Author’s Notes: I hope this day, which is a holiday in the United States, finds you well. The purpose of this holiday, Thanksgiving, in this country is to commemorate all the ways in which we are fortunate in our lives. We spend time with those who are important to us and share stories of our lives. We call each other and we share a large meal that is traditionally orchestrated around a big bird. There are football games to watch, and in my case, a brisk hike out under the bare-limbed trees. I hope all of you find many blessings in the year to come.
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 applause when Eric kissed his Queen was polite. Eric and Sookie walked hand in hand to the table that held the bound contract.
“Ladies first,” Eric hip-checked her as he handed her the pen. “Oh, and what name are you going to use to sign the contract?”
Sookie squinted up at him. She was starting to find her Viking’s joke less funny, “Mrs. Eric Northman?” she asked.
“Mrs. Eric Northman!” he said with more than a hint of that gloating tone Pam was talking about less than an hour ago. He leaned over her, watching her stumble through the unfamiliar loops and twirls. He took the pen from her hand almost before she was finished and signed ‘Eric Northman’ just below her own sloppy signature.
As soon as he stood the Pythoness intoned, “This covenant is sacred for two hundred years!” and struck her staff on the ground. There was a hiss from some, probably those who hadn’t heard about the extended time period, and Eric took Sookie’s hand to lead her from the stage.
The doors to the hall were unbarred and then opened by the guards. While there wasn’t exactly a stampede for the doors, the number of those leaving as opposed to walking forward was noticeable.
Bartlett was the first to greet them as they descended the stairs. Eric gave the correct bow to his Clan Chief, pulling Sookie with him. As Bartlett inclined his head in return, Sookie glanced around them. They were surrounded by familiar faces, but there were other monarchs she had met during this Summit who were absent. Beside her Eric shifted and tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow, drawing her closer to him. “Congratulations to you both! It seems only yesterday it was our pledging,” and Bartlett turned to smile warmly at Russell Edgington, ”Of course, ours was different.”
There was something off about the way Bartlett was speaking. It almost seemed designed to place a distance into the conversation. Feeling odd, Sookie fell back on her manners and plastering a smile on her face she said, “I remember it was the first pledging I’d ever seen. It was different in some ways, but it was the same in the ways that count. We could all see how much you two really loved each other. It made it real special.”
Bartlett’s smile warmed, his eyes never leaving his mate’s, “It is still one of the happiest days of my existence.”
Russell took Bartlett’s hand in his own before turning back to Eric, “It was an interesting twist you put on our ancient tradition.”
Pam spoke up, “Well, you know what they say, something old, something new…”
“Of course, the human tradition!” Bartlett’s smile became more forced. “The exchanging of rings, that was a human touch as well.”
Sookie’s smile faltered a bit, “It can be, although I don’t think it was human ceremonies that Eric had in mind,” and she glanced up at her Viking.
“I was not thinking about human ceremonies,” Eric acknowledged. “When I was still human we exchanged torques. No, I was thinking of our vampire traditions. I wished us each to wear one link of a matching chain.”
“Oh,” Bartlett’s eyes became a touch warmer, “I can see that. Almost too precious, declaring each the pet of the other,” and he winked at Russell who shook his head.
“Well, I could see that becoming a tradition,” Maude was all smiles. She elbowed Rasul who was standing beside her, “Don’t you think? As possessive as we are it seems like it might catch on.”
Rasul shrugged, “It would interfere with handling a sword.” The noncommittal way he said it told Sookie he thought it a bad idea but was too polite to say.
Sookie turned her head to find Pam watching her. The telepath could tell that her vampire sister had something in mind, and as soon as there was a lull in the conversation, Pam drawled, “By the way,” Pam turned to Rasul, her eyebrow raised in that way that resembled her Maker, “I don’t think you’ve met the newest member of our family.”
Sookie couldn’t think what Pam was getting at, but the vampire turned back to face her and was obviously waiting for her to say something. “What?” Sookie asked. Pam pursed her lips and rocked back on her heels, waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop.
Beside her, Eric nudged a bit, “I believe that Pam wishes you to introduce yourself, Lover.” And then Sookie knew.
The telepath found her eyes narrowing at her vampire sister. From his place beside Pam, Jason shrugged, “Don’t look at me, Sis! You agreed to this.”
Sookie’s lip seemed to stick out further and she had to bite it to keep her jaw from clenching. If Eric hadn’t had her hand secured so tightly in his own she would have put her hands on her hips. She could see the satisfaction written all over her vampire’s face. “We are going to talk about this later!” she said tightly and then she turned to Rasul, gave an expert head nod and said, “Hello, Rasul, I’m Sookie Northman, pleased to meet you.”
