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.
When Sookie walked back into the house, she noticed her hands were shaking. She had stood up to Thalia! She had yelled at the fierce vampire, and Thalia had backed down. Sookie realized if she hadn’t been so exhausted when she walked out onto the porch, she would never have had the nerve to do it. It was only now as she leaned against the door that she remembered to be afraid. This had been a night for the books, although Sookie was sure it was a book she would never wish to read again.
There were no lights on but the telepath found she didn’t need them. Eric was quiet upstairs now. He had gone back into a kind of downtime about an hour ago when they returned from the cemetery. It would be sunrise soon, and she would wrap him in her arms so he could lay his head back in her lap and be comforted as he slipped into his day death. Sunrise would allow him to find the peace of oblivion, but for Sookie there would be no rest. She would slip from their bedroom to meet the sun’s rays, allowing the light to feed her skin. At some point, she would try to squeeze in a nap because tonight she needed to make an appearance with Mustapha masquerading as Eric at Fangtasia. They would need to fool both the public and the remaining Sheriffs. The word needed to travel far and wide that Eric Northman and his Queen were strong, healthy, and still in charge. There was a noise upstairs. “I’m coming,” Sookie said, and taking a deep breath, she straightened her spine, and headed toward the stairs.
As she climbed she felt how tired she was. It was a bone-deep tired, the kind that went beyond muscle, and went straight through to her soul. She thought about Gran. There had been days Sookie had seen this kind of tired in her Gran’s eyes, but, bless her, Adele Stackhouse would manage to turn her lips up into a smile and make her granddaughter’s life easier. ‘I understand it now,’ she said to her Grandmother in her head. ‘Thank you, Gran. Thank you for showing me the way.’ Finding her smile, Sookie quickened the pace that would take her to her husband.
8 hours earlier…
It was nearing sunset of the second night. Eric had risen yesterday and Sookie was sure he would be more himself. She called Charles and Owen to the front porch and said, “I need you to talk with Pam and Karin when they rise. He needs to hear about the baby and I don’t know how he’ll take it. I want to tell him. I don’t want him finding out some other way.”
Charles nodded. He glanced at Owen, “Don’t worry about it. They come through the front entrance of the guesthouse unless there’s something special going on. We’ll catch them before they head over.”
“I’ll stay on the other side of the yard,” Owen added. “Bubba’s been staying at the Compton place. I should be able to grab him before he gets too close,” and then he looked more closely at Sookie. “How are you holding up? He didn’t really seem himself last night.”
“He was better just before sunrise,” Sookie replied. She wasn’t sure how much she could say, or even wanted to say about the past twenty-four hours, even with people she trusted as much as their guards. Pam had told her that being buried at a time like this was a kind of reboot for vampires. Sookie now had a better understanding of what that meant.
When she had wrapped Eric in her arms in the tub after his rising from the ground, she had a moment when he looked at her and she saw the lost vampire who had shown up on her road so many years before. He had that same bemused expression and although he had moments when he knew who she was, it became clear he wasn’t entirely certain who she was to him. She could feel he was comforted by being held and when the water cooled, Sookie drained some and filled the tub again. Earlier, when she stood behind him in the shower he had talked with her. He seemed to understand who he was, but in the time it took to walk to the bath, he seemed to have taken a huge step back.
As he looked around them now, sometimes with purpose, sometimes with surprise, she realized he had become deeply disoriented. This Eric was weaker, more vulnerable than the Eric who was spelled by witches. When he was cursed, Eric didn’t know who he was although he still understood his place and strength as a vampire. This Eric was different. This Eric seemed to be confused by his impulses. He was fascinated by the look and feel of water running through his fingers in one minute, then trying to surge forward when there was a sound outside. When he splashed water on the floor, he apologized. This Eric was so different than the confident, assured Eric she loved.
Taking a washcloth, Sookie used it to squeeze warm water to run down his back. He sighed and stretched back a little, tilting his head against her shoulder, but when he opened his eyes to see her, he looked confused and that cut through her like a knife. Thankfully as one hour passed, and then another, Sookie could see that Eric was becoming more present and she thought he would return to where he had been when he came out of the ground, but it didn’t happen. It was like being on the sidelines, waiting for certain connections in his head to find each other again and then, slowly, reknit. ‘I wonder if this was how you were after Rhodes the first time,’ she thought. She felt guilty thinking back on those days. She knew that both Eric and Pam had spent time in a basement somewhere, recovering from the aftermath of the explosion. Sookie only knew when Eric returned to his duties that time because he contacted her. Even though they were bonded then, she never tried to see him while he was hurt.
When the water cooled a second time, Sookie said, “Come on, then. Let’s go climb in bed and I can rub your head.”
“That would be nice,” this Eric who seemed to know her and then didn’t rasped. The bond between them was fuzzy. After she helped him dry off, she took him by the hand and helped him limp to their bed. “Will you get in bed with me?” he asked her. His eyes were hopeful and it made Sookie’s heart clench.
“Of course I will,” she smiled. “Wait here.” She walked to the small dresser and pulled out her nightshirt. Once she pulled it over her head, she opened her eyes to find his face was very close to hers.
