A/N: This is set about a year after the finale. Hope you enjoy!
Jason died on a Tuesday. A drunk driver flew through the red light at the corner of Maple and Third, crashing into Jason's car with such speed that the car was pushed a good fifteen feet off the highway into the bordering forest. It wrapped itself around a tree, the dusty truck barely recognizable among the birch and oak carnage. The paramedics assured myself and Brigette that he'd been killed on impact, as if that somehow made it better. As if it would erase the image of my brother and Brigette's husband's car wrapped around the tree trunk like one of those slap bracelets.
After all the death I'd seen in Bon Temps, I'd developed a relatively thick skin to it all, but Brigette wasn't from here. Alaska might have been cold but it escaped the mess of the Hep-V outbreak, not to mention the laundry list of other horrors that descended on Bon Temps. On Jason. It almost seemed comical that he'd survived everything else – crazed vampires, Mary Ann, the Fellowship - but not a drunk driver. It was such a normal way to die that it seemed out of place.
Brigette cried immediately after hearing the news and she didn't stop for three days. I stayed with her at the house, Jason's presence everywhere. I cleaned out most of his stuff and put it in the hallway closet that held the coats and scarves for winter. In the middle of summertime, the closet was barely used. I cooked meals and scrubbed the kitchen. The kids didn't quite understand what happened, and when Brigette's strangled attempts at explaining why their daddy wasn't home didn't work I went ahead and handled that, too.
I liked keeping busy. It distracted me from the reality that I lost the last bit of family I had on this Earth, save for my daughter Charlie, but she always felt like something different. A watermark on those old memories, reminding me that no matter how deeply I wished at times that things could be as they were, they never would be. And just as I couldn't bring back the people I lost in my former life with Antebellum plantations and vampire politics, I couldn't bring Jason back, either.
And so, I kept busy. I fiddled with this and toyed with that, working myself to the point of distraction because I knew if I stopped for even a second I'd lose control, and I wasn't certain I could regain it once I did.
But, eventually, Brigette gathered her strength – furiously chiding herself for lacking it in the first place – and I returned home with Charlie who visibly missed the rambunctious presence of her cousins. I had to admit that I missed it, too. My house never really seemed the same since Gran passed all those years ago – it always felt too quiet, especially at night, save for the short time when Charlie's father Mark lived with us.
But then he left on Charlie first birthday, leaving nothing but a hastily written note on the kitchen table telling me that having a family was too much for him. I burned the letter over the stove, feeling nothing as the yellow paper burned blue and then red.
The house felt even emptier now, which was ridiculous since Jason hadn't lived there for a good ten years. I put on one of my rattier pair of pajamas and put Charlie to bed, taking the baby monitor down to the living room with me. I poured myself a tall glass of wine and curled up on the couch, turning on the television. I cranked the volume up to fill the silence.
I flipped through the channels, barely even noticing what was on the screen, but then I caught a familiar voice. I went back to the last channel, a surprised chuckle falling out of my mouth when I saw Eric Northman sitting across from Larry King, the latter watching Eric thoughtfully as the tall Viking spoke.
"We are very excited to share this new and improved line of New Blood with the world," Eric said smoothly. "As you might know, research has shown in recent months that a vampire's quality of life can improve immensely through the right nutrients. Before, when vampires fed from the source directly, we didn't need to worry about getting enough nutrients. But synthetic blood changed that."
"Why would you say that?" Larry King said, leaning forward emphatically as he spoke. I wondered for a moment if Eric had glamour-ed his way into the interview, but I knew that New Blood found success in its own right over the last several years. I still remember when I caught those first infomercials late at night with his cheesy smile and Pam's obvious distaste for the entire charade. They'd done well for themselves afterwards.
"While synthetic blood has many invaluable benefits it does have its drawbacks. In its mass production, the nutrients were stripped from the blood. For years we have been missing key nutrients, but not anymore. I am proud to announce that New Blood is now fortified with Vitamin A, C, E and a touch of folic acid."
"No vitamin D, I'm guessing?" Larry King joked.
Eric laughed heartily and said, "No vitamin D."
