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.
Pam shuddered under Thalia’s arm, and it was in that movement that Thalia knew Misha, the King of New York, was truly gone. She kept Pam walking out to the road toward a commercial van. Thalia knew the keys would either be in the vehicle or in one of the piles of clothing that dotted the area. The back doors opened to an empty cargo area. There was a blanket in the back, and Thalia helped Pam to climb in and wrap herself up. “Stay here,” she instructed her younger friend.
Thalia could smell fresh blood, which meant that there was at least one other vampire still among the undead and she hoped that vampire was the Viking’s other child. She found Karin skewered through with a silver sword. The sword had been driven with such force that its blade was at least a foot into the ground. “You look like a bug in a museum,” Thalia said dryly.
“I feel worse,” Karin hissed in return. The Slaughterer didn’t ask the fates of the others. Being pinned to the ground hadn’t affected her hearing and she had heard Misha’s words and Thierry’s. Instead she asked, “Please turn on your phone. Thomas will be frantic.”
“You gave him my number?” and Thalia distended her fangs to emphasize her displeasure.
“I couldn’t trust Turd Boy to live through this,” Karin said gamely. There was smoke drifting from her wound and they could both hear a continual hiss, like water hitting a hot skillet. Thalia stalked around the Slaughterer, trying to determine the best angle to pull the sword free that wouldn’t cause more damage. With the silver on the blade, so like Thalia’s own, the fierce one knew that once the blade was removed the fight would begin. Karin would bleed profusely, the silver having prevented her veins and tissues from sealing over.
Finally deciding on the right angle to attempt the extraction, the small vampire leaned over Karin’s shoulder and cautioned, “This will hurt.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Karin nodded once and closed her eyes. The movement was fast. Thalia kept the sword from slipping one way or the other, causing more damage, but the blood flow that followed was aggressive. Thalia ripped at her arm and set her blood against the outpouring, hoping that the age and magic of her own blood would counter the effects of the silver. It was with relief that Thalia watched the blood slow, and she could almost feel Karin’s flesh knitting.
“Thierry!” Thalia called, and when the Frenchman appeared, they turned Karin over and Thierry used his own blood to try and stanch the flow from where the sword had passed through her. The effect was not so fast or effective, but, still, Karin’s wound improved.
When the gush turned into more of a slow seeping, Thierry ripped open his wrist again and held his arm to Karin’s mouth. “Drink!” he told her.
“Thomas won’t like it,” Karin tried to turn her head.
“Thomas will like it less if you are finally dead,” Thierry replied reasonably, and gripping her head, clapped his arm across her mouth. Karin drank and then used her fangs to drink more. “There!” Thierry smiled, “See? You can make a lovely mate when you are being agreeable. Now that I’m a King, I can start the petition right away. Who do you think should be declared bottom, Thomas or me? Or do you think we should formally trade off at each anniversary?”
“I can’t believe we like you,” Karin said weakly, withdrawing her fangs. “You are such an asshole.”
“It’s true!” Thierry smiled broadly. He glanced up at Thalia, his expression becoming less humorous as he gauged the distance he would need to carry Karin to get her to the van. “I am going to lift you now,” he told her. “We could say it’s a blood offense, but we both know you’ll dream about it later.”
“You’re just trying to piss me off,” Karin gasped, her eyes betraying her panic for a second. She knew when Thierry picked her up the internal wounds that were trying to heal would scream in protest and Karin hoped she wouldn’t humiliate herself by adding her own voice to the operation.
“Not at all,” the new King tutted, at the same time lifting Karin in a swift, single movement. “I’m being your knight in shining armor, your own Prince Charming…”
“My own personal boatman in a sea of shit, my own rock among boulders…” Karin gritted out between clenched teeth, every movement, every step burning and tearing. She kept on with her string of insults until Thierry gently deposited her in the flat back of the van beside Pam. As he stepped back to shut the door, Karin whispered, “Thank you.”
“You can wait to express your gratitude until our formal pledging,” Thierry chuckled gently.
“You’re drinking Fae blood!” Karin growled. “You’re hallucinating!” The driver’s door opened and Karin could smell Thalia. “Please!” Karin whispered. “Turn on your phone. Tell him.” Karin could hear the rustle of fabric and movement, she was sure Thalia heard her and understood. With a sigh, Karin turned her eyes to her sister.
Pam was wrapped in a blanket, but her clothes were covered with drying blood. “Pam?” Karin called. Pam looked at her then and rewarded Karin with a weak smile. “Are you in a lot of pain?”
“Probably nothing compared to you,” Pam whispered, then after a few moments, she said, “Thank you for coming for me.”
“That’s what we do,” Karin wheezed, feeling things within her begin to shift in a really unpleasant way. “We’re sisters.”
“Promise me you won’t pledge to Thierry,” Pam growled.
“You know I have better taste than that!” Karin wheezed.
“I heard that!” Thierry called from the front seat, and the van began to move.
Pam reached forward and took Karin’s hand. “I’m glad you’re here,” she told her, and then they said no more.
“They survived!” Eric exclaimed. He started moving quickly around the room, throwing articles of clothing into a small black bag. The Viking tossed his phone on the bed and Sookie, who was sitting cross-legged in the middle of it, read the text Thalia sent.
“I think she’s trying to tell us that they were both hurt pretty bad, Eric. Want me to call Amy?” Sookie couldn’t help but read her husband’s mood. The initial relief was quickly replaced by something else. Eric’s not thinking to call Doctor Ludwig suggested to Sookie that for the first time ever she was experiencing what Eric felt like when he panicked.
Eric stopped his pacing and Sookie felt an immediate lightening of his spirit. “I always said you were clever, wife,” he told her.
‘And don’t you forget it,’ Sookie sassed silently, her fingers already moving through the contacts list. ‘Where should I tell the doctor to go?’ she asked as the phone rang.
‘Tell the troll to text Thalia. She’ll send an address,’ Eric replied, equally silent. It was becoming usual for them, this shorthand of verbal and nonverbal communication.
