DAY 11: A GIFT FOR LCRAFTS

advent-11

The gifts just keep on coming! Today we have another gift tale for our lovely contributor lcrafts. Now lcrafts was one of the first who eagerly volunteered to help out as a contributor for the Directory without knowing she had already made my short-list of people to recruit. Not only is lcrafts a wonderful sensitive soul, she’s also very giving and has been giving to the entire SVM/TB Fanfic community for many years with the level of thought and details she puts into the reviews she leaves on many  a chapter as well as the ones she writes for the Directory. We didn’t have to think all that long who to ask to write our beloved lcrafts a story. We hope you like it lcrafts!

Day 11: A gift for lcrafts

 

Yes, SVTIASC WP

(AU) Vampires have been “out” since 1962 and are a “normal” facet of life. Godric, always a visionary, founded the Vampire Historical Society (VHS)—as well as a newspaper called The Dallas Moon. After his child demonstrates apathy towards humans, Godric punishes Eric by making him respond to the letters that are sent to The Moon. What will happen when he receives a letter from an 8-year-old girl named Sookie Virginia Stackhouse, asking if there’s a Santa Claus?

 

 

DECEMBER 27, 1987

Dear Vampires,

I am eight years old. I don’t have any friends, but the kids around me believe that there’s a Santa Claus. On the other hand, the adults in Bon Temps think there’s not a Santa Claus. But then they tell their kids they have to believe. And I know Gran saw him when she was younger. So I’m confused.

Gran says that if vampires say something’s so, then it’s so—since some of you are very old and know lots more than humans. Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?

I need him to be real because I have a wish I think only he could give me. If he is real, could you tell me how to find him? Please. He’s the only hope I have left.

Sookie Virginia Stackhouse

Hummingbird Lane, Bon Temps, Louisiana


JANUARY 5, 1988, DALLAS

ERIC POV

I could think of very few times in my long life when I’d been as disgruntled as I was now. My maker, Godric, had become so displeased with my apathy towards humans that he’d decided to punish me.

Honestly, I longed for better days—the “good old days”—when humans knew nothing about vampires.

Ever since 1962—when an idiotic vampire named Bill Compton had been caught feeding on a human by a reporter with a hand-held black-and-white camera—vampires had been forced to find their places in human society.

Or die trying.

The journey from mythology to reality had been rough-going for vampires at first, but a few older vampires, including my maker, had paved the way for vampire-human relations. A visionary by nature, Godric had dreamed up the Vampire Historical Society, for he’d predicted that humans would wish to learn from us—as soon as they’d stopped sharpening stakes, that is.

My maker had also been a driving force behind the first vampire gubernatorial candidate, and—although Bubba had failed to be elected—the fact that another actor (who seemed more “un-dead” than a vampire at times) had been president for the previous eight years gave Godric hope that vampires would break through into national politics soon.

I thought that the notion of vampires being involved in the convoluted—and inferior—world of human politics was ridiculous! But Godric preached that we needed to behave like any other “normal” citizen.

Disapproving of the notion that a superior race such as vampires should lower itself to be on the same level as humans, I scoffed at that idea!

When we’d been forced “out of the coffin,” I’d argued that vampires should take their rightful position at the top of the food chain, using force and/or fear to establish ourselves over our food sources.

Sadly, I’d been overruled.

Out in the open for more than two decades, vampires were now viewed as basically innocuous, a thought which disgusted me to no end!

I’d hoped to change that—at least a little—with a club I called Fangtasia, which showcased the “dangerous” side of vampires. It’s not like I’d planned to kill anyone there, however! In fact, some humans enjoyed pain, and many wanted to experience being bitten in a more “organic” way than the tame “donorship services” which had popped up after the vampire reveal.

There was so little joy in feeding anymore! Even in the privacy of one’s own home—a vampire couldn’t fuck and feed without having a “companion” sign a fucking waver!

Disappointingly, Godric had disapproved of my venture and had made me “water down” the danger and amp up the “camp” of the club. Hell—he’d even mandated that there be no biting on the premises, even in the “private rooms” I’d designed!

In other words, my whole purpose had been defeated!

Plus, my maker had punished me for trying to “undermine vampire progress” and skirt the rules of vampire-human relations. I knew that he worried that my final death would be ordered by the Vampire Council if I continued to be a malcontent toward mainstreaming. However, I felt that Godric had gone too fucking far with his current punishments.

For one thing, he made me sit on a throne six nights per week—like a damned zoo exhibit, for God’s sake! I was also forced to respond to any questions that the human customers at Fangtasia might have regarding vampire-related matters. However, that wasn’t even the worst part of my punishment!

In addition to being the president of the Vampire Historical Society, Godric was the editor-in-chief of a newspaper called The Dallas Moon, which had been offering the vampire perspective on the world almost since our reveal. The periodical had also broken the news of the Were/two-natured reveal of 1969. Due to his business acumen, Godric now boasted more human subscribers than supernatural ones, and The Moon (as it was commonly called) was generally thought to be the most diverse and “open-minded” publication in the country (if not the world). It now outsold even the New York Times!

Unlike me, Pamela had quickly found a niche in Godric’s enterprises and in the “harmonic” society my maker had envisioned between humans and vampires. Since the mid-1960s, she’d been giving Dear Abby and Ann Landers a run for their money by writing an advice column “from the vampire point of view” for The Moon.

In addition to the letters addressed specifically to “Ask Pam,” The Moon received thousands of letters from humans each month—most of them asking inane questions. As editor, Godric would make sure that all the letters—even the most absurd of them—received responses, and he even published a few in each edition of the paper.

Of course, he was too busy to respond to all of the letters. His assistant Isabel was actually the hand that answered most of the letters—after she’d vetted them and passed along the “best ones” for Godric to personally respond to and include in The Moon.

But my maker—in his wisdom—had made it a part of my punishment that I had to answer a minimum of thirty letters per day!

By hand.

Until further notice!

He thought that doing so would help me to better appreciate the desires and motivations of humans.

And I was to “be nice” as I responded—answering honestly, but congenially.

Periodically, my maker checked in by reading my responses; however, to add to my punishment, Godric had asked my own child, Pamela, to directly oversee my work.

And to make sure that I was behaving.

For my own good.

Pam just loved it!

As if thinking about her made her appear out of thin air, Pam entered my club—looking like she owned the place—and waltzed up to the dais.

“Another batch of letters came for you today,” she smirked, even as she checked her nails. “And Godric wanted me to be sure that you responded to at least thirty tonight—as always.”

I raised an eyebrow at my child. “Then fetch exactly thirty to my booth.”

“Yes master,” she sneered before going to complete her task.


It was the twenty-second letter which threw me for a loop.

I read it several times—though my memory was absolutely perfect.

Something about the letter from the eight-year-old struck me.

And then I’d put the letter to the side in order to answer number twenty-three.

Dear Editor,

Do vampires really sleep in coffins? I have a bet going with my frat brothers. I hope you come through for me and say that they do!

Sincerely,

Bobby Burnham

New Orleans, Louisiana

I rolled my eyes, but knew exactly how to respond—ambiguously.

Mr. Burnham,

Though a coffin is a convenient conveyance for a vampire traveling via airplane, we don’t generally use them in day-to-day life. For instance, I tend to sleep on a bed. I highly recommend 500 count Egyptian cotton. I have a feeling that it will—one day—be all the rage, and you could be the first to set the trend.

Regards,

Vampire representative, E. N.

I glanced again at letter twenty-two before again putting it to the side and opening letter twenty-four.

Dear Editor,

I was wondering if Dracula was real or not. I’ve read the novel by Bram Stoker dozens of times, and I think that I’ve found clues that he really does exist, but the rumors surrounding him make coming to a conclusion almost impossible. Can you help? Please?

Sincerely,

Troy Jones

Sacramento, California

I sighed and penned a response.

Mr. Jones,

Though I haven’t had the privilege of meeting the count myself, I have it on good authority that he is real. The stories of Vlad the Impaler have been somewhat exaggerated, however. I suggest that you review Volume 12 of the VHS Chronicle. In it, there is the most accurate account of the count’s life that I’ve read thus far. And—as for catching up with Vlad himself? The last I heard, he was hanging out with George Hamilton in Malibu. Rumor has it that he loved Love at First Bite, though I found several inaccuracies about the film. For example, vampires cannot become bats unless they were shifters or werebats in their former lives. But that is a topic for another letter.

Regards,

Vampire representative, E.N.

The other letters were similarly easy to respond to. However letter 22 continued to stump me.


“There are only 29 here,” Pam said as she collected my enveloped punishment for the night.

“One of them is a,” I paused, “challenge. So I’ve not responded to it yet.”

“Godric won’t like you shirking,” she smirked.

“Then—by all means—bring me another letter to answer, Pamela,” I said with exasperation.

She brought me five more—just in case I got “stumped” again.

My child could be a bitch at times!


 

A WEEK LATER

The letter from Sookie Virginia Stackhouse had been occupying my thoughts too fucking much throughout the previous week!

I’d even researched the letter writer. Eight years old—as the letter said. From a poor family, Sookie was a failing student at Bon Temps Elementary—a surprise, given the relatively sophisticated content and grammar of her letter.

