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.
Eric watched the street lights pass below him as he flew the short distance from the hospital to the Palace. James stayed behind to keep watch over Sookie, sitting in the corner chair of her room and there was another Palace guard stationed in the hospital corridor. Eric knew Mr. Cataliades would be leaving the Palace as soon as he and Eric spoke. The attorney would stay with Sookie, helping the guards and Doctor Ludwig to bring his wife home as soon as she was released in the morning. There were only a few short hours left until dawn and Eric felt all too well that he had too much to do before he could fall into his day death.
Earlier this evening as he lay in the hospital bed holding his wife, Eric asked himself why he was so certain that Misha, the King of New York, was behind the anonymous email to the FBI. There was no smoking gun, no bright line that connected Misha to where Eric now found himself, but the Viking knew he didn’t need it. All Eric had to do was look at Sookie’s pale face and he knew. Eric knew because he knew Appius Livius Ocella, and this was what Appius would have done.
It was this certainty that compelled him to change his mind about sending his Pamela back to New York. It was this certainty that had him growling in frustration that he would not be able to exact his vengeance with his own two hands. Eric landed lightly on the roof of the Palace and proceeded down the stairs, passing through the construction area. The Were crew started working both shifts today but, for once, Eric had no interest in what they were doing. Eric couldn’t spend time worrying about changes to his house when what made it home was in danger. It was why he snarled at Alcide Herveaux when the Packmaster stepped into his path.
“Whoa, hold on!” Alcide backed up, holding his hands out before him. “I just wanted to ask how Sookie’s doing. Everyone here is worried about her.”
Eric made an effort to retract his fangs before saying, “She is fine…better. Thank you for asking.” He glanced at the stairs, “I must go. Dawn approaches and I must make arrangements to bring her home.”
“Sure thing,” Alcide nodded. “Look, I just want to say that I’m happy she’s with you. You…” and he looked embarrassed, “Well, you’re good together. And when you see her, tell her not to worry. We’ll have this all wrapped up soon.” Eric could almost hear other words hanging in the air unsaid; the scolding Pam had heaped on his head for interfering too much and Eric growled as he headed down the stairs.
Eric knew the conspirators were in the office and he went straight there. He heard Thierry’s voice as he opened the door.
“It’s the direction he would expect,” Thierry, Pam, and Thalia were leaning over a map on the desk that dominated one end of the room. They all turned and waited until Eric stood beside them. The Viking could see the map showed New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Thierry’s finger was tracing the shortest route between New York City and Pennsylvania, which tracked through northern New Jersey and entered Pennsylvania just north of Philadelphia. “It is the quickest as the crow flies,” the Frenchman continued, “The problem is that this corridor is congested with traffic and you are in New Jersey, which is still Misha’s kingdom. Because of the number of people commuting here, there are traffic cameras that cover almost the entire route. Misha will have a feed from those cameras and you would be picked out quickly. He could have his agents intercept you well before you reached the border.”
“You entered New York before to trace the rogues,” Eric pointed out to Thalia and Thierry. “That tells me Misha’s border security has holes, so why would you consider waiting for Pam to leave New York before you reinforce her? Drive in to meet Pam halfway and at least then you are more against many.”
“It would be a clear violation of territory boundaries,” Thalia pointed out. “In times of peace no one gets too ruffled if you forget to give notice…”
“Most do in Moshup,” Max spoke up from the chair across the way.
Eric frowned, “But Judith of Pennsylvania does not?”
“She is afraid,” Thierry scowled. “She hopes by keeping her head in the sand that danger will pass her by. As a result, her state is like a free range. Thalia has crossed her kingdom many times and even I have never been challenged.”
“There is another consideration,” Thalia said carefully. “With the new police, it is likely that any complaint made now by any monarch will require an official investigation.”
“I can’t see Misha asking for your police to be involved in anything!” Pam snorted.
“That may be,” Thalia nodded, “But my charge from the Ancient Pythoness would require it anyway. To do that, I need to look somewhat neutral. I can’t be a part of an official investigation if it’s clear that I was a party to the theft from the beginning.”
“So, who will be there to help you if you run into trouble?” Eric asked Pam.