Maude started to laugh. For his part, Rasul looked confused so Pam added, “You know, Eric Northman’s wife.” She turned back to Sookie, “Right?”
“Why yes, Pam,” Sookie said in her best Southern simper, “I am Eric Northman’s wife.”
“Oh honey!” Maude laughed, “You better get used to saying that because I have the feeling it’s going to be the catchphrase of the evening!”
The Pythoness disappeared as soon as the lights came up. Mr. Cataliades walked down the stairs, his briefcase in hand. Sookie assumed the attorney had the contract and he confirmed it when he held up the case, saying, “I will secure this in my room and file it first thing in the morning.” He smiled at Sookie, his eyes crinkling at the corners, “You look beautiful, my dear, and every inch the Princess you are. Fintan would have been very proud. I must leave now to give an accounting to the Prince. I look forward to seeing you in Nebraska.” He turned enough to include Eric, “Both of you. Your Majesties,” and then bowed again before leaving.
“It would appear that there are some things that fate ordains,” Felipe’s bow was fluid. Sookie couldn’t help admiring Felipe de Castro. His dark hair curled just so against the crisp white collar of his shirt. He wore a thin mustache these days and it gave him a rakish look. He smiled directly at the telepath, making a point of crossing his hands in front, keeping them in full view, “I will never forget the sight of you that night in Louisiana.” He turned to wink at Eric, “You remember that night, don’t you, Eric? We were discussing your Queen, although she was still working in restaurants then.” Sookie could feel something cold settle low in her stomach and she realized with a start that she was feeling Eric. “I don’t recall the exact particulars of the conversation,” the Narayana Clan Chief continued smoothly, “probably bargaining over her fate,” and Sookie felt the cold thing move almost as if it had more substance than an emotion should, “but we were interrupted by Sigebert.” Felipe’s face was relaxed, his mouth smiling, but his eyes as he looked at Sookie were sharp.
“You saved me that night, do you recall?” Sookie could feel those around her becoming still in that creepy, vampire way.
“I hit Sigebert with my car,” Sookie nodded.
‘Twice!” Felipe agreed, “You were magnificent! I should have known then that you were destined for great things,” he nodded again. “One thing I did find out that night was how devoted the North Man was to you. Did he tell you then, that you had won his heart?” Sookie could feel her smile moving into Crazy Sookie intensity as the cold coil within her shifted and turned. “Yes!” and Felipe shifted his eyes back to Eric, “These hearts that we bury so deeply that we tell ourselves they are as dead as our bodies, they are not often engaged, but when they are, well…” and he turned to smile at Angie, “it makes these nights inevitable, I suppose.” Angie smiled politely, but her eyes seemed to be taking Sookie’s measure. “I am, of course, very pleased for the both of you. You have overcome many obstacles. The Ancient Pythoness herself has given her approval. It must seem like an ancient tale come to life,” and then the King’s mouth opened in an ‘o’ of delight and he clapped his hands once, “A fairy tale!” he laughed. “Of course!”
Angie laughed beside him and the others who stood around smiled politely at the Narayana’s Chief’s joke.
Felipe turned to Eric and shrugged, “Yes, Viking, it would seem that fate would play with us. Our places in each other’s lives seems destined. I, for one, will not fight the inevitable. It would seem that I am stuck with you, and I find now that I am finally reconciled that we should be allies and not rivals,” and Felipe de Castro bowed again. He waited until Eric bowed in return and Sookie lowered her head as well.
Sookie could almost feel the tension around her lessen and there was a sigh from at least one, but the cold coil that Sookie was starting to recognize as hatred was still there.
Sookie found herself looking into Angie’s cold eyes when, from across the hall, the music started. “I need to change before we go into the ball, Lover,” Eric said. Sookie looked at him and caught a glimpse of his alabaster chest in the shift of the robe. She remembered he was shirtless and figured the blood that was drawn when Thalia cut him had soaked his pants. The cold feeling in the pit of her stomach was joined by Eric’s need for blood. He fed earlier, but between the bloodletting and the stress of the evening she wasn’t surprised he was feeling peckish. When she caught his eye she saw his recognition so he flustered her by sending a different kind of hunger through their bond, one that made her blush.
Stan hustled forward to join the monarchs that surrounded them. Sookie figured the Texas monarch had left right after the ceremony, but now was returning, “Congratulations!” Stan smiled broadly, his hands moving to make the word even more expansive. “This is so great! You have the luck of the Fae with you! Guess I should prepare for better than expected profits this year.”
