An entry for the Citrus Tree Contest, just a little musing about Alcide and Tara, set after DR. What might happen on a dark and stormy night in Bon Temps?

I could see the storm coming in, I could smell it in the air, and there was a heaviness and a deep mossy dank that, coupled with the darkening sky, made it unmistakable. Of course the radio announcing the warnings every five minutes didn't hurt either. Mostly I had the radio on for the music as I worked, when the hammering or the variety of power tools that I had scattered over Sookie's porch didn't drown it out. She had started work on transforming her attic, not that I could see why she needed any more living space, but maybe it was good that she was turning the house into her space, not a haven for vamps, or a sad place where she had to remember so many deaths. I didn't think she'd been doing the work herself, but she didn't seem ready to tell me the story of the half finished space; though again my nose detected something a little out of place, but I couldn't say for sure what it was and I was beyond questioning Sookie about such things. Generally when I got the answers I asked for I ended up wishing I hadn't asked. I was just happy we were talking again. Sookie is a good person, I know she isn't in love with me, and really I'm not in love with her anymore. There was a time when we could have maybe had something, but then again, maybe not. I've given up worrying about such things. It's better to have friends, especially in times like these.

She was in Shreveport, visiting Eric, I don't ask questions about that relationship either. He knows a lot more about the world Sookie has been drawn into, and he's the best one to deal with whatever arises. Me, I just want to do my job, and do it well, and I want to run in the full moon's glow when it comes, and I want to avoid politics of any shape and form, especially the kind with claws and fangs. When she called to ask me if I would help, I jumped at the chance. So there I was, hauling wood paneling up the stairs, tools knocking against my thighs, a comfortable noise I had missed, when I saw the black clouds rolling in quickly. I put down all my things and proceeded to close up the attic windows, and then to do the same thing on the main floor, and around the porch. I actually had the idea to set up the generator just on the steps up to the porch earlier, to help run some of the more demanding tools, I didn't want to keep tripping the fuses at Sookie's every time I turned on the circular saw. I decided to move it onto the sheltered porch, and top it up with fuel, just in case. When the first crack of lightening split the sky, followed almost instantly by the thunder I knew I'd made a good choice, because I figured the rain and winds weren't going to be far behind. So I was in the back of the house fitting the shutters when she first knocked on the door, and I didn't hear her. Fortunately she knocked again, as I was heading back into the kitchen, this time the noise seeming a bit more frantic. Not knowing who it was, but hearing the wind beginning to rise I rushed to open the door, it was still daylight, though not for long, so I did not fear a Vampire, and I could not sense one of my own kind about, so I became concerned about who would be visiting. What I found on Sookie's front porch surprised me to say the least.

She was taller than Sookie, by a good few inches, though not as tall as me. Her brown hair was pulled up in a clip behind her head, the wind having pulled out a few strands around her face. She looked as anxious as her knock had suggested she was. I imagine that it had something to do with what she had at her feet, baby carriers, one on each side, occupied by just what you would expect, one little body wrapped in pink, the other in blue.

"Hello?" I offered, not being quite sure what else I was expected to do. Sookie hadn't mentioned visitors to me.

"Is Sookie home?" Her voice was wavering.

"I'm sorry, she isn't right now." The rain was beginning to patter on the gravel of the driveway behind my unexpected visitor. She looked positively crestfallen. That was until another crack of lightening, and she shrieked just a bit, the babies beginning to mewl in their blankets.

"You'd better come in Miss." I didn't quite move to pick up the baby carriers, after all, she had no idea who I was so I wasn't about to touch her children, but I did open the door wide and got out of her way as she carried both in sideways through the screen door. "Can I get anything out of your car for you?"

"Umm, sure, yes, please." She was looking around the sitting room as if searching for something, or someone else to jump out at her. She was definitely on the nervous side of things. "I have a playpen in the trunk, and a bag for the babies." I held out my hand for her keys, and before the rain started to really pelt down I had all her things in the house and the door secured against the winds.

