Chapter 49 – Separation
July 14, 2004
Eric had to wait until the following night to get a plane back to their island for their return trip to Louisiana. Everyone was leaving together, even with several days still left of their vacation. The security risks of separating were too great. Though they were still on the island, Eric spent a great deal of his awake time in planning mode. Of course he made time to be with Sookie alone every night but a cloud was hanging over them and he hated it. Sookie was so upset she rarely spoke to anyone since Eric received the orders to report to New Orleans. Hunter was the only one who broke her out of her funk and even then those breaks in her foul mood were only temporary. What concerned Eric was that she’d just shut down. She didn’t cry or scream; she simply became a shell. It was close to the feelings of despair she had shortly after she became his prisoner in the fall and it scared him.
Now as the rest of the family, sans Sookie, was eating before the plane arrived he was meeting with Pam outside the lodge to go over some plans he needed in place for Shreveport while he was away. “Pam, you will be the acting Sheriff of Area 5 while I’m gone.”
“Of course Master.” Knowing Eric was both tense over the situation and meeting with her in business mode, Pam felt that using Master was a safe choice right now.
“We have the potential spy we heard about in the area, I’d like Indira full time on trying to identify the leak. I’ve already sent her emails on this; I just need you to know so she can be free to focus.”
“Of course M. . .”
“Pam, we’re on vacation with the family, Eric is fine.” He even leaned over and kissed her forehead. As his focus had been on Sookie’s reaction to his departure he now wanted Pam to know she was important to him as well. “I’m working to make my time in New Orleans as short as possible, but I’ll still be gone for a while. This is going to be hard on you and I know that.”
To Pam, it was important to show Eric that she was confident. His worrying about everyone in Area 5 was a distraction they could not afford. “I’ve served as your Sheriff before. Granted, this is different given all the risks for the state but I don’t want you to be concerned about our area. We will be ready for anything; I’ll make sure of it.”
“I know, but it’s the next request I have that’s going to add to your burden.” Sparing a glance into a window of the lodge at everyone, he continued. “It’s Gran.”
“Gran?” She thought for sure he was going to say Sookie something.
“Sookie is going to need her and this separation will be hard and stressful. We know what happened the last time Gran was under stress.”
Understand dawned on Pam and she took Eric’s hand in hers and she spoke for him. “We never got confirmation that stress caused the stroke, but nonetheless, you want her to have more blood, don’t you?”
“I need her to be strong and I need to reduce the items on my list that I worry about. I know you don’t feel her now since your blood has worn off, but giving her more blood will give you the encumbrance of extra emotions.”
“I can handle Adele’s emotions. I’ll take care of that when we are at the farmhouse. You know, I thought you were going to ask me to take care of Sookie. But now that I think of it, you probably realized that you didn’t need to ask me to do that.”
“When you can be around her, of course.”
“What does that mean, she’s practically nocturna. . .” His look stopped her. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to persuade her to adjust to Gran’s hours.” When he saw her start to speak his hand went up to stop her. “Hear me out. If she’s up more during the day, she’ll have Gran and Hunter as distractions. At night, she’ll be alone. The vampires staying at the farmhouse who will be home at night will be guarding. We can’t be lax and guard from the living room while playing games. Guarding the farmhouse means outside patrolling. You’ll still see her before you head out; I can still call her before I leave my light tight room at the palace. It’ll be like,” Oh, he hated to say it, but he did, “like Dallas again.”
Air sucked past Pam’s teeth at his words, but she knew he was right. “For the record: I hate everything about this.”
They broke up their talk as he could hear the plane approaching. “Pam, go inform everyone to pack the last of their items and have the luggage gathered on the trailer for transport to the plane.” She nodded and went to speak to everyone as Eric went to gather Sookie from their bedroom. He found her grabbing the last of their toiletries from the bathroom since she’d heard him give Pam her instructions. “I’ll carry the bag. Come on, we need to meet the plane.” She handed him the bag, but resisted leaving the bedroom. “Sookie?”
“The sooner I get on the plane, the sooner you leave me Eric.”
“I know, but I need to land in Louisiana with enough darkness to get to the Queen and move her to New Orleans. Every hour is critical; the state is currently at risk.”
Sookie couldn’t believe she was saying this, but she did. “Then just buy this fucking island and we’ll stay here.”
