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 glanced across the car seat. Her son was seated between Brigid and her, his knees pulled up to accommodate the car console. He was looking out Brigid’s window, her hand held tightly in his lap. He was her Rick, but, then again, he wasn’t. It was more than the beard, it was his eyes. Sookie thought of how he’d been when he’d brought Brigid to the Palace just before they left. He’d been more carefree. The man who sat beside her was…well, just that. A man. She felt the boy she’d raised, the baby she’d held, had disappeared in the blink of an eye. Rick chose that moment to look at her. It only confirmed Sookie’s impression. Her child was gone.
“How was it?” Sookie croaked. She could see Rick wasn’t sure what she was asking, so Sookie clarified. “The trip? You were gone over two months.”
Rick turned from her to look at Brigid. When he answered, it was her he was telling, not Sookie. “It was something I’ll carry for the rest of my life,” he said.
“I remember skies so dark, so full of stars, I felt I was sailing through space itself,” Eric said from the front seat. “When I sailed it wasn’t like it is now. You didn’t know what lay ahead of you. There were some who believed we would fall over the world’s edge, or find the boundary of this world and accidentally cross into the otherworld, losing our way among ghosts.”
“There were moments like that,” Rick nodded. “I can’t imagine what it took to start a journey like you did, Dad, without technology. I mean, you learn pretty quick to respect the ocean. If we’d run into real trouble, we knew help wouldn’t make it to where we were any time soon.”
“Some things in this world can’t be tamed,” Brigid agreed.
“We saw things that were amazing,” and Rick turned back toward Sookie. “There was one time, we’d been becalmed for two days and most of the morning, but the wind finally found us. It was bright outside, no rain, so we were all on deck, putting out all the canvas we had to capture the wind so we could get moving, and then we saw them. They looked like logs just under the water’s surface.”
“Basking sharks,” Brigid explained.
“It was like seeing dinosaurs, Mom.” Rick’s eyes looked less haunted. In his tanned face, Sookie could see Eric as he might have been had he not been turned. “There were four of them, swimming along. The water so clear you could see their mouths open. They were straining the water, feeding. You couldn’t really see their tails moving, but they moved right past us so they had to be swimming strong. They were longer than the boat.”
“I’d seen them before,” Brigid added. “You expect sharks to be grey, but these aren’t. They’re brown.”
“Weren’t you afraid?” Sookie asked.
“They’re plankton eaters,” Brigid answered. “The only thing that could happen is they accidentally hit your boat, but even then, you’d probably hurt them more than they’d hurt you.”
“Gentle giants,” Rick added. “And the whales and porpoise! They’d show up out of nowhere. I think they were traveling from one place to another, just like us.”
Brigid’s eyes were distant, “The farther we got, the less we saw, but that’s the ocean. You get away from the rocks and shores and it’s like a great plain…”
“Or a desert,” Rick said. It was hard not to notice, the way they finished each other’s sentences.
Sookie’s impatience kicked in. Stories of sharks were fine, but Rick wasn’t telling her what she needed to hear. “We expected you’d be in England sooner,” she prompted.
“I’m sorry we worried you,” Rick told her. “I know our leaving was abrupt, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time.”
“It wasn’t,” Sookie said too quickly. “There are always different ways to approach life’s challenges, Rick. You, of all people, know that. Running is rarely the answer.”
“It was their answer, Lover,” Eric interrupted. She could feel his warning. She knew she was pushing, but Eric scolding her mentally didn’t help.
Still, Sookie bit her tongue and smiling tightly, said, “Yes, of course.” Since she could, she didn’t bother shielding her frustration, sending it full force toward Eric. Turning around, he raised his eyebrow and then smirked. It was enough and she was able to settle for a moment, but in another instant, she was leaning forward, anxious to be out of the car. Sookie didn’t have to wait long. Two more turns and they were pulling into the small courtyard of the house where Hunter’s mother had lived.
In a flash, Eric was out of the car, opening Sookie’s door. He extended his hand, pulling her toward him. “They are safe” he whispered in her ear. “Allow them to tell their story their way in their own time.”
“But they aren’t saying anything!” Sookie growled.
“They aren’t like you, Lover,” Eric pointed out. “This is more adventure than either of them has ever experienced. Until now, they have been living it. Much has happened, even since they landed. Give them time.”
Rick had walked past them to take the bags from the trunk. “Leave them!” Eric ordered. “Take Brigid upstairs. We will join you shortly.”
Eric kept his arms wrapped around Sookie, holding her in place so she couldn’t follow the young people too closely. “We must thank Thalia,” he hissed. “There are things to be done, arrangements to be made. Best to do it now, yes?”
Sookie managed to pull her eyes from the house where her son and Brigid were heading up the stairs. “Of course,” she nodded. “It’s just, now that’s he’s here…”
“He isn’t going anywhere tonight, Lover,” Eric soothed. “Have patience.”
