The cold darkness shielded us from the sight of anyone who would know me. I didn't know what to expect walking into a vamp bar in Louisiana; yeah I know vamps are dangerous but why should I care? I was on the outs with my parents who wanted me to stay home working in the family garage instead of going to college up north. The parental unit always did voice their disgust with vampires, but they're just total hypocrites. They go out at night at least once a month to god only knows where and when they come back they try to hide pieces of tattered clothing from me. I don't want to even imagine what they're up to. Probably some orgy thing like the ones that cook at Merlotte's in Bon Temps brags about.
Even though I'm stubborn, I wasn't stupid. I brought one of my friends along with me in case things got out of hand. He was on the football team so he's got enough strength to fight for us both. I don't believe some of the rumors that are said about vampires. They can't possibly be that strong; they're dead! I think Natalie from the girls softball team was just yanking my chain.
It was winter so the night was a bit chillier and I clung to my cardigan in contempt. How could I possibly look sexy covered up like this? I was definitely going to ditch it. Randy and I got out of the car and looked contently at each other. I started walking forward, but he pulled me back by the hand. “Hey Caroline, is this a date?” He looked a combination of hopeful and terrified. We'd been friends for years and he would never admit that he had a crush on me. That was his decision. Besides, friendships always get weird when the guy finally admits the crush. There's way too much pressure and I currently enjoyed the relaxed friendship as it was. “You really want a date with me when you could score with a vampire?”
He tensed at that. I had said something that intrigued him. He was intensely curious about the prospect of vampire sex. God help me if he found the vamp willing. I'd get stuck without a ride home. This wasn't the type of place I'd want to have a sleepover at. We strode towards the door with a neon light hanging above it in red. Fangtasia. Was that supposed to be funny? I felt the wind permeate my sweater and jeans. We got to the front of the line finally and I stopped dead. The first vampire I ever laid my eyes on was gorgeous. She had long shimmering blond hair and pale milky white skin. She looked like a model and dressed like a slut. Outfitted in a sparse black leather corset that propped up her breasts with tight fitting black pants and three inch screw me shoes. She switched her gaze on us and asked for our IDs and the cover charge. Twenty bucks each? Was it some special night? I looked dismally in my wallet at the ten dollar bill I had brought for drinks. I handed the woman my fake ID and she glanced at it suspiciously. “You're 21?” I pretended to look incensed.
“Are you saying I look old?” A bitter note lodged in my throat as I struggled on the fine line between anger and fear.
Randy looked at me nervously. “Hey, I only have one twenty on me. Why don't you go inside and I'll come back with the money to join you?” I didn't want to argue or to stand in line again, so I took the twenty and hugged him goodbye.
As I crossed the threshold the first thing to cross my mind was how under-dressed I was. Here I was standing wide-eyed in my pink knit cardigan and blue jeans, while everyone else was wearing black leather pants and jackets. Girls who wouldn't fit in a size 6 had squeezed themselves into the tightest looking corsets to the point that I thought the buttons would pop off the outfit or the girl would faint. Well how was I supposed to know there was a dress code? I must of looked like such a dork, and I got some stares as I walked up to the bar. The bartender was quite different from the other vamp. He wore a black vest which exposed a lot of skin with some hot looking tattoos and a well defined six pack. He was tall dark and mysterious. Who would believe that any of these perfect creatures could be lethal?
“What will it be?” His words were icy, harsh and devoid of all emotion. I flipped through a mental dictionary of drinks and remembered my Mom's favorite.
“Gin and tonic, please” I said, seductively sweet. This might be fun after all! He poured the drink and passed it to me and our fingers touched lightly on the cool perspiring glass. I looked up and smiled. “So are you like a flair bartender? You know? Can y'all do tricks with the bottles and stuff?” I was genuinely curious and I wanted to sound like I knew a thing or two about bars. He looked at me grimly.
“Why should I need to do tricks to entertain mortals?” Well that was a slap in the face. Nobody messes with my pride and gets away with it! I could feel my eyes narrow into a glare and my heart beat increase.
“Well excuse me if I'm just trying to ask about your job. Just caus' you ain't “mortal” doesn't mean you can't have manners!”
I didn't realize I was shouting and the whole bar was staring at me. The crowd parted towards the back to reveal an older vampire. I could only guess that he was older by the way the rest of the vamps looked at him. I surmised that this was the head honcho. From a visit to the website earlier, I knew his name: Eric Northman. I could see from the contours of his shirt that he was built like Hugh Jackman. He was dressed a little more casually than everyone else in a black shirt and jeans. The overhead lights highlighted his brow and the pale blue eyes deeply set into the sockets. He moved so fast and silently that one second he was at the back of the bar and the next he was standing right in front of me. I gave a little gasp which the crowd sniggered at.
“What seems to be the problem Charles?” He looked at the bartender with a grave disposition. How do you like that? He didn't ask me and I'm the disgruntled customer in this situation. That made me even angrier. I was too upset to keep my mouth shut and I answered before Charles did.
“The problem is a lack of manners in your employees sir. A fact that you seem oblivious to. I think I deserve an apology from Charlie here”. My words sprang out of my mouth and a second after I felt fear that I might have gone too far. I snapped back to my anger. I wouldn't back down. This is America and I have a say in customer service.
“I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't harass my staff with trivial questions Miss”
“The last I checked the customer is always right”
“And I have every right to throw you back out on the street. Now if you wouldn't mind sitting down and letting Charles do his job?”
“You're not even going to make him apologize?!” I looked up into his eyes and saw only a blank stare that somehow made me feel calmer and transfixed to them.
“No. Sit down” And without any thought about it I followed the command. My eyes still gazed up into his. He looked away to check on the rest of his patrons. They were all back to their drinks and conversations and the bar was running smoothly again. I felt relaxed and mildly content. Those pale baby blues were still there looking at me curiously when I closed my eyes and sipped slowly on my drink. It wasn't very good, which was a bit of a let down considering the price. I felt a warm palm on my shoulder and jerked back into reality. Randy stared down at me with concern. “What happened to you Caroline? You look like a deer in the headlights” I smiled vaguely and tried to recall what had happened. Surprisingly very little had happened, but yet that's not how I felt. I had been insulted and subdued like an animal. Somehow the lack of emotions from the staff filled me with hot contempt. My breathing slowed as I contemplated what I had done: I had picked a fight with a potentially lethal predator and escaped unscathed. Eric Northman had saved me from a slow and painful death of exsanguination.
