Disclaimer: The Sookie Stackhouse Series is the creation of Charlaine Harris. Don't sue me Charlaine! I love your books.
A/N- This multi-chapter story follows "Understanding", "Reconciliation" and "The Weave of Time" and "Retribution". If you haven't read them, and in fact if you haven't read my stuff from the first few stories, this one won't make any sense. My stories are a departure from the Sookie Canon. A list of my stories in chronological order is on my author profile.
October was coming to a close and I was finally enjoying being back home. The troublesome effects of the fae 'water of life' had finally faded. I'd teased Claudine that she was putting me in grave danger by giving it to me when I lived with a vampire but she seemed to think that it hadn't been all that bad. It made me just burst out laughing that she said she knew Eric was a trustworthy vampire where I was concerned. I told her that I was comforted that she was so sure he wouldn't drain me in some intoxicated lust fest. She replied with seriousness that I really hadn't smelled all that fae. I didn't have enough fairy blood to smell really fae she said. Clearly she had not seen Thalia around me.
In general, though, Claudine seemed much more relaxed these days knowing that she didn't have to worry as much about my safety and welfare. She was pleased with the results of the uisce beatha every time she came to check on me. I was physically stronger than I'd ever been, and I had to admit that even if the three weeks after drinking the stuff had been a bit dicey, Declan was probably right that it was a good thing for me to have occasionally. Enhancing that mere twelve percent of my heritage seemed like a small gain, but I guessed I should be grateful for it. Claudine thought that it would make me more resilient if I had to do anything magical that was stressful. She and Eithne had discussed it, evidently. I told her she was lucky that Eithne was willing to call her the regular way, since I was stuck with scrying as my only option.
I wondered what Eric thought about the fading of the fae aroma but he didn't even seem to care. He only cared that I was home. He seemed so cheerful these days that even Pam couldn't tease him. Things were going well at the bar, all his other businesses were running smoothly. Everything was peaceful. We had plans to go to Nevada in mid-November so I could work for a few days for Felipe, and I was to appear with Pythia in New York the first week of December at a summit of eastern states. I was excited at the idea of going to New York and Eric hadn't been there since the 1920's. But my biggest excitement was that Pythia had also invited us to visit her at her home in the south of France in February. I had applied for a passport. No taking the crossroads for this travel, since I'd not be in Eithne's care. Eric was planning to go with me and said that he thought we should take extra time to see Paris. He was making plans with Zelda but I didn't have a clue what they were. I asked Zelda about it and she said it was none of my business and that I was such a nosy child. When told her I could always read her or Eric she was scandalized and called me a killjoy. I restrained myself.
For the present, I'd been busy in Bon Temps during the day toward the latter part of the month. I was working on a few things in my house there, and visiting with friends and with Jason. The situation with Jason and Crystal remained tenuous. Ava was getting bigger, was walking and babbling was a beautiful but very cranky little girl. Who could blame her? I'd look into her sad little green eyes and see quite the tale. I tried to be supportive with Jason but really thought he should be doing more to take care of Ava. It was a sore topic, however.
I'd visited several times with Sam and worked a bit in Merlotte's a couple of days when he was short-staffed, over Sam's and Eric's objections. Sam really needed the help and the first day I just happened by the bar I found it in chaos. I put on an apron and just started working. Tanya was away because her mom was sick. Of course, Arlene had quit right after the Were revelation. Holly and Betty, the new girl, were just in the weeds. I told Sam that he needed the help and that I'd brook no interference on his part with my giving it to him. Eric knew he'd lost the argument before he even started it. It was just a few hours for several days, anyway. And frankly, it actually felt good to go back and do something I had done for so long and that was just 'normal'. No magic, no strategic planning, no thoughts about supernatural laws, or how to prevent cheating in casinos, or really any thinking beyond keeping people's orders straight. Just rushing around, getting it done. It was a refreshing change of pace, going back and revisiting the past for just a bit.
Working a few days at Merlotte's really drove home to me that most people just don't see what they don't want to see. People who had known me my whole life appeared not to even notice that I was taller, thinner, blonder, and in general, looked different. It was as if there had been no change in their eyes. Andy Bellefleur gave me the once over though, and he noticed something was weird but thought to himself that I'd always been weird. Marrying that vampire had just made me even weirder, he thought. Even Jason appeared to be in denial and just told me I was looking really good these days. Meanwhile many of the supes who knew me before and happened on me now just looked at me open-mouthed. Crystal plainly thought that I was just freakier than ever and that it was hard to believe that Jason and I had the same parents. Tanya, who came back from caring for her ill mother, walked around me in circles and asked me what I had done to myself and if it was really me. She even sniffed around me and told me I didn't I smell exactly the same. I guess some hint of fae scent still lingered. A fox would know. Calvin came into the bar one day when I was helping out and shook his head saying that I looked 'out of this world' with a wink. It made me reflect on the fact that even with the vamp and Were revelation, regular people often would just not see what they didn't feel comfortable with. Maybe that was a good thing. It was safer that way, given the reactions most people had to people who were different.
In the short term, I had plans to visit Mississippi. It was a trip for pleasure and a bit of work, albeit for free, of course. Victor had called me about arriving in Jackson the day after Halloween, November 1st. Eric was less than thrilled after realizing he couldn't get away that early. After discussing and half-arguing about the whole thing, Eric was okay with my going ahead alone and he'd just come a day and a half later. He knew that I really wanted to talk to Victor about family, and Victor wanted me to scope a few things out for him.