“Do you want me to wear one of those?” he asked.
“Only if you want to,” and Sookie waited. He seemed to consider it, and then a strange look came over his face as if he was trying to remember something. He reached out and placed his hand over her breast, then met her eyes.
“No,” he told her. “I am comfortable like this.” He let his hand drop and looked away. Sookie could see his confusion, so she deliberately smiled, climbed up on the bed, and propped her back against the headboard before holding out her hand to him. He looked wary for a moment, then stepped forward and climbed on the bed on his own. Without another word, he curled himself on his side and laid his head on her lap.
“There,” she said, stroking his hair, “Isn’t this nice?”
“Who are you to me?” he asked and, in that moment, Sookie thought she would lose her resolve. It was hard, putting a stranglehold on her emotions, but she did it.
“I am your wife, Eric. I’m Sookie.” When he didn’t say anything, she asked, “Would you like me to tell you our story?” His head nodded under her hand and so she began, “I don’t know a lot about where you came from, but I know it was from somewhere in Sweden…”
Over the course of the night Sookie recounted everything she knew about Eric and Karin and Pam. She answered his questions when she could and told him when she didn’t know. At one point, she took a break to go downstairs to get herself a soda and him a bottle of blood. When she came back upstairs, his expression was clearer somehow. “I remember now, the part of about Thalia,” he told her. “I remember it!” Sookie nodded, and, climbing back on the bed, she resumed her story.
When she told him about the death of his Maker, Eric said, “I miss him, but I’m glad he is finally dead.” It was the most he had said about Appius Livius Ocella in a long time. She told him about Felipe de Castro, and she was just starting to talk about Freyda when he pulled back the sheets. He ran his fingers down the scars on her legs, the ones she still carried from her torture with Neave and Lochlan. “I have marks, too,” he said, and then he raised himself so he could show her the dimples on his chest and leg.
“The difference is yours will fill in. Mine never will,” Sookie shrugged. “Guess you’re the lucky one.”
“I’m the lucky one because I’m married to you,” he said earnestly, and Sookie could see that Eric was finally connecting thoughts that included her.
“Makes two of us,” she smiled and leaned forward to kiss him.
“I can’t make love to you,” he was solemn. “My parts are not working,” and he looked distressed.
“Well, you give it another night or two and you’ll be good as new,” Sookie assured him.
As daylight approached, Eric had become even more himself. He remembered his time as Sheriff and his time as King. He remembered they were married and, although he wasn’t too clear about their pledging or the past few months, Sookie was confident that Eric would continue to heal and heal fully, restoring the vampire she knew.
Exhausted, she slept beside him for most of the morning. In late afternoon she got up long enough to eat and stand in the sun. She called Mustapha to confirm their plans for the Sheriff’s meeting.
When they finished, Sookie called Amy Ludwig and asked about Eric’s condition and progress. The doctor listened as Sookie described how Eric had been almost himself and then regressed. “I haven’t heard of any vampire coming out of the ground with his head all together!” the doctor snapped. “They go back to their beginning state and it takes a few days for them to reclaim their personalities. If he was almost normal when he emerged, the only thing I can think is being in that Fae-soaked ground really helped him.”
“But it didn’t last,” Sookie added.
“He’ll be fine,” Doctor Ludwig said dismissively. “Just be patient!”
As the sun started to set, she called the guards. She had no doubt Eric would rise remembering more. He might even remember everything that happened before the explosion. When he did, he would reach out for their child, and she would need to tell him. Sookie knew that in the last few weeks Eric had grown very attached. He would speak to her belly and his joy in their daughter was almost a physical presence. Sookie didn’t know how he’d take the news, but she knew he would grieve and she wanted him, wanted them, to have privacy and space to do that.
“I can feel him,” she glanced away from Charles and Owen. “I must go!”
When she entered their chamber, Sookie crawled up onto the bed and snuggled beside him just as Eric’s eyes opened. He looked so much better. His skin was filled out with muscle that had been his at the time he was made vampire. His teeth were still growing, but his jaw looked more defined. “I am glad you are here, Sookie,” he said in a voice that was almost his own.
“Back at ya,” his wife smiled and leaned forward to kiss the end of his nose. As she leaned back, smoothing her hand over his cheek, she could see his skin carried the gray pallor of silver poisoning. “Would you like some blood?” she offered and shifted to rise over him.
“You are well?” he smiled, and his hand likewise rose to tweak a strand of her hair and then tuck it behind her ear. “And are you well?” he asked and before Sookie could stop him, he laid his hand lower on her belly. Sookie tried not to flinch. The swell of her belly remained, although it was only a hollow promise now. Doctor Ludwig assured her that in time everything would move back into place. Eric’s eyes locked with hers and his mouth tilted down, “What has happened?” he asked and without waiting or asking, he was in her head.
“Eric!” she protested and then she didn’t. Sookie relaxed and gave him what he wished. She relived every moment of the explosion. She remembered waking up beneath him and how he looked. She relived the horror of Doctor Ludwig’s hospital and the race to save him, and she let him feel her despair when she heard the ground being shoveled in to cover both he and Karin.