A swirl of emotions coursed through my psyche: anger, gratitude, fear, lust, excitement. Out of the contradictions within of me I chose the positive and humbling feeling of graciousness. I determined that I would repay Mr. Northman somehow. He had saved my life. It was only logical that I would lay down my own. Now I had a purpose to fulfill and I now considered what was in my power to do. I didn't want to become a waitress for the vamps. They had a small life expectancy and I was hardly wishing for death. As exciting as it would be to be a mistress for Northman, I had no intention of squandering my precious assets, and it wouldn't help the opinion that my parents had of vampires. I could be a blood donor. I wasn't squeamish and I healed relatively fast. Surely there was something else I could do to appease him.
It occurred to me that I might not have a choice in the matter. I should just be happy that I'm alive and offer my apologies and services. I looked around the bar. He was seated in the back on a chair that greatly resembled a throne. How fitting. I stood with shaky legs, but a firm resolution. The moment I started to walk his eyes moved to meet mine. There was no emotion there, though perhaps his features portrayed a slight curiosity. I moved cautiously, head up, eyes down, averted from his. I stopped feet away from him and stood head down, at a loss as to what to say. He said quietly, “What is it now? I said that if you had any more concerns to go to another bar”
Wow. Those vampires sure were forthcoming in using their manners. “I have no problems. I wanted to thank you” His eyes focused on me and the puzzled look on his face spread noticeably. I continued, “I realize that by stopping the fight between myself and the bartender that you saved my life. I didn't want to seem discourteous. Thank you Mr. Northman. If there's anything I could do to repay you, just name it”.
“You wish to repay me?” He seemed deeply pensive for a moment then switched back to his stern countenance. “What services could you possibly provide me with to make amends for my mercy? What are you willing to do Miss...?
“Caroline sir, Caroline Fields. I would be willing to do anything that wouldn't involve losing my virginity”. I was astounded by my own frankness.
“So you would be willing to forfeit your life but not your...” he paused, searching for an appropriate word, “Innocence? How very Christian of you”. He smirked and my knees started to buckle. He was both terrifying and handsome. “There may in fact be a position here. We are sadly short of waitresses at the moment”. My stomach lurched as I thought of the reasons for the “decrease” in hired help. “Give your information to Pam and she will call you if I require your services Miss Fields. Have a nice night”.
Holy crap what have I gotten myself into?
Chapter Two~ Revelations
The handsome picture of Eric looked back at me from the Fangtasia website. If I was going to be employed by Mr. Northman I would at least do this right and do my research. Mom always lectured me to never do anything half-assed. I wanted to find out anything I could about Northman, but all I found on the site was an ad to buy the Fangtasia calendar. Northman posed as Mr. January, which sure didn't help my feelings about the worker/employer relationship. God, he looks hot. I guess I wouldn't mind spending some time working for Mr. January. That's something I could brag to my friends about.
For some reason I just couldn't stop looking at the picture. Even through photography his pale blue eyes held mine. I closed the screen on the computer, picked up a romance novel and flopped down on the four poster bed. That's when Natalie called to chat.
I laid on my bed, twirling the telephone cord earnestly around my index finger, starting to lose interest with the conversation when she asked, “Hey, have you seen Randy around? He said that he went to the vamp bar in Shreveport with you last night, but nobody's seen hide nor hair of him” This was startling news. We went to Fangtasia a week ago. Why would Randy go back to Shreveport? Unless he had taken my comment about vampire sex seriously. Oh jeez, the most terrible images filled my mind at that second of Randy drained, dead in a ditch somewhere off the parish road.
I forced myself to respond with a false curiosity that repeated her earlier statement. “Really? Nobody's seen Randy? Well that's just terrible. I bet the guys on the football team are worried. They have that big game against Marthaville next week and Randy's the quarterback!”
“Honestly Caroline, can you stop thinking about school functions for one second and tell me what's going on? I've been your friend for years and I know when you're trying to change the subject” She was right. It was no use trying to cover up. I told her about the night that Randy and I went to the bar trying to leave out the part about my owing Eric Northman. “So you're saying that Randy never stood up for you or talked back to the vamps and you did? Girl, you must have a death wish. It ain't right when a guy like Randy's got more sense than you to stay away from the vampers. He's not the brightest crayon in the box”
I wondered what could have happened to Randy. The only second I left him alone in the bar was to talk with Northman. Or maybe before he entered the bar he had done something to piss off a random vampire. That didn't seem like him, to just go looking for trouble. I felt guilt deep in the pit of my stomach until it made my eyes water. This was my fault. Randy didn't want to go to Shreveport, but I coerced him into taking me. The idea came into my head to go back to Fangtasia to ask Eric Northman whether he had seen anything or knew something that could help me find my friend. It was just past sunset so I could call the number I had from Pam to find out. I curtly finished my conversation with Natalie and picked the receiver back up to dial.
The same cool sensual voice of Pam muttered in my ear, “Thanks for calling Fangtasia, The Bar With a Bite. This is Pam”. She sounded bored.
“Hello Pam? This is Caroline Fields. I know I'm supposed to wait for a call from you before coming back to Fangtasia to talk to Eric, but it's urgent and I need to speak with him.”
“Eric is busy and does not wish to be disturbed now. Do you want to leave him a message?”
“No” I said bitterly sarcastic, “Just wanted to tell Mr. January that somebody went missing from his bar that---”
She cut me off before I had a chance to get mad. “You mean you know about Charles' disappearance? How would you know anything about that? We just found out an hour ago? Eric is furious”. She said it with such severity that you would think Eric were some sort of volcano just about to explode.
“I wasn't talking about Charlie. My friend Randy went missing when he was supposedly at the bar”.
