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.
He was closer and then, the door opened, and he was there. His eyes were hungry and his fangs extended. Eric, standing in the door, looked like every vampire movie Sookie had ever seen, but she wasn’t afraid, not for one second.
“You’re well!” he sighed, and he flew, literally flew, to her.
“I was afraid,” he whispered. She was wrapped in his arms so quickly, she didn’t have time to return the favor. “You are back. I can feel you. Sookie…” and he pressed her closer.
“Ow!” Ribs protested. A place in her back protested, too.
Eric’s response was immediate. His arms flew open as quickly as they’d enveloped her and she dropped back against the pillows, making all her hurts protest anew. “I’ve hurt you!” he exclaimed.
“And you’ve done it again!” but Sookie couldn’t be angry with him. “Slow down, Big Guy, I’m right here, I’m just a little tender.” She laid her hand against his cool cheek and said, “Let’s say we try this again, only human speed this time.”
Eric found the button to her bed and raised it. “Make room,” he grinned, and then he slid his way onto the bed beside her. He eased one long arm under, and then waited for Sookie to move toward him. Wiggling into position involved a series of groans and grunts, but eventually she was comfortable, and Eric brought his other arm to rest over her clasped hands. He turned his head, burying his nose in her hair, “You are restored.”
There was something about the sound of his voice, and Sookie tilted her head up to look at him. “What’s wrong with your eyes?” she asked. “Were you in an accident, too?”
“No,” and he chuckled. “I wasn’t injured.”
“But, you’re bleeding!” and Sookie started to lift her hand to touch the blood drop on Eric’s cheek, even though it hurt to raise her arm.
“It’s normal,” Eric assured her. “It happens sometimes when I’m under great stress.”
“Okay,” but Sookie was pretty sure there was more to it. She turned her head against his chest, “You definitely need to eat and after that, we’re going to talk about what happened.”
“I should probably feed elsewhere,” Eric said above her. “You are still not…”
“I can’t believe you’re already arguing with me!” Sookie growled. “Just because I’m happy to see you doesn’t mean everything is all great and cozy between us. You put a leash on me! Eric! I can’t begin to tell you how many ways that’s wrong! I mean, fun in the bedroom is one thing, but introducing me to all your friends…”
“They aren’t my friends,” Eric corrected. “They are… Robert is a King, not an ally, and his Court has no one left that I consider a friend.”
Sookie considered that for a minute. “Niall told me that going to the Summit was dangerous, that he wouldn’t have taken me.”
“I had no choice,” Eric replied, confirming what Sookie had heard. “What has your Doctor told you?” he asked in the next minute.
“I haven’t seen a Doctor,” Sookie replied. It hadn’t occurred to her until Eric said it. “Niall just left. Maybe he scared everyone away.” Eric looked toward the door and shifted, as if to get up. “Don’t!” and Sookie grabbed his hand.
“I will find the Doctor, see what he says…” Eric protested.
“About what? I feel fine,” Sookie huffed, “Well, aside from the aches and pains, but that’s ribs. Grandfather said by tomorrow I won’t feel a thing.” She didn’t add that the Fae Prince had said drinking from Eric would be needed. Instead, she focused on the fine whine of tension she was receiving from the vampire beside her.
“I mean it, Eric. You’re hungry. I know what that feels like, and you are!” She plucked at his shirt and when he stared at her, his eyes stormy, she smiled extra-perky. “Come on, you know you want to!” and cocked her head to the side.
“And you are not angry with me?” Eric asked.
“Of course, I am,” Sookie corrected him, “but that doesn’t mean I’m going to deny you what you need,” and it occurred to her that she needed something, too. Running her hand up his shirt, she slipped her fingers inside, touching his skin.
His eyes flared and he pulled back. “You are not healed,” he protested again. “I will get your Doctor.”
“You will do as I say,” Sookie snapped. “You had it your way last night and look where we are.” She looked away, “I can’t explain it, Eric, but I need this. I need to reconnect with you. There are things I need to say, but I can’t say them until…”
“I love you,” he said. It was in his eyes and through the bond between them. His lips were on hers and her breath caught. “Did I hurt you?” and he pulled back again.
“Stop it!” Sookie panted. “Put the bed down!”
Eric licked his lips. He stroked her leg as they waited for the motor to finish lowering the top part of the bed. “You are sure…” and Sookie took his hand and pulled it toward her center.
“Get busy!” she ordered.