"My name's Alcide, I'm a friend of Sookie's. I was just doing some work on her attic." She was sitting in the middle of the couch, one baby, now quiet again, on either side of her feet, she was looking at them now, shifting her gaze back and forth between them, until I spoke that was, then she looked up at me, and pasted a little smile on her face.

"My name is Tara, Tara du Rhone. I'm a friend of Sookie's too."

"And the little ones?" I asked.

"Jacob and Emily, they're four months old right now." At that mention her smile became far more genuine.

"They're beautiful."

"Thank you. And thanks for letting us in."

"Of course, I couldn't leave you all out there in the storm. Was Sookie expecting you? She must have forgotten to tell me."

"She wasn't, I just, I just." She stuttered and suddenly seemed on the verge of crying, and I felt my looming presence over her, for I hadn't sat down yet, wasn't helping matters so I went down on my haunches in front of her.

"What's happened?"

"I just couldn't stay at home alone anymore, I'm sorry. We lost power before I came over, I had the babies, I just couldn't handle the storm on my own."

"Where's your," I hesitated to find the right word because I didn't know Tara but I thought I recalled Sookie mentioning her being married to another High School friend, JB. "Husband?" I put out, cautiously. She burst into tears.

"Ah hell." I whispered to myself. "Sorry?"

"It's okay." She dabbed at her eyes with the back of her hands and sniffled for a few minutes more before composing herself. "It isn't your fault." I had no idea what was or wasn't my fault, but I'd learned enough about women to know that sometimes if you just kept your mouth shut, you learned stuff.

"JB, he's my husband, he left just after the babies were born. He just couldn't handle their needs, and mine, I was just so tired looking after them, and he wanted me to be the same as I had been before they were born. He didn't understand that you can't go out for a drink, or to dinner when you have babies that need to eat every few hours even at nighttime. And when they cried it woke him up too, and he got ornery, and then he just finally packed up and left us."

"Not much of a man." I muttered, sort of intending for her to hear it. I mean I don't have kids, not sure I want any, but it doesn't mean that I'm insensitive to what they need, or what mothers need. And any man that abandons his family like that, well, as I said, he isn't much of a man.

"I was just hoping Sookie wouldn't mind if I stayed here till the storm passes."

"I'm sure she won't." I was quite certain of it actually, Sookie took in all manner of strays, not that that was a bad thing; I was one after all. In fact I was pretty sure one of the strays had started the work in the attic. It was a fair to middlin' Home Depot type of job; poor guy had probably never seen a miter box to look at the baseboards. The first wave of rain slammed into the house and the lights flickered. Tara trembled again.

"Look, why don't you make the little ones comfortable and I'll get you some tea or something?" I offered, a little unsure of exactly what else I was supposed to do just then. She nodded, which let me get back upright and escape to the kitchen, where, as I was putting on a kettle, my blackberry trilled.

"Alcide Herveaux."

"Hey Alcide." Sookie's voice was bright and sparkling, as it usually was. "How's the weather?"

"Just turned pretty bad out here, are you on your way back?"

"Eric doesn't want me to drive." I didn't actually blame him; I wondered how Tara had made it through the storm with two kids if her place had been hit first.

"Probably a good idea to just spend the night then." I told Sookie; it wasn't as if I had planned on waiting for her or anything.

"That's what I thought. Do you mind?"

"Of course not, but your friend Tara showed up here with her babies, looking for you."

"Really?"

"Did you know her husband left her?"

"What?" Apparently she didn't know, I felt a bit bad for speaking out of turn with Tara's secret just then. "I should come home." She added quickly.

"No Sookie." More lightening lit up the sky and the power flickered again. "It's getting bad here. I'll stay with her tonight, you can make your way back in the morning."

"Are you sure you don't mind Alcide?"

"I don't mind." Hey, I could be the knight in shinning armor again. And to tell the truth, I didn't much want to get out in the storm either. I liked my truck in one piece. I trusted my driving, but there were bound to be lots of problems on the road, to say nothing of fallen trees and branches. "You stay safe Sookie, I'll see you tomorrow."

"You're a good guy Alcide, give Tara my love."

"Will do."

