Sookie and Jason walk for miles down the yellow brick road. The golden fields and bright azure sky have given way to a dense orchard as sunset approaches. While walking, Sookie explains to Jason everything that’s happened, or at least everything she understands. It’s a fantastic tale, one that the foolhardy Jason Stackhouse cannot grasp.
“So lemme get this straight,” Jason says while scratching his head quickly. Both hands raise in front of him as he starts counting off the highlights of his conversation with his sister. “Eric’s bein’ forced to marry another chick even though he’s your boyfriend. You woke up in this place and have no idea where we are. You spoke with Gran, even though she’s been dead for years, and she told you to follow the yellow brick road. I was stuck in a field and don’t know how I got there. Sam’s a fuckin’ dog! And you have no idea where we are going or what we are supposed to do when we get there.” His voice has risen as he rattles off each statement and his look of incredulity only increases.
“Sook, this is some fucked up shit!”
“Jason, watch your language,” Sookie admonishes. He gives her a “what the fuck” look and she rolls her eyes. “OK, I get it. All of this is really strange, but Gran would never steer me wrong. And I gotta do whatever I can to save Eric. I love him, and he loves me. He’s been there for me when others weren’t. I can’t turn my back on him when he needs me the most,” she declares firmly.
“No offense, Sook, but he’s a vampire. Maybe this is your chance to get out of all that vamp shit and settle down with a normal guy,” Jason offers gently.
Sookie rolls her eyes. “Right, because you and me are sooooo normal. I’m a telepath and part-fairy. You’re a bitten were-panther. What part of either of those statements seems normal to you?”
Jason has the grace to look contrite. “Yeah, I get it, Sook, but don’t cha wanna have kids?” Jason stops walking and grabs his sister by the upper arms. “Don’t cha wanna be a mom? I know I mess around a lot, but I can’t wait to be a dad. I can’t wait to teach my son how to fish, how to throw a football, or how to hunt. I can’t wait to do all the stuff with him that Daddy did with me,” he says with a wistful smile on his face.
Sookie pulls Jason in for a hug as tears fill her eyes. She holds him tightly as she sees the memories they have of their daddy flash by in his mind. The images shift so she can see Jason with a little boy that has dirty blond hair like him. He pictures them on the dock of the pond behind his house, the little boy holding a tiny fishing pole as Jason teaches him how to bait the hook and then cast the line. The image shifts to show the little boy holding a football and running through the autumn leaves as Jason tries to tackle him.
Pulling back from the hug, Sookie looks at her brother with newfound respect. “Jason, I’m happy that you wanna be just like Daddy, and I know you will be the best dad you can be for your kids,” Sookie sniffs to try and keep her tears from falling. “But I don’t wanna take the chance that I can pass my telepathy on to a baby. I know it may not happen, but I’m too scared to take the chance. I know Daddy and Aunt Linda didn’t have anything extra special about them, but I do. Hadley didn’t have any extra special abilities and you didn’t either before you were bitten, but the weird supernatural stuff found both of ya. Hadley’s son is a telepath too. Plus, it’s damn near impossible for me to be comfortable enough with someone to let them get that close. I couldn’t even make it through a kiss with a regular guy without having his thoughts destroy the mood. I know you don’t like the idea of me bein’ with a vampire, but I don’t have to worry about keepin’ my shields up all the time. I can relax and be me. Don’t you understand?”
Jason nods his head seeing the beseeching look on his sister’s face. He drops his hands from her arms. “I get it, Sook, but I don’t want you to regret it later in life.”
A wan smile is all Sookie can muster to Jason’s comment. They resume walking in silence until a loud grumbling sound interrupts their peace and quiet. Sookie raises an eyebrow at Jason and he gives her a sheepish grin in return.
“Sorry, Sookie, I guess I’m hungry. You think there’s a restaurant ‘round here where we can get somethin’ to eat?”
Sookie rolls her eyes. “Yeah, Jase, I’m sure they got an Outback or Red Robin right around the corner,” she says sarcastically.
His eyes light up. “Really?”