A bit more research had uncovered the fact that her parents had died in a flash flood and that she and her brother lived with a grandmother named Adele Hale Stackhouse. Adele was likely the source of the name “Sookie,” given the fact that it was a nickname for Susan, which was Adele’s middle name. Another grandmother—now deceased—had been the source of the middle name “Virginia.”

My research also turned up the fact that there wasn’t much of Sookie’s family left. There was an aunt named Linda with a child named Hadley. And that was about it, except for a great-uncle named Bartlett.

As I lay down in my bed awaiting the day, I glanced at the letter from Sookie, which I’d put on my nightstand six nights before. I frowned. Why was the letter still on my mind? Why hadn’t I been able to answer it?

Was it the letter’s odd phrasing? The fact that the little girl claimed to have no friends? The fact that the adults around her had told her that there wasn’t a Santa Claus—even as they’d encouraged their own children to believe? Was it because that idea seemed cruel to me? Or was it because the little girl seemed to have run out of hope? The fact that she was grasping for straws to have her one wish granted? The fact that I was curious about what her wish might be?

My research hadn’t answered any of those questions.

I got out of bed and took out my large road atlas. I turned to Louisiana and looked for the town of Bon Temps on the map—as I’d done for several nights. It was barely a dot. It was only a three and a half hour drive from Dallas, and I had been tempted to go there for every night for the last week.

But that was ridiculous!

I was still contemplating the letter when I felt the first evidence of the bleeds.

“Ri-fucking-diculous!” I muttered to myself as a drop of blood fell on top of the Bon Temps dot on the map. It was bad enough that the letter—and the child who’d written it—had been occupying my thoughts! However, I couldn’t believe that I was now letting it keep me from falling into my day-rest.

After wiping my nose and ears with a handkerchief so that I wouldn’t get blood on anything else, I took out a piece of paper.

Miss Stackhouse,

The adults around you are correct. There is no Santa Claus.

Regards,

Vampire representative, E.N.

I folded the original letter and my response. I would include it with the batch of responses I would be forced to produce the next night.

Per Godric’s directive, I knew that Pam would “review” the responses before sending them off to a secretary, who prepared envelopes and mailed the responses before filing the originals.

Honestly, my reply seemed “abrupt” even to me, but I was required to answer all the letters sent in, and the little girl had asked a direct question. What was I to do? Lie to her!

Destroy the letter?!

Yes—it seemed cruel that the adults around her had seemed to disqualify her from believing in Santa Claus, but—when I thought about it—the whole practice of Santa Claus was cruel. After all, eventually all children had to deal with the loss of him—and the loss of what he represented, which was the idea that magic was a positive force for anyone who was “good.”

Being supernatural, I knew well that magic didn’t work that way. It was not always a positive force. It could not produce toys. It could not deliver said toys to the homes of every “good” and believing child.

Of course, I’d seen magic used for “good” throughout my years. And I was exceedingly fond of the magic that kept me animated and “alive.”

Plus, I’d met many kinds of magical creatures that most humans didn’t know about yet, including elves. Though magical, they certainly wouldn’t be found dead in a frigid workshop making toys. They were more likely to be found in pubs—in warmer climates. And—contrary to common perceptions about the supposedly “mythical” creatures—dwarves weren’t all short either!

Of course, the most magical creatures I’d come across were the Fae.

Some of them could even “materialize” objects. However, similar to the fairy godmother in “Cinderella,” those objects tended to have expiration dates. Simply put, when the fairy stopped expending energy on the item, it disappeared.

I smirked and imagined what would occur if Santa Claus was real and was a fairy. All the children who received his magical handiwork would certainly be nonplussed when their toys disappeared.

Still—I found myself thinking about Sookie Virginia Stackhouse.

Her letter had made me feel almost “sad.”

For a fucking week!

It seemed as if the little human was holding out hope that her wish could be granted by a magical creature who had already denied her for years—thus, her request for his correct address.

But there was nothing I could do for the little human. And my pity certainly would do nothing to aid her.

Resolved to think nothing else about her, I finally surrendered to sleep.


 

JANUARY 21, 1988

SOOKIE POV

“Hey, baby girl,” Gran smiled at me in greeting as I came into the kitchen from the mud porch after feeding and watering my kitten, Tina. She’d been my Christmas present and was already my best friend—my only friend since Tara’s mom told her to stay away from “the freak,” and Tara was too frightened to disobey. I didn’t blame her. Lettie Mae was going through one of her “sober periods,” and anything might set off her temper or drive her back into a bottle during those times—at least according to Tara’s thoughts.

So Tara was keeping away from “the freak.”

But I had my kitten now.

“Do you need help with breakfast?” I asked Gran, trying to sound cheerful.

“No thanks, honey. Could you run upstairs and bring me down Jason’s and your dirty sheets?” she asked.

Our sheets were always washed on Saturdays.

I frowned. “But Jason’s still in bed.” I knew he wasn’t sleeping, but I also knew he’d throw something at me if I went into his room.

He always did.

“Still in bed! Well—you’d better tell him to get his carcass out of bed! If he doesn’t have two loads of wood brought in before breakfast is ready like I asked him to do yesterday, then he’ll be eatin’ his biscuits cold!”

As if he could hear his breakfast being threatened, Jason ran down the stairs and into the kitchen, pulling on his winter coat as he did.

“I’m on it, Gran!” he said with a grin. Then he turned to stick out his tongue at me. “Stop bein’ a tattle-tale, or you’ll getta knuckle sandwich,” he hissed at me through his thoughts.

“Get your chores done. The both of you,” Gran ordered good-naturedly as she went back to fixing breakfast.

Of course, Gran couldn’t hear Jason “thinking” his latest nickname for me.

“Suck-y, Suck-y, Suck-y,” he chanted in his mind.

And I’d never told Gran about my brother’s knuckle sandwiches either. Usually, they were just little frog punches to my shoulder, so Gran wouldn’t see the bruises. He didn’t really hit me that hard—no harder than lots of siblings hit each other—but I still tried to stay out of Jason’s way.

Quickly—to put some more distance between my brother’s thoughts and me—I scampered upstairs and stripped both Jason’s and my beds of their sheets before taking them down to the laundry room. Luckily, Jason was done with his chanting and his threatening thoughts by then, though his mind was still blaming me for being a tattle-tale.

“I’ll start the load,” I volunteered as Gran took plates from the cabinets.

“Thanks, sweetie,” she smiled at me.

I smiled too when I saw that Tina was already done with her breakfast and very interested in a tinfoil ball I’d made for her the night before.

So that the spinning part of the washer wouldn’t get stuck—as it often did—I carefully loaded the sheets from Jason’s and my twin beds into the machine and then measured out the detergent.

Unlike Jason, I actually liked doing chores. People rarely tried to talk to me when I was cleaning a toilet or vacuuming a floor. And—when I could help it, I didn’t like talking—because it was hard hearing words and thoughts at the same time.

But—unlike spoken words—the thoughts never went away. People’s minds never shut off completely—not even when they slept.

I shivered at that thought as I remembered the nightmare Gran had suffered through the night before. She’d been crying over the grave of my daddy, and she’d felt trapped and helpless because of the burdens she’d been given.

I knew that I was her main burden.

I tried to shake that thought out of my mind and to look at the bright side of things so that I wouldn’t cry. After all, Gran would worry even more if I didn’t seem happy during breakfast.

I concentrated on the playing kitten. At least Tina was happy. Plus, it was a Saturday, and other than school holidays, Saturdays were the easiest days for me!

Yes, I sighed, I’d concentrate on those good things.

Usually, I had only two minds to deal with on Saturdays. And, after breakfast, Gran spent a lot of her time baking or gardening, while Jason was often off in the woods playing. Even better, today he was going over to Hoyt’s house to spend the night.

As I started the washing machine, I let out a sigh of relief.

Yep! I’d have only Gran’s thoughts to hear that day. And, mostly, she’d be going over ingredients and recipe steps. And then—in the afternoon—she would likely read one of her romance books, and though I would hear the book’s words from her head, that was lots better than hearing about her worries.

I frowned. Gran had a lot of worries.

She spent a lot of time stewing over her lack of money, and I knew that she was having to dig into her savings a little bit more each month in order to make ends meet. I did what I could to help out, but, at eight years old, my options were limited to helping her make things for bake sales and the like.

Gran also worried about what would happen to Jason and me if her “old bones wore out.” For her age, she was in good health, but she still fretted since we didn’t have any other family that could take us in if something happened to her.

Aunt Linda’s cancer was back, so Gran worried about her all the time too. And—if Aunt Linda died and Hadley’s father didn’t step up—Gran had no idea how she would possibly find the money to take care of another child long-term.

For a while, Gran’s brother, Bartlett, had been helping her out—giving her some money each month and doing some of the bigger chores around the house that Jason and I couldn’t manage yet.

But I’d ruined everything.

I sighed and picked up Tina for a sense of comfort. She was warm and soft. She was purring. And her mind was silent to me.

I’d heard the thoughts of every person in Bon Temps. So I knew some people weren’t “good.” For example, Deacon Jones at the church thought nasty things about a lot of the women in the choir, which was just one of the reasons I hated going to church.

Actually—most of the thoughts I heard were either bad or just “neutral,” which had been the only spelling word I’d been able to get right that week due to the almost-constant headaches I’d been having since Christmas Break. I loved staying home during school holidays, but—after they were over—listening to all the kids again was harder than ever.