As soon as the message to Doctor Ludwig was sent and Sookie received the acknowledgement, she started to set down the phone, but it vibrated in her hand. She checked the caller ID, “Thomas!” Sookie announced, and held it out to Eric.
“I’m leaving my post,” Thomas announced as soon as Eric opened the connection.
“Temporarily,” Eric snapped. “I would expect nothing different when Karin is injured.”
“I wasn’t sure of the protocol, so I thought it best to inform you,” Thomas voice was stiff with tension.
In spite of everything, Eric found himself smiling. He could tell Thomas was stressed. As a bonded partner, the new Louisiana King would be feeling Karin even more clearly than Eric through his Maker’s bond. Still, this vampire had thought to call his new High King to register his plans and that spoke to a level head in crisis. “I am also heading to Scranton,” Eric announced. “I have a charter flight that will pick up my coffin so I can be in Scranton at my rising. We can meet up there and travel together.”
“My plane is leaving now,” Thomas’ voice was tight. “I would prefer to race the sun.” Eric checked the clock on the bedside table. What Thomas was doing was extraordinarily dangerous. Were there any delay, an auto accident that shut down a road or a problem in the flight, Thomas could be caught by the sun and become finally dead. Then Eric’s eyes drifted from the clock to Sookie, her dress rucked up around her hips as she watched him from her perch on their bed. What wouldn’t he do for her?
“Then I will see you at the house,” Eric replied, freeing Thomas from any obligation to wait for him, and Thomas didn’t bother to hide his relief. “Tell my daughters that I will see them soon,” Eric asked of his de facto son-in-law, “And Thomas…tell Karin I am proud that she went to her sister’s aid.” Eric knew by reminding Thomas there had been a higher purpose to Karin’s actions he was interfering with the relationship between this vampire and his progeny, but he felt certain Thomas was not told of Karin’s adventure in advance and that would sit hard.
“As you say,” Thomas said tightly, and then, “I will see you in Pennsylvania,” and the phone disconnected.
‘Will he leave her?’ Sookie asked, her head cocked to the side.
‘Unlikely,’ Eric answered her, and then came up on the bed on one knee so he could get close enough to kiss his wife. ‘Karin is a sickness in him, like you are a sickness in me.’
‘Nice!’ Sookie scolded him, but she took his hand and with the help of his strong arm, maneuvered herself from the bed, and then stepped within the shelter of his embrace as they headed to the door. In just a few more days they were assured they could move back upstairs into their quarters, and Sookie was ready. The extra luxury of having a sitting room where they could cuddle on the couch or sit in chairs, instead of on the bed, to talk was something she missed.
Sookie walked Eric downstairs, and then outside to the curb. ‘Bring them home,’ she said silently, then “Come home to me,” out loud.
There was a small crowd gathered across the street as there was most nights. Some of those gawking were part of a local tour group, but most were fans and casual tourists, hoping for something like what they were witnessing right now. Sookie was all too aware of the cameras that clicked and the telephoto lenses that whirred as Eric first leaned over and kissed her belly, his hands cradling both sides of her, and then, looping his arms further, pulling her to him, his head coming toward her, his perfect eyes her whole world. The moment his lips touched hers all those around them no longer mattered. There was only her Viking and the connection they felt to each other. It was a good kiss, one she felt all the way to her toes and left her lady parts tingling. “I’ll be back!” Eric whispered in his terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation, and then, stepping away, he kissed her hand and was gone.
Earlier that evening and hundreds of miles away, Thomas had felt his bonded’s distress. He realized as he replayed the sequence of events that over those hours he had experienced many emotions, but surprise wasn’t one of them.
From the time of his rising, he had known something was off. When he figured out the story Karin told him about visiting Indira was a lie, he had been furious, but not surprised. It was Karin’s custom to text him upon rising when they were apart and when there was no text from her, Thomas called Indira, only to find out that Karin hadn’t even bothered to arrange a cover story. Indira had no idea where Karin was and that started Thomas texting Karin directly. On his fifth message, Karin sent back a one-line answer, ‘What’s up?’
Thomas texted back, his fingers stabbing at the phone screen. He made clear that he knew she had lied to him. He told her in brief, terse words that he knew she wasn’t at Indira’s. He demanded she explain herself and all he received was a three-word answer, ‘Can’t chat now.’
When his subsequent texts went unanswered, he was sure Karin had just switched off her phone. Furious, Thomas activated the tracker he had placed on Karin’s phone. It was something he’d arranged without telling her and he knew if she found out, she would scream at him about stalking and respect, but now he was glad he hadn’t trusted her. It only took a few moments, and the return came back. The geo-locating software told him his wayward mate was in Scranton, and Thomas found his anger being replaced once more by uneasiness.
Why was Karin in Pennsylvania? Thomas thought about it. On a whim, he texted Thierry, but there was no answer, and Thomas knew with a sinking certainty that they were together. “You sick fuck!” he shouted at the air around him. “If you fucking get her killed, you fat, French fuck, I’ll fucking flay you!”
Thomas decided to fly up north and confront them in whatever stupid scheme they were hatching. He called Anubis and got ahold of friend of his who worked in flight plans and logistics. What his friend confirmed was that there had been a special flight out of New Orleans the night before, but it had amended its logged plan at the last minute to carry three vampires, not two. The plane had landed in Scranton, and the company was being paid handsomely to have the plane ready and waiting on the tarmac for two extra nights.
Thomas puzzled over everything some more. He knew about Thalia and Thierry’s earlier trip. They had traveled through Pennsylvania on their way to New York not so long ago and while Thomas wasn’t sure of everything they found, it had been enough to convince his brother to go along with Felipe de Castro’s offer of help against Misha of New York. Thomas was sure that Thalia was the third person on that plane and that both Thierry and Thalia would be with his Karin in Scranton.
