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.
Outside! Sookie was so happy, she jumped from their bed and marched out their front door! She stood in the yard, staring up at the stars. It was dark here, so far from any city, and Sookie felt as if it had been ages since she’d really seen the night sky. Eric stood behind her, his hands resting on her shoulders and together, they looked up, content just to be standing next to each other.
It was cooler now at night and after a short time, Sookie couldn’t help shivering. Eric wrapped his arms around her, drawing her against him, but aside from cutting the breeze, it didn’t help much. He had no body warmth to give her and he couldn’t help stealing her own. Sookie considered going inside to pull a blanket from a bed, but it was getting late and she’d been up well before sunset. She yawned, then yawned again.
“Do you think you’ll get any sleep at all?” Eric chuckled.
“What do you mean?” she asked, resting her head against his shoulder.
“You are so excited! You appear calm, but your emotions are dancing, my Lover!” Eric pulled her closer to him, “Perhaps you would like to work off some of that energy. You could look up into the sky while I help you celebrate your freedom.”
“Kind offer,” Sookie grinned, “but the idea of lying on the stones out here is not appealing!” The bedrock in this part of Ireland had offered the best opportunity for a basement, but it also meant the ground was hard and sprouted rocks. Even lying on a blanket couldn’t guarantee that a shift or roll wouldn’t find a jagged edge poking into some inconvenient place.
“There is our bed, inside, then?” Eric purred some more, “Or should I build a fire and take you in the firelight?” His fingers traced over the contours of her body, “I would watch the shadows create patterns on you, and I would kiss each one.”
“You are a sweet talker, Mr. Northman!” Sookie sighed.
“You are sweet,” he hissed in return, dragging his fangs against her neck, making her think he meant a different kind of ‘sweet.’
As things happened, Sookie did sleep, and quite well. It was after lunch when she finally rose, wrapped in the arms of her vampire. “Is it me or my warmth?” Sookie asked as she levered her way out of Eric’s grasp. She was half-way to the bathroom when she remembered, ‘I’m free!’
Sookie rushed through her shower and pulled on clothes, allowing her hair to hang wet. She made herself slow long enough to secure all the locks to Eric’s chamber, then she hit the brew button on the coffeemaker Eric set up for her last night. ‘Eric!’ she remembered the way he’d moved over her last night, never letting her doubt how desired she was. ‘Our home. Us.’ The words ran through her head, making her feel warm, and then, as the first hisses of the pot started, she walked toward the front of the house, pulled apart the chains, turned the key and knobs, and opened the front door to behold the day.
Sookie knew they were on top of a hill, but the view she had was disappointing. She found herself looking at another hill that rose before her, and then she remembered Eric telling her that he situated the house in a slight valley. Sookie settled her plans. She headed back into the house and looked for a travel mug. Not finding one, she sighed and instead, taking the largest mug she could find, filled it, and headed out again. She sipped and strolled, taking her time, picking her way up the steep hill to the left. It didn’t feel as if she was making progress until she looked behind her and noticed how the house seemed to have dropped away. She finished her coffee by the time she was atop the bluff hill and from there, she could see the countryside all around her.
Sookie was sure she could see the sea and there were rainclouds coming from that direction, but, for now, she stood in sunshine that made the green around her almost glow. She couldn’t help it; she laughed aloud.
“So, you’ve survived then?” Sookie spun around to find Claudine standing right behind her.
“What are you doing here?” Sookie knew it was a rude thing to say, but Claudine startled her.
“Northman spoke with Niall last night. Grandfather wanted to speak with you, but the vampire refused. Niall sent me to make sure you’re still…well, you are,” and Claudine smiled brightly.
“It sure would be nice if some folks trusted other folks,” Sookie growled. “Anyway, it’s nice to see you, too, Claudine, and yes, I’m fine.”
“So, being bonded to the vampire suits you?” Claudine trilled her bell-like laugh before saying, “I can smell it does!”
“Really?” Sookie just shook her head, “What is it about you Fae and sniffing me? Pam does it, now you? It makes me want to shower all the time, not that I think it would help much!”
“Is he as large as they say?” Claudine asked. Her eyes glowed, “It’s been many ages since he took one of us as his lover, but they say…”
“If you think I’m going to discuss my sex life with you, you’re sadly mistaken,” Sookie cut her off. “I get that the Fae ‘see sex differently,’ but I don’t!”
“Still,” Claudine pressed, “there are some things…”
“…That you just don’t need to know!” Sookie exclaimed.
“Fine!” Claudine sniffed, “Be like that!” and then Claudine turned so she could share Sookie’s view. “It is beautiful!” she sighed. “There are magic places all over this world, but here is where our essence shines brightest!” and she raised her arms and closed her eyes, seeming in worship. After a few moments, she turned back to Sookie, “Show me your true face, cousin, and then, show me how you mask your scent!”
