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.
Something had changed. As they drove home, Eric held her hand. He rubbed his thumb across the top, lifting it and pulling her toward him. He kissed her fingers. She was speaking. They were talking. Encouraged, he started to tell her how he’d figured out what the Sheriffs were doing.
Sookie smiled, she laughed, but, for some reason, as she looked at her perfect husband, she was reminded of an incident from her childhood. There was a boy, Tim, who lived next door. She was young, just starting first grade. Her family had moved there recently, another in a long line of first years in new homes, and Tim was her first friend.
He had older brothers, and they teased him, and her. When May Day came, she opened her front door to find a little paper basket hanging on the doorknob. Her name was scrawled on the side in pencil, and there were dandelions tucked in, already fading just a bit. She felt so flattered. It was the first time she felt that odd prickling feeling you get when you realize someone thinks you’re pretty. She brought the basket inside to proudly show her mother. “Look!” she’d exclaimed.
And her Mother had. Inside the little paper basket, where Sookie hadn’t looked, Tim had loaded it with worms. She figured out later that his brothers put him up to it, but she never looked at Tim the same way again. ‘I’ve found the worms,’ she thought, and she felt that from this point forward, things between her and Eric could never again be quite so perfect.
“Älskade?” he was asking, his cornflower blue eyes watching her.
“I’m sorry, I was just looking at the stars,” Sookie lied. “I’m so happy for you.”
“For us,” he corrected, and she knew that now, he could feel it, too.
They walked into the utility room and Eric stopped her. He wrapped her in his arms and she responded. He was working the fastenings on her dress and he slipped it from her, encouraging her to step away as it puddled around her feet. He opened the cupboard, the one she’d noticed before with all the towels, and removed a large one from a top shelf. “Why don’t you head upstairs?” he smiled, cupping her cheek. “Take a shower. I’ll join you in a minute.”
“What are you going to do?” she asked. He was lifting her dress, dropping it into the covered bin.
He pulled his shirt over his head, not bothering to unbutton it and dropped it in the same bin before advancing. She almost took a step back, but forced herself to stand her ground.
“This is part of our life now,” he was saying. He wrapped his arms around her. “What happened is something that is past. It may not seem that way now, but it is a good thing.”
“They’re dead,” Sookie found herself saying again. The other words she’d said earlier, ‘You killed them,’ hung in the air between them.
“I think we should take a bath instead,” he said. He took her hand and Sookie followed. When he stopped at the door and fell to his knees to remove her shoes, she held onto his shoulder for balance. Even though she knew he didn’t need lights, he turned them on anyway, allowing her to see the rooms of their beautiful house and the perfect roses he’d bought her in their perfect vases.
‘Is he the Robber Bridegroom?’ she wondered, thinking of a dark tale from Grimm’s stories and for a moment as they climbed the stairs, she felt a bubble of panic start to rise, threatening to break open her chest and consume her.
“Sookie?” Eric stopped. He gathered her to him, “Please, Lover. We will talk about this. I will answer your questions. I didn’t want you to see that. There was no need.”
“It’s what you do, isn’t it?” Sookie touched his lips. Her fingers were as chilly as his skin, and some part of her that now seemed to be watching from far away wondered if the flesh and blood woman standing on the stairs in her underwear might be in shock.
Eric’s eyes seemed flat in the light. “This was a good night for us,” he told her, and Sookie could feel his disappointment, laced with anger. “We won!” he insisted.
Sookie closed her eyes, and then opened them. She wondered how she’d sleep with visions of bouncing heads and blood lurking behind her eyelids. “I’m cold,” she told him, meaning more than the temperature.
“You are,” he agreed, and she knew he meant more than the temperature, too.
Eric walked past her into the upstairs bedroom. He left her standing near the bed. She realized he’d reached some decision and, although he was willing to meet her, the time for patience was over. ‘Am I afraid of him?’ she wondered. The thought that she was joined to someone she feared made the bile rise in her throat. ‘Who is he?’
Sookie curled her fingers into fists. She knew she wasn’t being fair. She couldn’t process what she’d seen. Sure, she’d seen people die in movies and on television, but she’d never seen anything like what she’d seen tonight in person. Eric was moving around in the bathroom. She reached for the bond, and then pulled back again. ‘I’m no coward,’ she scolded herself, and forced herself to walk into the bathroom and open herself, searching for the emotions that ran between them, but she found none, and she shivered again.
Eric didn’t turn. Instead, he adjusted the water temperature, then walked past, barely looking at her as he took towels from the shelves.
“I don’t know what to think,” Sookie said out loud.
“You need to figure it out,” he snapped.
