Like Hotel California…but with beatings

PMR: So that’s why you had to read “One Word Answer” to know about Hadley before you get to New Orleans.

Mr. PMR: So she goes to New Orleans. Does she get to pick up some gazpacho?

PMR: Nope. She gets a beating.

Mr. PMR: Sookie takes a lot of beatings for all these big strong men around her. They seem almost like the Keystone Cops of the Supernatural World.

Sookie’s life in the supernatural world is something she catches a lot of guff for – that she foolishly got herself into it, and foolishly refuses to get herself out of it. That she must somehow like these beatings. Not from my husband of course – he doesn’t blame her – he likes women – but other women, oh, they will throw their own gender under the bus in a heartbeat and make them the cause of all their own troubles and everyone else’s troubles. But how viable is it that Sookie will be able to pick up stakes one day when she’s had enough and just leave?

The answer is – it’s impossible, and it’s been impossible for a while now. And sorry, Sookie haters, it’s not even her fault.

Firstly, there’s the Queen’s plan. By the time Sookie would have had any hint of vampire interest, she’d had Bill’s blood. I’m going to talk about the effects of that later, but the simple answer is that Bill wouldn’t have let her go. No sensible vampire would be sent on an errand to get a telepath and then tell the Queen that he’d lost her within the week. At that point, Sookie was only a mission, so that wouldn’t make him kind. If there was any hint that Sookie would abandon her elderley Grandmother she says she lives with to care for, then Bill would have made sure to stop her, or bring her back. That’s easily done by glamouring Gran.

Now, one of the principle arguments is that Sookie never knew about the Queen’s plan, and she got involved with vampires of her own free will. That she was the person who went to Fangtasia to help Jason, and that’s what started this rollercoaster ride. That requires me to believe that if she asked the nice vampires to leave her alone – whether Bill when she first met him, or not going to Fangtasia – that they would have left her alone. That at any point, Sookie could have called time out and they would have left her alone completely. The very idea makes me laugh.

Once she goes to Fangtasia and Eric finds out about what she can do, the jig is up. There is no getting away from Eric at that point. I think if Sookie had known what was going to go down, she would have spent the night in jail – but she’s not psychic, and can’t anticipate that Fangtasia is more than a vampire bar, and is instead a political vampire hub. Most humans don’t really know about vampire politics, and I doubt it’s a topic for discussion in Bon Temps or on the news. Going to Fangtasia was a really bad idea – and one that Bill didn’t stop her from, because Bill didn’t care.

The other problem is that of course, completely differently to True Blood, it was Bill who outed Sookie to Eric – not Sookie. Whence comes my assertion that TB Sookie can’t find her arse with both hands. Sookie told Bill that they should leave Fangtasia, and it wasn’t until Bill tapped Eric on the shoulder that Eric knew. If Bill really did what he promised Sookie, he would have let Eric get caught up in the raid. But, Bill – because he knows more than Sookie at that point – knows both that if he leaves Eric in the lurch, he might get punished by his Sheriff if anything looks suspicious, and knows that the Queen would be getting Sookie to work for her anyway. Much of a muchness to Bill.

So he doesn’t tell her anything – not that going to a vampire bar might bring them into contact with organised vampires, or that it’s dangerous at all. While Sookie knows that vampires are dangerous in the general sense of the fact that they’re killers, Eric is part of the vampire hierarchy – he’s different to just your ordinary vamp on the street, and Bill knows it. But Bill goes ahead with the whole thing without ever warning her, when Bill is no ingenue – he knows these things, he knows Sookie didn’t ask him to go with her for anything but protection.

I should say, that it is my personal feeling that at least part of what motivated Bill to go without argument to Fangtasia is the fact that he actually had come to like Sookie, apart from the mission. During their visit to Fangtasia, Bill tried to push Sookie off onto other vampires. I think that rather than live with the guilt of what he was doing, he’d rather that the actual dirty work went to someone else. It would have been so much easier if he didn’t actually give two shits about Sookie at that point – because he wouldn’t have to feel bad about how monumentally he was going to fuck this nice woman’s life.

