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.
Sookie stood within his embrace just breathing. He was solid under her cheek, his arms around her as she’d imagined them so many times these past months. Eyes closed, she turned her head enough to kiss his chest. It was perfect, he was perfect. “Eric,” she whispered again.
His arms squeezed her closer, but there was something. When Sookie’s heart calmed, she pulled back to search his eyes. “What is it?”
He didn’t reply and Sookie threaded her fingers through his. “It doesn’t matter,” she told him. “We’ll figure this out together, Eric. Come inside. Let me show you our new home.”
“Home,” he said aloud, and Sookie smiled just for him.
“You bet, Mr. Northman. When I found this place, I just knew. Our bedroom still needs a bed, but there’s a deck out back big enough for take-offs any time you want to go flying. We have our privacy here. There’s the house out front where I can run my business, and then there’s this place. It’s strong, Eric, stone walls. Nothing’s going to hurt us if we’re in here!”
“Pam says you looked for me.” Sookie stopped her tugging to glance up.
“Of course,” Sookie answered. “I’ll always look for you. Do you remember what you told me? We’re fated.” Pushing him until he sat on the couch, she smiled shyly, running back to close the front door. She locked it, gave him another flirty look, but Eric didn’t smirk back. He watched her, his eyes wary.
It caused Sookie’s steps to slow just a bit, but she pasted her smile back in place, settling herself next to him, tucking her legs in. She sighed again as she touched him, pulling his arm to come around her. “I’ve dreamed of this,” she sighed.
His arm tightened, “So have I,” he replied, and she shivered as she felt his lips touch her hair. They were facing the fire and Sookie shifted to cuddle closer. She stroked his hand, quieting her thoughts, just being in the moment.
“There are things I should tell you,” Eric said.
“There’s nothing you could tell me that would change how I feel about you,” Sookie told him.
He moved her, bringing her closer, arranging her so he could hold one of her hands between his, his long fingers encasing hers. “You don’t know that. Sookie, I’ve done things…”
“Nothing that matters,” she said quickly him, and turning her head, leaned forward just enough to press her lips against his. She shifted to her knees, looking everywhere but his eyes, using her fingers to stroke his hair and then his cheek. “You were stolen from me, Eric, and now you’re returned. We’re together, that’s all that matters.”
“I fucked others,” he said, and his chin lifted just a little. “Many others, Sookie. I broke my promise to you, many times.”
“I understand,” Sookie told him. It was something she’d suspected. It still stung, but seeing how it troubled Eric, she found she had it within herself to forgive. “Do you need to keep doing it?”
“You broke with Breandan for less than I’ve done,” he pressed.
“You’re not Breandan,” Sookie answered. “You are Eric Northman. You are honorable and kind. You are my warrior poet, and you telling me confirms every good thing I know about you. You did what you needed to do to survive, husband, and now you’ve returned to me.”
Sookie could see her words made a difference and she joined those words with kisses. This time, he turned his head, seeking that place where her jaw joined her neck. She thought for a moment he’d strike, but instead he breathed deeply. His arms were around her again, tightening, holding her as if she was his rock in a storm and she smiled into him. “I’m here,” she whispered, sensing his need for assurance.
He made a sound and Sookie couldn’t tell if it was a sob or a laugh. “I’m probably poor,” he whispered.
Sookie leaned back again. She knew her eyes were glowing and she touched the lips that had caressed her before tilting her mouth into a grin. “Poor as me when you met me?” she teased.
“Maybe more,” and a shadow of the old humor returned. “Everyone thinks my Maker’s death…” and the shadow passed over his face again before he resumed, “They think Appius’ passing means I’ll be wealthy. He was old and it’s in our nature to accumulate wealth, but Appius…” and he looked away.
“I don’t regret killing him,” Sookie said, putting it on the line. “He would have killed me, Eric, and it was because he wanted to hurt you. Your Maker didn’t have anything against me personally, but if my death meant punishing you, he’d kill me over and over. He was sick. I felt it.”
“How?” Eric asked.
“I reached for you through our bond. I searched. I grew my magic because I thought it would make finding you easier and I did find you…the end of the bond, at least. He was there, waiting for me and I felt every bit of him. It was our bond, our open, wonderful bond, and he was squatting, keeping me from finding you.” Eric was looking lost again, so she lifted her hand to brush his hair from his forehead. It hurt her heart to see him so torn. “He was happy he found me,” Sookie nodded. “He invited me, challenged me to come, and I knew what he wanted.”