“Nothing I’ve seen prepared me…” Sookie stammered, but before she could finish, Eric turned around, dropping fangs, holding nothing back.
“You whine like a child!” he snarled. “You have had a year to come to terms with what you are and the world in which you live. What did you think? Did you think we were all some sanitized version of those fairy tales you keep talking about?”
“I didn’t…” Sookie tried reaching for Eric, but it was his turn to step back.
“You wish to be human? Choose it! Go back to your Aunt and bury yourself on that backwater farm. Learn to dig dirt and pretend that you can fit in, but stop trying to pretend I am that.” Eric dropped his pants and pulled himself to his full height. He crossed his arms across his chest, and Sookie found it easy to imagine this man as a Viking.
“You’re right,” Sookie admitted. She bit her lip, but then took a deep breath and pushed her chin up. “I don’t want to go back, but this…” and she closed her eyes again. “Please, Eric! I’m struggling…please!” and she reached for him.
“Don’t cry,” and the hard man in front of her bent. He gathered her against him, “You are shivering. Come,” and he helped strip her remaining garments and then handed her into the tub. The water was hot, the way they both liked it. Instead of climbing behind her, though, Eric got in the tub so he was facing her. He took her hand, the one that wore the ruby he’d given her, and laid it so her palm was flat against his chest.
“I am going to tell you what it is to be a Sheriff,” he told her. “I am not going to protect you from truths anymore. You will listen to what I say, and then you have to choose.”
“Choose what?” Sookie asked.
“Whether you wish to be joined to me,” he answered.
“I didn’t think we had a choice,” Sookie pointed out.
“There is always a choice,” Eric sniffed. “It would not be easy, but we could live apart. Distance would help.”
“You’d leave me?” The words slipped and somewhere her heart was falling through her chest, making it hard to breathe.
“I will not live with someone who can’t accept what I am,” Eric stated, and Sookie knew he meant it.
He was very still and Sookie realized the bond between them was still as well. She stared at her hand, and she deliberately flexed her fingers, grasping the sparse curls that grew from his chest. “I don’t want to leave you,” she told him, ignoring all the details to say what was most important.
He nodded and tilting his head back, started, “What you saw tonight was necessary.”
“Killing,” she choked out the word.
“Carrying out the Queen’s justice,” Eric restated, and he waited to see if she’d say anything else. When Sookie didn’t, Eric continued, “Those two were planning a takeover. Do you know what that is?”
“You told me,” Sookie confirmed, “You said they were working for Robert.”
Eric ignored her question, instead re-asking his own. “What do you think a takeover is?”
“It’s when one of your Kings decides to take over another’s kingdom,” Sookie answered. “You said that he would kill the Queen…”
“And everyone else who works for her,” Eric finished. He made sure he had Sookie’s attention, “All would be executed as I executed those spies tonight. All…” and he emphasized the word before saying, “Me, Pam…. You, because you belong to me.”
“How can that happen?” Sookie struggled with the concept. “I mean, we don’t live in some Stone Age…”
“You live among Supernaturals,” Eric pressed again. “Our rules are different. We live forever, until someone ends us. For vampires, we are very hard to kill, almost as hard as Seelie. It means that when we punish, we must make sure it leaves an impression. We torture…”
And Sookie couldn’t help the sound that escaped her. “We torture,” Eric repeated. “We use physical discomfort, breaking people to enforce the rules. We are powerful and, if left unchecked, we would become threats, both to ourselves and to humans. These are our rules and I…” and Eric leaned forward to make sure she understood him, “I am the enforcer of those rules.”
“I thought you didn’t like being a Sheriff.” Even to her own ears, she sounded small, so Sookie steadied herself before saying in a louder voice, “I thought it was something you did because it meant you didn’t have to work too hard.”
“I let you think that,” Eric nodded, “but, I am suited to this work. I protect my Queen and my kingdom.” He lifted her hand and turned it palm up, “I protect what is mine.” His eyes met hers, “I have lived this way even before, in my human days. It pleases my sense of honor.”
“Does it happen often?” Some part of her head was screaming at her, demanding to know what she meant by rationalizing any part of this, but the larger part of her saw the knight who was willing to kill for Queen and country, and she couldn’t help but find him beautiful.
“No,” he answered. “Executions are rare.” His head tilted to the side and his eyes glittered, “But torture…that is not so uncommon.”
Sookie swallowed hard. Finally, she took a deep breath and asked, “How does that work? You catch someone who’s breaking a rule and what?”
“It depends on the rule,” Eric answered. He dropped her hand and picked up a washcloth. He began to wash her, long strokes down her arms, and then the tops of her legs. “Small rules, not paying tithes, exposing our kind to humans, they get a warning. If they don’t correct the issue, broken bones are customary.”