“I’m not certain how strong that luck is,” Eric watched Stan with hooded eyes, “The magic of the Fae has weakened with their leaving this world.” Then Eric’s eyebrow rose as he glanced down at Sookie, “It could be that their luck won’t extend any further than the gift of my lovely Queen.” Sookie found herself remembering her conversation with Mr. Cataliades in Connecticut. The attorney told her then that the protection of the Fae would only extend to Eric under a particular circumstance.
Eric’s arm tightened around her and Sookie glanced up at him, her heart warming, and then she saw it. He was watching her expectantly. Sookie could feel her jaw tightening, but she turned to the Texas King and said brightly, “I’m very pleased to be Eric’s wife. I guess you’ll be calling me Sookie Northman from now on.” Her Viking’s satisfaction washed over her and then almost as if it had never happened, the cold coil in the pit of her stomach was gone. Sookie found herself looking at the self-congratulatory look on Eric’s face and while it annoyed the Hell out of her, there was a small part of her that was happy for him.
“You did win a prize in terms of mates,” Stan said, all gallantry, “but I’m betting that having the Sky Fae backing your action makes a difference that benefits all your partners,” and he smiled a little too broadly.
There were more unknown faces around them now. Some looked familiar but others were not. The way they were clustered, Sookie guessed that these were the Sheriffs and other members of Amun retinues. Eric’s own Sheriffs came forward. Thomas bowed in a way that made him look like he’d just stepped out of a romance novel and Sookie had to fight back a giggle. Karin stood beside him and her grin told Sookie that she understood the telepath’s amusement. “Majesties,” Thomas acknowledged.
Sookie could see Eric stand a little straighter. It was something that wasn’t apparent, but Sookie noticed it. He seemed to do it almost without thought when addressing those of lower rank, “On behalf of my wife and myself, I thank you. You honor us,” he said over and over. Sookie saw something from the corner of her eye, and then turned full on to see Felipe de Castro chatting with Thierry. The Gallic Sheriff was smiling and laughing. Sookie dismissed her suspicions and tried to re-focus on Eric, only to have her attention captured again, but this time by the sight of Finn and Isaiah engaged in animated conversation. The telepath found herself wishing she could either hear vampires or read lips better. She felt she was starting to make headway when the pressure on her hand increased and Eric sent her something that felt like an alarm. She gulped, and turned quickly back to see the face of a tall vampire she didn’t recognize. He was clearly waiting for her to do or say something.
“I am sorry,” Sookie blushed. “It has been such a long day.”
“Not at all,” the vampire bowed smoothly, “It is to be expected from those who are not vampire. As I was saying, my King was so taken with you, he said should I have the opportunity, he wished you to have this token,” and he held out a small, enameled box.
Sookie released Eric’s arm to take it. She found herself strangely reluctant to open it and jumped when Maude spoke from right beside her, “Mikhail is very gracious to honor a Queen he met only once.”
Sookie’s head turned quickly to see that the Minnesota Queen was as close as she could be without actually touching. Sookie looked toward Eric to see Thalia standing just as closely to the Viking’s other side. “Surely, you would not insult my King by refusing his gift,” the emissary never glanced away from the telepath. His black eyes glinted in the light and Sookie thought she saw something feral creep across his features.
Sookie plastered a smile on her face. Eric was pushing caution but it wasn’t like she needed it. ‘Don’t have to tell me there’s something stinky about this,’ she thought. She immediately felt Eric’s concern turn to amusement and it gave her the courage she needed to take a deep breath and flip open the lid.
The inside of the box was lined with satin. The enameled and jeweled dragon was so large it sat propped against the side. Sookie lifted the jeweled piece so she could see it more closely. Beside her she felt Maude stiffen.
“Last time I saw that, it was around Tranh’s neck,” Maude’s voice was tight. Tranh was the Queen of New England who had been killed, most said by the hand of the New York King. The telepath bit her lower lip and her eyes dropped back to the box. There was something else at the bottom, something that almost blended with the ivory satin.
Eric took the box from her hand, his eyes remaining on the New York King’s messenger. He lifted out a single fang.
“The King hopes you appreciate his gift,” the emissary smiled.
“Tell the King we thank him for his kind wishes,” Eric replied evenly.
