NMH – Chapter 1

No More Heroes

Summary: The new Millennium brings a new phenomenon that newscasters fall over themselves to cover. The headlines also give Sookie hope that her disability is something else entirely. It’s unfortunate, for her, that Superheroes don’t hand out application forms for sidekicks. AU, OOC.

Warning: This is a silly plot bunny that popped into my head. I’m very aware that the universe CH created wouldn’t facilitate some of the things that happen in this story. But I’m writing it anyway, because it’s a fun idea and I hope my valued readers and treasured reviewers like it as much as I do.

Chapter 1 – The Beginning

Louisiana Gathering – October 1999 – Eric’s POV

It was always the same after Sophie-Anne came back from one of the Amun Clan gatherings. All of the sheriffs would be called down to New Orleans so she could brief us on whatever gossip had fruited from the event. I would have preferred to stay in Shreveport and hold a conference call but when your Queen requires your presence, it’s wise to acquiesce … unless you want to meet the bottom of a saline tank for a few years.

“I’ve called you here today to relay the findings and information shared at our Clan meeting. Peter Threadgill hosted an  … adequate event in Little Rock, no suspicions were raised with the general public and his accommodations were more lavish than Isaiah offered in Kentucky the last time.”

Cleo and Gervaise looked as bored as me, I had no doubts that their interests in who was forging alliances with who were as non-existent as my own. Unless one of the Clan was planning a marriage alliance with Sophie-Anne, it wouldn’t affect the way we lived or conducted business. It would be highly unlikely a fellow Amun state would discuss taking over another Amun state at the conference.

“This meeting had a different focus than our usual get together. Yes, some contracts were signed and a couple of ceremonies performed but I think you’ll find the main topic of the meeting as … fascinating as I did.”

I refrained from rolling my eyes; Andre was staring at me intently – waiting to catch me out. Not today, sugar plum.

“The Japanese, no doubt with the help of some other-worldly beings, are in the latter stages of developing synthetic blood. This substance would provide the same nutrients for us as human blood. With this information comes the likelihood of our kind revealing ourselves to the general populace.”

That I did not expect. I was aware that there had been some discussion on how the advent of synthetic blood would affect Vampires. But I didn’t realise that there was a plan for us to reveal ourselves to humans.

“With this prospect comes the issue of acceptance. Russell Edgington has made an interesting suggestion with regard to public relations – that two Vampires from each state raise their public profile in advance of a mass revelation of the existence of Vampires.”

Gervaise raised his hand but spoke before Sophie-Anne had the chance to grant his interruption. “So, basically, a couple of us put ourselves out there and become famous – subject to all manner of investigation – and when Vampires are revealed to the humans, they will be more prone to accepting famous people as vampires?”

“Not famous, per se, Gervaise. People can be famous for having a bad reputation – the goal is to be well known with a good reputation – popular, well-liked members of the human community. I will be conducting more business publicly and hosting charity events, the aim is to be in the media for all the right reasons.”

“And will Andre, also, be raising his public profile?” Cleo asked, assuming that the Queen would inflict her cold-eyed child on the unsuspecting public. I knew better, Andre was definitely not a ‘people person’.

“No. I will be covering the business side of things; that will ensure important political ties and give me some notoriety with the middle to upper classes. We will need someone to appeal to the working classes and younger people who care little for business and politics.”

I barely managed to suppress my groan of frustration when her eyes rested on me.

“The Northman will be our other … representative. He’s handsome, tall and well-built – I’m sure the ladies will appreciate him being in the public eye.”

She smiled at me, it wasn’t friendly. This is what I get for beating Andre to the punch with that psychic all those years ago. This is my punishment. I sighed and leaned forward in my chair.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Get out there and get your face in the media. Become a pop star, a model or a movie star … I don’t care how you do it, just do it. Become noted but remember – squeaky clean, you have to be Mr. Nice Guy. The public have to love you before we reveal what we are to them.”

I nodded and the briefing was brought to a close soon after. As I left the royal residence and started driving back north, I wracked my brain trying to come up with a plan. I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t dance to that modern music the way humans could and I was sure that any movie studio would be suspect of an actor who only worked at night. I stopped to refuel my car, still pondering how I could fulfil the Queen’s demands, when two boys got out of the car next to mine.

