Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Bill checked over his list one more time. It wasn’t necessary. He was a vampire so he forgot nothing, but there was something about the counting and folding, and then making the check on the paper with his mechanical pencil that calmed him. In a few hours, he would be on the airplane headed for another promotional junket for THE MOVIE. It was how he thought of it. THE MOVIE was all most people wanted to talk to him about. He was flying all over the world, standing in bookstores, and talking with vapid commentators for shows that would be televised. He was asked to repeat the same story over and over, answer the same questions, and each time he gave the wrong answers. Bill Compton would lock his tight smile in place and recount a version where a Viking vampire won and a smart, charming vampire lost.
It was bad, but there was worse. He received his call last night. He was headed for London. The European release of the movie would precede the United States release by two weeks. There were already so many demands on his time, and now there would be one more. Bill knew there would be a photograph delivered to his hotel. While he was in London, between the press and the parties, he would need to find the time to locate the person in the photograph and kill them.
Bill had been many things over his life and his longer unlife. If he was brutally honest with himself, ‘killer’ was on that list of things, so were writer, procurer, computer programmer, and entrepreneur. Assassin was not, though. An assassin stalked someone for no personal purpose. They didn’t kill from passion or desire. They killed for payment. ‘You don’t even get money for this!’ Bill thought, his bitterness almost overwhelming him. ‘You do this because that bastard has you by the balls!’
Almost a month to the day after the Moshup Summit concluded, Bill Compton received a phone call requesting a meeting. He thought it odd, but he agreed. He was living in a set of apartments in Shreveport. He decided not to move back to Bon Temps right away. Portia told him Eric Northman was living in Sookie’s house on a semi-permanent basis, and the likelihood of running into the Viking was too great. It wasn’t that Eric had rescinded Bill’s pass to his territory, but Bill was clear he was on thin ice. The first hint the Viking had of Bill making trouble, the pass would be revoked, and there would likely be some physical punishment to reinforce Bill’s appreciation for his own failure.
For Bill, the likelihood that he would mess up loomed large. Ever since his visit with Sookie he had felt his anger on low simmer. She was trying to become pregnant. She was trying with Eric Northman. His Sookie had chosen it. There were nights those facts managed to find a way into the back of Bill’s brain, barely making a peep, but there were other nights that Bill would find himself randomly breaking things apart just to relieve the pressure those facts built within him. His family noticed. Andy Bellefleur questioned him about it and Bill realized his anger was beginning to get the better of him. Bill could have moved away and probably should have. He could have moved back to live with Russell and Bartlett in Jackson, but then he would never have the chance to see Sookie, and that was not acceptable. It was other things that allowed him to see that all might not be lost.
Portia had her baby, another girl the night he had visited Sookie at her home. His newest great-great-granddaughter was named Susan because Bill told Portia it was another family name. The Bellefleurs and the Vicks made sure Bill was invited to the party to celebrate their newest arrival, and Sookie had come, too. Bill’s descendants noted the absence of Eric Northman. Of course the Viking had been invited, but the general consensus was that Sookie’s husband was a little too good to consort with most humans. He only attended the events hosted by Jason Stackhouse, his human brother-in-law. The people of Bon Temps talked amongst themselves about how the rest of them were not worth the notice of the high and mighty Eric Northman, and folks resented it.
It was the first conversation that gave Bill the idea that there might be another way to look at Sookie’s situation. He knew how important family was to her. An idea started to form that Sookie was proving what Bill had believed all along. Sookie wanted all the things other humans had. She wanted a normal, human life and finding a way to have a baby was part of that. Of course, she had to visit the in vitro clinic with the vampire she was married to, but her neighbors could see that Eric Northman wasn’t trying to be human. He didn’t want to fit in.
Bill encouraged the talk about Northman, making a point to look around at any family gathering and ask if the Viking was coming. It was so easy! There would be a sideways look followed by a series of downturned mouths. He was sure to hear the conversation sometime during the evening about how it didn’t matter where you chose to live, some folks were just too good to be around their neighbors. Bill knew in a town this small, Sookie was bound to hear it, even if only in her head, and she would be reminded how poor a fit the Viking was for her and the life she deserved.
For his part, Bill made a point of attending everything. He ‘ate’ at Maxine’s at least one night a week. He attended every meeting of the Descendants of the Glorious Dead and was a featured speaker, fact checking and making a great fuss about carrying things for the older ladies. He attended the evening tent revivals at the Church and was on a first name basis with Reverend Collins and his wife. Everywhere he went, the good people of Bon Temps would wave and call out to ‘Vampire Bill.’ He would smile and wave back, an accepted part of their town. It was only a matter of time before Sookie realized that she needed someone who really fit in, and her tall, uncomfortable oaf of a husband was not it.
When the call had come, Bill assumed it was a complaint from one of Northman’s flunkies. Heidi, the tracker who guarded the Hummingbird Lane house, had spotted him in town near where Sookie was shopping. She’d questioned him and he pointed out he was helping Halleigh Bellefleur with groceries for Portia. Bill had heard through the town grapevine that Sookie was indeed pregnant so having the guards become hyper-vigilant wasn’t surprising.
There was a great deal of speculation about how having a baby would work out for the Northmans. Some of the gossip was kind, but there was a growing talk track that whispered about what a bad idea it was. There was a revival to the stories of how odd Sookie was as a girl. Many had thought she wasn’t smart or was actually touched in some way. “It explains why any person would think having a child with a vampire is a good idea,” those people would say. Those conversations made Bill angry and he would find ways to gently defend his future wife.
Then there were conversations about the lack of judgement any doctor or god-fearing woman showed in wanting to bring a child into a family where the husband had so little respect for humans. Most folks were sure that any baby Sookie might have would be human and what kindness would that be, to raise a child in a home where it could never quite measure up to its own father?
These were all conversations Bill participated in, willingly fanning the flames. He knew it wouldn’t go unchallenged, which was why he assumed the call was from Northman’s camp. The insistent demand from the vampire on the other end that they meet in person did feel different. In the end, they agreed to meet at a crowded restaurant in Shreveport that catered to Supernaturals, where Bill felt he had a better chance of surviving.
Bill did not expect to find the King of New York’s second, Carlo, waiting for him at the table.
