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 blamed it on being here in Ballytyne. He’d risen searching for her. His hand reached out and it was only after he touched the bare pillow he remembered he’d sent her away. ‘She’s done with me,’ he assured himself. His chest ached, which was unreasonable. The bond was gone.
Pam left shortly after their rising. She was personally overseeing the arrangements at the airport. He’d decided to have Appius’ papers brought here and that was creating a logistical nightmare. The size of the safe was problematic. It required a flatbed and a special lift. The Russian attorney refused to open it. All this would be easier if the attorney would simply send the contents. Eric worked through Mr. Cataliades, offering every inducement, but Costyn held firm. Only Eric could open the safe and if he didn’t want to transport it, he’d have to fly back to Russia to see what was inside.
Eric told himself returning to Russia was a trap. There was no reason to feel this way, but Eric couldn’t escape it and so, he remained in Ireland. He assured himself settling the estate was the only reason, but Eric suspected he was lying.
Once more, Eric stared at his empty bookcases. He had so many things to do, plans to make, but all he could think of was the escape a book would provide. Pam told him he needed downtime to pull his head out of his ass, but the thought of stopping, thinking, ‘feeling’, and he ran harder.
Eric thought about what to do with the dacha and its harem of boys. ‘Maybe you should just order them killed.’ It was the easy answer. In a matter of moments, all the beautiful, casually cruel butterflies would end and one of the thousands of loose threads Appius’ final death had created would be resolved. ‘It won’t end the memory of what happened there.’ “And that’s the real problem,” Eric said to the air around him and his chest squeezed harder.
It was easier when Pam was here. Whenever he was alone, memories crowded him, demanding his attention. He remembered the pain of longing as the bond sickened him. He remembered the release his Maker provided. It hadn’t been perfect, but it allowed Eric to maintain his sanity. “At what price?” he asked. He was not the man he’d thought he was. He was Appius’ unwanted child whose every action was a disappointment. He’d betrayed beliefs he thought important to him. He’d broken promises and, in the end, all for nothing. His Maker was dead, and it was Eric who brought the instrument of his final death into their lives.
He thought of the ring he’d deliberately left downstairs. “I betrayed you,” he said, thinking of Sookie. Just that thought was enough to have the ache increase. Sighing, Eric headed back downstairs, returning with the ring in his pocket. He fisted it in his hand. It carried no part of her, but just having it made him feel better.
As he walked upstairs, the doorbell rang. It was a courier. “Sign here,” the driver instructed, turning the electronic pad toward Eric. Eric asked for a stylus. A vampire’s lack of body heat made signing with his finger problematic. “Germs,” he explained to the courier.
The box was marked “Priority,” and Eric used his fingernail to slit it open as he walked into the dining room. He stopped in front of the table, remembering making love with her in this very spot, so he deliberately walked around, choosing the chair at the far end. ‘Blood,’ he thought. ‘You’ll feel better after you feed.’ There would be donors later, once Pam returned, so for now Eric took a blood bag from the refrigerator.
Pam insisted on real blood and she’d gone to some trouble to obtain a full box of AB positive, his favorite. There were three bags in the refrigerator, the rest in the freezer, and Eric took care to move the remaining bags forward, adding a frozen bag to the back, so he wouldn’t run out. He glanced at the microwave but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. One sip past his tooth socket and he changed his mind, “Stop punishing yourself!”
One point five minutes later and the blood was perfect. “Let’s see what we have,” Eric said, knowing his one-sided conversation was purposeful. Feeling directionless was not natural and Eric felt his lack of anchor. His Maker was gone. He had no kingdom, no oaths. “No bond,” he said, and his hand rose unconsciously to cover the emptiness in his chest. He shook his head as if to scatter his growing depression before deliberately pulling the box open and lifting away the thin layer of bubble wrap.
Inside, there was a velvet box. He opened it to find a jeweled knife. A contract lay beneath. The contract. Eric lifted it and found the card.
The writing was crabbed. Eric wasn’t surprised. Many vampires didn’t bother to improve their ability to write with a fair hand. For any who had been made long ago, like himself and Robert, the business of writing was something reserved for scribes and scholars. Learning to read was easier. Once you learned a word, it was literally impossible to forget, but writing? It required some level of artistry to master the swoops and swirls of the many languages you encountered and if you’d been turned with your hands already callused and stiff from years of sword play, wrapping your digits around a pen was almost impossible.