“You don’t mean that and you know it.”
To work off her frustration and upset, she paced. “No, no I don’t. I’d get bored eventually here and you are too honorable to leave your Queen at this time since you swore to protect her. I know she’s at risk, I fucking get it. I just don’t like it!” The tears started next and honestly part of him was happy that she was at least feeling something. Trying to soothe her, he pulled her from her pacing into his lap. It took her a few minutes to calm down and he needed to tell Pam once to give them time. He could hear the group talking about hurrying them up, but he gave her just these few precious minutes. For the first time since he’d told her he was leaving, she felt something and to Eric; that was an improvement. “Eric, I’m scared.”
“Sookie, I’m very well known as an accomplished enforcer before I moved to the states. Nobody is going to try to get Sophie-Anne while I’m in New Orleans. I’ve already been working on plans to get her married quickly to secure the state. I found several prospects for her; she just needs to be willing to share her territory and wealth. I’m not looking for another state to marry her; I’m looking for a very old, very powerful consort who will stay with her in New Orleans and rule with her. Like Queen Antonia of Florida. By herself she would be a risk for being taken over. Her maker gave her the throne since he desired the break, but he remains in the state as a protector or deterrent for anyone who wishes to take over.”
“Will she agree to that?”
“She will be informed that I’m not staying with her indefinitely. I know you just joked about moving to the Falklands, but Sookie, we may have to leave the state and go to Texas or Mississippi before this is all said and done.”
“That I can handle.” She stood from his lap ready to move forward. “Let’s go before I change my mind about buying the island.”
Sookie and Eric continued to talk in the plane sitting in the far back. Pam had situated everyone to give them as much privacy as possible and Eric appreciated it. “Sookie, I want you to know that I swore to protect you too, not just Sophie-Anne. I don’t want you to feel abandoned.”
“Eric, nobody’s coming for me to take the state. I get that your protection comes from vampires and Weres other than just you personally.”
“You are an incredibly understanding woman. I will find ways to visit you when my reinforcements arrive. Though those visits will be a surprise.”
“My tolerance will be lessened with each passing month, and if we are still dealing with this shit 6 months from now, I’m coming to New Orleans to take you myself. I’m not having Roo without you.”
“Agreed.” He chuckled a bit since her comment had him imagining a very pregnant Sookie barging into court and making demands.
“Eric, what about that Jade Flower – she was scary vampire, old too – right?”
“She’s gone. She left after Peter was killed at the Summit. Likely back to her maker.”
“Isn’t that wrong? I mean, they were married, her loyalties should be to both states.”
“Technically yes. It’s not something I thought about until you brought it up, since she left right after the trial.” Moving her to his lap, he continued. “Once we land, I have to depart right away for the Queen’s hidden location then transport her to the Palace.”
“I know.” Tears formed. “I want to stay awake for the whole flight since we are flying into the dark.”
“Sookie, you can’t stay awake the whole flight. With the late sunrises and early sunsets in the Falklands you’ve barely slept at all these past few days.” Shifting her to a position that would allow her to sleep, he begged her. “Sleep my Sookie. The flight is 13 hours. I’ll wake you when we still have 4-5 hours left.”
She agreed, snuggled in and fell asleep quickly with Eric humming to her. Knowing Sookie wasn’t the only one that was going to feel the pain of separation; he spent her naptime simply holding her in his arms, memorizing her face and inhaling her scent. When Pam walked back to talk, he shook his head indicating he wanted no company and she took the hint leaving him alone and telling everyone to use the facilities at the front of the plane. He relaxed further when he could hear Pam whisper that Gran had finally allowed herself to sleep while snuggled with Hunter. ‘Thank goodness Pam is willing to give Gran some blood to strengthen her up. The next few months are going to be stressful and Sookie will need Gran. I already see how upset Gran is about my stay in New Orleans and as time goes on, it will only get worse. I want her to be around when we finally get on the other side of this clusterfuck. Goddamn Andre, he couldn’t smell explosives? Sophie-Anne now has two territories and lost three fighters between her husband and her two children. We need to get reinforcements here and quickly.’ His thoughts never stopped and even with holding Sookie, he was able to check emails and texts from his phone. The plane wasn’t luxurious for a private aircraft as he had to get one quickly forcing him to accept what was available. At least he could get wifi to work. He was pleased some of the planning he’d started from Falklands was already in place.