“Then why did you come?” Eric asked.
“Because you’re my husband,” Sookie replied. “Because I love you, Eric.” Sookie placed her hand over Eric’s heart, “And you are mine, as I am yours. Forever.”
“Forever,” he repeated, covering her hand with his, and then he leaned forward, his lips meeting hers. It was gentle, but Sookie had never felt anything more right. Her lips moved under his and she moaned into his mouth. Touching her Seelie relatives made her feel light, but his touch healed her in a whole new way.
When it became clear Eric wasn’t comfortable taking things further, Sookie settled back, nestling her head against his shoulder. There was time now and she wouldn’t hurry him. They stared at the fire and after a bit, Eric moved, “I should probably go.”
Sookie almost panicked, but her voice whispered and she listened. “I won’t stop you,” she told Eric, “but before you go, maybe you’d help me with something.”
“Of course,” he answered, and she walked him into the bedroom she’d been using.
“You missed Niall,” she told him, talking as though this was all natural, “He stayed with me after… Well, after. Do you suppose he’s clairvoyant? He ate dinner tonight and announced it was time for him to go and not an hour later, here you were.”
“It’s said the Seelie can sometimes see the future,” Eric shrugged. He was looking at the bed and Sookie could see his unease.
“I need to move the mattress downstairs. I’ve been sleeping here temporarily, but I’d like to start my new life and that’s with me downstairs.” Sookie started pulling the sheets from the bed, aware of the faint scent of fairy being released into the air. “It’s just too heavy for me, so if you wouldn’t mind?” and she turned, her arms full.
The lost look in Eric’s eyes stabbed at her heart, but Sookie kept her smile plastered in place. After a moment, he nodded, and in that way that always surprised her, he picked up the heavy mattress like it was a piece of paper. “This way,” and she turned, trusting him to follow her.
She walked through the living space, turning and offering advice, scolding when he got too close to a table, teasing, praising, deliberately drawing out the time. When he got to the stairs leading down to the master, Sookie insisted on his waiting until she turned on the lights. She dropped the sheets as he passed her, knowing it released more scent, hoping it would help with the job she faced. She could see his pupils were dilated, which was for the better. “Here,” and she gestured at the open space against the far wall. “I know!” she huffed at his look. “I need a real bed, but I just haven’t found the right one.”
“The bed Brigant sent…” Eric spoke.
“You’re right!” Sookie brightened. “It would be perfect,” and she walked over to hug him, smiling up into his face, “Thank you.”
“I should…” and Eric started to turn.
“We always seem to spend important nights on odd mattresses, don’t you think?” Sookie interrupted.
“What do you mean?” Eric asked.
“Our first night, remember? What was that thing? At the Queen’s palace, that round puff thing?” Before Eric could answer, Sookie laughed, “And remember that spring set in Minnesota? It sang as bad as me!” and she laughed again.
It worked. Eric’s lip twitched, and his eyes were less troubled. “Your uncle knew me for what I was,” he volunteered.
“And we danced,” and Sookie twined her fingers with his, placing her hand lightly on his shoulder. “I felt as if I’d stepped into another time, waltzing with you.”
His hand found her waist and he pressed gently, leading her as he had that night. Together, they stepped to a tune only they could hear, their eyes meeting. “Sookie,” he sighed.
“Älskade,” she answered.
Eric pulled her closer, and they turned together a few more steps. Sookie ran her hand down his chest, unbuttoning his shirt, turning her head so she could kiss his exposed flesh. She thought for a moment he’d stop her, but as she ran her nails lightly under his shirt, he shuddered, pulling her a little closer. “I missed this,” she whispered. “I missed how you feel, how you smell…”
“Wife,” he said.
Sookie smiled against his skin, unable to stop the quick prickling of tears, “Husband.”
She reclaimed her hand so she could finish with the buttons. Both his hands dropped to her hips and they swayed and turned, covering the space of the room. When she tugged, he allowed her to remove his shirt. When her hands reached for his pants, he stilled, “Are you sure?”