Gran had been worried when she saw my spelling test—full of red exes. I had tried to do well. I really had! But I was hearing so many different answers from so many different kids in the room—and all at the same time. And there had been a history class next door—just a wall away—and the teacher had made the kids read silently.

And that was always the worst thing possible. Twenty-five kids all reading in their heads at different speeds! It only made my headaches—and my spelling—that much worse. At home, I knew the words and could spell them easily. But, at school, my pencil shook in my hand so much that I was glad to write anything!

Heck! During the last test, when the teacher had asked the students to write down “junction,” I’d written “hurt.”

But none of that pain compared to the hardest thoughts I’d ever had to endure: Uncle Bartlett’s. His thoughts were black, and—even remembering them—made me cringe.

But I hadn’t told Gran about them for a long time—so long that he began to think that I truly “liked” what he did to me, a thought that made me want to throw up.

Still—I’d kept what Bartlett did a secret—until he thought about doing the same thing to Hadley.

Like most people—Hadley thought I was weird and didn’t like me.

But I loved her. She was my cousin, after all. And Jason and Gran were both happier when she was around because she had such a “bright and healthy personality” as Gran had once said. In fact, Jason always thought about how he wished that Hadley was his sister—instead of me. And Gran always thought about how life would have been so much easier if I’d been born “healthy” like Hadley.

But I hadn’t been. I was Hadley’s opposite. I was almost always sick from the headaches I got from school or church. Or from not being able to sleep.

In fact, most people in town thought I was crazy because I was always holding my head or making pained faces.

I had learned not to say anything unless I saw a speaker’s lips moving, so I no longer responded to thoughts. But that just made a lot of people think that I wasn’t “quite right in the head” since I didn’t answer simple questions that came from right behind or to the side of me.

Gran knew about my mind reading, of course. And so did Jason. My brother “used” my ability to get away with thinking mean things to me. But Gran told me to try to ignore the things I heard—so that things would be easier for me.

She didn’t understand. There was no ignoring people’s thoughts.

There was no ignoring the pain.

However, for Gran, I really did try hard to smile and to seem happy at home so that she wouldn’t worry so much about me. Even if I had to pretend. But sometimes, it was too hard to even fake a smile. At those times, I just tried to make myself useful by cleaning something or the other, especially when Hadley was around to make Gran and Jason happy.

But, then, Bartlett had thought about Hadley one day when she was over at the house while Aunt Linda was at the doctor’s office.

While the others had been in the living room watching television, Bartlett had come up to my room. As usual, he’d made me sit on his lap and had told me not to make a sound. He’d imagined touching Hadley as he’d touched me. He’d thought about Hadley being “ready” for him, whereas my body wouldn’t be “ready” for a couple more years. From his mind, I knew what he thought my cousin was ready for. And it wasn’t anything like Gran’s romance books. It was dark; it was wrong.

He also thought about how he could get her alone. He was going to volunteer to babysit her when Linda started her new round of chemotherapy.

So, for Hadley’s sake, I’d told Gran about what he’d done to me that very night. I told her how he’d touched me. I told her about how he wanted to touch Hadley even worse.

I knew that Uncle Bartlett was an evil man, but I still wondered if I would have told on him if I hadn’t heard him thinking about Hadley. The truth was that Gran had suffered fewer worries when he was helping her out financially.

The truth was that I already felt like too much of a burden to her.

Not surprisingly, when confronted, Uncle Bartlett had called me a liar. But Gran had believed me. She told him she’d kill him with the shotgun if he ever came back. Gran felt so bad about everything—so guilty—that I lied to her and told her that he’d touched me only the one time. There was no need at all to make her feel even worse!

Thankfully, most people’s thoughts weren’t nearly as dark as Bartlett’s—and they didn’t do evil actions like he did. But it was also hard to find people thinking about good stuff.

After all, things like love and affection and acceptance were all more feelings than thoughts. For example, hardly anyone stopped for a moment to think about how much they loved a child or friend or significant other.

Even kids didn’t spend very much time thinkin’ happy thoughts, especially not when I was around.

And, when they did think about good things—like their parents or their friends or the new toys they’d gotten—I got jealous of them.

I frowned. Maybe that was why God didn’t answer my prayers and why Santa Claus hadn’t given me my wish again this year.

Envy was one of the seven deadly sins, according to my Sunday school teacher, who had felt guilty the week before because she set her son’s pet grass snake free and then pretended not to know anything about it.

I honestly didn’t blame her. I was scared of snakes, too.

I sighed as I looked at Tina. She was, supposedly, from Santa, but I knew better than that. I knew that the Santa Claus most people thought of definitely wasn’t real. There wasn’t a man in a red suit who left toys for children on Christmas Eve. I’d heard enough parents thinking about needing to buy the stuff for their kids’ Santa lists to know that he was make-believe. Heck, I’d even heard Gran thinking about “playing Santa.”

That’s how I knew the BB gun waiting for Jason under the tree on Christmas morning had been saved for by Gran for many months. And I knew that she’d carefully budgeted in Tina’s cat food before taking one of the free kittens she’d seen advertised in the paper. I’d always snuck the little allowance that Gran gave me back into her purse, so I still didn’t know how to make up for the price of the cat food. But I was determined to try. Gran always sold vegetables at the town’s farmer’s market, and I was already planning to help her to grow more food in order to make up for the costs of Tina’s food. And I’d been picking wild berries wherever I could find them on the old Compton estate so that Gran could make jam to sell.

Truth be told, I had almost denied wanting Tina on Christmas morning due to the cost of her. But I’d been too selfish to hide my happiness upon seeing her, and Gran had been too pleased with the gift to disappoint her.

Yep—thanks to being able to hear people’s thoughts—I had known, for as long as I could remember, that the one bringing gifts on Christmas morning wasn’t Santa.

But did that mean he wasn’t real?

Gran had sat me down the first Christmas I’d lived with her and had told me that even though I could read thoughts and likely already knew that there wasn’t a jolly old fellow who came down chimneys, there was still something called the Christmas spirit, and the real Santa Claus was a part of that.

One thing was for certain. Gran did believe in magic, and she even had fuzzy memories of a magical creature visiting her. The first time I’d picked up on one of those memories, I’d been really young—three or four years old. Gran had been babysitting me in order to give my parents “a break” from me.

We’d been putting away her Christmas decorations, and as she’d wrapped up a figurine she’d always called Kris Kringle, she remembered the magical man. There had been a Christmas tree in that memory, too.

The man had been dressed in a long cream colored robe with red underneath, similar to Kris Kringle in the figurine. And he’d also had a long white beard—though the rest of his hair had been long too!

Since “overhearing” that memory, I’d spent a lot of time wondering about Santa Claus. Kids believed in the man in the red suit with the reindeer and the sleigh, and—though I knew that Santa wasn’t the source of their presents—I also knew that parents told their kids that they had to believe in Santa Claus and be good in order to get their Christmas wishes.

So—was it a child’s “faith” that qualified him or her to receive what was wished for? And just how bad did a child have to be before he or she would be disqualified? Did the “Christmas Spirit” only compel parents to get their child’s wished-for items when he or she “believed” in Santa Claus enough? Did some magical force let parents know when a child had been “good” enough?

And, then, there was Gran’s memory of the “magic man.” Had it been Kris Kringle?! Who else could it have been?

That’s when I’d begun to hope that there was a real Santa Claus, a being who could grant real gifts—not just toys and such. But magical gifts! Like the one I needed!

Surely someone with magic in him could fix what was broken in me!


 

FEBRUARY 3, 1988

ERIC POV

“But I was honest!” I defended myself.

Godric sighed. “Yes, but you were also cruel. Anyway, this letter has intrigued me. I wish for you to investigate the girl who wrote it,” he added, handing me that damnable missive again.

He and I had been arguing about my response to the little girl for several nights as my maker had been trying to decide upon a new “punishment” for me—since the other one obviously “wasn’t working.”

I growled. Sookie Virginia Stackhouse had been haunting me for weeks, but I’d—at least—thought that the matter of the letter had been settled!

“I’ve contacted Sophie-Anne,” Godric said with a smirk. “It took some doing, but you’ve been cleared to visit her territory for up to two weeks. However, you will have to check in with Area 5’s sheriff, William Compton.”

“No, Godric. Please. Anyone but that douchebag!” I sulked.

Godric chuckled. “Little Miss Stackhouse lives in Sheriff Compton’s area, so you have no choice but to play nice.”

“So—what is my excuse for going?” I asked my maker, the resignation thick in my voice.

Punishment,” he said, his smirk even more devilish than before. “I’ve already lined things up with Mr. Compton.”

“What do you mean? Lined things up?” I asked.

“Once I realized that Miss Stackhouse was in Mr. Compton’s territory, I did some research on the sheriff. He just so happens to have originated from Miss Stackhouse’s hometown. At least—as a human. He owns a decrepit antebellum style mansion that is quite close to the Stackhouse homestead, in fact!”

“So?” I asked with some trepidation.

“Well—as many people are well-aware, including Mr. Compton, I’m sure—I enjoy buying old estates and rebuilding them to their former glory. As far as Compton is concerned, my purposes for sending you to Bon Temps are three-fold. One—to scout out the town. Two—to make a detailed renovation plan for the old estate should I choose to buy it. And—three—to punish you for a comment you made against the mainstreaming movement.”