It had been another of the ‘deformities’ Appius had corrected when he turned Eric. He’d rebroken the crooked knuckles and cut away calluses, using his own blood to heal Eric’s hands into those of a younger man. It had been torture but, as a result, Eric regained his finer motor skills. Learning to write an elegant hand proved enjoyable, but the experience made Eric appreciate all the more the effort handwriting this card must have cost Robert.
‘Eric, I was sorry to hear of your loss,’ the note read. ‘You will need help sorting through the details of your Maker’s estate. I am happy to push forward the date of our pledging so I can help you. The way this was arranged was bad. My motives are not. I look forward to our joining, old friend.’
Eric thought of the Robert he’d known so many years ago. Yes, Robert the King was ambitious, but he had also been a friend. Eric didn’t really believe Robert held a grudge over the death of his spies. It was business. Robert gambled and lost, but he’d walked out of Sophie-Ann’s Court to gamble another day. Eric might have killed Robert, but he didn’t. ‘It wouldn’t be terrible, being pledged to him,’ Eric realized.
His hand closed around her ring again and, with an effort, Eric pulled it from his pocket and laid it on the table next to the contract. ‘She’s gone,’ Eric told himself. ‘You told her to go and she did. She is done with you.’ He repeated it until he was sure he was right and, finishing his blood, he deliberately turned over the first page of the contract and started to read.
That was how Pam found him. He’d heated a second bag of blood by then, and started making notes. The contract was signed and sealed, so there’d be no re-negotiating, but there were areas where Eric was within his rights to ask for clarification.
“Guess we don’t need to look for it,” Pam sniffed, pulling up a chair. She pulled out her phone and started texting. Eric didn’t need to ask. She was calling for donors.
“It’s surprisingly fair,” Eric replied. “I’m to be given my own home and household…”
“Doubtless wired for sound,” Pam huffed.
“My assets will be my own,” Eric went on.
“Too bad Appius didn’t have clairvoyance. Robert wouldn’t have agreed to that if he’d known you were going to inherit so much,” Pam chuckled. When Eric gave her a sour look, she shrugged, “I don’t know why you’re torturing yourself by reading that. You can’t be so hard up! I told you, I can have your books here within a few hours. Why not read something worthwhile?”
“It’s signed,” and Eric turned his attention back to the pages. “I must prepare.”
“For what?” Pam asked. “You know that’s not going anywhere, Eric. Just skip to the part where you return his money.”
“This was my Maker’s last wish,” Eric replied. “It is my duty…”
“You don’t owe Appius Livius Ocella anything!” Pam huffed. She reached for the contract, but Eric grabbed it, moving it further away. “That,” and she pointed toward the pages, “is never going to happen. You get that, don’t you?”
“We’ve had this discussion before,” Eric sighed. “I have to tell you it worries me to see how little you respect our ways. I shielded you from him, but maybe it has given you the wrong impression.”
Pam crossed her arms, “What impression would that be? That your Maker hated me? That the only reason he didn’t end me outright was because he didn’t want to waste the time it would take?”
“You could have earned his respect,” Eric protested. “If I’d not kept you so far apart you would have had the opportunity.”
“Are you listening to yourself?” Pam huffed. “Eric! Appius hated women! He hated you for not being a little boy! I get it, you’re honorable, and you credit him with making you…”
“He was hard on me!” Eric countered, swinging away from the table. “He challenged me, made me suffer, and now, I am among the oldest of our kind! Do you have any idea how many of my peers fell? How many were unable to meet the challenge of humans and age? I am standing here because Appius…”
“He tortured you!” Pam interrupted. “He twisted every part of you, trying to break you. You standing here is a testament to the truly great man you are, Eric Northman, and not to the sick games of Appius Livius Ocella!”
“It is foolish to fight about this,” and Eric’s anger disappeared behind the façade Pam had seen him use so often on others.
“Don’t shut me out!” she huffed. “I am your child!”
“A child who doesn’t appreciate the duty owed to one’s Maker,” Eric observed.
Pam shook her head, “That’s not fair.” She picked up the empty blood bag and dropped it in the kitchen trash. Settling her temper, she asked, “How’s the fang?”
“Growing,” Eric replied. “Itching.”
“Donors will be here soon,” Pam answered. “Fresh blood will help,” and then she turned around, “Sookie’s blood would help more.”
“Don’t!” and Eric growled.