The naptime went quickly, and as promised, he started to wake her up. “Sookie. It’s time to get up.”
“No? You’re the one that asked me to wake you.”
“Sleepy. Comfy. Growing Roo.”
“Yes you are, and Daddy wants to spend some time with Mommy and Roo before we land. We have about 4 hours.” Instead of just waking, Sookie started crying. “Sookie, please don’t. Not tears.”
“I can’t help it. I have only 4 hours left with you. On top of that, our final hours have us stuck in a plane with several other folks.”
“Sookie, calm down. I don’t want to waste our 4 hours with crying.” She didn’t calm down at all so he came up with a deal. “How about you can cry your eyes out the last 30 minutes, but until then, you’re here with me.” The proposal he made gave her pause so he took the opportunity to distract her. “We had been talking about baby names before I went to rest yesterday. I have the books in my carry-on; can we do more of that?”
She calmed down a little and sat up. “O . . . OK.”
“Before we do that though, I have a favor to ask.”
“Can I take a lock of your hair with me? I found this glass jar at the lodge to put it in, and I’ve been waiting to ask.”
“Sure, but why wait to ask me?”
“It . . . I feel . . . It makes me appear weak. Needing something like that of yours with me.”
“It makes me feel loved.” He responded with a kiss and a smile. He should have known Sookie would only make him feel good about his request. That didn’t mean he was telling anyone else about it though.
“You ARE loved Sookie, for eternity.” He used his own leather hair tie to secure a section of Sookie’s hair together, cut it, and placed it in the glass jar.
“Maybe I’ll find you a pocket watch that you can use to hold a bit of my hair. You can carry it with you discreetly that way.”
“I would like that.”
“I love to play with your fingers, but I won’t ask for one. I don’t want you to go through that pain.” They both chuckled. “Maybe you can mail me your worn shirts so I can sleep in them.” He agreed.
“Sookie, one other thing.” She nodded for him to continue. “I think it would be best for you to switch to Gran hours while I’m gone.” Her potential angry reaction concerned him so he braced for it. He was surprised.
“I’ve been thinking about that. If Remy agrees to your plan, I can take care of Hunter that way as well. Plus, nobody’s going to be able to keep me company at night.”
“You have surprised me yet again Sookie.”
“Apparently, that’s my job. Let’s stop with the separation talk, please?”
“Very well.” They sat in silence for a few more minutes before he asked. “What’s got you so curious that I can feel it?”
“It’s a bizarre thought or question that popped into my head. Let’s discuss something else.”
“Now you have ME curious.” She made a hand motion like she was locking her lips. A little tickling started to get her to comply. “Soookieee.”
“Ok, Ok, but you’re gonna think it’s gross that I thought about it.” She grabbed the hand that had been tickling her. “I had mentioned your fingers, and JOKED about asking for one and my mind spiraled to . . . if you lost a finger I know it grows back.” He nodded. “How long does it take? And I’m NOT asking ‘cause I want one, which would be gross. I’m just plain curious.”
“That’s not that bizarre seeing we just cut off hair and joked about fingers. A finger would only take a few weeks to a month at most to re-grow and it the pain is more like an ache. If you lost many at once, a little more time is needed. Since we’re on the topic, I’ve re-grown a leg – that takes months and is very painful.”
“Ok, curiosity time is over.” As he laughed at her she scowled but quickly changed topics. “So baby names? You want to get the books out?”
So they talked baby names for a good portion of the flight, neither agreeing on anything, mostly because they were choosing absurd names just to get rise and then a chuckle out of each other. In their own little world, they enjoyed their last hours together before politics would separate them for an undetermined period of time. Given that Sookie’s Gran, nephew and brother were on the plane, they groped and kissed every once and a while but did nothing further. When there was about an hour before landing, Pam warily approached the back of the plane. She didn’t want to interrupt, but there was strategy to be discussed. Eric made it easy on her.
“I know Pam; we have to meet on security and other points. We’ll be right up front.”
Meeting in airplane seats wasn’t easy, but a nicer private plane with tables or couches wasn’t available on such short notice. Sookie new this would likely mean a private plane was in their future. Eric made it clear several times that he wished they had a bedroom on the plane. For Sookie, rolling her eyes wasn’t an option since she could only agree with him – a bed for this flight would have been really nice.