“You break bones?” Sookie didn’t watch Eric’s large hands. It was too easy to think of the power they had to do harm. Instead, she stared into his eyes, willing herself to see him as the man capable of being gentle with her as he was now.
“Vampires heal,” he nodded. “Broken bones, particularly small ones; hands, feet, heal quickly. It’s painful, but not permanent. Larger crimes have larger punishments.” He stopped meeting her eyes, focusing on washing her shoulders, the cloth stroking along her clavicles, “Selling our blood means the loss of body parts.” Sookie knew he could feel her stiffen, but he didn’t pause, “Again, my Lover, we are vampire. We regrow lost parts. It is impossible for us to change.”
“Have you had that done to you?” Sookie asked.
He grinned at her. It seemed so out of context, that he should be talking about something this gruesome and yet find humor, “Several times!”
“What did you lose?” Sookie asked, unable to stop herself.
“A leg, once,” Eric shrugged. “It was part of an imprisonment. My captor wanted to make sure I couldn’t escape. Of course, he didn’t know I had flight,” and Eric smirked as if having things cut from him was a game. “Ears, of course, and fingers. I even had a bastard remove my testicles once.” Sookie’s mouth fell open. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask what had merited that kind of treatment, but she didn’t, so Eric shrugged, pretty much confirming her assumption.
“The worst thing a vampire can do to another, though, is remove their fangs,” Eric sniffed, returning to his washing.
“Why?” and Sookie took her own cloth, soaped it, and began to wash Eric in return, craving the comfort she felt in being in contact with him.
“It means we can’t feed without help,” Eric told her. “Remove our fangs and hands and we can starve to death. It is a terrible way to perish. Meeting the sun is better. You find yourself praying for a stake.”
“Have you had that done to you?” Sookie asked.
“Twice,” Eric told her. “Once, my Maker did it to humble me, and once it was done to serve the ego of a King.”
“What happened to that King?” Sookie knew, but she needed to hear it.
“He met my sword, Älskade.” Eric squeezed the water from the cloth and hung it over the rail, giving Sookie time to process what he’d told her. “This is what I am,” he said. “I serve, and in that role, I am satisfied.”
“You don’t wish to be King?” Somehow, being King or Queen sounded better. At least if Eric were King, he would be ordering someone else to do these terrible things. It was easier to wrap her head around that idea than the one where this man who read her poetry and owned pubs was also the kind of beast who broke bones and ripped limbs.
“Being what I am suits me,” he answered. He stood up, the water sluicing from him. He extended his hand. “What is it to be, Sookie?”
She looked at that hand. She knew that taking it was her promise never to look back. She would be well and truly down the rabbit hole, trusting the rest of her life to a vampire. ‘A vampire you love,’ her inner voice reminded her.
Eric waited, and then the bond, which had been mute, seemed to leak. Eric’s eyes were cold, but Sookie suddenly felt his hurt. “Eric,” she sighed. She could see he misunderstood. He started to turn away, so she grabbed his hand and slipping her human face away, she rose to him as she truly was. “Yes,” she told him.
There was no kiss.
Eric stepped from the tub, helping her to do the same, and he stood there. “What?” she asked, but he just watched her until she understood. Taking a towel, she started to dry him. She worked on his arms and then his chest. When she moved around to his back, she grabbed another towel and shoved it at him, “Don’t just stand there!”
For a minute, it was normal again, but as she dried his hips, she felt him become watchful again, his hands stilling. His eyes smoldered, but she knew this was her move. If she wanted this, wanted them, she would need to claim him. She’d bruised his heart and nothing less would do.
Lifting her chin, Sookie set her jaw. Holding his eyes, she grasped him firmly.
“You are sure of this?” he asked.
“I love you, Eric,” Sookie replied. “Nothing changes that.”
His mouth softened, “Min krigare kvinna,” he whispered, and he traced the bow of her upper lip with his thumb.
“What does that mean?” she asked, too conscious of his thumb hovering over her mouth.
“My warrior woman,” he answered. “My mate,” and he pressed his thumb to her lip. Sookie opened her mouth, readily sucking it, running the pad over her teeth. His fangs descended as he stiffened in her hand.
“I love you,” Sookie told him again, realizing it was as much to quiet her own misgivings as it was to reassure him.
She knew she wasn’t fooling him. He knew some part of her was still reluctant, caught in a never-ending loop that played the sound a blade makes slicing through bone, and the thud a head makes when it hits the floor.