Carlo wasted no time in pleasantries. He informed Bill that Sonder, Twy’s former assistant, was Misha’s permanent house guest. Carlo took his time describing for Bill how she had been picked up shortly after Bill left Boston. The King had been interrogating a local witch. The witch was involved in the glamour scandal and with a little ‘persuasion,’ the bitch used her contraband charm to remove Sonder’s glamour. Carlo crowed as he recounted the King’s surprise at the tale Sonder had to tell. “She’s not anything special, Bill,” Carlo crooned, low and soothing. “I don’t know why you decided to confide in her. Was it a confession, Bill? Did you think that telling that blood sack your secrets would be good for your soul?”
If he had a heartbeat, Bill was pretty certain his would have stopped in that moment. His mind raced. There were cases of glamour being removed, but he had never heard of it being removed altogether. It was possible Sonder hadn’t remembered everything, but what parts did she tell Misha?
Over the time he knew her, Bill had told Sonder so many things. He would use her, and when her screams turned to breathy whimpers, he would gather her in his arms, pretending her dark hair was blond, and he would whisper in her ear. He told her of his many killing sprees over the years and how the joy he felt in the carnage reminded him of Lorena. He told her that he wondered sometimes if he inherited his Maker’s madness through the blood and how he hated being vampire. He told her about Matthias and what the Illinois vampire told him about other vampires who killed as Bill did, wildly and recklessly, making sure their actions were off the grid.
Bill told Sonder other things, more personal things. He told her of his special hatred for Eric Northman. He told her of his plots and plans to destroy the Viking. Worst of all, Bill told Sonder of his undying love for Sookie Stackhouse. He described his devotion to her and how she had captured his soul. He described the special room he created in his home in Bon Temps, a shrine he lovingly decorated to commemorate their love. He told Sonder that he had used those in the palace, especially Meg who had her own secrets, to secure pictures of Sookie and send them to him to be added to his collection.
When Sonder whimpered about her friend, protesting that Meg would never spy on Sookie for Bill, he delighted in destroying Sonder’s illusions. He told her how Meg had been in thrall to a vampire once before. It was a former guard who rose under Victor’s brief reign. “She sold secrets for money then, and she was happy to do it again,” he’d hissed. In reality, the servant had been reluctant, but a touch of glamour and a few suggestions had turned her against her employers quite nicely.
Bill shared with Sonder his dream of building a special place where he and Sookie could be together, just the two of them. No one would find them and Sookie would be happy. All his sacrifices and efforts would pay off and Sookie would willingly give herself to him. As he described the happy future he saw, he also found himself telling Sonder how, when he finally tired of being a vampire, he would arrange it so he and Sookie could meet their final deaths together. It would be a beautiful ceremony that would unite them for all the ages.
Bill hadn’t shared these things with Sonder all at once. He had shared these things over a handful of meetings. He wasn’t sure why he chose her. Maybe it was the quality of the panic she manifested, the pitch of her pleading, but she satisfied some part of him enough so that he didn’t wish to end her. It felt like kismet when he found himself running into her a second time. It was as though he was meant to find Sonder, and then it happened again.
Each time he would enthrall her, taking her someplace with thick walls or neighbors who wouldn’t tell. He would use her and then tell her some secret. When it was time to leave, he would be careful to leave some small physical trace of their encounter and a vague sense of comfort from being near him. The rest he would cover up with a thick layer of glamour and vampire blood.
Sonder was his vault into which he had placed his secrets, and now he found that his vault had been opened.
Bill couldn’t wrap his head around it. It was part of the perfection of Sonder. This was a woman who had no real ties to him. There was no history, no mutual friends. She just turned up at convenient times in unexpected ways. Sonder was his needle in a haystack of humanity. She was his random convenience, a person no one would connect to him, and yet, against all odds an enemy had found her.
Carlo gloated as he handed Bill the envelope that contained a photograph, a name, and an address. “I understand you have an appearance scheduled in this city. While you are there, the King has an extra job he would like you to handle for him.”
“What are you asking me to do?” Bill looked at the picture of the young human. He was no one Bill recognized. He had a tough look around his mouth and eyes.
“Why, kill him, Bill. It is what you do, yes?” Carlo sat back then and laughed, as if this was all some fine joke.
“But that kind of thing requires time and planning,” Bill flailed.
“Now Bill, you and I both know that the only part that really requires thought is the aftermath. The killing is easy if you know where to find your mark, and we have taken care of that for you. If you doubt your ability to cover it up, you can call cleaners. Misha doesn’t care how you handle that, as long as you do the killing yourself. But, with the way you have managed your little predilection so far, you shouldn’t sell yourself short,” Carlo’s tone was all reasonableness.
“You are telling me the King…”
“I am telling you that the King of New York owns you, Bill Compton!” Carlo came close, his fangs descended, and his face resembling a shark as he lowered his voice to a hiss. “You will do what you’re told!” He stabbed the picture with his index finger, “That piece of shit thought to cheat my King. He thought he’d shave just a little off the top of every shipment he sent. He thought he was smarter than Misha!” Carlo waited until Bill looked him full in the eyes, “He needs to become an example to others, Bill. You know the kind of thing that’s needed. His death should make a statement. Maybe you should consider paying some cleaners to help position him this first time. Of course, you understand if you do choose to use their services, their payment comes out of your pocket!”
Bill sat back, “But, but…”
“But what, Bill? Do I need to turn the lovely Sonder over to the Louisiana police? I understand you have created quite the pet cemetery in the woods surrounding your family home in Bon Temps. I wonder what your human family will say when they find out their Pepaw is a mass murderer. I don’t remember much about my human days, but I remember enough to know that’s the kind of story that haunts a family. It affects marriages and businesses. It follows children like a bad smell. Small town people wonder if that kind of thing is contagious, if it runs in the family.” If Bill had been able, he would have become even pastier. “I can see you agree,” Carlo smiled and sat back.
Bill opened his mouth a few times, but no sound came out. “So, Bill, I can tell my King that this little trouble is taken care of?” Carlo wasn’t smiling his shark smile anymore and Bill realized he would have to give an answer.
“I’ll manage it,” Bill choked. After a minute, he asked, “Does this mean we’re even?”