I stuffed the blackberry back in my work belt and began to hunt for mugs and tea bags. You're supposed to make hot drinks for people who are upset, I remember it from TV somewhere. As the kettle began to boil I poked my head back into the sitting room where Tara was unwrapping the babies from their blankets.

"Sookie won't be back to tonight, she's stuck in the storm too, so why don't you set up that playpen in her room, and you can sleep there with them?"

"Okay, sure."

"Oh, and she sends her love Tara." I ducked back into the kitchen, Sookie had asked me to say it, and so I had. I wasted more time finding Sookie's sugar and getting some milk out, I put everything on the kitchen table, not having any intention of serving tea like my grandmother used to. When I went back out Tara was nowhere to be found, but I could hear her, in the bedroom, cursing, with an edge of tears in her voice again. The babies were back in their carriers, little brown eyes watching me as I crossed the small sitting room, it made me smile, and they seemed sort of mesmerized by me.

"Tara?" She seemed to have given up on the half set-up playpen, sitting on the floor beside its less than angular form. She didn't seem to be able to get the top rails to lock in place and it was obviously frustrating her because there were red tear tracks on her cheeks.

"I just can't get this thing sorted. It's normally so easy." But I could see her hands were shaking, and she obviously wasn't in the right frame of mind.

"Let me give it a go okay?" I stepped in, and she easily gave way. "Why don't you get the babies something to eat?"

I have to admit that the playpen was a little more challenging to set up than you might think, but once I had the sequence figured out I got it put together and tested it by giving it a few good shakes, just to make sure one of the little ones didn't collapse it onto themself. I found Tara in the kitchen, a bottle in each hand, sitting on the floor, two happy babies, one stressed out mother.

"Guess it's hard to handle two at the same time eh?"

"Yeah." She sighed.

"Look, why don't you take one, I'll take the other, then we'll have a drink ourselves."

"Really?" The lift in her voice was so pitifully hopeful that it made me feel even more sympathetic towards her.

I looked down at Emily, who was still watching me, even as she wrapped her little heart shaped mouth around the bottle. Of course I also noticed that I was still wearing my dirty work shirt and tool belt. I shucked off the belt easily enough, but had to think about the shirt for a minute.

"I've got a clean shirt in my gym bag. Give me a minute." I'd left it on the porch, but as the rain started to really pound the good sense of bringing it indoors revealed itself. I started pulling off the work shirt as I stepped out onto the porch, intending to leave it out there so neither of the little ones would get to it. It was covered in sawdust, maybe even some insulation, and who knows what else from the old attic. And of course, I'd been working in it all day, and Louisiana days could get warm, especially just before a storm. I pulled a clean white shirt out of the bag, and yanked it over my head as I stepped back into the house, pulling the gym bag too. It wasn't only little Emily who was watching me as I re-entered. Tara had a strange look in her eyes as I straightened the shirt and set the bag on the counter. I washed my hands before I picked little Emily out of her carrier, and Tara handed me the bottle. I sat down in one of Sookie's kitchen chairs, the bundle resting against my left arm, she fit into the crook of my elbow quite well, and I watched her tiny face sort of look at me, but then hunt mostly for the bottle in my right hand. I gave it to her and she closed her eyes lazily, a comfortable suckling sound joining that of her brother.

I looked over at Tara, who for just a moment seemed a little relieved. Of course she was looking at me, but I did have her daughter in my arms, and really she'd only known me for a few minutes. I was hoping that being Sookie's friend was buying me some credit.

"Thanks." She said, pursing her lips together. "You're good with her. Do you have kids of your own?"

"No kids." I smiled back. "I can barely take care of myself some days to hear Sookie tell it."

"Well," she nodded, "You'll probably be a good Dad one day."

It was my turn to thank her.

"How long have you known Sookie?" She asked me.

"Almost a year I guess." I tried to think back to when I had first met her, but funnily enough though I could remember the circumstances, it seemed like a great deal longer a time than it really had been. It was like Sookie was supposed to have been a part of my life; there was just a comfort there in her presence. Not, as I've said before, because she was my soul mate or anything. But that was just the way it sort of was with Sookie, and I don't think I'm the only one that feels that way.