He leaned against the back of a row of seats to face the passengers as they sat in two rows of seats. “I’ve been putting some plans in place for security and I’d like to review my ideas with all of you. Some measures may not be easy, so I ask you to please remember I’m trying to keep everyone as safe as possible while I am away.”
“Lord, it’s going to be bad if he started with please already.” Pam deadpanned causing the group to laugh. Her plan had succeeded; she knew what the ideas were since she was copied on several emails. Sookie and Remy were going to be the most put out and a moment of lighter mood would hopefully help.
Certain she was going to be unhappy, Sookie just wanted to hear these ideas so she ended the laughter. “Ok, we had our giggle. Let’s hear the plan Sheriff.”
“The vampires who will be staying in Bon Temps are: Thalia, Indira, Bubba and Pam.” Pam confirmed by sharing a smile with Gran; she loved staying with her Gran. “Bubba will remain constantly at the farmhouse. The ladies will rotate shifts at Fangtasia since we cannot show any weakness in our area by shutting down the bar or not making appearances. In fact, I will be flying to Fangtasia to step on stage for the last half hour before the bar closes. There is a suspected spy in the area so I need to make the appearance and hopefully fly in secret to Sophie-Anne’s hidden location from there.”
“Sookie. I would like to ask you to stay on your property in Bon Temps. Work on Tara is down to some of the finer interior details and I hope you can spend your awake time working on final color and trim selections and then decorating once the building process is complete. Amelia will be staying in Bon Temps for my entire absence. We’ll need to furnish a room for her in the new house. She has agreed to ward the properties from ill-will and these wards will need to be refreshed on a regular basis. This ward, plus combining your guards with Gran’s in one location will boost our security presence.”
“I understand and have been anticipating this.” Seeing the shocked look on Eric’s face she added, “I don’t LIKE it, but I anticipated it. Don’t think I’ve become compliant.”
“Never.” His hands went through his hair indicating that additional difficult messaging was forthcoming. “Remy. I would like you to seriously consider moving to the Bon Temps property as well. There are enough rooms that can be furnished quickly in the new house for you and Hunter and again, I can pull your 4 guards to Bon Temps.”
“Well, since we haven’t completed the kitchens at Tara and you are a woodworker by trade, I was hoping you could work for me directly on the building project, or be hired by Alcide and continue that relationship after this threat is over. Either way, I will ensure your employment as long as needed.”
“When do you need to know?”
“I am leaving for New Orleans when we land. I’d like to know your plan by the time we land even if it will take a day or two to execute.”
Remy looked around the room and only took a moment to answer. “We’ll go. You guys have been too great to us. I know this will help you by keeping the safety needs centralized. We have enough in our luggage to go with everyone tonight and maybe I can head out to my house with some guards to collect the rest?” Eric nodded. “Can someone do that mind thing to my boss so he isn’t pissed that I’m leaving without notice?”
“It will be handled.” He turned to Jason. “Jason, you’re my problem. I can’t have the street outside Gran’s house fixed forever. I can ensure you will be employed after all is said and done. I just can’t ensure it will be the road crew in your supervisor position. I can keep you working with your guards if that’s what you desire or you can remain at the farmhouse full time with Gran and I’ll take care of all your bills. If you choose to work, we can minimize your exposure by having you at least live at the farmhouse with Gran and Sookie. Whatever you decide, you can’t go out to Merlotte’s or really anywhere. I need to have your exposure reduced.”
“I’d like to work, but I’ll stay at the farmhouse.”
“Fair enough.” Next he turned to Alcide. “Report.”
“Potts and I will be staying in the farmhouse with Gran and Sookie. As far as Amelia, Remy and Hunter’s accommodations, I didn’t want to interrupt when you were talking to Remy, but I’ve got three bedrooms and two baths ready for them. They’ll need to eat with us at the farmhouse though, the kitchen in Tara just isn’t ready.”
“We’ll need another room for Jason as well.”
“That won’t be necessary.” Jason said as he smiled down at Michelle.
Gran rolled her eyes and gave her 2 cents. “I think we’ll have Remy and Hunter at the farmhouse and move all the couples up the hill. I’m not a prude or anything, but I’m also not deaf. Y’all are loud.” The group all spent a moment enjoying a much needed chuckle.