“NO, you idiot! We are nowhere near any restaurants! I don’t even know what world this is, but I know they don’t have any restaurants. If you’re hungry, go find some apples or something,” she exclaims while gesturing at the orchard around them.
“Alright, alright. Geez, Sook, you ain’t gotta be mean about it.” Jason shakes his head as he steps off the path to go into the orchard.
Sookie steps off the path in the opposite direction. She can hear Jason munching on an apple he’s found. Sookie starts looking at the fruit she finds on the forest floor. Crawling on her hands and knees she makes her way towards the base of a tree that has the most fruit around it. As she gathers fruit, the sound of a low animalistic growl fills her ears. Sookie halts all movement, slowly turns her head to the left. A large white wolf stands in the distance, its yellow eyes zeroed in on Sookie.
“Jason,” Sookie calls out in a whisper, hoping her brother can hear her and somehow help. “Jason,” she exclaims again in a louder whisper. Of course, her brother can not hear her across the orchard.
Sookie swallows loudly in fear as the wolf moves closer to her. When the wolf is about ten paces away from her, it stops and sits on its haunches. The wolf stares at her, and Sookie stays transfixed by its eyes. The once yellow eyes have changed to green. Sookie’s head tilts in confusion as she recognizes those eyes.
Once Sookie says his name, the air shimmers around the wolf. Sookie scrambles back as the air clears and reveals a very naked Alcide standing in front of her.
“Oh!” Sookie exclaims and hurriedly turns her eyes so she is not staring at the perfect male specimen in front of her. A blush spreads rapidly across her cheeks. She loves Eric, and wants to save him more than anything, but she’s a warm-blooded female after all. It’s like appreciating a work of art in a museum; you admire it for its perfection. The only difference is that this body of art moves, talks, and is interested in her.
“Hey, Sookie,” Alcide rumbles in his gruff voice. Sookie doesn’t look at him, but she’s sure that a smirk is on his face.
“Um, hi, Alcide. What are you doin’ here?” Sookie refuses to turn and look at him. She feels at a distinct disadvantage on her hands and knees, so she hurries to stand. Once on her feet, she turns her back to Alcide. Sookie bites her lip nervously trying to avoid turning around to look at the male specimen behind her.
“I felt like runnin’ through the woods. What are you doin’ out here? It’s almost dark. It isn’t safe for you to be out here alone.”
“I’m not alone; Jason’s with me,” she says while gesturing with her right hand towards the area Jason is searching for food.
Alcide moves in front of Sookie and she’s surprised to see him wearing his customary jeans and plaid shirt. Where the hell did his clothes come from? One more mystery to add to the overall weirdness of this place. Speaking of mysteries…
“Not that I ain’t happy to see you, but, Alcide, how did you end up here?”
Alcide shrugs his broad shoulders. “I don’t know. I was out running with the pack, and then I ended up here. Where are we?”
Sookie rolls her eyes at Alcide’s blasé tone. Does being a supernatural mean you merely accept all the weird shit that happens in life rather than question it? Shreveport is a long way from wherever they are, but Alcide accepts the change in location with relative ease. Sookie wonders if she will ever reach a state of acceptance for all the weirdness in her life.
In response to Alcide’s question, Sookie shrugs. “I don’t know exactly. I found Jason as I was walking along the yellow brick road. We’re on our way to save Eric from the Queen of Oklahoma.” Sookie peeks up at Alcide’s face. His skin darkens and Sookie mentally prepares herself for the oncoming outburst.
Alcide’s tone is thunderous as he grabs Sookie by the shoulders. He shakes her slightly as he yells. “Sookie, you need to stay away from vampires! They’ve done nothing but hurt you! How many times have you gotten hurt because of vamp shit?”
“I don’t know, Alcide,” Sookie responds hotly. Her tone becomes sarcastic as she continues, “Probably the same number of times I’ve been hurt because of Were shit!”
Alcide’s eyes widen at her words before narrowing. He lets go of her shoulders, balling his hands into fists before shoving them into the pockets of his jeans. “You know I’ve always tried to protect you. I never meant for you to get mixed up in any of that shit,” he responds only for Sookie to cut him off.