Now, of course, despite any assertions to the contrary, Bill didn’t have any choice. Sophie Anne would never have given him any leave to tell Sookie to RUN! She would surely have tortured him, and any vampire that told Sookie of the plan early on. Bill had already given Sookie blood, and I bet that he could be forced to reveal her whereabouts to his Queen – they would just have to torture him for a while, and Bill doesn’t relish being tortured by the Queen. That includes Eric – because he’s just as worried about being tortured by the Queen in Club Dead as any other vampire – hence sending Sookie to retrieve Bill. Apart from that, there’s vampire solidarity. Even Pam says:

“I wouldn’t have told you,” Pam said, “even if I had known Bill had been
charged with a mission, because….vampires first.”
All Together Dead, p. 85

Bill was definitely rock and a hard place guy. Sophie Anne was going to get what she wanted. Bill would have known that, so he did the biggest favour he could – he tried to make her transition easy. But the idea that anyone could have prevented it? Impossible. Sophie Anne wasn’t willing to stop when Sookie knew the plan, so why she would call it game over under any other circumstances is beyond me.

But Sophie Anne’s plan doesn’t come to fruition for a while – in that stop gap is Eric. Eric is the localised mob boss looking to force her compliance. I know that most of the fangirls don’t see Eric as particularly scary, but the idea of Eric decimating the people you love in your absence is actually pretty truthful. Eric is a killer, and had no problems thinking about hurting Bill to get Sookie to comply, and would have no problems getting her to comply by hurting her family. Vampires are killers, and that shouldn’t be forgotten. All the crap written about vampires caring for Sookie or having a weak spot – yeah, that means diddly when it comes down to it:

“I don’t have so many friends that I can afford
to let one go down the drain.”
“If she’s involved with Mickey, she’s just meat on
the hoof,” Eric said with a brutal simplicity.

Dead as a Doornail, p. 41

For those of you who haven’t had anything to do with livestock, calling Tara “meat on the hoof” refers to how they sell cows to abattoirs for butchering – you sell the whole cow as ‘meat on the hoof’ and the buyer kills and butchers it themselves. Eric doesn’t give two shits if one of her friends dying would hurt Sookie’s feelings. In fact, Eric later threatens Sookie himself in that book with death at his own hands, and he’s known that what they were doing to Tara was wrong in the first place:

“You knew Mickey and Franklin were doing something wrong to start with,”
I said, shocked but oddly unsurprised. “You know their boss would be glad
to find out they were breaking the rules, since her vamp was violating your
territory. So this won’t affect you at all.”
“I only realized that when you told me what you wanted,” Eric pointed out,
the very essence of reason.

Dead as a Doornail,
p. 218

There’s the kind and beneficent Mr. Northman who gives two shits about her feelings. He knew earlier in the book that Tara didn’t need to be subject to this sort of treatment, as “payback” for taking nice things from vampires, but he didn’t even bother to put himself out to make a phonecall. He’d prefer Mickey gets to abuse and drain Tara than see Sookie happy her friend’s okay.

As an aside, if you’re wondering why Sookie doesn’t automatically entrust information about Hunter to Eric….yeah, the fact he doesn’t give a shit until it’s in his interests to use said person Sookie loves might be a clue. And before anyone complains she ‘knows’ she can trust him now? How exactly? She was his heart’s desire when he made that statement, so it’s not like that was when he didn’t care about her. Caring about Sookie didn’t make Eric care about whether Tara got hurt. And is that worth putting a telepathic child’s life at risk? I wouldn’t tell Eric either, and I’m glad Sookie’s learned that lesson – not to trust Eric to automatically do right by the people she loves. Merely because he may not – he may use them as tools too.

Eric would have had no problem – love, care or not – with hurting, killing or punishing Jason, Sam, Bill (who Sookie didn’t know was a spy) or Tara. He didn’t much care that Sookie’s co-workers were killed in Dead Until Dark either. Eric isn’t overtly scary on the page, but his menace is clear, and Sookie knows that it’s clear. One of the bigger failures of bad to average fanfic is the clumsy use of Eric laying hands on people to frighten them, when his mere presence is intimidating:

Eric looked at me with the glacial blue eyes of a being who hardly
remembers what humanity was like.

Dead Until Dark, p. 202

Anyone ‘in love’ with Eric’s character from the first book is certainly reading selectively, because boy, he sounds scary rather than sexy there. I would question whether they’re reading at all, and suggest they’ve got dick on the brain. Sookie says she’s scared, and while first person narration can be unreliable, you can’t just throw judgements out the window as if they’re nothing. Bruce is shitting himself, and Sookie thinks he’s scary, I’d say that Eric is probably being scary. Bill isn’t exactly not-scary, but he’s at least familiar, and not quite as cold as Eric, who is like stone here.