Reaching down, he removed her hand. She tugged him, and he moved toward the bedroom. When they stood at the foot of the bed, he stopped again. Eric was imposing at any time, but this Eric, so stony-faced, was forbidding. Sookie half-expected him to stop her, but he walked backward, sitting down on the mattress when she pushed him. Licking her lips, she steadied herself before climbing up, draping her legs to either side of him. She wrapped her arms around his great head and drew him close. He inhaled as he ran his hands up her flanks, cupping the globes of her bottom, squeezing. When he pushed, she rose, and then sank onto his length. She wasn’t fully ready, but a few strokes solved it. He watched her as he moved her, helping her find a slow, steady rhythm. She could feel him, every ridge and curve as he moved within her. He started to thrust with more purpose, fingering her clit, his eyes slitting.
He felt good, as good as he always did, but her mind wouldn’t stop. She saw eyes and fangs, she remembered words and the purpose of this mating. With a growl, Eric flipped them over, bringing her leg over his hip and moving deeper. She tried to keep up with him, but as much as she wished it, she couldn’t find that point that tipped her from pleasure to bliss.
After a time, Eric stilled. “Do you want me to stop?” he asked.
‘Do I?’ she thought. “No,” she said. She contracted her muscles, squeezing him within her and was rewarded by his growl.
“You are mine!” he snarled in her ear, and then bit. He was moving at the same time, holding her, possessing her, and her orgasm found her in a great rush, robbing her of breath. She clutched him to her, holding him with arms and pussy, pulling against his fangs until she could feel her blood drip down her neck and over her shoulder.
When he fell from her, he started to lap her wounds. “Don’t,” she gasped, pushing his face. “I want to see them in the morning.”
“Do you need scars to remind you what I am?” he asked. Sookie could feel his storm roiling at the edges of their bond.
“I want to see your marks,” she explained, “To remind me that this is my choice.”
She could feel his reluctance, but he flopped over on his back, agreeing through his actions. Twisting, she crawled to the head of the bed and pulled at the blankets. “Come on,” she called. She could almost see his wry smile as he moved toward her, allowing her to pull the covers over him as well. “Lay back,” she ordered, and curled herself into him.
“Your feet are cold,” he huffed.
“Better than my other parts, don’t you think?” she whispered. Turning her head, she kissed his chest. He was a killer. He tortured. He used a sword, but he was also a man of honor and the man she’d chosen. He’d offered to free her, and she knew he was sincere, but this was where she belonged.
The marks in daylight were ugly and jagged. The sun was barely over the hill when Sookie rose. She walked carefully from their darkened bedroom, walking downstairs in her robe. She texted Ian, asking him to stay away. She needed to think and having Eric’s devoted Dayman around wasn’t going to help that.
“This is who you are,” Sookie said to her reflection. She stood in the bathroom off the utility room. She had walked out here, coffee in hand, and opened all the cabinet doors. She wondered that she hadn’t done it earlier, but she realized she’d known on some level that the secrets of this room would not be something she’d like.
There were two upper cabinets that held towels. The lower cabinets were filled with cleaning supplies and contractor’s garbage bags. What she’d assumed was a broom closet held clothing, both men’s and women’s. The bathroom was no regular half bath, there was a shower in here, and all the surfaces were dark.
He told her last night that he tortured people; killed them. ‘This is where he cleans up,’ she realized. Sookie was amazed how calm she felt. Taking a deep breath, Sookie let her human face slip away and she stood tall, angling her head so the bite marks were visible. ‘You’re going crazy,’ some small part of her scolded, but the larger part of her answered, “It all makes sense now.”
She hadn’t bitten him last night and he hadn’t pressed her to do so. Sookie slipped her shirt. She had a bruise forming on one arm and another low, near her hip. Eric was a strong man, and they were physical in their love-making. Usually, his blood took care of it, but they had been apart more than together these past months. Clearly, the effects were wearing off. ‘I’ll have to take care of that,’ she thought absently, starting to make a new list of things to do, a list that included the reality of this new life.
“I’m Fae,” Sookie told her reflection. She could see the doubt in her own eyes, and so she squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, and declared with more conviction, “I’m Seelie, and I’m bonded to Eric Northman.” She slipped her underwear off and stepped back into the utility room. She thought about the woman’s robe hanging in the closet and it was in her hand. She thought about the clothes on the floor of the bathroom, sending them to the laundry basket upstairs. She thought about another cup of coffee and her cup was filled. “I am Fae!” she declared, “And I am bonded to Eric Northman!”
On a whim, she willed herself to be on the hill outside. She closed her eyes, thinking of the rocks and ground. She felt the cold on her cheeks and the wind cutting through the thin robe, but when she opened her eyes, she was still in the utility room. Still, when she smelled the sleeve of her robe, she could smell outside, and the fabric was chill against her.