Sookie could tell that something had been said, but not with the words that were spoken. As the emissary walked to the door, Inger, Maude’s second, stepped up from behind them and Sookie clearly heard the sound of metal sliding back in a scabbard. There was another movement as Pam stepped from her position in front of Jason. Finn moved to stand nearer. Sookie felt her heart start to pound as some truth about their situation started to push through her consciousness and in that moment, Eric wrapped his arm around her, pushed her a combination of feelings that made her feel hungry and announced, “We will retire to our rooms and rejoin you shortly.”
Sookie found herself in the hallways before she even realized they were moving. As they approached the elevators, Sookie tripped on her gown. If Eric hadn’t reacted as quickly as he did she would have found herself sprawling on the floor. “Perhaps you should change as well,” he told her. “I wish to dance with my wife tonight.” Sookie caught the expectant look he was giving her, as if he were waiting for something, but she was still too off balance to consider it further.
Instead she sighed, “Yeah, I suppose so. This is an amazing dress, but it’s meant for show and not go!” and she bunched it up as best she could in one hand to lift it free of her feet. She figured she didn’t look any kind of elegant now, but tripping in front of folks and falling face down when she was supposed to be Eric’s Queen wasn’t any too elegant either.
Sookie glanced behind her to see Owen and James trailing. When Owen caught her looking, he nodded. Together they rode up to their floor and then walked down the corridor. Eric pulled out the key and glanced at the Weres, “We will not be leaving for several hours,” he said.
Sookie couldn’t hide her surprise. “Won’t they be expecting us downstairs?” she asked.
“They can wait,” Eric growled as he stooped down to grab her, crazy dress and all, and throw her over his shoulder.
“Why does he have to be such an asshole?” Maude and Russell watched Roland, the King of Wisconsin signal to his retinue in preparation for leaving. The contingent had been scheduled to remain in Indianapolis until the day after tomorrow, meeting with Bartlett Crowe on a separate trade deal. Now, the King and his people were leaving immediately. Roland didn’t present his usual dry self in explaining his rationale. In fact, he was uncharacteristically profane. Maude had known Roland for over a century, seeing as they shared a border, and she never suspected the King of that kind of inventiveness. In another context she would have chuckled, but tonight it was worrisome.
“Bartlett will sort it out after Roland’s had an opportunity to cool down,” Mississippi said levelly. Maude didn’t bother to hide her skepticism. Bartlett was upstairs just now trying to ‘sort out’ the Missouri King. Jesse was furious at the way he and his retinue had been locked into the ballroom during the North Man’s pledging, held captive to what he called a ‘Fae plot.’
The Ancient Pythoness might have been able to settle things down, but as usual, she left with no explanation to anyone. Mr. Cataliades, the attorney and all her handmaidens were reported to have left with her.
“You can’t blame him,” Rasul remained silent through the exchange but watching his neighbor and listening to the depth of his discomfort, he felt he had to speak up. “There are many who weren’t exactly cheering about the Revelation. They all have their reasons.” Rasul jerked his chin in the direction of the door Wisconsin had just exited. “Roland thought revealing ourselves was foolish from the first. He believes we are in danger every day by being so visible, and then along comes Rhodes to confirm all his worst fears. Now he’s being asked to step away from those beliefs that make us most vampire. We are asked to condone mixing races, and what’s more, mixing our blood with our sworn enemies.”
Russell didn’t bother hiding his annoyance but as he opened his mouth to argue, Rasul held up his hand, “I like Eric and Sookie. Hell, I was in New Orleans when they were just learning about each other. She was with the Tiger then, but you could see the attraction. I went out of my way to help him, but I didn’t believe it would ever be more than a Sheriff and his pet. I’m not saying that I don’t support this. I do, but I’m not going to try and deceive myself into thinking that the idea of this alliance is going to be popular.”
“Phoebe refused to come at all,” Maude reminded them. They all knew that the pending marriage and the status the telepath now held among vampires played some part in the Iowa Queen’s decision.
“Others may have declined too, if they knew in advance the details of the pledging,” Rasul nodded.
“Changes are never easy,” Russell said evenly, “but it is inevitable if we are to survive. The reasons for the Revelation are even more with us now than ten years ago. Technology continues to race forward, new thing piling on new thing. Anyone can be hacked and their secrets stolen. Had we not taken the initiative, it would have been taken from us and our story told in a way that would have done us more harm.”
“America’s Most Wanted,” Rasul smiled and shook his head.
“Well!” Maude smiled, her eyes sparkling, “We are natural villains!” and when she laughed the others laughed too. Heads turned toward them, and the mood in the room seemed to brighten. The band played and a couple found their way to the deserted dance floor. After a bit, they were joined by another.