But why were they there? It seemed so unlikely based on his history that Thierry was openly challenging Misha. That kind of duel was generally broadcast in some way, but there hadn’t been even a whisper across the vampire gossip lines. Thomas thought about the hacker they were promised by De Castro, and another thought occurred to him. He picked up his phone and called Indira back.
When the vampire answered, Thomas started by saying, “I apologize for my earlier temper. It appears I was mistaken in my information and it was wrong of me to become angry with you for something that was clearly not your doing.”
Indira was gracious. It was one of the many things Thomas enjoyed about this vampire and why he was relieved when she agreed to remain within his kingdom as Sheriff of Area 5. “Karin can be a handful,” Indira replied, and then added quickly, “If you don’t mind my saying.”
“I will try harder not to take offense when I’m hearing the truth,” Thomas replied, and then he asked his real question, “By the way, do you happen to know where Pam Ravenscroft might be? I tried calling her number, but she didn’t answer. I was hoping to arrange a meeting with her.”
“I heard she returned to New York yesterday,” Indira replied promptly. “I can’t understand the attraction, but I can’t dispute it’s there.”
“Thank you,” Thomas said quickly, “I’ll try reaching Pam on her cell again later,” and he disconnected.
It all started to come together and the picture Thomas was arranging in his head was bleak. The general sense of anxiety he was feeling ratcheted up further and Thomas called his friend at Anubis again. He called in all his favors to arrange an emergency flight out of Little Rock. He had no clear idea where he was going other than Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was told it would take a minimum of a half hour for the plane to arrive from New Orleans, and then more minutes would be wasted while the plane refueled for the flight to Pennsylvania. Thomas guaranteed the fee and passed his time either cursing Karin or pacing around his Palace striking things.
When it was time to leave for the private airport, the hum of electricity across Thomas’ nerves that he was sure was his mate suddenly changed and Thomas knew with a certainty his Karin was in pain. Thomas stood stock still and howled, his anger, frustration, and despair spilling over. He called for his car, determined to stand on the tarmac, waiting for the moment the airplane’s door opened to get on his way. He growled at his driver, threatening to take the wheel himself when he felt he was driving too slowly. He opened his phone and scrolled to Thierry’s contact when he saw a new name. Thalia had been added to his rolodex and he was sure it was Karin’s doing. Pushing the name, he texted.
When he arrived at the airport terminal, he texted Thalia again, and this time he received a response, ‘She lives. We are returning to Scranton. She asks for you. She can’t text you.’
Thomas rubbed his thumb over the words. ‘She lives.’ ‘She can’t text you.’ He knew that his mate was injured, and his fingers felt thick as he texted back, ‘I am coming to Scranton tonight. Send me the address.’
The plane pulled in and Thomas was already strapped into the seat before he remembered he owed his King a duty. There was no one appointed to watch the kingdom Eric Northman had entrusted him to rule and Thomas was leaving on a journey that could see him killed. Cursing that he now had more responsibilities than just himself and his mate, Thomas thumbed through his contacts and called Indira. In a few, terse words he informed her she was in charge for the next few days, and asked that she email him, carbon copying his remaining Sheriffs to confirm his intent. When that was finished, Thomas called Eric Northman.
Thalia and Thierry brought Pam and Karin back to the safe house Max had arranged for them. There were ready blood supplies available in the area, so Thalia knew they could hunker down and await the coming of the North Man. He told Thalia his coffin would be held in a secure facility at the Scranton Airport and he would join them shortly after his rising the following night. Thalia knew he intended that they should all travel back to New Orleans together.
Thalia carried Pam down into the basement and Thierry followed, carrying Karin. Within seconds of their arrival, there was a popping noise and Doctor Ludwig was standing in the upstairs hallway. The Doctor didn’t need any help to find the open door and she was soon standing between them, grumbling and fishing around in her bag. She stopped looking from Karin to Pam long enough to growl at Thalia, “The North Man sent me. So, tell me once and for all, is that bastard from New York finally dead?”
“It is done,” Thierry answered instead.
Doctor Ludwig gave the Frenchman a less-than-cordial once over, “And does that make you the new Misha?”
“It makes me the King of New York,” Thierry replied, drawing himself up straighter, all sign of humor gone.
“Stop your preening,” Thalia growled before saying, “Karin was run through with silver. We used our blood to slow the flow, but she may still be bleeding internally.”
Amy Ludwig gave one last sniff toward Thierry and deliberately shoved him aside as she went to see Karin.
Thalia jerked her chin toward the stairs and she and Thierry headed upstairs to give the Doctor privacy with her patients. “What did I do to her?” Thierry asked once they were alone.
“She’s just testy because you can order her around now,” Thalia laughed dryly. “Kings do. She’s letting you know you may be able to summon her, but you can’t step on her.”
Thierry’s eyes went wide for a moment, and Thalia could see that another reality of what it meant to be King was starting to dawn on her young friend.
The new King’s growing sense of empowerment was short-lived. Doctor Ludwig stomped up the stairs and Thierry found himself running errands, searching for young, strong donors. It was several hours and some focused trolling before Amy was satisfied that both Karin and Pam had had enough fresh blood.
As the Doctor settled back, taking a break from her care-giving, she asked, “Is Karin’s bonded coming soon?”
“I’m not sure if he’ll make it here tonight,” Thalia replied, “but, yes, Thomas texted me he is coming.” When Amy didn’t say more, Thalia asked the question that seemed to be hovering in the air between them, “Are you saying there is no hope that Karin will recover?”
Doctor Ludwig gave the fierce vampire a look as if Thalia had three heads, and then she laughed, “What are you talking about? Karin’s going to be fine! I was just asking because Karin is already bitching about everything. That’s work for her bonded, not me!”
Thomas did arrive in the hour before the sun rose. Ludwig had gone and Thierry was sitting in the basement beside Karin. Pam was still awake, but had gone into downtime several hours earlier. Pam was facing the wall and Thierry knew Thalia was worried about her.