Before last night, Eric would have given her that pirate smirk. He would have teased and tortured, but, tonight, he touched her with reverence. He watched her, truly watched her. When he stroked past that place within her that make her breath hitch, he smiled and licked his lips again. “Yes,” he hissed, and added his thumb, tapping her clit while he twisted fingers, waiting for her voice to join her breathing.
When that happened, he added lips, tracing the contours of her face. He rubbed his nose along her cheek and his lips along her brow. “Min hustru,” he breathed across her face. Sookie wanted to arch, but moving against Eric’s fingers, pushing into him, hurt. “Don’t move,” he whispered in her ear, then followed his words with his tongue. “I will take care of you.”
He pulled her leg up so her foot was against the sheets. “I wish to be in you…”
“Yes!” she answered.
He was breathing now, matching her rhythm, one hand busy while the other opened his pants. His eyes blazed, burning her with their intensity. “I will try not to hurt you,” he told her.
“Too late. Get on with it!” Sookie told him.
“So demanding!” he smiled, but all trace of humor disappeared as he entered her. “Yes!” he sighed, “This is right. This is best.”
He started slow. Sookie could tell he was checking, his mind standing in front of his desire, preventing himself from becoming wholly lost in the act. He was good, he was always so good, but what Sookie needed was more than the physical sensation. There was something that happened between them when they achieved orgasm together, a joining. She figured her battered body would make her regret it later, but now, she needed him with her. She squeezed her inner passage, and then, pulling herself up, she bit him. As his blood hit her tongue, she pushed her need, her lust, toward him.
She could see his neck arch back and his fangs extend in her peripheral. His hips snapped forward, and then again. He groaned and he began to move more quickly. When she faltered in meeting him, his hands swept under her, lifting her, opening her so he could go deeper. She squeezed again, and he roared. He was speaking in another language, words spilling from him, and then he leaned over, biting her, stroking once, and then again. Sookie could feel him pulsing and she bit him once more, sinking her teeth deep, drinking, her eyes closed, feeling him rush through her.
When his skin became whole under her mouth, she let her head drop back to find him staring at her. His mouth was bloody and in the next moment, he kissed her, and began moving within her again.
When he came this time, Sookie could feel his uncertainty. He rolled away from her, but, instead of wrapping her in his arms, he cuddled lower, resting his head below her belly. He turned his lips to her, kissing her skin, and she ran her fingers through his hair, loving the feel of him. “You should have told me why I was dressed that way,” she told him.
“That’s what Pam said,” he replied.
Sookie’s fingers stilled, “So, you told Pam, but you didn’t tell me?” She felt insulted, but it took her a moment to determine exactly why. “You trust Pam,” she mused, “and you don’t trust me.”
“I don’t know you,” and Eric shrugged.
Sookie felt the breath leave her. He was right. They knew so little about each other, but in other ways, they knew everything there was. “Ouch,” Sookie said aloud.
Eric’s head raised, “You are injured?”
He looked stricken and Sookie rolled her eyes, “Do I feel injured to you?”
He frowned, thinking, “No, no more than before…maybe less. But you said…”
“It’s an expression, Eric. It means that what you said was hurtful, even if it is true.” Eric seemed content with her explanation, lowering his head back to rest on her. “So,” Sookie said, “If you don’t know me, doesn’t that mean you have no reason not to trust me?”
She could feel him smiling. “Clever wife,” and he kissed her belly. “What I find is that it is safer to assume everyone is untrustworthy until they prove otherwise.”
“Well,” and Sookie tugged his hair, “Back at ya! Guess I shouldn’t trust you either, if that’s the way you see it.”
“But you should…” and Eric sat up to look at her. “I am pledged to protect you.”
“And I’m pledged to do the same,” Sookie pointed out. “How does it feel?”
“Not good,” he conceded. “None of this is good,” and he gestured at the room around them.
“Well, if you’d trusted me, we probably wouldn’t have ended up here,” Sookie pointed out.
“If you’d trusted me, this wouldn’t have happened,” Eric countered.
“Well, I guess that’s a lesson for both of us,” Sookie replied, trying to smooth the sudden flare of conflict between them. Eric settled, and so did she. Sookie looked out the window, wondering how far they were from the city. She could see the buildings across the way, but there was very little street noise. “I guess I was pretty bad off last night,” she said out loud.
“I thought I would lose you,” Eric whispered into her lap. He stroked her leg, even as Sookie stilled under him.
“Why didn’t you turn me, Eric?” Sookie asked. “If you thought I was going to die, why didn’t you?”