“She’s Fae and more magic every day,” Pam shrugged as if she hadn’t said anything unreasonable.
“I don’t expect to see her again,” Eric sniffed. “It was folly. She has moved on and I realize my mistake.”
“What makes you think she’s moved on?” Pam almost laughed. “Eric, Sookie’s never ‘moving on’ from you!”
Eric’s eyes returned to the table, “She’s returned my ring. She killed my Maker. She severed what held us together. I don’t need her burning me as she did Appius to see how wrong it was to tie myself to her.”
“Don’t be an asshole!” Pam did laugh now. “She badgered everyone! She stalked the Queen. She harassed Andre. Eric, she asked me to turn her. She was willing to do anything to wait for you.”
“I don’t understand,” Eric stammered. This didn’t fit his narrative and even though he knew it didn’t change anything, he found he wanted to hear more.
“Didn’t you get her emails? Her texts?” Pam asked. “She texted you every night, sometimes all night. She was a mess!”
“Appius had my phone,” he answered.
“She never lost faith,” Pam told him. “She never stopped hoping. I don’t know what she told her Fae relatives. Niall snatched her back into his kingdom, for her own sake, but she held on. You know them! I’m sure he was dangling every handsome man he could. Niall’s not stupid! I think even Ian made a play for her, but she wears your ring like a shield and she makes everyone call her Mrs. Northman.”
“She returned my ring,” Eric repeated.
“Not the gold band you pledged with,” Pam pointed out.
“The band I used for our human marriage,” Eric whispered.
“She used the money she got to buy a place on the ocean,” Pam told him. “She told me she chose it because it has a separate owner’s residence. She fixed up the downstairs to be light tight.”
“Why…” and Eric felt the ache again.
“Because she hopes,” Pam told him. “She loves you, Eric.”
With an effort, Eric shoved his feelings back into their box, “But it isn’t right,” he sniffed. “Things have changed. It is time for us to return to where we belong.” He pointed at the contract, “This was the path Appius wished for me and it is honorable. It is reasonable.”
The car was pulling up the driveway, and Pam realized she had pushed as far as she should. She’d asked for female donors, but one was male and Eric deliberately chose him. He took the man upstairs, and he wasn’t quiet about it. “Shall we join them?” the woman who’d fed her asked as the moans continued.
“I’m taken,” Pam shrugged. “Do you play cards?” When they came back downstairs, Pam noticed the man’s glassy stare. Eric sanctioned a larger than usual tip and clearly had returned to moody Eric. He retreated into the library and Pam waited until the car was well away before searching him out.
“I was his first,” Eric said, not waiting for her to ask.
“Appius was your first,” Pam guessed.
“He ripped me open,” Eric replied, his eyes far away. “He taught me to find pleasure, but only after so many years. Why? Why, when it would have taken so little to pleasure us both?”
“Because he thrived on pain,” and Pam glided to sit on the arm of Eric’s chair. She stroked his hair as she had long ago when they were lovers and she was first made. “He thrived on fear.”
“He didn’t hurt the butterflies,” and when Pam asked, he explained. “Appius kept a harem in Russia. Young men. He gave them everything and they gave him their love in return. He treated them well. He could have done that for me.”
“Perhaps Appius grew wiser,” Pam sighed. “Perhaps he came to understand the pleasure to be found in happiness.”
“He kills them when they begin to bore him,” Eric swallowed painfully.
Pam leaned down, kissing his hair, “You have someone who loves you, Eric. You have a phone. Reach out to her.”
“I am committed,” Eric sighed. “The contract is executed.”
“You’re afraid!” Pam sat up. It was suddenly so clear. Eric was running.
“It’s best to not give yourself up so entirely to one person,” Eric whispered. “It is better to hold some part back.”
“You’re wrong,” Pam whispered back.
“I will commission the demon. I need my prior pledging set aside,” and Business Eric was back.
“She won’t agree,” and Pam shrugged, standing up.
“She will,” Eric huffed. “She is well done with me and once the paperwork is signed, I can move on.”
“Well,” and Pam smirked, “I’ll make you a bet. If she throws the lawyer out on his ear, you have to talk to her.”
“And when Cataliades returns with her signature?” Eric asked.
“I’ll buy you a trousseau,” Pam laughed. “And I’ll use my own money.”
“Which used to be mine,” Eric reminded her.
“Finders, keepers,” Pam grinned.