Carlo smiled, “Oh, Bill, I don’t think you know what it means to be owned, do you?” When Bill didn’t answer, Carlo reached over and squeezed his upper arm, as if they were the best of friends, “Well, don’t worry, you will, Mr. Compton!”
“How did you know I would be in that city?” Bill asked. He couldn’t think of any better thing to say, but he felt he needed to talk, if only to prove that he still existed.
“Why, from your very helpful author’s website, of course!” Carlo exclaimed. “You are famous, Mr. Bill Compton! Your schedule, including all your future public appearances are listed so your fans can find you. Don’t worry. The King has gifts to deliver all over the world. You will be busy building a different kind of story, but one that you have created before. Who knows? Maybe you can turn it into a movie sometime,” and with a quick salute, Carlo left. A minute later the waiter appeared, giving Bill a check for several Royalties.
It was dicey and Bill was nervous. His agitation was increased by the texts he received from Carlo. Once he located the man, Bill found his rage made the actual killing almost enjoyable. Bill decided to hire cleaners and he paid extra to have them position the body in a park. He felt an absurd pride when the local newspaper labeled the murder as the latest example of gang violence. It was different, killing in a way so as not to be traced back to a vampire. Bill couldn’t rip with fang or fingers, his preferred method. Instead he had to rely on using tools. It felt crude at first, but by the time the man finished screaming and bleeding, it felt almost lyrical.
Bill’s next scheduled appearance was within days of this first killing. Bill had an interview with a national magazine scheduled to take place in Detroit. Somehow he wasn’t surprised when the flowers arrived in his hotel room with the envelope tucked into the paper. This time the photograph was of a couple. They looked pleasant, almost conservative. The instructions were for the execution to be video-taped. ‘Embezzlers,’ the card read.
Unfortunately for Bill, Rasul was the King of Michigan and his palace was located in Detroit. Bill would have only forty-eight hours in the Diesel City, which left little time to complete both his official and unofficial assignments, and he knew he was in trouble when his hotel door opened to Rasul himself.
“Bill!” the vampire King seemed genuinely pleased to see him. “Your advance people let me know you were coming. I am disappointed you didn’t call yourself, but all’s well.” Rasul gestured and the people Twy had arranged for this junket walked into the room. It seemed they had worked closely with the King and now Bill’s schedule was enhanced. Almost every animate hour was crammed with some venue or another, media arranged to cover the vampires enjoying the Detroit nightlife. “I’ve missed you!” Rasul smirked. “Just seeing you brings back good times!”
Bill found himself captured in a nightmare of reliving moments from Sophie-Anne LeClerq’s Court in New Orleans. Bill had been a royal procurer then, and Rasul a guard. Bill knew that they had not been especially close during that time, but Rasul seemed to remember it differently. It wasn’t until several hours into the evening when Bill found himself standing under a spotlight, the butt of a comedian’s jokes, when he began to suspect Rasul of not acting so much from a sense of friendship as pay back. Bill realized that since the former guard was now the King in this territory, Bill was in no position to decline any reasonable request for company. They were together for the entire evening and when Bill rose, Rasul was already in the limousine that took him to the magazine interview. Bill started his standard pattern, answering the questions he knew so well, but Rasul was having none of it. When the questions turned to the model for the Viking of “Viking’s Bond,” Rasul piped up from his seat, “Oh, you mean Eric Northman!”
From there, the interview rapidly got out of control. The interviewer asked specific questions about the famous Eric Northman, and Rasul provided a number of amusing anecdotes. It turned out that Northman had been in Detroit not so long ago, and Rasul had a video on his phone of the Viking, Rasul, and another vampire singing karaoke in a local club. When the interview ended, the reporter insisted on taking a picture of Bill standing next to the Michigan King. It was everything Bill had to make his face turn up in a smile and pretend that everything was alright.
It took almost all his writer’s ingenuity to form a plausible excuse. Bill had mere hours to locate the couple. They were in their quiet apartment, sleeping together. The job was done, but it was rushed and Bill didn’t film it. He barely had time to return to his hotel room when his day death claimed him.
Bill emerged from his travel coffin in Shreveport to find Carlo sitting in a chair in his resting chamber, awaiting him. Bill thought the New York King’s second was older than him, and this confirmed it. Older vampires reanimated sooner.
“How did you get into my apartment?” Bill asked to cover his fear.
“Why Bill, this is a public building,” Carlo answered reasonably. “The only challenge was in locating the actual owner of the building to get permission to enter the apartments. But I had a good idea that this little visit would be needed eventually, so I took care of making these arrangements over a week ago.”
Carlo didn’t mince words. “I doubt your resolve, Mr. Compton. I don’t think you’re sincere in your desire to protect your human family.” Carlo reached into his breast pocket and retrieved his phone. With a few flicks of his fingers, he was showing Bill a film that had been sent in a text. It featured Portia Vicks wheeling a baby carriage. She was talking with someone beside her, and then her young daughter, Andrea, came into the frame. The person filming had been very close to them. The movie was filmed while it was light outside and Bill understood that Carlo was telling him the King could get to his family at any time. He could reach them in daylight and there was nothing Bill could do to stop it.
“I’ll do better,” Bill said abjectly. Carlo pocketed his phone and before Bill could register it, he was out of his coffin and against the wall.
“You will, Bill, because the next time you fail your assignment in any particular, the King has promised me one of the children. I won’t turn them. That would be monstrous. But you and I both know how delicate the taste of blood is at that young age. She will simply disappear and only you and I will know what happened. You will have to face your Portia or the other one, Halleigh. You will smell their tears and taste their grief, and you will know you were the cause of their misery.”
“I understand,” Bill whimpered, and he did. He considered begging the publicist to cancel all his future appearances. He thought about pleading illness or feigning an accident, but he knew there was no escape. With each trip there was a new assignment. Bill was certain that in some place not so far away, a clock was ticking. It was only a matter of time before he tripped and was found out and when he was, he knew with a certainty that all the ugliness would spill out around him.
Bill found he started to hate the night. He hated opening his eyes to find life within his limbs again. He started to truly hate what he was, and all those who were like him. He thought about the life he had dreamed about, the one where he and Sookie lived happy, solitary lives in the little house he built for her and how they met their deaths together, holding hands, peaceful.