They worked at it for hours. When Sookie’s stomach grumbled, Claudine summoned plates that held honeycombs and fruits. “Really?” Sookie huffed.
“I like to live well,” Claudine shrugged, licking off her fingers. It was totally over-the-top Disney fairytale, but, Sookie had to admit, there was something to it. When she finished what was on her plate, Claudine produced a golden bread that tasted so light, yet sat so heavy, Sookie found herself full after a few bites.
“So, how are you doing, really?” Claudine asked.
“Well,” Sookie shrugged, then looked more fully at her cousin as she added, “Really well.”
“That’s good,” Claudine nodded. “I knew Northman cared for you. It would have been difficult if you hadn’t reached an agreement.” They ate in silence for a little bit before Claudine volunteered, “Your secret is no longer a secret.”
“What does that mean?” and Sookie sat back.
“The Fae talk. Someone told someone about your relationship to Niall and it didn’t take long for all the old stories to resurface. There was some trouble among my people, grumbling, but, thankfully, we were able to put it to rest by telling everyone that you’re bonded to a vampire,” and Claudine grinned.
“So, how does that help, exactly?” Sookie asked. “I’m guessing that my marrying Eric makes me lower than low…”
“In a manner of speaking,” Claudine laughed. “It is such an outrageous choice that now polite people will have to ignore you. It really was such a clever solution!”
“I guess,” Sookie sighed. Her Mother used to say that some people were ‘as welcome as a fart in church,’ but Sookie never thought she’d have people thinking that way about her and it didn’t make her feel good.
“Rogan is still subdued,” Claudine was continuing. “Claude has been pretty quiet, too, playing the dutiful son. He did ask about you, but Niall told him to mind his own business. I’ve never seen my brother apologize so quickly. He is trying to mend fences. My Father is ready to accept him, but it may take a long time with Grandfather.”
“Why?” Sookie asked. She realized with a start that she hated Claude. She was only interested so she could use the information against him later, and Sookie wondered when she’d become so cynical.
“Claude fought against Niall,” Claudine informed her, “in the last great war. He aligned with Grandmother and our sister.” Claudine’s eyes glistened, “Claudia was lost in those battles. Grandmother, too.”
“I can’t see you fighting to the death,” Sookie shook her head. Claudine seemed so civilized, so soft.
“The Fae run hot,” Claudine laughed that tinkling laugh again. “You think Rogan is the only one capable of striking? I keep a list of my fallen foes and it’s one I’m not embarrassed to sing about when the mood takes me,” and Claudine’s eyes suddenly seemed more feral, then, just as quickly, she returned to being happy, carefree Claudine. “Grandfather thinks Rogan won’t cause you any more trouble. He thinks he can heal the rift with his brother, now that Breandan’s gone.”
“Eric told me that Breandan became a seal,” Sookie felt foolish saying the words, but Claudine didn’t seem to think it was silly.
“It wasn’t enough that Mae’s cousin is threatening Rogan. I think his demands are unreasonable, but there are some who have been waiting the opportunity to attack. Now that Rogan’s found trouble, there are many lining up to exact their own revenge. And, of course, you’re right about Breandan. He’ll never walk among us again.”
“He can’t shed his skin?” Sookie asked. It was the tale Breandan had told her, the one about his ancestress who had shed her skin and been captured.
“Not for a long time,” Claudine replied. “Maybe never. He has foresworn the Seelie. It would take a lot to make him change his mind.”
“I don’t know,” Sookie shrugged. “He never seemed to be able to make it up when he was with me.”
Claudine gave Sookie a hard look before saying, “Well, regardless of what you think of his sincerity, the Selkies believe him, which means Rogan’s lost more allies. He used Aoife and Breandan’s connections to influence them. Now, they’ve transferred their loyalty to Breandan, so Rogan will have to find new messenger boys.”
“Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy,” Sookie sniffed.
“You really could be one of us,” Claudine laughed. “I feel the same way about it myself, but blood will tell. Grandfather will offer an open hand and he and Rogan will come together again for another hundred years. We’ll all be left watching, wondering when the next rift will emerge.” Claudine cocked her eyebrow, “Of course, that’s good news for you, too. Without Rogan’s influence, the Selkies won’t harass you anymore. In fact, if Rogan were to try to hurt you, they would probably align with the vampires against him. Yes,” and Claudine tapped her lips with her long, tapered finger, “Rogan really has lost everything.”
After lunch, Claudine suggested Sookie show her what else she could do magically. There was something in the way she was watching Sookie that put the hybrid on edge. Rather than demonstrate things she hadn’t shown Claudine, she restricted herself to her whirlwind and she concentrated, keeping the column that formed on the small side. “You did better that night with Eric,” Claudine scolded. “Make it bigger!” but Sookie resisted.