“Sookie?” Niall walked into the kitchen where she was washing the dishes. She and Niall had just finished dinner. Since she needed to set things up for breakfast, it made sense to cook and eat in the guesthouse. It was cooler this evening, so Sookie asked her Grandfather to start a peat fire, anticipating her guests would appreciate it.
“More walkers?” she asked, wiping her hands on the towel.
“I think you’d better come see,” he replied somewhat mysteriously and walked from the kitchen.
Breakfast this morning had gone well. The four walkers from yesterday were from North Carolina, retired from ‘the financial industry.’ Niall had been particularly charming, regaling them with stories and being a generous listener in return. Sookie found herself wishing he’d consider staying. Niall being gracious made entertaining her guests so easy. The four headed on their way only to be replaced this afternoon by four more.
These were younger people on holiday from school. Sookie couldn’t see the attraction of hiking at this time of year. It rained regularly and the cold off the ocean was biting.
“It’s close and cheap!” one of her new guests explained with a quick shrug. They were all in town now, eating at Brian’s. Sookie wasn’t sure if there’d be music tonight but they were young. They might decide to stay until closing anyway. One thing she did know was she didn’t need to worry about the bag service. These guests were carrying their own bags on their backs.
“Well, I have the rooms upstairs,” she was saying as she stepped through the door.
“That’s quite all right,” Mr. Cataliades said with a bow. “We won’t be staying.”
“Hello, Desmond,” Sookie replied, and then, “Andre,” as the vampire stepped into view.
“They say they have official business with you,” Niall offered. Her Grandfather had seated himself in the front parlor, but he’d chosen a chair with no table in front of it.
“Must be, to have brought you all the way out here,” and Sookie lifted her chin to counteract the nervousness she felt. “May I offer you anything? I apologize, Andre. I don’t have any TruBlood at the moment.”
“No, no, we’re quite all right,” Mr. Cataliades blustered, and gestured toward the seating near the fire. “Perhaps we should sit down?”
“This is my guesthouse,” Sookie explained. “If this is private business, it might be better if we took it to my residence.”
“A good suggestion,” Andre agreed.
It was in the way Andre kept looking around, grinning. Mr. Cataliades was formal, but Andre seemed distracted. Niall stood and walked with her as they crossed the small barnyard. “What’s this about?” Sookie asked.
“I have an idea,” Niall shrugged, “but it would be best to hear it from them before jumping to conclusions.”
Sookie opened the door and they filed into her parlor, all except Andre. “Please come in,” Sookie said to the Queen’s Second, remembering he was barred from any private home until he received a formal invitation. “You are welcome in my home.”
Again, the vampire seemed to take in everything. “I understand you maintain light tight quarters?” he asked.
“I do,” Sookie replied, her alarm bells ringing. Taking a breath, she squared her shoulders and raised her chin again. “I don’t mean to rush you, but I have guests this evening. I’ll have to run if they call for a ride.”
“Of course, of course,” Mr. Cataliades bowed again, and then, reaching into his breast pocket, he removed an official-looking envelope. “I just need your signature on these documents. It will require a drop of your blood as well. It’s an old custom, but there it is.”
“And what is it you think I should be signing?” Sookie asked. The attorney had walked to her dining room table and was fumbling for a pen.
“Your consent to divorce,” Mr. Cataliades said smoothly. “I’ve cited irreconcilable differences. Since you are living apart, Mr. Northman thought that the most appropriate reason. He said to tell you he could add adultery if you wish.”
“Divorce?” The air left her lungs and she felt her head spin.
“Sookie?” Grandfather called. “Would you like a chair?”
“Why are you here?” Sookie asked Andre. Since this visit had gone from business to ambush, she wanted to understand each of their roles.
Andre’s smile shifted. He was suddenly less playful, and despite her flinching, he took her hand. “As you are fond of pointing out, Mrs. Northman, you are technically considered a vampire and remain under the protection of my Queen. I accompanied Mr. Cataliades to support you and answer any questions you might have about your rights in this matter.”
Sookie’s eyes widened. It wasn’t what she expected, but Niall replied, “That is very kind of you, Andre. Please tell the Queen we are most grateful for her support.” Turning to Sookie, he asked, “What questions do you have, Granddaughter?”
Sookie’s mouth opened, and then closed. Her head was swimming and her throat was dry. She managed to take a few steps over to look at the document. It was handwritten in a sprawling, old-fashioned script. She made out her name and Eric’s, written large with curlicues and embellishments. “Why does anyone think I want a divorce?” she asked, once her voice returned.