Across the floor Jason Stackhouse was blushing. The Alabama Queen finally stepped away, but not before putting her room key down the front of his pants. Jason wasn’t standing alone and his companions were openly enjoying the parade of females and males who were making a beeline to the handsome Fae/human hybrid. As he fished the plastic from his crotch he caught Thierry’s eye, “I’m damn happy I don’t have one of those bond things with my wife! If Michele ever found out about this, even the hounds couldn’t find what was left of me!”
“You should take it as a compliment,” the French vampire laughed. “Don’t you find us beautiful?” and he leered a little over his glass.
“Shit, Boss! It don’t matter! It wasn’t that long ago I woulda thrown all the keys in a bag and played Midnight Raider all night long, but I’ve changed! Now, it’s one woman for me, and she’s got a shotgun to make sure that’s the truth!” Jason pulled out his cell phone and glanced to see if he had a message.
“Any news?” Pam asked. They all knew Jason and his wife were expecting their third child. Michele was full term and could go any time, which was why she wasn’t here defending her husband now.
“Nope. Not yet,” he sighed. Jason couldn’t hear conversations like the vampires could, but even he could see the mood wasn’t exactly festive. “So, is this just folks being sad that the get together is over?” he asked.
Pam glanced around. The closing ball was usually a boisterous affair. Monarchs and their retinues danced and partied the night away, finding ways to create gossip that filled their nights until the next Summit. By the Regent’s estimate, barely half of the vampires registered were here and with the size of the ballroom it made their numbers look even less. “Yes,” Pam said evenly, “That would be one way of saying it.” She reached for her phone and sent a quick text.
Karin and Thomas approached. Karin glanced at her sister, “You should stop torturing him. He will become tired of your teasing and destroy another phone.”
Pam smirked, “Then he should close the bond and stop sending us the 411 on his booty calls.”
Thomas’s smile tilted up one side of his mouth, “Does that mean we have free time to play?” and he smirked at Thierry.
“What do you say, breather?” Thierry smiled at Jason, “Does it really count if there are too many companions to spend time with any one? Who could be jealous of that?”
Jason shrugged and his hell-raiser past sat on his shoulder whispering, ‘Go, go, go!’ “Shit, y’all are just a sack of bad ideas,” He shifted a little, “Gives me blue balls just standing around you.”
Thierry laughed and Thomas ran his fingers up Karin’s side. Jane nudged Pam, “We could try out some ideas for this stag party Jason was describing.”
Pam’s eyes sparkled, “Stag party? What’s that?” Pam’s phone beeped and she glanced at it. “Gee, looks like the King won’t be down until sometime around midnight. So, what was that you were saying?” Pam looked around and motioned to Twy who was standing near the door and looking unhappy.
Twy walked their way, her hair bobbing first one way and then another, captured in an avant garde clip. “Please tell me you’re not going!” the event planner lamented. “I can’t believe how badly this fell apart!”
Pam kissed her cheek, “Not your fault, pumpkin! We’re vampires and we hate change and tonight we got fed a big plate of it. Makes us testy, so stop worrying and hang out with us.”
“But…” and Twy gestured at the small knots of people around the room.
“They’ll figure it out on their own,” Pam assured her and, taking her hand, started walking toward the dance floor. Over her shoulder she smiled at Jane, “I’ll be back and I want details on stag parties when I return.”
Eric put down the phone. He had been able to hear the anger that came from others as his pledging from some as his pledging progressed. The small number of those to offer congratulations at the bottom of the stairs confirmed his suspicions. His pledging and Sookie’s status would be recognized, but many would resist it.
One thing he knew was when she realized the controversy their pledging caused; his telepath would be upset. Eric didn’t believe the real issue was the unconventional nature of his pledging. He didn’t believe it was his Fae alliance. Eric believed the cause of the anger and anxiety among the vampires was more complex.
The Revelation was accepted by most, but not all. While Eric and many of the monarchs did well during these years, comfortably moving among the humans, there were a large number, perhaps a growing number who had not benefitted. Rasul inherited his kingdom from one such monarch. Isaiah took Tennessee from another. Those monarchs resigned rather than continue in a world forever changed by the Revelation.
Then there were other monarchs who were just as unhappy, but had no intention of stepping aside. James of Illinois was rumored to be one. Roland of Wisconsin and Misha of New York were others. Perhaps even Phoebe Golden. These were vampires who were proud. They viewed themselves as superior to humans and Weres. They honored the treaty with the Fae only when it suited them. Appius had been one of them. They believed in the old ways, in the sacred nature of their blood, and they thought this new face of vampires made them weak.