“Did you see the new issue of ‘Strange Tales’? There’s a new member of the Justice Alliance – he can fly, he’s super-strong and super-fast too!”

“Wow! Like Superman? I wish heroes were real, wouldn’t it be so cool?”

“Oh man! That would be totally awesome!”

I smiled to myself as I put the pump back in its holder. Yes, it would be totally awesome if there were a hero who could fly, was super-strong and super-fast.

Bon Temps – December 1999 – Sookie’s POV

My head hurt, badly. It had been a long shift at Merlotte’s but that wasn’t why my head hurt. It hurt from being bombarded with all the thoughts of all the patrons all day. Being a telepath sucked. And touching people? Well, that just makes it even worse. From a distance I can sort of block people out, a little – but when I touch someone there’s just no defending my mind against their thoughts. Hence my still being a twenty-one year old virgin. To this day, the only person I don’t get my brain bombarded by is my boss – Sam Merlotte. I don’t know what it is that makes him different but his mind is a swirly mist tinted with emotions. So here I was, in my prime – blonde with blue eyes and a generous helping of chest related attributes, strong legs and a waspish waistline with no-one around to appreciate it.

“Sam! Turn up the volume on the TV – there’s something on the news!” Arlene shouted excitedly.

Curious, I walked around the bar to get a look at the screen. The whole bar was quiet as the newscaster described the grainy clip that had been sent in by an amateur film maker.

“You can see, clearly, that the two jewel thieves are being lowered from the sky by a man. After a botched attempt to clear Lee Michaels Fine Jewellery of all the branches gems, these two were delivered to a nearby police station by this masked hero.”

“An honest to God Superhero, and check out those abs!”

I had to admit, Arlene did have a point about the abs. Despite the picture being grainy and unprofessional, you could see this guy was serious about his gym routines. The hero was wearing tight leather pants and a hockey mask to cover his face, both were black and plain and that was all he was wearing. No shoes, no shirt … just those pants and the black oval that covered his face, leaving his long blonde hair flowing in the breeze. The clip was shown again and I think I sighed, starry eyed at the vision on the screen before it finally dawned on me.

Superheroes were real. This guy actually had the power of flight and the strength the lift two men. Super powers were real. He could fly, I could read minds. What if my telepathy was a super power?

I felt dizzy with the prospect. People had super powers for a reason – they always did. In movies and comic books it was the main plot point – people had powers and they used them to beat the bad guys. Okay, sometimes the bad guys had powers too … but they were usually crazy. And although the folks in Bon Temps called me ‘Crazy Sookie’ I was saner than most.

Maybe I was born with this mind reading ability so I could make the world a better place?

~v~

Over the next few weeks, more sightings were reported and more photographs were splashed across the front pages of all the newspapers, all over the country. They were all asking the same question – who is this mystery masked superhero. Gran was just as excited about this phenomenon and gladly joined in with my cutting out all the articles and putting them in a scrapbook – we wanted to record the ‘birth’ of this extraordinary person. What I didn’t show Gran was the map of Shreveport and the surrounding area I had under my bed. I was also recording all of the alleged and confirmed sightings by drawing dots on the map.

Because if he had superpowers and I had superpowers – then maybe he could help me hone my ability. Maybe he could tell me why I could read minds or maybe he could support me as I tried to make my power stronger. I kissed Gran goodnight and went upstairs, pulling the map out and adding new, red dots where the papers and the news said he’d been seen. A pattern would emerge sooner or later and when I could see the pattern, I could maybe track down where he was.

All of the excitement about this Superhero had put Christmas in the shade.

~v~

A few days later, when I was at work, I realised Sam knew something was up. Every time the news came on he would grab the remote and turn the channel. When Arlene challenged him on it, he told her he was sick of hearing about ‘that Goddamn Superhero’ because it gave people false security.

“What do you mean ‘false security’?” I slid onto a stool at the bar and waited for his answer.

He sighed before speaking; his mind was a whirl of red, spiky emotion. “If there’s someone around to swoop in and save the day – people get lazy. They take chances; they walk through the bad parts of town because they’re convinced the bad guys won’t get them. And when the bad guys do get them, they won’t blame themselves – they’ll blame this guy for not being there when they were being stupid.”

I nodded and agreed with him, as did Arlene, but I knew there was more to it. Arlene went off to check on her lunch orders but as I was slipping off the stool ready to get back to work, Sam stopped me.