Sookei moved her coffee cup from one end of the counter to the other and back again. Lifting her hand, she summoned her whirlwind. She weaved it with colors and she made it sway. She threw it, first to one side of the room, and then another. She willed it to appear in the kitchen, where she followed it. She caught sight of her appearance in the kitchen window. Her hair was floating around her head, and she seemed to glow. For the first time, she tried to form another column. She tried summoning, and then splitting the original, but nothing worked. ‘So, there is a limitation,’ she thought.
She cleaned, she made, she moved items, both heavy and light. She stretched her magic farther than ever before and she owned it, every minute. Sweat dripped between her shoulders and still, she pushed herself, until her fingers started to shake.
“Stop!” she said aloud, and it was enough. Her legs were like Jell-O as she sank into the dining room chair. A single petal fell from the pink roses that sat on the table and almost unconsciously, Sookie slowed its descent, watching each movement, caught in the beauty. When it rested on the table, so did she, leaning forward to lay her cheek against the smooth wood. “I am Fae,” she said aloud again, and then touching the wounds on her neck, she told the petal, “and I am bonded to Eric Northman.”
She allowed herself the luxury of a few tears. ‘It’s okay,’ she consoled herself, ‘you should be sad to see one life end. Things are different.’
When she felt less wobbly, she swiped at her cheeks and went upstairs to her office. She pulled down the shoebox and held those few mementoes she’d found under her Mother’s bed. Taking them back to the dining room, she laid out each of the few precious photographs. She studied her Mother’s face and her Father’s. She thought of the hardships they’d faced. “Did you know what you were?” she asked her Father’s laughing photo. He was looking at her Mother and she was looking at him. “You knew you were different,” she told him, and she swallowed. “You knew there was danger and you stayed with Mom anyway.” She looked at the one photo of her Father with her and Jason, his face proud as he held his children, “And you had children. You were careful. If you didn’t believe we couldn’t be happy, you wouldn’t have made us.”
Feeling better, Sookie got a pad of paper and a pencil. She made two columns: ‘What’s Changed’ and ‘What Hasn’t.’ As she stared at the blank page, her stomach growled. ‘Still need to eat,’ she wrote in the ‘What Hasn’t’ column and with a wry smile, she headed to the kitchen.
By the time her late lunch was over, the ‘What’s Hasn’t’ column had grown. She still needed to work, Pam and Maryann were still her friends, she still wanted a B&B someday. She had a house under construction that needed her supervision and clients that needed their books reconciled. She still loved to be outside and she could walk in both day and night. She loved Eric, even if that love felt a little bruised at the moment. In the end, there was only one thing in the ‘What’s Changed’ column: ‘I Know’
There were a couple things she’d written before that she’d scratched out. ‘Eric’s a Killer’ she’d scratched out when she decided to be honest. He was what he’d always been. ‘I am a magical creature’ wasn’t a change either. No, in the end, there was only one thing that had shifted in her world, and she still didn’t know how she felt about it.
As she looked at her parents’ pictures again, she tried to imagine what her Daddy would say. She knew what Michele would say. She’d deny everything, telling Sookie not to be so dramatic. She thought of how afraid she was that first day in a new town, her Father laughing at her. ‘You are going to have new adventures and learn a new place! What’s to be afraid of? Most people never get the chance to see the places you do. It’s a gift! Now, go out and claim it!’ and he’d tweak her nose.
‘Claim it,” Sookie said aloud. In that moment, she thought of all the times Eric used that very word. “Of course, you knew!” she said, her heart lighter. “And you knew what I was! Oh, Daddy! I miss you!” but she felt happy. She was where she was meant to be and here, she could live her life in the way her Father never could. She didn’t have to hide who she was if she didn’t wish it. Dangers might come, but Eric would stand beside her. ‘And I have all the tools I need to defend myself,’ she thought. “Thank you, Daddy,” she said to the laughing face she wished would look at her one more time.
When Eric’s eyes opened, Sookie was sitting, cross-legged, beside him. She was dressed in jeans and a sweater, but she wasn’t wearing her human face. The slight tilt to her eyes and cheekbones declared her lineage. “Are you leaving me?” he asked.
“No, Eric,” Sookie replied.
“Then, why aren’t you naked in my bed?” he asked. He stretched before sitting up. The blanket tented over his lap and he didn’t bother hiding his hunger for her.
“I wanted to apologize,” Sookie replied.
Eric reached for her, “I know of many ways to get something straight between us.”