“Well, Mr. Northman has abandoned you,” Desmond offered helpfully.
“I don’t believe that,” Sookie replied. Slowly, her head was clearing. Her heart was slowing, no longer feeling as if it would hammer out of her chest, and the attorney’s earlier words were starting to register. “We have no irreconcilable differences that I know of. I don’t consider our situation irreconcilable, not at all.”
“That is helpful information to know,” Andre assured her, and positioned himself so he and Sookie could both stare at Mr. Cataliades. “Perhaps your client has been misinformed.”
“Mr. Northman has commitments that require setting aside this pledging,” and Mr. Cataliades held out the pen.
“Commitments?” Sookie exclaimed. She could hear her voice had risen. “What commitments?” When Mr. Cataliades merely opened his hands, Sookie felt her temper start to spark. “And you can’t tell me? What the hell! Why isn’t Eric here? If he has something to say to me, he should damn well say it himself!”
“Perhaps Mr. Northman wished to avoid any unpleasantness,” Mr. Cataliades offered.
“Unpleasantness?” Sookie scoffed, and then, the image of Appius burning flashed before her. It drained her anger. ‘Monster,’ she thought, ‘he is afraid of me now.’
“If Sookie were a vampire, how would something like this be handled?” Niall was asking. “Since this is a legal matter, shouldn’t Northman be required to confront her in person?”
“But he won’t, because he’s…” and Sookie was going to say, ‘afraid of me,’ but her Grandfather jumped in.
“Because she’s human, correct?” and Niall glared at Mr. Cataliades.
“Her nature does play into it,” Andre offered before the attorney could say anything. He turned to Sookie, apologizing. “I’m sorry, Sookie. These prejudices among our kind are inexcusable. I always thought Northman rare in that he didn’t seem to fall into them, but I suppose this proves even he can be small-minded.”
Mr. Cataliades was the one looking more than managed now, but Sookie didn’t notice. The idea of being treated less because she was human had taken root and her backbone returned. “And what if I refuse to sign?” she demanded.
“Well, I suppose it will need to go to a formal proceeding,” Mr. Cataliades stammered. “But, consider, Sookie. You didn’t wish to be pledged to him. You didn’t wish to be bonded. It was a matter of convenience and now, you are here, under the protection of the Brigants and all the Seelie. They have accepted you. You can’t have any more need for the Viking.”
Sookie’s mouth opened. She could see Eric’s eyes and the way his mouth opened as he moved over her. She thought of his all-too-rare laugh and the way his hands drifted over her body. Shaking her head, she told him her truth, “You’re wrong.”
“I’m sure if you wished, Mr. Northman would be willing to contribute some part of his assets to your upkeep,” Mr. Cataliades offered.
And Sookie was angry. She felt her magic begin to gather, but she deliberately cut it off, imagining herself a cold goddess instead of a raving maniac. “This was never about assets!” Sookie snarled. “I won’t do it. You can’t make me and I won’t! No divorce!” and she grabbed the paper and ripped it in half. Turning on her heel, she ordered, “Now, get out!”
She felt her power begin to gather again, this time stronger. ‘Run!’ her voice warned, and without waiting to see them leave, Sookie did. She walked straight forward, throwing open the glass doors that led to her deck and stalked into the night. As she reached the end of the platform, she saw the form of another fish and drawing her foot back, she kicked it as hard as she could toward the sea. She was too angry for words and she marched down the steps, walking along the ocean’s edge, her feet sinking in the soft sand. “You bastard!” she yelled, and then, “Fuck you, Northman!” Soon enough, the reality of trying to march through sand leeched the strength from her legs, along with her anger and her pace slowed. The lights of Glenglas burned far ahead and as she stopped to catch her breath, her phone vibrated. Sookie panted for another minute or two before pulling it from her pocket. Her guests were calling for a lift.
Sookie stared up at the stars, willing her emotions to calm. “I will not cry,” she lectured herself. “And you, Eric Northman, are a coward!” She didn’t really think he was. ‘He’s in a dark place,’ Pam had told her.
Her phone buzzed again and Sookie turned, almost knocking into Niall. “You were magnificent!” he laughed as he caught her arms. “Cataliades jumped and stammered, like the fat rat he is, and Andre whisked out the door backward. I never get tired of watching them when their invitations are rescinded!” He pulled her into his arms, ignoring her stiff resistance, and laughed until Sookie relaxed as well.