“Sookie?” She raised her eyes to his and she could see the question he needed to ask, and how afraid he was to know the answer.
“Are you ready?” and she waited for him to nod. Red tears were already streaking his face when she remembered the terrible day. She didn’t remember all of it. She purposely skipped to her return home, and when she remembered sealing their daughter’s coffin, Eric’s voice caught. He made a sound that was at first a hiccup, and then the sound transformed into a loud, broken moan. Burying his face in her lap, Eric Northman wept. It wasn’t the weeping of a man. It was the broken cries of a child and the sound of it broke Sookie’s heart all over again.
In the guesthouse, both Karin and Pam felt the impact of their Maker’s grief like a punch to the gut. “He knows!” Pam gasped.
“No shit!” Karin gasped as well. “Good thing he freed us. Imagine if we were closely bonded!”
“I hope Sookie’s okay,” Pam glanced in the direction of the main house.
“He would never hurt her,” Karin shrugged before leaning forward as another wave of guilt and pain washed over them. When the swirl of emotion ebbed, Karin said, “I think I blame him for our troubles.”
“What troubles?” Pam exhaled and sat up a little straighter.
“Our inexplicable urge to mate,” Karin hissed. “He is so happy with his little Princess that I think he pushes it through to us.”
“You are really blaming our Maker for Thomas?” Pam laughed.
“No, but how else do you explain Misha?” Karin smirked until she caught Pam’s expression. Pam was not looking amused.
“I don’t want to explain him,” Pam’s tone was sharp. “I’m happy. I like him. Maybe more.”
“Shit, Pam!” Karin sat back. “He’s trouble! You have to know that! Thalia doesn’t trust him, and I’ve heard Thierry tell stories that made my hair stand on end! Are you sure?”
Pam opened her mouth, but before she could reply, Bubba walked into the parlor. “That sound Mr. Eric is making is just breaking my heart!” he announced. “I just about gave up when we buried that little girl, but hearing him cry that way? I can’t stay. I’m going to take me a walk over near Maxine’s. I heard they have cats hanging around that dumpster out back.” Bubba looked again toward the main house, “It’s enough to make you want to lie down and cry,” and he started to hum the song that went with the words.
After he left, Karin said, “Do you think we should follow him?”
“And eat cats?” Pam grimaced.
“No!” Karin retorted, “No, make sure he doesn’t find any trouble.”
“He’s Bubba!” Pam shook her head. “No one bothers him!”
“Well, I wish a couple cats would fix my worries!” Karin gasped. The emotions that rolled over them were less sharp than before, but managing and blocking still took some concentration. Makers, even new Makers, tended to muffle their stronger emotions, and in other circumstances what Eric was sending to them might be considered cruel, but both women understood. In his re-emerging state, he was probably unaware of the effect he was having on those around him. If Pam and Karin were to physically move farther away the impact would lessen, but, with things as they were, neither woman suggested it.
After a minute, Pam said, “You know Thierry’s motives aren’t exactly pure. He has got to be jealous about Nabila. I was there in Boston. Thierry treated her badly. It could be he’s just blaming Misha for his own bad behavior.”
“I don’t think that’s it,” Karin shrugged. “He does want her back and he knows he has no chance, but he has a lot of background with Misha. Did you know Misha killed Thierry’s Maker?” Pam’s startled look was Karin’s answer. “Thomas told me Thierry adored her. Misha thought he was doing Thierry a favor. Cut her head off right in front of him.”
“There has got to be more to it,” Pam said steadily. “Misha is smart and he thinks ahead. He is not the best at explaining his motivations, but he does have reasons for what he does.”
“Thierry holds a grudge,” Karin told her sister, “and if you tell Misha that, it will probably mean that Thierry ends up finally dead.”
“Misha admires Thierry,” Pam was shaking her head, “I think he’d like to see Thierry return and take up some role in New York. I don’t think he has any idea Thierry’s angry with him. I know they talk from time to time. You trust Thierry?”
“Thomas does,” Karin nodded. “So do I. I can see you don’t want to hear this, Pam, but what do you really know about Misha? You haven’t known him all that long…”
“I don’t want to talk about this right now,” Pam shook her head. “Our Maker’s grief is making it hard for me to think.” Pam gave Karin a direct look, “I’ve agreed to live with him, Karin. I’ve agreed to be his companion. He counts me his Queen in all things.”
“Fuck a Zombie!” Karin hissed. After a minute, Karin nodded, “Okay, Queen Bee, I get it. Does this mean I have to genuflect when you come into the room?”
“Yes, and kiss my hand,” Pam laughed, then more seriously she said, “Thank you, Karin.”
“I worry about you, Pam,” Karin told her. “I worry about you a lot.”
“I didn’t protect you.” Eric had been quiet for some time. Sookie made him drink more blood to replace the blood he’d lost through his tears. She offered him her wrist, but he refused.