So staying was the only real option that Sookie had. She couldn’t really abandon her family with the idea that the vampires would leave them alone. If anyone believes that vampires would ask Jason nicely – *wipes away tears of laughter* – yeah sure. The first thing they would do is torture Jason to find out where Sookie is. Torture is sooooo ingrained in Eric as a positive thing:

“By that time, they already had Dawson. They had fun with him before
they had…before they caught you.”

Dead and Gone,
p. 294

See that? That’s Eric catching himself from referring to Sookie’s torture as “fun”. This is not a man who holds back or shuns torture. Lots of fangirls are sure that Eric only tortures bad people – but the truth is that by the time you refer to it as “fun” and your own wife is there, having been tortured – yeah, Jason would have died under Eric’s tender attentions trying to find Sookie. So would have Gran, Tara, Sam and anyone else that Eric could lay his hands on. Eric is one big reason not to leave the area, because I wouldn’t trust him alone with the people I loved – not with his single minded pursuit.

On top of that, there’s the fact that a telepath is used instead of torture – it’s so that you don’t have to kill those waitresses, weres, and everyone else Sookie reads. In the case of Eric, he was willing to torture those people over $60,000 stolen from him – a telepath can recoup that for him in a night. It’s actually worth it to kill a few humans to get her – after all, if her brother believes (thanks to glamour) that he was hit by a car and his legs were crushed, then that’s the best way to get her to come home.

The other point is that Sookie has a Christian mindset and morality. She’d have to be one hard woman to walk away and allow Ginger, Belinda and Bruce to be tortured for her freedom. I know some of the readers in this fandom are that hard, but it’s very different when you know that even if Bruce is greedy, he has a wife and children at home who love him; and that he didn’t steal the money. I suspect that when faced with vampires, those hard readers would probably get themselves killed – vampires really don’t have time for users like that – it’s part of the reason Eric let Tara go begging for help. Sookie would need to put aside all those ideas of helping her fellow man in the face of vampires.

But of course, that’s just in Dead Until Dark. By midway through Living Dead in Dallas, there’s more. From the moment Eric decided to give Sookie blood, he already had thoughts of keeping her. Eric wasn’t intending to let Sookie get away so easily – dating Bill or not dating Bill. Since the last person he gave blood to was Pam, then we can deduce that he was going to turn Sookie – he just put a leash on her until he and she were ready – ie when she was no longer dating Bill, and came to him.

If Sookie left the state, then Eric would have known during LDID exactly where she was, and been able to track her. The single biggest impediment now that Sophie Anne is dead is Eric.  Eric is only interested in helping Sookie as long as he gets to keep Sookie – either as his wife, or in his retinue. Vampires can track humans with no problem – and we see in the books how damn accurate it is:

Quinn and Sookie have been taken by some Weres,” Quinn said into the
phone I was holding to his mouth. “Eric the Northman can track her.”
Definitely Dead, p. 263

Lo and behold – Eric finds her in a shack in the swamps. Both of the vampires can track her using that, and probably control Sookie’s ideas a little about wanting to get free. Fanfic makes out like vampire blood is absolutely nothing to worry about, and Sookie should shove it down her gullet with abandon, but it does have a slight effect on the perception of vampires:

Both Eric and Bill had had my blood, and I theirs. For the first time,
I understood there was a real connection. Didn’t I see the two of them
as more human than vampire? Didn’t they have the power to wound me
more than any others? It wasn’t only my past relationships with the two
that kept me tied to them. It was the blood exchange.

All Together Dead,
p. 177-178

That there is enough to cause a little doubt that you should leave – after all – it alters perception and makes a human think more kindly about the vampire and see them as more human despite the fact that they aren’t. So even if they can’t control you properly, and as I’ve argued before, they certainly can when they want to; there’s still that modicum of control that “seeming more human” gives them. Sookie’s unlikely to see them both as coldly as someone who hasn’t had their blood would.

Sookie doesn’t just have a blood exchange any more though, she has one step up – Andre’s beloved blood bond. With the bond in place, it’s almost impossible to leave. I know in fanfic the bond is simplified, and rarely has drawbacks, but Sookie tells us those drawbacks and shows us what makes it harder to leave:

We were both on the ends of the line stretched between us,
a line spun from blood. It trumped how we felt about each
other at any given moment.
Dead in the Family, p. 236

Eric also knows that the bond makes it harder for Sookie to leave – he uses it to his advantage (and possibly, it’s not something that is particularly in Sookie’s long term interests):

“Felipe wanted you. The stronger our bond, the less
chance there is he can maneuver you away.”

