*Chapter 2*: Chapter 1
Disclaimer: Southern Vampire Mystery characters belong to Charlaine Harris. My original characters, however, belong to moi.
Wow! Thank you so much for all of the reviews and follows/favorites! I appreciate each and every review and I am humbled, given this is my maiden fanfic effort! I hope to do this little story (and Eric and Sookie) justice, especially given the recent release of the book “That Shall Not Be Named” (kind of like the literary equivalent of Voldemort). To the guest reviewer who asked the question “Why?” and suggested Sookie did not have any self-respect for deciding to go the wedding, that is a valid point, but have no fear, my Sookie is NOT a doormat and hopefully this chapter will provide some answers to your question. As far as timeline, Sookie’s birthday, which I believe was July 1, occurred at the end of Deadlocked. So, we pick up in this story a few weeks afterwards. Sookie got the wedding invitation on a Sunday, which means that the following Sunday is the dreaded wedding. This may be somewhat off from CH’s timeline, but oh well, it is what it is…so, in other words, I am going to start diverting a bit from canon into my own little AU. Also, since I am a newbie to posting on this site (or any site), I noticed there was a posting mistake in the Prologue, with a “Chapter 1” before Sookie’s part. That was not intended to be Chapter 1, and was instead part of the Prologue. THIS chapter is actually the first chapter. Remember: reviews send a dopamine and serotonin cascade straight to the muse center of my brain, resulting in faster chapter updates!
Sookie groaned as she painfully peeked open one swollen eye at her alarm clock. Ugh. She had less than one hour to get up and get her act together to make it in time for her Monday lunch shift at Merlotte’s. She thought about calling in sick, but decided against it. Even though she was now technically co-owner of the bar, she continued to wait tables on a regular basis to stay busy and because they were understaffed. Also, to be honest, if she stayed home right now she would not have the luxury of having work, mundane though it was, to distract her from her thoughts.
Her head ached as she heavily leaned up in bed. The night before, after her marathon cry session while sitting in the tub until the shower ran ice cold, she stupidly had sought out her unopened bottle of gin given to her by Tara (which had been hidden from Jason’s sticky fingers). Well, needless to say, given how crappy she felt this morning, it was obvious that attempting to drown her sorrows in booze did not help her mood or thinking. No sir, not one bit. In addition to a monster hangover, she suspected she had cried herself into a sinus infection, given the full and stuffy feeling in her nose and face. And, to make matters worse, she felt even more sad and miserable. She decided then and there that she would avoid alcohol for a while given how upset she was and she would try like hell not to shed any more tears over Eric Northman (though truthfully she wasn’t sure if she would be able to achieve the latter, especially with the upcoming wedding).
As she squinted at the bright (and painful) sunlight filtering in through the blinds, she trod heavily to the kitchen and began brewing coffee. There was no way in hell she would be able to face work without some caffeine in her system. She then shuffled to the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet. After popping a couple of aspirin gulped down with a full glass of water, she decided to take another hot shower, hopefully to open her sinus passages so she would be able to breathe a little better and relieve some of the pressure in her head.
After a shower, she let her mind meander as she toweled off and hurriedly jammed herself into her Merlotte’s uniform (it was mid-August and muggy as hell, so it consisted of t-shirt, lightweight shorts, athletic socks & sneakers) and whipped her still damp hair into a high ponytail. She then hurriedly poured herself a large mug of coffee (which she decided she needed to drink hard up “motor oil” black) and popped some bread into the toaster, since she didn’t think she could stomach anything more substantial given the lingering queasiness in her stomach.