“I have every reason to be in New York,” Thierry spoke up. “I can say I am on my way to visit an old friend and mentor. I can say I am visiting the progeny of my former King. I can say I’m revisiting places of my past. There are many plausible reasons for me to be loitering about.”
“I don’t think you should be too close,” Pam told the French Sheriff. “If Misha is suspicious, your arrival would only feed his paranoia. Better you are available and close, but Misha shouldn’t see you.”
“Then we will find the best route out and I will be ready to join you on your signal,” Thierry bowed.
“You are going, too?” Eric’s question was more a statement than a question to Thalia and the Viking was relieved when she nodded.
“I will be there, but I won’t travel beyond the border unless there’s an emergency,” she confirmed.
“So, only Thierry would travel to Pam’s aid?” Eric looked around. “And what about you?” Eric asked Maxwell Lee.
“Max is staying here to coordinate things,” Pam spoke up. “If we need to arrange emergency transport or safe houses, he can best handle it from here. He has computers and all our contact information at his fingertips.” Pam smiled again, “I know you are worried, but I am confident that I’ll be out of Misha’s territory before he realizes anything happened.”
“Speed will be of the essence,” Eric sighed. He found he wished Sookie was home to hear the plan. His wife had a different way of looking at things and sometimes could find interesting solutions. It was yet another thing he loved about her, and he sighed again.
“So, you know who will be traveling into the territory. What else have you determined?” Eric asked.
“Well,” Pam started grinning. Eric couldn’t help smiling back. This was something they shared, their love of adventure, and when there was an element of risk, whether small or large, it enhanced their enjoyment. “I’ve called the manager of my club in San Diego. They’re due for a renovation anyway, so tomorrow afternoon they are going to have a large, suspicious fire. If all goes according to plan, it should be big enough to draw the attention of national news. I’m a majority owner, so, of course, they would call me and want me there to deal with the authorities. That will be my excuse to leave the next evening and Misha will have no reason to doubt my story.”
“Have you been in touch with him?” No one needed to ask. They knew Eric was asking Pam about Misha.
The childish delight dropped from Pam’s eyes, if not her voice, “Yes, I called him a few hours ago. I begged his forgiveness and told him I’ve been thinking about him, about us.” Eric could feel the shift in Pam. He knew that her mischievous appearance was just that. Underneath, his progeny was not settled about this thing she was doing.
Eric did not doubt that Pam would carry out the plan, but he wondered if at some point in the future she might come to realize that her heart was more engaged than she cared to admit. It was one thing to lie to an enemy. It was another to deceive someone who loved you, and Eric was certain that on some level, Misha believed himself in love with Pam. The Viking opened his mouth to protest when an image of Sookie lying in that hospital bed appeared in his head and he shut his mouth, knowing he would rather comfort Pam later than stop her now.
“Andrew will be sent to pick me up from the airport, as usual.” Pam was glancing around, trying to convince the others as well as herself that she was looking forward to what was to come.
“So, you arrive in New York and you receive the emergency call?” Eric rumbled.
“Yes,” Thalia spoke up. “Pam will make arrangements to leave shortly after their rising the next evening. Since she rises earlier than either Misha or Andrew, she will go to the office and use this,” and Thalia held up a thumb drive. “It only needs to be plugged into a port and then push the button to power up the laptop. Felipe’s person swears there is no encryption that can’t be broken with this thing. The laptop starts and this device reaches in and grabs everything on the hard drive. The hacker swears it’s fast. Once the drive stops blinking, Pam holds down the power button and the laptop shuts down. Pam should have enough time to get back upstairs and into bed before the King rises.”
“What do you mean by the drive ‘grabs’ information?” Eric asked.
“The memory will be wiped clean,” Thierry answered. “There is only one shot at this. We get all his secrets and he has nothing left to hurt anyone else for awhile.”
“So, if I do this, there is no going back,” Pam said out loud, her voice sounding unnaturally high.
In spite of Sookie, in spite of all that was at risk, Eric took Pam’s hand in his, “You are sure, my daughter?”