“You did protect us,” she insisted. “Eric, you moved so fast! You shielded us from the worst of it. If you hadn’t done what you did, we would have both died.” His head was in her lap and his hands opened, releasing the blankets to steal around her waist. “I’m alive because of you, Eric. No one could have done more than you did.”
“I should have,” he whispered. “I knew Compton was unstable. I knew he was killing people and I said nothing. I wanted to end him. I should have ended him.”
“Stop,” Sookie leaned over, alternately kissing and stroking his hair, “It isn’t your fault. If anyone is to blame, it’s me. You told me not to go. You didn’t want me traveling, but I wouldn’t listen. I just…” and her voice caught as she thought about how happy she’d been to have pulled off something she thought would surprise and delight him.
“I was delighted to see you, Lover,” he told her, and she realized he had pulled her thought from her head. Eric kept his gaze fastened at some point across the room and Sookie realized he was looking toward his office. After a moment he sighed, and Sookie could almost feel the edge to it, the sorrow that was rolling from him. “I was surprised to see you, but then I realized what Compton was saying, what it meant. I was more afraid than I have ever been in either of my existences.”
“We survived, Eric, you and I. We survived because of you,” Sookie didn’t look at him. She found she, too, was looking at the door to the office. She started to think about it, and then she caught herself and clamped down on her emotions again. ‘Don’t!’ she commanded herself. ‘Think about it tomorrow.’
Eric rolled in her lap so he could look up at her, “You have been doing that, haven’t you, Sookie?” When she didn’t answer, he captured her hand and tugged until she looked at him. “You have been the strong one, like your hero.”
“My hero?” she asked. She couldn’t think who he meant.
“The woman in the book. Scarlett O’Hara.”
For some reason, Sookie laughed. It wasn’t a pretty laugh and Sookie could hear the edge of hysteria in her voice. Eric grabbed her hand and squeezed until she looked back at him. His eyes were dark, “Thank you, Älskade,” he said solemnly, forcing her to respond.
“For what, Eric?” she stammered, but just saying it, and the way he was looking at her, made her feel as if she was on solid ground again.
“For insisting that our daughter have a proper burial.” He pulled her hand to his lips and then sat up. He looked better, although his skin was still gray. Watching her, he positioned himself so his back was against the headboard, and then, carefully, he pulled her until she was the one being held. When she laid her head against his chest Sookie realized that in giving comfort, Eric was himself comforted. Holding her in this way made him feel better about his own state.
As she was thinking about this Eric said, “In my day she would have been taken into the woods and left. Even the blanket that wrapped her would have been removed. We believed since the Gods had seen fit to leave her incomplete, she should be returned to them.”
“I couldn’t just leave her!” Sookie found she was grateful to be within the circle of his arms and she felt herself relax for the first time in days. “I had to bring her home,” she whispered against his chest.
“It was the right thing, Min Hustru,” he murmured the words against her head. After a minute, he said, “Did you give her a name?” Sookie couldn’t answer. She just shook her head. Eric tensed a little, and then she felt him nodding above her, “Then we will fix that. She should have a strong name, one that lets the Gods know she is claimed by her family. It will help my ancestors to find her and give her a place among them.”
“What was your mother’s name?” Sookie closed her eyes, listening to the sound his words made within his silent chest. It surprised her that in all this time she had never asked about either of his human parents. Somehow she now thought of Appius as his parent, and that made her sad.
“Gerda,” his voice was steady.
“Then that’s what we should call her,” Sookie told him. “Is that okay?”
“Gerda,” he nodded. “She should be named for her closest female relative in the underworld.” After another minute, he said, “It is your tradition to give a child a second name. I would like that second name to be yours. You are so strong and it will make her strong, too. Will you agree?”
Sookie nodded, “Sure, Gerda Sookie Northman. It’s a good name.”
Sookie could feel his satisfaction. She wasn’t surprised when he asked, “Can you show me where she rests?”
“I put her right next to Gran,” Sookie told him, wiping the tears from her face.
“Then come, Sookie,” and Eric pulled her with him to the side of the bed. “We will go and tell our daughter her name.” He looked out the window for a moment and Sookie got the impression he was communicating with someone. He glanced down at her and gave her a faint smile. When Eric stood and stepped toward the closet, he immediately staggered. Sookie jumped from the bed to catch and steady him. Together they walked to the closet. They picked out clothes and helped each other dress, and then, hooking her shoulder under his arm, Sookie walked at his side down all the stairs until they reached their front door.
Sookie knew Karin and Pam were waiting for them on the front porch.
Eric stopped and made an effort to straighten himself. “Karin,” he said to his oldest, “I am in your debt.”
Karin stepped forward and then into her Maker’s open arms, “I am grateful for this life you have given me,” she replied. “What I gave is only a small part of the debt I owe you.”
“You owe me nothing,” Eric assured her, “It is I who am grateful.”
“I grieve with you,” Pam said from where she stood.
Eric looked over Karin’s head at his other progeny, “Thank you for sharing your blood to heal Sookie. Thank you for helping her to…” and he stopped. His throat was working and a red tear fell from his eye.