“You didn’t wish it,” he replied, still not looking at her.
“Oh,” and Sookie acknowledged it was where they’d left things. “Well, if it’s a choice between life and…” and she thought about it. She thought about what Eric’s life was, and the lives of the vampires she’d met. She thought about Niall and Claudine and what it might be like to go on forever. “I think we should discuss it,” she said instead. “I don’t want to die, but I really need to think about what living forever would mean. I’m not sure it would suit me.”
“I’m not sure it would suit you either,” Eric told her and he shifted, joining her on the pillows so he could look into her face. “You are a creature of day. I think that finding yourself always in darkness would make you unhappy.”
‘He doesn’t want me,’ the insecure voice within her cried, but it was overcome by the sadness she felt from him. “Why do you say that?” she asked.
“You would miss the sun,” he said. He was looking at her, his eyes everywhere. He stroked her hair back from her face as he continued, “You are warm, so that would change. You would like the sharpness of smells, but you would miss seeing birds and the shadow of clouds. And you would be my child. I would have the power of a Maker to command you, in fact, it would be my duty to do so. There are many lessons to becoming vampire, Sookie, and you would need to change to survive. You would hate that,” and he kissed her. “So would I.”
“You’re saying you like fighting with me?” Sookie chuckled.
“And how you defy me,” he grinned back, “and how you have a mind of your own. I would not want to be forced to train any part of that from you.”
It was hard not to feel flattered. “But, that means that someday, I die,” Sookie pointed out.
“Yes,” Eric answered.
There was something there, something elusive. “What does that mean for you?” Sookie asked. “I remember you saying something about how the bond will affect you. I mean, you’ll miss me, but…”
“I will follow you.” He smiled and Sookie could feel his absolute acceptance of his words.
“What does that mean, exactly?” she asked, warning alarms sounding in her head.
“The day you are no more,” Eric traced her lips with his fingers, “I will also meet my final death. I have been thinking on this, why Fate brought you to me. I have lived long and played the game better than most. Even if I didn’t love you, Sookie, I would feel a great loss when you cease. The bond twines us, every day closer, aligning us so we are able to fight as one.” He grinned, “And I intend that you should live a long life beside me, but on the day you are taken, I will come with you. Another adventure we will share.”
“Well, Eric,” and Sookie managed to pull away a little, “That is just total bullshit!” and Sookie didn’t need the bond to interpret Eric’s surprise. “What did you think? Did you think I’d be flattered by that? Well, I’m not!” Sookie’s eyes narrowed and her chin jutted forward. “What do you think love is about, anyway? Some suicidal death pact? You have some really fucked up ideas, Buster!”
“Why do you call me, ‘Buster’?” Eric’s mouth was open and he seemed to be in shock.
Sookie wasn’t having it. She poked him in the chest, emphasizing her words, “If you think I’m okay with that, you’re crazy!” she railed. “You are Eric Northman! You are a thousand years old and I’m not even a fraction of that, but somehow, I’m so terrible that I’m going to be the end of you? That’s crap!” Eric was starting to feel insulted, but Sookie wasn’t done. “There is no way I’m going to make it okay for you to commit some kind of Romeo suicide, no way!”
“The Gods…” Eric interrupted.
“…Can kiss my ass!” Sookie finished. She grabbed his hand, “This? This is real, Eric, not some flimsy storybook fate. You want to believe in your gods? Go ahead, but this is what I believe in; flesh and bone and us. You said it yourself. We are something the world has never seen before and we make our own rules, you and me! There is no fate! We make our own reality, every day, fighting and kissing and screwing up together.”
Angry tears sprang in her eyes, “Or not. Eric, if you think that our being together dooms you, then let’s call it all off now. There is no way that I could be part of your end! Don’t you see?” and she leaned forward to kiss him. “I love you. I love you in a whole heart kind of way and that means that even if I need to give you up to save you, I will!”
“Sookie…” he ran his thumb over her lips.
“You are amazing, even when you’re an asshole. It makes me feel better just knowing that there will always be you,” and she smiled for him.
“And for me, there will only be you,” he replied. His eyes shifted, “So easy to say these words now. They have been asked from me, many times, by those who would claim me, but they only fit you,” and he focused on her, his gaze sharp.
“Don’t go all mushy on me, Northman,” Sookie laughed.
“Your ribs?” he asked. “Do they still hurt?”
“They should. After all the foolishness we’ve been up to, everything should be screaming, but I feel fine. That magic blood of yours seems to have done the trick!” Sookie told him and she stretched to illustrate the point.