“What say we use a little magic?” Niall looked like a mischievous boy and, in a blink, they were back in her residence. Sookie was still holding her phone and Niall asked, “Do you want me to go get them?”
“No,” Sookie huffed. “No, the drive will do me good.”
“Then, I’ll come with you!” and Niall altered his appearance, taking on the look of the stereotypical Irish duffer.
“There won’t be enough room,” Sookie pointed out. Her car had a large back seat, but six was its limit.
“Don’t you worry! I know how to get back from town!” and Niall laughed again.
“Someone is going to figure it out,” Sookie scolded, but she couldn’t help smiling. Her Grandfather’s high spirits were putting the earlier conversation in a better light. As they got into the car, Sookie asked, “Did they really think I’d sign?”
“Cataliades did,” Niall grinned. “Andre was here to make sure you didn’t.”
Sookie shook her head, “I don’t get it. Since when does the Queen’s Second care about me and the state of my marriage?”
“I’m not sure,” Niall shrugged. “Maybe those ‘commitments’ Cataliades mentioned aren’t something that works for the Queen. Or maybe…” and Niall squeezed Sookie’s arm, “Maybe he’s become a romantic and wants true love to find a way.”
“And maybe I’m the Queen of the May,” Sookie eye-rolled. She made the turn and started down the main road toward town. “When I saw Andre, I thought he was going to demand my arrest for killing Appius.”
Niall leaned back, “Yes, that. I don’t think they know. Claudine tells me the cause of death was reported as an accident.”
“It was no accident,” Sookie growled. She couldn’t help it. The satisfaction she felt slithered through her, making her feel both powerful and guilty at the same time.
“Well, we know that,” Niall nodded, “and Northman knows it. If it gives you any consolation, he decided no one else should know.” Niall stared at her as he said, “He made a decision to protect you, Sookie. Even if the circumstances were different, if it were to become known that you were involved in Appius’ death, there would be an inquiry. Vampires are curious creatures. They want to know things. It gives them something to talk about in the long hours they spend hiding.”
“You really don’t like vampires, do you?” Sookie sighed.
“I don’t like any creature who isn’t Seelie,” her Grandfather grinned.
Sookie had to laugh. “Except me!” she scolded.
“Why, you are more Fae than any of us!” Niall replied. “You are well on your way to becoming a Queen!”
“What does that mean?” Sookie asked, but they were pulling up in front of Brian’s pub, and Niall just leaned over and pecked her cheek before getting out.
“I’ll meet you back at the house!” he called, and made a motion mimicking drinking before turning toward the pub.
The young people chattered amongst themselves, ignoring Sookie. Although she was only in her twenties, the way they were ignoring her made Sookie feel much older. She left them in the guesthouse, gathered in front of the peat fire Niall started, pouring glasses of the wine she’d set out for them. “Bye,” she called, but only one half-held up his hand, then Sookie was back outside, walking across the farmyard.
The night sky was studded with stars, and she stopped so she could tilt her face toward the sky and just take it all in. It was what she loved about being out here, so far from city lights. The sky unfolded in layer upon layer of dim spots of light. ‘Eric.’ His name sprang to her mind. She wondered if this sky looked the same as the one he’d seen as a young man, or if a thousand years ago, even the stars were different. He’d filed Appius’ death as accidental. ‘To protect you,’ Grandfather told her.
Sookie thought of him, standing in Ballytyne, howling until she slapped him. Reaching to her chest, she rubbed the spot she associated with their lost bond. It felt as if she had a hole there and catching herself, she smiled. “I’m not giving you up!” she said out loud. “Not ever, not until you come and tell me yourself…” and smiling some more, she reached for the knob of her door, “and maybe not then, either.”
“Who are you talking to?” Niall asked. Sookie wasn’t surprised to see him back here. He’d started the fire in her residence as well, and he was lounging in front of it, draped across one of her armchairs, sipping whisky.
“I thought only leprechauns liked to drink,” she smirked.
“Leprechauns have a rare gift for making spirits,” Niall corrected. “The Seelie don’t condone excess, but we do appreciate things that take skill, and a dram of well-made whisky? That takes skill!” He held up the glass he’d poured her. It was neat and Sookie sniffed it, appreciating the bouquet before adding the single drop of water as Niall had taught her. When she settled, he leaned back again. “It has been pleasant visiting with you,” he sighed. “I will be sorry to see our time come to an end.”