“Why don’t you start a shower?” she smiled. “Over there,” and she pointed to the door. The bathtub was upstairs, but the shower down here was large enough for two and was equipped with a bench. It hurt her, how tentative he looked, as if he didn’t believe he was worthy of her. She purposely waited beside the bed until she heard the water running, and then she removed her clothes, folding them, picking up his.
“Do you mind if I share the hot water?” she asked. He was facing away from her, and she couldn’t help it, her eyes fastened on his butt and resisted any impulse to let go.
“Sookie,” he said after a moment, “Eyes up here!” She felt her flush catch her, and then it deepened when he laughed. ‘Water,’ her voice sang. ‘Water in the desert,’ and she knew his laughter was all that and more.
“Well, I can’t help it!” she stammered, “You’re… Well, you have a world class ass!”
He turned, his hands working up a lather, “And you have the best tits I’ve ever seen.”
She stepped forward, deliberately pushing her breasts forward, “Really? I think you better show me, Mr. Northman!”
He reached out then, using the lather to wash and worship while she took the soap so she could return the favor. As the water ran, they used fingers and lips to relearn the lines of each other. Sookie stroked shoulders and then the flat planes of his chest. She used her nails to wash each nipple, then smoothed her thumbs down, counting each rib, dipping down, inch by inch, coming closer and closer, but each time moving away. He had no way to hide the effect she was having on him, He had been half-erect when she stepped into the shower. Now, his cock strained proudly between them and when she at last wrapped her hand around its base, he hissed.
“Watch me,” she begged, and holding his eyes, she sank to her knees, bending him so she could kiss him before opening her mouth to use her tongue, tickling the way he liked. His hand cupped her cheek and she heard his fangs snick. That’s when she saw that he only had one and she stilled, wondering what happened.
It was enough to make him hesitate and he tugged her hand, bringing her to her feet. “Sookie!” he sighed.
She stepped back, turning off the water and pulled him toward her. She took a towel and began rubbing him, touching and caressing. He dried her as well and she shook out her hair, glancing over her shoulder as she walked to the bed. She leaned down, falling to her hands and knees, and looked at him again. He was breathing, taking in her scent, and she smiled her encouragement. “I’m yours,” she whispered.
“Mine,” and his nostrils flared.
“Please!” she begged, and he was over her, his large frame draped over hers. His hand wrapped in her hair, pulling her head to the side. He sniffed and licked before he bit. Sookie did her best not to flinch. Only having one fang made his bite awkward, but before he could pull back, she pressed her behind against his hard length, arching her back, offering herself. “Yes!” she cried.
She wasn’t truly ready, but she reached below to play with her clit as he pressed into her, withdrawing and pressing again, and it didn’t take long. He pulled her upright, his fang still in her neck, his thighs solid under her own. He was rocking and she was riding him, rising and falling, her arm reaching to hold his head against her, his arm like an iron band wrapped around her.
She felt the moment he faltered. His suction slowed, as did his pace. “Eric?” she called. He pulled his head away, slowing even further. ‘What did he do to you?’ Sookie wondered. She wasn’t surprised when he let her rise away from him. It was he who looked surprised when she turned to face him. She positioned herself, straddling his thighs and using her hands, brought him back to her entrance. “Yours!” she told him, before starting to rise and fall. She placed one hand on his shoulder, using him for leverage. His mouth opened, and she raised her other hand to stroke his lone fang before she leaned, using her tongue to worship it. She purposely cut her tongue, then jousted with his, coating his mouth with her blood.
He moaned, and his hands found her hips, helping her. He stroked and stroke again, and his eyes rolled back. ‘Finally!’ she sighed. He was lost in her, his focus and joy in their joining allowing her to lose herself as well. It wasn’t elegant, but it was thorough, leaving her panting and him lying, rather boneless, on top of her.
“Eric,” she said after a moment, and when he didn’t respond at first, she poked, “Eric, roll over. You’re heavy!”
“I thought you wanted me on you,” he purred, sounding like his old self.
“I want you in me,” Sookie sassed, “there’s a difference.” Eric smirked, actually smirked, and Sookie heart lightened, cuddling herself as he settled at her side.
“I may wish to stay a little longer,” he told her.
“I wish you to stay forever,” Sookie replied, and nipped his shoulder. She stilled, and then, catching his eyes, she bit, and then bit again, drawing blood. It was so wonderful, the taste of him, feeling those tendrils start to awaken within her again. He stroked her head and she drank until the wound sealed under her lips. She kissed his now-smooth skin and sighed, settling back, opening herself to feeling him again.