Sookie batted his fingers away, “And so do I, but talking first is a good idea.”
You’re going to ask me questions,” Eric groaned, falling back, closing his eyes. When Sookie didn’t respond, he opened one eye and growled, “Go ahead, do your worst.”
“Don’t be so dramatic!” Sookie scolded, and then her mouth fell open. “Oh my God, I’ve become my Mother!”
“Your Mother was attractive,” Eric sniffed, running his nails over Sookie’s thigh.
“What’s wrong with you?” Sookie chuckled. “You got sex last night!”
“And I want more now,” he grinned. He moved quickly and Sookie found herself on her back, pinned under him. “You can remove your clothing, or I’ll rip it from you.”
“I like this sweater!” she squeaked, and she found she couldn’t stop laughing. He was picking at her, teasing and tickling. Sookie twisted and turned, pushing away his hands, but she didn’t really mind, and he knew it. Finally, she grabbed his cock, pulling hard enough that he stilled. Holding his eyes, she softened her grasp and then stroked, rubbing her thumb over his head. Eric’s eyes narrowed and his mouth fell open. Sookie rose and her lips met his.
It was hurried, but when he finally entered her, they both stilled. “I am yours,” she sighed.
“The Gods are good,” he replied, pulling back and then pushing home again. “They have given me such a woman. Sookie!” and then the time for words was over.
It was nearing midnight by the time they settled back against the pillows. Sookie was sure her hair was sticking out in some pretty unattractive angles. Her skin was sticky, but Eric was his usual, perfect self. “It’s not fair,” she sighed.
“Are you going to air grievances now?” he sniffed. He didn’t seem the least concerned, but he started to pull at her hair and she was pretty sure he was helping create an even bigger rat’s nest.
Sitting up, she laid her head on her knees, “It’s just you are perfect. I’m sweaty and tangled and I smell. But you…”
“You smell like catnip,” Eric grinned, and his clever fingers started to sneak their way under her.
“You’re insatiable!” Sookie laughed, rolling further away from him. After a minute, she crawled forward cuddling into his welcoming arms. “I need to get back to Slievemore,” she told him.
“When are you leaving?” he asked.
“You could come with me,” she suggested.
“We could stay with Pam,” Eric nodded.
“Or at the Goat Street house,” Sookie told him. “It’s almost done. There’s just some finish work on the outside.”
“Pam and Ian tell me it’s transformed,” Eric complimented. He lifted her fingers from his chest and kissed her fingertips. “You are strong, my wife. You are a mate worthy of songs.”
“I am Seelie,” Sookie repeated the words she’d said the mirror earlier in the day, “And I am bonded to Eric Northman. That’s enough.”
“Come, wife,” he tugged, and dropping fang, he licked and then struck. When he’d finished, he used his nail to open his arm. “Drink,” he urged. Sookie readily accepted, sucking and licking, and Eric used some of the escaped drops to heal her neck. “You don’t need to see what you know already,” he told her. When he kissed her, she tasted her own blood mixed with his and it didn’t bother her at all.
“It is smaller,” Eric observed, as he admired the changes she’d made to Goat House, as she was calling it.
“Less to clean,” Sookie shrugged. “Besides, we have Ballytyne if we feel the need to get away.
“And the houses in Dublin, Carrack, Wexford…” and Sookie sighed. “What?”
“Why don’t I see any of those in the accounts?” she challenged. “I do the books every week and there’s nothing in there about extra houses. You told me you had a place in Barbados, too.”
“And you don’t see them?” Eric asked. He was trying to look puzzled, but Sookie could see right through him.
“Stop lying! I’m your wife? Hand over the rest, Northman!” She tilted her chin up and was rewarded with his slow, lazy grin.
“Clever,” and he pulled her to him. “As I’ve always said,” and he claimed her lips.
“Not going to forget!” she sassed, and pulling away, took him to see the extended kitchen and dining area she’d had made off the back of the house. “No yard anymore, but I kept space for the cars.”
“It is respectable space,” he praised. “Suitable for an up and coming pub owner and his lovely wife.”
He’d growled a little when he’d realized Sookie meant this to be their primary residence, but Sookie could tell she’d won. Eric might posture, but she trusted he would give her anything she truly wished, if it was within his power. “We’re central here,” Sookie reminded him. “The mountain road could be a problem in winter, but the drive is faster to other places than from Ballytyne.”
“I will ask Ian to arrange moving our things,” he agreed.
“I was thinking of inviting Niall for dinner,” she told her husband. “It’s always a good thing to have Seelie eat your food. It means they owe you favors. Besides, I don’t feel I’ve properly thanked him for saving me.”