Without greeting his brother, Thomas shoved Thierry aside, savagely ripping his arm open and clamping it against Karin’s mouth, growling, “You better drink! And you better recover quickly, because I intend to make you suffer for what you put me through!”
Thierry watched Karin struggle for mere seconds before accepting the blood Thomas offered. She started crying tears of blood, but Thomas was having none of it, “Stop it!” he hissed. “You have no right to cry! You did what you had to do for your sister, but you didn’t trust me enough to tell me! I would have come with you!”
“No!” Karin pushed his arm away, “You are King now, Thomas. You couldn’t go running off. I couldn’t let you do that.”
“So you were saving me?” Thomas snarled again, and then just as quickly, his face softened. “You foolish woman, what life is this without you?” He wiped the blood from her cheeks and offered the drops to her. As she looked up at him, his face hardened again, and he ripped his healed wrist again, placing the bleeding wound over her mouth.
Thierry stepped away and with a quick glance at Pam, headed back upstairs.
Thalia was standing in the front room looking out the window onto the dark street. “Thomas will want to take her with him back to Little Rock as soon as they rise,” she said out loud.
“He will,” Thierry acknowledged.
“He will need to wait for the High King.” The small, fierce one turned. “The North Man will want to see both of his progeny. Thomas owes fealty to the North Man. It would not do to push the Viking too far away.”
“Thomas knows that,” Thierry agreed and then flopped himself into a chair. “I can feel the approaching dawn. I will also be leaving at first night, but my trail leads south.”
“New York,” and Thalia smiled thinly. “What a terrible King you’ll make!”
“Well, thank you!” Thierry replied. “In truth, I’m not too worried about it. You’ll be around to keep me in line.” He reached into his pocket and removed the two thumb drives he’d taken from Pam’s shoe earlier that evening. “These are what Pam went to get. I’ll count on you and your police to work with De Castro’s man.”
“Let’s hope that what we find on these was worth all this trouble,” Thalia sniffed.
“Of course it was worth it!” Thierry laughed. “After all, now I’m King!”
Eric Northman arrived the next night at the safe house within an hour of sundown, as expected. He swept downstairs to find Karin already dressed and sitting on her bed. The Viking could feel that she was still in some discomfort and he turned to Thomas who stood beside her, “I would offer my daughter my blood. As her Maker, it will help her to heal more quickly.” It was a courtesy really. Eric could have simply ordered Karin, and everyone knew it, but Thomas bowed and thanked Eric.
“You smell interesting,” Eric whispered as he sat down on the bed and pulled Karin closer so they were side by side.
“That’s one way of saying it,” Karin smirked, and then took care as she bit into the neck Eric offered her. During the past forty-eight hours she had taken blood from no less than four vampires, including Eric, and a number of human donors. Thomas told her she smelled appealing, but she could tell he was lying.
“We would take our leave now,” Thomas announced when Karin pulled back.
“I saw your plane idling at the airport,” Eric nodded. “It is a good thing someone handed over the energy business in such good financial condition. The cost of holding that plane in a place like this must be costing your kingdom a fortune.”
“I am paying the cost from my own personal funds,” Thomas bristled, and Eric filed away his new King’s tendency to pride. Thomas glanced at Karin again, not bothering to hide the burning in his eyes. “I will give you some time alone,” he told Karin and Eric, and then walked at normal speed up the basement stairs.
“All is well, daughter?” Eric asked.
“He’s going to make me feel every second of his worry over and over again,” Karin sighed. “I’m going to be eating dirt for a long time.”
“You have found your true mate,” Eric stroked her hair. “Now it will be up to you to figure out how to live with him.”
“Thank you,” Karin said, a slight smile playing around the corners of her mouth.
“For what?” Eric asked her.
“For this wonderful life,” Karin replied. She leaned forward and kissed her Maker slowly on the mouth. Of his vampire progeny, Karin had been the least enthusiastic about their lovemaking, even in the beginning, so this degree of affection was a surprise. She pulled back and with a quick glance at the stairs, said, “He is becoming impatient.”
“Come and see us when you are settled again,” and Eric pulled her close to kiss her head once more before releasing her to walk carefully up the stairs and back to her own life.
Eric then walked over the Pam’s bed. During all this time, Pam had remained in downtime, her face to the wall. “I’ve come to bring you home, daughter,” Eric told her and he stroked her arm. Eric could see the angry red patches of skin and knew what it meant, but he could also feel that Pam had suffered something worse. She had no limbs missing, but when she rolled over and looked at him, Eric could see his Pamela’s eyes were hollow and he felt a sad emptiness from her.
“I can’t,” Pam told him and as Eric stroked Pam’s hair, he realized there was still blood and dirt in it. The Viking pulled back the blanket to see that his sophisticated, fashion-conscious, Pam was still wearing the same clothes in which she’d fought and been tortured. “Come on,” Eric said gently, “I’ll help you get cleaned up.” He walked her upstairs and then to the bathroom. Moving slowly, he undressed her and then, after turning the water on hot so her skin would feel warmed, he helped her into the shower. Once she stood under the water, Eric dropped his own clothes and joined her, turning her away from him. When he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her against his chest, his Pam broke down.
Eric washed her as carefully as he had the first night she rose with him. He washed her hair, murmuring words of encouragement, treating her as gently as any heartbroken creature, because Eric recognized that was what was truly troubling his progeny. “You did the right thing,” he whispered against her head. “He could not have been left to continue.”
“I know I did,” Pam whispered, “but it hurts so much!”
When Pam was clean and dressed in fresh clothes, Eric had her sit upstairs in the front room. He asked Thalia to go in search of another donor for her. When Thalia returned with two, he personally oversaw Pam’s feeding, trusting his Pam not to injure either of the young women, and she didn’t disappoint.
When Pam finished, he asked, “Are you feeling any better?”
“Yes,” Pam nodded, “But I haven’t changed my mind. I won’t be returning with you to Louisiana right away.”
