Disclaimer: Most characters belong to Charlaine Harris.
This is my first attempt, please be kind. That said, constructive criticism welcome.
This story takes place one year after Felipe de Castro's take over of Louisiana. Up to the night at Sookie's house when the take over happened everything is as it happened in the books. Eric remembered his time with Sookie and headed off to cement his place in the new hierarchy. Sookie still had to break the Calvin's hand, but Eric never came to Merlotts and she never met Felipe. After not hearing from Eric for over a month Sookie, with the help of her Grandfather, Mr Catiliades and Amelia, left her old life and started a fresh under a new name in another state. She has not seen or heard from any of her old acquaintances since she left.
I heard the beep of my watch and headed towards the back of the restaurant glancing over my tables as I went. With a smile at James, the manager, I tipped my head towards the staff room to indicate I was taking my break. He roamed his eyes over the room quickly and nodded back. James was OK, we were never going to be best buddies but he appreciated that I worked hard, was never off sick and, since I had finally started taking the occasional extra shift in the evening we had developed a cordial relationship.
For the first 3 months after I left Bon Temps I hadn't gone out between sunset and sunrise at all. In fact I'd made sure I was in my apartment at least an hour before sunset and never left until the sun was well established in the sky. As I wandered towards the small back room where the staff could sit during their breaks I shook my head at myself. I still wasn't completely comfortable out after dark but I had learnt not to be quite so paranoid. (If they are actually out to get you are you still paranoid?) Well maybe they were and maybe they weren't. I hadn't seen any of the Supes I knew for over a year, and had only seen a couple I didn't, and mostly in the course of serving them, the occasional shifter or Were. I didn't want to look back, I wanted to be shiny and new with none of that stuff in my life.
I reached the locker room and scanned the room both visually and mentally to make sure I was alone before opening my locker and taking out the small flask inside. Of course I could never forget, in fact it would be down right dangerous if I did. It is impossible to disappear and make a fresh start when one of the people you are avoiding is bonded to you by blood. Even before I had decided to go I had wanted rid of the bond. It had been bad enough with Eric being able to sense my mood and location, but the feeling of joy and contentment his closeness invoked after the blood exchange that had altered our connection permanently was disturbing. Ever time it happened I wanted to be annoyed but couldn't be because I just felt happy and safe, which was really annoying.
Amelia had done some research and we had agreed blood-bonds were really bad for the human. Often they became little more than puppets, dancing to their Master's strings. I knew Eric had always loathed that kind of control of humans, but the thought that it might even be possible was terrifying. Besides, even if my weird little quirk protected me somewhat, I still couldn't determine my own feelings from those caused by the bond. I had poured coke over some poor woman at work just because she asked for extra ice – I've no idea what had pissed Eric off at that moment but the rage rolled right through me and onto the woman's head. Try explaining that one. Sam was pretty good about it when I finally confessed what had happened but he was really mad at me for forming the bond in the first place and insisted there must have been a way to avoid it.
I wanted rid of it, I needed Eric out of my head, or heart, or whatever. Amelia was great, with the help of her mentor she had eventually come up with the potion I was about to drink. They could find no way to end the bond, at least, not without killing either myself or Eric, (in his case it would be killing again I guess but you know what I mean) as much as I wanted to be free I could not stomach that end for either of us. The potion they had finally produced muted the bond, with the addition of time and distance Eric could not feel me, and I could not feel him.
It had been a carefully planned manoeuvre. The potion had to be taken twice a day, every day, to remain effective. One missed dose and, if he chose, to Eric could be on my doorstep as fast as he could fly (which I knew from experience was pretty fast.) and it wasn't effective until after the second dose. Luckily we had not exchanged blood for some time by the time I planned to leave, but even then, had I been close, he still might have been able to find me. With even more time passed and the build up of the potion taken twice a day for the past year he would have to be in the same room before he could sense me now, but it would never be gone.
I opened the flask and downed the liquid within. It was foul tasting but I had gotten use to it and barely even made a face any more. Just as I was returning the now empty flask to my bag I heard voices approaching the door. I turned to see Philip and Grace as they entered the staff room pushing each other and trying to look stern with big grins on their faces. Philip was about 5'10 and very thin with carrot orange hair and Grace was tiny at about 5 foot with long dark hair. They were two of my favourite people at the restaurant where I now worked.
"That's it! You're not getting any for a week." said Grace, she'd managed to drop the grin and keep her voice stern, but running her hand over Philip's butt while she was saying it gave the lie to her statement.
Philip pouted, dropped his head and look up through his lashes at her "Baby, you wouldn't do that to me, would you." he managed to look adorably dejected standing before her with his shoulders slumped.
Grace immediately reached for him, running her fingers through his hair and pulling him to her. "As if I could." Philip wrapped his arms around her and grabbed her butt with both hands.
"Glad to hear it."
I coughed loudly to draw attention to my presence and they both jumped away from each other looking round guiltily. After a second they relaxed and moved back towards each other.