“You suppose we should get going?” Sookie stretched, her legs tangling with his own, her warmth calling to him.
Eric rolled so that he could lay his head between her breasts, his long fingers stroking her belly. “I love listening to your heart,” he replied. Sookie glanced down at his tousled hair, running her fingers through his locks. He looked up to see her looking around them. The room was covered in silk streamers, the dress gone.
“You think folks are wondering where we are?” she asked again.
Eric chuckled, “No, I don’t think anyone is wondering where we are. I think they all have a very good idea. What did you call it? A honeymoon?”
Sookie poked him with her toe, “You don’t want to go downstairs and gloat some more?”
“I never gloat,” the Viking purred. “I enjoy life’s moments as they are meant to be enjoyed,” and he kissed the side of her breast, sliding his tongue up and over and then around, “to their fullest.” He whispered the last words against her erect nipple.
Sookie’s breath caught as his hand below drifted north, finding her. “Oh!” she gasped.
“Say it,” he whispered, his fingers parting as his lips suckled.
“I love you,” Sookie said before she bit her lower lip.
“You know what I want to hear,” he nipped now, and below his fingers scissored as he shifted forward.
“You’re gloating!” she gasped when he replaced his fingers with himself.
“I’m enjoying my moment,” he growled and slid forward just enough.
Sookie raised her eyes to hold his, “I’m yours,” she told him.
“That works,” he smiled and lifting her leg, he slid home.
Bill stood quietly just inside the doorway of the exhibit hall. It was darker in here. There was the occasional flash of color from someone’s display table or the pool of light made by a spot that had been forgotten. Traditionally, breakdown was done the night after the ball by those lower on the pecking order or, if the monarch was flush with cash, by someone they hired. Using contractors wasn’t normal. It required trusting those involved and trust came hard, but tonight was different.
Exhibits were being broken down post-haste and the work was being handled by every member of a retinue with hotel staff thrown in. Seconds were supervising the work while simultaneously calling and texting in their efforts to wrangle transportation and strong-arm Anubis into changing flights.
There were many causes for the exodus from Indianapolis but only one triggering event. There were monarchs who were angry that the blood that was sacred to all vampires had been spilled and shared with a Fae. There were monarchs who were troubled that Eric Northman had been declared a special ally of their traditional enemies, setting him above even the Clan Chief. There were monarchs who were insulted that any creature not vampire would be declared a Queen, and now they would be forced to acknowledge Sookie Stackhouse as such.
Bill understood. Sookie was his and would stand by his side, but he would never consider forcing her into such a ridiculous position. Her blood was delicious and she was an amazing bed fellow, but to pretend she was more in the world of vampires? It was just another sign of Eric Northman’s arrogance and from the looks of things, his pride was burning bridges left and right. “Maybe I won’t have to soil my hands,” Bill said out loud. Just hearing the words made him feel more confident.
“What did you have in mind?” Bill hadn’t heard the vampire approach and he fumbled a bit.
“In mind? I’m not sure what you mean?”
The vampire smiled, his fangs descended, “Oh? It sounded like you were thinking about taking action. Perhaps to right the wrong that was done today?”
“I don’t know you,” Bill said coldly.
“I am Matthias,” the vampire bowed briefly, “I am in the retinue of James, King of Illinois.”
“Oh,” Bill said and then he formally bowed, “I am…”
‘Bill Compton, the famous author,” Matthias finished.
“Yes,” Bill straightened, “although ‘famous’ might be an overstatement”
“Why behave like a human? You earned your place; you should claim it.” The vampire eyed Bill with interest. “I would have thought you’d be dancing tonight, celebrating the outcome. Surely, this will boost your sales,” and Matthias gestured toward the music.
“I don’t approve,” Bill said shortly, then wondered if he’d revealed too much to this stranger and made to walk away.
“Then you share our sentiments?” Matthias persisted. “You believe that pledging between species is a travesty?”
Bill decided to skirt the issue, “I believe this pledging was a travesty.”
“Perhaps you also believe the Viking should be punished for his actions? I never thought I’d be forced to witness a vampire bind himself to a mongrel, for that’s what she is. Not human. Not Fae. A creature with no place in any lore,” Matthias stepped into Bill’s path.
“Punished? How? Bound in silver? Locked in a silver coffin?” Bill rattled off those most frequent sentences.
“Staked?” Matthias added. Bill went still.
“Do you speak for your King?” Bill asked.