I couldn't take my eyes off of him. He looked exactly like I remembered him, but that wasn't surprising. Vampires didn't age. He was wearing a grey suit with a crisp white shirt underneath. It was open at the neck, displaying his milky white, unmarred neck. I still remembered when I saw the dark veins there, my heart slamming against my chest as I faced losing another person I cared about. I hadn't truly realized how much he meant to me until that moment. Faced with a life without him, I'd found it difficult to breath.
I watched the rest of the interview, not really processing anything that was said, but taking comfort in the familiar lilt of his voice. He'd look into the camera and I could swear he was looking right at me.
Get it together Sookie, I told myself. He wasn't looking at me . This probably wasn't even airing live.
The interview came to an end and I scrambled for the changer, pausing the interview just in time to capture Eric's face on my television. He had one of those faces that always looked good – even mid blink. I sat there for a moment, staring at his face and wondering how it managed to make me feel better. A simple freeze frame shouldn't have this much hold on me.
I forced myself to press play again and the camera swooped back to Larry King who did his usual sign off before the television cut to some commercial about male performance aids.
When someone close to you dies, your house is no longer your own. It becomes a place of mourning, a place where well-wishers and do-gooders come with their tuna casseroles and condolences, and all you can do is stand there, nod and smile, thanking everyone for their support when all you want to do is slam the door in their faces. But you can't do that. Society and basic manners won't allow it.
I did the next best thing and used my daughter as an excuse. I told them all that Charlie got restless cooped up in the house, and I took her to the playground. It was the only one in Bon Temps, and as I pushed her on the swings – her chubby legs kicking at the air – I thought to myself how often Jason and I had gone here when we were little. I always went on the swings and he ran around the perimeter of the playground, pretending to fight off aliens. One would always end up coming after me and he'd tug on the chain of my swing, yelling, "They're coming for you, Sook! You gotta run!"
I'd end up running with him around the playground, Gran yelling for us to slow down. He'd always save me just in time, telling me just how close I'd come to becoming a Martian bride.
The swing came at me quickly and I put my hands up just in time, the seat rebounding lightly off my palms. Charlie squealed, her laughter mingling with the wind and chirping birds. I shook my head, telling myself to get it together. Reminiscing like this wouldn't do anyone any good. It wouldn't bring him back, and it certainly wouldn't help me move on.
I grabbed the seat when it flew back toward me and pulled it to a stop. Charlie looked up at me with her wide blue eyes. It was the only part of her that looked like her father.
"Do you want to go down the slide with Mommy?" I asked.
I took Charlie's responding gurgle as a yes, pulled her out of the seat, and walked over to the slides. We climbed up the steps and I walked over to the open mouth of the slide. Charlie reached her tiny hand forward as I sat us both down, and I tightened my grip on her.
"Alright, are you ready?" I said, giving her a small squeeze.
I scooted forward and then let gravity take over as we slid down the slide. Charlie clapped her hands together, clearly enjoying the ride down the slide. We did it four more times, and another stint at the swings, before it was time to head home. I found Arlene on my porch, a large casserole dish beside her on the loveseat.
"Hi Arlene," I said, eyeing the casserole dish warily.
"Hey, how are you doing?" she asked, reaching forward and giving me a quick hug. She crouched down and gave Charlie a toothy grin. "Hey there, little girl." She looked up at me. "I swear Sook, she is looking more like you every day."
"She has Mark's eyes," I noted.
"Yeah, well, that's the only good thing that asshole gave her."
She dropped her voice when she swore and I smirked, thinking of all the curse words that probably slipped out in front of her own kids when they were growing up. Arlene had a colorful vocabulary, but she'd only recently begun to realize just how colorful.
"I'm okay," I said. "Just trying to move on, you know?"
"Of course you are," Arlene said. "Which is why I brought you this."
She picked up the casserole dish and beamed up at me.
"Let me guess, tuna casserole?" I said, forcing more pep than I felt.
"You don't need tuna casserole right now," Arlene said. "What you need is caramel apple bourbon crumble."
"Shut up," I mumbled, peeling back the edge of the tinfoil. "Is that what's in here?"