“There’s always more to people than meets the eye, Sookie. This hero wears a mask for a reason, when that mask comes off … well, a lot of folks are gonna be surprised.”

I felt a tense smile yank my cheeks upward. I wasn’t sure what he meant by there being more to people than meets the eye, whether he was referring to my ‘reputation’ in the town or his own not normal mind. But one thing I was sure of was that Sam knew more about this Hero than he was letting on.

~v~

It had been months since the first appearance of ‘The Midnight Saviour’, as the media were referring to him. I was in the yard on my morning off, practicing some gymnastics. I’d always been supple and produced a mean cartwheel, but now I was intent on making my body strong in preparation for making my superpower strong too. I flipped, I rolled, I wind-milled and round-housed until there was a sheen of sweat over my body despite the cool spring air.

At night, after Gran had gone to bed, I’d be in my room reading the self-defence and martial arts books that I’d gotten from the library. At Merlotte’s I volunteered to work stock to build my muscles. Gran had noticed the change in me, she commented on how thin I was getting – but I wasn’t losing weight. I was just a more efficient machine.

Gran came out of the house and ‘tut-tutted’ at me. “You’re gonna wear yourself out before you even get to work, Missy!”

I nodded and stretched out the muscles in my arms as I jogged back into the house to shower before lunch. We listened to the one o’clock news as we ate and both our heads snapped to the radio as the mention of the Superhero.

“Shreveport P.D has revealed that the masked Superhero that has been foiling minor and major crimes all over the city area, has issued a statement. The typed note was hand delivered by the Superhero to the City’s Captain and says:

I am Polaris, the North Star of crime fighting. Citizens of Shreveport and its surrounding area can rest easily in their beds knowing that I am helping this fine Police force get criminals off the streets and behind bars where they belong. The night will no longer belong to those who break the law – with the darkness comes the light of Polaris and I will burn brightly to guide and protect the good people of this city.”

I didn’t hear the rest of the report. The name ‘Polaris’ circled round and round my head until Gran had to say my name to bring me back to the present. I wondered if he’d been silent all this time because he was coming up with a catchy Superhero name. It was a good name. It got me thinking about what I would call myself if I was a Superhero. As I picked at my grilled cheese, I smiled. I’d triangulated a rough area that could serve as Polaris’ base of operations. I was almost ready … there was just one thing missing.

I just hoped Gran would never ask what I’d spent my savings on.

~v~

I’d been driving around Shreveport in my Nova for over an hour. It was a chilly night – just right to be wearing the black cat-suit I’d got on sale from Wal-mart. It was a size too small with long sleeves and legs. Come summer it would be damn uncomfortable – I was used to wearing strappy tops and shorts in that weather. The only saving grace was that I couldn’t get the zipper at the front all the way over my boobs, so at least there would be an air vent of sorts. I’d teamed the cat-suit with high-top sneakers, driving gloves and a large scarf with two holes cut out covered the top half of my head. Around my waist was a wide belt with two small hunting knives tucked into it. Everything was black.

My mind was open, searching for people thinking about Polaris. Luckily the area I’d determined to be where Polaris was based was in a part of the city that was quiet at night after all the businesses closed. I had to pull up, what I’d called my mental shields as I drove past a goth/biker bar. But other than that there were only small pockets of people hanging around and I was far enough away from them that they didn’t invade my mind. Proximity was definitely the main issue with my telepathy. From a distance I could count ‘brains’ but couldn’t focus on what they were thinking, but the closer I got the clearer they came through. This was good to know and I was sure it would all be part of my training.

I sat straight in the driver’s seat as a terrified mind pricked at my ability. It was a woman and she was frozen with fear. My seatbelt was off as soon as I detected it and I barely remembered to put on the parking brake before I jumped from the car and followed her petrified thoughts. I slowed down as I got closer, she was incredibly frightened and it was making me shake in my cheap sneakers. Peeking round the corner into an alleyway, I saw them.

He had her pinned against a doorway and his hand was roughly grabbing at her. Tears were streaming from her eyes but she was too scared and shocked to fight back. And Polaris wasn’t there. Taking a deep breath, I moved into the alley.

“Leave her alone.”

The man stopped and turned his head toward me as he ripped at the woman’s clothes. “Or what, honey? You just turn that fat ass around and forget you ever saw anything. Are we clear?”