"And you're a contractor?" She was making small talk as the babies ate, but it was comfortable too, certainly better than her crying again. Emily yawned.

"I am. Mostly bigger stuff than folks' attics, but Sookie asked me to help out, and I was between contracts. I'll only be here a few days I reckon."

"That's too bad." Tara said, under her breath, but she must have known I could hear her. "Emily seems to like you."

I looked back at the bundle who had pushed the bottle out of her mouth and was now asleep against my forearm. I couldn't help but smile at her peaceful face. Babies had it good I figured.

"Do you want me to put her down in the playpen?"

"Sure, I'll take Jacob too, he's nearly asleep as well."

We both stood, rather fluidly I have to admit for myself, it sure wasn't like having a power drill in my hands. I felt just a little more graceful with Emily. I followed Tara back to Sookie's room, and after she had laid Jacob down she took Emily from my arms and did the same with her.

"Did you want me to get them a blanket?" I whispered.

"No, better that they don't have anything to get tangled up in. They'll be warm enough in their sleepers." It was still a warm night, despite the storm. I watched as she touched each of them lightly on their heads, lingering a moment, then she backed away, me before her, and she shut the door, almost fully and the two of us went back to the kitchen and I poured the still hot water for tea. We'd barely made it back to the living room with our mugs when the thunder cracked again and this time took the lights with it. Fortunately Tara had put her mug down just before that, because her not so little shriek that time probably would have been accompanied by hot water all over herself. Something bad had happened to that girl, she was too jumpy as far as I could see.

"Just sit and don't worry Tara, I have a flashlight in my belt and I'll get the generator going. Give me three minutes and I'll have everything taken care of."

"Okay." She kind of squeaked at me. Fortunately I still have excellent eyesight, not as good as the wolf, but well enough to get to my tool belt, get the generator humming to keep at least the kitchen lit, and the fridge plugged in, and to find a box of matches for the fireplace. We didn't need the heat, but the amber light it cast around the room made it feel kind of cozy, like camping, just with a better tent against the elements. Tara seemed to relax a bit more after I had all that in place.

I sat back down on the couch beside her and urged her to drink her tea. She seemed a little fixated on the flames, but I guess I couldn't blame her, they were mesmerizing at times, and at least they seemed to be keeping her mind off the rattling of the storm against the house. Her knuckles didn't even look white against the mug.

"Sookie's lucky to have you." She mused out loud. "You're a really nice guy Alcide."

"Well thank you Tara. Sookie's a good friend to me too."

"You and she?"

I laughed, "No, definitely not. I don't think I'm her type."

"Not her type?" Tara looked me over with a half curled smile and raised eyebrows, "Too handsome?"

"Too alive perhaps?"

At that Tara finally laughed, and I could see her visibly relax. "Vampires suck." She said, a little too knowingly, which made me laugh too. I had to agree.

"We're better as friends." Seeing as I didn't have a whole bunch of friends I tried to hold onto the ones I had, even if we didn't see eye to eye all the time. Sookie and I didn't see eye to eye a lot of the time, but still, she was a friend of my pack; I knew we could count on each other when the chips were down. I told Tara as much, except the pack part of course. She kind of started to lean into me on the couch as the rain hammered at the windows. It seemed sort of natural right then to wrap an arm against the back of the couch, and sort of rest it on her shoulders.

"Things have been so hard the last few weeks, this storm just seemed to cap it all off. I just never imagined I'd be doing all this on my own." She sighed rather deeply, and went back to looking at the fire, both hands wrapped around her mug, drawing her feet up onto the couch. The movement caused her to lean into me just a bit more. "Wow." She remarked, "You're really warm."

"Just my nature." I let my hand slide down a bit to cup her shoulder.

"This is about the most quiet I've had in ages." The rain continued to batter the roof and walls, "Storm excepted of course."

"Sorry to hear that." I leaned over for some unknown reason and kissed the top of her head. She sort of sighed again.

"I miss feeling happy Alcide. I mean the kids are wonderful, don't get me wrong."