“Of course!” Pam laughed, but Eric could feel her emotions. When he looked as though he would say something more, Pam became more serious, “Don’t think that because I’m feeling a little guilty for playing Misha that I’m having second thoughts about this, Eric! I know what I felt from him and I know what I heard. He hates you, and this business with Sookie was too much of a coincidence for me.” Eric was almost convinced until her eyes dropped. She repeated the phrase she had used several times before, and Eric realized it truly reflected Pam’s desire. “I need to know,” Pam said, and Eric could feel that she did.
“We all do,” Thalia growled. “Of course doing this is a risk, but my gut says this is the right thing to do. I’d feel the same way about Appius if he was still here. Misha is too dangerous to continue.”
“You anticipate Misha will discover what happened before the night is over,” Eric said as a statement
“I don’t know he will,” Thalia shook her head, “But we will be prepared for the worst case.”
“And if he does chase Pam?” Eric asked.
“If Misha leaves the safety of his home to threaten the progeny of my King, then I expect he would meet his final death,” Thierry answered.
Eric looked at Thierry, “You will be traveling with Thalia?”
“It is already arranged,” Thierry smiled. “We will take a private charter to a small airport in Scranton. No flight plan will be registered.”
Eric nodded briefly, then looked back at the map, “Scranton?”
“Yes,” Thierry ran his finger to the Pennsylvania city. “There will be a car waiting for us. We will travel down this major highway to this place,” and he pointed to Port Jervis. “Once Pam crosses the river, she is in Judith’s territory. To get here, Pam drives straight north from the City. There is less traffic on these roads so Pam will make better time. There are fewer traffic cameras. It will be harder to find Pam once Misha figures out what happened.”
“And you have determined how Pam will get from an airport to a city a few hours north of New York?” Eric smiled, anticipating the answer.
“I’ll check in at the airport and then wait until my flight leaves. Travel time to San Diego is five hours and I only need two to get out of New York by car. Max will have the car in the parking garage at LaGuardia waiting for me. With any luck, Misha won’t catch on until after the plane lands in San Diego and I don’t get off. I don’t know for a fact, but I get the impression he does have people check on me from time to time. It would be my luck that this would be one of those times. Anyway, I should meet up with Thalia and Thierry and be back in Scranton and on our way back here before Misha or anyone else has time to figure this out.”
There’s something else,” Thalia added. “I’ve called Stan. He had strong contacts with the FBI office in Dallas. They are calling their counterparts here in New Orleans. They’ll be seeing if they can use professional courtesy to get any information on the email that showed up here. In another year, this wouldn’t happen. Our force would be established and we would have our own contacts in the Bureau.”
“It is not your fault,” Eric told Thalia. The Viking felt the pull of the sun, the day rushing toward them all. “I have to speak with Cataliades. I am not happy to only have Thierry able to come to you if you need help,” Eric whispered as he wrapped Pam in his embrace. “I am not happy about this any of this.”
“I’ll be back in a few days,” Pam replied lightly, “And within months you’ll be wishing I’d leave again!”
Eric kissed her forehead, then turning to them all said, “I will see you before you leave,” and walked out of the office and toward the front hallway where he knew the demon attorney was waiting.
Mr. Cataliades turned as the King approached the front vestibule. He had a small briefcase in his hands and his eyes widened when he saw Eric. “Ah! You’re here! I am most anxious to return to the hospital. Doctor Ludwig assured me before I left today that the Queen was out of danger, but I won’t rest easy until I see her with my own eyes. I am so sorry it took the staff here such a long time to get in touch with me.” Eric had heard that is was several hours before they could locate a phone number for the demon.
“Of course, my number is programmed in the Queen’s phone, and, of course, you, Miss Pamela, and Thalia also have my private number. It never occurred to me that the crisis might happen during a time that not one of you would be available. I have made certain that the number is also with your housekeeper and her daughter.” The attorney shook his head, “Those people will regret their treatment of the Queen.”
The demon attorney opened the briefcase and extracted several pages which he presented to Eric with a flourish. “These are copies of the documents that were hand delivered to both the local FBI office here in New Orleans and FBI Headquarters in Washington DC. I have put the Bureau on notice that we intend to sue them for endangering the Queen and her child today. I have also made it clear that we consider their treatment of you and the Queen as species discrimination and that we intend to pursue legal action in that regard as well.” Eric glanced at the documents in his hand. They looked impressive and Eric had no doubt that Mr. Cataliades would be thorough in his attack.
