A/N: So I had this idea for a very short story (about 5 chapters). Since I've been a good little worker bee and am several chapters ahead with 'She's Not There' I thought I would give it some attention so it would stop badgering me.
This story takes place right after From "Dead to Worse", so after Eric remembers his time under Hallow's curse with Sookie, but before all the angsty unhappiness of the last several books.
My wonderful Beta, Northman Maille, was quite right to point out that there are some similarities between this little fic and the fabulous group of stories by Ericizmine: "Bored to Death" and its sequels. I want to state right out that I mean no disrespect to that author (you should check out all her stories if you haven't already, they're all fabulous). I just also find the possibility of alternate dimensions intriguing.
I watched the horrible/awesome 'The One' again a few weeks ago with my hubby (we can agree on kung Fu and sci-fi and that's about it, so after ten years pickens is slim on movie night) and that was actually what got my brain moving on the path that became this story.
Disclaimer: I don't own them…I just enjoy fucking with Sookie's head!
"Sookie, Arlene it's really getting bad out. There's no one here, I'm gonna close up early. You girls go on and get home before it gets too bad to drive." Sam's words were only echoing what I'd been thinking for the last half hour.
Normally I wouldn't want take the chance of missing out on tips by heading home early, but the bar had already cleared out an hour ago because of the late summer storm. There was no one here but the three of us, and it was clear that no one would be coming in.
I said good night quickly and ran out through the parking lot to my car, praying it would start. Trey had fixed it up real nice, well as nice as my car was ever going to be, after the incident with Sigebert. I was beyond grateful to him but, the truth was, I'd used it to plow down an eight hundred year old mountain of deranged Saxon vampire: there was no completely recovering from that…ever!
I breathed out a sigh of relief when I finally heard the car turn over and began the slow drive home. It was pouring buckets outside and, with the cold fogging up my wind-shield, my visibility was already almost nil. I managed to make it home only because I could drive the stretch of road between Merlotte's and my old farmhouse in my sleep if I needed to.
I had just parked the car, when the storm began to take on a truly eerie quality. The days still felt like Summer, even though it was mid September, but as I made a mad dash from the car to the porch the freezing cold rain began to change and suddenly I heard an unfamiliar pelting sound. I held out my hand and felt my eyes go wide with shock as my fingers were hit repeatedly by pieces of hail just the size of the gravel bits on my driveway.
Before I could contemplate what in heck God was thinking letting it hail (in Louisiana!), a huge bolt of lightning lit up the sky, causing me to jump in terror. The horrible cracking sound of thunder came only a second or two later, and had my hand shaking, as I tried to get the key to fit into the lock on the kitchen door.
I managed to make it into the house just as another huge bolt of lightning divided the dark sky and the accompanying thunder crack had me scrambling for my room, quickly stripping down to my t-shirt and underwear, and diving the safety of the covers. In the morning I knew I would feel utterly foolish for being afraid of something as silly as a freak thunderstorm. I'd fought vampires, witches, weres and serial killers in the last couple of years, but one act of God could still reduce me to a shaking little five year old; hiding under her bed.
I'd hoped the security of a familiar room would make me feel better but, as the sound of hail battering the house and thunder cracking outside got worse, so did my state of mind. I was a rational, grown woman most days but I couldn't shake the childish feeling that something was off, there was something… not right about the storm. And like a small child whose toys turn into monsters once the lights go out; I found myself shivering in fear with every new noise. Trying to tell myself it was no big deal but failing miserably.
I was in the middle of another pointless pep talk when I saw it coming: a lightning bolt shooting straight out of the sky and searing its way towards the house. Screaming I jumped out of the bed at the last moment, only to see the window, closest to where I'd been laying, shatter into a million pieces.
I jumped back even further, my back slamming against the wall as the crash of thunder came and I tried to muffle my screams with my hands. Through my fingers I saw something… things, shadowy shapes, moving around the room. They were completely translucent, I couldn't see them clearly but the sounds of them talking came to me, frightening whispers that were too low to understand, but just loud enough to come out like gibberish.