“Let me guess—you’re paying him too,” I said sarcastically.

“Of course. And he’s more than happy for the rent. In fact, he’s not been to his ancestral home in over a decade, so the idea of a wealthy buyer showing an interest likely has him all atwitter.”

I sighed. “Please, Godric. It’s just a child wanting to know if an idiotic human tradition is real or not. Surely, you don’t want to torture me in this way—do you? Have I not endured your punishments for the Fangtasia idea enough already.”

My maker sighed. “You have—endured the punishment. But you’ve learned nothing from it. I still feel your distaste toward humans just as much as always—except for one exception.”

“Exception?” I asked.

“Whenever Sookie Virginia Stackhouse is mentioned,” Godric smiled, gesturing toward the letter in my hand, “you feel something else entirely.”


 

FEBRUARY 4, 1988

ERIC POV

Why Sophie-Anne Leclerq had given Bill Compton the position of sheriff was beyond me—given the inept vampire’s culpability in the “coming out” of our species.

Of course, from what I knew about William T. Compton, he’d been a waste of cum for his human parents and a waste of blood for his vampire maker. Then again, it was likely that Lorena was the ultimate reason for Bill’s “success.” Rumor had it that Sophie-Anne had had a vendetta against Lorena at some point, and Bill had betrayed his own maker to help the Queen of Louisiana eliminate her.

I swallowed my considerable pride as I walked through the revolving door into Compton’s hotel, which also served as his headquarters for Area 5 business. A little research had told me that Compton had yet to earn a profit from the ostentatious building in downtown Shreveport. Why the fool had chosen to build a hotel one block away from the river was mind-boggling. Had it been me, I would have built the dwelling right on the riverfront and would have attached it to a riverboat casino.

As it was, it seemed as if the majority of the “tenants” in the hotel were required to be there, for Area 5 vampires were forced to rent a certain number of suites per month as part of their requirement for staying in the area.

I rolled my eyes as I took in the décor of Mainstreaming, the most “popular” business inside of the hotel. Mainstreaming was a bar where yuppie humans flocked after their tedious work days were over. There was absolutely nothing original about the bar; in fact, it was trendy for malcontent yuppies to hobnob with vampires nowadays.

Trendy and sad.

I looked around; I was in a mauve hell.

Compton was perched in a booth at the back of the club. There was a pretty vampiress sitting next to him—no doubt his sister Judith, whom I’d heard was the real brains behind the area.

Though I was centuries older than Compton, I sullied myself enough to give him a nod of respect that would have made even my maker proud.

“Sheriff Compton,” I said evenly. “Thank you for allowing my visit to your area.”

He took his time responding to me. Sadly—for him—his smirk looked like the human condition of constipation.

“Northman. I received a call from your maker. I hope I won’t be having any trouble from you,” he sneered.

“None, Sheriff,” I said calmly. “I am here to do my maker’s bidding and to suffer my punishment.”

Bill chuckled and motioned to Judith, who took a key out of her pocket and handed it to her “brother.” Bill tossed it to me. “That should open the front door of my old estate. Of course, the last time I was there, it was missing the back door and a few windows, so you might not need it,” he chuckled.

I bowed again and took my leave before fucking up and taking the mother fucker’s head.


 

SOOKIE POV

The floorboards creaked underneath my steps, even though I was tiptoeing through the old house.

Jessie Compton had been a friend of Gran’s—I think. But he’d died in a car accident before I’d been born. His house had been empty since then—so empty that it was welcoming. It had become a refuge to me whenever Gran and Jason’s thoughts were too much to bear—as they’d been that night.

I’d been woken up by twin nightmares. Jason had been dreaming that he was drowning like my momma and daddy had. I’d coughed for air right along with him, and I’d also had to choke on the fact that he blamed me for their deaths—even when he was sleeping. That was bad enough. But Gran had been reliving the loss of my Grandpa Mitchell. He’d died in a tractor accident. And she’d found his mangled body. So I’d seen it too.

Living with them in their dreams had been too much for me.

At least, they wouldn’t have to remember them.

I’d put on my winter coat and boots and had quietly snuck out of the house. I’d made my way through the old cemetery, thankful for each of the dead, thoughtless bodies between me and my family. The old Compton house would have been spooky for most, but it wasn’t to me. I quickly found my way to the attic. The bedrooms were too ripe with memories, and I worried that ghosts might have thoughts too—if I got close enough to them. But the attic had been completely bare when I’d first entered it. Now it contained an old blanket and pillow that I’d brought over several months before when the weather had turned cooler.

Since it was below freezing that night, I quickly curled up into the blanket, though I didn’t lie down. I leaned against the creaky wall and looked out of the window. The glass had been missing ever since I’d first seen the house. I closed my eyes tightly. Even before experiencing the nightmares of my family members, I had been tired. Lately, school had been even more difficult than usual. And Gran’s nightmares had been happening almost every night for a week. Jason’s dreams had been the last straw.

I ventured closer to the window, but I couldn’t any stars. In the gray gloom that February had brought with it, I’d begun to wonder if there were any stars left.

Or if the sun would ever come out again.

The weekend before, Gran had read a book about a woman who had killed herself by jumping out of a window. The woman had endured a horrible life, and Gran had understood why she’d done it.

I touched the splintered wood of the weathered window sill.

The idea of killing myself wasn’t a strange one to me.

But the thought of Gran having to clean up after any mess I made while slitting my wrists or otherwise harming myself was too much to bear. However, the thought now struck me that if I killed myself away from Gran’s home, she wouldn’t have to think about it as much.

No one would make her clean me up.

I pushed the blanket from my shoulders and hoisted myself up to sit on the window’s sill. Again—I looked for a star, telling myself that if I saw one, I would stay alive for at least one more day.

I stared for a long time, but I saw only black.


 

ERIC POV

The little girl looked like a ghost from where she sat on the old window sill. The glass of the broken window was scattered on the ground more than thirty feet below her, but the girl was looking upward.

I’d landed at the address of Sookie Virginia Stackhouse thirty minutes earlier, intending to get a lay of the land. But I’d soon seen a little girl—obviously Sookie—hurrying from the home as if she were being chased by a nightmare. She’d calmed down, strangely enough, once she’d been in the graveyard. She’d stopped running and had made her way to Compton’s home, which was what a stereotypical haunted house would look like. But she’d clearly not been frightened of the dwelling.

The little girl was still eerily calm as she looked toward the sky as if trying to find hope itself.

I couldn’t help but to look up too. A winter storm was blowing in and had brought thick clouds with it. To her human eyes, the sky likely seemed dark and smoky. Frankly, even to my vampire eyes, it was little different.

I looked back at the girl. I saw her lips moving and I heard a prayer from them. She apologized for being such a burden to her family. She prayed that God would forgive her for everything that she “was.” She laughed at herself for ever believing . . . in Santa Claus.

And then she looked back up into the night sky. Again, I looked up too.

And that’s how I missed the fact that she’d jumped without making another sound.

Even with my ability to fly, it was too late to keep her from hitting the ground hard enough to sever her spine. But she was not dead.

Before I could even fathom what I was doing, I saw my own bloody wrist in her mouth, feeding her.

Ensuring that the little girl who had written the letter about Santa Claus lived.


She’d stayed unconscious while I’d tended to the only bloody injury on her body, a wound to the back of her head. I’d licked it to seal it, even as I’d tried to ignore her sweet taste.

After I was sure that I’d given her enough of my blood to heal—but not to turn her—I found a pallet in the attic room that she’d jumped from. The room smelled strongly of her, so I’d lain her on the old blanket, and I’d watched over her.

A fall like the one she’d had should have done more damage. It should have warped her little body to the point that not even my blood could have saved her. Perhaps her God had been listening to whatever whispered prayers she was making.

Or, perhaps, he’d refused to listen to them.

If there were a God, his or her inner workings were certainly not something I would ever be confident enough to guess at.

Regardless, I found myself strangely comforted by every breath the little girl took.

“I can’t hear you,” she said groggily—even as she rubbed her eyes with her hands as only a child would.

When she opened those eyes, I saw brilliant blue, a color that reminded me of the bluest sky I’d ever seen as a human.

“I didn’t say anything,” I said.

She smiled a little. “Your brain. I can’t hear it. And I’ve never not heard someone.”

I frowned. “You can hear thoughts?” I asked. Could she be a telepath?

She nodded and sat up a little, a smile forming on her lips that would have lit up even the most haunted of houses—if I believed in such things.

“I can’t hear angels’ thoughts,” she smiled even more brightly. Her eyes were already leaking tears—happy ones. “I knew that Heaven would be better! I just knew it!” She touched my hand and sighed with pure contentment. “I can even touch you and not hear them!”

“You can’t hear me?” I asked, seeking confirmation.

“No. I can’t hear anything at all!” she said, biting her lower lip before closing her eyes and saying a prayer that included her thanks that God had brought her to heaven even though she wasn’t ‘right.’

When she opened her eyes again, she gripped my hand even tighter—as if I was the manifestation of her prayer. “Please, Mister Angel, can you check in on Gran and Jason from time to time? Can you make sure they’re okay?” she asked, her eyes shining.