“If you need help with the media, Bartlett Crowe’s child, Twy, has contacts with the press here. I am sure Bartlett would provide her services,” Eric handed the documents back to the attorney who tucked them back in his briefcase.
“That could be helpful,” Mr. Cataliades acknowledged. “Public opinion does mean something to these government agencies. The pressure of bad publicity could make them amenable to sharing records and cooperating with Miss Thalia in the future.”
While a part of Eric wanted to march down to the FBI office and take it apart, brick by brick, he knew that in all likelihood he would lose in any direct fight. Shaming the Bureau into inviting vampires in as consultants and partners would mean a longer term victory, still, his fangs descended and he hissed his frustration.
The attorney seemed to understand because he said, “While our options may have some limits in how we may approach the Bureau for restitution, you should also know I have informed the Prince of this unfortunate incident. Niall has pledged the full use of his sources and his influence to make certain this type of harassment is not repeated. He was most concerned about his Granddaughter’s welfare…” Mr. Cataliades paused, and there was something in the tone of his voice that told Eric there was something the demon wasn’t saying.
“What happened between you and the Prince?” Eric asked point blank.
“It’s not something I am at liberty to discuss in any kind of depth,” Mr. Cataliades answered, but his eyes were almost pleading.
“Because of the confidentiality agreement you signed,” Eric guessed. When Mr. Cataliades nodded, Eric asked, “If I were to guess, could you tell me if I guessed correctly?”
“I’m not sure without hearing the statements,” Mr. Cataliades answered, but before Eric could growl his frustration, the demon said, “What I can tell you is that Miss Thalia is not under the Prince’s order. She has both information about the nature and the depth of the concern, although she may not realize it.” Eric considered the attorney’s words. Clearly there was something else that needed to be said about Prince Niall and it had to do with Sookie’s welfare, but the demon was being compelled to remain silent.
“Are you under a spell to keep silent about the matter?” Eric asked.
“No, I am not under a spell,” the attorney shook his head. “It would be easier if I were. No, the restriction on speech is more on the order of a curse. If I break my silence, I am assured that there will be nowhere to hide from the bad luck that will come my way.”
“A Fae’s curse is no small thing,” Eric observed.
“I am not the only one who labors under that burden,” the attorney bowed elegantly.
Eric thought about who else might be under the curse, and Mr. Cataliades took Eric’s silence as the opportunity to pull out the Prince’s contract. “I also wanted to bring something else to your attention about these settlement agreements. There are several clauses which taken separately mean little, but if taken together, which they could be, would secure the guardianship of any and all offspring to the eldest living relative in the unfortunate instance of your deaths.”
“Who would be Niall,” Eric frowned.
“Yes, it would undoubtedly be the Prince. As guardian, he would be entitled to act on the behalf of any minor until they reached the age of majority, including relocating them, making arrangements for education, in short, stepping into the shoes of the parents with little to no oversight.” Eric growled as he thought about the Prince’s rush to have both he and Sookie sign the documents.
“Now, had you read the contracts yourselves, you might not have seen this clause because the contracts spell out more clearly your right to appoint your own guardian. Were you to do this, you could also appoint a conservator or a board to oversee the decisions of that guardian, and it would be a person of your own choosing.”
“I don’t understand,” Eric stroked his chin, “If this provision was so apparent, why bury the other? Surely Niall would anticipate our appointing our own guardian!”
“Quite so,” Mr. Cataliades also looked thoughtful, “But this is where the agreement becomes more interesting,” and the way the demon used the word, ‘interesting’ seemed to mean ‘tricky.’ “The way the guardian must be appointed and registered relies on the reader recognizing a certain phrase. For the appointment to be recognized as valid, it would have to be documented and registered in a rather archaic way. Frankly, the custom referenced in the agreement is something that went out of favor hundreds of years ago, but unless you wish to renegotiate the contracts, I might suggest you authorize me to register the person of your choosing using the old form.” The attorney folded his hands and rocked back on his heels.
“Do you think Niall anticipated our catching this?” Eric asked.
“I believe the Prince has survived and thrived because he is willing to take risks when he believes it is in his favor,” the attorney answered rather enigmatically.
“So, he probably figured he had better than a fifty/fifty chance,” Eric smiled.