“I should find the Doctor,” Eric sniffed. “We should return to our hotel. Anubis has a plane in Boston. They could fly us home tomorrow.”
“In the morning?” Sookie asked. “Would you be…you know, resting?”
“I don’t wish to delay. Why? You would have us wait for night?” Eric asked in return. “We should not wait,” he rushed on. “I am not easy here. There are dangers, and too few allies to watch over you. I confess, I was not prepared for this,” and Sookie figured out that ‘this’ meant the two of them together.
“Sorry I don’t fit into your calculations,” Sookie sighed. “Look, I’m ready to get back into clothes again, too. Why don’t you go find whoever around here can give me my walking papers, and find me something to wear. We can figure out our next move when we get back to Grave House,” and Sookie giggled. “Really? Grave House? Someone couldn’t come up with a better name?”
“I think it’s clever,” and Eric smirked, looking more like his old, badass self.
Sookie couldn’t help looking at the door and, for a moment, she had a vision of people standing on the other side, their ears pressed against the surface. She looked at Eric, and he was staring at the door, too. Shaking off the feeling, Sookie sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed, “See? Good as new. Let’s get going.”
Eric left and soon returned with a pair of scrubs. The pants were too long and Sookie had to hold up the waist, but they were able to leave the warehouse. There was a tall Were standing at the door as they left. “Thank you, Doctor Bellweather,” Eric said. Sookie was about to say something when she felt an unpleasant buzz in her head.
“You don’t have a clear recollection of when we left,” Eric was saying and Sookie saw the Doctor’s eyes glaze over just a bit.
“Why did you do that?” she asked as they stepped outside.
“Habit,” Eric answered, then gathered her in his arms and launched into the sky.
“Do you know where we’re going?” Sookie couldn’t help looking at the tops of the buildings as they glided through the night sky.
“I have a general idea,” Eric answered. He maneuvered them so that they didn’t fly close to taller buildings. At one point, they looped far to the right, almost over the harbor, and then they angled back into the city, landing in an alley. “Come,” and Eric took her hand, leading her to the sidewalk.
They were only steps away from their hotel and as they walked into the lobby, Jeffrey, the concierge emerged. “Thank goodness, Mr. Northman,” and he nodded at Sookie, “Mrs. Northman. I was told there was a problem, but here you are. Let me open the door to your room. Do you need another key?”
Jeffrey was bustling down the corridor and then up the flight of stairs. When they reached the staircase, Eric swooped Sookie back up into his arms. “What in the world!” Sookie exclaimed, and then, rightly interpreting, she laid her hand against Eric’s cheek, “I’m okay, really!”
“Maybe I just like the feeling of you in my arms,” he sassed. He said it in that tone that implied he didn’t really mean it, but Sookie could feel his sincerity. She thought of the energy it must take Eric every day to be so guarded, hiding his feelings and second guessing every response whenever others were near.
“Well, doesn’t mean I won’t take advantage of it, then,” Sookie sassed back, joining him in pretending.
Jeffrey opened the door and then stepped back, allowing them to precede him. “You’ve had inquiries from a special person,” he told Eric. “I have been asked to call his home as soon as you return.”
“Robert,” Eric informed Sookie, and then, “Thank you, Jeffrey. Please let Robert know that we are here and intend to remain here the rest of the evening. I will call him myself.”
“Thank you, Mr. Northman,” and Jeffrey bowed, clearly relieved. “So glad to see you looking well,” he said to Sookie, removing any doubt that gossip had informed Boston about her mishap.
“I should call him,” Eric said as soon as the door closed. He looked annoyed and when Sookie questioned, he explained, “I should have glamoured the Doctor and the staff earlier. I would have, but…” and he smiled, touching her hair, “I was distracted.”
“Suppose you could call for some food, first?” Sookie asked. She ate a light lunch with Niall, but that had been many hours ago and her stomach was starting to protest.
Eric pointed to the house phone, “Call Jeffrey. Tell him to send up a full meal, anything you like,” and he walked into the bedroom, pushing a button on his phone.
Sookie quickly settled on steak. It wasn’t something she ate often, but the idea appealed. When Jeffrey suggested Boston cream pie, she quickly agreed to that, too. As she hung up the phone, Eric walked back into the sitting area, “What did you do?” he asked. “You are feeling guilty, but happy at the same time.”
“Dessert,” she grinned. “A really rich one!”
“Good.” She could tell Eric was not entirely happy, but he covered it well. “There will be time,” he said, and then he leaned over and sniffed. “I will run a bath so you can wash the smells from you.”