“I’m not an angel,” I responded.

Her forehead creased as she looked at me closely. “But you have to be.”

“I’m sorry. I’m not.”

She looked around the room and gasped.

“Why does Heaven look like Old Mr. Compton’s attic?” she asked with confusion.

“It doesn’t. You are not dead.”

More tears slipped from her eyes; this time, they weren’t “happy.”

“I’m asleep—aren’t I? I was too much of a scaredy-cat to do it—wasn’t I?” she asked.

“To do what?” I asked in return.

“To jump,” she said simply.

“Why do you want to jump?” I asked.

“I’m a burden on my family,” she whispered. “I hear people’s thoughts, and that makes me . . . .” She paused, her mouth dropping into a frown. “It makes me wrong.”

“Wrong?”

She nodded. “Momma thought that it’d have been better if I hadn’t been born. Jason thinks I’m to blame for her and daddy dying. And he wants me gone. Gran doesn’t know what to do with me ’cause I’m doin’ so bad in school, and she worries that I’ll never be able to take care of myself. And Gran doesn’t have any money to leave me. Sometimes she wonders why God would have made me like this—just so that I’d have to suffer.” She paused and brushed away more ‘sad’ tears. For some reason, each of those little drops was like a stab to my body.

“So—you see, Mister Angel? I was made wrong. When I was littler, I asked Gran if I could pray to God to fix me; she told me I was perfect the way I was. But that’s not what she really thinks,” she added with a sad shake of her head. “She just told me that to try to make me feel better, but it’s a lie.”

“A lie?”

She nodded as only a child could, utterly convinced of a truth that she was not old enough to question. “I know it’s a lie ’cause she’s prayed for God to fix me too. And she blames herself for the way I am,” she responded.

“How?”

“Gran couldn’t have babies with Grandpa. So she had an affair with a man that came around. She was happy to have children, but she’s always felt guilty for the affair. And Gran wonders if I’m like I am because of her sins,” the little girl informed, reporting the “adult” situation matter-of-factly.

“Your grandmother believes that the true father of her children was a supernatural?” I asked, voice my conjecture out loud.

She frowned. “A supernatural? No. Um—vampires can’t have kids. Right?” she asked confusedly.

“Not in the traditional way,” I returned. Obviously, the child had no idea that there were other supernaturals in the world, though it was clear to me that she was one.

“There’s a part of the bible that talks about the sins of the father being passed on to his children and his children’s children,” Sookie said.

It was my turn to frown. “Surely—if there’s a God—he or she wouldn’t be so cruel as to punish a child for another person’s sin.”

The little girl shrugged as she used her blanket to wipe away her tears; remaining behind them in her intense blue orbs was a look of hopelessness. “Gran isn’t sure; after all, there were the kids in Egypt that were killed because the Pharaoh wouldn’t let God’s people be free. So she wonders. And she worries.”

“And you hear her worries?” I asked.

“I hear everything and everyone—if I’m close enough to them,” she said hauntingly. “Except for you, Mister.”

“Eric. My name is Eric. And you are Sookie Virginia Stackhouse.”

“How do you know my name?” she asked in awe. “Are you like me? Can you read my mind?”

I shook my head. “No. But I read this,” I said as I pulled her letter from my pocket.

“My letter,” she gasped. “When God didn’t fix me, I wondered if Santa Claus could.” She frowned. “But there’s no such thing as Santa Claus—is there? That’s why you’ve come? To tell me there isn’t one? Or have you come to tell me how to find him?” she finished with a small amount of hope.

Her words.

Her sorrow.

Her guilt.

Her tears.

Her inexplicable hope.

Everything about her.

It was all so innocent that I had to reconsider my knowledge of the word, “innocent.” I’d always thought of the concept as the antithesis of guilt or knowledge. But the girl in front of me seemed afflicted by too much of both.

Yet, instinctively I knew that she was as innocent as any being in the world could be.

“Sookie, I . . . .” I found myself at a loss for words for the first time in a very long time.

“If I’m not in heaven, am I dreaming?” she asked as she looked at her letter in her hands.

Those hands were now shaking.

“No,” I said simply.

“Are you an—uh—elf?” she asked. “One of Santa’s elves? Aren’t you too tall?”

I chuckled. I couldn’t help myself. “No. I’m not an elf.”

“And I’m not dead?”

“No,” I said soberly. “You jumped. But I healed you.”

Her bright blue eyes were wide as they looked at me in wonder.

“I did jump,” she said, seeming almost prideful for a moment.

“Do you want to die?” I asked, letting my fangs drop down. In truth, the child had tasted amazing. And—had I been a younger vampire or one who’d never had a family of his own—I might have indulged in her. However, killing a child was something I’d never condoned. However, in that moment, I hoped to scare her into wanting to live.

But she didn’t seem scared of me—or my fangs—at all.

“I just wanna stop hearing. Gran’d be better off without me around,” she said morosely—and with certainty.

“You aren’t afraid of me,” I commented about her lack of reaction to my fangs.

“You saved me,” she said innocently. “And I can’t hear you. Do you think that’s because you’re a vampire?”

“That is a logical guess,” I said, standing up from where I’d been crouching.

“Are you leaving?” the little girl asked pensively—her eyes suddenly brimming with tears again.

“No. I will be in town for two weeks,” I responded. “But dawn will be here soon.”

“And you have to find a place to sleep? So you’re protected from the sun?”

I nodded. “Exactly. And you should get home before you are missed.”

“But I wouldn’t be missed,” she said sadly.

“You would be,” I said with certainty.

For some reason that I couldn’t have explained in any of the languages I knew, the thought of her being gone from the world was repellent to me.

She looked more than a little unsure, but she stood up too.

“I will visit you at your home tomorrow night,” I promised. “I would like to discuss some things with your grandmother.”

“What things?”

“I am going to help you if I can, Sookie Virginia Stackhouse,” I promised her.

“Help me?” she asked.

I nodded. “Yes.” I sighed and then took a breath I needed—but only as a stall tactic as I considered my words. “Sookie, there’s not a Santa Claus. But there are fairies, and some of them are telepaths—mind readers like you. I know a few. I also know that they do not despair because of their ability. After I talk to your grandmother, I will contact the one I trust the most and see about getting you some help.”

“Really?” she asked, looking up at me with so much hope that it stirred even my dead heart.

“Yes,” I nodded. “Come. I will fly you home,” I volunteered.

She clutched her letter to her chest and gasped with awe as I picked her up and flew us from the same window she’d jumped from earlier.

So that I wouldn’t frighten the little girl, I flew only as high as the top of the trees in the woods around Compton’s rundown property. Sookie’s eyes were pointed upward the whole time.

“I see a star,” she whispered in wonder.

“I do too,” I said, though my eyes never left her face.

“Wow!” she grinned as I landed us just beyond the tree line of the old Stackhouse farmhouse.

I chuckled at her enthusiasm.

“Are you sure you aren’t an angel?” she asked.

“Angels don’t have fangs,” I said.

“I think some of them do,” she said earnestly as she looked up at me, her eyes brighter than any star I’d ever seen.


 

THIRTEEN YEARS LATER

SOOKIE POV

I had celebrated my twenty-first birthday the day before. For many humans, that birthday was a milestone—a marker of adulthood. But I couldn’t help but to acknowledge that I was lucky to be alive.

I couldn’t help but to remember the reason why I had survived past my eighth year.

Eric Northman had stayed in Bon Temps for two weeks before he’d returned to Dallas so that the then Sheriff of Area 5, Bill Compton, wouldn’t become suspicious of his elder’s continued presence.

However, though they were brief, those two weeks had changed everything about my life.

Everything.

True to his word, Eric had come to speak to Gran as soon as he’d awoken the night after I met him. With a brand of blunt honesty that I discovered was uniquely Eric’s, he’d questioned her about her affair, and—though Gran had been ashamed that she’d had one—she hadn’t “blamed” me for finding out about her liaison from her mind. She’d known, back then, that I couldn’t help myself.

She explained to Eric that, though having an affair was certainly out of character for her, she’d been unable to stop herself from falling in love with the beautiful stranger who’d suddenly appeared in her yard. To her shame, she admitted that she’d easily been convinced because of the man’s guarantee that he could give her children, which she had so desperately wanted—and which my granddad couldn’t give her.

Now that I knew pretty much all there was to know about fairies—thanks to Claudine and Niall’s tutelage—I figured that Fintan’s allure was also a big reason for Gran’s straying. I frowned. I couldn’t say that I was a big fan of Fintan. He’d hidden his children from his own father—as if they were a dirty little secret—even before the war between the Water and Sky Fae had begun. Plus, he’d literally seduced Gran—without caring about the consequences of his actions.

I put my thoughts about Fintan aside, however. After all—without him—I wouldn’t have come to be. And though I’d once tried to kill myself, I’d learned to love who I was.

Thanks to Eric Northman.

After Gran had mentioned that her lover’s name was “Fintan,” Eric had been even more convinced that the stranger was a fairy. And—as a bonus—Eric’s most trusted fairy contact had a son named Fintan. It turned out that his friend was my Great-Grandfather Niall Brigant, Prince of the Sky Fae.

Eric had a mobile phone back then, but there was certainly no service in Bon Temps, so he’d used our house phone to contact Niall. He’d warned that it might take a while before the fairy prince came, but it hadn’t.