It was unsettling. He was unsettled, wary. “You have nothing to fear from me,” she said aloud.
“You’ve changed,” he shrugged. She knew what he meant. She had changed, and it chilled her to think that Eric might see the same monster she saw when she looked in the mirror. “I don’t care,” he hastened to assure her, doubtless feeling her reaction through their thin blood tie.
“I haven’t changed on the inside,” Sookie whispered.
“No,” he agreed, “you haven’t.” He pulled her to him, “You are still that beautiful woman who gives to everyone before you take for yourself.”
He was smiling, and she smiled in return. “Turn me?” she asked.
Now it was Eric who stilled. “Sookie,” he said after a bit, “You don’t really wish that.”
If he’d asked her an hour ago, even twenty minutes ago, he would have been right, but seeing him like this, feeling how far they were from each other, Sookie knew she’d changed her mind. “I won’t lose you again,” she told him. “I mean it, Eric. I want to return to what we were. I miss us.”
“You are lost in this moment,” he told her. “Morning will come and you’ll regret those words. You will see the sunshine and remember how much you would miss it.” He gestured at the room, “You wouldn’t be able to have your B&B or entertain your guests. All this, you would give up.”
“I would find other things to do,” Sookie insisted. “What’s important is I would have you,” and she squeezed his hand, “Us.”
When he continued to look skeptical, she touched his face and quoted, “What were the use of my creation if I were entirely contained here?”
Eric smiled, “I don’t know what you see in that book,” he chuckled.
“Don’t you?” Sookie challenged. “Wait here,” and she ran upstairs, returning with his copy of Wuthering Heights. Sitting cross-legged, she opened the page to the marker and read, “If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not see a part of it.” Sookie closed the page and crawled toward him, back into his welcoming arms. “She speaks for my heart, Eric. Nothing is worth it without you. You are my life, my love!”
He drew in a deep breath and settled again. Sookie shivered and he was away from her in a heartbeat, only to return with a blanket he used to cover her before drawing her back against him. “We are together,” he assured her. “We can talk about the rest tomorrow night…”
“And for all the nights after that,” Sookie smiled. “I’ll get my way in the end, you know I will, Eric! You’ve said it yourself, I’m stubborn.”
“That you are,” Eric nodded, “but it’s the kind of decision that needs more conversation.” Sookie couldn’t help feeling disappointed. She knew Eric wasn’t rejecting her, but having finally decided, she felt anxious to get started. “I haven’t said no,” Eric added, and Sookie almost asked if he’d read her mind, before remembering he’d read her feelings instead. He rolled to his back, hooking his arm under his head, “I meant what I said, earlier. I suspect unraveling my Maker’s estate will be consuming.”
“Good thing you have a wife who’s a bookkeeper,” Sookie reminded him.
“Wife,” he smiled. It was in the way he said it. Sookie rolled closer and took him in her hand.
“I think you need to say it like you mean it,” she teased, stroking with a little twist and he grinned, truly grinned.
“You don’t feel suitably claimed?” he asked.
“I think you’d better get that world class butt busy, Buster. You have some making up to do!” and then Sookie squealed as he was suddenly over her, his eyes burning.
“You should know better than to tease a vampire!” he growled.
“Oh?” and she lifted her chin, “And what are you going to do?” She could feel her nipples harden in anticipation. She bit her lower lip before whispering, “Fuck me until I beg for more?” She reached lower, squeezing his balls, “Make me scream your name?
When he smiled wider, Sookie shoved, flipping them so she was astride him. “Show me what you got, Northman,” she challenged, and he did.
Sookie had never felt better. She’d had Eric’s blood again last night. They weren’t bonded, not yet, but she thought it might come soon. Once things got rolling, their enthusiasm had pushed a few boundaries. He’d had to use his blood to heal some ripping. Sookie had shown him little quarter, demanding in a way she usually didn’t. She’d told him every part of him belonged to her, bringing him to orgasm by using her fingers within him. He’d reciprocated, and although she’d come so hard she’d seen fireworks behind her eyes, she’d taken some damage. The signs were on the sheets this morning as she’d crawled away from him.