Dead and Gone,
p. 172

Now, that’s taken to mean sometimes that Felipe will be able to smell the blood in Sookie’s veins – but that’s kinda out there. It’s way more likely taking into account the controlling effects of vampire blood that the more of Eric’s blood Sookie has, the less likely she’d be able to spend time away from him – far enough away from him to make a life for herself. I suspect that if Sookie was taken to Vegas with so much of Eric’s blood in her, she’d become almost inoperable because she’d yearn for Eric. It was already happening in that book, and he was an hour’s drive away:

“Since Eric and I had bonded, I’d found myself thinking of him
every day as the sky grew dark. Now that we’d slept together,
my thoughts had turned into cravings. I tried to stuff him in the
back of my mind on the drive to the bar, but he persisted in
popping to the fore.
Dead and Gone, pp. 206-207

With the blood bond in place, Sookie tells us herself that there’s a whole heap of urging to be near Eric – and Eric himself uses it as a tool to keep Sookie. In the text, Sookie always refers to how the bond makes her feel, but it’s pooh-poohed as unreliable, or Sookie hiding. Let me tell you, if I knew that vampire blood made me perceive some vampire as “more human” I would be leery of the bond too. I’m hoping she ditches the bond, because there’s really no need for Sookie to doubt her own feelings. Contrary to fangirl opinion – it’s her bloody body and she has the right to do with it what she wants, even if it upsets Eric. He didn’t actually buy the rights to fuck up her thoughts when he gave her blood. He tricked her.

Well what if Sookie found a way to break the bond? Eric might be angry about it, but I doubt he’d get the shits and leave her – and if he did, then their relationship isn’t worth two cents. I doubt he would though – because he chose to give her blood in the first place. If he wanted her to leave, he had ample time even before they were dating to back off. That didn’t make him do any backing off – it seemed to make him want her instead. So I don’t believe that getting rid of the bond would end it for Eric – he was the one that orchestrated that bond in the first place. It’s not like she tackled him to the ground and stole his blood. That decision – to give her blood – tells me that he’s unlikely to ever let her go.

But say she breaks the bond so she’s physically able to make the distance and live without him calling her back to him through the bond – consciously or unconsciously. She can’t actually have any semblance of a life. Claudine was absolutely right about going to Rhodes:

“You’ll never be an innocent bystander again. Too many creatures
will know who you are and where you can be found.”

All Together Dead,
p. 68

I know that this is the point when Sookie haters blame Sookie for her fate, but it was never an option not to go:

Now for the big favor. “Do I actually have to go with you to
this conference thing?” I asked, which I knew was kind of pushing it.
“Yes,” she said.
Okay, stonewall there.
She added, “But I’ll pay you handsomely.”

Definitely Dead, p. 240

Sookie might put a good face on it, but as she says, there’s a lot of forcing around vampires. Once she was forced to Rhodes, that was the end of any ideas that she could disappear completely. She’s the infamous telepath that so many have seen – all of the supernaturals there at the summit would have seen her face.

It’s not as if telepaths in the country can blend into the background easily. There are two known telepaths working for vampires – Barry and Sookie. Sookie happens to be the infamous telepath that rode a coffin out of a window to save her vampires, and who executed large escapes from Russell’s territory, and who had all kinds of other famous and exciting escapades. Sookie’s value isn’t just in being a telepath – it’s in having a human willing to sacrifice her life to save vampires – a high prize – and something to gossip about. Vampires live violent fighting existences and can’t seem to stop including her in various battles. She couldn’t stay secret if she tried.

There’s also the fact that vampires, as a group, as a fact of political life have spies, as I’ve spoken of before. Information is valuable to vampires, and some vampire would sell all kinds of information for favours. Even if Eric kept it quiet that his wife left the state, it wouldn’t matter – because any one of the vampires in his bar could sell the information. Victor had to find out about Sookie’s fairy family somewhere, and Eric has a day man that can be glamoured. Sookie – if she got away from Eric would need to live in a box, so that all the other vampires don’t come looking for her.

Say if she avoided vampires all together, and didn’t go out at night. If Sookie was happy to be alone and lonely, she would have started up a home business years ago. So she’d probably have contact with weres and shifters. I’m not so sure that you can completely avoid vampires unless you can be sure you can stay inside, and it’s not as if Sookie’s going to be able to get that sort of job easily on the fly. The problem comes as soon as one of those weres and shifters uses her telepathy.

