Author’s Note: So, it is done! Won’t lie, it’s hard to walk away from this world, even knowing there are other worlds and other families of characters to explore. I have a premise and a glorious piece of art to craft around for the next story (Thank you, Gyllene). But for now, I’ll be taking some time off from fiction writing to read the fanfiction of others (about time!), finish replying to reviews, and converting my Swimming stories to pdf and posting them on my WordPress site for download, if you’re interested. I’ve also decided to take a crack at some original fiction, and we’ll see if I get off page one with it.
In my real life I also write (nonfiction), but recently I’ve added teaching others about my field, which requires both preparation and some travel. For those who follow me on Facebook you’ve probably noticed the uptick in posts from places other than New England. All my way of saying you may not see anything from me for a bit, but don’t think I’m gone; simply germinating.
Thank all of you for reading, and I hope our trails cross again.
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.
The birds started to sing in a great, noisy chorus as the sun peeked over the horizon. The sounds were still new to the small boy. His life until recently had been spent between the great quiet of his rooms and the mechanized sounds of the city outside. He rolled over and pulled himself into a sitting position, staring at the soft slant of light that filtered through the window.
It was quiet here in a way he could sense all through him. When he was in the other place that until now was the only place he knew, he could feel the many creatures around him. It gave him energy and sometimes it jangled so much that crying felt best. Here he could barely sense any creatures. He looked around him, his blue eyes large in his pale face, and then there was a face above him. It wasn’t someone he recognized, but he felt that this person was supposed to be here, and Fintan Northman smiled.
“Well, my little man,” Niall Brigant sighed, “It would appear you prefer the light!” Niall glanced toward the hallway. The Prince knew that on the floor just above them the Viking had fallen into his day death and his Granddaughter was also fast asleep. “What say we go someplace where we won’t disturb your parents?” the Fae Prince smiled, and lifting the willing child into his arms, he willed them to the field that stretched over the place where Bill Compton’s house once stood.
It was six months since Fintan’s birth, and in all this time the Northmans had not returned to Bon Temps. Now that had changed. The excuse was the occasion of one of Jason Stackhouse’s children having a birthday. At first the couple was only going to visit for a day, but, after some discussion, Sookie and Eric decided it was time that the cousins had a chance to spend time together, so the decision was made to re-open the country house and to stay in the neighborhood for several months.
It was the opportunity Niall Brigant had been awaiting.
Since the time of his banning, Niall had focused all of his attention on the thin connection he held with his Granddaughter. He felt Sookie’s yearning for Bon Temps and he felt her desire to reconnect with family. The Prince was sure it was only a matter of time before she was drawn back to this place, and so with much magic and great focus, Niall slowly built a tunnel through the wards and protections, but only here.
Niall had to hand it to her. Sookie’s magic, though unskilled, was formidable. It was only because Dermot built this place that the crack that Niall exploited existed at all. The other factor had been that Sookie herself had created most of the wards around this property. Had Sookie continued with her training, she would have learned that the hardest Fae to keep outside of your protections were family. Where there was a blood connection, there was always a vulnerability that allowed a family member, particularly a strong family member, to slide along your spells and interweave themselves into the very fabric of your magic. After all, below the surface, all blood-connected family in the Fae world were truly one.
“It is all very different from anything you’ve seen, isn’t it?” Niall smiled as he watched his Great-great-grandson turn his head first one way and then another, mesmerized by the green of the grass and the sight of leaves moving in the breeze. The child’s eyes were wide and his mouth open. “Of course, this is nothing compared to the beauty of the Fae realm,” Niall chuckled, tapping the small boy’s nose, “but you will be the judge of that yourself one day,” and Niall brought his face close to Fintan’s, earning a drooling smile.
When a bird flew by, pulling the baby’s attention, Niall reached into the child, searching for any sign of special awareness or the presence of magic, but there was nothing. What Niall could feel was that Fintan was emotionally mature for his age, handling the changes around him with great calm. The Prince probed further, and he was certain he could feel the child’s spark, strong but dormant. It was as it should be. There were times when the children of the Fae came into their powers as infants but, fortunately, those cases were rare. When it did happen, it was often difficult for the child and those around him. Niall heard the stories of Sookie’s childhood. She had been damaged by the early manifestation of her telepathy and Niall was pleased to think Fintan would be spared any part of that.