Not stopping to think I ran from the room screaming. I was oblivious to the continuing sounds of hail and thunder and the bursts of light that illuminated my way to the front door. I had been afraid of the storm, but the things in my room had terrified me beyond the ability to reason. I ran like a crazy person throwing the door open and propelling myself out into the cold, wet night in nothing but my Merlotte's t-shirt and my white cotton boy shorts.
I didn't have a conscious idea of where I was going, although it probably would have made sense to run to Bill's so at least I wouldn't have to be alone for the rest of the night, I was just moving away from the house as fast as I could. Through the trees, into the cemetery, barefoot and stupid petrified when, all of a sudden, there was another bolt of illumination and another jolting crack of thunder.
I only barely saw the branch coming at my face in the dark and only registered what it was too late. The impact was swift and painful as the fallen wood smacked me hard on the side of the head, but after that there was nothing. Blissful darkness swallowed me and everything else was gone.
"Sookie? God lord, are you alright?" The sound came from what seemed like far away. The voice was familiar but my head hurt too much to figure out who the owner was. Knowing I would have to open my eyes to find out, I made the climb back up to consciousness.
"Ughn," was the best I could do as I blinked repeatedly trying to focus in the bright sun. The side of my face was sunk an inch deep in the mud, and a pair of black slacks covered legs were kneeling in front of me.
I tried to sit up only to feel the deep red blush nearly consume my cheeks, neck and chest in heat. I was lying on my side, my t-shirt hiked up past my waist, my now filthy, muck caked boy shorts out for the whole world to see. And of all the people on God's green Earth, who should find me in this utterly dignity-less state, Selah Pumphrey! I'd suspected I was bad Christian for some time now, but I thought Jesus would at least have the courtesy to wait until Judgment Day to share his agreement with me.
"Selah? What are you doing here?" I asked, getting to my feet dizzily, and trying hopelessly to brush off the mud at the same time. The effort made my head pound and I almost doubled over as the pain seared through my right temple, when Selah's hands came out to steady me.
"You poor thing, I think I should be asking you that. I was just walking over to see if y'all were alright. Bill said he saw lightning hit pretty close to your house last night. A falling branch must have knocked you out." She pointed to a scorched tree not far away and then to a splintered bough lying next to me on the ground.
Too tired, sore and in pain to care much about anything else, I gratefully took Selah's arm to steady myself, and allowed her to help me walk back to the house.
If I had felt steadier or more coherent I probably would have asked what in heck she was doing at Bill's house to begin with. The last time I saw Selah she was a hysterical wreck because Bill had allowed her to overhear how much he still wanted to be with me. Actually the better question would have been, even if she and Bill had made up, why would she have been coming over to see if I was okay after the storm, and why was she so nicely helping me get back to the house?
Maybe I'd just had my weekly quotient of weird during the storm and couldn't process any of that, or maybe I was being smart enough not to look a gift horse in the mouth when I really did need the help. Either way I kept my mouth shut and let Selah walk me back to the house.
The wind must have blown the front door shut during the night because it was locked up tight when we got to it. Taking the spare key out of the potted plant by the door, I turned and thanked Selah for all of her help.
"Are you sure you'll be alright Sookie? I can stay if you need me to."
I had no idea why she was being so nice to me, but something stopped me from dipping into her head to see if she really meant it. I was still too frazzled to deal with someone else's nasty thoughts on top of my headache, and Selah's brain was usually full of them.
"Thanks Selah, truly, but I'll be alright." She nodded after one more scan of my mud covered, half naked body and then patted me on the shoulder.
"Alright, but call if you need anything, okay?" With that she turned around and began to walk through the trees.
Exhausted and unsteady from my headache I decided what I needed was sleep, but before I could get that I needed to get clean. I walked through the house and into the bathroom, gingerly, trying not to leave too many muddy foot prints on the floor. Leaving my shirt and underwear in the sink, I turned the shower as hot as I could take it and climbed underneath the spray. The heat was heavenly, and with the bright, sunny world returned to normal outside, I began to relax and let the shower work its magic, calming my headache and loosening my kinked muscles.