Arlene nodded. "You bet."
"I have some ice cream in the freezer," I said. Charlie began to fuss and I immediately began rocking the stroller back and forth absentmindedly as I added, "Come on, we'll each have a slice."
"I don't want to eat your food," Arlene said dutifully, but I knew she wanted some.
"You're the one that made it. Which means you are more than welcome to a piece. Come on in."
We walked in and I pulled Charlie out of the stroller, setting her in her highchair next to the table. Arlene pulled the ice cream out of the freezer as I scooped out a nice big heap of the crumble for both of us, heating it so that the ice cream got nice and melted.
Over our matching plates of crumble she said, "You know, you can tell me if you're not doing okay."
"He was your brother," she said. "It's okay if you're not, well, okay."
"I'm fine," I held. She gave me a look and I remedied it with, "Okay, I will be fine. But, you know me. I don't dwell. You just have to go through it. Christ knows I've been through this enough to know."
"You have," Arlene agreed sadly, reaching forward and taking my hand. She squeezed it lightly and I gave her a reassuring smile, hoping I exhibited more cool determination than I felt. Truth be told, I felt like I was barely keeping it together. The distractions weren't working anymore. Jason kept pressing into my mind, and I couldn't stop it. I had a lot of practice in blocking other people's thoughts from my mind, but I'd never been successful in blocking my own.
Arlene mercifully changed the subject, and we talked about her oldest starting high school – how did they grow so fast? – before she stood up, talking about how she had to get home in time to make dinner. I'd been happy to see her, but I was relieved she was leaving. Even the short stint of entertaining had drained me. When I walked her to the door we passed my couch and I looked at it longingly.
"If you need anything, call me," Arlene said, her body half in and half out of the house. "I mean it. Anything."
I nodded. "I will."
She gave me a tight hug and said, "I love you, Sook."
I felt my eyes prick with tears. "I love you, too, Arlene."
I couldn't sleep. It felt like weeks since I had a good night's sleep. I'd become far more familiar with my ceiling than anyone should be. I knew every line and speckle. Since Jason died Charlie had started waking up in the middle of the night, like she could sense the loss. It felt like the newborn days again, but at least I had something to do with my restlessness.
I sat with her in the nursery, rocking her in my arms as I sang one of the lullabies my own mother sang to me when I was young. Even knowing what her and my father planned to do with me on that bridge, I still missed her in moments like this. There were just certain milestones where you were supposed to have your mother with you. Then I thought about Jason, and couldn't begrudge that she wasn't here to see that. I'd always heard that a parent shouldn't outlive their child, something about it not being natural. I thought of how I would feel if anything happened to Charlie, and my stomach clenched.
Charlie dozed off in my arms and I held her for a while, feeling my own breathing settle to her slow, steady rhythm. I looked around the room, my eyes landing on the pile of books on her dresser. Jason bought them right after I told him I was pregnant, telling me that I had to start reading to her right then so that she'd come out smart. Mark thought it was silly, but I read to my stomach every night after that.
My gaze caught on the books, I didn't realize I was crying until Charlie stirred, looking up at me with drowsy eyes. She began to fuss and I shifted her against my shoulder, pressing my face against hers as I let the grief and pain of the week wash over me. I'd worked so hard to push it all down that now I couldn't stop it. Charlie grabbed at my face, fascinated by the tears that dripped down my cheeks.
I didn't want to upset her, so I stood up and put her back in her crib, pulling the small blanket up around her. I kissed her forehead, walked back into my room, and climbed into bed. My sobs had subsided, leaving me drained and oddly calm. It was the first time I cried, and I wondered how much easier all of this could have been if I'd just done it sooner.
I turned on my side, pulling the covers up to my chin. It was then, my eyes drifting shut, that I felt someone watching me. I stiffened, glancing around the room tentatively. Everything seemed in place. The closet doors were open, showing nothing but tidy rows of clothes. The door to my room was closed, the baby monitor set on my nightstand. I nearly yelped when I looked at the window. Eric was floating outside my window.
A/N: I'm thinking of making this a multi-chapter. Please leave feedback if you'd like to see more!