Most Fae started to manifest their gifts once they reached puberty, and then, as they entered the long, endless summer of their lives, their gifts would continue to appear and grow in strength, one after another, if they were fortunate. Niall was certain as he beamed at the sturdy boy in his lap that Fintan Northman would be most fortunate in both his abilities and his gifts.
The child looked up at him, a questioning look forming on his face, so Niall summoned butterflies to fly around him. The ruse worked, and Niall used the child’s delight to distract him while Niall pulled some of the clothes from the baby. “Let’s see what we’ve got,” the Prince chuckled.
As he manipulated arms from shirt sleeves and feet from the footed garment, the Prince marveled at how the old habits of handling babies came back to him so quickly.
“You are your Father’s son,” Niall told the baby as he ran his tapered fingers over long, plump limbs. “There’s nothing small about you!” The fairy ran his fingers over the child’s shoulders and paused over the small, bony protrusions centered in each shoulder blade. “That’s interesting! I don’t think they will spontaneously emerge, but I suspect you could manifest those later if you chose,” he said, half to himself.
Pulling himself from his reverie and focusing on young Fintan’s face, he said, “You will be the first among us to reveal yourself in a winged form in generations. Perhaps it is your Father’s gift of flight that has triggered it,” and the Prince brought his face close again so that Fintan smiled and touched the Prince’s face with his chubby hands.
When the baby looked away, his hand reaching for another butterfly that remained just out of his grasp, the Prince placed his finger in Fintan’s mouth, running the tip over the child’s gums and the roof of his mouth. “Fangs buds” the Prince sniffed. “They shouldn’t emerge until later though,” he assured the child who’d become more solemn as if trying to figure out what this man was doing, putting his finger in his mouth.
As Niall started to withdraw his finger, Fintan bit down with his first teeth, causing the Prince to start a little. Fintan only had three teeth and all on the bottom, but they were sharp and he broke the Prince’s skin. Rather than withdraw, Niall held his bleeding index finger in the child’s mouth, waiting to see what he would do. Fintan’s eyes went wide and grabbing Niall’s hand with his own, he started sucking strongly. “So, blood calls you, too,” and Niall’s smile slipped, “Another gift from your Father.”
Niall could feel his own essence sparking a bit within the child as his blood entered him, and, fearing that it would be detected later, the Prince pulled his finger away. This time Fintan made a sound that was clearly a protest. “As well you should!” Niall said approvingly. “Never let others take what you want,” and Niall tilted his head a little as he said, “Now let’s see if there is anything of your mother about you.”
Niall catalogued Fintan’s slightly almond-shaped eyes and arched brows. When Fintan turned his head again, the Prince frowned. “What’s this?” he asked, and ran his finger over the slight fold of skin on the top of one of the child’s ears. It was subtle, the fold, but Niall knew immediately what he was seeing. With a slight smile, he manifested a glow in his hand and then in his index finger. He stroked the top of each of Fintan’s ears, first one and then the other. “There!” he sighed after a moment. “They will heal now, little King.” Fintan stopped grabbing at the shiny watch that peeped from Niall’s pocket to stare at the Prince. “I don’t think your misguided mother will have your ears butchered a second time,” the Prince assured the baby, his voice serious. “It will take a few months, but your natural shape will reassert itself. Your parents will just have to allow your hair to grow, as is our custom.”
Niall smiled and hummed as he started to redress the boy. “I think we can visit for a while,” the Prince said in that curious sing-song adults use with small children. “Your parents will sleep for some time,” and leaning over to tap the child’s nose, Niall said, “They made your sister last night, although they don’t know it yet. It will be our little secret!”
Fintan liked this man. He liked the way this man made him feel and he laughed in delight. He pulled at the man’s hand and the man laughed, too. The Prince tickled and made certain to support the child’s back and was rewarded by whole-hearted laughter before the child started wiggling to escape the Prince’s lap.