“It would be unusual to find both the guardian clause and understand the reference to the protocol needed to name an alternate,” the attorney nodded.
“Sookie understands I have asked Thalia to serve as guardian for our children,” Eric told the demon. “I will remind her when I see her tomorrow. If you can start the work during day hours, that would be best. I would not wish to delay. Oh, and Desmond…” The attorney’s eyes widened. It was not often that the Viking addressed him by his first name, “I would appreciate you waiting to tell the Prince until all the official paperwork is completed; when Niall can no longer interfere with the outcome.”
Mr. Cataliades was chuckling as he gathered his papers together, “I am sure the Prince will be most pleased that you have designated someone of Miss Thalia’s reputation. I would think it would prove difficult to protest your choice knowing she has the approval of the Ancient Pythoness herself as a protector.” The attorney turned toward the door and gathered his things, “I pledge to you that I will stay with the Queen until she is ready, and I will personally escort her home. She will be here, where she belongs, when you next rise.”
“I am in your debt,” Eric bowed.
Mr. Cataliades looked troubled, “No, Majesty,” the demon replied. “It is I who am in your debt and I will make it my life’s work to repay it.” It was quite the speech and it had Eric watching the demon’s back as he exited the Palace. Eric thought about what Desmond had said, that Thalia understood something troubling about the Fae Prince. Now was not the time to ask her, but Eric knew that time would come soon.
Eric was already lying in his bed when he made his last call of the evening. As the call to Octavia Fant rang through, he looked at the empty pillow beside him. It had been a long time since he laid down for his day death without Sookie beside him in their home. He found he yearned for her and wondered briefly if that was his now, so fully-engaged emotions or a physical manifestation of the bond between them. Eric decided it didn’t matter as the phone continued to ring. He was ready to leave a voice mail when a very sleepy voice picked up the other end. “Is everything all right?” the witch asked.
“No,” Eric answered. “The FBI picked up Sookie and Devrah,” Eric realized he hadn’t checked on his housekeeper and made a note to do so as soon as he rose.
“I heard,” Octavia replied. “Devrah told me Sookie started having contractions when they were being detained by the FBI, but she said it stopped.”
“Sookie is better,” Eric acknowledged. “She stayed in the hospital overnight but she will be home tomorrow.” When Octavia made an approving noise, Eric said, “There is something else. Sookie heard her interrogator thinking about a mysterious email the FBI received recently, one that contained damaging information about us,” and Eric waited.
“And you want me to do what? Make that disappear, too?” Eric could hear the woman moving around. “Look, one time those folks will write off to a computer glitch or carelessness, but twice? They’ll be scouring through their systems looking for some kind of mechanical explanation, but after a while someone will suggest they look at us.”
“So, there’s nothing you can do?” Eric growled.
He wasn’t really angry at Octavia as much as the situation, but the woman’s voice when next she spoke was hard, “Eric, I like you! I like Sookie, but I shouldn’t have to remind you that you are the reason you are having these problems. I know that erasing the records sounds like the easy answer, but it would just spark more trouble.” Eric knew the witch was right, but it didn’t make hearing it any easier. “You’re the brilliant strategist!” Octavia said sarcastically, “Maybe you should start thinking like one!”
“You’re right,” Eric grumbled. “Forgive me. I do not think clearly when my…” Eric almost said ‘wife,’ but he suddenly felt that wasn’t enough. “My family is in danger,” he concluded.
The phone was quiet for a moment, and then Octavia sighed, “There may be a few things I can do. I can place some new wards around the Palace that will keep out anyone with ill intent. I can place a charm on Sookie, too, something that will repel anyone who means her harm.”
“Both would be acceptable,” Eric said, “And I thank you.”
“No need to thank me,” Octavia replied, “Because there will be an invoice on this. Time for us to get back to a place everyone understands. You ask for a service, and witches provide it for a fee. Of course, it’s not every witch that can say she provides services to the High King.”
“You can feel free to advertise that,” Eric joked.
“It occurs to me there is something else that can be done, and you don’t need me to do it,” Octavia told the Viking. “Sookie is Fae. She can alter what humans see. If she masks herself during her walks, the FBI won’t be able to detect her again.”