“What about calling the birds?” Claudine prompted.
“I’m not sure I remember how,” Sookie lied.
After a while, Sookie let the column balancing on her hand disappear, and then, turning to Claudine, asked, “Well, you can do all these things, too, right?”
“No,” Claudine told her. “No, my magic is different. I can move from place to place, which is unique, but mostly I have the same magic any Fae has. I can beguile people, what you call glamouring. I can grant certain wishes when specifically asked and I can do good deeds or pranks involving natural things.”
“Like Breandan making the dishes wash themselves?” Sookie asked.
“Yes, like that,” Claudine confirmed before asking, “Can you do that?”
“I don’t think so,” Sookie replied, “but I’ve never tried.”
Claudine glanced in the direction of the house before saying, “You should try it and let me know. You can mask your scent perfectly now.”
“You don’t want to go inside, do you?” Sookie was pretty sure she knew the answer.
“No,” Claudine shook her head. “Most Seelie won’t willingly enter the Sheriff’s house.”
“Why?” Sookie could sense there was a story, but Claudine just shook her head.
“Ask your mate,” she replied.
The sun was starting to set and Sookie felt it, that first whisper of Eric returning to her. She couldn’t help it, her face turned toward the house and she felt things in her body perk up.
“Wow, that couldn’t have been clearer! Northman must be really good, then,” Claudine giggled. Sookie blushed, realizing how programmed she’d become. “I will give Grandfather your greetings and let him know you’re well,” and Claudine kissed Sookie on the cheek and then the mouth. “Grandfather says you will leave for America soon. You should practice your skills there, if you have an opportunity. You will find it harder, but it will make you stronger when you return.”
“I will,” Sookie promised. The feeling from Eric was growing and it made Sookie take a deep breath. It felt almost as though she was swimming up through deep waters, pacing him as they both raced for the surface.
“He summons you, even from his sleep?” Claudine mused. “Interesting,” and then she was gone.
“No one summons me!” Sookie grumbled. “Jeez!” She looked around her, making sure she was alone, and then, with a casual flick of thought, she moved a rock several feet. The birds were starting to sing for the closing of day and Sookie reached out her thoughts to call them to her. In no time, she was surrounded by them. There were some songbirds, mostly there were the noisy ravens who cawed and cackled.
The sun disappeared behind clouds. Sookie knew she wouldn’t see it again until tomorrow and she shivered with the cool breeze of evening. On instinct, she raised her hand and it was as though she’d thrown up a wall. She could see the breeze flowing around her and she marveled at the sight.
“You have been busy, my Lover,” Eric said from behind her.
“You blocked our bond,” Sookie realized.
“I wanted to see what you’d been up to,” Eric answered. “I could feel your joy,” and he looked fully at her. “You are so beautiful this way. Different,” and Sookie realized she’d forgotten her Fae face was revealed.
“Claudine was here. She asked me to drop my masque. I forgot!” she exclaimed, starting to pull her regular appearance back, but Eric stopped her.
“Don’t!” he protested. “I find I like looking at you this way. Allow me to explore, my wife.” He approached slowly, sampling the air as he progressed. When he was standing just in front of her, he raised his hand to cup her cheek, “You have learned to shield your magic as well. I thank you for that!”
“I didn’t do it for you!” Sookie chuckled, but then realized she did. “Well, maybe,” she conceded.
“What were you doing?” Eric asked. Sookie didn’t feel the same warning bells she did when she was with Claudine, but, still, some small part of her didn’t entirely trust Eric Northman. Taking a deep breath, Sookie lifted her chin and showed him. She showed him how she was able to communicate with birds. She brought them to her and had them fly around in a circle once. She didn’t hold them long, knowing they needed to find their night roosts. “You are so clever!” Eric purred and Sookie felt his pride in her.
“Let me show you what else,” she gushed, her suspicion forgotten. With an enthusiasm Sookie hadn’t felt since her Father was alive, Sookie stretched her magic, trying things she knew and things she’d only imagined. She moved and stacked rocks. She gathered dew from the grass and formed it into one, large waterdrop, which she then allowed to fall to the ground with a splash! She made the grass move, first in one direction, and then, with a wave of her hand, lean the opposite direction. She was so joyful, she didn’t realize Eric had become still. It wasn’t until she threw up another wall, making the wind break around them that she saw his face. “What?” she asked.
“Did you show all of this to Claudine?” Eric’s head was cocked to one side and his expression serious.
Sookie bit her lip, “No,” and she shook her head. “No, I didn’t show her anything she hadn’t already seen.”
“I think it might be best you keep it that way,” Eric nodded. He took Sookie’s hands in his own and then stared at her upturned palms. After a minute, he curled his fingers around hers. “What you have is very special,” he told her. “In over a thousand years, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“You don’t trust them? My relatives, I mean?” and Sookie reached out, trying to read both his face and his feelings.