“You’ll return to Maude,” the Viking stated. When Pam nodded once more, Eric asked, “Do you have a way to get there?”
“I know she’s at Sanctum,” Pam shrugged. “She told me she really needs some help getting things set up and she had suggested that I come for awhile,” and then Pam bit her lip. “Is that okay?”
Eric brought Pam over to a couch and then pulled her against him. “You need never ask,” he told her. “You are welcome to join me when you are ready. Your place will be waiting for you.” They sat there, together, and in time Pam relaxed against him. Eric could feel her relief, and knew as much as his daughter loved him, she needed the kind of help only a woman and time could give her.
After a bit, Pam asked about Sookie. That sparked a conversation where they spoke of small things and then of business plans. Eric told Pam of the Ancient Pythoness’ upcoming trip and Pam chuckled as she conjectured about the uproar the visit would cause at the Palace. When the conversation shifted to the fate of Nabila, though, Eric could feel Pam’s sadness return.
Thalia joined them, “Thierry is getting ready to leave. I thought you should know.”
Eric nodded, “Maude asked Pam to lend a hand in Connecticut.”
Thalia didn’t look surprised, and said instead, “I heard from Minnesota just now and she is on her way here. If Pam is agreeable, I will come with her to Sanctum. It has been some time since I have seen that place, and I find I have things to discuss with Maude.”
“Forgive me,” Eric pulled Pam close, kissing her head. “I must talk with Thierry before he leaves, but I will return in a minute.”
“Don’t be silly, my Maker,” Pam scoffed, for a moment sounding like herself. “Tell Thierry thank you for me. He saved all of us, you know.”
“How quickly they forget,” Thalia sniffed, and then sat down near Pam so Eric would know his daughter wouldn’t be alone.
Thierry had the car out front and he bowed briefly as Eric came into view. “My King!” he smiled.
“Your Majesty!” Eric replied, and then, his face becoming more serious, Eric said, “I am in your debt.”
“We are in the debt of each other,” Thierry grinned. “Your progeny survived, and I am a kingdom or two richer.”
“What are your plans, now that you are King?” Eric asked.
“I will travel to Misha’s New York Palace,” Thierry shrugged. “The laptop is there, along with his records. I will box them and send them to Thalia. She is in the best position to sort through what is found. Then I will contact some old friends. There is no one left from Misha’s inner circle, which saves me from much uneasiness,” and Thierry laughed. “A clean slate! I will find my Second and leave that vampire in New York.” Thierry crossed his arms, “New York I know. I know the business and I know the territory. New England is something I don’t know.”
“So, you intend to keep Tranh’s kingdom within your territory?” Eric wasn’t surprised, but there were other considerations.
As if anticipating the direction High King’s mind was taking, Thierry replied, “I will retain it. It is adjacent to New York. There are ties between the kingdoms now. I’ve always been fond of Boston and Misha’s Beacon Hill home will be a convenient base. The treaty with Sanctum will stand, though,” and Thierry waited until Eric acknowledged the gesture. “In fact, I have it in my head to speak with Maude and offer to expand the area over which our neutrality agreement would apply. Maude would still have to buy the actual real estate from her neighbors, but I would give assurance that she would have my support in expanding.”
“And what of the Carolinas?” Thierry went suddenly still and Eric fought to keep his face serious.
“It is my hope that something will be found among Misha’s things that would allow Nabila to return to her kingdom. I have no wish to rule a place so far away,” Thierry was speaking quietly, and giving every indication that the matter was of no consequence.
Eric wasn’t fooled by Thierry’s show of disinterest. “And will you petition to pledge yourself to Louisiana and Arkansas?” he asked the New York King.
“Alas,” Thierry shrugged, “As much as that might be my fondest wish, I fear that after this latest adventure, my Thomas will have little affection to spare me. Your progeny is a greedy and selfish vampire.”
“Too bad,” Eric nodded, “You will just have to cast your sights for an alliance elsewhere.”
“C’est la vie!” Thierry agreed, and with another lower bow, he got into the car and drove away.
When Eric walked back into the house, Thalia was standing in the hall. Eric could hear Pam’s voice and thought she was talking on the phone with Maude. “Things have changed for all of us,” Thalia observed.
“It is not as the old days,” Eric agreed.
“Misha was one of the last of the old ones, aside from you, Viking, and you were always more modern than most of these new Kings and Queens,” and Thalia snorted.
“I don’t know why you scoff,” Eric turned to her. “It is your organization that will benefit most. If there is one thing I now appreciate, it is that we must pay closer attention to human customs.”
“That is in my head as well,” Thalia agreed. “The last of the hold-overs must be brought in line. No more donor pools or blood slaves. We must have different rules about capturing and torturing those who do us harm.”
“It will be a less exciting world,” Eric Northman smiled.
“Will it?” Thalia challenged him, and turning, they headed back into the living room area to await the arrival of Maude.
“Do we have to go downstairs?” Sookie stretched out on her side and then wiggled her way backward until she was spooned against Eric.
It had been two months since Thierry had taken over the New York throne. The fight that resulted in Misha’s final death and the transition of the throne had left echoes.
Pam remained in Sanctum, but they had heard from her that once the child was born, she would return to New Orleans.
The thumb drives Pam had taken from New York had yielded many secrets. Thalia and her experts found that Misha had assembled files on many of the Kings and Queens, including Bartlett Crowe and Phoebe Golden. Thalia had taken care to understand what she was seeing, and then informed the interested parties. The message to all who had been archived and set on Misha’s electronic shelf, awaiting their turn to be exploited was clear: “I know your secrets. Stop doing things that can injure all of us!”
In some cases, what Thalia’s people found was old news, but in others, the damaging information was current, and Thalia spent much time negotiating, and if that failed, outright bullying those whose behaviors could create problems in this new world they were creating.