Eric frowned, surprised Sookie hadn’t thought of that, but, of course, until this morning she had no idea she would be targeted as part of an investigation. Then another thought occurred to Eric, “Can you enhance the wards around a place to exclude the Fae?”
“I’m assuming you mean full-blood Fae,” Octavia answered. “I can’t imagine you’d want to keep your own wife outside.”
Eric thought about it. There were many hybrids, like Sookie. If Niall had some ill intent it was more likely he’d send full Fae rather than hybrids, but in the end, Niall would use what worked. “Full Fae,” Eric agreed, and then cutting to the chase, he asked, “So you can do it?”
“Yes,” Octavia answered, “I can build a ward to keep out a particular species or a particular person for that matter. You have someone in mind?”
“No,” Eric answered, “No one yet. I just wanted to understand my options.”
“Well, if that’s all,” and the witch yawned, “I’m going to understand my option to go back to sleep!”
Eric heard the connection end. He hooked his phone into its charger and rolled over to face his wife’s empty pillow. Although the sun pulled at him, he sighed and got out of bed. He went to the closet and pulled out her favorite bathrobe. He sniffed it and was rewarded by her sweet scent. Eric draped the robe over his pillow and rubbed his face against it so her faint smell covered him. “Sookie!” he thought, and then he knew no more.
They were all there to watch Pam off that night, even Sookie. Eric had risen to find that the smell that lingered in his nostrils was more present, and his eyes opened to his wife’s matching gaze. He had a moment of pure joy, but that happiness soon soured when they quarreled about making love (he wouldn’t until he received word from Doctor Ludwig that it was fine), and then about Sookie coming downstairs. The compromise they reached was the chair that sat in the hallway. Pam had been curious about it. They all had to walk around it and the placement was awkward, but Sookie answered the unasked questions when she turned to Eric and snapped, “Stop pushing! I told you if I get tired I’ll sit down! If I’m not sitting, it must mean I’m not tired, and you can stay out of my head, thank you very much!”
Thierry chuckled, and Max took Pam’s bags and headed to the waiting car.
“We will see you in Pennsylvania tomorrow night,” Thalia told Pam. “You have the thumb drive someplace secure?”
“They’ll have to do a cavity search to find it,” Pam winked. She didn’t anticipate trouble, but she also knew her luggage would be taken upstairs and unpacked by Andrew. Since it was unlikely she would be able to take all her clothes with her when she escaped tomorrow, she did not pack any of her favorites to take back to New York. Pam had clothes hanging in the closets of both the brownstone in New York and the Beacon Hill house in Boston. While she packed earlier, she mentally checked off what favorite clothing articles and shoes she could justify placing in her carry-on bag for the supposed trip to San Diego. The cover story was that she had to be ready to speak on camera or informally, answering questions, so a heavier suitcase wouldn’t be questioned, but her favorites in Boston would be lost. After all, it wasn’t likely that Misha would ever invite her anywhere near his kingdom again.
Eric walked Pam outside. The door to the limo was opened but before she climbed in, Pam turned into her Maker’s embrace. “Be careful!” he whispered into her hair. “You are very precious to me. I have opened the bond to you. Please consider doing the same. Even though we will be far apart, knowing I can sense if you are in trouble will be comforting to me.”
“Stop worrying!” Pam hugged him back. “I’ll see you in a couple days.”
Eric returned into the Palace. Thalia and Thierry would be leaving shortly as well, but they would leave by the back entrance. Their travel coffins were being loaded into a van and they were bringing an extra coffin, just in case. Thalia and Thierry would ride in the back of the van to avoid any monitoring by traffic cameras along the way. The hanger that housed their flight was bonded and guaranteed discreet. It was large enough that they could drive inside and have the doors closed before they exited the vehicle. All precautions would be taken to avoid prying eyes. They would spend an extra night in Scranton in a safe house, but it would allow them to scout the road ahead of time and make sure their plans were in place.
While Thierry escorted Sookie to her chair, Thalia turned to Eric, “I don’t think Thierry will return,” she told him. “If Misha doesn’t pursue Pam, I believe Thierry will continue on and into New York. He feels now is the time to confront the King, and he means to fight him.”