“Yes, Älskade,” he replied as he continued to stare at their hands, “and no. They are Seelie. They covet treasure. They fear what they don’t possess. You, with your beauty and your gifts, are all of those things.”
“You think Claudine would make trouble for us?” Sookie didn’t really have to ask the question. She could see it in Eric’s eyes. “Why?”
“Niall is distracted by your lineage,” Eric replied. “He sees the great love of his life in your face. It’s why he likes you to become as you are now. He doesn’t see Her when you are revealed as Fae.” Eric shifted and Sookie could tell he was considering how to frame his words. “If Niall were to understand the span of your powers, I think he would decide it would be safer for you to live under his control. He would tell himself it would be for your protection, but it would really be for his.”
“Isn’t that how I’m living now?” Sookie challenged. She glanced back toward the house and Eric realized how much being restricted within the walls of the house had galled her.
“You do not live under my control!” Eric protested. “I don’t seek to direct you! Yes, we had to stay within the protection of Octavia Fant’s wards until we were certain assassins weren’t lying in wait, but I have no interest in imprisoning you.” Eric tilted Sookie’s jutting chin so he could look in her eyes. “Don’t you know that about me, Lover?”
Sookie felt ashamed, “Yes,” and she stiffly nodded. “Yes, I know you’re not like that. I think I’m just tired of the drama. I want to be able to be who I am, who I’m learning to be, without having to second guess what I tell whom, and who sees what.”
“And who among us has that luxury?” Eric chuckled. “Our world, the Supe world, is politics, Sookie. The sooner you learn that, the easier it will be.”
“Well, what if I don’t want that?” and Sookie’s chin jutted further. “I thought I had some tough times before, but living cheap in America was a lot easier than living any way here. Maybe it is time I went home.”
“Where is your home, now, Sookie?” Eric had become still in that way that was uniquely his. He placed his hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “You have chosen to become more Fae. Each time you slip the leash from your gifts, you become more of what you were destined to be. Can’t you feel it? I can! You are more magic now than you were in Boston. Do you truly believe you can go back to the way things were?”
Sookie looked up into the darkening sky. Like last night, the vastness of the stars stretched above her, layer upon layer of lights that stretched up into infinity. “I’m not sure I want to live this way,” she said.
Eric cupped her cheek in his hand. He traced the sweep of her bone from nose to temple, and then he smiled when she did, “And what of this?” he asked. “Would you have us go back to what we were?”
Sookie shook her head, “No.” She placed one hand on his arm and, with the other hand, she reached up to draw his head down to hers. “Älskade,” she tried out his word for her. “You really are trouble, too!”
Eric’s eyes flared as she said it. His kiss was demanding, and even though he had no warmth of his own, Sookie soon found herself burning. His arm hooked around her, crushing her against him, and his head angled so he could plunder her mouth more easily. Sookie was breathless when he finally pulled away, “Mine!” he rasped. When she just stared at him, too love-struck for words, he growled, “I will never let you go! You are mine as I am yours, Sookie. We are bonded.”
For Sookie, this didn’t feel like prison; it didn’t feel like the house. Instead, the idea of being trapped with Eric in chains forged of blood felt safe. “Together?” she whispered against his lips.
“Together,” he agreed. His hands traveled, first over her clothes, and then under. The idea of making love on the cooling ground gave Sookie pause, but then her pants were down and Eric was turning her, placing her hands against a rock. He kicked her legs apart, then reached between, massaging and tapping, scissoring and petting. She felt his thick head against her entrance, and then his hand was on her shoulder, holding her as he pressed home.
He pumped into her several times and then pulled out. His action was so sudden, Sookie staggered, almost falling, but Eric caught her. He turned her and lifted, pushing her back against the rock. “Put me where I belong!” he growled and she reached between them, bringing him again to her entrance. It was primal, this coupling, and Sookie found herself staring at his glowing eyes, and then at the stars above them as he made her fly, her cries lost to the sky above.
He didn’t take his meal until they had both reached completion. It was almost lost to her, the quick sting of his fangs barely registering in the bliss of their afterglow. “Bite me,” he whispered.
“Why?” Sookie sighed back, basking in the idea of her flowing into him just as he had flowed into her.
“Because I wish it,” he whispered.
Sookie opened her eyes. His shoulder was beneath her cheek and she turned her head, even though that made his fangs pull at her skin. It took two bites to draw blood, although once she did, Eric shuddered and she felt him grow hard within her again. “Min hustru!” he purred, and then started moving.
Eric adjusted her, lifting her a little higher and Sookie suddenly felt cold rock against her skin. “Eric?” she gasped, and then “Eric, stop!” when he didn’t seem to hear her.