Sookie sighed, taking in air again. The scent of Fae remained, faint in the thin night breeze. Thalia was standing beside the car, watching them. Sookie walked over, knowing Eric would follow once he’d handled the bags. “We owe you a great deal,” she told the small vampire, bowing low before her. “You brought them home, safe and sound.” Sookie took another breath, and, still bowed, said, “You have any favor you wish of me, one you can call any time.”
“There is no need to speak of favors, now.” Eric had joined them, bowing as well. “Family need never ask favors. Thalia has earned a place with us for as long as she wishes.” He straightened, telling Thalia, “You will be my sister, if you agree.”
Thalia laughed. “Your sister? That will make you even less popular than me!” Her mouth worked for a minute, and then she glanced at the house. “They look strong, but they aren’t.” It was to Sookie Thalia turned her dark gaze. She swept her eyes up and down her Queen before saying, “As your sister, I am telling you this thing. They are fragile. They barely spoke on the plane. She slept, but he drifted.”
“Shock?” Eric asked.
“This was his first kill,” Thalia reminded them. “It was bloody. The body remained. He stared at it a long time.”
“Kill…” Sookie gasped. “Of course! You’re right. He’s different…”
“From you,” Eric completed her sentence. “Who was your first, Lover? The Were?”
“No,” and Sookie shook her head. “No, it was Rene, the man who killed my Gran.”
“So, how did you overcome your squeamishness about it?” Eric asked her.
It gave Sookie pause. “I’m not sure,” she said after a bit. “I mean, I’d already seen one dead body by then. There were police. Bill was walking in the sun to try to get to me. I…” and she found remembering that time as difficult, one bloody event tumbling after the next, not like things since being turned. “I’m sure it bothered me, but there was so much killing, I think I just blocked it out,” she confessed.
“You’d been beaten,” Eric remembered. “Compton had his blood in you. He was desensitizing you, making you ready to become the Queen’s.”
“For all your progeny’s adventures, Rick has led a sheltered life,” Thalia told them.
“The car is yours,” Eric told the smaller vampire. “We will call another when we’re ready. My kingdom is open to you. Your name will open my accounts. You are as if our Maker was one.”
“Then we’ll pretend you had my Maker, North Man,” Thalia smirked. “I wouldn’t claim that piece of shit that was your Maker for all the pledges of loyalty.”
“Ah,” and Eric grinned, too. “So, Victus no more?”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself!” and Thalia climbed behind the wheel of the car.
As Eric and Sookie watched her drive away, Eric said, “This will probably add to our troubles.”
That made Sookie frown, “I don’t understand.”
“Thalia isn’t welcome most places,” Eric explained. “She has a habit of making herself a problem. She is too independent. Declaring her family will confirm the bad opinion some are forming of us and what we are doing in Louisiana.”
“Well, fuck a zombie!” Sookie exclaimed. “Since when are we in a good place when it comes to vampire politics? They think I’m a witch. They think you’re cursed. Why shouldn’t we add the vampire world’s black sheep to the family?” Sookie wrapped her arms around this man who meant everything to her. “Go big or go home, Eric Northman! Don’t like our family? Well, bring it!”
“I love it when you’re sassy!” and Eric leaned down to kiss her. “So confident, my Lover! It makes me hard,” and he moved her hand so she could see for herself.
“Well, you’re just going to have to hold that thought!” and Sookie squeezed him enough to make his eyes warm. “You’re the one who wanted arrangements to be made, and you’re right. Come on!” and Sookie pulled her phone from her jacket. “Let’s get busy, and then we can get upstairs. We do need to talk with those two. I don’t want them taking off again.”
Eric tapped her nose, “I don’t think they wish another adventure any time soon, Älskade.”
“Well, I hope you’re right,” Sookie huffed.
“I wish I wasn’t,” Eric replied, but he didn’t explain. Instead, his fingers were flying.
Sookie alerted the Palace to have the clothes she’d purchased for Rick and Brigid sent to the apartment, along with all the soaps and other small gifts she’d had placed in the suite she’d arranged. ‘Send by human courier. Pack food,’ she instructed. “So, how are we going to handle this?” she asked Eric, “Not like we can declare this a ‘no vampire’ zone.”
“I’ve been considering that,” Eric nodded. “If they insist on remaining in the City, Amy Ludwig may be able to help. A suggestion of contagion or quarantine.”
Sookie glanced back at the apartment. “You suppose she’s in there already?”
“I suppose she’s wherever she wishes to be,” Eric shrugged. He was looking at the house, too. “Do you ever think of him?”
“Who?” Sookie asked. It was in the way Eric asked. “Rasul?” Eric didn’t respond, so she tried again. “Alcide?”
“Quinn,” Eric supplied.
“Oh.” Sookie remembered this had been where she’d spent that night with the Weretiger. She didn’t think Eric knew, exactly. In fact, as she thought about it, she figured Eric would assume there was more to her relationship with Quinn than it ever was. “We really weren’t together,” she told her mate. Eric’s mouth dropped a little, and then he eyerolled her. “I mean it!” Sookie protested. “I’m not lying to you! I intended it to be more, it just… Well,” and Sookie waved her hands. “It just never was. Quinn was too busy with his own important self and in the end, I think I was just a stop along the way for him.”