Niall allowed young Fintan to crawl from him, the child tumbling to the grass, but he frowned when he saw the child’s reaction. “You’ve not been allowed to touch the ground?” Niall asked. It was clear that Fintan was not sure what to make of the texture of grass. He pulled back from it, trying to scramble back into the Prince’s lap, while minimizing his contact with the blades. When that failed, Fintan became still, a worried look on his brow.
The Prince found he was angry to think that any future King of the Fae World should not have been given regular contact with the Earth from birth. Niall ground his teeth, worrying that Sookie had allowed herself to become so much a part of the vampire world that she was forgetting her duties in teaching her child about the world of sun and growing things. When Niall’s thoughts turned to plotting over how and who could be used to remind his wayward Granddaughter of her obligations, he realized Fintan had stopped squirming and fussing.
Niall glanced down to find his Great-Grandson was balanced stock still on his hands and knees, staring at the Prince. Fintan’s startling blue eyes seemed to accuse the Prince and Niall felt his irritation soften. The child’s reaction was puzzling, so Niall reached out again, but still found nothing more than the soft, unformed thoughts of an infant. Still, there was something strangely knowing about Fintan Northman’s gaze, and Niall decided to watch his thoughts more carefully in future.
The sun was starting to climb a little higher and Niall knew that the day would become uncomfortably humid, but now, in the early hours after dawn, the damp on the grass kept things cool, so handling the child was comfortable for both of them.
Niall grabbed the child’s hands and helped him to stand, and then the Prince laughed at the expression on Fintan’s face as he tried to make sense of the feeling of grass under his feet. “You will be running through this soon, I promise you!” Niall told him. Fintan gurgled and wind-milled his feet then, mimicking walking, and Niall stood in one graceful movement, helping his Great-great-grandson to feel that he was, indeed, moving under his own power. After a few steps, Fintan loosened his grip and fell firmly on his backside, but, rather than cry, he laughed a deep, throaty laugh, and Niall fell onto the ground beside him, all dignity set aside. “You are a delight!” he told the baby. “Everything I hoped for and more!”
Fintan crawled toward his Great-Great-Grandfather, trying to pull himself up into the Prince’s lap again, and Niall accommodated him by lying down and lifting Fintan to lie directly on his chest. Almost immediately, the young boy settled down, his head resting over the Prince’s heart, and he screwed his thumb into his mouth. “You are a thinker,” Niall praised him. “You will make a magnificent King!” Fintan squirmed, seeming to want closer contact, and Niall opened his own shirt, allowing Fintan to make contact with his skin. The baby sighed and went still, and Niall could feel a connection between them.
“Yes,” he told Fintan, “That is how it always feels when you are with your kin. You will find joy in contact with others, not like those cold vampires, but you will find that it is in your contact with the Fae you are most happy.”
As Fintan seemed to calm, becoming almost drowsy, Niall said, “I will have to return you to your bed soon. Your mother will not sleep much longer. She will wonder why you are not calling for your breakfast, but I will tell you stories while we are together, stories of your future and stories of your family.”
The Prince waved his hand, and on the field in front of them an image formed of a tall, thin woman whose hair was the color of spun corn silk and whose eyes were ice blue. ‘That is your sister, Adele,” Niall whispered to Fintan, kissing his soft head, “She will be your greatest ally and your strongest warrior. She will embrace her vampire heritage and she will join with your Father’s other progeny. You will not always see eye to eye. She will be too quick to anger for you, but you will never find another who will be so loyal.” The image in front of them shifted. When Pam Ravenscroft joined the young woman, Fintan made a hooting noise of recognition. “Your sister will not always be so nice as she is today,” Niall whispered. “She will become hard, harder than your other sister, Karin.” Karin walked into view and though Niall could feel Fintan’s interest, the baby did not show the same level of enthusiasm as he had for Pam.
The images shifted again and Eric Northman appeared. “Da!” Fintan lifted his head. “Da!” he said again and pointed before returning his fist to his mouth.