“What?” he was not pleased and Sookie felt his need pushing at her.
“I’ve rubbed my shirt through. We should go inside,” and her body chose that moment to register the cold in a long, sustained shiver.
Eric didn’t step back. He simply gathered her against him and they were flying. He wrapped her in one, strong arm while the other fumbled with the front door. Sookie marveled at his strength. She wasn’t a tiny woman, but Eric handled her as if she was. It was a strange idea that this man could lift her and move her so easily, and it appealed to some cavewoman instinct Sookie hadn’t realized was there. The moment the door opened, Sookie kissed Eric like she meant it and soon discovered that the floor in the front hall was not as cold as the rock on the hill, but just as hard.
Later, as they lay in front of a peat fire, Sookie picking at the meal she’d prepared, she found herself staring again at Eric’s perfect profile. “When we get to America, how will I introduce you?” she asked.
Eric turned to look at her. He was stretched on his back, his arms under his head. He was magnificently naked, having wrapped the blanket around her. “Eric Northman,” he shrugged.
“Yeah, I get that,” Sookie swatted him. “No, what I meant was, do I introduce you as my husband? I mean, these are my human relatives. It’s not like we’re married in their eyes.”
“We’re Fae,” Eric answered nonchalantly, “It doesn’t matter what they think. You are my wife in the only way that matters.”
“I guess,” Sookie sighed. She didn’t bother hiding her disappointment and soon enough, Eric sat up.
“What?” he challenged. “What is it?”
“Am I Fae?” and Sookie raised her eyebrows. “Really? No one in the U.S. thinks of me that way and to hear folks around here talk, I’m not Fae to them either. I’m some weird half-breed nothing no one respects.”
“I won’t hear you talk about yourself this way,” Eric growled. “You are Fae, more Fae than most of them. You have powers they will never have.”
“Powers I can’t show anyone, so it’s me and Spiderman. All anyone sees is meek-mannered, means nothing, Sookie Stackhouse!” and Sookie stood, taking her dishes with her. “Aunt Linda isn’t going to believe I got married and if she does, she’s going to be pretty hurt that I didn’t have the decency to tell her in advance.”
“You are making too much of this,” Eric growled, rising as well. “You will tell them and they will accept it. If they don’t, I’ll glamour them…”
“Oh, no, you won’t!” Sookie growled right back. “You aren’t going to mess with the heads of my relatives and that’s final.”
“You don’t know what you want,” Eric snarled. Sookie was bombarding him with anger and irritation, and a great deal of it seemed to be aimed right at him. “We are married. You say it and they will accept it.”
Sookie’s eyes narrowed, “Really? And what if something happens to me? What if I’m in an accident or I get put in a hospital, will they let you in to see me? Will you be able to make decisions for me? They want proof, Eric, legal documents, so you claiming that you kissed some knife isn’t going to cut it!”
It was a clever pun and normally Eric would have laughed, but Sookie was crossing a line with him. “I gave up living by human rules over a thousand years ago,” he tried to explain calmly, although it came out as a hiss. “You are with me, one of us. You need to learn our rules.” When Sookie didn’t answer, her chin jutting forward and her arms crossed, Eric continued, “Of course, they will let me in. Sookie, I’m a vampire! I glamour everyone,” and then he smiled a little, thinking it would defuse things, “Everyone but you, my Lover.”
“So, you don’t really want to marry me,” and Sookie wasn’t angry any more. She was sad, and Eric found himself rocking back on his heels, trying to figure out what had just happened.
“But…we are married,” he stumbled, taking Sookie’s hand and rubbing his thumb across the ring he’d given her.
“Yeah,” she nodded, “Sure,” and walked away from him. Eric didn’t feel happiness from her. He was pretty sure Sookie didn’t accept what he’d told her and it made his teeth grind.
Eric followed Sookie into the kitchen. She was washing her dish in the sink and he wrapped his arms around her. “What is it you want of me?” he asked.
“I want…” and Sookie exhaled. She thought of her romance novels, where the hero fell to his knees, asking, begging, the woman he loved to marry him, and then she thought of that moment in front of the Queen after Eric had kissed the knife and slid the ring on her finger. It had been special, yet, somehow, it wasn’t the same. There had been no vows spoken nor promises made. “I guess I want the fairytale,” she sighed.
“You want a human wedding.” Sookie could feel how little the idea appealed to Eric. If she had to put a word to it, she would have called it disgust.
“Well, I can feel that you don’t,” she shrugged her way out of his arms. “So, I guess that settles it.”
“It should!” Eric growled, “But it doesn’t,” and he followed her as she walked away from him again.