Several months had passed before Misha asked how Compton was handling things. “I don’t think he’ll be able to continue much longer,” Carlo shrugged. “He’s starting to talk to himself. His hands shake when he thinks no one is watching him.”
Misha grinned, “Well, I suppose the kind thing would be to allow him to meet his final death. After all, it’s not as though the woman still exists.” It wasn’t clear why Sonder had died. Perhaps it was the conditions in the basement. Perhaps her heart finally gave out. These humans were fragile at the end of the day, and it wasn’t worth spending time or money to worry about such things.
“She served her purpose,” Carlo shrugged. Aside from the leash she provided for Bill Compton, Sonder had provided other useful information. A search of her apartment revealed information about her former boss, a woman who was now orchestrating the ‘Great Whitewash’ for Bartlett Crowe. You couldn’t turn on the television or open a magazine without seeing the vampire, dressed in pastels, mimicking human behavior, and calling for an end to hatred between their species. If the campaign wasn’t so effective, it would have been laughable.
Misha was still angry about it. That place standing in front of vampire and human alike, smiling, confident, offering answers, was his plan. Misha was supposed to be that hero, and somehow his enemy had stolen his plan from under him. Misha still believed there was a spy somewhere and he staged games among those he thought might be candidates to ferret out their secrets. One thing that wasn’t clear yet was whether or not the information might prove useful, but Carlo suspected it would.
Then, there were the envelopes from Sonder’s piles of mail. The woman seemed to have an aversion to things that came from Louisiana and New Orleans in particular. She stacked it just so in a corner of her kitchen, unopened. There were letters there from another member of the Silent Witnesses, a woman who appeared to have been Sonder’s friend. In several of the envelopes Carlo found pages detailing names and biographies. There were photographs as well. It appeared someone had written out a history of the donors that lived in the New Orleans palace of Eric Northman. Carlo was pretty sure those donors would be found to be dead. It was the way the records were assembled and the notes that had been written in the margins that were the clue. Normally this kind of information was something you would sell back to a fellow King, but there were circumstances.
“Pamela will be in New York in a week’s time,” Misha was touching the petals of the rose on the table next to him. The King had become obsessive about yellow roses. Carlo found them offensive as he did all cut flowers. Once the stem was severed, it didn’t matter how quickly you placed it in water, the scent of decay started immediately.
“She has found time to separate herself from her Maker, then?” The reconciliation between Pam and Eric Northman had happened shortly after the Moshup Summit. Pam canceled plans she made to visit with the King in New York, explaining that she wished to spend time in Louisiana. She was pleasant about it, even happy, but it reminded Misha that his Zolotse was not her own woman after all.
Misha sent her flowers. He sent her small gifts. His Pamela responded, but there was something about it that had changed. The King couldn’t put his finger on it, but the genuine joy in her voice, the immediate feel that flattery created seemed missing. It was hard to tell without seeing her, but Misha felt that his lover was drifting from him, and it started when Eric Northman called her back.
“Make sure my calendar is cleared,” Misha instructed Carlo, “I have accepted all the invitations for Fashion Week and I wish Miss Ravenscroft to have the luxury of indulging in every second of the spectacle.” Misha had spent his own time arranging things for this visit. He secured entrée to every major party and on a whim arranged his own special reception in his town house, inviting a carefully selected guest list of artists, musicians, and intelligentsia. He would create a setting and his Pam would be the gem that made the evening complete.
“You don’t think it’s possible she will decline?” Carlo tried to ask the question in a way that sounded as though he doubted it himself, but it didn’t help.
Misha snarled in his direction, “She would not!” he hissed. “She has given her word and I trust her.”
“Majesty!” Carlo backpedaled, “I mean no disrespect to her. It is just that she is still tethered. She comes from a family known for its long attachments. The venerable Appius Livius Ocella understood the duty of his progeny, and wasn’t above reminding them, regardless of the years that stretched between them. You told me yourself that the North Man reminded you of his Sire in many ways. If your Pamela cannot come, it will be because she can’t, not because she does not wish it,” and Carlo bowed. Carlo was worried. When it came to the Ravenscroft woman, Misha acted more erratically than usual. If his King were someone else, Carlo would have accused him of having feelings for her, but that would never be Misha. Of course, attachments were expected, but only weak vampires had feelings. Still, if Pam failed to come this time, Carlo worried for his King. Better that Misha understand there was someone who would be to blame, that his anger have a clear target.
“She’ll come,” the King looked back at the roses.
When Eric returned from Boston, he contacted Pamela. “Are you asking me to return for a purpose?” she asked.
“Do you wish to have a purpose?” Eric asked in return.
“I’m not interested in being your Regent,” Pam told him. “I like what I’m doing. I run my own affairs. I have interesting people who suck up to me everywhere I go. Between Max’s money sense and my nose for a deal, I am making more money than I ever thought possible and I find I like that flavor of the chase.” Eric couldn’t help smiling. Although she was half a country away in Minnesota, he could still feel her satisfaction. There was a time Pam would have chosen to serve him, and Eric knew if he asked, she would again. This Pam who spoke with him now was a more comfortable, confident version of Pamela. This was a woman in her own right, and Eric found he could ask for nothing more.
“It will be as you say. Come and visit us because your presence brings us joy, min dotter,” he told her. Two nights later, Pam and Karin walked out of the woods toward the Hummingbird Lane house and Sookie found herself flashing back to a night that seemed a lifetime ago. On that night, these same two women had walked through that same space between the trees. Pam had just been named Sheriff of Area 5 and Karin was starting her year of watching over Sookie. Eric was in Oklahoma, married, and lost. Sookie had told herself over and over it was all for the best. Tonight felt like déjà vu, a do-over, where the outcome turned out right this time, and she couldn’t help sighing.
“Lover?” Eric took her hand, “What?” She could feel his concern and she brightened her smile in spite of the quick tears that were forming in the corners of her eyes.
“I don’t know how I deserve to be so happy,” Sookie whispered, wrestling with mutinous emotions.
“I can smell her leaking,” Pam smirked and without waiting, reached across to pull Sookie away from Eric. Sookie felt the minute affection turned to something else, “Oh shit! What is that?”