Anger clouded my vision and I felt my lip curl in disgust. “Oh yeah, we’re clear that you’re an asshole who needs to be taught a lesson.”

I took out one of the hunting knives and threw it at him, he was a big guy and I was a good aim. I’d never thrown a knife before, but this one embedded itself in the back of his thigh, making him crumble to the ground. He was a tough one, that’s for sure. He pulled the knife out and dropped it on the ground before making a bestial war cry and launching himself at me. I flipped out of the way and cart wheeled to the other side before kicking out and catching him on the chin with my left foot.

I knew if I waited too long he would gather his senses enough to attack me again. So I struck out with the heel of my hand to his sternum and he doubled over. Just then he jumped, but stopped a couple of feet from the ground. I blinked and rubbed my eyes before I noticed Polaris standing behind him, holding him up by the scruff of his neck.

I grinned at him. “You got here just in time. You take him to the station and I’ll help the victim.”

If there was a facial expression behind that mask, I didn’t know about it. But he nodded to me and flew off with the would-be rapist. I turned and went over to the woman whose mental cries for help I’d heard. She was shaking and sobbing, trying to hold the tattered remains of her blouse together to cover herself. I slowly reached out and put a hand on her shoulder.

“You’re safe now. Would you like to go to the hospital to get checked out?”

“No … I’m not hurt. He didn’t … you stopped him before.”

I shushed her and smoothed her hair back from her face. “That animal needs to go to prison – is it okay if I take you to the Police station so you can make a statement?”

She nodded and I helped her to her feet and half-carried her back to where my car was. It was that moment I realised that if I parked my car near the police station they would be able to get the registration number from it. I panicked; this did not facilitate a secret identity. Instead of helping the woman into my car, we walked right past it.

“Do you know where the closest Police Station is?”

We both froze at the voice behind us. I hadn’t even heard Polaris sneak up. I sighed and shook my head. “I didn’t think I’d need to be transporting anyone tonight.”

That sounded better than ‘I didn’t think at all’. Polaris nodded and put an arm around both of us before taking off into the sky. It was exhilarating and scary at the same time. I gripped the arm holding me tightly as we passed over buildings and streets. When we landed, I almost felt like kneeling and kissing the ground. Polaris ushered both of us into the station. As soon as we were through the door, two female officers took the woman away from us, offering her tea and comfort as they walked away.

“So you’re the crazy girl who took this guy down?”

I turned to the voice and jutted out my chin proudly. “I am.”

The officer nodded while rubbing the back of his neck. “I … uh … need to take a statement. Can I have a name?”

“Soo … uh … Steel Magnolia. Yep, that’s me – The Steel Magnolia!”

I grinned at him and he rolled his eyes. I glanced at Polaris, in the light of the station I could see how blue his eyes were. They were also very intense. I was shown into a small room where I gave them my account of what happened. Another thing I didn’t think of was that they would ask questions.

“And how did you know that a rape was in progress? Are you in cahoots with the perpetrator?”

“I certainly am not! Polaris has super powers and so do I – I knew she was in danger, my powers told me so.”

“Uh huh … so, what, your spider sense was tingling?”

“Something like that, yes.”

The officer sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Look, lady, when Polaris brought this guy in, the scumbag admitted everything. To be honest the thought of people running around with superpowers makes me very uncomfortable.” It certainly did. His thoughts were all over the place, my smile was tenser that a high wire at the circus. “Just sign this damn thing and get out of here.”

I nodded and paused as I put the pen to the paper, signing ‘Steel Magnolia’ with a flourish and trying to make it look very different to my usual signature. I left the station and stopped when I got out to the sidewalk. I had no idea where my car was.

“Need a lift again?”

I smiled at Polaris. “Actually I was looking for you tonight.”

“Oh you were, were you?” His eyes crinkled at the corners, like he was smiling underneath the mask he wore. I was willing to bet he had a beautiful smile.

“Yes, we have a lot in common with the whole ‘superpowers’ thing.”

“Is that so? Well, why don’t we go somewhere and talk about it?”

“Uh … okay.”

I had expected more resistance, but maybe Polaris was just a really nice guy? Before I could think on that too much, I was in the air again. We landed on top of a building, I was extremely disorientated but when I looked down and saw my car I knew where I was.