“Could have stopped at ‘run a bath,’” Sookie informed him. “Sounded romantic, until you threw in the part about me stinking.”
“You wish for more romance?” Eric laughed.
“I just ordered myself a big piece of chocolate sex,” Sookie shrugged. “Why wouldn’t I go whole hog and want the rest?”
“Bath first,” he scolded, but as he turned to the bathroom, he wiggled his lovely butt and sashayed through the bedroom, glancing at her over his shoulder to make sure she was watching.
“Like I could scrape my eyes off that!” Sookie sighed.
The bathtub was large enough for both of them and Eric took on the role of servant, undressing her, pulling her hair back into a braid, his long fingers stroking across the white ridge of scar tissue she carried from where he’d bitten the iron from her. When he turned off the water, he removed his own clothes so fast it was just a blur. He stepped into the tub and offered her his hand, settling her so that she lay against him. He picked up a washcloth and poured perfumed oil onto it, then set to scrubbing her back. “Too hard?” he asked.
“Not hardly,” Sookie sighed, letting her eyes close. “Feels like heaven.”
Eric shifted and she could feel his hard length against her back, so she wiggled against him, but he was having none of it. “Stop it, Sookie!” he growled. “Robert will be here soon and he will wish to see you.”
“Why?” Sookie shrugged, moving back just a little and wiggling again, but Eric’s hands clamped down, stopping her. “What does he care?”
“He became interested in you,” Eric sighed. “He…” and Eric hesitated, covering his annoyance by pushing her forward, and leaning her back to wet her hair. When she stared at him, letting him know she wasn’t letting him off the hook, he brought her upright, poured shampoo in her hair, and told her, “He wished me to share you.”
“Share me?” and Sookie twisted to look at Eric. “Share me?” she repeated, letting him know by her tone that she understood what he meant. “Does that happen often?”
Eric wasn’t meeting her eyes, “With pledged vampires, both partners would need to consent, but, yes, it is done.”
“But, you know I wouldn’t agree, so why are we having this conversation?” Sookie pressed.
“Robert is a King,” Eric replied.
“So, that gives him the ability to pressure you,” Sookie replied, “Because you’re only a Sheriff, so if he asks for me as a favor…”
“It is not required,” Eric snapped. “And even if you were willing…”
“Which I’m not!” Sookie added.
Eric looked directly into her eyes, “Neither am I, but turning down a King takes finesse.”
“I’ll simply say I’m not feeling up to it, no matter how flattering the offer. Maybe next time we’re in Boston… and then we’re never returning,” and Sookie smiled. “How would that be?”
“Yes,” Eric smiled sadly, “That would satisfy protocol.”
“But, you’re still not satisfied,” Sookie said. She meant it to sound like stating facts, but even she could hear the accusatory tone in her words.
“I wish things were otherwise,” Eric told her. “I wish there was no need to explain or give excuses.”
“This can’t be the first time you’ve faced this,” Sookie pressed. “You’ve had companionship in the past. Not pledged or whatever, but women you’ve been fond of, right?” When Eric didn’t respond, she asked, “What did you do then?”
Eric was scrubbing her again, clearly unwilling to talk about this further. Sookie knew this meant Eric assumed the answer would anger her, and she thought through the possibilities. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “You went along! Did the women know?” and then the second shoe fell, “And you glamoured them so they wouldn’t remember! Eric! That’s terrible!”
“To give and receive pleasure?” Eric sounded grumpy and his emotions had gone curiously flat. “The only thing that is wrong is how humans think of these things.”
“It’s about consent,” Sookie scolded. “No one should be pressured to perform if they don’t want to!” and then she grabbed his hand and made sure he was looking at her, “And you know it! I can feel how bad you feel about even telling me, but those days are behind you, right?”
“You make many demands,” Eric replied and he hoisted himself from the tub, leaving Sookie staring open-mouthed.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Sookie demanded. She stood up as well, taking the towel he offered. “You want me…”
“No!” Eric answered, and then shook his head, “No, I will not share you, not even with Pam.”
“Pam?” Sookie asked, the idea a new one. “Well, thanks, I guess. So, what’s the problem with promising? This is between you and me, right…”
“If that is what you mean, then yes, I promise,” Eric said quickly, and then turned and walked away.
Sookie’s eyes narrowed. Eric was being evasive and she thought it through. Striding after him, she asked, “What am I missing here, Eric? If we are together and you aren’t sharing me and I’m not sharing you, what’s… is this to do with your job?” The quick stab she felt told her she’d landed on it. “This is something you do as a Sheriff?”