“Do you expect me to sit at table with the old bastard?” Eric asked.
“Of course,” Sookie sniffed. “We could invite Pam, too.”
“But not Claudine?” Eric asked.
“No,” and Sookie shook her head. “I’m going to ask Grandfather to help me train. There are things I can do, but I don’t know what I don’t know. Maybe I’m capable of doing more, or I’m doing something that could hurt me. Without guidance, I won’t know and of all of them, I trust Grandfather most.”
“What of Octavia?” Eric asked her.
“I’m keeping up those lessons,” Sookie confirmed. “Maryann said I can keep using her garage. It’s got enough space and there’s no windows. She’s not teaching me any tricks, if you’re wondering.” Eric never asked her about the nature of her lessons with the witch. Looking at him now, she realized it was his way of letting her know he trusted her. “She’s teaching me defensive arts.”
Eric looked surprised, “Defensive arts?”
“I do something magic and Octavia turns it against me. I practice resisting,” Sookie explained.
“Does that work for magic from others as well?” Eric asked.
“I don’t know,” Sookie hadn’t considered that having another creature use their magic might prove different.
That night they walked up the hill and around the corner to Ghoul’s Kiss. Mick was behind the bar and the music was playing. Regulars greeted them like long-lost family and Eric found himself surrounded by waitresses and friends, claiming hugs and offering congratulations. “Mine!” Sookie laughed, chasing them from him.
“Dance with me,” Eric invited and they joined the others, looping and jumping, and then waltzing slow and close. Eric helped with closing and Sookie took over Chelsea’s last tables, letting her go early.
Mick locked the doors and he headed off one way while Eric and Sookie walked, hand in hand the other. As they drew abreast of the small park across the street from Goat Street, Sookie drew Eric into the small area. Stopping in front of the sign near the hanging tree, she asked, “Do you remember?”
“This is where I found hope,” he smiled. “I knew I had to have you, but this is where I knew that you would have me, too.”
“What would you have done if I hadn’t come around?” Sookie asked. “What if I’d married Breandan?”
Smiling in that lazy, so-satisfied way he had, Eric laid her hand against his chest, “It wasn’t possible. This?” and he squeezed her hand, “This was meant to be. We are fated, Älskade. The Gods may make us dance for their pleasure, but, in the end, we will be together. It is written.”
“Well, you’ll have to show me that book,” Sookie grinned. “I wouldn’t mind reading ahead.”
“But, where would be the fun in that?” Eric grinned, and he pulled her to him, kissing her under the stars.
Dinner was surprisingly normal. Niall showed up with flowers and a casual shirt. Of course, no sooner were the doors closed than human faces were slipped.
“I am grateful to you,” Eric said, surprising the Seelie. “You have done me a service I can never repay.”
The words were old-fashioned and Sookie couldn’t help blushing. “But, we’re going to try,” she stammered. “Hope you like chicken.”
Sookie and Niall drank wine. Eric also sipped, and they talked of business for awhile before the conversation turned to more Fae concerns.
“Claudine tells me she’s seen you,” Niall informed Sookie. “She believes you are unhappy with her. Has she done something to upset you?”
“Not exactly,” Sookie replied. “I do want to ask you a favor, though.”
The look that crossed her Grandfather’s face gave Sookie pause, but she realized quickly enough it was more instinct than any real reluctance. ‘Bet folks are always asking him for things,’ she thought, before pressing on, “You offered to help me learn about my gifts. Are you still willing?”
“Didn’t Claudine offer to help you?” Niall asked.
Sookie decided to be honest, “She did, but since she started working to become a Regent, I just don’t feel I trust her. That’s probably unkind, but…”
And Niall laughed. He threw his head back and tears came from his eyes. Sookie could feel Eric’s shock, but neither of them could resist the urge to join the King. It was the pull of the Fae; all creation was happy when a Seelie found their joy. When he calmed, Niall wiped his eyes with his napkin. Laying his long, tapered fingers over Sookie’s, he explained, “I knew you were worth more than all the rest! How easily you see through them!”
“I love my children, all of them,” he went on, “but loving does not mean I am blind to their games. Claudine woos me and Claude tries to impress me.” Niall leaned closer, “My grandson tells me he has seen you, too.”
Eric growled, so Sookie hastened to tell him, “Here, in Slievemore, Eric. Claude was inspecting things at The Grand.” When Eric didn’t look satisfied, Sookie added, “Claude was civil. It’s fine!”
“He said you had a nice chat,” Niall chuckled. “You are right to be wary of them. They are fierce in everything they do, an admirable trait in a Seelie.”