Victor offered to send a car and driver for me, but I decided I'd just drive myself. It was only a few hours and I was feeling sassy in my new Prius, which I'd bought with some of my money from the Madison summit. It was my first new car ever, and I was so excited about it. It was a pretty shade of light green but it was literally a green car. I was proud to be able to purchase it entirely on my own and looking forward to driving it.
So the day after Fangtasia's Halloween bash (I was an shieldmaiden of Rohan, like Eowyn, but I was sulky after Eric laughed when he saw me holding a sword.) I packed up my car and set off around noon, giving myself plenty of time to get to Jackson. I was quite curious to see what Victor had done with Russell Edgington's compound, which had been large and lavish. Victor had a real sense of style, so I was assuming that he would have made some changes to make it his own. I'd be glad because even though I'd been there several times now, I had bad memories of it because of Lorena and Bill.
In spite of the fact that I'd been kind of annoyed with Victor since Madison, I was looking forward to seeing him. I was annoyed because he'd planned to use me as part of his excuse for taking over Mississippi, ousting Russell, which is a nice way of saying killing him, and having done it all with his former King, Felipe's, assets and resources in Louisiana. Felipe, who had really actually liked Victor, was rather miffed, and pressed charges against him in a vampire court. Victor had cut a last minute deal with Felipe to avoid having the case heard by Pythia. He still didn't know that Felipe and I had talked about the deal and that I'd suggested claiming portions of Mississippi's revenues as Victor's punishment. He was pragmatic enough to accept Felipe's claim of 20% of his revenues for ten years as compensation for having involved Felipe without his knowledge. (Not like Felipe wasn't familiar with the violent takeover idea- the only remaining bad thoughts I had about Felipe had to do with Sophie-Anne's heartless murder when she was injured and unable to defend herself.) It was a good thing they settled because Pythia really didn't like Victor's plan of saying that he killed Russell to protect Eric and me, because I was his cousin. She knew it wasn't really the reason. You really can't hope to trick an Oracle. Victor just wanted to take over Mississippi. It was merely an added benefit that he'd be removing Russell as a threat to me or Eric. And Pythia didn't think much of the Brigant family line, either. So it was two strikes against and she was very fond of soaking vampires in brine, which permanently wrinkled them and did other nasty things to them. I was very relieved he'd settled with Felipe.
Even I thought it was odd that no matter how frustrated I got with Victor's ability to make trouble, I couldn't bear the thought of anybody hurting him. It was almost an irrational thing with me. It made Eric mad at times. Victor was mischief personified, but I still felt he had a good heart and after a brief rough patch with him, he had sometimes been very comforting and protective of me. Originally that had been at Niall's request, but it had become much more genuine in the past year and a half. We usually spoke at least weekly now when I was home. He'd written me six letters, one a week, while I was most recently in Ireland, and he'd mailed them to Claudine, who'd pop them to me, except for the one he sent with Eric. He was so humorous in the letters but it was clear to me that he was lonely. As I read them I understood that he really liked the idea that I was family and that he had someone to write to. From our recent conversations I got the feeling that he didn't really trust anyone working for him in Jackson. The whole purpose of my visit from his perspective was to listen in to people around his compound to make sure no one was gunning for him. I really wondered what he'd gotten himself into. Although Victor was the consummate opportunist, I didn't see in him what I saw in some of the other Kings and Queens I knew. But maybe I just didn't want to.
My own purpose in visiting, other than just visiting my recently discovered cousin, was to find out more about our shared family. Niall had always avoided telling me about his son Fintan and the strange, almost Faustian, agreement that he had made with Fintan to stay away from Jason, Hadley and me in Fintan's lifetime. He had always been evasive about the reasons. It was getting to the point where I was really almost desperate to find out what the real deal was with my family. I had recently asked Pythia, who always had a bad thing or two to say about Niall, what the history was there. She'd said the usual terrible things to me about Niall, and his half-fairy sons Fintan and Dermot, when we were in Madison one night. She'd even called Fintan and Dermot reprobates. But she wouldn't tell me why she thought badly of them. No one would. I'd asked Eithne and Claudine to no avail, as well. Everyone, even Eric, seemed to know something but no one was giving up the info easily, and short of really pounding on someone's brain, it looked like I my only option was to get info from Victor. Victor was about three hundred years old. He was Dermot's grandson. He had to know something. I figured that if someone would tell me, he would.
Traffic was so slow on I-20 after Monroe. The trip took more than four hours because of construction delays. I had started out listening to my German language CDs. I was hopeful that eventually I could be passable in German and Gaelic. I really wanted to learn another language. All my good friends or loved ones were multilingual. Being around Eric and Pam was daunting. I really thought that Eric could speak any language he put his mind to learning. Pam had learned French and German in her human life and had picked up Swedish and a fair amount of Norwegian from Eric because it had often been safer for them to communicate in those, since fewer people spoke the languages. Meanwhile Bill liked French and Spanish and had even learned some Japanese from an Asian vampire. Even Amelia was trilingual and she really liked to curse in French. Ah Amelia…
Amelia and I had recently worked through a rough patch in our friendship. I'd helped smooth a few things over for Tray. I wasn't feeling exactly comfortable with myself about how I'd done it, but I still thought I'd done the right thing. I was just hoping that Eric wouldn't be too angry about it.