“And procurer,” Eric nodded. “I don’t fulfill that role often, but it is part of the fealty I owe Sophie-Ann. I agreed before I met you. I am pledged to this arrangement for the next fifty years, unless she releases me.” Eric huffed, “And under the circumstances, I don’t think our Queen is likely to grant me any concessions. She is angry that her own temper forced our bonding. She is not a great Queen. When she is angry, she blames others. Do you understand?”
“No,” Sookie’s jaw jutted forward. “No, I don’t.” Eric was mostly dressed. Sookie opened her mouth to say more, but there was a knock on the door.
“Robert has arrived,” and Eric gave Sookie a sharp look. “It would be best if we appeared aligned.”
“Of course, I’ll back you up!” Sookie growled “You must think I’m a real child!”
Eric moved directly in front of her and kissed her hard. “You are worthy of being a Queen, Älskade; a better Queen than the one we have,” and then he was out of the bedroom, closing the door behind him.
“This isn’t over, Northman!” Sookie said under her breath and rushed to finish dressing so she could join him.
“Your mate isn’t joining us?” Robert glanced toward the bedroom where they could both hear Sookie moving around.
“She will join us shortly,” Eric bowed. “Sookie moves more slowly; her injuries. I am sure you understand.” Eric answered.
“I see,” the King replied, taking one of the armchairs. “Jeffrey tells me she appears fully recovered. I didn’t hear the news of your departure from the worthy Doctor Bellweather, so I’m assuming you remembered yourself and glamoured him.”
“I was remiss in my attentions to the hospital staff,” Eric acknowledged.
“You told the Were that your mate is Seelie, which I knew.” Robert stroked the arm of the chair with his sharpened nail, “But you also told the Doctor that she is a witch. I wonder that you didn’t think to share that with me.”
“I did not seek to hide any aspect of my mate’s nature. It is only that this not a certainty,” Eric answered. “It may be nothing more than the musings of an old woman,” and Eric focused on the King, “While we were in Maude’s kingdom, a human woman called Sookie a witch. There is no proof, but Sookie was gravely injured. I provided the Doctor that detail just in case.”
“Have you questioned your mate about this?” Robert was looking at Eric and the Viking recognized this conversation had transformed into an interrogation.
“She knows nothing,” Eric replied, and then taking the offensive, stated “You are very interested.”
Robert stared at Eric, “Witches cause a great deal of trouble here. We watch them closely and we don’t underestimate their ability to influence us. If your mate is a witch and you are hiding that…”
“It is not known,” Eric repeated, cursing himself again for not taking care of the staff when he first arrived.
“It’s not just that,” Robert growled. “I understand Niall Brigant showed up at the hospital. He refused any assistance, insisting on healing her without any medical intervention. Your mate was near death, and now she is fumbling about as if nothing happened. You have interesting connections, Eric Northman.”
“I can see our presence in your kingdom is unsettling,” and Eric bowed. “I will call Anubis…”
“I want to understand your woman’s nature,” Robert interrupted. “You tell me she is a relation of Brigant, but not that she is so dear that he is willing to appear personally to intervene on her behalf. Your Sookie appears one way, Northman, but what is she, really?”
“Sookie is an asset,” Eric used the words he’d used before.
“Is she?” and Robert’s eyes drilled into the Viking. “I wonder who is really the asset here,” Robert snapped back. “Her, or you?”
Eric drew himself up, “Sookie does not control me!” The words tumbled from his lips. What Robert suggested struck close to both honor and pride. “If my mate is a witch, it is something that is buried deep within her. She is unaware of it and drawing it out would require training and awareness, both of which she is without. Or it may be nothing more than the ramblings of an…”
“Old woman, yes, so you’ve said,” and Robert sat back again. “But you don’t really believe that, do you, Northman? If you did, you wouldn’t have told the hospital staff about her. And then, you forgot to glamour them. I received updates about her at my palace all night and then all day. Hours you allowed them to run, unfettered, spilling information. They could have been giving your resting place to your enemies.”
Robert leaned back in his chair, examining Eric as if he was some new, unpleasant thing. “You are so unlike the vampire I have known all these years. The Eric I knew would have acted quite differently. The Eric I knew was crafty and wise. He was a trusted shield in battle. He didn’t make the mistakes of a newborn. How else am I to explain your actions now? Of course, I look to what has changed to try and explain this weakness.”