Niall knocked on the door moments after Eric had hung up the phone.

It turned out that Niall was the “magical” being from Gran’s fuzzy memories. He’d visited her twice—both times when my father and Aunt Linda were young adults. By then, Fintan had been killed—a fact which had caused Gran to cry for her beautiful lover. Niall had been touched by her grief and had even held her hand as she’d wept.

After Gran had gotten ahold of her emotions, Niall had explained that Fintan’s death had caused the magic that he’d used to cover up the existence of his one-quarter fairy children to dissipate. During his first visit, Niall had determined that neither my father nor Linda had enough fairy traits “to worry about.” And then he’d used the fairy equivalent of glamour—which turned out to be less potent than a vampire’s glamour—to make himself “fuzzy” in Gran’s memories, as if he were a dream. Niall had visited my family again when Hadley and Jason were infants. And—sensing even less Fae in them—Niall had verified that Fintan’s essential spark had not been passed along.

Or so he had thought.

He’d not thought that he needed to check subsequent children, so I had been missed.

However, once Niall knew about me, he really seemed to become Santa Claus—or, more appropriately, Kris Kringle—in some ways. After all, he gave me the best present ever: Claudine. She arrived for her first visit the very next day, and she eventually became like a sister to me.

I always found it funny that her name (and the names of all of her siblings) began with “Clau,” just like “Claus.”

Within a few days of meeting my fairy “godmother,” I was building my first shields, and the blood Eric had given me to save my life helped those mental barriers to become strong even faster than anyone could have hoped for.

But it wasn’t Eric’s blood that helped me the most when it came to my early lessons, nor did he disappear after he’d called Niall. Indeed, I went to the old Compton house each night Eric was there. With his perfect, quiet mind as my helper, Eric would help me to apply the lessons that Claudine had taught me during the day. Of course, I learned quickly that Claudine and Eric could never be around each other. She didn’t have the gift of covering her scent like Niall did. But that didn’t stop Eric and her from working in concert to help me to develop my shields more quickly. As it turned out, the ability to make them was in me all along; I just didn’t know how to accomplish the feat. My shields were like a dormant organ in my body, and as soon as I “found” them, using them simply required practice.

I smiled as I recalled how Claudine had compared the process of developing my shields to learning to swim. At first, learning to stay afloat could be difficult, especially if the body “fought” the water. However, soon enough, the body learned to work with the water—though swimming for a long time could still cause soreness or exhaustion, especially for a novice.

That’s why Eric had helped me so much as first! His mind had somehow assisted me in learning how to “float” so that I could “rest” from the swimming part. Eventually, however, I learned to “float” on my own, and now I was a master at my telepathy and my shields, just as full-blooded fairies were. It was as if I’d learned and perfected all of the swimming strokes throughout the years, so I was able to use whichever type of “stroke” I needed when it came to my telepathy.

Indeed, nowadays, I could listen to many thoughts all at once without feeling overwhelmed. They had become like drops of water in a pool, and I could cut through them with the ease of an Olympic swimmer propelling through the water. Or I could target a single person’s thoughts like a diver breaking the water’s surface. Or I could simply float, keeping my body relaxed—almost above the thoughts so that I wouldn’t become tired.

I smiled. Whenever I “floated,” it was always Eric’s face that I saw—my memory of his eyes blending into the water around me.

When Eric left Bon Temps, I handed him two pieces of paper. One was my letter looking for Santa Claus. The other was the perfect spelling test that I’d completed at school earlier that day.

Though not much, the two documents represented the depth of what Eric had done for me.

However, the ripples of Eric’s appearance in my life didn’t end with his exit.

Because of him, I had Niall and Claudine as permanent fixtures—or fixers—in my life.

Finding out the difficulties which had befallen our once thriving family, Niall had stepped in—and stepped up—to help us. We were given financial help. And—gleaning information about the rest of our lives from my mind using his own telepathy—Niall had helped in other ways, too.

As it turned out, Niall had invested in the world of pharmaceuticals. And Linda was given the best and most cutting-edge treatments available for her disease. In fact, we’d just celebrated her fourteenth year of being completely cancer free.

Uncle Bartlett had met with a much more horrifying fate. I’d “heard” the basics of his outcome from Niall’s head once I became strong enough to “swim through” his own shields to a certain extent. My great-grandfather had pushed me out again, but I’d learned enough to know that Uncle Bartlett had suffered for a very long time.

I couldn’t find it in myself to feel bad about that.

As my heels clicked against the marble floor in the ornate lobby of The Moon, I looked up toward the huge skylight. And I saw stars.

Many, many stars.

Thousands.

I’d not seen Eric after he’d left Bon Temps, but I always thought about him.

He was the reason I was alive.

He’d helped me to see stars again.

He’d given me the gift of Santa Claus—even though the mythical figure wasn’t real.

Because of Eric, my miserable existence had morphed into a happy life. Because of him, Godric had bought the old Compton place and had become the best neighbor and friend that Gran had ever had—all the while ensuring that no other vampires interfered with our lives.

Because of Eric, I was able to make friends. I was able to become the top student in my class. I was able to make my family proud.

Because of Eric Northman, I’d learned to smile—really and truly smile.

Still—it had taken me a long time to understand why Eric didn’t visit me, especially after Godric bought and restored the old Compton estate.

But now I knew. It was because he loved me as much as I loved him.

He’d just been waiting for me to grow up—to reach the milestone of my 21st birthday. And then he’d—finally—answered my letter about Santa Claus.


 

ERIC POV

From Godric, I’d kept track of Sookie Virginia Stackhouse. Being so drawn to her had—quite frankly—frightened me thirteen years before.

I’d spoken to Godric about my attachment to Sookie as soon as I’d returned to Dallas from Bon Temps. I’d left nothing out—not even the fact that I’d somehow managed to fall in love with an eight-year-old fairy-human child. Oh—I hadn’t loved her in any kind of “physical way”; such a thought sickened me. No—on the contrary—it was as if Sookie had captured my very soul.

And—from the first night I’d met her—I knew that I would be waiting for her.

Hoping for her to—one day—feel as I did and to come to me once she’d reached adulthood.

Godric had called it fate that we’d met through her letter—fate that I’d arrived in Bon Temps on the very night that she’d run out of hope for herself.

Maybe it was fate.

Or maybe I was just a lucky SOB.

Ironically, though far from human, Sookie had been responsible for making me “understand” humanity more—just as my maker had wanted when he’d sent me to Bon Temps.

I’d learned that even a child could place others above herself.

I’d learned that a “real” smile from Sookie was the grandest sight the universe could offer.

I’d also learned patience—in many ways.

I’d learned to be patient with humans, for—although they didn’t enjoy the wisdom that longevity could bring—they did have their own brand of cleverness.

I’d learned to be patient when it came to allowing my maker’s “punishments” to become my lessons.

My blessings.

I’d learned to be patient with the disconcerting pangs of my own heart.

For two weeks, I’d allowed the stirring of my soul to collide with the life of Sookie Virginia Stackhouse. But—even then—I’d recognized that patience would be the only way that she could ever be mine.

And since then, I’d been waiting for her patiently—despite Pam’s constant teasing.

I’d neither been a saint nor a sinner as I’d waited for Sookie. I’d had sex with a few women during the previous thirteen years—just so that I wouldn’t go on a bloody rampage. And I’d never denied myself fresh blood, though I’d learned the benefits of stomaching a TrueBlood—when needed for diplomacy.

Indeed, it was safe to say that my encounter with Sookie changed my life as much as it had changed hers. It was ironic that it took meeting a little part-supernatural girl to make me understand that—though I was a supernatural—I was also a human.

At least in part.

As a vampire, I’d neglected that “human” part out of the practical need to stay hidden from humanity. However, Godric had been right. Our “coming out” allowed vampires to embrace the very roots of ourselves in ways that had never been possible before.

After my time with Sookie, I knew that I would need to change my ways in order to deserve her. I didn’t stop being a vampire, however.

What I stopped was being rigidly tied to a time that had passed.

What I did was evolve.

What I did was discover Santa Claus.


I’d “felt” Sookie as soon as she’d walked into The Moon.

My blood should have been long-gone from her system, but it wasn’t—a fact which Godric had also attributed to fate.

I thought of my maker, even as my feet propelled me out of my office and toward Sookie.

In 1998, Godric had turned over the running of The Moon to me and Pam. I’d been working as managing editor by then anyway, and I’d thrived in conducting business with humans and the two-natured—once I’d pushed aside my arrogant belief that I was better than they were, that is.

Officially, Godric had opted to pursue a “quieter” life for a while in the home he’d restored in Bon Temps.

Unofficially, he and Stan Davis had staged a coup to remove Sophie-Anne from her throne by removing her head. They’d discovered that she’d been working with corrupt humans to steal government aid following the destruction caused by Hurricane Danny in 1997. Part of that aid was to go to shore up the levees around Louisiana, but Sophie-Anne was accepting money for “improvements by vampire” that were never done. Needless to say, my maker wasn’t amused.

The Louisiana coup had occurred quickly and quietly. Bill Compton had been among the casualties. I couldn’t say that fact had made me lose any sleep at all.