Her coffee tasted more wonderful than usual and there was bright, golden light streaming through her back windows. Sookie stepped into the beam of sunshine, remembering how she asked him to turn her. ‘I could do it,’ she assured herself, ‘for him,’ and wished she didn’t feel like a liar.
Beyond the doors, the sun kissed a thousand waves. The water was gray, white caps speaking of winter storms somewhere far away. On a whim, Sookie got dressed in heavy clothes and headed out to walk the beach. The breeze smelled fresher and she could almost taste the salt in the air. Everything felt new, more intense, and she knew it was the effect of having Eric’s blood within her. She reached for him, rejoicing in the soft buzz she knew was his essence within her. “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same,” Sookie quoted out loud, thinking again of Catherine and Heathcliff, fated for life.
“And that’s how it’s going to be?” At the sound of his voice, Sookie stopped. She drew a breath, calculating how far she was from her house. “He comes home and you get your happy ending?” Claude snarled.
Steadying herself, Sookie forced herself to turn. Claude looked terrible. His hair was dull and his eyes sunken. “Niall and your Father have been looking for you,” she said, wishing her voice sounded stronger.
“And you think they will save you?” Claude jeered. His lip curled and Sookie was reminded of Preston Pardloe and how the hotel manager could make her feel as though she smelled bad with a look. “What I want to know,” Claude said, stepping toward her, but a little to the side, angling between her and the house, “is why you’re still alive.” He smiled, the kind of smile you gave to a friend, and Sookie felt her blood chill, “You shouldn’t be.”
“Eric would never hurt me,” Sookie stammered, not sure what Claude was getting at.
“Luck,” Claude snarled again. “I thought sending him back to his Maker would allow things to run their course.”
“You! You did that?” Sookie huffed.
“Not easy, influencing a witch but, in the end, they are as gullible as humans. It took time to make him my lover and, oh, how his eyes widened when I whispered the tale. He couldn’t wait to betray my secret to his coven.” Claude glanced away and, for a moment, Sookie thought he looked sad, but then, she was sure she was wrong.
“You should have been alone, defenseless, but those damn merrows!” Sookie remembered the rustling below her house and felt guilty for being irritated. “It should have been finished!” Claude hissed. “Your protector was gone. Damn him, always intervening when he shouldn’t. But I should have known. From the first, in Slievemore, he put himself in the way.”
“Slievemore? You mean the night I was stabbed?” Sookie asked.
Claude looked startled, then smiled, cocking his head to the side. “You shouldn’t have made me jealous. You were so selfish! You could have shared him, but you were greedy. I could see it, you had to have him all to yourself. Breandan never would have connected your death to me. He would have thought you got caught in vampire business and he would have blamed Northman. Gregor owed me. It should have been simple. Stab the hybrid, you bleed, and your scent triggers the rest.”
“But Eric saved me,” Sookie stammered, thinking of that night at Ghoul’s Kiss.
“With his blood,” Claude sniffed. “And you stank of it, inside and out. At the very least, Breandan should have set you aside, but he didn’t!” Claude hissed, his eyes flashing.
“But we did fight,” Sookie pointed out. “It led to a break.”
“Which he regretted! He crawled from my bed back to you. You could have let him go, pushed him away, but you had to have him, you fucking bitch!” Sookie watched, horrified, as Claude struggled with his grief but, soon enough, he regained control, and he fixed her with a feral stare.
“I didn’t understand who you were to him,” Sookie pointed out, trying reason. “Claude, Breandan may have wanted to love me, but he couldn’t, not really. In the end, he was yours.”
“You’d like me to believe that, wouldn’t you? It makes you seem so innocent, but you aren’t, are you? No, look at Northman! He couldn’t stay away, either. You’re like poison!” and Claude cried a tear which left a trail of wrinkled skin in its wake. “I loved him, and you destroyed him!”
“And maybe I could say the same for you!” and Sookie’s temper was back. “Was it so much to let Breandan have his moment with me? How many times did I have to hear about my mortality? Would it have mattered so much to let him enjoy something different for my lifetime? What would a few years have really cost you?”
“You bitch!” Claude hissed. “You’d blame me for his fall? It was your fault! You destroyed everything, you worthless cunt! You couldn’t even find the grace to die! You just danced around every trap I set! You should have been dead in Boston. You should have died in the street like the whore you are!”