“I was wondering when you’d be leaving,” Sookie acknowledged. “It has been wonderful, and I am thankful. Who are you sending to babysit? Claudine?”
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” and Niall winked. Sookie didn’t ask, but her look was enough. “You don’t think your rejection will go unnoticed, do you?” Niall answered.
“What if he means it?” Sookie asked.
“Surely, you don’t accept that,” Niall teased, but when Sookie didn’t answer, he reached over to take her hand. “You are Fae, my Sookie,” he assured her. “You are powerful in your magic, which means you have the power to get what you wish. Northman loves you. He told me and vampires, once swayed, don’t change. He will come, he has no choice, and when he does, remind him who you are and what he feels about you.”
“You sound so sure,” and Sookie took a deep breath.
“Some things are meant to be,” Niall purred. “And you, living here near the ocean with your vampire, is one of those things. I feel it and I have a way of knowing.”
Much later, Sookie crawled into bed with her Grandfather as she had these past few nights. As she cuddled into his arms, she surrendered her doubts. That night Sookie dreamed of a world where she presided over nights dancing under the stars, a raven on her shoulder, and Eric Northman standing tall behind her, his sword in hand.
“She sent me tumbling into the dirt!” Andre hissed. “There is no doubt, your wife will remain stubborn. If you mean to pursue this, Northman, you’ll have to file formal papers.” Eric already knew Sookie refused to sign the divorce decree. Mr. Cataliades had messaged him last night and then refused to answer his repeated calls. When he tried tonight, and the demon again ignored him, Pam suggested calling the Palace.
The Queen’s Second was on speaker. Pam was barely hiding her glee and it added to Eric’s irritation. “Didn’t Cataliades tell her about the adultery?” Eric snarled.
“Of course,” Andre answered. “I was right there when he said it, but Eric, it made no difference.” There was a sound and Eric got the impression the Second wasn’t alone. “There’s nothing for it, Northman. Unless you can convince her otherwise, it will take a Court battle to get your divorce.”
“Guess you’ll have to go see Sookie,” Pam snorted.
“I’m glad this is amusing you,” Eric said sourly.
“You should know this whole business places us in a delicate position,” Andre continued. “You are no longer a vassal, Eric, but Sookie is so long as she’s pledged to you. I realize it’s a technicality, but since her feelings on this matter are clear, we…the Queen and I, have no choice but to take Sookie’s part.” There was another choked sound which sounded a lot like the sounds Pam was making. After a bit, Andre added, “No hard feelings, you understand.”
“So, going to cut that check to Robert, now?” Pam asked when they disconnected.
“I can’t understand why she’s being so stubborn!” Eric snarled. “She…”
“She loves you,” Pam interrupted. “She loves you and she won’t believe your feelings have changed.”
“I told her she was a mistake!” and Eric stood, his hand unconsciously clenching the ring in his pocket.
“So, go ask her,” Pam goaded. “You said you would.”
Eric hissed, his sole fang extending, “This is no joking matter!” He turned away, his hand rubbing his chest.
“What’s wrong?” Pam asked.
“Nothing!” Eric snapped, then with a sigh, “I feel hollow.” Pam’s eyes narrowed and she picked up his phone. “What are you doing?” Eric snarled again.
“A bet is a bet,” Pam sniffed, and she tossed the phone to him.
In the text box, Pam had typed, ‘I feel hollow.’ Eric’s lip curled, and then, the bubble appeared, the one that told him she was replying. ‘Sookie,’ his heart called as her message came through. ‘Come home.’
“This solves nothing!” and Eric flung the phone.
“Smart!” Pam scolded, picking up the pieces, “You just got that phone. Listen, Eric, I know you. You wouldn’t be this upset if you weren’t fighting yourself so hard.”
“I’m not!” he protested, but even he could hear the pouting tone. “I am doing what is right,” he said, making certain to sound surer.
“Obviously, you aren’t going to listen to me,” Pam shrugged, “which means I’m going home.” She picked up a notebook from the table and tossed it at him. “Do yourself a favor, Eric. Do what your wife does when she can’t figure out her feelings, make a list.”
“I know what is right,” Eric repeated, and he did, but he had a suspicion what was right in this case might not be the right answer.