This time, Sookie headed up to her office. She sat down at her desk. She could feel Eric hovering at the door. She signed into her email account. There was an email from Amelia. The subject line was, ‘Pregnancy sucks!’ Sookie drew a deep breath. Her throat tightened. She had felt this before, the jarring sense that she no longer lived a life she understood. She had grown up with one set of rules and suddenly, she was someplace where none of those rules applied. There would be no white wedding, no babies, and family. She would live instead in a beautiful, but curiously sterile world; one where all the faces were adult and there were those who counted and those who didn’t. She stared at the ring on her finger. Did she love him? She suspected she did, probably more than she should, though the sacrifices she needed to make to be with him seemed almost too much to bear.
“I will marry you by your custom,” Eric said from the doorway. “If it means so much to you, then I will do it.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Sookie shook her head, not looking at him. “It won’t change how things are. You’re right,” and she shrugged. “I just need to accept that everything’s different for me now,” and two fat tears rolled down Sookie’s cheek.
His arms were around her. He lifted her and pulled her into his lap, and then stilled. In another instant, he was standing, carrying her into the master bedroom, setting her on the small couch, and then sitting down beside her. It was such a sweet gesture, letting Sookie know he had listened and was trying. “I think we should wed in your way,” he pressed. “I think there are some things that shouldn’t change for you. You have changed for me. I will learn to change for you. I think that is important.”
“I don’t want you doing something that violates some rule,” Sookie sighed.
“It doesn’t,” Eric shook his head, then said, “but no minister. There are those who are authorized to say the words that aren’t affiliated with one of your religions. I will say the words in front of one of those.”
“Oh,” and Sookie thought about that before asking, “Is that a vampire thing?”
“No,” Eric said rather stiffly, “That is a human thing.”
“You have a problem with religion?” Sookie asked.
“I have a problem with modern religions,” Eric nodded.
“So, you consider yourself to be religious?” she asked carefully.
“I honor my gods,” he replied. “I may be the only one left who remembers them.”
“I’m okay with that,” Sookie nodded. She could feel Eric’s vulnerability in that moment and she wondered at how lonely it must be to have everyone you know and care about die while you continue on, stuck in place. “I guess it’s good you have Pam,” she whispered. “I’m really glad you do.”
“Why do you say that, Älskade?” he asked.
“Because I don’t want to think of you finding yourself all alone,” Sookie said against his chest. “You’re a good man. You deserve to have people who walk this world with you.”
“You have a kind heart,” Eric whispered. He could feel his attraction for this woman. It swelled within him, making the idea of ever being without her unimaginable. ‘Love,’ he thought.
“Me, too,” Sookie said, wrapping her arms around him.
Three nights later, Sookie was Skyping with her Aunt. “So, let me get this straight,” her Aunt was saying. “You’re married, just not to Breandan.”
“That’s right,” Sookie confirmed.
“And it’s not a legal marriage.”
“That’s not what I said,” Sookie explained for the second time. “It’s legal here in Ireland, but it’s not recognized in the United States. We could file paperwork and go through channels, but it would mean a lot to me if we could get remarried there, with all of you. I checked the laws in Minnesota and…”
“You want to be married here? Is there something you’re not telling me, Sookie?” Linda looked skeptical.
A tall, blond man appeared behind her Aunt. His face got close to the camera and he said, “I’m your Uncle Lars, Sookie. So, you want to get married here, on the farm? That’s real nice! It would mean your brother, Jason, could be here with you. It’s good to have these times with your family.”
“Lars!” Aunt Linda scolded.
“Come on, Linda, Sweetie,” the giant scolded right back. “Your only niece is coming home to get married in your front room? You know you’re going to go crazy making it nice for her.”
Sookie watched her Aunt eyeroll, but when Linda spoke next, it was in a more pleasant tone, “Well, at least it’s not that Breandan! So, you better tell me about this young man of yours.”
Sookie told her Aunt and her Uncle Lars the things she thought would make Eric sound most normal. She had just finished explaining that Eric owned a number of pubs when Eric walked into her office. “A bartender?” Linda exclaimed.
“Sounds like a good addition,” Uncle Lars chuckled, then elbowed Sookie’s Aunt.
“Not a bartender,” Eric corrected, walking into the camera view, “although I can do that, too. I am Eric Northman,” and he bowed a little. “I am looking forward to meeting both of you.”
“So, why did Sookie say you were involved with bars?” Aunt Linda asked once the introductions were finished.
“I told you that Eric owns bars, not that he tends bar,” Sookie clarified for her Aunt.
“We call them pubs,” Eric added, “I own three at the moment and I’m looking forward to opening another soon.”
“A real businessman!” Lars exclaimed. “That’s good, right, Linda?”
“I’m happy for you,” Linda said, looking directly at the camera. “Of course, we’d be honored to arrange a wedding for you here. I think it’s a great idea.”