“Alright then.” Eric said after the laughter stopped and turned his attention back to Alcide.
“I have Were’s doubling as builders for the daylight hours. They will rotate on their own to walk perimeter versus working on Tara. Additional Weres will arrive for night patrols. Food and other living supplies will be delivered by Mustapha as needed. With the building still ongoing, we still have large delivery trucks coming onto the property. I know you have the ward and all, but I’ll feel better if Sookie can read them – how close do you need to be Sweets?”
“I can be on my porch and get a read from the end of the driveway while you have some Weres inspecting the trucks. It’ll help if the guys ask some specific questions. I’ll supply a list.” His brow scrunched up in question. “The delivery guys will focus thoughts on particular things that way.” He nodded his understanding.
“Excellent.” The last person he focused on was Michelle. “Per our discussion, you will be Gran’s sole caregiver and will also stay at the farmhouse. The other nurses and therapist will not be onsite during my stay in New Orleans.”
“Correct. She only needs to wake me if she needs me during the night and I sent a note to Mustapha for the intercom as you told me I could.”
“He confirmed he has it and he’ll meet you at the farmhouse.” Indicating he was done with the meeting, he moved from his leaning stance to help Sookie stand from her seat. “And now, I promised my wife 30 minutes of crying time which is about how long we have until we are on the ground. We’ll move quickly after the plane stops and my focus will be getting Sookie into her car. Pam will focus on Gran; Remy, look for Thalia when we open the doors; she is escorting you and Hunter. Do not dally getting to the cars. Your luggage will be handled and delivered separately.” Taking Gran’s hand, but addressing the whole group he continued. “I say my goodbyes now and I will hopefully see you soon.” After kissing the back of Gran’s hand, he started to walk towards the rear and was stopped by Hunter. “Can I give you a hug goodbye?”
“Of course.” With that, he enveloped the boy in his arms and squeezed, even including the rocking and patting he’d seen so many times from his human family members. Surprisingly, he felt some wetness on his shoulder and he whispered to Hunter. “You must be strong for your Aunt Sookie. She’ll need distractions while I am gone. I also need someone to make sure she eats. I’ll text you via your father regularly for a report. Can you promise to take care of Sookie for me?” His head bobbed up and down exaggeratedly. “Then no tears, you have an important job to focus on so you won’t miss me.”
“I love you Big Dude.” He said as he wrapped himself again around Eric’s neck.
Eric froze. The eyes of all the passengers in the plane were on him and he was unsure how to respond. His own child gave him the strength to answer the boy. One look at the tears in Pam’s eyes told him she was just as invested and the emotions were OK. “I love you too Little Dude.”
Sookie was crying from the interaction before he even got her to the back of the plane. He’d promised her this time so he just held her as the tears continued. It was Sookie herself that stopped it and he was surprised. “My love, that wasn’t what I expected.”
“I’m saving some for Jason, he really hates it.” She laughed at her own comment. “Actually, I want to ensure I had time to tell you a few things before we depart.”
“You need to feed on donors to keep your strength up. I know from Godric that you didn’t do that every day in Dallas, and I know you can skip days, but not this trip. I’m ordering you to feed every day.”
“Yes dear. What else?”
“Hadley.” He grimaced and she took a breath. “As soon as Sophie-Anne can function without her, can you get her up here and away from the palace?”
“That may take a while.”
“Implore to Sophie-Anne that Hadley is human and needs to be safe.”
“This is delicate but for you I will broach the subject.”
“Thank you. My last topic is Roo.”
Hearing that, he turned her a bit on his lap so he could put his hands on the baby. “What about Roo?”
“I gather Ludwig will come to the house to check on us while you’re gone. Do you want her to do that at night so you can be on speaker phone? Or would that be too much of a distraction?”
“I think if we schedule it, I can assure other vampires can take up my distraction slack.” He lifted her slightly as he bent down so he could talk to the baby directly. “Daddy doesn’t want to be away, so I will ask Mommy to put the phone up to you every day. I will NOT allow this time apart to prevent you from memorizing my voice my baby.” Then, as he always did, he turned his ear to her tummy to listen. He responded with a slightly louder voice to get a reaction from Sookie. “Roo finds these plans to be satisfactory given the circumstances, though he will miss being rocked to sleep by our mating.” He got the reaction he wanted.