After that, Godric had taken on the role of Louisiana’s regent out of the sense of duty that he was already famous for. Louisiana had been lagging when it came to human-vampire relations—thanks to Sophie-Anne. Unsurprisingly, the state was now considered progressive under Godric’s leadership.

Among other things—my maker had immediately made sure that the state’s defenses against any future hurricanes were as good as they could be.

And—as for why Godric had settled in Bon Temps rather than New Orleans?

Well—he’d grown extremely fond of both Adele and Sookie over the years. And he’d even taken a much “improved” Jason Stackhouse under his wing.

Godric knew that I loved Sookie, of course. But he also understood why I’d stayed away from her.

I had wanted Sookie to have the chance to make her own way in life—to make her own choices, even if they didn’t include me.

I didn’t want to help to free her from the chains of her telepathy just to chain her to my affections. I didn’t want her to become mine out of obligation or inevitability.

So I’d stayed away—though I’d always sent her a letter each Christmas so that she would know that she was in my thoughts.

However, I’d never answered “the letter”—her first letter—which I carried with me.

Always.

I caught sight of Sookie as I stood at the railing of the observation walkway. She was looking up. My eyes went upward too and I saw stars.

As I made my way down to her, I brushed my fingers against the aged paper in my pocket. I’d memorized it long ago.

Dear Vampires,

I am eight years old. I don’t have any friends, but the kids around me believe that there’s a Santa Claus. On the other hand, the adults in Bon Temps think there’s not a Santa Claus. But then they tell their kids they have to believe. And I know Gran saw him when she was younger. So I’m confused.

Gran says that if vampires say something’s so, then it’s so—since some of you are very old and know lots more than humans. Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?

I need him to be real because I have a wish I think only he could give me. If he is real, could you tell me how to find him? Please. He’s the only hope I have left.

Sookie Virginia Stackhouse

Hummingbird Lane, Bon Temps, Louisiana


 

SOOKIE POV

I’d treasured every letter that Eric had ever written to me. They’d always come on Christmas Day, and I’d opened them like the unknowable presents they were. I’d always answered them the very next day—with news of my life.

The letter in my pocket had not been sent on Christmas, though it was a response to my original query about Santa Claus.

I took the piece of paper from my purse and I read it for what seemed like the thousandth time since I’d received it at the birthday party I’d had the night before.

Dear Sookie Virginia,

When I told you—on the night that I met you all those years ago—that there wasn’t a Santa Claus, I was wrong. So very wrong.

I was skeptical then, and I saw very little that was good in the world. I was guilty of having a “little” mind—a narrow mind—despite my many years. I didn’t have the ability to recognize anything that I didn’t see with my own eyes. And I thought of myself as above those of different natures from my own, whom I regarded as mere insects.

Because of you, however, I now know that there is a Santa Claus. He exists in the mind of a little girl who put others above herself to the point that she would die to make their lives better. He exists in the mind of a little girl who was so tortured by the thoughts of others that she should never have been able to hope for a Santa Claus at all.

But she did hope. You did hope.

And—when you did run out of hope—I learned that I could hope for the both of us until you learned again.

Yes! I believe in Santa Claus now! In my thousand years, I’ve never seen a man in red coming down a chimney, but that fact proves nothing. In only two weeks, compared to those thousand years, you taught me that the most “real” things in life—the things that give us “true” life—are not things that can be seen by anyone, whether he or she be human, vampire, Were, shifter, fairy, or any combination thereof.

Better than the existence of a Santa Claus, however, is the existence of Sookie Virginia Stackhouse, for—in addition to hope—she taught me love.

Ah, Sookie, in all this world there is nothing more real and abiding than you. And the way I feel about you.

A thousand years from now, Sookie, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, you will continue to make glad the heart that you restarted.

I will always love you with that heart.

And now that you are an adult, I hope that you will choose me with your heart.

I will await you with the hope of a child waiting for Santa Claus to come.

Yours Always,

Eric Northman

“Sookie,” a voice came from behind me. I recognized its beautiful resonance immediately. I turned around slowly.

“Eric,” I whispered, looking at him in person for the first time in more than a decade. He was dressed in a deep navy blue suit. His golden hair, which I’d once thought was a halo, had been cut since I’d last seen him. His eyes were just as I remembered, however—startling and beautiful.

“You are beautiful,” he said, sounding awestruck, as he reached out his hand toward me.

I took his hand gladly, reminded of the fact that he had been the first being I’d ever touched who hadn’t “hurt” me. I’d enjoyed my shields for years now, but I would never forget the comfort I’d first found in his mind.

“I came to apply for a job,” I said.

He smirked. “Oh? As what?”

“I heard that Santa could use a new elf,” I smirked back.

“You aren’t here because you feel obligated—are you?” he asked, suddenly more serious than I’d ever seen him—even on the night he’d saved me from killing myself.

“I’m here because I’ve been in love with you since I was eight years old,” I professed. “I think a part of me has always known why you stayed away. And you needn’t worry. I’ve been enjoying my life. I’ve even dated a little. But my standard has always been you, and I was just waiting for this,” I said as I held up his letter to me.

He crooked his arm in my direction and smiled at me.

Beautiful.

“I think you might be perfect for quite a few jobs around here,” he said as I linked my arm with his.

I was certain that he was right.

The End

 

banend-2

Special Thanks: To Kleannhouse and Sephrenia. When I was trying (and failing) to come up with a Christmas idea for this story, both of these ladies suggested that I think about the Virginia letters. Without their inspiration, this piece wouldn’t be. In addition, Kleannhouse beta’ed this story for me and Sephrenia created the banner. So, if I’m the Santa in this story, they are certainly the elves. If you would like to read the original “Virginia letters,” check them out here: http://www.nysun.com/editorials/yes-virginia/68502/.

And now—to the lady of the hour: lcrafts! Thank you for contributing to the directory site. I know that you like the angsty side of things—because you enjoyed the Comfortably Numb stories. So I tried to mix in angst with some holiday themes. I truly hope you enjoy the product. Just so you know, Sephrenia designed her banner as part of your gift, and Kleannhouse also contributed (mostly to my peace of mind—since I’m always worried that my pieces aren’t working.) So—this story is from the three of us! I’m sure that I speak for them, too, as I wish the happiest of holidays to you and your family!

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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, letters, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No profit has been made from this work. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. The events in this story have been inspired by True Blood and the Southern Vampire Mysteries book series.

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61 thoughts on “DAY 11: A GIFT FOR LCRAFTS

  1. californiakat1564 says:

    Reblogged this on California Kat and commented:

    Hello all! I was asked to write a gift for lcrafts, a wonderful member of our SVM/TB community and a contributor to the directory. I was honored to be asked and honored to celebrate lcrafts! She has liked my angsty stuff in the past, so I wrote something angsty, but with a holiday-theme, based loosely on the “Yes, Virginia” letters. And, of course, you know me–I always have an Eric/Sookie endgame in mind. 😉 I hope that you will make your way to the directory site to read my story and all of the other wonderful entries to the advent calendar. Remember that the stories will ONLY be available on the directory site until after Christmas. And–while you are there reading–be sure to take some time to poke around. I especially love the story recommendations that contributors like lcrafts put together for us. And, of course, it’s always fun to check out the authors’ pages. Anyway, happy reading!!!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. mom2goalies says:

    Wonderful story!!!
    So glad Eric was her “angel” and was able to get her the help she needed to flourish instead of just surviving, or actually finding a way to end herself…
    Love his answer to her letter when she became an adult – it was perfect.
    Thanks for writing and sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • californiakat1564 says:

      I am glad you liked Eric’s letter. I must have rewritten it ten times before I felt it was “right.” I tried to use some echoes from the original response to Virginia, but–at first–it was “tortured” to say the least! LOL. Eventually, though, it worked out okay.
      Again, thanks for the comment. So glad you enjoyed!
      Kat

      Liked by 1 person

    • californiakat1564 says:

      And Merry Christmas to you, too! I think that the reason why I love Eric/Sookie so much is that potential they have to complement each other and to pull each other from their sorrows. Not all literary couples get formed that way, but these two always have the potential to change darkness into light for one another. Again, many thanks for reading/commenting.
      Best,
      Kat

      Liked by 3 people

      • justwanderingneverlost says:

        So very true!! They are both darkness and light in and of themselves. In the beginning, Eric only sees her light and her, his darkness. The best part of their dynamic to me is always when they discover how very alike they are and that he is not all bad and she’s no angel. Then the healing begins!
        💓JWNL

        Liked by 2 people

  3. duckbutt60 says:

    Absolutely amazing! Had tears in my eyes for the whole of the reading. Sad tears for what Sookie had to go through –mad for what she was subjected to –and finally, happy tears that Naill had provided training for Sookie and that Eric had loved her from the beginning. I guess I always thought of Sookie’s “gift” as special –because it finally brought her to Eric. But the pain of that little girl –I don’t think an other writer has touched on it like you have. The torment –the helplessness –and then her decision to end it all so she wouldn’t be a further burden –that just pained my soul.
    Lady –I’m a fan of your angst –you’re one of the best angst writers out there –but I always look for the HEA –the dawn’s light you provide after the darkest dark…..
    Pat

    Liked by 3 people

  4. switbo says:

    Another wonderful story KAt. I’m recovering from gallbladder surgery today and this lovely story was just the thing to take my mind off of hurting.