“You? How did you…” Sookie still had no memory of the car that hit her, but she remembered waking in the hospital. “I would have died, but Eric saved me. And Grandfather, he came. I almost…”
“But you didn’t!” and Claude stepped a little closer. “That’s when I knew Northman had to go.”
“Were you involved with the takeover?” Sookie asked.
“No,” and Claude laughed. “No, that was vampire politics. Of course, the ill wish might have helped,” and Claude looked triumphant. “It was fun, watching you stumble and take damage. You were so blind to what was happening. It was closing in on you, accident by accident.” Claude’s head cocked to the side and he stepped toward her, causing her to step back. “It was just gathering speed, finding the right circumstance to finish you, each pratfall a little more dangerous…”
“But, Grandfather found it. He removed it,” Sookie interrupted. She was tired of being afraid and the thought that Claude had dogged her this way was ratcheting up her anger. She felt the gathering of magic in her chest, and she couldn’t keep the smile from her lips. “Well, this was fun, Claude, walking down memory lane and all, but we both know that’s behind us. You aren’t going to hurt me anymore. There’s no reason left for this and every reason to never see each other again.” Sookie glanced out at the sea, “You want Breandan? He’s out there. I’m not pursuing him. As you’ve pointed out, I have my husband back and Eric is all I need. If you want to join your great love, I think you know how to do that, but when it comes to me and mine? I think you’d better take your bruised feelings and leave well enough alone.” She was surprised how calm her voice sounded, how strong she felt.
“You don’t order me!” Claude was screaming.
“You don’t know what you’re getting into,” Sookie told him, confident in the gathering she felt within her. The wind might be blowing, but where she was standing, it was calm. Somewhere, far away, Sookie could hear ravens calling as they took wing to join her.
“You think I don’t know you have magic?” Claude hissed. “You’re not as clever as you think!” He held up a bottle, “Do you know what this is, Sookie? It’s demon’s blood!”
It gave Sookie pause. She remembered Mr. Cataliades holding her hands and how his touch deadened her abilities. “Where did you get that?” she asked.
“I think your fat attorney is still alive,” Claude laughed. “I didn’t drain him, not entirely, but I wanted to make sure I had enough.” Thumbing the cork from the bottle, he drank, and barely bothering to wipe his mouth, advanced on her. “I’m done being social,” he hissed, and he lay his hands on Sookie. Immediately, the gathering power in her chest was gone as if a great blanket had been thrown over her. “Time to die!” he laughed.
Claude hadn’t counted on the power of vampire blood. Sookie’s knee snapped up with unexpected speed, catching the Fae close enough to cause him to groan. When he leaned forward, Sookie head-butted him so hard her ears rang. Claude crumpled and Sookie started running as fast as her rubber boots would allow. When her feet kept slipping, she stopped, kicking the boots off, then ran again, the wet sand freezing against her bare skin. ‘Transport! Transport!’ she thought, but she was too panicked to focus, and then he was on her.
Sookie fell forward, hitting the sand with enough force to knock the wind from her. Her mouth and eyes were full of sand and her nose blossomed with pain. “You thought you could best me?” Claude hissed in her ear. “I could have killed you any time, but now I want the pleasure of doing it with my own hands!” He wound his hand in her hair, dragging her toward the water.
Sookie was trying to bat him away, but the pain in her head had her stumbling and swerving toward the water’s edge. “So easy!” he sniffed. “But, you’re right, I’ve spent enough time playing. Time to move on.” The sand had blinded her, but she felt the cold of the water well enough. He was pulling her through the waves, deeper, and then he twisted, throwing her off balance. She fell and his hand closed around her throat, holding her under the waves.
Sookie struggled, his hands clawing at him. Her feet scrambled for purchase and ignoring the grip Claude had on her hair, Sookie surged up. She was pretty sure she connected with his nose. There was a distinct crunching sound and his hands fell away from her. She tried to get her legs to work, but she couldn’t. Her lungs were burning, wasting precious seconds pulling in oxygen. “Move!” she croaked, trying to order herself, but her body was in open rebellion. ‘Then think!’ her inner voice said instead, but he was back on her, knocking her down, both hands around her neck, squeezing as he held her under. ‘Think!’ her voice called, but the blackness was closing in around her and Sookie knew she was running out of time.