“No, sadly not. My King would use the measures you name. I speak for myself and a few others, vampires who have watched our race become weak since the Revelation. We need an awakening, something that forces us to confront what we give away every day. We are vampires,” Matthias hissed, “not animals. We are meant to feed on them, not marry them, not bow to them!”
Bill nodded, “Northman has gone too far. Although I know Sookie is blameless in this. She never wanted to be with him,” and Bill glanced around, before returning his gaze to the other vampire, “she was meant to be mine.”
“You think Northman does this to hurt you?” Matthias was skeptical.
“No, not just me. It’s his way of thumbing his nose at all of us! His using my human in the process is just a convenience to him,” and Bill knew his eyes were shining. “I’d be happy to take her away. It would distract him now that he’s given her his blood. It would weaken him so he could be taken.”
Matthias’ look became guarded, “I don’t know,” he said, “It would require planning. Northman has allies and progeny. Anyone who staked him would face retribution. I may not like his mongrel’s status, but the Pythoness herself named it a Queen. There would be those who will feel bound by our law to return her if she is stolen.”
Bill nodded, “Of course you’re right. I allowed my anger to overcome my good sense.” He looked around, “There is a decent donor pool here. Please, let me buy you something special and we could talk more.”
Matthias shook his head, “I would like that, Compton, but I’m under orders. We drive home tonight as soon as things are packed. But…” he looked at the author, “you travel. Perhaps you could contact me the next time you find yourself in Rhodes. We could talk further.”
Bill bowed. He wondered if he’d said too much, but he couldn’t help hoping that the tide was finally turning against Eric Northman.
Bill walked from the exhibit hall, intending to find his way to the donor rooms. He would be closely monitored by surveillance, but he wasn’t feeling up to wandering the streets to find what he really wanted.
On his way through the lobby, Bill saw the publicist’s assistant, Sonder. She was sitting in a large armchair facing a gas fireplace. Bill could smell the sweet scent of her tears. He walked up behind her, careful not to make any noise. She was texting someone, stopping every few seconds to brush the back of her hand across her face. Bill looked around before stepping in front of her and kneeling on the floor.
He danced with her at the last Summit took her hard later, not that she remembered. She was rather tight, making for a satisfactory session, even if he had forced her face into the bed so he wouldn’t be reminded that she wasn’t Sookie. Glamouring her was easy, but he hadn’t completely healed her. He liked to think that his bed mates should remember him in some way. He supposed it was the romantic in him.
“Sonder,” he purred, “What’s wrong?” The girl looked up, her face creased and her hair sticky.
“Oh, Mr. Compton! I’ve been fired,” her voice was tight and more water leaked from her eyes.
“Oh, that can’t be right,” Bill said sympathetically, and he quickly captured her eyes. “You will want to take your revenge on your boss by coming with me,” he told her. Bill was rewarded by her vacant stare.
“I want to come with you,” she echoed.
“You want to have sex with me,” Bill whispered, “You desire me above all others.”
“I want you,” Sonder repeated.
“Come with me now,” Bill said and held her hand out. Sonder took it, neither of them noticing the phone slip from the girl’s lap to the hotel lobby floor. Sonder hadn’t been texting, she’d been sending contact information to her friend, a friend who heard everything.
Sookie shimmied up and down to the fast beat. Jason caught her hand and together they two-step boogied and then twirled so her skirt flared around her legs. Eric watched, his mouth lifting as he half-listened to Jane thanking him again for releasing her. “The facility is perfect and with Amy’s support, we’ll be ready whenever you are. I’ve had inquiries about the research from other supernatural couples with fertility issues. Since the facility rests within your territory I wanted to check with you, make sure there wouldn’t be any objections to using it to others.”
Eric glanced at his now former Sheriff. Her eyes burned bright. She had found her cause; of this he was certain. “Any supernatural who wishes access needs to check in with Indira and Area 5. Dr. Ludwig’s hospital requires no clearance. You, however, are under my dominion. Access to your research does require… not permission, but the courtesy. Agreed?”
Jane agreed readily, but Eric was sure he’d be receiving a protest visit from one pissed off garden gnome. Amy Ludwig’s independence was important to her, but he would convince her this was necessary. He glanced around the room and could feel the general unease. There was something coming.
The song ended and Sookie headed back toward him. She wore a different dress now, something more conventional and the necklace he presented her as her pledging gift sparkled around her neck, replacing the Fae starlight necklace. She no longer moved in that glow, she was Sookie again, the Sookie those around them had come to know. “Ready to dance?” she reached up, pulling his head down to kiss her.
Eric straightened, allowing his fangs to show, “Dance?” he growled, “Or dance?”