"Sorry Sandy, thank God it's only you though, James-the-Pain has been griping at us for being too … too … you know." said Grace blushing.
I had taken the name Sandy because it was close-ish to my own name, Sandy South, Ha! "It's fine, I just thought it was best if you knew I was here. I can go if you want some privacy though." I wasn't keen on cutting my break short but playing gooseberry didn't appeal either.
"No don't go, I've got to get back anyway." smiled Philip "Actually Grace has something to talk to you about." he looked significantly at his fiancé, who widened her eyes back in a 'thanks for putting me on the spot' kind of way. Philip just gave her a quick peck on the lips and with a nod and a wave to me skedaddled back out the door.
Grace looked at me cautiously.
"Whatever it is, just ask Grace." I said sitting at the small plastic table and locking my shields in place. This was my new life, except as a safe-guard with new people, I tried never to use my telepathy with friends any more. It was exhausting but as I had no social life to speak of it was only during working hours I really had to work at it so I coped. I was a normal person now. (My mantra that I repeated to myself at least 30 times a day.)
"Well, I know you don't really do this kind of thing but …" Grace cast her eyes around the room took a deep breath and came to sit at the table with me. "Well here's the thing. My sister is an artist, as you know, and her work is being displayed at this big gallery down town. Philip can't come with me because he's doing extra shifts to pay for the wedding and I can't let my sister down by not going. But there is no way I can go to some fancy art gallery by myself and Jenny, my sister, will be busy with all the big-wigs half the time. I can hardly take Sophie or Jade. Please, please come with me Sandy. Please. We don't have to stay long, just an hour or two." Grace's voice was pleading as she rushed through her explanation.
I thought about it. It was true, I was well known for avoiding any gathering that was in public, especially those that took place at night. Most people accepted that I was just uncomfortable in large crowds and didn't push to hard. Of course I hadn't told them my history, or that I was scared I might see someone I knew or be seen and recognised, so mostly they just figured I was socially inept. I was still crazy Sookie in a way, or crazy Sandy now, but at least I wasn't in the hospital every other week.
Grace and Philip were always very gentle about the fact I never went out and I suspected they thought I had been traumatised in some way but I had resolutely stayed out of their heads so I wasn't sure what story they had imagined for me. In light of this, the fact that she was asking spoke volumes. It was true neither Sophie or Jade would be appropriate company for a swanky affair at an art gallery. They were the two other waitresses we worked with. We all got on pretty well as work colleagues, but Jade and Sophie were wild party girls so we had nothing in common outside the restaurant. They were always entertaining us with stories of their drunken exploits, of the men they dated or the new club they had been thrown out of.
Grace had been one of them too, before she met Philip. In fact she had only just started building bridges with her family now she had calmed down from her wild ways, so I could understand why the event was so important to her. I had worked several evening shifts by this point and in the whole of the last year I had only seen a single Vampire, and only a handful of Supes at all, not a single person who had recognised me. It should be safe. And Grace had always been so nice to me, even though I wouldn't go out with them on my nights off.
"Sure Grace, of course I can come. Wow, your sister must be excited, I didn't know she was so successful."
Grace heaved a sigh of relief and grabbed my hand looking into my face for a moment to share that she understood going would be difficult for me before replying.
"Well this is her first big showing, it's just her work and two others in the whole gallery for the event, and there are some really big names, collectors you know, going. I've no idea what to wear or anything you have to help me."
I laughed, I don't know why Grace would think I would know what was appropriate for an art gallery but she was clearly very nervous about it.
"Well, I've never been to anything like it myself either, when is it?"
"Well perhaps we could take your sister out for coffee at the weekend to congratulate her and ask her what to expect."
"Oh, that's a great idea, thanks Sandy, you're the best."
"Well I better get back, you know James will be looking at his watch and tutting."
"Sure, you really are the best Sandy."
Later that night, after I'd finished my shift, I headed out to my car. I always scanned the area with my extra sense when out at night and as I unlocked my door I felt the blank spot behind me. Turning, my eyes skimmed the shadows by the bins.
"You have the best senses of any human I've ever met." came a dark voice.
"Maybe you're just not that stealthy." I grinned. Henry was the one Vampire I knew now. He was a friend, of sorts, as much as two people can be while asking and telling each other nothing about their pasts.
I had met him after my first late shift at the restaurant about six months after I had left Bon Temps. Coming out to my car I had been skittish anyway, and hearing three young lads calling out to me had been terrifying. Even though they were plain old human, and they had only called 'hey blondie' I was terrified, and was trying desperately to get in my car as quickly as possible. So, of course I had dropped my keys. The lads had surrounded me and were trying to get me to go to a bar with them. They kept moving forward and eventually one of them had grabbed my arm. I had kicked his shin and lashed out with my free hand. They had all stopped laughing then.
In the silence that followed a deep voice had said "Is there a problem here?"
"Nothing that concerns you mister" one of the lads had replied, they hadn't even turned around and I knew from their thoughts that they hadn't realised he was a vampire.