"You just need some help, that's all." I finished the thought for her, as best I could reckon as to what she needed, not being an expert in any of this.

"Amongst other things." She whispered as she put her mug down on the table beside mine. I can't admit to being much of a tea drinker, it had simply seemed the polite thing to do. She looked into my face, and I sort of looked back into hers, and we stared at each other for a bit until I just kind of had the impulse to kiss her. So I did, having a good portion of impulsive wolf in me. When she didn't pull away, or slap me, or do anything else I would have deemed a rejection, I did it again.

That second time she pushed back against my lips with a little bit of force and ran her hand up my chest. The contact got me excited and I wrapped one hand around her neck to keep her close to me. As I parted her lips with my tongue she slung a leg over mine, and scooted into my lap. That motion got me really excited.

When I let her pull back from me she reached out for the hem of my tee shirt and began to pull it upwards, urging me to take it off. I was happy to do so, if for no other reason than I wanted her hands on my skin. She complied without me even having to ask her. I felt the rumble in my chest rising as she did and chanced to run my hands up her arms while grinding into her carefully with my hips. Her moan was delicious.

Even better was when she started undoing the buttons on her blouse. Not that I had noticed before, but for a woman so overloaded with stressors, she still took the time to ensure that she was put together when she went out. It wasn't a cheap blouse, I could tell as I played with the placket, and its silken nature caressed my fingertips. I watched her reveal her skin and her bra to me in the intimate strip tease, helping to push the fabric off her shoulders, and then draping it gently over the side of the couch, without really looking at where it fell. The black satin of her lingerie kept me well captivated, as did the way her chest rose and fell with her breathing. I really couldn't believe what was happening to me, but I wasn't going to complain. It had been awhile.

I reached out to her again, and pulled the clip free from her hair, letting the masses of brown waves fall down to her shoulders. She smiled at me, and leaned in to kiss me deeply once again. Her desires were becoming quite plain, as were mine I might add, as she began to grind her hips in time with her mouth, stealing my breaths and forcing my hands to rest at her waist to guide her movements a little, to my own deepening pleasures. When I had enough control of my senses, and honestly that waxed and waned as she teased me, I began to tug at the waistband of her jeans, trying to undo the button and the zipper. She began to laugh and stood up. I missed the warmth of her so close to me, but I didn't miss watching her slip out of her jeans to show off her lingerie. It was a matching set, just the kind I like, little boy-cut shorts they call them, sitting low on her hips, exposing a perfect stomach, without a stretch mark on it, toned and beautiful. I stood with a roar and picked her up in my arms, spinning with her, to lay her flat on the couch, and just hover over her. Course the gentleman in me just had to ask,

"This is what you want right?"

"Oh hell yes."

Woo, hoo! In the clear. I brought my mouth down to kiss her face and then down her neck and to the swells of her breasts, while all the while she was fumbling with my jeans and arching into whatever my tongue was doing next. She had some talent, certainly more than I did for getting things that she wanted, and while I was working on getting her bra off her fingers were trailing into my shorts, making me lose my concentration once again. Finally I gave up, I pulled away and shucked off my jeans, leaving them in a heap on the floor, she got her own bra unhooked, and hard as it was to turn away, even for a moment from the sight of her breasts, I did.

"I just have to get one thing." I begged off before she could pull me back. I tore to the kitchen, to my gym bag. And you might ask why I would carry such things in my gym bag, well, I'm a responsible guy, and not above a little fun if the opportunity presents itself. I grabbed one strip and raced back to her, her eyes having watched my progress with some interest. She smiled broadly to see the purple squares. I smiled to see that she had shed the black panties as well, and I pushed off my shorts coming back to her, and lay myself over her long, warm body, letting the feel of her against my naked skin cement in my mind exactly what I was going to do to her. Her hands helped with that process.

Balancing myself on one elbow, I used my other hand, running it along the inside of her thigh brazenly, pushing her legs apart. I could feel the throbbing of her skin under my fingertips it was nearly driving me to distraction. Nearly. It took only her broad smile, and the arch of her hips against mine for me to drive myself into her depths; her moan was nearly reward enough. Better was the way she linked her legs over my back and pulled me against her, not strong enough to stop my thrusts, but insistent enough to take the length of me, over and over again.