Sookie wondered at her Aunt’s sudden support and she turned, squinting at Eric. “We are most grateful,” Eric was saying smoothly, ignoring Sookie’s stare.
“Of course, you’ll be staying here, with us,” Linda said as if there were no question.
“Unfortunately, we will need to stay in the Cities,” Eric replied, making a show of placing his arm around Sookie’s shoulders and leaning toward the camera so his face was beside hers. “We were able to arrange things so our trip is mostly paid by attending a trade convention. I’ll need to be in meetings all day. Sookie will be able to get away, but I won’t. I apologize, but attending is important if I’m to grow my business and properly support your niece. This one being in Minnesota seemed like fate. I know how Sookie feels about being married in front of her family. It was the one sadness to our being married here. Only my sister, Pam, was able to attend. I’d like to make that up to her.”
“Are you pregnant?” Linda asked.
“No!” Sookie exclaimed. “I’m not pregnant.”
“Well, I had to ask,” Linda shrugged.
“It’s that things are different here,” Eric intervened. “I have known Sookie since she came to Ireland and after she left Breandan, I didn’t want to wait, and, as it turned out, neither did she. I understand that in America, people in our situation choose to live together first, but in Ireland, we marry.”
“There, you see?” Lars shushed his wife, “They did the right thing and now they want to do it again, with all of us.”
“So, what were you thinking for this wedding?” Linda had started to frown. “Pastor Larsen…”
“Eric isn’t Christian,” Sookie interrupted. “I hope you won’t mind, but we were thinking that a Justice of the Peace…”
“Carl Lundquist would do it,” Lars spoke up again.
“You never talk about anything but the weather and farm reports, now you’re Mr. Chatty Cathy!” Linda scolded her husband. She turned back to the camera, “He’s right, though. Carl is our neighbor and he likes doing weddings. He stands in front of Town Hall every Valentine’s Day in his snowmobile suit and marries folks for free. He’d do you right.”
“You’re very kind to arrange this,” Eric said, using his most charming voice. “We are most grateful to you.”
“It’s the least I can do for Michele’s daughter,” Linda said somewhat stiffly, “even if Sookie couldn’t be bothered to tell me until after the fact.”
“Again, I’m sorry about that,” Sookie apologized. “I won’t say it was a snap decision, after all, Eric and I have known each other since…”
“All this time and you couldn’t mention him?” Linda reminded her.
“I couldn’t very well be with one man and talking about another,” Sookie replied rather defensively.
“I had to have her as my wife,” Eric added. “I couldn’t see any other way around it.” Of course, what Eric said was the literal truth, but Linda and Lars interpreted it differently.
“True love,” Lars laughed. “See that, Linda? We’re not the only ones!”
“Who says I love you?” Linda snapped, even though her eyes were laughing and she playfully punched her much larger husband.
Sookie confirmed when they’d be in Minnesota. Linda offered to pick them up from the airport, but Eric declined, telling her Aunt that the convention had drivers. Sookie knew the truth. She and Eric would be flying on an all-vampire airline. They would be staying in a vampire-safe house outside of the Twin Cities, rather than in the palace of the Minnesota vampire Queen. Sookie had a feeling she hadn’t heard all the details, but she was sure Eric had called in favors to make it happen.
“You are pleased?” Eric asked Sookie once the session ended.
“Thank you,” she replied. “I do appreciate it.”
The plan was to stay in Minnesota for a week, and then, at Eric’s suggestion, they would travel to Boston to visit with Sookie’s friends, Amelia and Sean. “We can also wrap things up with your attorney,” Eric suggested. “One year is too long for probate. I am sure that a personal visit will see an end to all the paperwork.”
When Sookie asked when she should plan on returning to Ireland, Eric just shrugged. “Two weeks? Four? As long as we like. You may wish to see more places in America. There are cities I could show you. It is the advantage and the disadvantage to being a vampire. I have the freedom to travel, but not the freedom to linger too long.”
“Why are you doing this?” Sookie asked. “You didn’t have any plans to travel before. You have businesses here. You said yourself you chose to come to Ireland and remain. This can’t be convenient for you.”
“Pam tells me every woman deserves a honeymoon. This could be yours,” Eric shrugged. Sookie didn’t think Eric was being perfectly honest with her and she was certain he didn’t fully understand the whole honeymoon concept, but the fact that he said he wanted to give her one touched someplace deep inside; the place starting to accept and anticipate forever with Eric Northman.
“What time will Pamela and Maryann be here?” Sookie asked.
“Half an hour,” Eric said, glancing at the clock on the laptop.
“I’d better get things ready,” and Sookie headed back down the kitchen. She was cooking a formal supper, the first since they’d taken up residence. Eric was sure the smells would linger for days. Sookie made small meals for herself, but nothing on this scale. Tonight, there was a whole chicken in the oven and two kinds of vegetables. There was also a cake Sookie told him was made from a recipe that had been passed down through her Mother’s family.