“It’s her,” Karin smirked, “Sookie stinks.”
“Sorry!” Sookie mentally kicked herself and pulled her illusion more firmly in place. “Emotions play hell with Fae stuff. I’ve really been making an effort to keep the biohazard smell masked,” and Sookie exerted herself. She could see when her efforts started to pay off when Pam’s face relaxed.
Not bothering to hide a last shudder, Pam turned to step into Eric’s embrace next, and as he kissed her forehead, she said, “It’s a good thing you fall dead for the day. I can’t imagine being close to that for hours. It must make fucking an interesting experience.”
Sookie knew Pam meant it as a joke, but she found herself unexpectedly hurt by Pam’s words. “I have no need for breathing,” Eric was speaking to Pam, but Sookie could feel the comfort he was sending her way, “and every need for my wife. Besides it’s only temporary. We travel to Shreveport tomorrow to see if Sookie can stop the injections that are causing it.”
“Huh!” Pam smirked, and then looping her arm through the telepath’s, she pulled them toward the house. “You know I never wished for children,” Pam said, “But I find I am most excited at the prospect of watching you do it. I get all the advantages. I’ll be able to dress it and buy it things and when it becomes tiresome, I can leave.” Sookie laughed in spite of herself and found in a second, all was forgiven. It was odd. Her hand traveled over her belly and she saw Eric register her gesture.
As they sat down in the front room, he nodded toward her hand, which had remained in place. “Do you know something, Lover?” There were so many possibilities. It seemed unlikely, but the Viking couldn’t discount his wife ‘hearing’ it or feeling this kind of change on some level.
“No,” Sookie removed her hand and waved it instead, ‘nothing except a feeling really. I can’t explain it, but I just think we’re going to get good news tomorrow.”
Karin glanced from one to the other. “I hope the best for both of you,” she said, but she didn’t look as though she was truly comfortable with this idea. Eric didn’t blame her. With almost no pause, Karin turned to Pam and said, “So, I heard you’re bumping uglies with the mythical King of New York.”
“Probably not in the way you imagine, but he is… charming.” Pam shrugged. Pam was not exactly preening, but she did look pleased with herself.
Sookie had met Misha once at the funeral services for Lydia, the Lady of Sanctum. She remembered the King’s charm as being just another weapon in his arsenal. He impressed her as being an immensely dangerous vampire and she had been happy to be out of his territory. Still, this was Pam. She was smart and savvy, no silly girl. “Figure if anyone can put him through his paces, it would be you!” Sookie said brightly.
“It’s unusual to run into someone who shares so many things from my past,” Pam agreed enthusiastically. Sookie watched Pam’s face brighten and it was a look she recognized. In that moment, she was afraid for her sister. “He knows as much about Austrian art as I do, and probably more about clothing manufacture. He can construct anagrams and he plays piano. He reminds me of things I’d forgotten.” She glanced at Eric, “He reminds me of you in many ways. He’s vibrant and fun. But…” and she glanced shyly away, “he makes you work for it. There is nothing cheap about him,” and if she could have, Sookie was sure Pam would have blushed.
Eric leaned forward and when he had Pam’s attention, he said, “I am afraid for you.” It was a simple statement, simply delivered, but it brought Pam up short. Sookie watched her sister sit up straighter and lose her dreamy look. Karin sat up and leaned in as well. Sookie wondered if there was some element of command about what Eric had done. She hadn’t felt it, but Pam’s and Karin’s reactions were odd.
“Why?” Pam asked. Although her voice was steady, her eyes were not.
“There were things I learned at Moshup Summit about him. He is now Moshup Clan Chief. Perhaps you already knew that.” Pam nodded. “He gained the title by destroying Nabila. She is under investigation and will likely step down as Queen of the Carolinas. Her assets have been frozen. She is now a vampire with a target on her back. The enemies she has made in her long life will gather to her and she will likely be no more within a short period of time.”
“What’s to say that Nabila’s troubles weren’t there already? What makes you think this was Misha’s doing?” Pam looked distressed and Sookie realized her friend was more than a little involved with this King. “I haven’t been following Carolina’s problems closely, but it doesn’t look like it’s just lies. So what? So, he’s ambitious. I get the impression…” and she dropped her eyes, “that he may have done it for me.”
“Why would you think that?” Karin asked.
“He said something about wishing to be worthy of my respect,” Pam mumbled.
“It is a dangerous game when a vampire already a King decides to disguise his ambition as something else. Make no mistake, Pamela. He may tell you he offers this as a token, but he did it for himself. He understands the benefits of power very well.” When Pam looked as though she would defend Misha further, Eric said, “I do not doubt that he has affection for you, min dotter. Who could resist you? I am happy you have found affection, but it would be better if you found it with someone else. There is more to him than he reveals. He is willing to destroy those around him to gain what he desires. What happens when you become that thing he has already achieved? Do you truly believe he will be content to rest? Vampires like that never do. It is about the next conquest, the next unachievable goal.” When Pam’s face dropped, Eric leaned forward. Sookie could feel the ripples of comfort and strength he was sending her and it made her feel warm. ”I say this not to injure you, but because I wish you not to be injured. Guard your heart for a while longer. Look at him and those around him carefully. Reach out to Thalia. She is in Indiana and I believe she has information that may help you.”
It was hard for Sookie to look at her sister. Pam retreated into downtime, and Eric gave her space by turning to Karin, ”I am most anxious to hear what you found when you investigated the servant’s apartment.” He glanced toward Sookie, but she knew he meant Meg.
Karin shot a quick glance at Pam as well, then schooled her face and launched into a quick, but thorough description of her work with Octavia Fant. The witch had arranged for an ectoplasmic reconstruction at Meg’s apartment. They had watched the shade of the young woman move around her apartment re-enacting her movements in those hours before she walked into Amelia’s shop and found her death. The reconstruction had revealed nothing. They conducted a thorough search of the space and Meg’s car with the same results. ”If she had something on you, it wasn’t anywhere we could find it. It’s possible that we are just borrowing trouble by digging more,” Karin shrugged. ”I’m thinking the problem died with her.” Somehow Eric doubted it.