Eric wasn’t surprised. He had watched his Sheriff work himself up to this over the past few weeks, and lately, he had been almost grim in his determination. “He senses his destiny is at hand. He must meet it,” Eric replied. “It is admirable.”
“Or foolhardy,” Thalia sighed. “He isn’t you, Viking, but if he gets himself finally dead, I will miss him.”
“Or, he could succeed, in which case you will soon tire of him and decide he is just another painfully vain King, although…” and Eric winked, “His social skills would be better than most.”
The driver walked in and nodded, signaling all was ready to go. “Bring her back safe,” Eric asked of his friend.
“I won’t fail you,” Thalia nodded, and she and Thierry entered the back of the van. As the doors closed, Eric wondered if he would ever see their faces again.
Sookie walked up behind Eric. She had made her goodbyes to Thalia earlier, knowing her husband would wish to have private words. “The only hands that could be safer for Pam would be yours,” she told Eric, wrapping her hands around him and laying her cheek against his arm.
“I wish I was going,” Eric said, watching the van’s lights turn the corner.
Sookie nodded. There was nothing she could say that would make this better. There were many reasons Eric Northman needed to stay in New Orleans, but in this moment, none of them seemed important enough compared to the possibility of losing Pam Ravenscroft.
The van pulled into the hangar building and the exterior doors were immediately closed behind them. The clang of the latch was heard and as if it were a signal, the back doors of the van were opened. Men in uniforms had gurneys in position, and the first of the travel coffins was rolled smoothly into place and wheeled away toward the waiting plane. Thalia followed the coffin, stepping lightly down on the concrete floor. Thierry followed, and then his face broke into a broad smile. “Did you get lost?” he asked.
“I heard you were headed off for some idiotic mission,” Karin the Slaughterer replied. “I thought I’d better come along to make sure you don’t get lost.”
“Does Thomas know you’re here?” Thalia asked.
“He’s my bonded, not my jailer,” Karin hissed in return.
“So, no,” Thierry laughed.
“Pam’s my sister,” Karin shrugged, “Thomas will get over it.”
Thalia nodded, “Then it is good. You can go with this one when he crosses the border illegally,” and she jerked her chin toward Thierry. “Maybe you can even keep him from finding the wrong end of a stake.”
“This Camel Turd?” Karin sniffed. “I’m there for Pam. If Thierry decides to pretend he’s a target for Mr. Pointy, that’s between him and his asshole.”
“So,” Thierry laughed, “You do care!” He turned to Thalia and said, “I told Thomas if we are ever both Kings, we should marry so that we can have Karin between us.”
“That’s not going to happen!” Karin scoffed. “Thomas told me you said that, and I told him you had to be drinking Fae blood because it’s the only thing that could explain that kind of hallucination. I only think it’s fair to tell you, we mock you when you aren’t around.”
“That’s what your mate said you’d say just before he wrapped his lips around my cock,” Thierry told her. He held his composure for just a moment and then they both laughed.
Karin recovered first and she glanced at the plane. Thierry watched her and when Karin turned to look at him, she realized there was no longer any trace of amusement on the Sheriff’s face. “I will watch your flank, Karin,” he told her, “Both for the sake of my brother and for your own. I am glad you’re here.”
Karin could see his sincerity, but it was not the time for heart to hearts, so she said, “Don’t start fucking and fussing on my account.”
Thierry had opened his mouth to respond, but Thalia snarled, impatient with the bantering, “Just get on the plane, children!” Karin looked abashed, but Thierry just winked as they rushed up the stairs, jostling for seats.
As they finally settled in seats that were across the aisle from each other, Thierry said, “We should have sombreros!” When the women looked at him as if he had made some bad smell, Thierry explained, “The Three Amigos! That’s us.”
“Stop sniffing airplane fumes,” Karin grumbled.
“Where there is injustice…” Thierry intoned.
“You will stop that now,” Karin hissed, “Or I’ll stake you myself!”
Thalia looked from one to the other. Clearly they were just warming up and the next few hours in the air would be spent in a running verbal battle. Shaking her head, the warrior sighed and allowed herself to slip into downtime. Thalia knew it was a process; how these two people handled their nerves. Thierry and Karin would needle each other and poke fun now, but when the time came to fight, Thalia knew she couldn’t ask for better companions.