“Being bonded is new for me…” Eric began.
“But others bond, and I don’t hear of those mates changing so radically. Perhaps this Seelie mate of yours has placed you under a spell,” and Robert watched, expecting Eric to consider his words.
“Sookie is no spell caster,” Eric hissed, and then both their heads turned as the subject of their conversation moved toward the bedroom door, and then opened it.
If she’d heard any part of their conversation, Sookie gave no sign. She walked forward, stopping just in front of Robert’s chair and executing a decent bow, “Your Majesty.” Her voice sounded strained, and when she straightened, she was biting her lip.
Robert’s lip quirked. “Do you find me amusing, Mrs. Northman?” he asked.
Sookie took in breath, and her eyes swept to Eric. Her expression turned somber as she read the tension in the room, “No. It’s just saying those words. I feel like I’ve stepped into a fairytale book.”
“I see,” but Eric could see Robert wasn’t amused. “We were just discussing your abilities, Mrs. Northman,” he told Sookie. “Your mate seems to think you’re a witch.”
“Witch?” and Sookie smiled again. “I’d think Eric would have used a different letter at the beginning of that word, but I guess I can see it.” Sookie’s reaction relaxed, acting as if this was nothing more than banter between friends. “I have some names for him, too. Guess that’s not unusual for mar… Well…pledged couples.”
“I know you are Seelie, Mrs. Northman,” and Robert sat forward, bringing the force of his personality to bear. “More Seelie than was previously reported. Your famous relative’s unannounced and unsanctioned intrusion into my kingdom has tongues wagging.”
“I don’t think he meant anything by it. He came here to help me. I’m sure Grandfather meant to check in first,” Sookie replied. She tried to appear contrite, but Sookie didn’t quite hide the proud jut of her jaw.
“We both know that’s a lie,” Robert snarled. “Niall Brigant does what he wishes. What I need to know is what else you are, Sookie Northman?”
Eric could feel Sookie’s confusion and nervousness, so he sent her courage. If she failed to answer, Robert would interpret it as dishonesty, but her response was unvarnished and sincere. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Are you also a witch?” Robert asked directly.
Sookie’s mouth fell open and her eyes went wide before her lips tilted up, “Is this a trick question?” She glanced at Eric and the vampire was afraid she would laugh, misjudging the seriousness of the situation. Fortunately, Sookie seemed to understand his worry. Her face sobered and she turned back to Robert, “Are you telling me there are witches, real ones?”
“Of course, there are witches,” Robert huffed.
“Is this about Lars’ Mom calling me a witch?” Sookie asked Eric. “You didn’t think…” and Sookie couldn’t help herself, she eye-rolled. “Jesus, Eric! She was an angry, old woman who was probably pissed off about missing her bedtime TV show to meet people she didn’t want to know! I’m sure she meant to call me a bitch, but she was too polite to say the word,” and Sookie used air quotes to emphasize ‘polite.’
Sookie sighed, “And you thought that meant something? Really?” and Sookie eye-rolled again before turning back to Robert. “I’m new to all of this. Last year, I didn’t know any of this existed. Fae and vampires and Seelie were in my books or on television; not real. So, no, I’m no witch. I’m not even really Fae,” and Sookie’s eyes fell. “I guess I’m not exactly human either, but I’m more human than anything else. I’m just Sookie Stackhouse… Well, Sookie Northman…” and Sookie’s arms fell to her sides. “I’m what you see in front of you, nothing more.”
“I doubt that,” Robert answered. He stood and turned to Eric, “As I said, Northman, I have known you for ages and I have never known you to behave so carelessly. If your Maker…”
“My Maker is a great vampire!” Eric exclaimed.
“Yes,” Robert answered, “Yes, he is, and he would doubtless take you back into training were he to hear of what happened here.” Robert’s eyes swept over Sookie, “And I am sure he would do what was needed to ferret out your other mysteries as well.”
Beside him Sookie shuddered, and Eric wondered if she was displaying the deep horror he felt.
Robert drew himself up, “There is too much about this that is unknown. I have my own worries. I don’t need more. It would be best if you left now, Northman. Take your mate back to Ireland. Perhaps when you are more yourself, you can return, but until then…” and he bowed.
As he started toward the door, Robert said, “Take care of yourself, Eric. The world has been an interesting place with you in it. I would hate to think that might change,” and without another word, the King of New England was gone.
Eric stared at the closed door. “You don’t really believe all that, do you?” Sookie asked.