“Are you going there now?” Pam asked. No one needed to explain where ‘there’ was. They all knew. When Eric nodded, Pam walked up beside him and together with Karin, they stood on both sides of him, helping him to walk. Sookie fell in behind them and Charles walked with them as well.
The ground was uneven and the walk long enough that Sookie knew she wouldn’t have been able to support Eric the whole way. Her husband was a large man and the silver weakness in his limbs made it hard for him to go very far on his own. When they arrived at Gran’s grave, Karin and Pam lowered Eric onto the bench. Pam stepped forward, pointing to the place where the daisies had been turned back. “She rests there.”
“Had she lived in my time as a human she would have been placed on my lap before all in the great hall,” Eric said, looking at the spot Pam pointed out. “I would have proclaimed her name before the people and she would have become one of us.” He started to stand, and then reached out to Karin for help. Leaning on her, he walked to the gravesite and raised his wrist to his mouth, but his fangs were still too small to puncture his skin. Pam noticed and produced a small knife from somewhere. Eric accepted it and drew it across the palm of his hand. He turned his head to look at Sookie as his blood dropped onto the ground. “This is Gerda Sookie Northman. She is of my blood and the blood of my house.” He licked the wound, sealing it, and then offered the blade to Sookie. Stepping forward, Sookie drew the blade across her own palm and holding it out, allowed her blood to drip to the ground. After a minute, Eric took her hand, licked her palm, and then took the knife from her and licked the blade clean as well.
They turned and, together with Karin’s help, maneuvered to get Eric back to the bench. “I saw her box,” he told Sookie. “Did you give her anything else, things to take with her?” Sookie remembered watching documentaries about Viking burials and how the bodies were found surrounded by things they would need in the underworld. She figured that was what Eric was talking about.
“I put her bunny with her,” Sookie told him as she sank down on the bench beside him. She took his hand between both of hers and held tight.
“That is good,” Eric replied. “Children should have toys,” and then he slipped into downtime.
Karin and Pam became still and together they sat or stood, silent in their thoughts for almost an hour. It was late and Sookie didn’t need a watch to know the sun was coming. “We should get back,” she said out loud. Karin and Pam both nodded and moved to both sides of Eric. They helped him stand and they slowly walked back toward the main house. Charles went ahead, opening doors, and clearing a path for them. When Eric was back upstairs, Karin, Pam, and Sookie went outside to stand on the porch.
Charles came out of the house after a few minutes and handed Sookie a plate with a sandwich and a glass of milk. He gave her a look and continued off the porch. “Thanks,” Sookie said weakly in his wake.
“Sit down and eat something,” Pam told her.
Heidi stepped forward from the direction of the guesthouse. “I have handed over patrol of the grounds to the Weres,” she announced. Mustapha’s Pack guarded the Bon Temps house during daylight hours. “All is quiet.”
“It won’t be tomorrow,” Karin sighed. She looked at Sookie, “Are you sure you are ready for Fangtasia? There will be questions. You must make it look like there is nothing wrong, that all is well.”
“I’ve announced the news about the baby,” Sookie sniffed, taking a bite of the sandwich and then laying it back on the plate. “If we look a little off, people will think it’s that. The invitations are out and we can’t delay. Every day he’s not seen fuels more speculation. I saw something on the Internet earlier today that said reports of Eric still being around were a hoax.”
“Sookie’s right,” Pam nodded. “The sooner people see him, the better. Mustapha knows what to do?”
“He better,” Sookie growled. “If he hams it up or goes all Blade on me, I swear I’ll summon my own blade and kill him dead!” and then she softened, “I don’t mean that! He’s doing us a big favor. He knows what’s at stake. He’ll do good.”
“Are you sure we can’t be honest with the Sheriffs?” Karin asked. It wasn’t the first time. The decision to keep the news of Eric’s condition to a small group meant they would not be telling many of the Sheriffs. It was a decision that didn’t sit well with Karin. These were vampires sworn to Eric Northman’s service. Karin felt if they were being asked to risk their lives defending him, they deserved honesty.
“Eric’s told me stories of spies, even among Sheriffs. There are some I trust, Indira, for one, but I just don’t know the others well enough to trust them with his life. There’s a saying where I come from, ‘Ignorance is bliss.’ If they don’t know, they won’t be burdened with hiding it.” Sookie glanced back at the house, “He’s so much better. He remembers everything now, but you see what the silver has done.”
Pam nodded, “It will take awhile for the silver to flush from him. Weeks. Maybe longer.”
“He is much better than he should be!” Karin shook her head. “It feels like magic.”
“I think it’s this place,” Sookie nodded. “I think it’s all the Fae magic in the ground and the air around here. I was told that if I was ever injured, if I could get back here I would regenerate. I think it works for vampires, too.” Sookie set down her plate and leaned forward, “I want to take him home to New Orleans. I think we’ll be able to protect him better there and I know it will be easier for him to move around, but I want to let him get as much benefit as he can by being here, too.”
Karin agreed, “The Palace is more secure. After Fangtasia we should make a plan.”
Unexpectedly, Sookie yawned. It just burst from her and she laughed uneasily, “I’d better head inside before my face just splits apart.”