The next night Eric and Sookie drove to the clinic in Shreveport. Sookie’s good feeling was confirmed. Jane and Doctor Ludwig were in the room with them. It was Doctor Ludwig who pointed out the dot on the plasma screen mounted high on the wall above the bed where Sookie was lying. All Eric could see was a small circle against a larger circle but Sookie became very excited, her happiness bouncing against him. When his wife left the room to use the bathroom, Amy Ludwig poked him in the arm, “I guess the most exciting part for you is now your wife can stop those injections and you can start having sex again.” Eric couldn’t hide his look of relief and the small doctor laughed out loud.
When Sookie came back the first question she asked was, “So, it’s okay for us to have sex again?”
“Same thing your vampire wanted to know and I said yes,” Amy snapped. “Don’t you have any other questions?”
“Well, sure,” Sookie was having a hard time not looking at Eric, “How long will it take?”
“How long will what take?” Doctor Ludwig scowled at her.
Jane was making notes on her computer tablet, “Your pregnancy should track the same as any human pregnancy. Forty weeks.”
“No!’ Sookie exclaimed, “How long before my smell returns to normal?”
“Wow, guess it really has been a buzz kill, huh, Deader?” Amy chortled and then she told Sookie, “It’ll take a week, maybe a little longer. Drink plenty of water and that will help flush it all out of your system.”
Jane shrugged, “Of course normal will now be that pregnant smell.”
Eric nodded. “That is a pleasing smell,” he assured his Sookie. Pregnant women did smell pleasing. He remembered other things about pregnant women as well. They could be emotional. They seemed to cry more often, which was troubling. He also remembered that the quality of sex changed. He wondered how long it would be before those changes came and he pushed a wave of lust at Sookie that had her swatting his arm.
As they drove home Sookie traced circles in the palm of his outstretched hand. She stared out the window and Eric could feel her distracted happiness. “Do you feel different now, Lover?” Eric asked.
“In every way I can think of,” she replied.
That night Eric stood Sookie at the end of their large bed and told her he intended to trace each line, each shadow of her body. He told her he wished to memorize this moment so that he could more fully appreciate the changes that would come. Her breasts felt no different in his hand. Her nipple pebbled under his thumb and her eyes warmed for him as he leaned to run his lips lightly along the column of her neck. She arched into his hand, her body always so wonderfully responsive to him. He drew a cool line with his tongue starting at the hollow behind her ear, then running along her jaw, and finally ending by capturing her mouth. When she moaned into him, he lifted her, parting her legs to wrap them around his waist. He thought about Sookie’s enthusiasm in finding herself pregnant. She was happy, triumphant. He could not understand it, not entirely, but it meant so much to her that he felt the least he could do was return her joy.
It occurred to Eric that there was something about not being able to have a thing that made wanting more acute. He and Sookie had gone without sex before and for longer periods of time, but knowing it was forbidden left them both hungrier. Sookie’s smell still had that sharp, sourness to it, but since he had heard Jane confirm the pregnancy, it didn’t seem as offensive. It was possible Sookie was shielding it more effectively, or perhaps the pregnancy smell itself was beginning to assert itself. For some reason he could hear Thalia’s voice telling him he was lying to himself. It was puzzling.
When he placed her on the bed and then crawled up to join her, his Sookie cradled his head between both her hands, running her face against his, nipping and kissing. Her hair left scent trails and Eric refused to breath, not allowing the scent being left behind to deter him as it had before. When she reached for his pants, he pushed her hands away, “No, my Lover. Let me.”
He took his time, unbuttoning her shirt first and then her skirt. He licked the skin he uncovered and then breathed against her, raising gooseflesh. He traced his hands over her hips, running his fingertips close, but never quite touching the place where her legs joined. Her bra followed her shirt, leaving her in her panties. They were her conservative white cotton ones, the ones he teased her about. She couldn’t bring herself to wear thongs or lace to the Shreveport clinic, and he smiled as he pulled at the elastic, bringing them tight against her, and then he dipped his head and kissed and nipped her through the cotton. He could smell her arousal, taste her, but it wasn’t as astringent as before. Sookie was starting to wiggle a little and so he wrapped one arm around her to hold her in place, and then used his other hand to wrap in her hair, pulling her head back. He rose over her, admiring the way her eyes begged him, her mouth open and panting.
He kissed her then, using teeth and tongue, teasing, exploring, nipping first one lip and then the other. He demanded and then gave as good as he got. When Sookie tried to shift toward him, seeking friction, he refused to allow her much movement. When he pulled back from her he realized there was something about the way she looked, her lips swollen and open, that never grew old. “I will love you until my final death,” he whispered, and realized that each time he said it felt like a revelation. He reclaimed her mouth and allowed his other hand to drop between her legs. Still he wouldn’t allow her to remove her panties. When she started to whimper he pushed her back and used mouth and tongue against the cotton barrier, finally gripping one edge with his teeth and pulling them down her legs. He watched her watching him, her eyes heated and he dropped his fangs, allowing them to trail up one leg and then the other. He watched every movement, heard every time her breath caught in her throat. He played her with every skill he had acquired over a long lifetime of physical experiences.
He parted her lips and then kissed her pussy, using tongue and lips, pulling and demanding in the same way he had demanded of her mouth. She was dripping, her hands clutching the bedspread, and her back arched. She tried to pull his head from her, but he refused to move from his place. He could hear her begging, “Please, Eric! Please, I need your cock!”
‘There will be plenty of time for that,’ he thought to himself. He could feel her start to tremble around his tongue and he redoubled his efforts. Sookie’s back arched and she keened as she came, her voice echoing off the ceiling, the sounds spiraling as her voice went from strident to breathy.
Sookie tried to twist away from him, but he held her still, using mouth and fangs to prolong her tremors. As her body slowed, he used his fingers to stroke and play. He found that place within her that caused her breath to stutter and he twisted and tickled, over and over until she was begging again. When he felt her walls begin to tremble, he used her fluids to coat his thumb and timing his thrusts, he used the motions of fingers and thumb to counterpoint each other, fingers in pussy, thumb in ass, while he sucked and nipped at her clit. He felt the sensations roll over her and her body clamped down on him so hard he had to slow his motions so as not to hurt her. She was nearly incoherent, but still he gave no quarter. He drove her to completion and as her orgasm washed over her, he fully opened their bond, immersing himself in her. He rubbed himself against the bedspread and as he felt himself coming close, he dipped into her head and the bliss he found there caused him to spend himself against the bed. When they both calmed, he pulled himself up to lie beside her, wrapping her in his long arms. She sighed and turned against him as he stroked her sweaty hair away from her forehead.