“Why should I be concerned about what happens to a Were?” Emphasizing the last word with a distinct distaste.
“Because it's probably linked to Charlie missing too. That just can't be a coincidence. And what the hell is a Were supposed to be?”
The line went silent though I could tell Pam was still there pondering what to do. “I'll tell Eric about your friend's disappearance however I don't think it has any link to Charles. Then again the two-natured don't get along very well with vampires”
Before I could ask what she meant by two-natured, I was put on hold. This was getting frustrating. I could already picture the sequence of events. Charles probably had killed or seriously maimed Randy and left him to die cold and alone. Or maybe he was torturing him? A new wave of sorrow washed over me. I hung up the phone. Maybe Pam was lying to me. I couldn't trust anyone in this situation. I had to find out for myself.
It isn't very often that I go to my parents for advice, but they were the most knowledgeable adults I knew. I wasn't going to go gallivanting off like Nancy Drew without telling somebody the facts. Well, not surprisingly they were unhappy with me for sneaking out, but they became quieter as I explained the condition of Randy's probable death. I got a long lecture about doing stupid things and they said they were considering taking me off the softball team.
“You can't do that. It's not fair”. I was starting to pout.
“What's unfair is that you deceived us Caroline Marie. What's even worse is that you put somebody else in danger in order to get some sick adrenaline rush of going to meet vampires. You are not going back there ever again”.
“But I have to if Mr. Northman calls me”. Oops. I had just opened a whole other can of worms. My mother went chalk white with fear while my father began to resemble a plum, his cheeks flushed in rage.
“You made a contract with Eric Northman?!” He got up from his chair at almost vampire speed and slapped me across the face. “Why the hell would you do that? You want to associate with vampires and take part in filthy sin?” He was working up a sermon which I interrupted out of desperation.
“The guy saved my life. If I didn't do something to thank him I could of just gotten killed that night. I didn't want to seem ungracious”.
“Don't you understand sweetheart that Northman will never release you from a contract?” My mother had tears streaming down her face. “You will be kept around for any jobs he deems appropriate for you and you will never be able to say no. One of those jobs will lead you to your death. Just look at what happened to your brother”.
Realization dawned on me. “You said Louis died in a gang fight. You lied to me”. I was prostrate with anger now.
“The vampires are a gang”. Dads' breathing had steadied now and he looked worn out. “They roped him into a bargain just as they have done to you. They thought they could use him because he was two-natured and in the end they killed him for knowing too much about their organization”.
“Wait”. I recalled the word from my conversation with Pam. “What does two-natured mean?” I paused to recollect the other word from my memory. “What is a Were?”
My parents looked dismally at one another. My father spoke.
“I was hoping to keep you ignorant of this your entire life since you don't carry the trait” He stopped to consider. I sat with my arms crossed, foot tapping, annoyed as hell that my parents had wanted to keep me in the dark. “A Were is commonly referred to as a Werewolf in human culture. We become wolves on the full moon and are blessed with increased stamina and agility”. I snorted and rolled my eyes and then caught the fact that he said “we”.
I instantly sat up with my hands gripping the edge of the couch in frustration. My eyes clouded by tears brought on by this harsh truth. “You have lied to me my whole life. You are hypocrites. You say that vampires are bad and evil, that they deceive you. I think you're both the most deceptive people, alive or dead!” I stood up and bolted through the living room and out the front door before they could say anything else to me. I would never speak to them again. They may have raised me, but I refused to be a daughter to two lying SOBs who wouldn't tell the truth to their own kin.
The chill of the winter air came upon me once I had stopped jogging. The tears cooled my face as they slid down my cheeks in large sobs. My chest heaved uncontrollably and I crashed to the forest floor on my hands and knees, inhaling sharply and choking. I slowly got up and started walking at a fast pace towards the parish road. I thought about how I would live now that I had cut my family out of my life. Minimum wage wasn't really possible to live off of unless your employer provided room and board and I didn't know of anybody who did that around here. As if nature knew my misery, it started to rain lightly on the asphalt of the parish road. I looked down at my watch to see that it was now 8:10. I couldn't go to one of my friends' houses because then their parents would send me back. I might have been able to bunk with Randy had he been around and he would have been discreet enough to keep the whole thing hush hush.
It pained me to think of the only place that I really was welcome. I certainly did not consider it a place anyone would want to live in, but Fangtasia would let me work for room and board and I would never have to worry about my parents coming to find me. So I started on my way towards my future, pelted by rain, thinking of Mr. January.
It took me hours to get to Fangtasia since I was alternating between walking and jogging. I hadn't eaten dinner and my stomach growled angrily at me. The fact that I was cold and wet did not help my condition. I remembered I had a little packet of Jelly Bellys in my front pants pocket. Thank God I brought sugar with me everywhere. I felt no improvement in my hunger, but the taste of the jelly beans lifted my spirits. You just can't be sad when you're munching on something sweet. In order to pass the time I hummed a few tunes and after a while my eyes noticed the reflection of a red neon light on the asphalt and I looked up in relief. It was about 3 AM so not many cars were left in the parking lot, though my sight lingered hungrily over a gorgeous red corvette. I wonder who that belonged to? Being raised with a father as a mechanic, I could appreciate a fine piece of machinery. The thought of Dad blindsided me and I stopped to gather my emotions.
I walked to the entrance which was now closed but after pulling on the door, I found it ajar and slipped inside. There were no customers at all. The waitresses were just wiping down the tables and putting up the last of the chairs. Trying not to stutter from the cold, I turned to a short blond girl and asked, “Wh-where's Eric?” She didn't respond, but instead pointed a finger behind the bar towards the hall. I wandered toward the only office at the end. There were no lights on, but I could hear voices arguing. I easily picked out the infuriated voice of Eric Northman, while Pam's silvery, calm whisper tried to placate her master. Before I could even knock the light turned on and Pam opened the door.
I must have been a sight. My hair a tangled wet mess, dripping all over the linoleum floor. I was drenched from head to toe wearing a large gray sweatshirt that was weighed down by rain. My shoes were probably ruined from water damage. My face was white from the cold and my eyes red from my recent battle with emotions. Pam was as shocked as a vampire could look. “Caroline?” At least she remembered my name. “What happened to you?”