Sookie was just pulling the chicken from the oven when their guests arrived. Maryann wrapped Sookie in a hug. “I miss you!” she said and Sookie could see she meant it. “We brought the rest of your things from the apartment. I can’t believe I’m going to have to find someone else to help out next season.”
“All you really need is a strong back and a coffee drinker,” Sookie joked. She glanced over Maryann’s shoulder to see Pam and Eric chatting. She could feel that the conversation was making Eric tense, and then he turned and stared at her, trying to make her feel guilty for eavesdropping.
“What is it?” Sookie asked Pam directly, ignoring Eric.
“You don’t scare her at all,” Pam laughed before sharing, “The Queen has granted Eric permission to travel. No worries!”
“Don’t bullshit a bullshitter,” Sookie huffed. “I can tell there’s something else, because Eric isn’t feeling all happiness and sunshine. What else did your Queen have to say?”
“Your Queen, too, Breather,” Pam teased. “Well, she’s still frosted that she allowed her temper to get the better of her. She wanted your husband’s fine ass for her own, but now that can’t happen, at least while you’re living.”
“Pam!” Eric growled.
Pam looked Eric’s way, made a sound with her lips, and then turned back to Sookie. “You deserve to know. Sophie-Ann suggested Eric stay here and you travel to America on your own. She offered to have you killed, so Eric would be free.” Eric growled again and they both turned to look at him. Staring hard at Eric, Pam said, “I told her it was a kind offer, but my Master’s pleased with how things turned out and he has no intention of parting from his wife anytime soon. I suggested that Sophie-Ann was quite the jokester and we parted on amicable terms.”
Sookie could see they were trying to make light of it, but she could feel the color draining from her face. Maryann stepped beside her and laid a hand on her arm. Looking at Eric, Sookie asked, “If she wants me dead, why doesn’t she just kill me now?”
“Because you’re bonded,” Pam explained. “Sophie-Ann figures if you’re half a world away, the pain Eric will feel when the bond breaks will be muted.”
“I will speak with her,” Eric growled again. “I won’t have her threatening…”
“Problem solved!” Pam interrupted. “Sophie-Ann isn’t going to do anything. It took some talking, but, in the end, we all laughed about it. Don’t go poking another stick at that hornet’s nest!”
“She should know better!” Eric threatened.
“She’s a child!” Pam agreed.
“What’s for dinner?” Maryann asked, changing the subject. They all got started, shuffling dishes to the dining room for the humans. Pam prepared fancy goblets of TruBlood for herself and Eric, and they were soon sitting, talking about the doings in Slievemore and the latest gossip revolving around Rogan.
“He’s retreated almost completely,” Pam confirmed. “He’s taken a leave from his hotel and I’m told he’s hunkered down in one of his forts.”
“The new management at The Grand is all anyone is talking about in town. That Preston is a piece of work! The tourists seem to like him, but the locals aren’t happy!” Maryann shared. “He’s too flamboyant for a little town like Slievemore, as much as we cater to foreigners.”
“I hope he falls on his designer wingtips,” Sookie snarked. “He was a mean Queen while I was there and bad things should happen to bad people.”
“So bloodthirsty, Miss Stackhouse,” Eric laughed.
“I couldn’t agree more, Mrs. Northman,” Pam added, shooting a look at Eric.
As Pam and Maryann were leaving, Maryann turned to Sookie and asked, “When do you head to America?”
“Next week,” Sookie answered.
Maryann nodded, “And you’re returning…”
“We haven’t decided,” Eric answered. He looped his arm around Sookie, much to Pam’s delight. Frowning at Pam’s hooting approval, he added, “It will depend on how things go. I want Sookie to enjoy this trip, so we will take as much time as she wishes.”
“Well,” Maryann looked at Sookie, “you call me when you get back. I’m assuming you’re still interested in that B&B,” and when Sookie confirmed it, Maryann continued, “Well, good. There’s an association to which we owners belong and we meet about once a month. I’ll bring you along to the next meeting. We’re a chummy bunch and it couldn’t hurt for the others to meet you.”
“I’d love that!” Sookie agreed, stepping from Eric’s side so she could hug Maryann. “It would feel like I’m finally getting started.” Suddenly, Sookie felt a coolness run through her and, in the next instant, she realized it was coming from Eric. “What?” she asked.
“You’d better let her do it,” Pam laughed. “I don’t see how you can stop her, so you’d be smart not to try.”
“Of course, I’ll support Sookie in anything she really wants to do,” Eric covered, but he swore to himself he’d find other things for Sookie to want. The idea of resting in a place where strangers were forever coming and going held no charm.
“Smart man!” Pam teased, but Eric was sure his child wasn’t fooled.