The second drive Pam had taken from Misha’s desk yielded the remaining documents on the New Orleans donors. When Eric saw the extent of the files, he couldn’t help shuddering in relief. The evidence Meg had collected would have earned him a final death if it had been released to the human police. That night, Eric laid his head against his growing child and swore to Sookie that he would honor his old promise to her, to turn all humans over to human authorities all the rest of the days of his unlife. “I will also see to it that those within my sway do the same,” he told her.
The deleted material on those plots Misha had already triggered was also found on the laptop. Felipe de Castro’s man was able to pick through the protocols and recover much of the data, and among the trashed records he recovered were the falsified documents and emails that had cost Nabila her kingdom. When Thalia informed her, Nabila was so relieved she sagged to the floor. “I owe you a great debt,” Nabila told the fierce vampire once she recovered.
“You owe me nothing,” Thalia told the Queen in exile. “You owe your debt to Thierry. He never doubted you. It was he who sent me the laptop, and he specifically requested that our expert look for information that would prove your innocence.”
That night, Nabila called the New York King, and, for the first time in almost a year, she willingly spoke with him. By the end of the conversation, Nabila confirmed she would return to her kingdom as its reinstated Queen, and Thierry told her he would recommend to the High King that she be reinstated as Clan Chief of Moshup.
The days that stretched before Eric and Sookie never looked so bright, and their happiness in each other reflected their new optimism. “Your Grandfather is coming,” Eric reminded her. “You might have told him you couldn’t see him tonight, but you did agree.”
“What if I just send you?” Sookie asked, and then reached behind her to take Eric’s hand so she could pull his arm around her.
Eric chuckled. “A Queen keeps her commitments,” he scolded her, “And next time you should just say, ‘No.’”
“Spoilsport,” Sookie sighed, and then she rubbed her butt against Eric’s semi-hard cock. Eric found he was almost always at half-mast when he was around his wife these nights. They were more careful in their lovemaking. Their son was growing quickly, and Sookie was finding that most positions were not comfortable, but the increased sensation caused by hormones and the narrowing of her sheath as her pregnancy progressed more than made up for the lack of variety.
“You think to make me the cause for you being late?” Eric growled, but he found he didn’t have the heart to get out of bed. Instead, he brought Sookie’s leg backward across him and, with a dipping motion, entered her again. “Gods!’ he sighed, “You are like a velvet glove around me!” He backed up and then pushed forward, his fangs distending and his breath coming in harsh gasps as he inhaled their combined scents.
It wasn’t that Sookie smelled uncomfortably Fae. Her scent was sweeter, but not so pronounced that Eric felt himself in danger of losing control. What goaded them both, acting as an aphrodisiac, was the increased power of Sookie’s telepathy. They almost never spoke aloud now when they were alone together, except to tease, and when they were making love, their physical joining combined with their mental joining made the experience profound. There were times Eric felt like a young man in his Father’s court again, drunk on the knowledge that fucking was the best thing in the world and every woman was his for the taking, except now it was even better.
Reaching down between her legs, Eric rubbed her pearl and allowed his full pleasure to wash through them. He played his favorite rolodex of memories of the two of them making love, knowing she could see it as clearly as any pornographic movie, and she returned the favor. The disadvantage was that they rarely lasted any length of time, but with the pregnancy nearing term it was probably all to the better.
Taking care not to touch Sookie’s sensitive breasts or hard belly, Eric snaked his other arm up and around just above her waist to hold her to him, and prompted by her mental urging, he slipped his fangs into where her neck joined her shoulder, causing her to scream out, clenching and milking his own orgasm from him.
When Sookie stopped breathing like a steam engine, she asked, ‘Well, ready now?’
‘Ready?’ he sent back, aware his mind felt mushy.
“Niall,” Sookie said out loud.
“Niall, who?” Eric laughed.
Sookie laughed, too, and rolled far enough away that he fell from her, leaving a damp patch on the sheets. “Come on, I’ll get the shower started,” the telepath laughed, shaking her hair to fall further down her back. Eric watched her softly rounded hips, and the sway of her golden locks, and found he couldn’t stop smiling. He set his nose against the damp spot and inhaled deeply. After a half-minute, Sookie called out, “I mean it, Eric! Time to get moving!”
‘You’ve broken me,’ he sent her, and felt her almost immediately start to cross from amusement to aggravation and he moved quickly to join her. Eric had learned that as delicious as his wife could be when she was willing, her mood in this last month could turn on a dime.
She was opening her mouth, doubtless to yell at him again, when he was behind her, taking the shampoo from her hand, and then massaging the soap into her scalp. He felt her relax under his hands and he smiled again.
‘Will Thomas be coming tonight?’ she asked him silently.
‘I don’t think he’s finished making Karin suffer,’ Eric replied, and together they laughed again.
“But Thalia will be here,” Sookie sighed. ‘How many times tonight do you think folks will talk to me and not to my belly?’ It was becoming a source of irritation for the telepath that everyone who came in contact with her never looked her in the eyes. Instead, they addressed all remarks to someplace around her belly button.
Ignoring her, Eric continued, “Cataliades will be here as well, but not until your Grandfather has left.” Eric massaged Sookie’s shoulders and sent her a question when she flinched.
‘It’s nothing,’ she told him. ‘I was moving the furniture around in the nursery. I must have pulled something.’
“Again?” Eric asked aloud.
“Devrah was helping. Truth be told, she did most of the shifting. I just mostly cleaned,” and Sookie leaned into Eric’s thumbs.
“That room is so clean even I can’t smell anything,” Eric gently scolded. He wondered if he should ask Doctor Ludwig about Sookie’s obsession with cleaning and rearranging the nursery, but decided to wait for the arrival of her friend, Tara DuRone. With only a few weeks left until Sookie’s due date, Tara had decided to come down to the City and help with any last minute arrangements. Tara had three children of her own, and she didn’t make Eric feel foolish for asking things he felt he needed to know.
“I can’t help it!” Sookie shrugged, stepping past him to exit the shower and reaching for the towel. “I just find myself in there, re-making the bed, and checking the diapers. I guess I’m just getting excited.”