“Yes,” Niall chuckled, “Your Father. He will remain High King long after he wishes the title gone. It will be your mother who will make it all tolerable.” Now Sookie stepped into the image, her belly heavy. “They will figure out the magic of their bed,” Niall laughed, “and they will decide they enjoy children enough to make more.” Niall absently rubbed Fintan’s back as he said, “My house will increase, far beyond any imagining. Brigant blood will hold sway over a far greater territory than even I thought possible.”
“Da,” Fintan mumbled again around his thumb.
“Yes, Fintan Brigant,” Niall said as he kissed the child’s head again. The Prince looked at the sky and taking Fintan in his hands, rolled carefully into first a sitting and then a standing position. “It is time, little King. We need to get you back.”
With barely a blink, Niall transitioned them both back to the bedroom in the Bon Temps house. He placed Fintan in the crib and said, “Now, this will be our secret, my boy. I will see you tomorrow,” and with a quick blink of light, Niall was gone.
Fintan looked around, wondering where the man had gone, but before he could really search, the door opened and Mama stepped through. “Well, I figured I’d have heard from you before now!” she said with her smiling face. Fintan lifted his arms and she had him all snuggled against her. She pulled his clothes apart and took the warm diaper from him. He didn’t like it, the quick change in temperature, but his Mama’s hands were quick and sure and he was soon in a drier diaper and being carried to the chair that meant breakfast. On cue, his tummy grumbled, and as he latched onto his mother, she said, “What is this?” She was wiping something from under his chin. It was red and she rubbed it between two fingers. “This looks like blood,” she said, and she pulled him from her and turned his head one way and then another, but when he started to wail, she stopped, and he resumed his meal.
“Well, never mind,” she said, and in that moment the sun shifted, catching them both in a beam of light.
Fintan was sitting on the soft rug in the long, light room near Mama. He couldn’t see her, but he could hear her humming. In another minute, she was walking through the hallway with a small bowl in her hand. “Hungry?” Fintan wasn’t sure what it meant, but he could smell something that made him remember how hollow he felt and he lifted his arms to her. “Just a minute,” she called and walked back into the other room. Fintan opened his mouth to protest, but then he walked through the same door.
“Da!” the baby cried, and laughing, raised his arms again.
“Yes, min son,” Eric Northman smiled, “Da!” The vampire leaned down and scooped up his boy under the arms, raising him high and tossing him into the air. Fintan laughed and Eric did it again.
“Cut that out!” Sookie scolded, swatting the Viking on his all-too-perfect behind. “I’m just going to feed him and if you get him all riled up he’ll throw it back as quick as he puts it down!” Sookie was already dressed for the party. She was wearing one of her older sundresses, and although it still pulled at the chest and hips, it fit better than it had a couple weeks ago.
Eric leaned down to kiss his wife and when she tried to cut it short, he shifted their son to one arm, pulled her closer, and claimed her mouth until she stopped struggling and sagged a little against him. “See?” Eric smiled evilly, “Isn’t that better?”
“You’d think after last night I wouldn’t have any more get up and go left,” Sookie said with a sparkle in her eye, “but you sure have the cure!”
“There is still time before we have to go to your brother’s house,” Eric said, and Sookie could see the interested look in his eye.
“Eric!” she exclaimed, “Fintan has to be fed, I have to finish icing the chocolate cake, and you still have to dress! We’re supposed to be there in two hours!”
“Plenty of time,” Eric let his voice drop, and he started backing Sookie toward the kitchen counter.
“Plenty of time for what?” Pam asked from the door.
“Nothing!” Sookie was blushing, and she ducked under Eric’s arm and headed to the refrigerator.
“Ma!” Fintan cried out and lifted his arms toward Pam.
“I can’t believe you get that!” Sookie set juice on the counter. “I’ve tried to get him to acknowledge me and you get ‘Ma’!”
“And who is your favorite?” Pam sidled up toward Eric and accepted the smiling child into her own arms. Nuzzling and cooing, Pam took Fintan to his high chair, and then turned toward Sookie, her face registering her disgust at the two bowls of cooling food. “What is this crap?” she asked.
“Peas and chicken stew,” Sookie answered. “You’ve seen the chicken one before. He likes it.”
“You are cute,” Pam told Fintan, bringing her face in close, “but you do have some disgusting habits,” still, she spooned some of the stew into the baby’s open and waiting mouth anyway.
