her enough to share his secret. Sam had known about her telepathy before she even started working at Merlotte’s. He knew she was different; that she sometimes struggled with it, thinking she was alone, yet he had still chosen to say nothing. He had let her think she was a freak among humans, instead of telling her of the other Supes who walked the Earth.
Sam’s reasoning of ’it was never talked about,’ or ‘he didn’t know how she would take it,’ were weak at best. For reasons known only to him, he had chosen to keep her in the dark. At the start Sookie had still decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. She knew better than most the importance of keeping things only to one’s self. She hadn’t been happy when she found out that the dog that hung around the farmhouse, the one she fed scraps to and sometimes let sleep in her room was Sam in his shifter form, and she had told him in no uncertain terms if he ever tried anything like that again she would take him to the vet and have him neutered.
It was the vampires revealing themselves that had finally led to Sookie quitting her job at Merlotte’s. Sam’s reaction to the Revelation and his feelings about vampires, and other supes, had been quite the eye opener to Sookie about what kind of man employed her. She couldn’t believe different species themselves could be so bigoted and prejudiced. Sam’s almost daily rants on the evils of vampires were tiring on the best of days, but when he questioned Sookie’s intelligence and outright called her stupid for not hating an entire race of Supes as he did, she had enough. She had quit her job, throwing her apron in his face, and stormed out. At the time it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but looking back it was certainly the best thing she did.
“So there is no doubt Bobby is the father then?” Portia asked, drawing Sookie’s attention back to her.
“Unfortunately not,” Sookie answered, grimacing at the thought of Bobby Burnham. “As much as I would like for someone else, anyone else, to be the father of her baby, it’s definitely his. Hadley hasn’t been with anyone but him since they started up together six months ago. She does have real feelings for him, it’s just a shame Bobby is such an arrogant bastard…”
“Does he have any feelings for her?” Portia asked. “Stupid question,” she added before Sookie had the chance to reply. Having spent time with Bobby, Portia already knew the answer to it. The man was, as Sookie said, an arrogant bastard. Bobby was the grandson of an old friend of her grandmother’s and Miss Caroline had introduced them eight months ago, hoping to show Portia that she was much better suited to Bobby, an accountant at a big firm, than a local deputy like Jason.
Bobby had been as fake and smarmy as he could be, trying to flatter her with insincere compliments and kissing up to her rich grandmother. It had taken Portia all of five minutes to see through his act, and she had let both him and her grandmother know what she thought of them. Jason might not have been someone her grandmother approved of, but she loved him more than anything. They had a good life together and she would be damned if she gave it up just to please Caroline Bellefleur’s stuck-up ideals.
“He doesn’t,” Sookie answered anyway. “At least not ones that mean he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. He does like her, but only enough to have some sailor fun with her,” the words felt bitter on her tongue and she spat them out. Sookie was by no means Hadley’s biggest fan, but even she hated the way Bobby treated her.
“Maybe we can get Jason to arrest him for something,” Portia said only half joking.
“Arrest who?” Jason asked, overhearing her as he neared the table. He smiled at his sister before bending down and kissing his wife as he placed a hand on her belly.
“No one important,” Sookie lied, knowing full well that given the chance Jason would happily arrest Bobby for something. He hated him more than anything with his constant hitting on Portia.
“Sure, Sook,” Jason drawled, seeing right through her lie. Jason was the one person who could always see through her lies, just like she could see through his without the use of her telepathy. The two of them had formed an unbreakable bond when their parents died. With Adele’s idolization of Hadley, the two of them often had to rely on each other growing up and it made them closer than any other siblings they knew. When they were children, it was common knowledge that if you fucked with one Stackhouse, you fucked with the other. The two of them had been inseparable, getting into more trouble than Bon Temps had ever seen. “So whatcha doin‘ ‘ere t’night, Sook? You hate comin‘ ‘ere where the jackass is,” he added, jerking a thumb at Sam, who stood glaring at them from behind the bar.
“Business,” Sookie replied, nodding her head toward the entrance where Alcide had just passed through. She frowned slightly as she looked at the group accompanying him; his father, Jackson Herveaux, his girlfriend, Rikki Naylor, the Pack enforcer Jannalynn Hopper, and his ex-wife, Debbie Pelt. As far as she knew she was only supposed to be meeting with Alcide, so the back-up he brought gave her pause.
“Right. We’ll leave ya to it, Sook,” Jason said, eyeing the approaching Werewolves as he offered a hand to his wife and helped her out of the booth. “Holla if ya need us,” he added as Alcide reached the table.
“I will,” Sookie said before turning her attention to Alcide as he slid into the booth opposite her. She made no attempt to move further into the booth on her side. She wouldn’t allow them to cage her in, which from the looks Jannalynn and Rikki were giving her was the plan. She bit back a smile as she saw Debbie climb over the back of the booth and sit down next to her.
“Sookie,” Alcide greeted, shooting Debbie an unhappy look as she settled the other side of Sookie.
“Alcide,” Sookie replied simply, waiting for him to tell her what he wanted this time.