“Hitchhiking didn't work out”, I commented ruefully. Not many people drive down the parish road, especially not at this time of night. Pam chuckled slightly then turned her head back inside to listen to Eric say something.
“Eric wishes you to come in. I imagine you have quite a story to tell”. She looked excited by the prospect of something that was not routine. Honestly, Pam was just like a spontaneous teenager. Now it was my turn to giggle silently.
I was lead into the center of the office. Eric Northman sat behind a large wooden desk with his fingers interlaced, elbows propped up. His expression matched that of his child, however he looked more agitated than ever. I could tell I had interrupted a serious discussion between Eric and Pam.
“I'm sorry Mr. Northman to disturb your business, but I have come to ask you a favor”
He tensed, repositioning his shoulders and set his blue eyes on me again, “Aren't you the one who owes me Miss?”
My face reddened with the realization of my own ineptitude. “Yes, it does seem that I am already in your debt. However, I believe my request is reasonable and profits you as well sir”. I took a deep breath before continuing, “I wish to work as a waitress or whatever job you require me for, in return for a place to sleep”.
He said nothing. That was disconcerting to me so I nervously continued, “It wouldn't be for that long, maybe a month or two until I could afford to pay for my own place. I'm prepared to work hard for my keep sir”.
“Why should I allow this when I would have had the same bargain with you without the board. That's simply an extra stipulation to our contract Miss Fields. I don't see how I benefit from this at all”.
“You should allow it because you know how to show mercy”.
“Indeed, you have witnessed my mercy before. You may be beginning to think I'm some sort of pushover, but me believe I don't enjoy playing games or being used or lied to”.
“I'm not using you. I honestly have no where else to go. My family is a bunch of lying hypocrites and I never wish to see them again. I intend to work relentlessly to your satisfaction. I also am willing to do anything to be able to stay here”
“What happened to your Christian morals?”
“How can I believe in morals taught to me by people who don't believe in me?” That may have sounded harsh, but at the moment I really did have nothing to believe in except that I had to convince Mr. January to keep me on. “Please, Eri—Mr. Northman, at least give me a two week trial run?” I was desperately looking for any job, even though I had never heard of interning for vampires, it seemed to make sense.
He lightened up at that. If he didn't have the obligation of keeping me around that made his undead life easier. He paused, looked from me to Pam and said, “Go out to the bar and wait there. Pam and I have something to discuss. I will consider your proposal”.
I straightened up at that. This was business. I bowed my head and slowly walked backwards towards the office door. I couldn't tell whether he would say yes or no. I could only pray he would say yes.
Eric shifted in his high-backed chair as Caroline left. He switched his eyes to his child and said, “Pam I do believe we have a stray on our hands. The question is if we take care of the mutt whether she'll bite us in the end”.
Pam was shocked. Why would Eric want to take in a shifter. Was Sookie Stackhouse making him go soft? “With all due respect Master, why would we take her in? We don't have a place for her to sleep”.
Eric retorted, “She can stay with you Pam. We will take her in because there's no reason we shouldn't. And in the end she will be even more indebted to me. I enjoy when I have favors spread around. Maybe now she's a pup, but later on she may know a way that she can repay me”.
“Yes Master”. Pam was not happy about this. It was one thing to have the Were taken in, but for her to stay at Pam's house was just mortifying. The whelp would never leave. Pam would have to be like a mother. Hah! Pam chuckled to herself. She was certainly not the mothering type. She knew this from her past children. She enjoyed her independence too much and kids just put a cramp in her style.
Eric noticed Pam's demeanor. “Pam, you've been living in Louisiana for awhile. It's about time you start to practice hospitality”. He laughed deeply as Pam's face changed from indignant to unbelieving. “Send her in would you?”
Pam walked towards me with a scowl. “Eric wants to see you”. She said nothing more and then turned around to yell at one of the waitresses. I walked slowly towards the door, the light had been kept on for my benefit. Mr. January is such a sweetheart. This time when I entered his office I took a few moments to look around. On the back of the door there were stickers and posters of the famous undead. There was one that said “Elvis Lives On” that I didn't understand. At that very moment I imagined Eric dressed up like Elvis and that certainly brightened my mood. I plastered on a smile over my worries and entered the office a second time. He was now seated on the leather sofa and motioned me to sit next to him. He was no doubt about to start some long winded speech about how he could not possibly keep me around. Well maybe it wouldn't be so long. The fact that he had spent this much time on me was quite a surprise.
He hadn't gotten two words out before a gorgeous blond woman rushed through the door. She was a wreck emotionally, and she rivaled my unkempt appearance. She was wearing a hoodie with a zipper and jeans and black Nikes. Her blue eyes were blotched red from crying and Eric's head snapped straight up as soon as he saw her, his mouth opening slightly and fangs descending. Well that was certainly an unexpected reaction from Eric. Was she friend or foe then? I became instantly riveted yet I kept quiet. The poor woman looked like she needed to say something. And she did. She was angry.
“Eric why the hell did you send Bill to Wisconsin? Don't tell me it was because of the database 'cuz I can see straight through your bullshit!”
“Sookie, there have been rumors of a takeover of Wisconsin and they wanted one of the Louisiana vampires to ensure that we are standing by the current regime. Bill was the obvious choice due to his skills talking to dignitaries”.
“Couldn't you send somebody else? He just got back from New Orleans. If I didn't know better I would say you were trying to keep him away from me”.
Eric remembered that I was sitting next to him and finally took the opportunity to change the subject, “Sookie, I'd like you to meet Miss Caroline Fields. She is looking for work here but I don't think there are any positions available. Would Merlotte's need a new waitress by any chance? She's just a stray and I don't have a place to keep her, not to mention food for her. She looks half starved”.
My mind turned through this new information. He said that there were plenty of waitress jobs available here. Why was he trying to dump me into the hands of this woman? I spoke up, “It's alright Miss, I don't want to bother anybody else with my problems”. I started to sniffle and I was holding back tears. Nobody wanted anything to do with me it seemed. For a split second I thought I saw the vamp smirk.