“Octavia Fant tells me she has been approached, as have others, for death spells from your charming children,” and Eric stared at Niall. He reached over and took Sookie’s hand, “I would hate to think that I might have to end someone because their ambition got out of hand.”
“I will look into it,” Niall nodded. “Ending one of our own, even through the use of accomplices, is a death sentence.” He turned to Sookie, “And what else is this witch telling you?”
Sookie described her lessons. Niall glanced out the window, “I would like to see a demonstration,” he said, folding his napkin. “But this area won’t do. Too many witnesses.”
With a wave of his hand, she, Eric, and Niall were standing on a hillside in the dark. It was cold and Sookie started to shiver, “You might have warned me!” she snapped.
“Do something about it,” Niall sniffed, and Sookie’s eyes widened when she realized she could. In an instant, she had her coat in hand. She blushed again at her Grandfather’s admiring nod. “Very good, Granddaughter! Now show me what else you can do.”
Eric stood by as Sookie ran through her tricks and skills. Niall questioned some and pressed her to try others. Sookie described her attempts at teleporting herself as her Grandfather had just done. “It takes practice,” Niall acknowledged, “and faith in your powers. Any doubt may cause you to fail.”
When she finished showing her skills, he said, “I am going to throw something at you. Show me what the witch has taught you. Block me.”
It took Sookie a few tries and being hit by a rock hard enough to leave a bruise before she keyed into how to filter and then block her Grandfather’s magic. It was almost like finding a particular scent on the wind. She realized Octavia’s magic felt a particular way; a combination of pressure and sound. Niall’s was different, lighter somehow, but stronger as well. When she managed to block the rock twice in a row, he turned his power to throw the rock at Eric. “Now, save your mate!” he ordered.
This was different. It was easy to form the block around herself. Sookie could almost see the path the projectile would take as it approached her. Finding that same path when the projectile was aimed at someone else seemed impossible. Finally, she found herself estimating, and throwing blocks at where she thought the projectile would be, rather than aiming with certainty, but it worked.
Sookie’s strength started to flag, but still, Niall pressed her. Finally, Eric called, “Enough!” and the Fae King stopped.
“You are impressive,” Niall told her through narrowed eyes.
“I have accepted who I am,” she told him.
“And who is that?” her Grandfather asked.
“Fae,” she said simply. “Fae and the bonded mate of a vampire.”
“She is unlike anyone I have ever seen,” Eric said, wrapping his arms around her.
“She is unique,” Niall agreed. “Fae, certainly, but more.” He drew himself up and suddenly they were standing in the Goat Street dining room again.
“I will come as often as I can. I will send others, too. You will need more practice to truly overcome the influence I can exert, but you need to learn to block other Fae as well. Each has a unique set of gifts. You have the power,” and Niall lifted her hands, “You can defend and perhaps even control each, but to do so, you need to learn their magic. I will make sure you see as many different tribes of Fae as possible.”
Niall glanced at Eric, “I’ve done you a service,” he told the vampire, “but you have done me one as well. You have protected my Granddaughter and I will look to you to continue to do so. She stands above her peers, but with you beside her, she won’t stand alone.”
As he prepared to leave, Niall suddenly stopped, turning to Eric. “There is a rumor you should know. It involves your Maker.”
Beside her, Sookie felt Eric stiffen. He seemed to stand a little taller and the bond between them muted, “My Maker is a great vampire.” Sookie had heard him say that before, and in just this way, but tonight, it made her feel cold.
“Yes,” Niall said dismissively. “As you know, Robert returned to America with his tail between his legs, but I’ve heard he’s been sending messages, looking for Appius. Eric,” and Niall smiled pleasantly, “I don’t believe Robert means this as a friendly gesture.”
“Appius is my Maker,” Eric countered.
“I know him, too,” Niall nodded. “I suspect he may not be as pleased with your domestic arrangements as you appear to be,” and Sookie felt something shift and then turn. “You might want to reach out to him yourself and head off any stories that might be told.”
Later that night, Sookie asked, “Why do you say that? About your Maker, I mean?”
“What?” and when Sookie described his reaction when someone mentioned Appius Livius Ocella, Eric seemed honestly surprised.
“I hadn’t realized I did that,” he shrugged. He didn’t seem troubled by it, though.
“Do you think he’d like me?” Sookie asked.
Now, Eric did look troubled. “I don’t think he’ll understand you,” he said carefully, and then he pulled Sookie close, “but you’re a woman. Who knows the ways of women?”
“Well,” Sookie grinned, sitting up and throwing a leg across to straddle him, “You seem to have a good working theory.”
Moving his thumb to her clit, he grinned, “And, I think that more research could only help.”