"I disagree. I think it's time you moved on don't you." the voice was calm but I knew with vampires a calm voice often held more menace than yelling. Reaching out with my extra sense I had located him in the shadows.
"Fuck off and mind your own business." the leader of the lads had planted his feet before me, an ugly look on his face. Suddenly a broad back had been all I could see as the vampire appeared between me and my attackers.
"You are done here, you will leave now." the dark voice held authority and I figured he was glamouring the leader.
Sure enough, "Come-on lads, bitch ain't worth it." he'd said to the others and they left.
I might have been grateful but on the other hand I was now alone in the dark with a strange vampire who may or may not know who I was. He turned slowly towards me and my heart accelerated as I held my breath. Did he know me? Was he looking for me? Even if he wasn't I had been told often enough that my scent was particularly appealing to Vampires, damn fairy blood. But after a moment of looking at my petrified form he back away a couple of steps and nodded to me.
"I apologise if I scared you, are you OK?" He seemed to shrink before me, become more human, even though he was clearly a vampire. He was only about 5'10, 5'11 and though he was attractive, as all vampires seem to be, his appearance was understated. He had slightly scruffy dark hair and very deep eyes that a girl could easily get lost in. It took a minute for me to find my voice and he waited patiently.
"I'm fine, thank you." I waited to see what he would do, I just wanted to leave but I didn't want to be rude.
"They didn't hurt you?"
"No" was he hoping I was bleeding?
After another long pause during which he seemed to be examining me for injury I finally decided to cut to the chase.
"Did you want something?" I stood a little taller against the side of my car as I said this. The vampire actually looked a little sad after I spoke.
"No my dear, I don't want anything from you. I guess it seems old fashioned now, but I still believe a lady should be treated with respect, that is all. If you are sure you are alright I will wait while you get into your car and then leave you to your evening." at this he even took another step back from me.
My Gran practically screamed in my head at my ungrateful behaviour.
"I'm sorry, that was rude. I am grateful for your assistance of course I am. I just …" as nice as he had been I was not going to get involved with any more vampires. "I just … need to get home. Thank you again."
"Of course." I knelt down and picked up my keys from the floor and opened my car. "If you'll permit me." I looked back at him. "My name is Henry." he gave a small bow and a slight smile. I waited but he didn't say any more. He didn't even seem to be waiting for my name. I threw my bag into the car lifted my foot into the foot-well before turning back to him a final time.
"Thank you Henry, I'm Sandy. Good bye." and I got into my car and left.
I started to see him occasionally after that, mostly from a distance. Once or twice he nodded to me but never approached. Then one night Jade had been getting into it with an ex in the parking lot, I had come out to see if she was OK and Henry had once again intervened. Only this time both Jade and her ex started in on him, well I couldn't have that. So I had found myself walking up and defending him, we had been cautious friends ever since. He had told me he lived near the restaurant and so I often saw him when I worked a late shift. But I'd never told him anything about the real me, he only knew Sandy, and it was staying that way.
Tonight he was wearing tight jeans and a Nevada t-shirt, and he looked damn sexy. I really missed sex.
"I am incredibly stealthy, even by vampire standards." Henry smiled at me "But I am glad to see you tonight, as always. You are well?"
"I'm good, how is your evening?"
"Tolerable, Gregory had a date so we had to cut our time together short I was on my way to the beach for a walk and thought I'd stop by to see if you were working."
Henry had three 'friends' with whom he had sex and from whom he got blood, Beatrice, Gregory and Debbie, they all had other relationships of their own and all knew about each other, it was an odd set up but according to Henry everyone was happy with it so who was I to judge them. I had been surprised that Henry was willing to share 'his' humans with others but he had just laughed when I asked him and said it stopped them being too needy and left him free to do as he wished with his time without having to deal with the constant demands of a regular lover. He didn't like to use glamour on his humans, he felt it took away from their inherent appeal and made them less than they were, though he acknowledged he had needed to do it on occasions in the past.
"Sounds good, it's a beautiful night."
"Would you like to join me? I have been reading a new book and I would love to tell you all about it." Henry loved to talk books with me, even though our reading tastes were so different. In fact, he said it worked because our tastes were so different, we would never read the same books so he could tell me all about the ones he read and I could tell him all about the ones I read. I was actually still pretty buzzed from my shift and figured a walk might be just the thing to wind down before bed.
"Sure, I finally finished that mystery I've been reading so I can give you tit for tat."
Henry laughed, "Perfect. I shall follow you back and meet you by your house." I had imposed strict rules when I first got to know Henry, he never came in my car and didn't have an invite into my house. If I had my way he wouldn't know where I lived at all but there is just no way to keep that kind of thing from a vampire who can just follow you home if he chooses so I didn't bother to try.
"Great, I'll see you in a few minutes then." My house was only about five minutes drive from the restaurant and for day shifts I always walked, but not at night. Once I parked up at home I walked straight down to the beach where Henry was waiting and we walked and talked books for an hour before I started yawning to much to make much sense and headed home.