“Animal!” she laughed and pushed against him, then turned, took Pam’s hand and headed back to the dance floor.
Eric recognized Felipe when he walked up behind him. The Viking noticed his senses improving and he wondered if there was something about Sookie’s awakening power that was sharpening magic within him. “You have not given me an answer, Eric. Will you declare yourself an ally?”
Eric didn’t turn around. He wasn’t sure he could hide the anger in his eyes, so instead he said, “I didn’t believe this would happen. I wished it. I longed for it, but I did not truly believe.” Sookie twirled in front of him, laughing in her open way. He turned to Felipe de Castro, resolved in what he needed to say, “There were moments when I hoped all would be well, but then something would happen, some person would intervene to destroy that hope. You were one of those people. The times that I was closest to losing her, you were the one pulling strings. Why should I trust you?”
Felipe smiled smoothly, “You shouldn’t. I could tell you I was doing you a favor.” Eric barely suppressed the growl forming in his throat and the Narayana Chief held up his hand. “Be still, my friend! I have no sword in hand, no dagger behind my back, only words. Allow me to use my words to tell you why you should let our past be just that.” Felipe turned his head to watch the dancers. “What do you think your Maker would do if he were with us now?” When the Viking didn’t respond, Felipe continued, “You know. He would kill her, without a moment’s hesitation. He would punish you for opening yourself to the danger that she represents.” Eric’s was wary, but Felipe knew the Viking didn’t disagree.
“Yes, you know I’m right. He would scold you for endangering yourself. He would punish you for requiring that other vampires, vampires like Thalia and Pam, put their own existence at risk to protect one such as her. He would punish you for putting a creature who was not a vampire above your race.”
“Appius was my Maker, but he lived by a harsh code,” Sookie waved at him and Eric smiled back.
“There are some who say he had his priorities straight,” Felipe stepped to stand at Eric’s side. “I did my part to separate you, it is true. You were my subject and although you protested, it was clear to me that your loyalties were divided. You put her before the needs of your King. Do you deny it?”
Eric didn’t answer. Eric had put Sookie first, and denying it would dishonor them both.
“I sought to change that. What is it your Pamela would call it? An intervention? Where you save a person from their worst instincts.”
“She is not my worst instinct. She is my best.”
“She opens your flank to attack. She is a weak link and won’t be able to protect her or yourself,” Felipe hissed in frustration, “Think, Eric! You are pledged to someone who has some skill in defending herself, but doesn’t have the ability to truly stand between you and the trouble that will come.” Eric look down his nose, allowing his eyebrows to rise. Felipe smiled in return, “Scoff if you will! We are vampire living openly in a human world. Trouble will come. It’s inevitable! If trouble doesn’t come from the breathers, then it will come from our own. Surely you recognized New York’s threat? A fang? He sent a message to your Queen.” He turned back to look at the telepath, “ She is lovely. It is open gossip that you will attempt to create a biological child with her, progeny in a human manner.”
Eric rocked back on his heels, not truly surprised that this was common knowledge. “A vampire child is able to defend itself from the moment it pushes from the dirt, but a human child? They are defenseless, easily drained. Why would you put this happiness you claim she brings you at that kind of risk?”
When the Viking didn’t respond, Felipe glanced up to see him watching his mate, “Ahh, for her. For…” and Felipe’s eyes narrowed. The words of the ceremony came back to him, Dermot’s words. ‘Tricky Viking!’ he thought.
“Regardless of your reasons,” Felipe continued, “with New York’s ‘gift’ and the defection of so many, you will need all the help you can get. It won’t be enough to hunker behind the walls of your kingdom. She will not stay in one place, she never has. The Weres in my kingdom are talking of asking her help in forming treaties with the other Packs in the state. Every time she travels, every time she walks out your door, she becomes a liability to you. You need to expand the shield that protects her beyond your borders, beyond your Clan lands.”
Eric did what he needed to do, although the words twisted in his throat, “I will give what you have said consideration, Felipe.”
“It is an offer that I make, King to King,” Felipe bowed.
Eric turned to see Sookie laughing and hip-checking Thomas and then Karin, her joy engulfing those around her. She didn’t need a crown to make her shine. She was a beacon in her own right, a beacon that called him, but in this moment he wondered if it was light to light or moth to flame.
End Note: The next part, The Wedding, is underway. I will be publishing it as an extension of this piece, and it will pick up the narrative from where this ends.
My thanks to all of your who read my work. I love sharing these stories with you. My thanks to Breathesgirl, Ms Buffy and Sephrenia. My life and these stories are graced by you.