    Poor Sookie made me so sad at the beginning. That any child could feel so desperate that they believe suicide is the only way. It’s sad enough when adults feel that way, but for a child….it’s just heartbreaking. I love that her and Eric saved each other. Just a beautiful story and the ending was perfect. You know me, normally I’m always calling for “more” whenever you write anything, but I can’t imagine a better ending than the one you wrote.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. ericluver says:

    That was a lovely read. Like duckbutt60 (Pat) above, I sniffled my way through your tale. That poor little girl. To come to the point of trying to end things…
    I’m glad Eric was there to save her…because in the end, she saved him too. A Christmas love story! 🎄🎄🎄
    I always love your brand of angst. Not too much, just enough to mean more when they get their HEA. Thank you. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  6. lifeinameadow says:

    This is one of my favorite things you’ve ever written. So special to have a glimpse into Sookie’s sad childhood. That poor little girl, yet so strong, battling adult fears and emotions and suffering things few ever know. The “angel” you gave her was the perfect way to make her hope worth something! He listened and was moved by her trials, strength, and desperation. Eric’s forthright nature was absolutely necessary in moving the chess pieces around the board to give her a fighting chance. I loved their spiritual growth and enduring love because of and for one another. Truly captivating! I took turns crying, then smiling like a fool with this one, Kat. Beautifully done!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Magpie says:

    Oh, that was lovely! Especially the part where Eric looks at her and says ‘I do too’. Because she’s his star. Aw, so sweet.

    I didn’t know about the Virginia letter — how well you sneaked little touches from the reply in there!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. suzymeinen says:

    That was amazing Kat! I cried angry tears for the little girl that was willing to end herself for others and happy tears with Erics response letter. It was perfect. I had to keep wiping my eyes so I could see the words! Always love your angst even when it makes me want to skip ahead to the end, just to make sure there will be a HEA 😉 It was wonderful that the two of them could come to believe in the type of magic that fuels the Santa myth by being that magic for each other.
    Thank you Kat for writing this story for our lovely lcrafts. She deserves the wonderful present you’ve created for her. And these stories are the best gifts as they can keep giving and give to so many people.
    Merry Christmas and happy holidays Kat and lcrafts!

    Liked by 2 people

    • californiakat1564 says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words! I hoped the tears helped clear your sinuses–at least! And I always look ahead for an HEA too. 🙂

      Santa as really a symbol of faith and hope in this story. And you are right. They give that to each other. Probably the greatest gift.

      Happy Holidays to you too!
      Kat

      Like

  9. Judith says:

    O wow , what a great story. Who knew a Sookie and Eric fanfiction could have a holiday bases at heart? This story , certainly started out , pretty sad with how lonely Sookie felt. To a story , of how two people found what they needed in each other , to help them become their best selfs. All, with regaining the belief in the magic of the Christmas spirit. ☆☆☆☆ I’m so glad I was finally able to check my email today . Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Meridian says:

    Wow – excellent story!

    While I thought Godric was initially an ass to Eric – I’d never have imagined him as such a controlling swot – I’ll try to forgive him since it DID help progress this fantastic storyline…after I put him in time out for a year or so…but don’t worry, I’ll be sure all his needs are met…well met…wait, where was I?

    Loved the first meeting between Eric and BabySook! Perfect!! Loved the way he immediately took action on her behalf! Loved that Niall and Claudine stepped up! Loved that Godric bought the Compton place! Loved that he, with Stan, said an official adios to Sophie-Anne and Beehl! Loved how Eric progressed and grew in his humanity! Love how he kept tabs on Sookie through the years! Loved their yearly letter! Loved his final letter to Sookie (and hope there are many more to come)! Love the choices and opportunities he gave her both with his presence and without! Love the conclusion!

    (Would love to read about Jason’s “improvements”…!)

    CAN YOU TELL I LOVED IT?? Excellent job as usual, gorgeous, and couldn’t have been written for a nicer person – thank you for all you do, lcrafts!

    Liked by 2 people

    • californiakat1564 says:

      It’s hard for me to tell if you “love” it. LOL.
      I know that Godric was a little un-Godricy early on, but I imagined what he’d be like if Eric had spent decades pulling minor rebellions like Fangtasia. And Eric had chosen to be near Godric. Secretly, I think that Eric was looking for purpose, just as Godric had been before the Reveal in this world. Anyway, that’s how I was looking at it.

      However, you can always be in charge of Godric’s care–when he’s in my work. (Santa-themed wet naps on order for you already.)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Meridian says:

        *clears a shelf in the bathroom cabinet for that special order of Santa-themed wet naps* Why thank-y, ma’am! 😀

        It did come through that Godric was trying to bring Eric “into the 20th Century” and that Eric was kicking his heels about it, well, at first at any rate. Plus, an Eric without a life’s purpose would be that intolerable if breathtaking “frat boy” just waiting for panties to raid…

        Liked by 2 people

      • californiakat1564 says:

        LOL! Such a coincidence: My “Santa” letter to Eric includes an invitation that he can raid my panties whenever he wants–with the caveat that said panties are being worn at the time, rather than being in the drawer. Merry Christmas to me. 😉

        Liked by 3 people

  11. valady1 says:

    Beautiful, this brought tears to my eyes. You are such a creative writer and this story is just further proof of your talent. Using the “Virginia letter” as a catalyst is inspired, and it’s impact on the lives of Sookie and her family (as well as Eric and even the state of Louisiana) is amazing. And you give us the HEA that we all hope for with these two. What more could one hope for ? Well, maybe an epilogue? Is that greedy, but then it is Christmas time isn’t it? So we can all wish for things…
    thank you for sharing this vision.

    Liked by 2 people

    • californiakat1564 says:

      Thanks so much for writing your review. I have to give credit to both Kleannhouse and Sephrenia for the subject matter. I had been working on a version of It’s a Wonderful life, but it sort of wasn’t working and I just couldn’t get excited about it. Then I sent an email to the “team,” and both thought of Virginia–in addition to a few other ideas. Kleannhouse even copied and pasted the Virginia letters, and after reading them, I started to get excited. 😉
      Again, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed. As for an epilogue–sorry. Probably not. Too many other things to write. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. motomary says:

    I usually shy away (avoid like the plague) from Christmas stories as I often find them schmaltzy, silly and superficial. Since it was written by a favorite i thought I should give it a chance.
    Yes Virginia, there are beautifully sincere Christmas stories. My faith has been restored.(I still hate the Hallmark channel)
    I don’t think anyone has shown the trials and pain of growing up with the undisciplined telepathy so effectively. Reading it was like hitting a breakthrough in psychotherapy to truly understand some of the Sookie character behaviors as she matures-or why she doesn’t mature and accept her own worth. Thanks again for your beautiful stories.

    Liked by 2 people

    • californiakat1564 says:

      Thank you for reading and letting no that you enjoyed the story. Yep–Christmas stories can be a little cheezy, but–if you think about it–the Santa Claus issue really is a little tragedy for kids. It’s a test of faith for kids, but a false one. Anyway, I wondered what might happen to Little Sookie, who really shouldn’t have developed that faith–yet somehow manages to have just enough to write her letter. And–yeah–thinking about Sookie’s childhood is always heartbreaking to me. It’s glossed over in the books/show (beyond the Bartlett thing), but it is known that it takes Sookie a while to build shields, so–before that–every thought would have attacked her. Anyway, LOL. Not the usual stuff of Christmas stories. 😉
      Kat

      Liked by 1 person

  13. msbuffy says:

    So beautiful and touching as only you can do, Kat. What a perfect Christmas tale about our favorite couple, sad, but ultimately, love triumphs. Yes, there is a Santa Claus!
    When my daughter and then younger kids started to grow out of their belief in Santa, I told them that Santa lives in our hearts because we all give from there, don’t we? So they continued to believe in Santa and every year, we chose a family or someone to in need for whom we played Santa and gave from our hearts. Your story reminded me of those times, and the ways in which we should do that all year round.
    A wonderful story from your terrific team for a lovely writer, L. Crafts!
    A very Merry Christmas to you all! May Santa be very good to all of you who are always so good to all of us!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. teachert99 says:

    I really loved this holiday story. I had tears through most of it and all-out cried as the end neared. I love how they saved each other, how little Sookie awoke his heart. Poor Sookie had such a miserable childhood- I don’t think I’ve ever read her POV as a youngster before and it truly was heartbreaking which, of course, made the ending that much more wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. askarsgirl says:

    I loved it. There’s something about a little, troubled girl Sookie meeting a bored and jaded Eric that just tugs at the heart strings. Of course these two were going to change each other’s lives, they were meant to be!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. jules3677 says:

    You write angst so well. I had tears welling in my eyes from the beginning. Your ability to create such a realistic universe for our favourite characters is unparalleled. Your your Sookie was realistic and heartbreaking. Her despair over the life of her Gran, seeing herself as an expensive burden that Adele couldn’t afford to continue to support through the eyes of an 8 year old, such brilliant craftsmanship. Thank you for bringing such light into the day. 🙂

    Like

  17. Jackiedm69 says:

    Gosh…you left me speechless!
    What Sookie endured during her childhood is so heartbreaking and sad.I’m so glad that a letter to Santa Claus changed her fate.
    Merry Christmas to yoj and to Icrafts
    Jackie69

    Like

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