After Pam left, he tossed the notebook on the table, walked over to the windows and then walked back. He glanced at the paper, allowing his lip to curl, but, somehow, the pen found its way into his hand. ‘Sookie,’ he wrote across the paper. Just seeing her name warmed him.
He remembered the first time he saw her. She was trudging from her car to the apartment she shared with her Mother in Boston. She was bundled against the chill night air, carrying heavy bags of groceries. Her eyes cut to the toughs hanging out in the playground before fixing straight ahead, her lip pushed out just a little. As she neared the fence at the end of the cul de sac, she’d smiled. Eric didn’t know if she saw him there, a black dog hiding in the shadows but, for a moment, her face lit up, as though the act of smiling turned something on inside that glowed through her.
His finger moved to the next line on the paper and although he didn’t write anything, his mind supplied the words. He saw her as he had that first time in Ireland, standing on the street in front of Ghoul’s Kiss, a shopping bag in hand. It was overcast and late, but somehow, the light found her hair. “You were so beautiful,” he told the paper.
His finger moved down another line. He remembered how sad Sookie was when she walked away from Breandan. He’d taken advantage of Breandan’s fall to court her for himself, and although he knew she was attracted to him, Sookie had handled herself with grace, taking her time. He remembered the sharp pain he felt when she returned to Breandan again, how her loyalty left him wanting her and the joy he felt when she finally broke with the Fae Prince. She’d gone flying with him through the night skies and he thought his heart would start to beat again, having her in his arms.
“And she came to love me,” he said aloud, his finger moving again. He saw her as she agreed to Niall’s plan. Her eyes were so clear as they’d sat side by side, him explaining what pledging would mean. He’d wanted her, but he’d been worried about moving too fast. “But, you rose to me,” he remembered, thinking of that first time, seducing her with poetry and gestures. “And questions,” he laughed. “My Sookie, such a good one for questions.” He’d been afraid to press his advantage, but she surprised him, her appetite for sex as greedy and inventive as his own. “You made me laugh,” he told the paper.
It was rare. He could count the people he considered funny on one hand. Pam, of course, “And you.” His finger ran over her name where he’d written it. She’d told him one of the reasons she loved him was because he ‘got’ her. “You get me, too,” he nodded.
“And then you were hurt,” he continued. “I thought I would lose you.” He thought of how she looked in the ambulance, his chest aching as he realized he would follow her into final death, that no matter what, he loved her enough not to turn her. “I did love you.” It sounded odd, said aloud, and Eric savored the words. ‘She is a mistake.’ He heard Appius saying it and Eric considered it.
Was this thing he felt for her because she was Fae? Was it because of some spell or failing? There were nights he was called from her, weeks she was left alone. She didn’t nag. Instead, she found ways to be useful. She didn’t live her life to suit him. She built a partnership that made his life better. “She trusts me,” Eric said aloud.
Eric moved his finger to the other side of the paper. He thought of what he owed his Maker. The first lines were easy: Being made vampire. Survival. Skills. He thought of what Pam said, he would have become himself regardless of Appius. Pam was a magnificent vampire and he’d never administered the kind of pain Appius lavished so generously.
‘She is a killer,’ he chastened himself. He remembered Sookie’s face as she destroyed Appius, her hair wild and her smile bright. It was then he remembered another time. He could see Sookie’s face watching him as he beheaded Robert’s spies. He knew she was horrified. Her face drained of color and her eyes were so large but, when he’d asked, she’d returned to their home with him. He gave her every reason to run, but Sookie didn’t, and Eric stood up to find his car keys.
The drive was long. Eric didn’t remember this road and he’d driven over most of Ireland. He cursed his temper again, wishing he had his phone, but the GPS in the car seemed to be working. As he came over the hill, he slowed and there, where the map told him it would be, was a driveway. He turned in and almost immediately headed over a small hill and found nestled in a hollow in the land, the thatched roofs.
He recognized Sookie’s car, the car he’d bought her, in the yard. The lights to the bigger house were dark, but the house that had been a barn was bright. He sat for a moment, asking himself one last time if this made sense, but he knew it did.
He barely knocked on the door before it opened. She smiled up at him and he smelled tears. “Sookie…” he started.
“Welcome home, Eric,” she sighed, and she stepped forward, wrapping her arms around him. Her head fit perfectly against his chest and her form filled his arms.
‘Home,’ he thought, and for the first time in a thousand years he knew what it meant.