“Do you think he smells more Fae?” Eric asked. The Viking was leaning against the counter, his arms crossed.
Pam leaned over and sniffed, “Yes, he does. Not so you’d notice right away.”
“Well, I am pretty much Fae now,” Sookie shrugged. “Guess it was bound to happen a little,” and turning to Eric, she said, “He can’t be all yours! I get to have a little bit of my own!”
“That’s strange,” Pam said. Eric and Sookie looked over to see her running her finger along the top of Fintan’s ear. “I think the ridge is back.”
“Really?” Sookie asked, and screwing the cap on the baby cup, she walked over to run her own finger over Fintan’s ear. Glancing at Eric, the telepath said, “I think Pam’s right. Could his ears regenerate?”
“He is part-vampire,” Eric cocked his head to the side. “We regenerate body parts we lose. It is possible.”
“Well, Hell!” Sookie sighed, handing the cup into Fintan’s extended hands. “I was hoping he’d be able to blend with all the other kids. Guess we’ll have to figure something out.”
“We could have tutors,” Eric suggested.
“I want him to have a real childhood,” Sookie said sadly, “With friends, and homework, and after-school.”
“Then stay here in backwoods land,” Pam drawled, popping another spoonful of what she obviously regarded as slime into Fintan’s open mouth. “He’ll have cousins here to defend him and the DuRone progeny. Even those Bellefleurs will make sure he’s okay.”
“I did love growing up here,” Sookie nodded, “Except for the people, but, like you said, he’d have lots of relatives and friends who wouldn’t see anything strange,” and Sookie tapped the end of Fintan’s nose, an action that always seemed to make him smile.
“He could have a brother or sister closer to his own age to keep him company,” Eric was looking at Fintan as he said the words, and Sookie could feel that although the Viking sounded as if he was joking, he wasn’t really.
“Well, I suppose he could, Eric,” Sookie rolled her eyes, “but I’d like to lose the baby fat from this one first, thank you very much!”
Pushing off the counter, Eric stalked toward her, taking on that slow, sexy roll he used when he was hunting or threatening, “You are finally soft and rounded, Min Hustru,” he said, his voice a low growl. “I would keep you this way forever,” and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her back against him. “No sharp edges to poke me and places that fit my hands,” and he opened his large hand in front of Sookie’s face and then moved it slowly toward her chest as if to illustrate, but Sookie was having none of it!
Pushing his hand away from its clear target, she said, “You know I like the idea of another baby, too, but right now we have to get ready to leave.” Glancing at her son, who, in spite of Pam’s best efforts, was wearing his dinner, Sookie said, “Pam, if you wouldn’t mind giving Finn a bath? I’ve got to finish this cake,” and she glanced again at Mrs. Bellefleur’s famous cake, half-iced on the counter.
“I will take my son for a shower,” Eric announced. With a few deft motions, Fintan was in his Father’s arms. “Come, son,” the Viking smiled at the baby, “We’ll discuss names for your new sibling.”
“I’ll have to get those shots again,” Sookie reminded him. “I’ll smell!”
“Worth it!” Eric hissed, stealing another kiss before vamping from the room, the sound of Fintan’s laughter loud and strong.
“He is serious,” Pam said, her eyebrow raised.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Sookie sighed. “I think he’s decided he wants an army.”
Pam frowned, “That seems out of character…” but then she said, “yet perhaps it is part of his transition away from the way of vampires.”
“What do you mean?” Sookie wasn’t sure why she felt that Pam’s remark sounded the littlest bit disloyal, but it did.
“All the new rules, all the deference we are required to show to humans. All I’m saying is that as High King, Eric is making us more human every day. Perhaps he thinks by having a family with children who grow as human children do, it will help us blend away our differences even more.”
“I don’t think that mainstreaming is what he’s thinking about!” Sookie exclaimed.
“Perhaps not,” Pam shrugged. “But, then again, when have either of you ever followed the rules?”
“I guess you’re right,” Sookie smiled, and turning back to the cake, she thought, ‘And I wouldn’t have it any other way.’