And Claude was gone. It was as though the water around her became alive. Sookie felt something like a great wave rush past her, rolling her to her knees. Her lungs were on fire and her stomach clenched, leaving her helplessly retching seawater. Her vision had become a tunnel, black nipping around the edges. She could see Claude in front of her on the beach. His hand raised and she saw the flash of a knife. His arm was rising and falling, over and over, and Sookie found her legs again. She managed to stand, and then stagger, heading for the house.
The wind had risen and her blood pounded in her ears, but Sookie could still hear the keening scream behind her. ‘Claude,’ her voice informed her. The sound stabbed through her heart and she knew if her cousin caught her again, there would be no second chance. ‘Faster!’ her voice scolded, but her legs were failing. She knew she couldn’t run fast or far enough. ‘Octavia!’ her voice was chanting, ‘Remember!’
Sookie’s lessons with the witch had taught her how to taste the magic of others, to understand it. When Sookie succeeded, she was able to set the magic aimed at her aside; when Sookie was really good she was able to turn any magic against its user. She thought of the magic Mr. Cataliades had used on her, and the feeling she had from Claude. She dissected it, concentrating. She was still thinking of it when Claude caught her again and, in that moment, she knew she had found how to locate the edges of the spell. Sookie hoped the potency of the demon blood might be wearing off and maybe it was, because as she focused, she could see the borders of if, hovering around Claude, visible now that she was really looking. It calmed her, finding that edge, and a large raven chose that moment to land next to her head. He was close enough she could have touched him, and he hopped even closer on the sand, fixing her with his beady eye.
“Now, I’ve got you!” Claude wailed as his fingers dug into her. He was crying, and his face was revealed, immeasurably old, almost alien.
“You’re wrong,” Sookie told him as she turned the edges of Claude’s magic, turning it on him and turning it into unbreakable bonds. “I’ve got you!” She was rising, the air carrying her as it had after killing Appius, her power flowing in and through her. She knew she was damaged, but Sookie didn’t feel the pain anymore. Claude seemed so much smaller and Sookie smiled as she formed her white column in the air above them.
“How?” Claude cried. His arms were locked to his sides. His eyes were popping and his fear had started to bloom, further feeding Sookie’s happiness.
There were more ravens now. They fluttered, landing on the sand, and talking in their language. ‘Take him, Mother,’ they called to her.
“Soon,” Sookie answered, “Patience, my children.”
“Sookie.” It was a different voice, not Claude, and not the ravens. It came as though from a great distance and Sookie turned her head. It was Niall. He and Dillon were standing on the sand. “Sookie, you need to let him go,” Niall said. It was a silly thing for her Grandfather to say and Sookie lifted her head to laugh. He looked worried. He was standing between her and the ocean and Sookie spent a moment looking at him before turning her attention to Dillon. It was something she saw on Dillon’s face that gave her pause. It reminded her of her Mother’s grief when she spoke of Daddy and, for a moment, her resolve faltered.
And then, the moment was gone. “Let me go!” Claude struggled. He wiggled and wriggled, calling her names and cursing her, but Sookie knew he no longer had any power over her and she glanced up, building her column, adding to its intensity.
“Sookie!” Niall’s voice was more insistent. He was trying to command her, but she’d found her power. No glamour could change what would happen, not now. Sookie called the clouds to fly over the sun so the threads of color within her column could be seen more clearly. All around them, the landscape faded, the shadows of clouds painting everything around them in shades of gray. Grandfather’s voice had faded into a background and Sookie looked out to sea.
The seals were there, but they weren’t watching her. They were heading away from her, swimming and diving in great numbers. Sookie found herself drawn to the sight and she watched to see where they went.
It wasn’t far, only yards away. There was a man lying on the beach, his long hair washing in the waves, and Sookie felt her chest tighten. She must have made a sound. “Breandan!” she whispered, and her heart contracted as she realized what she was seeing.
She turned to Claude. “You killed him. You said you loved him, and yet you destroyed him?”
Claude had stopped struggling. He just stood still, tears running down his face. “Just do it,” he told her. Sookie’s hand raised and the column above her grew, the sound of it louder than the waves against the sand.
“No!” Niall was calling, and Dillon was, too. It didn’t matter. After this, Claude wouldn’t hurt anyone anymore, so Sookie advanced. The walls of air around them made sure no one would interfere, and it struck Sookie how intimate this moment was. It was just her and Claude. She would bring them together within the swirl of her light and then, it would just be her.