“I’ll stay here with Eric tomorrow night,” Pam announced. “It will give us time to talk. I am returning to New York the night following the Sheriff’s meeting.”
“Not Minnesota?” Sookie asked.
“No,” Pam told her, and found a small smile crept across her face as she thought of her King’s warm eyes and funny gap-toothed smile, “New York is my home now.”
“Oh,” Sookie said. The telepath looked as though she would say something else, but then seemed to think again. “Well, all right then,” she smiled, and walked back into the house thinking her evening was over, but then Thalia arrived.
As Sookie settled next to Eric and settled her arms around him, he whispered, “It is better Thalia has come. You will see.”
Sookie wondered if he had heard what she said to Thalia but before she could ask him, he fell into his day death. ‘Yup,’ she thought, snugging in and closing her eyes, ‘Tomorrow is another day.’
“Stop looking at the door like that,” Indira laughed. “You’ll know when they get here.”
Thierry almost snapped back but he caught himself, schooling his face into his courtier’s smile, “Like everyone here, I am most anxious to see our King and Queen. The reports have been alarming. It will set my fears at rest to see them.”
“You know that’s not who you’re looking for,” Indira laughed. “If I was a cruel woman, I would have them walk in the back door just so they could see how much they’ve bothered you.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Thierry rocked back on his heels, plastering his most polite smile under his cold eyes.
“Of course you don’t!” Indira laughed louder and walked away.
“Your informants were not discrete,” Rubio walked up beside him. Thierry hadn’t had much interaction with this Sheriff. He was someone the French Sheriff considered ‘home grown.’ Rubio hadn’t served any other monarch but Eric Northman. He was a vampire who moved here and was given his position through promotion, although some said because he was the only one left standing.
“Yes,” Rubio nodded, “We all know you’ve been watching them. Even they know you’ve been watching them. If it’s any consolation, Nabila’s furious. If she didn’t care for you, she wouldn’t be so bothered.”
“And how would you know?” It slipped out before Thierry could stop himself.
“Because I nest with a woman and she understands these things. You should know I’ll help you in any way I can. I have money riding on you,” and Rubio flashed him a smile and a thumbs up. Thierry wasn’t sure whether he was comforted or appalled. As he glanced around the room, it seemed everyone was watching him with some interest and he felt a level of discomfort he hadn’t in quite some time. Fortunately, Thalia chose that moment to walk in.
While they weren’t exactly friends, Thierry did feel they had reached an understanding with each other. “I need to speak with you as soon as the official part of the evening is over,” she hissed. Thierry assumed she meant the welcome they would extend to Eric and Sookie. When he finished nodding, Thierry looked up to see Thomas and Nabila staring at him. Thomas looked amused, but Nabila was looking at him in a way that should have dropped him where he stood. Her lip curled and he was hard-pressed not to laugh. They moved as Maxwell Lee walked through the door behind them. The tall, elegant vampire hadn’t changed much. He looked around him and Thierry thought he was hoping to see Pam.
Karin walked in the door next and without having to be told, the Sheriffs stepped forward assembling in a semi-circle. Sookie came through the door and behind her was the King. Thierry bowed along with his peers, but there was something about this that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He found he was glancing up to really look at Eric Northman. While the Viking appeared as he should, nodded as he should, there was something different, something Thierry couldn’t quite put his finger on. From his position, he glanced beside him to see Thalia was doing the same thing.
The silence stretched, and Thierry began to wonder if they were being punished when the King finally said, “Rise!” He half-bowed again, looked at his Queen, and said, “Thank you for coming. I was at Rhodes and while I am as you see, my voice was damaged. I have asked my Queen to speak for me,” and he seemed to step back.
Sookie was staring up at him and when he made that shuffling move, she took his hand, as if to hold him in place. “Thank you for coming on such short notice,” the telepath told them. “You have all heard the rumors, and while we can’t go into all the details of how we were able to escape Rhodes, we did. You also know we weren’t exactly uninjured.” Thierry thought she was alluding to the loss of their child. The announcement had come from the both of them. It was formal and asked that during this time of mourning that people respect their privacy. It had caused some talk in the vampire community. There were documents explaining how the couple had achieved their unusual state. Jane, the vampire in charge of the research hospital, had published a paper on the topic so they understood the connection between Northman and the child his wife had been carrying. The general consensus among vampires was that the loss was a good thing given the implications of a successful birth of this type to a vampire would cause difficulties.
“We are a successful kingdom. We are rich, richer than we’ve ever been. The work you and your Areas have done in promoting the vampires here and their businesses as well as those ventures that help to fund all of us, like the wind turbines and gas extraction, not to mention the port in New Orleans, are making us the envy of our neighbors. But jealousy can be a dangerous thing.” As Sookie drew a breath, those around him were nodding. Thierry heard that when the last takeover came here, all the Sheriffs except Eric Northman had been killed. There were other vampires who were spared as long as they agreed to become spies and they were sent away. Then there were those like Indira, Maxwell, and Rubio who lived under the rule of their new King, hoping from night to night that they would survive.