Hand in hand, they walked through the double doors that led from their chambers into the hallway. Owen and Charles nodded, and Charles headed for the staircase. Eric waited for Sookie to walk first into the elevator, and Saul made a show of getting her seated on the chair that was in the elevator for his own use. “You are just glowing tonight, Miss Sookie,” he told her, and Sookie beamed back.
Niall was waiting for them in the garden space. Eric had left the softer furniture in place even after they moved back onto their renovated floor. Sookie was uncomfortable sitting on hard surfaces, and she liked spending time in the lazy atmosphere of the enclosed garden. On their entrance, Niall turned, wreathed in smiles. Sookie thought he’d been watching the fish playing in their small fountain. “My Granddaughter!” he greeted, but his gaze almost immediately dropped to her belly and he placed his hands on both sides of the child within her before leaning over to kiss her cheek.
“Greetings, Grandfather,” Sookie smiled back. Ever since Mr. Cataliades had pointed out the odd wording in the asset transfer agreements, Sookie had felt cautious around Niall. When Eric and Sookie explained the steps they’d taken to formally name Thalia as guardian to their child, Sookie thought for a moment Niall looked angry, but it passed so quickly, she told herself she was mistaken. Since then, the Prince had done nothing Sookie could see that was odd or tricky, but, still, she couldn’t quite fully trust him.
Eric brought the chess board to sit closer to the couch where the Prince had settled and Devrah herself brought in a tray with fruit punch and ginger cookies. Niall beamed as Eric arranged the pillows on Sookie’s preferred chair. “In all of my many years,” he told them, “This is the most content I believe I have ever been.” Sookie took the hand the Fae offered and allowed Niall to help her lower backward into her seat. As was the Prince’s habit, he leaned forward to place his hands full over her child, lowered his head, and whispered a blessing she could feel tingling through her. It always made her feel wonderful and when she’d asked him about it, Niall told her that the blessing of the Fae was something reserved for the lucky few, and that, in time, she herself would grow into the power to bestow the same upon others.
The game had barely started when there was a sound at the door. It was Mr. Cataliades and he bowed quickly. “I apologize for interrupting…” he started.
For whatever reason, Sookie felt happy to see the demon and she said, “Of course you’re welcome, Desmond. Please! Join us!” as if he was supposed to be there at that hour.
From nowhere and everywhere, Sookie heard, ‘What are they playing at?’ It took everything she had not to jump in surprise, and then Thalia arrived. Thalia had been expected, but when the small vampire walked over to stand close to Mr. Cataliades, Sookie heard, “They have both come to cause trouble! They would do well to guard their tongues and not try to interfere with this!” and Sookie had a clear vision of her son as he would be.
Almost before she could think things through, Sookie turned to the Prince, and said, “What is it that you don’t want Desmond and Thalia to tell me, Grandfather? What is it they know that affects my son?”
“You hear me!” Niall’s eyes widened and with those words, Sookie found herself fully within the Prince’s mind. It was a bright place and cold.
Sookie felt herself standing as though in a large room. She could see the Prince scrambling and scurrying about like a great spider, hiding his thoughts behind other thoughts, but she still caught enough to ask aloud, “What is it, Grandfather, that makes this child so special?” and as soon as the words left her lips, she could hear Niall’s relief that her other child was dead.
The Prince stopped his mental movements, and Sookie could see he knew she’d heard it all. Although she was still in his mind, she could see the Prince who was in the room had risen. Eric rose as well and his fangs ran out. As though from somewhere very far away, Sookie watched as Thalia took a step closer to her Grandfather, and Mr. Cataliades seemed to move closer, too.
“Did you cause it?” Sookie asked from her body’s mouth, but her mind demanded the answer of the Prince in a way that had him leaning away from her. Sookie brought her hands to rest over her child, and she found she could press the Prince harder through her will. “Did you?”
“No!’ Niall’s voice was less steady now. “But…”
“But you knew,” Thalia said out loud. “You knew what Rhodes would mean and still you allowed it to happen.”
In that moment, many things became clear to Sookie. She could see Niall’s face as he spoke with Dermot, proud and dismissive. She could feel his disdain and rejection of their first child, and most damning, she felt his triumph in knowing that this magical child had replaced the other. All of these things were revealed as she stood in the open spaces of Niall’s mind. She was aware that the Prince was trying to expel her, but it felt less than a gnat flying against the window.
Eric hissed and started to move toward Niall, the chessboard tipping and the pieces scattering over the tiles. Sookie turned to her husband, realizing Eric had shared some part of this with her. She knew Eric meant to kill Niall, and, for once, the thought of ending another creature didn’t bother her.
Niall was almost physically twisting from side to side, and Sookie understood that somehow she was holding him in place. It was all unfolding before her in a bright, slow motion, when the Prince finally slipped some part of the hold she had on him, and shouted “Stop!” It was enough to cause Sookie to question, and that moment of doubt allowed the grip she had over the Fae Prince to loosen. Niall dropped all his guises. He stood revealed before them, a creature of light and terrible beauty.
Turning toward Eric, he snarled, “You think to kill me, Oath Breaker? Who told you of my Granddaughter? Who steered you toward her? I am the reason you stand here today, High King, and her mate! When they came to stake you, who came to your aid? Who saved your kingdom?”
“You killed my child!” Eric replied, his voice shaking, and he stepped closer, yet it was not the Prince, but Sookie who stopped him.
“No, Eric!” Sookie said sadly. In all of this, Sookie hadn’t never risen from her seated position. The stress and tension all around her caused her own Fae features to manifest, but, for some reason, she felt utterly calm. Turning her head, Sookie realized could ‘hear’ everyone around her now. It was more than just ‘hearing’ Thalia’s and Desmond’s thoughts. She could hear what they knew, and the ties and promises that had caused them to hold their secrets, and she could hear the guilt they felt in that knowledge.
Sookie could hear her Grandfather as well, and she saw his deep and terrible certainty that in doing what he had done, he saved them all.