“Wow,” she panted, “I hope you’re not looking for anything for a minute or thirty.”
Eric chuckled, “I am happy with you,” he told her. When she closed her eyes and didn’t open them again, Eric tucked her under the covers and retreated into his office. The room was perfect now. It had taken several visits from the technician before everything worked as he wished, but the results were worth it. Of all the spaces he had engineered over the years, this one was his favorite. With a push of the button, the television turned on. He did a quick search and found himself watching Russell Edgington on a late night talk show. The King was witty. He spoke intelligently about the situation in Indiana and the threat this posed for all species. He made his pitch for cooperative law enforcement, and then talked about a pilot program Indianapolis was running with some success. The King ended with a funny story about living gay and vampire. It was clean and Eric was pretty sure someone had written it for him. The audience laughed and the host made a point of bowing before Russell extended his hand. The camera showed the audience giving the King a standing ovation. Eric called Russell’s number and left a message congratulating him.
Watching his friend using mainstreaming to ‘humanize’ vampires had Eric glancing out the open door toward the bed where he could see the lump under the blanket that was his wife. He thought about Jane’s words, that this pregnancy would be the same as any other human pregnancy. On some level, Eric felt he should feel something more about this, but he couldn’t think what that would be. He thought of his busy wife standing beside him, a child in her arms. For some reason Aude’s face came to mind. She had stood beside him, as Sookie now did. He knew it meant something, but he didn’t know what and that made him uncomfortable.
In the days that followed, Sookie shared the news with her family and those who worked at the house every day. Jason and Michele brought their children over and threw Sookie and Eric a small, impromptu celebration. There were other small gifts and Sookie started making noises about a nursery. A week passed and then another. Each night was spent in the work of the kingdom. They made appearances at Fangtasia and met with Mr. Cataliades in the evening.
“I congratulate you both,” the attorney had bowed, “I wish you joy.” Somehow Sookie had thought the demon would have been more enthusiastic.
Tamsin treated the news as an excuse to double down on lessons. Eric would rise to find his wife already exhausted from her time with her trainer, but as the days passed, Eric also realized Sookie was sleeping more. As the third week passed, Eric received a message from Mustapha.
“Guess your girl is getting her ass handed to her by that fairy,” the Packmaster rumbled.
“Sookie tells me her training has become more tiring,” Eric agreed.
“Were women get real tired in their first trimester,” Mustapha said as though he had personal experience, which he didn’t.
“Sookie is more tired,” Eric agreed, “I’m assuming there is a point to this.”
“Your girl is too tired to be cooking for fairies every day,” Mustapha told the Viking. “My guards are telling me she gets up and makes them a big breakfast, then they head out to the barn and your wife drags ass back around lunch time, but she’s too tired to do anything else. She doesn’t shower until later and she’s not eating at all. You told them to watch out for it, so I’m telling you she’s not eating. You should think about hiring a housekeeper for that house, someone to take care of the cleaning and cooking for a while.”
Eric thanked Mustapha, agreeing he would have to discuss this with Sookie. Eric could predict the reception the idea would receive. He wasn’t sure that having someone else cook for the fairies would be acceptable, and he called Niall. The clipped voice that answered informed him the Prince was engaged elsewhere and was not expected back anytime soon. When Eric asked to speak with Dermot, he received an identically worded response and Eric wondered if he was talking with some automated system that used voice recognition and scripts.
Fortunately, they were scheduled to return to New Orleans in another day, and Eric knew Devrah would see to things.
From the moment they walked through the Palace doors, Devrah swept his wife into her arms and care. She made a fuss over Sookie, bossing her in one minute and pampering her in the next. If Sookie spent too many hours in meetings, Devrah would let her know. The housekeeper announced the Palace was going to institute high tea. It was an excuse to introduce a snack in the late afternoon, and then drape a blanket over Sookie so she could nap.
Eric worked, Sookie worked, and they spent hours either on the roof or wrapped around each other in their retreat. It was one evening about a week after they returned to the city that Eric noticed Sookie’s smell had changed. His Sookie smelled better. She smelled better than better, she smelled intoxicating. Eric could spend all night with his nose buried in various parts of her, feeling drunk with the way she smelled. And she tasted wonderful. Her blood was more Fae than before and when he buried his face between her thighs, he had no desire to leave. He realized some part of his reaction was instinctual, but another part was something else. He wasn’t sure what that was, but he found himself wishing to be by her more.
The sweet smell did not go unnoticed by others, and Sookie started hiding her scent, and then other aspects of her appearance on a regular basis. Most days it was just instinct now. Get up. Go to the bathroom. Cloak self. Get dressed. It wasn’t that her scent was overwhelming, but it was better not to call any attention to it at all. There were other lessons Sookie practiced every day. She caused things to glow. She shaped metal and practiced shaping wood. There were residual smells, ‘signatures’ on those items she created, but they didn’t cause problems.
Eric was impressed with the span of her skills, although Sookie would laugh it off, saying she couldn’t see any good use for half the stuff she had learned. One night, Sookie entertained Karin and Maxwell Lee by pulling appearances over the guards, and then each of them. His talented wife was becoming very good at forming these illusions. He almost thought Karin was Charles, his Were guard. The Viking had to ask Karin to repeat her name twice before he detected it. “That really is a handy skill,” Karin’s eyes had narrowed as Sookie released the illusion. “It has so many possibilities.”
“It gives me a whole new appreciation for why it’s so hard to spot the Fae traveling among us,” Sookie agreed. “I’ve asked Tamsin if they really keep to themselves in their enclaves, but she’s downright dodgy about answering. I’m pretty sure I saw something Fae in Shreveport last time I was there.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go looking for Fae around every bend,” Eric chuckled. “They are still rare in terms of numbers, and nothing has changed that. No young among them means every one that is killed diminishes their race further.”
“It really is no laughing matter,” Sookie scolded her husband and her hand had traveled to rest over her belly.