“No honey, don't you be sorry for something you can't help. You're obviously having some hard times and Eric is right. You can't stay here. Why don't you come stay with me? I can check and see tomorrow if there is a job for you at Merlotte's. You need a place to sleep and I need some company while Bill is gone. What d'ya say?”
I couldn't believe my luck. This girl was the kindest soul I'd ever met. I felt sorry that she had gotten mixed up with vampires. We were obviously in the same situation. I was surprised that Eric would be nice enough to let me live with her without me doing anything for him. I guessed that this meant I owed him even more. I realized that the blond was still waiting for my answer and brought my head up and smiled, “That sounds great Miss Sookie. I'd love to come live with you!”
Sookie headed out of Fangtasia waving goodbye at Pam whose expression deeply resembled relief. The rain had stopped outside and left the street shining like glass. The air was a bit warmer now and droplets of mist touched her cheeks as she walked silently towards her car, regarding her new companion. As if Caroline knew that Sookie's attention was on her she spoke up, “Is that Corvette yours?” Sookie looked up to see that her car was hidden by the 'vette at this angle. She smirked and retorted, “Naw, that's Eric's. I wouldn't be able to afford one of those if I saved up for ten years, and even I did I wouldn't know what to do with it” Eric drove that car like a bat out of hell. She might have an old car, but it was reliable to a point and she was used to it. Besides, she would never let Bill buy her a new car, for the sake of her pride, and she made sure that he didn't know she wanted one. She was not a kept woman and she wouldn't be thought of as one.
After they had walked a few paces, Caroline spotted the Nova and was thoroughly surprised. What was Sookie employed as? Just as she thought this Sookie chimed in, “I work at Merlotte's as a waitress. I'm glad that Eric sent you. It's getting kind of hectic since one of the waitresses had a baby”. How the heck did this gorgeous blond end up associated with vampires if she worked as a barmaid?
Sookie was also wondering how Caroline had known Eric. She was curious, but she didn't want to pry too much since she seemed awfully depressed and tired. Maybe another time once she was settled? Sookie, out of extreme curiosity let down her mental shields to see if she could pick something up. She could tell from the fuzzy mental signature that the girl was two-natured, and that brought up another question. Why would Caroline, obviously some type of were, go to a vamp bar. The different types of Supes would fight like cats and dogs. Even Bill and Sam weren't that fond of each other.
They were almost ready to turn onto Hummingbird Road when Caroline was the first to give in and ask, “So how do you know Mr. January?” Sookie almost swerved off the road from the laughter that erupted from her. She was in tears. This girl apparently had a sense of humor and that made Sookie like her even more. Sookie composed herself, getting her giggles back under control.
“He's kind of my boyfriend's boss”, and ex-lover her conscience added. Sookie was glad that the car was dark because she was blushing thinking of the shower they had together back when Eric didn't have his memory. She still hadn't told him what had happened and she wouldn't because he was back to pragmatic Eric. He wasn't the Eric that she had made love with and Sookie was just going to have to accept that. Besides, she was back with Bill now, and getting Eric involved would not do any good so she just kept her big mouth shut.
Now that Caroline had asked it was only natural that Sookie could too, “And what about you? You're kind of young to be hanging around with vamps” It might have sounded too inquisitive, but it was obvious that this girl wasn't a day over eighteen by Sookie's estimate. “My mom and dad died and I didn't have a place to go so I went to Fangtasia trying to find some way to support myself”. Sookie stifled a gasp. She knew exactly what it was like to lose your parents, but she couldn't imagine what would have happened to her if she didn't have Gran and Jason to raise her. This girl obviously had nobody else and it made Sookie even more determined to see that she be taken care of.
“Honey, you don't worry about a thing” Sookie was trying to sound reassuring and caring, “I'll take care of getting you a job and you can stay at my house as long as you like. I need some company anyways”.
Caroline felt terrible lying to Sookie, but if she knew that her parents were alive she would probably try to make her go back. In some ways it wasn't a lie. Her parents were dead. The image of the parents who raised her was destroyed by Weres. It was kind of how in Star Wars Kenobi said that Darth Vader killed Luke's father. It wasn't a full truth, but she wasn't going to live with traitors. Also this new life seemed exciting to her. She wouldn't have to go to school, she'd be treated like an adult, and she would never have to face her past again.
As they drove up Hummingbird Road Caroline marveled at the woods that encompassed the road. They were beautifully wild, serenely quiet. Her eyes glanced upwards to see what looked like an old Southern style farmhouse, except it had obviously been added onto and there was a screened porch to keep the bugs out. Sookie jumped out of the car, excited to be having company and something to get her mind off Bill while he was gone. “Are you hungry sweetie? I can make you a quick sandwich. We've got all the fixings for a salad too”.
Caroline's stomach growled deeply, “A sandwich sounds good” At this point anything sounded good, even tofu would be alright, anything to squelch the roaring in pit of her stomach. The jelly beans were obviously not enough. Sookie unlocked the door and flipped the light on. Caroline marveled at the quaint living room, full of furniture that looked comfy and functional as opposed to the sleek and uncomfortable leather sofa she had been sitting on in Eric's office. Not forgetting her manners, Caroline turned to Sookie and said, “You have a lovely home Miss Sookie”. Sookie smiled and acted the part of the gracious hostess. They wandered into the kitchen where Sookie asked what type of sandwich Caroline would prefer. Caroline was hungry for anything, but the warm familiar taste of a PB&J was what she especially desired. She told Sookie and as she looked around anxiously through her pantry, Sookie remembered that she had left the bread and jelly at Bill's house since that was usually what she prepared herself in the morning when she was too lazy to go home for breakfast. Oops.
“Would you be alright here if I left to go get something from Bill's house? It's just across the cemetery and I need to go there 'cause I forgot the bread and jelly”.
“Sure, I'll be fine Miss Sookie. Are you sure you don't want some company going over there?”