“Sookie!” This call was different. It stopped her and that interference made her frown. “Sookie, look at me!”
It was day. It made no sense, but Sookie knew that voice above all others. She stopped and turned her head. He was standing outside on their house deck. He was staring at her, commanding her to listen. “Eric?”
“A life for a life,” he told her. The clouds overhead continued to gather, and the wind buffeted him, but Eric was there, standing naked in the light.
“Go inside!” Sookie called. “You’ll burn!”
“Tell them!” Eric insisted. “Trade them! A life for a life!” He stared at Dillon and Niall, and Sookie did, too.
Her inner voice was urging her on, begging her to finish this, but Sookie resisted. Her husband was trying to tell her something and she trusted him. She loved him, and it was stronger than the urge to kill.
“Great Morrigan!” Dillon said, calling her a name Sookie now knew was her own, “I will give you that gift, endless life, if you return my son to me. A life for a life!”
Eric was closer now. He couldn’t cross the barrier she’d made, but she could see him clearly. “Come, Älskade . Let Claude go. His Father will make sure his son doesn’t get into any more mischief.”
“He killed Breandan!” Sookie pointed out.
“And look at what that act has cost him, Lover!” Eric ordered. “Look at Claude, Sookie. See what he has become,” and Sookie did.
Claude’s face was hollowed, his eyes sunken. His teeth were pointed and the beauty was drained from his face. Now that Eric ordered it, all Sookie could see was her cousin’s grief and it thawed some part of her heart. Sookie found herself looking back down the beach, searching for Breandan, that beautiful man who had played fiddle and loved her with long fingers, but in the way of their people, he was already gone.
“Claude will live with his grief forever, Sookie. I think that’s a better punishment, don’t you?” Eric was being reasonable, and he reached out, only to strike his hand against the wall she’d built. “Come, Sookie. Come back to bed. Let the Seelie have him.”
“You shouldn’t be out here,” Sookie stammered.
“Release him and we can both go inside,” Eric reasoned.
It was hard, letting the power go without feeding it what it wished. It fought and clawed, screaming for its sacrifice, but Sookie felt Eric calling for her. She knew he was right, and piece by piece the column flew apart, disappearing into the sky. The ravens croaked, and as the last of the column faded, they took wing, one after another, lifting heavily into the sky, flying inland and away.
Claude collapsed, gasping to the sand and Sookie found some satisfaction in watching him fight for breath. Eric walked forward and slowly, carefully, wrapped her in his arms. Niall stepped forward, too, laying his hand on her back, the sweetness of his touch sweeping away the cold, sourness that dismissing her magic left curdling in her stomach.
“A life for a life,” Eric said again.
“It is the bargain,” Niall nodded, and then turning to Dillon, said, “This is your bargain, my son, and your gift to give.”
Eric had turned, placing himself between her and Claude. “Take him,” he commanded, before wrapping his arm around her, pulling her toward home. “Come, wife,” he whispered. “All will be well now, but you are tired and soon, even you won’t be able to hide the sun. I need to return to our chamber and I need to feel your warmth around me before I can find my rest.”
“Don’t worry,” Sookie assured him. “Not one drop of sunshine will touch you!” and she looked up, willing the clouds to remain until they were well inside.
She didn’t feel it, the gift of the Fae. She was wrapped in her vampire’s arms, following him into dreamless sleep, but when she woke, Sookie knew she had gained her immortality.
There’s a saying that in all fairy tales there is some nugget of truth. Do fairies still dance on the hilltops under the full moon and is there a place where vampires roam the shadows? For anyone married to their science and logic, it may seem the faces of those around them are all the same, but for those willing to look just below the surface, they will find the magic that lingers still.
That is the feeling many have had after their stay at the little B&B nestled beside the ocean. They come and spend just one night, breaking their long walk along the western coast of Ireland. Their hostess is kind and the breakfasts are always good. Reviews consistently mention the happiness of the house and how nights there seem enchanted.
But that is how any house feels when those who live there love.
Author’s Note: Thank you, again for joining me in this fairy tale. I will be taking a short holiday before starting release of Final Circle, a sequel to Turnings. Figure it will start around May 1st (Beltane), which is as it should be. My best to you in this time of turning seasons. Natsgirl.