“I need to contact Anubis,” Eric replied. He couldn’t look at her and Sookie could tell he was shaken. “We need to get packed.”
“What?” Sookie asked. “What is it?”
“We need to go now,” Eric told her. He pulled out his phone and started texting. “Good, Pam’s flight hasn’t left. She will arrange things for our return.” He looked at where Sookie was standing, “Now, Sookie! We will Uber to Anubis as soon as we’re ready.”
“I don’t understand.” Sookie shook her head, but she started walking toward the bedroom.
Eric texted Anubis and within seconds, the emergency number called back. Bumping up his flight time was expensive, but it was arranged. Next, he texted Jeffrey, walking to open the door, but Jeffrey was already in the hall.
“I’ve heard,” the concierge told him. “I have called a private driver, someone I trust.” He moved toward the bedroom and subtly moved Sookie out of the way, taking over the packing of their bags. “Your dinner is being packed, Mrs. Northman. You will be able to rewarm it on the plane.”
“I don’t understand,” Sookie repeated, this time tugging at Eric’s shirt.
Eric laid his hand over hers, “I’ll explain once we’re in the air,” he told her. “No time now.” One suitcase was closed and Eric lifted it. Jeffrey took another sweep of the bathroom before closing the second. Eric placed his hand at Sookie’s back and moved her along with him, the concierge following. They swept down the stairs and then Jeffery preceded them to the curb. There was a black car, the door already open, and Sookie was in the back seat and they were moving almost before she knew it.
Eric gestured at the shiny bag on the seat beside her, and she could smell the steak. Her stomach growled. “You will eat soon,” Eric whispered. “The airport is only fifteen minutes away, maybe a little longer.”
Sookie could feel Eric’s worry. He glanced out the windows, his hand holding hers a little too tightly. He relaxed as they drove through the tunnel, but then became wary again as they approached the airport. The black car glided away from the terminals, taking a turn down a dark road that led to hangars and soon enough, they turned next to one that was unmarked except for the now familiar black dog’s head. The plane was hooked up to a fuel truck, but the engine was already making noises.
“Good luck,” the driver told them as he held the door.
“Your coffin…” Sookie asked.
“It will come later,” Eric told her.
“But what if…” and Sookie stopped walking, disorientation turning to panic.
“Not now!” Eric snarled, “We must go!” and he physically lifted her over his shoulder, rushing her up the stairs and into the plane.
The suitcases followed them and the door closed. “My dinner!” Sookie cried, but there was a sound outside. The fuel hose snaked back toward the truck and the plane started to bump forward.
“We will find you something,” Eric assured her. He herded her to a seat and when her hands didn’t move, buckled her in before turning back to stare out the window.
They lifted off into the night sky before Sookie spoke. “We’re on the plane now, Eric. You said you’d explain this once we were here.”
“We outstayed our welcome,” Eric replied. “Robert withdrew his protection.”
“Because of me,” Sookie licked her lips. “Maybe it was better when I thought Älskade meant trouble, because that’s what I am for you,” and she laid her head against Eric’s arm.
“This is not about you,” Eric lied, but Sookie felt too bad to challenge him.
“What’s your Queen going to think about this?” Sookie asked.
Eric smiled, “‘Our’ Queen will not be pleased. She will send a formal rebuke to Robert. You are under her protection and you were almost killed in his kingdom. She will demand an apology.” What Eric didn’t say was that Sophie-Ann would blame him for making trouble. Eric sighed.
The flight attendant introduced herself, and then headed into the back to see what was on board that Sookie might be able to eat. She returned after a bit with a bowl of tomato soup and a sandwich that was probably her own. “Thank you,” Eric told her.
He waited until Sookie was eating to start rewinding the events of the night of the Summit. He remembered where Sookie stood on the street. He remembered the cars that were passing and he thought about the one that struck her. He remembered where it had been parked on the street and how it pulled forward when she stepped from the sidewalk. Mostly, he remembered how, even though it was night, the headlights never turned on.
Sookie must have felt his frustration, because she turned to him, her sandwich in hand. “Eric?”
“Eat, Älskade,” he told her. There would be surveillance footage, but his chances of getting it were slim to none. She smiled at him and his empty chest warmed.
“I love you,” she assured him, laying her hand on his arm, and then she pushed, knocking his arm from the armrest and claiming it as her own.
‘Am I spelled?’ he asked himself, but as she laughed, he dismissed the idea. ‘No more than any other man who has found his one,’ he assured himself and settled back, content to listen to her talk.