She gasped and slapped him on the arm. “Gran could’ve heard that!”
From the front of the plane she heard her Gran chuckle and say “I did.”
Pam had been sitting with Gran’s arms wrapped around her. She could hear Eric talking to Roo and her cold dead heart broke. While everyone else laughed at Gran’s response to Sookie’s embarrassment, she only tucked in more for comfort. Even Potts couldn’t bring herself to make fun of the vampire – at the moment. Potts was smart; a day would come that she could use this information, all in good fun of course.
The plane was practically on the ground before Eric spoke again. They’d just been snuggling for the last minutes of the flight. “Min älskade. Mustapha has your birthday present. I want you to open it.”
“No, I’ll wait.”
“Sookie, I kept part of it to give you separately, but I think this present is something that will help you.” While she was shaking her head he continued. “I can’t explain it further without giving it away, but please open it for me.”
“I don’t like it but I will. I hate that it’s my first birthday with you and we’ll be apart.”
“I know you used to celebrate at Merlotte’s so I arranged for him to cater dinner at the farmhouse. Extra guards are coming from the area to ensure it is not a security risk, but with the wards, that’s just my paranoia. Nobody with ill intent can get on the property once Amelia is done.”
The plane touched down, bounced a little then touched down again as they rode out their last moments together. “Remember, I’m flying you to your car, Pam is running with Gran and then the two of you are off with Pam and Bubba. The others will follow. No delays on the tarmac, so kiss me now min älskade.”
They kissed until the plane came to a complete stop; then he stood with her while the flight crew opened the door. With a last nod from Alcide, he flew down the stairs with Pam running behind him. They secured the women in the vehicle and after giving Sookie the sign for wish, Eric was in the air before Bubba had put the car in gear. Gran cradled Sookie for the entire drive back to Bon Temps; her hurting body curled in for comfort.
“Everyone is settled in their rooms. Thalia and Bubba are walking the perimeter with some Weres from Alcide’s pack.”
“Seems like so many resources just for the Stackhouse family.”
Pam moved to the bed and took Sookie’s hand. “A worthy family.” With her head, she gestured to the bureau where she’d placed Sookie’s birthday present. “You need to open that, you promised.”
“My birthday’s not until the 18th.”
“I know, but I think you’ll enjoy it and you could use some enjoyment right now.”
“It hurts Pam. Being separated hurts.” Sookie tugged on Pam’s arm. “I can’t open it yet. Will you lay down with me for a while?”
“Sure Sookie.” The closeness of her friend was a comfort and a release for Sookie: She started crying immediately. This trip was really bad timing. Her hormones were crazy and she was starting to feel some nausea. Pam patted and rocked her for a while before Sookie calmed down. Eric had really wanted Sookie to open the present even though he was personally going to miss her birthday, so she tried again. “How ‘bout that present crumb cake? I’ll open it with you. I know what it is and you’ll like it. . . . Well, you’ll cry but you’ll like it.” Her comment caused Sookie to snort, but she nodded. Pam didn’t hesitate so she was to the bureau and back before Sookie even recognized the movement.
“Well, it’s small enough to be jewelry, but I don’t recognize the box.”
With a chuckle Pam replied, “You’ve changed enough to recognize jewelry boxes now. I like to think I did that.”
“You like that you corrupted me you mean? ‘Cause you know you did.” The bow came off then she opened the box and gasped. “OH, I love these.” She fondled the gold bracelet with charms from Pandora in her hands. “Look at what he already picked: a July birthday charm, a fairy, a VIKING! They had a Viking charm? A wishbone – how perfect for us, this is a watering can – how cute!“
“Yes, for your gardening.”
“Oh, and this one?”
“Hmm, don’t kill the messenger, but that one’s called gilded cage.”
“I guess he thinks he’s funny. These thinner ones – the oval shapes?”
“Those are spacers, they’re called elegant embrace.
“I love it. I thought that these bracelets and charms were always silver.”
“They always had some other than silver, but they’ve started catering to vampires and you can get more in all gold now.”
“I’m actually looking forward to having him add to it. I want to see what he selects as charms. This will be fun!” Pam ran to the window to look out. “What are you looking for?”
“You willingly want gifts. I’m looking for the flying pigs.”