“And Eric’s never done anything to hurt me. He’s done everything he can to protect me, even when it puts him in a bad situation. Dallas…Jackson…New Orleans…the night of the takeover. Eric has protected me every single time,” Sookie declares emphatically.
Sookie moves closer to Alcide, putting her hand on his arm, and gives him a beseeching look. “I know you thought there could be something between us, and I admit I was attracted to you when we first met.” Alcide smiles at Sookie’s declaration, thinking it is going to continue in his favor, but she dashes his hopes with her next words.
“I was attracted to Eric the first time I met him too, though he intimidated the hell out of me. The difference is that I grew to love Eric with every fiber of my mind, body, and soul, and he loves me the same way. It doesn’t matter that I’m a telepathic fairy hybrid and that he’s a thousand-year-old vampire sheriff. We love each other for who we are, not what we are,” Sookie states with conviction.
Alcide shakes his head sadly, knowing he won’t convince Sookie otherwise. “You’re a damn fool,” he sighs in regret. He clears his throat before speaking again, “If your set on rescuing Eric, you’re gonna need all the help you can get. You’re going up against a bunch of powerful vamps. You can count on me, Sookie.”
Sookie smiles brightly at Alcide and squeezes his arm in appreciation. “Thanks, Alcide. It means a lot to me that you’re willing to help me.”
Sookie drops her hand from his arm and steps back. She turns around, looking for her brother. “Jason? Where are you?”
“We should get going,” Alcide declares as he takes charge of the situation. “It’s gettin’ dark fast. It ain’t safe in these woods.” He moves through the trees, heading back towards the yellow brick road. The sun set during Sookie’s exchange with Alcide. The sky is no longer painted orange; it has that combination of light blue, soft purple, and pink that streak across the sky before the darkness sets in.
Sookie scrambles after Alcide, calling loudly for her brother. “Jason? C’mon it’s time to go! Where are you?”
Before Alcide and Sookie reach the golden path, a sinister laugh echoes through the woods. Sookie shivers with fear and moves closer to Alcide, who moves her behind him as he turns toward the direction the sound came from. Jason comes running through the trees, fruit falling from the cradle made by his arms. He skids to a halt behind Sookie.
“Did ya hear that noise? What was it?” Jason crouches behind Sookie, peering around her shoulder. “We’re sittin’ ducks out here. Wish I had my gun,” he mumbles.
“Jason, hush up,” Sookie whispers. She peers over Alcide’s shoulder, her eyes straining to see through the darkness that is settling around them. Alcide sniffs the air and growls which makes the hairs on Sookie’s arm stand up.
“Vamp,” Alcide growls.
“How astute of you, dog, to state the obvious,” a voice slithers through the night air. Sookie’s eyes widen in horror as she watches Appius Livius Ocella, glide out of the woods. He looks the same as the night Sookie first met him and his deranged progeny, Alexei.
“This isn’t real,” Sookie whispers in disbelief as she stares at Eric’s maker. “I watched you meet the True Death.”
“And yet here I am,” the ancient Roman vampire says in a menacing tone. His fangs slide down as he stares at Sookie malevolently. “I warned you before that Eric will never be yours. Your efforts to save him are useless. He is mine to do with as I please, and it is my wish that he pledges to the Queen of Oklahoma.”
“NO! Eric’s mine!” Sookie moves to confront the vampire she hates more than all others, but Jason grabs hold of her to keep her still. Alcide continues to growl, his body crouching lower to the ground as he prepares to shift into his wolf form.
Appius laughs cruelly as a devious smile spreads across his face. “We shall see about that.” Without another word, Appius vamps away through the trees.
The trio of beings left in the orchard look at each other warily, not believing for a second the danger is over.
“We need to get out of here,” Alcide rumbles while his eyes shift around the open area looking for danger.
“Let’s go, Sook,” Jason agrees as he pulls his sister towards the yellow brick road. She nods her head quickly and the three comrades take off running down the golden path that appears at their feet.
Appius watches the three beating hearts run down the path. “You can run, but you cannot hide.” He gestures to the three vampires that were hidden in the shadows while he confronted the part-fairy and her protectors. “Follow them. Make sure they do not make it to their destination.”