“So, Steel Magnolia, tell me about these superpowers you think you have.” Polaris was looking into my eyes with an intensity that made my head feel like spiders were trying to burrow into my brain.

“I don’t think I have them – I know I do, had them since as long as I can remember.”

His eyes looked surprised before narrowing and then changing to indifference. “The flipping and tumbling? That’s not really a superpower – you can see Olympic gymnasts beating your efforts on TV.”

I smiled, trying to make it look as patronising as I could. “The gymnastics I learned all on my own, the being able to hear the thoughts of those in danger? Not so much – you can’t learn that, sweetie.”

There were those surprised eyes again. I felt triumphant that I’d managed to shock him and held myself a little straighter, folding my arms and smiling at him. Those big blues flicked down to my chest and stayed there for longer than I was comfortable with. I concentrated on his mind, determined to find out that he was just like every other man on the face of the planet and was met with … nothing. His mind was there but I couldn’t read what was in it. My jaw dropped a little and I gasped.

“You can read my thoughts?” His voice sounded strained and there was a hint of an accent.

“No! I can’t … you’re the only one I’ve found … it’s just blank. Not blank, I know your mind is there but … it’s a bubble of nothing.”

“That’s incredibly interesting Miss …”

I felt that spidery burrowing again, but shook it off and smirked at him. “You won’t catch me out that easily. It’s Steel Magnolia and that’s all you’re getting until we know each other a little better.”

Polaris stepped closer to me and rubbed his hands up and down my biceps. “Hmm … how much better would you like to get to know me?”

“It must have taken you years to fine tune your powers; I want to know if you can help me do the same with mine. I have this ability and my whole life I’ve considered it a curse until you showed up on the news. I have this telepathy for a reason – I can help people.”

“And would there be anything else you want me to help you with?” His voice was low and seductive; it sent a pleasant shiver up my spine.

“Umm … not right now, no.” I backed up away from him, I didn’t know him from Adam and here he was practically propositioning me! It was tempting, too tempting. The anonymity, the rush of the fight from earlier and the fact that his mind was blank … tonight had been exciting enough for this small town girl.

Polaris got the hint and nodded. “We should work out a way to contact each other if you want me to help you. That’s why I’m a hero, after all. To help everyone. Do you have a cell phone?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“You should get one. Not only for contacting me, but it would have come in handy tonight if I hadn’t shown up. You’re determined to take out the bad guys but have no way of getting them to the authorities after you catch them. You could have called the police to have them pick the rapist and the woman up.”

He was absolutely right. I made a mental note to see if I could afford one as soon as possible and nodded to him. “I’ll get on that, but until I have a cell phone set up – what should I do?”

Polaris seemed to think about that for a long time before nodding to himself and reaching out for me. “I have … another power. One that no-one knows about. My blood is … magical. If you drink some of my blood, I’ll be able to find you and sense your emotions.”

“Wow that is pretty magical. So, if I drink your blood and I need you, all I need to do is think about how much I need you?”

“Sort of. If you’re in danger I’ll be able to sense it if I’m close enough. It will wear off, but by then you’ll have your cell and we won’t need it.”

I frowned. “Won’t that be awful, being able to know what I’m feeling twenty-four hours a day?”

He was silent for a while; I couldn’t even hear him breathe. And then he answered me. “I find you incredibly interesting. Keeping in contact with you is something I’m very keen to do.”

There was more, I could feel it in my guts, but until he was ready to tell me there was nothing I could do. “I need your help with this … venture. So I guess if you’re okay with it then I am too.”

He nodded and told me to turn around and close my eyes. I heard his movements behind me, a faint rustling then a crunch, and felt something wet touch my lips. I was fairly grossed out by the thought of drinking blood, but needs must. I opened my mouth and sucked quickly, wanting to get it over with as soon as possible. Polaris groaned behind me and his head pressed against the top of mine. I could hear him inhale sharply and then felt him shudder against me.

I turned around to make sure he was okay and found him already pulling his mask back over his face. But not before I caught a glimpse of his full lips and blonde stubble on his chin. His eyes stayed closed for a few moments, as if he was trying to gather himself. Moments after he opened them I was back in the air and being set down on the street not far away from my car.

“I have more work to do before the sun rises. Be safe Steel Magnolia.”

Then he flew off into the night.

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