Sookie pondered that. She didn't want to seem rude, but she didn't know how Bill would feel about somebody being over at his house when he wasn't there, especially if that somebody was a Were. Besides, she had to get some of her personal stuff out of there as well for the laundry and that might be a little awkward in front of a stranger. “No, I'll be just fine. You make yourself at home and I'll be back in a jiffy”.
She was out the door before Caroline could even reply. The emptiness of the house instantly was palpable and to relieve her boredom Caroline looked at some of the pictures on Sookie's mantel. There was one of blond guy in his twenties probably, next to an older woman with silvery gray hair and a kind and wise look to her. Sookie was in between them with the biggest smile on her face. She could only assume that these were members of Sookie's family and from the looks of the background it was somebody's birthday. She paused to think of her own family and averted her eyes from the picture. She would never see her family again. Even though they had betrayed her, that still didn't mean that she didn't miss them.
The phone rang and not sure of what to do, Caroline answered, “Hello?”
A dark, husky voice responded.“Sookie?” He had a bit of an accent. Where had she heard that voice before?
“No, this is Caroline. Sookie's out right now. Do you want to leave a message?”
“Caroline, this is Eric Northman. I wanted to call to make sure that you girls got home alright”. He paused for a second and then added, “The roads were wet”.
“Yes, we're fine. Sookie just ran over to Bill's to get something”.
“I wanted to thank her for taking you in. It's good that you'll be with her though. She's been upset lately since the whole incident with Bill”.
“Why. What happened?” She was genuinely concerned.
“I really shouldn't tell you this, but she found out a couple of months ago that he cheated on her and they never really worked it out. He had to leave before they could talk about it”.
“Yes, but please don't tell her I told you. You probably shouldn't mention it at all. It will probably only upset her. Whatever you do, don't mention Lorena to her”
“Who's Lorena?” This was intriguing.
“I've already said too much. Just promise me that you won't say a thing”.
“I promise. I wouldn't want to upset Sookie. She's such a nice person”.
“Yes she is. Thank you Caroline. I'll call back later in the week to check up on you two. Good night”.
And he hung up. Goodnight Mr. January.
Caroline's dreams that night were as dark and bleak as her current circumstances. She was on the road again staring down at hers sneakers as they squished through puddles of mud. She watched as the rain on the asphalt started to reflect a bright red light. She looked up to see Fangtasia once more and chuckled. It seemed funny to her that such a place that was run by the denizens of death would bring such hope to her. She was almost to the door when a high-pitched scream rang out through the night. Without knowing why, Caroline started running towards the screams. They seemed familiar. She ran in earnest down that same dark road, plummeting into total darkness once more. The screams became louder and she sprinted like she was going for a home run. Sweat cascaded down her body and the sound of her shoes set the pace as she ran towards danger.
The screams intensified once more before taking on a higher pitch. The sound didn't stop, but it seemed to get further away. She tried to continue running towards it, but her eyes flew open and she found herself in an unfamiliar room. The nice cotton sheets were twisted around her and she quickly kicked them to the bottom of the bed. The room obviously belonged to a girl. It had light pink wallpaper and rest of the room was decorated in cream and rose. Just as her pulse returned to normal, the same high-pitched sound came again. Caroline jumped out of bed in an attempt to make a run for it and landed face down on the cool wooden floor with her feet still wrapped in the sheets.
“Owww. What the hell was that?” She rubbed her forehead and cleared the sleep from her eyes. When the sound came again she finally recognized that it was coming from the direction of the kitchen. She looked around sheepishly hoping that nobody had witnessed her spaz attack. No luck there. Sookie stood with her head peeking through the cracked door with a mixture of concern and bemusement written on her face.
“Good morning Caroline. Would you like some breakfast?”, Sookie said sweetly, keeping a cheerful countenance as always.
“Yes please, Miss Sookie” Caroline had already untangled herself and was standing as if nothing had happened. It reminded Sookie of what her cat Tina used to do when she ran into furniture. A little pain sliced through her briefly enough to take her breath away, but she recovered to resume her hostess mode.
“How do you take your coffee?”
“With lots of sugar” They walked out through the living room to the kitchen, where Sookie motioned to a seat close to the window.
“I'm sorry I wasn't able to show you around the house last night. As soon as I got back from Bill's I found you passed out on the couch. Poor thing. You must have been exhausted”
“A little” It was a large understatement when considering how far she had run last night.
“Well some breakfast ought to perk you up real good”
Caroline stared in wonderment at the assortment of food on the table. Light and fluffy eggs, crisp bacon, fresh biscuits with steam billowing softly away in the light of the morning. Well it wasn't quite morning. Sookie didn't even wake up until noon intending to sleep in when she realized she had a guest to attend to. Caroline thought briefly about her mom and how she would never do her own cooking. Even though she was Southern she was a horrible cook and her family usually ended up eating TV dinners or her dad's attempts at cooking. It was always a fun show to watch her father, flustered, looking aimlessly at the cook book to the perfect picture presented and then glancing back at his work and pulling out his hair. It was fun to watch but never fun to eat.
Life with Ms. Stackhouse looked just peachy keen. Although Caroline hadn't really gotten to know Sookie that well, she could tell she was a nice person, but it just made her question even more as to how this little Southern belle cooking her breakfast had gotten involved with vampires.
“I met Bill when he moved here and we hit it off” Sookie was cleaning up breakfast and absent mindedly had let her guard down. Caroline stared wide-eyed at Sookie. Did that just happen? Did Sookie just answer my question? OK. Best not to comment or be rude. Just make polite conversation.
“He's a vampire? How did you two meet then?” Sookie started to relax. Maybe Caroline hadn't noticed.
“Well it was a couple of years after vamps had “come out of the coffin” and he came into Merlottes- the bar I work at- he was one of my customers”
“Did he ask you out right off the bat?”
“No, not exactly. We got to know each other a little bit first. It was a little weird to get used to at first, the whole vampire thing, but I'm used to it now”. Sookie conveniently left out any mention of saving Bill from vampire drainers or almost getting strangled to death by that Jerry guy. Caroline had been through enough. She didn't need any more terrifying things to think about. One step at a time.