She leaned against the counter and mused. She was waffling. Her knee-jerk reaction had been to tell them all (meaning Eric and Pam) to fuck off. However, despite the terse and cryptic nature of Pam’s message, the mental pendulum had inexorably swung back in the polar opposite direction. Once again, her resolve wavered. While she remembered her painful decision to attend the wedding before passing out last night, she was now second guessing herself. Again. For one thing, her pride had already taken a beating. From being snubbed by Eric since the whole Sam/Janalynn/cluviel dor debacle, to receiving the shock of the divorce decree, to having her nose rubbed in the media blitz of Eric and Freyda’s engagement, she had felt her self-esteem rapidly dwindle. She absolutely despised the feeling. She had spent much of her life feeling like a pariah due to her “crazy Sookie” reputation. With the exception of JB, she had also been shit on by all the romantic interests in her life (some more than others), including Bill (duh!), Quinn, Alcide, and most painful of all, Eric. Her relationship with Sam had also become strained and awkward since the “resurrection” (he had acted like a stunned and frightened Lazarus after she brought him home with her that night). While he was unequivocally grateful for her intervention on his behalf, it seemed as if they no longer had the easy familiar friendship they once had. She snorted: it figured, she had used her one precious magical “get out of jail free” card to save her friend, who now seemed to want to avoid her like the plague, while alienating her one true love who no doubt blamed her for not saving him from a marriage that was at its core a thinly veiled sentence of indentured servitude.
Really, that factor was at the root of her ambivalence: she wanted to be righteously angry and vindicated by turning her back on him, finally closing that chapter of her life in retaliation to his unceremonious brush-off. However, deep down, she knew in her heart that it wasn’t that simple of a matter. Given her last real conversation with him early last month, she knew damned well that Eric did not want to be sold into marriage to Freyda, despite her beauty, wealth, and power. Based on their discussions and what she had gleaned from various sources, Eric had learned the hard way to swim carefully in the shark tank of vampire politics. Over the course of a millennia, he had served in every imaginable political or quasi-political role, from lowly slave and prisoner all the way up to king (although he did not discuss the latter role in detail, he had briefly mentioned his “abdication” as king of an undisclosed European country at some point in his past). His role as Sheriff of Area 5 was his concession to the vamp world: the position allowed him a measure of power while still affording him the “luxury” to try to fly (ha!) as much as possible under the radar. However, his time of relative anonymity had obviously come to an abrupt end since he was soon to be Freyda’s consort. Hell, forget anonymity: he had lately become fodder for all the gossip rags and websites (at one point she had read he had been offered an undisclosed sum to pose as centerfold in Playgirl’s “Hot Vamp” special edition. Gulp). With his bastard of a maker acting as a catalyst, his history as warrior, his reputation of cunning and political savvy, not to mention his panty combusting good looks and prowess as a lover, the vamp world had finally caught up with him. Sadly, he would no longer be allowed to remain a relatively small-time Sheriff in his modest Louisiana fiefdom. His days of “freedom” would soon be over.
While on some level she was hurt and blamed him for not trying everything in his power to get out of the farce of a marriage contract, she begrudgingly acknowledged that between the unholy trinity of Appius, Freyda, and Felipe, they had him cornered into a seemingly impossible situation. She knew that Eric was painfully aware, better than damned near anyone, the true meaning of enslavement given his history with his maker. Although she tried (often unsuccessfully) to be a good Christian, she hated Appius with all of her heart and soul. She supposed the fairy in her blood was showing: she wished she could resurrect him just so she could end his conniving and opportunistic ass all over again. In addition to her venom for Freyda, her anger was also percolating hotly for Felipe, who Eric had mentioned as playing a key role in ensuring that the marriage contract was enforced. She had entertained the thought of trying to petition the king for Eric’s freedom but she knew that despite her role in saving his life from Siegbert, his leniency for her was conditional and limited at best. She suspected his “favor” to her consisted of not forcing her into slavery as his pet telepath, but she feared that unpleasant possibility had a good chance of happening now (she would bet her last dollar) that it was common knowledge in the supe world that she was no longer bound by blood or marriage to Eric.
She glanced at her Timex and saw she had 10 minutes to get to work. Uh-oh. She had been so immersed in her own little world of woe, time had flown by. She finished her toast and gulped down a second cup of coffee before darting into the bathroom to quickly brush her teeth (hung over morning breath and coffee-not pleasant or conducive for good tips!).