A telepath is outed when someone starts to question how you legitimately came by information – just like moles undercover are rooted out the same way. How would the weres know what your secret thoughts are? The supernatural community would start asking questions, and the person questioned in suspicion would be the most likely to talk to others. Even if you had some sort of system where Sookie was hiding behind walls and stuff to help out, the fact that the information is out would give it away.

Once one supernatural group has an uncanny way of finding out the truth, questions would be asked. It’s only a matter of time before someone thinks about the fact that somewhere in America, a famous telepath is missing. Were packs don’t exactly have the most loyal membership either. Basim and Cal Myers were both willing to sell out pack secrets and friends of the pack to others. One opportunistic were would out Sookie’s presence in a heartbeat, and once it’s out, I’m sure Eric would come to reclaim Sookie and let none of the weres have her. And she’s back to where she started – under Eric’s thumb. But now he’s pissed off that he had to use some favours and you find out he “had fun” with your old boss and friend to make sure Sam really didn’t know where Sookie had gone. Quite the homecoming party that would be.

But! You say. Sookie could have left when Eric started sniffing around. ORLY? With what pray-tell? The clothes on her back and her crappy car? The reality is that until DITF, Sookie hasn’t had a substantial amount of money in order to leave. She could never conceivably sell her house – no one is going to want it, and houses take so long to sell. But say she sold off the land the first day she decided to flee the state. That’s still a small amount, but certainly enough to live on. So let’s say that serendipity strikes, and Sookie has enough money to up and leave. It’s not so simple just to have money to move when you’re a telepath.

Where is she going to go exactly? Big cities are out. She needs to live somewhere small town. Sookie herself says:

“Almost everyone’s brain is turned off in the wee hours of the night, and the
vibrations are gone, the intrusions do not have to be expelled.”
Dead Until Dark, p. 17

Throw one shift worker into that nightmare, and it all comes crashing down. Suddenly you’re the slightly crazy telepath that can’t get any sleep, and is getting crazier by the moment. At least part of why Sookie has coped so well is because her house provides respite. She can get away from voices in her head, or at least minimise them. She has no problems falling asleep in Shreveport in Eric’s house, but that’s hardly a central metro area. So, she has to find somewhere suburban or semi-rural.

Getting sleep is not her only problem. Sookie has been subject to problems her whole life around people she’s known for a long time. She gets customers chanting at her that she’s crazy, people harassing her – and these people are ones who know there’s something fishy not because she’s told them, but because they’ve figured out she’s weird. And we all know that people are totally kind to the weird and strange. Oh wait, they’re not:

Desiree gave me a good looking over.
“She’s got funny eyes,” she finally pronounced.
“She’s my sister.” Jason said.

“Oh. I’m sorry. You’re much more…normal.” Dead Until Dark, p. 222

People can be blunt, stupid and rude – one only needs to go onto a celebrity gossip site to consider how kind people can be in what they will say in public about others with great specificity. So the idea that Sookie could move to a new community – laughable. At least in Bon Temps, Jason, Sam or Catfish will step up to the plate for Sookie in the bar. In a new town, she’s got no one.

Sookie’s way more liable to be found in a ditch somewhere because some person decides that the privacy in their brain is worth more than her life. The idea that she’ll be able to keep things under wraps? If she’d left before Bill taught her how to control her telepathy, then she wouldn’t have the skills to shut anyone out whenever she felt like it. But moreover, Sookie has slip ups while she’s under stress – which includes work. It also includes supernatural contact – where you get to take beatings. Sookie would inadvertently out herself to another supernatural community, and it would start all over again.

So the reality is that even if Sookie got it into her head to leave, then where is she going to go? Even if the vampires were willing to let her go, the reality is that going elsewhere is dangerous for her, and even if she did make all those events come together, then she’ll surely out herself and it’ll be a new and unusual group of supernatural creatures who want her to help them. She could exchange Northern Louisiana for North Dakota, and the problems still exist.

Sookie will never be able to leave the supernatural world, no matter how well she doesn’t fit – not because she’s a supernatural creature, but because the supernatural creatures have use for a telepath, who doesn’t mind lessening the torture of her fellow humans. It’s not as if she can turn her telepathy off and go and find a happy life. It’s only if she could do that that she would ever get free. The supernatural world is like the Hotel California – you can check out, but you can’t leave…and Sookie should learn to love the beatings.

This post is brought to you by elbly, certified Bill lover.
It’s the hair that does it for her, she tells me.