She molded her body to mine, even with my desire guiding erratic motions. I pushed her to the edge, and as she closed her eyes, and threw her head backwards I took her over it. The strangled cry pulled my own climax forth and I pushed as hard as I could against her then, feeling every convulsion run the length of my arousal. Oh hell indeed.

In a quick motion I flipped her over, so that her body lay over mine, and I could sink into the couch, knowing her weight on me would do no harm, because the other way around, well, of that I was less certain. I held onto her as her heavy breathing slowed, and until her warm skin melted into me, and our bodies fell naturally apart. I kissed her head, brushing her hair to the side so I could taste the salt on her skin.

"Thank you." She whispered into my shoulder, after nipping at it gently. Mmm I do love a girl who isn't afraid to use her teeth a bit.

"My pleasure." I breathed in response.

"Mine as well."

She pushed herself up to sitting, straddling my waist, with a gleam in her eyes that made my heart leap, amongst other things.

"Are you tired Alcide?" She purred at me, shifting her hips in a way that brought back the tightening in my groin.

"Not at all." And I wasn't; not as I looked at her the way she was looking at me.

"Good." She bent her head to my chest and as I closed my eyes I felt a warmth and then moisture as she ran her tongue slowly around my nipples, bring each to hard attention in turn. I pushed my hips against her as she teased me, just to show her what she was doing to me, and she met my grinding with her own which only pushed me closer to the edge. Tangling my fingers in her hair I pulled her closer to me, and craned my own neck to whisper in her ear.

"I want to be inside you again." It was her turn to shudder.

"Say it again." She begged me. I pulled her body fully onto mine again, forcing my hips against her hard, kissing her mouth roughly and wrapping my arms around her back.

"I want to be inside you again." I repeated slowly.

It was her hand that went for the strip on the coffee table, and her hips that took me as I watched. And I loved watching myself disappear within her, with the beautiful smile on her face and the closed eyes, and the long neck thrown backwards in her bliss. It was her strength that rode me and pulled at me, my hands simply touching her beautiful body, feeling her muscles tense under my fingertips, smelling the musk of her, hearing her breath stop and start as she drew another long climax from me while holding me tight and deep.

"Let me put some more wood on the fire Tara." I asked, brushing my fingertips over her side. The storm was still raging, not that we had heard much of it over our own passions, but I knew the power wouldn't be on again till morning at the earliest, and I didn't want to leave her in the dark, not when she seemed so frightened of it.

She held fast to me.

"Let it die out, come to bed with me."

"But the babies," I started to protest.

"Are four months old, and won't remember anything they might see or hear from us."

"I can't Tara." I just couldn't fathom the possibility of those two innocents seeing me with their mother, tangled in the throes of something.

"Please Alcide. For one night, please, I don't want to be alone. Just sleep beside me, and keep the nightmares away?"

The look in her eyes glazed with fear, not terror, but sadness mixed with something else that spoke volumes about why she was afraid of the dark. I nodded; there really was nothing else I could do.

"Let me just stir the embers to put it out okay?"

She let me sit up, relinquishing her hold on me for that moment. I slipped into my shorts, and as she gathered up our other clothing I laid the fire out flat, quashing the small remaining flames, the red embers beginning to fade as I did so. Only when I was satisfied that it wouldn't spark to life again did I stand and take her offered hand, letting her lead me to the bedroom and the bed.

She checked on the babies first, both were still peacefully asleep, before crawling under the covers and into my waiting arms.

"So you are only here for a few days eh?" She whispered to me sadly.

"Yeah, that was the original plan." I offered, feeling bad about saying it.

"I guess I'll have to find a few things around my place that need fixing up?" She said to me with raised eyebrows.

"I have good references."

Another flash of lightening lit the room, but for the first time Tara didn't jump. I felt pretty good about that as I cuddled her into my arms and we both fell asleep.