“When the rogues were crossing our kingdom, causing trouble between us and the humans, we had patrols. Karin tells me that in the past few months we’ve started to turn our attention to other things.”
“The rogues have stopped, Lady,” Rubio confirmed.
“I would…” and Sookie glanced up at the King who was smiling at all of them, “We would ask that you bring the patrols back for a little while longer. Watch for strangers. If there is trouble coming, it would be soon, particularly if someone thought we were weak right now,” and she glanced at Eric again. Thierry thought he saw her tug at the King’s hand, and the North Man frowned and then looked down at her.
Karin stepped forward, “The King and Queen will be traveling back to New Orleans in the next week. It is our capital and it will be easier to coordinate things from there.” She nodded at Maxwell Lee, “We will rely on you, Sheriff Lee, to make sure all is ready for our coming.”
“When do you think you’ll be traveling?” Thomas asked.
“Following the next Assizes,” Sookie replied, and then looking at Rubio, said, “It’s in your Area, right?”
“We will be ready,” Rubio was all smiles.
“Thank you for allowing us to delay your opening tonight,” Sookie said to Indira. “We don’t have anything more for now, but we’ll stay for awhile if that’s okay?”
“Thank you,” the King repeated. Northman was looking at Indira, and Thierry almost thought that his uneasiness about the King might be his own imagination. After all, they had been close to the explosion. They had lost this child they made. They were worried now about a takeover and although they both looked sound, the King admitted he had suffered some deficit. The couple was moving toward their customary booth and the King’s movements appeared as they always did. He moved like a warrior.
Thalia reappeared at his side. She held a photograph in her hand, “Do you know this vampire?” Thierry found himself looking at Misha’s Second.
“Yes, that’s Carlo,” the French vampire nodded. “He belongs to New York,” and then Thierry frowned. “You saw him here?”
“I wish I had,” Thalia shook her head, “It might have been his King checking on Pam. No, this was taken in Jackson at the palace of Russell Edgington. He was in Compton’s quarters. I think he was looking for something, or hiding something.”
“Was he captured?” Thierry asked. He wasn’t surprised when Thalia hissed, shaking her head and complaining of the guards’ incompetence. He was sure if Carlo was being held he would have heard of it already from Misha. “Do you know where he was headed?” he asked when Thalia finished.
“Not exactly, but North.” She glanced around the room, “Why would he be there?”
“You can’t turn on the television without seeing some tribute to Bill Compton,” Thierry smirked. “That Vampires First group is being blamed for everything. They are pointing at Compton as the voice of the modern, enlightened vampire.”
“He was no enlightened vampire!” Thalia snapped. “He was a weasel that was headed for a short drop on a sharp stake.”
“It doesn’t matter who he really was,” Thierry shrugged. “Bill Compton is the martyr that our own people are using to build a case for further cooperation.”
Thalia nodded, “There is no talking with the Kings about him,” she agreed. Bartlett Crowe and Russell Edgington were rallying others to end intolerance between humans and vampires. They turned their new vampire investigators to the task of rooting out Vampires First and challenged their human counterparts to join in the hunt by rooting out their own extremists. Those vampire consultants who had been working independently for human law enforcement agencies, like the FBI and Homeland Security, announced they were now working exclusively with the Kings’ new organization. The Kings, in turn, offered the human agencies the opportunity to continue using the vampire consultants, but under new contracts and for a price. It was a gutsy move, and one Thalia saw as being a first step toward controlling what information would be shared with human authorities in future. It seemed Bartlett Crowe had learned a lesson from the treatment he received from humans in his kingdom when the rogues put him under suspicion. Crowe would place a price tag on his friendship and not rely on the friendliness of humans in future.
“I was not aware of a link between Compton and Misha,” Thierry mused. “They were both in Boston, but I never saw them interact.” Thierry reviewed every memory he had of that time. They would have been together at the movie. Misha had appeared with Pamela. Pamela knew Bill. Thierry shook his head, “No, I don’t think there was any opportunity for them to form some sort of connection.” He glanced around before saying, “I also have something I wish to show you,” and he handed Thalia the card he had received.
Thalia held it in her hand for a long moment, studying the words. “Have you received a similar request in past?” she asked mildly.
Thierry was not fooled, “No, he has never before asked me to spy since I left New York.”
Thalia nodded, “What will you answer?”
“That my Master is among us and my fealty is his,” Thierry didn’t hesitate.
“I will tell Pam,” Thalia nodded. “She should know Misha’s Second was close. She has agreed to be his, did you know?”
Thierry’s eyes widened, “I am not surprised Misha asked,” he replied. “I am surprised she agreed.”
“She knows what she sees,” Thalia looked away. “The North Man taught her to be wary of rumors, not making up her mind until she had facts. This,” and Thalia held up the photo, “is a fact. It is nothing substantial, but it is worth investigation. She will see that.”
“If Misha has decided he needs her by his side, we are all in danger,” Thierry suddenly felt gloomy. He glanced across the room where Nabila was standing too close to Thomas. They were smiling and talking in an animated way with Rubio Hermosa. The only thing that made him feel better was seeing the feral look on Karin’s face as she also watched the couple.