A single tear slipped down her face as she said, “No, Eric, you can’t kill him! He’s my kin, and killing him will destroy your ability to command the loyalty of others.” Sookie wasn’t entirely sure what she meant, but she knew it was true. Eric was in her head, sharing her knowledge, and it allowed him to step away from the Prince. Her Viking came to stand beside her and Sookie extended her hand. Eric helped her to stand from the chair and in the moment it took for her to collect herself, she heard Niall’s smug pleasure at what he was sure was her softer nature reasserting itself. The Prince thought it was her weakness, and Niall’s derision helped to guide her next words.
“You are no longer welcome in this house,” Sookie told her Grandfather. “I don’t wish to see you again. You are not to return here, or anywhere near me nor my family from today on.” Sookie heard the words loud and harsh in the room, but she also heard the words being said aloud within the space of the Prince’s mind, and Sookie knew that what she was doing was magic.
This wasn’t a magic that she had been taught, it wasn’t some trick or technique. What Sookie was casting was ancient and pure. It was the feet of the Earth Mother, and the spine of the All Mother. It was the prayer of every woman who ever carried a child under her heart, and it was the certainty of the Crone who met you at life’s end. She felt her words echo and then interlace into a barrier stronger than steel, and, from somewhere outside her, Sookie heard Niall whimper, “Please, Sookie!”
Sookie came back to herself again, and she saw the Prince was on his knees below her. She could feel his shock was real as he begged, “Please, Granddaughter, do not deny me this!” and the Prince’s eyes lifted to fasten on her belly. Sookie saw a vision of Niall and a blond-haired woman sitting in a green field. There were two babies with them. One was quiet, but one was crawling over the Prince, bold and unafraid, and Sookie felt Niall’s sharp yearning.
Yearning turned to grief, real grief from the Prince, and Sookie felt something within her urging her to mercy. She knew somehow that if she didn’t allow some hope the Prince would be gone from her more surely than when he had taken his people back to his realm, but this time there would be no coming back.
Eric’s hand was on her shoulder, and she covered it with her own as she said, “When my son reaches the age of majority, I promise you I will ask him if he wishes to meet you. If he does, I’ll send word through the Pythoness or Finn in Nebraska. This I offer you, but until then, you will be barred from seeing him or being anywhere near us. There will be wards in place, and I will make it my life’s work to protect me and mine from spending one second around you.”
“Granddaughter…” Niall sighed.
“I’m not,” Sookie shook her head. “I don’t know who you are,” and with as much dignity as she could muster, Sookie turned around, showing her back to the Prince.
There was a flash of light and a sound like distant thunder, and the Prince was gone. “Call Octavia,” Sookie said quietly as she stepped into Eric’s arms. “I want the wards up right away.”
They all stood still then, Thalia and Mr. Cataliades, Eric and Sookie. After a minute, Thalia started forward and said “I am…” and Sookie knew she was about to confess.
Sookie wasn’t in that in-between place anymore, and her read of Thalia’s mind was fading, but it didn’t take telepathy to know that sometimes truth could damage as surely as lies, and Sookie knew that confessing what she knew would do that kind of damage to Thalia’s relationship with Eric.
Turning from Eric, Sookie took Thalia’s arms, interrupting her words, “You are our friend, Thalia, and more.” When Thalia looked as though she’d continue, Sookie pulled at her until she leaned forward, and then Sookie rather awkwardly hugged the vampire. Both women were short, so Thalia was forced to lean over Sookie’s pregnancy to make contact, and it was so ungainly that Sookie giggled. “You did what you had to,” Sookie told her quietly, “And Eric and I will always be grateful to you.” When Thalia glanced at Eric, Sookie shook her head just a bit and Thalia straightened, nodding back.
“So, you can read us all, then?” Mr. Cataliades asked.
“Well, for a minute or two,” Sookie nodded, turning her eyes to Eric. “I can’t explain it, but I’m kind of happy it’s going away.”
Sookie could feel that Eric knew something was left unsaid, but Sookie knew he wouldn’t press it, and she was grateful for his trust. “Things will be as they were destined,” he said out loud, and making a point of just looking into her eyes, he pulled her against him.
That night, as they lay in their sanctuary, Eric sighed again, and Sookie could tell that he was still troubled, his curiosity picking at him. “If it really bothers you, you can ask me,” she told him, stroking the fine hair that sprinkled his chest.
“No,” Eric sighed. “No, I am old enough to know that sometimes ignorance is a gift, and you, Älskade, have been a giver of many of my best gifts.”
Sookie couldn’t help the quick smile that formed on her lips as she turned toward him and wrapped her small hand around his cock, “And what would some of those be?”
“Your sass,” Eric laughed, and placing his hand over hers, guided her in the right rhythm. “Your clever mind. Your beauty,” and he sighed as she added a small twist of her wrist. “Your creative imagination,” he growled, and he pulled her forward, helping her to move astride him.
As she sank down, both of them sighing, Eric reached up to run his thumb along her full, lower lip. “When I last saw Karin, she thanked me for her life,” Eric told Sookie. “She called it her wonderful life.”
“And what about you?” Sookie asked. “Is this your wonderful life?”
“Oh, yes,” Eric sighed. “More than I could ever imagine.”
They laughed then, and made love. They spoke of their future, of meetings and alliances, friends and upcoming visits. They spoke of the things that two people in love will always share, and as they laced their hands over the son who would soon meet them, they knew that the future held nothing but light for the Viking King and his Fairy Queen.
Author’s Note: And so it concludes. There will be an Epilogue which I’ve written mentally a couple of times, so should find its way to paper by next week. If you are curious about Fintan’s birth (which would happen within a few days), I wrote about it in When It Began last year.
I have so enjoyed this journey with you. A special thanks to both Ms Buffy and Breathesgirl for their editing and suggestions. A shout out to American Android whose art is the front-piece for this story. And thank you for reading.