Should I ask her? She probably doesn't want to think about it if it's true. She's been so sweet. I don't want to pry, but was he right? Did Bill cheat on Sookie?
Caroline's thoughts coursed rapidly, bringing back painful memories for Sookie of the night that she had killed Bill's vampire maker ho, Lorena. She slammed down her coffee mug and took a deep breath. She was usually so good at keeping her poker face on, but this was just too personal for her to keep her emergency smile in place. She was about to break down again. She wasn't going to do it in front of Caroline.
“Hey Caroline sweetie. I'm going to go to the store to get some groceries and then probably over to the bar to ask my boss Sam whether he has a job for you. Will you be OK by yourself for a couple of hours?” She rapidly thought of errands that would get her out of earshot of Caroline.
“Yeah. I'll be fine. Is there anything you need me to do? I'd be glad to clean up. I need to earn my room and board somehow”
“Well that's up to you darling. I sure would appreciate it. Also if you get bored the remote is on the kitchen counter next to the phone”. Sookie grabbed her keys, said goodbye, and rushed out the door.
Driving helped Sookie take charge of her emotions that were so freshly renewed. Like a band-aid pulled off too soon, tearing open the wound again. She thought of what she needed to do on her trip. First stop: Merlotte's.
It was the slow time in between lunch and dinner so Sam was available to chat. He lead them to his office where he offered her a seat and sat himself across from her.
“What can I do for you, cher?” Sookie smiled at the term of endearment. Sam was a great boss and overall nice guy.
“I wanted to ask you if there's still a waitress position still open?” She looked hopeful.
“Well sure. You got somebody in mind?”
“Well that's what I wanted to talk to you about” Sookie prepared herself. Sam was probably not going to like this.
“I went to Fangtasia last night and Eric asked me if I could help this girl,” she barely got a word out. “Eric Northman asked you? Why the hell would he do that? Don't tell me that it's out of the goodness of his heart Sookie”
“Sam this poor girl just lost her parents. She hasn't got anybody. She came to Fangtasia looking for a job, but Eric didn't have one”
“So he pawned her off on you? When are you going to stop letting those vamps take advantage of you Sookie? They're nothing but trouble. You know that”.
“Sam. That's not the point right now. I'm asking if Caroline can work here”
“You said she lost her parents. Exactly how old is she?”
“Sookie you know I can't have a minor waiting tables in my bar”
“I'll do shifts with her and handle all the drink orders. It won't be a problem. Please Sam. I don't know what else to do. My heart goes out to the poor girl, losing her parents so young. Somebody's got to keep an eye on her. She doesn't have anybody else”.
“Goddamn it Sookie” he whispered under his breath. “She doesn't work a shift without somebody with her. You got to talk to Arlene and see if she's willing to help her out too”.
That prospect did not make Sookie happy. Arlene had recently become a member of the Fellowship of the Sun and truly believed that Sookie was nothing more than a vamp whore.
“Fine I'll talk to her after my shift tonight. Thank you Sam”. She got out of her chair and hugged him, met with the onslaught of his emotions running through his head. I understand that Sookie feels sympathy for the poor kid. Why did Eric Northman send her Sookie's way though. Something ain't right there. He's always self-serving. What's he playing at?
Sookie headed out the door. She had to get groceries and then get home. She didn't want to leave Caroline alone in the house for too long. It's not that she didn't trust her, it's just that she knew the girl would need some emotional support to help her get on her feet. Sookie quickly got some milk, flour, eggs, grits, bacon and vegetables, then sped home to tell Caroline the good news.
The sun had set and as Sookie got out of the car a wave of sadness hit her. Something wasn't right. No lights were on in the house. It was dark and eerie and Caroline. She unlocked the door. She could hear the news broadcaster. Sookie rushed to the living room and flipped on the light switch to find Caroline a sobbing heap on the floor. She carefully knelt down next to Caroline, watching her tears fall onto the hardwood floor.
“No, no, no” She shook her head in terror. Sookie tried to calm her.
“Sweetie is this about your parents?”
Caroline furiously shook her head trying to steady her breathing. She pointed to the television while shielding her eyes and whimpering the name.
Sookie looked at the television screen into the eyes of a female reporter sharing some breaking news.”This morning the body of a young teenager was found on the side of the parish road in Shreveport. The victim's name was Randy Stevens, a seventeen year old male whose body was maliciously eviscerated. The coroner's report believes that he died of blood loss. Since his body was found only a few miles from the vampire bar, Fangtasia, police believe that there was vampire involvement in this gruesome murder”.
Sookie frantically grabbed the remote and turned the television off.
Those vamps have already taken my brother away from me. Now they've taken away Randy? Why? I should have known something had happened when she said he wasn't at school. I thought he might have just found a willing vamp to have sex with. I hope that it was good sex because it ended up being his last...
Sookie tried to calm her own thoughts. She bent down and hugged Caroline, who sobbed uncontrollably on Sookie's shoulder.
What am I thinking? Randy wouldn't have actually gone through with it. He's too shy. Goddamn it. I hope I don't die a virgin. It sure as hell won't be with a vamp.
“Caroline honey, how did you know that boy?” Sookie was trying to focus Caroline on Randy so she could glean information on who he was. She saw it all. The night that Randy agreed to take Caroline to Fangtasia and the conversation Caroline had had over the phone about his absence from school.Along with a few memories from Caroline's childhood of her and Randy sitting on a porch swing together, eating strawberries, getting the juice all over their faces. Randy was carefree smiling, then the image became dark and morphed into the bloodied face of Randy Stevens in his final moments. A high pitch scream resonated and brought Sookie back to reality.
She picked Caroline off the floor and helped her onto the couch where she fell over on her side and curled up into a ball, still crying and shaking like a leaf.
It's all my fault. I saw it all happen in my dream, I heard the scream. I didn't want to believe it was real. I should have told somebody. It's all my fault. I could have saved him.
“No sweetie, this isn't your fault. Just cause you saw him in your dream doesn't mean that you could do anything about it”
Caroline sat up. “What did you say?” Sookie looked down at the floor. She had slipped up again. Shit. The poor girl was going through enough. Would she be afraid of Sookie and try to leave if she told her? No. She wasn't going anywhere. She had nowhere to go to.