“Then perhaps it is time you decided to do something about this fate of yours.” It was an interesting statement and Thierry turned to look at Thalia. She was looking at him in a sharp way. She glanced over toward Nabila and Thomas, and then a knowing smile crept over her face, “How are you going to advance your cause sitting here, little Sheriff? You think mooning over her is going to convince her you will make things right?”
“What did you have in mind?” Thierry asked.
“I will travel to hunt this one down,” Thalia said, waving Carlos’ photograph, “I will follow the trail and see where it leads. There is something that we can’t see, something that connects these misfortunes, and I want to find it. I think I know where the path will lead. So do you.”
“New York,” Thierry hissed.
“New York,” Thalia nodded.
“I would need to abandon my duty,” and Thierry glanced at the corner booth where the King and his Queen were holding court.
“Resign. I will tell them you’ll be working with me. The North Man will understand,” Thalia assured him.
“I’ll consider it,” he said noncommittally. He couldn’t help glancing at Nabila again and Thalia followed his look.
“Stop fretting,” Thalia scoffed. “She isn’t going anywhere! Karin holds your friend by the short hairs. Nabila will be alone soon enough, wondering where her fate will take her. If you are able to clear her name, she’ll be grateful.”
“You think he was behind her disgrace, too?” Thierry asked. There were days he wondered if he was being paranoid, connecting so many troubles back to the New York King, but it appeared Thalia agreed with him.
“Why don’t we find out?” and Thalia flashed him one of her rare smiles.
“Maude was so pleased. He ceded Sanctum to her and she has her people up there working with Barbara to make it ready. There will be a place for those who need healing to go,” Pam smiled. The conversation with her Maker had drifted from business to her recent time in Boston and New York. She talked of her new ventures with Felipe de Castro, and somehow she realized she had spent the past half hour talking almost exclusively of the New York King. “I can feel your concern,” she said, trying to head off the growing disquiet she was receiving from her Maker. “I’m not a child. I’m keeping my eyes open.”
“Are you?” Eric growled. On some level he knew he was grieving and that was making him less tolerant, but it was clear that Pam was not being cautious. She was enamored of this King, but not able to be open about it. That told him that she didn’t fully trust Misha on some level. “You know he is powerful. You know that he is capable of violence…”
“So are you!” Pam snapped, and then she glanced away, “We are vampire. It is who we are,” she added.
“You should remain here,” Eric nodded. “Distance may help you see better.”
“I’m heading back tomorrow,” Pam announced.
“I could command you.” Eric knew as soon as he said it he had made a mistake.
“You have freed me!” Pam protested. “You tell me you respect my choices, but then when it comes to who I would bring into my life, you throw doubt. You doubted Miriam, and now you doubt Misha.”
“I didn’t doubt Miriam,” Eric told her, “She was human and desperate to live. You wished her. She would have been your progeny. It would not have ended well.”
“And there you go again,” Pam shrugged. “How do you know? Everyone said that you would never succeed with Sookie, but here you are. Sometimes what people assume is not right. Sometimes those improbable things are the right things.”
“You will return to him?” and Pam could tell he was asking her a different question.
Holding her head up, Pam said what she should have from the beginning, “I have agreed to be his companion, his mate,” and when Eric hissed, she said, “We aren’t bonded, but I won’t rule it out in time.”
“What kind of mate could he be to you?” Eric’s voice was angry. He felt his own loss and his heart ached at the thought of Pam having to experience loss. “He is not worthy of you. You are….”
“I made this decision,” Pam was becoming angry, too. “This was my choice! He is charming and funny. He understands my background and we fit together. You don’t know!”
“I know this is a bad decision,” Eric snarled. “You are playing with fire and you could get yourself burned.”
“I thought you would be happy for me,” Pam’s tone turned cold. “I thought you could find it within you to support me as I have supported you. There were many decisions you made over the years that I didn’t agree with. You left me in the end to live in the mess you left, and I did. I thrived without any guidance from you! I saved your Queen. I have taken the jobs you have offered and stood beside and behind you, and this is my thanks?”
“I would protect you!” Eric protested.
“From what? Your jealousy? Your inability to see me with anyone but yourself?” It was a hard accusation, but one that was not unusual between a Maker and his progeny. “You have Sookie. Karin and I are your progeny. We have been your daughters, your lovers, your sisters, and your friends over years and years and in one fell swoop, we are kicked down a notch forever by someone who is not of your blood. We’ve accepted it. Maybe it’s time you accepted that we deserve the chance to find the same thing.”
Eric knew he was not doing well. Had he been thinking more clearly, he would have asked Pam to return to talk when he was more calm, less distracted by the memory of the small grave that held a child he hadn’t realized he loved with all his heart. Instead he said, “I can’t accept someone like that for you!”
“Then I don’t think I have anything more to say,” Pam shrugged. She stood up and walked outside. Eric heard her call to Bubba and then he heard her car start.
‘I hope I am wrong,’ he thought, but every instinct told him he was not.