As she drove to Merlotte’s, she once again leaned in favor of attending the wedding. While some folks may pity her or look down at her as not having any self-respect for attending the ceremony, she had her own reasons for going that she hoped would allow her some closure. She would go and see her former lover one last time while holding her head high and then tell him best wishes and goodbye, and then move on with her life while trying not to look back. At any rate, she knew she would have most likely been forcefully kidnapped by Pam anyway if she had refused: Pam’s no nonsense message had as much warned that her attendance was “non-negotiable.”
She arrived at the bar and quickly went in through the employee entrance, heading straight to the locker area to stow her purse and put on an apron (which held her notepad and pen). Merlotte’s was actually fairly busy for a Monday, and her afternoon seemed to pass quickly into the early night. She had seen Sam staring at her on several occasions, but pretended to ignore him and avoid him the few times their paths threatened to cross. At the end of her shift, as she was heading from the employee area out to the hallway towards the back entrance, Sam called her into the office. She groaned inwardly. He had caught her before she could make her escape.
“Sookie. Do you have a minute?”
“Um, sure Sam. What’s up? The books are straightened out and we aren’t scheduled for delivery until 9 am Thursday morning.”
“Thanks Sook. Appreciate it. But I didn’t want to talk about work…I just wanted to clear the air a little bit. I know things have seemed off between us lately.”
Sookie hesitated before answering. “Well, I won’t lie and say that I haven’t gotten weird vibes from you. I don’t hold it against you though.” She tried to make a joke, “I heard coming back from the dead is no picnic.”
The joke fell flat. Sam cracked a small, sad smile but didn’t laugh. An uncomfortable silence settled over them. Sookie decided she’d had enough. It had been a long day and she’d had a hell of a night yesterday and was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. “Well Sam, I’m going to head home now, so…” She turned to leave but he grabbed her wrist.
“Sookie. I wanted to thank you. Really thank you for doing what you did. And…I also heard that your actions that night impacted your relationship with Eric.”
Sookie froze. Who the hell would have been talking to him about that? She had not talked to anyone about the aftermath of that night. Taking a deep breath, she said, “Sam, I really don’t want to talk about Eric, okay? It’s true, he and I are no longer together but it really has nothing to do with what happened that night. I don’t regret saving your life. I would do it all over again, Sam, because I consider you to be a close friend. You’re a good man and over time have become like a brother to me. Hell, you’ve a better brother than Jason. You didn’t deserve to die like that…”
Sam stared at her with a cautious look for a few moments. “Cher. How are you holding up? What with his wedding and all…?”
“It hurts Sam. Okay, it does. I still love him with all of my heart and miss him so damned much it physically hurts me, but I will eventually get over it in time.”
“Everyone knows the wedding is this weekend. Do you want some company to help keep your mind off it?” He smiled hopefully, “I can barbecue and we can sit outside relaxing and drinking beer.”
Sookie shifted uncomfortably. She mumbled under her breath, “Well…um, I kind of got invited to his wedding and I’ve decided I’m going to go…”.
Sam’s eyes widened and his nostrils flared. He stepped closer to her and gripped her upper arms. “Sookie, you can’t be serious! What the hell are you thinking?”
Sookie tried to back up. “Ow Sam! You’re hurting me!”
Sam loosened his grip but did not let go. He spoke rapidly, deadly serious. “Sook, listen to me. You can’t go there. It’s…not safe for you. You are no longer officially under Eric’s protection, and from what I’ve heard through the grapevine, Freyda has forbidden it. Do you know what that means, cher? That means you are a sitting duck. Everyone knows you’re a telepath. And most have heard about your fae heritage. They would know something’s different about you just from your scent. Any of those vamp bastards could stake a claim on you and there would be nothing you could do to stop it. Nothing Eric could do to stop it. Dammit Sookie, you’ve been around supes for long enough you should know better! Jesus Christ!” He stopped his rant long enough to forcefully tug his hand through his hair, leaving it standing up wild in every direction.
Sookie stared at him for a moment before opening her mouth to reply, but a sardonic voice from behind interrupted her before she could say a word.
“Sookie will be under my protection and escort at the wedding. She is mine.”
Sookie turned to the smirking vamp in the doorway and said, “Hello, Pam.”