As they were preparing the leave for the next Assizes, the FBI came to call. They hadn’t made an appointment, but they did show up at night. They were there to ask questions about Meg and Sonder. Sookie remembered the second woman. She had been Twy’s assistant for a period of time and Sookie had met her here at the palace. Sonder had moved to Boston and, like Meg, had joined the Silent Witnesses. Both disappearances were being treated at potential homicides. At one point after the explosion in Rhodes, the FBI had put some pressure on Sookie to come and work for them. She had managed to avoid it and never regretted that decision.
As they asked Eric the same question several ways, trying to find some crack in his story to exploit, Sookie dipped in one head and then the other to find out what they knew. The agents were frustrated. Months of investigation had led to one dead end after the other. One of the agents was sure vampires were behind this and she was equally sure that Eric Northman, with his too perfect smile, was the ring leader. She was visualizing Eric in silver chains on a rooftop, and the way his skin would glow and then flame as the sun found him. Apparently it was something this woman had witnessed before and she thought it a fitting end for any vampire.
“Lover?” Eric said, and Sookie realized she must have made a noise and they were all looking at her.
“I’m sorry,” Sookie pasted her Crazy Sookie smile in place. “Just had a spell, I guess.” Eric got up from his seat and walked across to her. He sat down next to her and took her hand in his. Sookie could ‘hear’ the woman savagely dismissing the role playing she was sure she was witnessing, but her partner started thinking about the Bureau’s plan to bring in a few vampires as consultants for Supe crime cases.
Sookie told Eric about the Bureau using vampires after the agents left. “It is good we had our troubles now,” he told her. “Vampires would have understood what happened. It would have been difficult to hide.” He settled back on the chaise in their retreat, “It is a good plan, bringing vampires into law.”
“You’re saying that because it’s your plan!” Sookie pushed his chest.
“No,” Eric chuckled, “It was always a good plan. My thinking of it made it a great plan,” and he tickled her a little when Sookie rewarded him with a raspberry. When he settled her against him, he said, “When that happens, all things will change again. There will be no separation of Supe law and human law. It will become one law. It will take time, and there will be many problems. You have a saying and I believe it to be true. ”Be careful what you wish for.” We may find the day comes we regret starting this course that will bring our rules together.”
The Assizes were to be held in Lafayette. Sookie realized she hadn’t seen Thierry in months. She knew he was doing well because she saw the results in the balance sheets Mr. Cataliades brought in his black briefcase every evening. Energy and reclamation was going well and there was a new venture with Felipe de Castro involving solar panels in Nevada. On paper, Thierry should have been thriving, but when they sat together in the vampire’s home, Sookie could see something was wrong with the Sheriff.
Eric must have picked up on her curiosity because he asked, “Have you heard from Nabila?” That surprised Sookie. She hadn’t realized Thierry knew the Carolinas Queen. Sookie had liked the Queen for all she had tried to get Eric to agree to a royal marriage with her.
“She no longer recognizes me,” the Sheriff replied and gave a quick laugh. “It would appear I am shunned by her, and it is no more than I deserve.”
“She has probably already stepped down,” Eric’s voice was sympathetic.
“You mean she’s not Queen anymore?” Sookie asked.
“She is now too weak to continue. It will be up to her Clan Chief to appoint a new Queen.” Eric’s eyes never left Thierry.
“But what will she do? I mean, I’ve heard of a couple of you all stepping away from this, but one of them decided to meet the sun…” and Thierry made a noise.
“I apologize,” the French Sheriff said quickly. “Please excuse me,” and he bowed and left the room.
Eric sat back for a moment and then turned to Sookie, “She was a potential rival, Älskade, but I have it in my head to invite her to our kingdom as a guest. Thomas would welcome her to Arkansas if you prefer she not be in New Orleans. There is no reason for either of us to see her, but I wish to offer her safe harbor.” When Sookie didn’t say anything right away, he continued, “I will not invite her without your consent, Lover. You are my Queen. You must agree.”
“She and Thierry, huh?” Sookie asked.
“He betrayed her, Lover. She is unlikely to ever forgive him. In fact, having her in the kingdom might cost me Thierry’s services. She would be within her rights to challenge him,” and Eric waited again.
“I think it’s a nice thing to do,” Sookie agreed, “Arkansas would be a good place for her. Who knows? If Karin feels like she has a rival up there, maybe she’ll get her head out of her ass and go do her own claiming.”
“You are an interfering woman,” Eric scolded her.
“It’s why you love me,” Sookie reminded him, and he didn’t argue with her.
It was almost exactly five weeks to the day when Eric heard something change. He left his office and walked to the bed where Sookie slept. She was on her back as she was most nights. Her breasts had become bounteous, her nipples darkening. They were most appealing, but also most sensitive, which Eric considered an interesting challenge to be met as frequently as she would allow.
Sookie moaned softly as Eric crawled up over the footboard to place himself between her legs. He had to admit he was becoming addicted to the taste of her. He would arouse her while she slept, not enough to wake her, but enough to pull a little nectar. He suspected his wife knew because she no longer went to sleep wearing underwear. “You are too kind to me,” he whispered, ghosting his lips up her legs.
As he began to play he laid his head against her gently sloping belly. The roundness was not pronounced, but it was there, hard and visible. He was stroking when he heard it. It sounded like the whir of a bee’s wings. He lifted his head and it was gone. He looked at Sookie, and then placed his ear against her again and it was there. His fingers stilled as he focused on the sound. “Are you there?” he whispered against Sookie’s skin, and the sound changed.
Eric lifted his head from his wife’s belly. He waited and then laid his head against her again. He stroked her skin, lightly at first, but then with more pressure. The thrum of sound within her was steady, unchanging. He turned his lips against her belly and said “Bebis?” and the sound changed. Eric’s hand seemed to move on its own to cover the swell from the side. He crooned a song he remembered from his human days, singing the melody against her. The sound within his wife moved and shifted, becoming clearer as though trying to come closer.
“Cheese and rice, Eric!” Sookie grumbled, rolling over quickly, shoving his head from her. She just about jackknifed herself to the side of the bed. “You were leaning on my bladder! What were you doing?”
“Singing to my son,” he said out loud, and the truth of it pierced him as surely as any stake.