“I said it wasn't your fault. You can't blame yourself”.
“I convinced him to go to Fangtasia with me”.
“I know sweetie. You asked him if he wanted to score with a vampire and he seemed pretty excited about it”.
“How do you know that?”
“Well I know this is going to sound downright crazy, but you've got to trust me Caroline. Promise me you won't get scared?”
Caroline hesitantly whispered, “OK”
“Sweetie, I'm telepathic. I can hear people's thoughts including yours”.
“What? Really? You're serious?”
“Yes” Sookie cringed. She should have told her sooner. I wanted her to get used to me first before I sprung something like this on her.
“Well what am I thinking now?”
Um what should I think about? OK how about a fact? Caroline is actually my middle name.
“So what's your first name?”
“Woah! That's weird. You CAN read minds. Well Virginia is actually my first name. My parents named me after the states they each grew up in”. She said it all with a smile until she mentioned her parents then her smile vanished and her mind closed off turning back into the snarling tangled thoughts of a were.
“Virginia's a nice name. Why didn't you stick with that?” “I don't know I guess I just liked Caroline better”.
Sookie helped Caroline relax, made her some more coffee and then proceeded to call the only person who could help her find out what the hell was going on.
I want to call to your attention that this story happens early on in the Sookie Stackhouse novels. That's why Eric is still trying to act like the big boss vamp.
“Sookie, to what do I owe this pleasure?”
“Eric. I don't have time to chat”.
“That's unfortunate”. He was acting very calm. He was always in control and when he wasn't, he knew who to take care of to fix it.
“Please tell me you already know about what happened outside your bar”.
“What?” He seemed concerned now that her problem had something to do with his income.
“Do you not watch the news at all?”
“Not unless it has something to do with me or vampires in general. Why do you ask Sookie?”
“Well I got home today and the news said somebody's body was found close to your bar. The police think the vampires had something to do with it”
“I wouldn't worry about it Sookie. It happens all the time. Somebody just got sloppy and decided not to clean up after themselves. Although I must say I'm touched that you called to warn me. That was very sweet of you Sookie”. Goddamn it he was so full of himself! He was obviously amused at this point and Sookie thought she could hear Pam chuckling in the background.
“Eric, I'm going to pretend you did not just say that. Don't you have any shame? Also, wipe that smug look off your face. I did not call because of you. I'm calling because apparently the body was a friend of Caroline's”. Eric at first didn't recognize the name. Again Pam interjected “The were girl”
“Oh yes, how is Caroline?”
“She's not doing so great since her friend just died, Eric. What type of question is that to ask?”
“I was merely trying to be polite in showing concern for your friend Sookie”.
“Quit being sarcastic and tell me what you're going to do to help me”.
“To look for whoever killed your friend? Why should I help you?” He was still being the big boss vamp. Pam was still in the room and he didn't need her teasing him for helping a human. He would not come at her beck and call like a lowly servant. God knows what Compton submitted to on a daily basis. If she wanted his help, she would have to repay him some way.
“Eric, I called to ask you for help because I know that you CAN help me. I know I'm just a lowly human to you, but I'm in no mood to be treated as such. You either help me or I'll find someone who will”. Was she giving him an ultimatum? “Or better yet, I'll go get information myself”
“I would prefer you not. That would be an unwise decision Sookie. Whoever killed your friend would most certainly have no qualms about dispatching you as well”.
“You are a valuable asset and I do not need you getting yourself killed Sookie”.
“I'm a valuable ASSET? That's the best excuse you could come up with?”
“I know Compton betrayed you and you're still dealing with it, but that is no reason to act like a willful child”.
“Don't you dare mention Bill to me like he's an excuse for why I'm angry with you right now”
“Well isn't he?”
“That's it. I don't know why I even called if all you're going to do is sit on your ass and patronize me. I won't make the same mistake again. Goodbye Mr. Northman”. Well that was useless. Why did he have to be such an ass? Who to call next?
Sookie paused and pondered her situation. She thought of the people who would be willing to help her and who would have the abilities to do something about her present circumstances. Sadly, the only individuals who could help her were all past boyfriends or flings.
She could call Alcide Herveaux who owed her a favor since she was a friend of the pack of Shreveport. He would have the trackers available who would be able to determine at least the species of the culprit. He was still a little uncomfortable around her since he knew that she had shot his ex-girlfriend, out of self defense. He had dumped Debbie before the incident and had even abjured her, but he still cared for the bitch. Pun intended. It would just be awkward and she didn't really know what he'd be able to do since it was in the hands of the police now.
Wait. That's right. Since the police were on the case there's really nothing that she could do and nobody who could help her. Even if somebody could, they wouldn't have access to the body or the crime scene. She felt helpless and alone.
She wished desperately that Bill were here. He would give her at least some advice as to who to contact. He would help her. He wouldn't just leave her hanging like Eric did.
It hurt her deeply that she had mind blowing sex with Eric and he remembered none of it. He just acted like an ass around her now, though deep down Sookie wondered if he was just as frustrated as she was. Neither one of them would be able to admit any sort of affection to the other. Sookie wouldn't let somebody have that sort of control over her again. She'd had her trust abused for the last time. Bill had seen to that.
Come to think of it, why did she let Bill back into her life at all? She saw him for a couple of weeks and before he could ever explain himself she would always run away or change the topic, usually to sex. She was using his body to forget the pain that he had inflicted on her. She felt the seeping heat of indignation fill her up. Why should it matter? He owed her for the betrayal. He owed her with his life. She paused once more. No, if she didn't want a relationship with him anymore, then she shouldn't be using him for sex. It was just cruel to lead him on when she knew deep down she could never really forgive him.
They were fuck buddies plain and simple, though she wished it could be different. How could it have all gone so wrong?
Sookie sunk to the floor of her bedroom. If these thoughts were true, then she couldn't let this go on. Forgetting about the murder mystery for the mean time, she plucked her cell phone off her bed and started to dial Bill's number.
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