Reaching over for my peach body wash with closed eyes, I opened the bottle and was greeted with the wrong scent. My eyes flew open to see an expensive looking bottle of sandalwood shower gel. I had no idea where it could have come from, but the smell was more than familiar to me. It reminded me of Eric. It smelled so much like him, as it mixed with the hot steam from the shower, that I could almost believe he was there with me.
Still it didn't make any sense to me. Eric had only ever stayed with me when he had amnesia and I definitely didn't have the money to buy him something as expensive, and by the look of the bottle, hand mixed as this. Plus, even if I had, it definitely wasn't sitting there before.
Scanning the shower for the first time I started to see other things that just shouldn't be there. On the shower caddie there was a man's razor, an 'ass to expensive' bottle of men's shampoo and conditioner and a bottle of Johnson and Johnson's No Tears kid's shampoo.
Maybe I'd hit my head harder than I thought. After all, I'd been knocked unconscious. I could have a concussion, brain damage…something. Closing my eyes and squeezing them as hard as I could without making myself dizzy, I counted to ten and opened them again. Nothing had changed in the ten seconds I'd been waiting. All the extra stuff was still there.
Ignoring the icky, eerie feeling that started to come over me (the same one I got when I watched scary movies) as though someone was with me, or watching me over my shoulder, or something, I hurried through the rest of my shower. If anyone had been with me they would probably have burst out laughing at the comical terror with which I pulled back the shower curtain, more than half expecting a psycho with a knife to be waiting on the other side, intent on killing me.
I noticed it then, two peach colored towels hanging on the towel rack and one much smaller green one with a hood that looked like a silly frog's head. Pulling both of the big towels off the rack I sniffed them. One of them smelled like me, and I used it to dry off and wrapped it around my body, hanging the other one back up, ignoring the fact it smelled unmistakably like Eric.
Now that I looked at it, my bedroom was different too. The differences were subtle but they were there. There was an extra night table by the side of the bed that I never used. There was another dresser in the room. Opening the closet I saw both sides were full. Once side had all the clothes I always had in there, but across from them were men's clothes, lots of them. There were a few fancy suits with designer labels and a shelf system which had NEVER existed in my closet, with Jeans and t-shirts neatly organized by color. Pulling a pair of jeans down, I examined them: True Religion, size thirty-two waist, forty-two inseam.
"Jesus Christ Shepherd of Judea what is going on?" I said, just shoving the jeans back, unfolded, onto the shelf where I'd gotten them.
Forgetting all about getting dressed I started retracing my steps through the house. I'd only just made it out of the bedroom when I was greeted by a sight I had no idea how to handle. There, in my old bedroom, where Octavia had until very recently been living, was a crib. Opening the door wider I saw a crib wasn't the only thing off about the room. There was a changing table, a rocking chair, a chest of dresser drawers with little ponies painted on them, a handmade rocking horse and a pretty little rug, all done in shades of pure white and soft, pale pink.
Before I could process any of it, I heard the front door open and close again. Terrified of who or what it might be, I clutched the towel closer to me, regretting now I hadn't dressed first. I was all set to make a mad dash out of the house again, when I heard an all too familiar voice.
"Sookie? Lover, are you home?" The voice rounded the corner and brought with it the body of its owner. Concern flashed across his features when he saw me standing there, staring dumbly into space in nothing but a towel, but I couldn't make sounds form words to answer him.
At the top of the hallway from the living room to the bedrooms, standing in a shaft of sunlight, wearing a perfectly fitted gray t-shirt and a pair of those 'oh so expensive, nothing from Wall Mart ever fits like that', black jeans, was Eric.
His hair was inexplicably cut short, his skin was tanned to a golden honey, and the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed was clear to me, but it was him. Standing there in the sun…breathing, was the vampire I'd cared more for, once upon a time, than any other man alive or dead. Standing there, in the middle of the day, was the vampire who'd visited me at Merlotte's not two weeks ago, promising again we would come to an 'agreement' and then completely forgot about me.
This time, at least, there wasn't any pain as the blackness took me. My head didn't hit the hard wood floor until after I'd passed out.