“Did he hurt you?” Eric asked.
It wasn’t as if Eric could do anything about it, even if Quinn had been a total shitheel, but as she looked at her husband, something clicked into place. “Quinn was really about making you jealous,” she told him. “I knew deep down that I couldn’t be the one for him and that’s why I went for it. He was always going to want another Weretiger. It was his pride.”
“I wanted to kill him,” Eric confessed.
“I know,” Sookie grinned. “Yet you didn’t, because of me.”
“I think a woman who teases a man like that should be punished,” and Eric’s eyes lit up in that sex way.
“I think some things should be forgiven,” Sookie purred, “but if a little punishment makes the forgiveness easier, I might be game.”
“We should conclude our business here.” Eric’s lips were close to hers, his fingers drifting lightly over her breast.
“Our children are never business!” Sookie protested, still she sighed when he squeezed her breast.
The race up the stairs was playful, although Sookie sobered once they stepped into the apartment. Doctor Amy Ludwig was leaning over, her ear against Brigid’s chest. Rick was hovering behind Brigid, arms crossed and scowling, like a tall, blond scarecrow.
“Oh!” Sookie gasped.
“See turning didn’t do your brain any favors,” Amy snapped. “You used to have better manners.”
“I apologize,” and Sookie moved toward the apartment’s kitchen. “Tea? I don’t think there’s any sweet tea made, but I can make some hot.”
“Too late!” Amy sniffed, straightening up and jerking her chin at the cup of tea sitting on the side table. “Took you all too long to get up here. I get paid by the hour, you know.”
“We just texted you!” Sookie stuttered.
“Fifteen minutes ago!” Amy pointed out. “One minute, forty minutes… It’s all the same charge. One hour, and then two hours. House calls! You think I do this for just anyone?”
“How is she?” Rick interrupted.
“I’ll let you know if you let me take a look at you, too.” Amy cocked her eyebrow, her eyes huge behind her thick glasses.
“So you can charge my parents double?” Rick challenged.
It only made Amy laugh. “Of course! Nothing to do with professional curiosity.” She turned toward Brigid, “You know, this one truly is unique. Only one of his kind in existence right now.”
“I thought you said there have been others?” Brigid directed her words to Rick, apparently another conversation they’d had on their long voyage.
“Now that vampires aren’t being hunted into extinction, there will be again.” Amy answered, summoning a washcloth to wipe her hands. “In time.” She patted the sofa beside Brigid. “Come on, Walking Dead, sit down so I can take a look at you.”
Sookie moved closer, watching the small doctor poke and pry at her son. “I remember the first time you examined Rick,” she said.
“Fran Miller’s kitchen,” Amy answered, never taking her eyes from the young people in front of her. She lifted Rick’s hand, then quick as lightning, poked his finger with a needle, pressing to watch the drop of blood form. “Could have knocked me over with a feather, but that was Fran. Always finding a way to surprise the hell out of me.” She glanced at Sookie, “I miss her, I truly do.”
“She was an original,” Rick replied.
“You’re anemic,” Amy scolded. “I’m guessing you ran out of bottled blood out there.”
“Four weeks in,” Rick confirmed.
“Naturally you didn’t want to drink from her.” Amy was staring at Brigid.
“I did,” Rick shrugged.
“Not enough!” Brigid scolded. “You knew you needed more, but you wouldn’t.”
“I couldn’t risk it!” Rick protested. “Brig, you were so tired…”
“Perfectly natural in the first trimester,” and Amy cut off any further bickering. “You need to feed, Baby Fang. What is it Thalia calls you? Arseling?” and the doctor laughed raucously. “So fitting! Anyway, you need fresh blood and often. Two, three times a day for a while until you get yourself sorted out.” She glanced at Brigid. “Once a day at least from her. It’ll help her and the baby. Give her some of your blood, too, but wait a few days. Until you both get your strength back, her system doesn’t need any shocks.”
“How is the child?” They all turned to stare at Eric. It seemed an unusual question coming from him.
“I was just about to find out,” Amy answered. She pointed down the hallway. “Come on, Corpse Bride, let’s go to the bedroom.”
“I’ll get some dinner together,” Sooke offered. She starting moving around the way she did when she was flustered. “I’ll bet you could both use something warm. I’m sure the folks from the Palace will be here soon with your clothes and some more food.”
“Thanks,” Rick said, but then he stood. “Look, I’ll just be outside. I’ll keep an eye out for them,” and without another word, Rick headed out the door.
Sookie started to follow their son, but Eric held up his hand. “Let him go, Lover. Do what you offered. There will be some food here, more tea. We keep the place provisioned. Make something to offer Ludwig.” Sookie’s mouth opened, but he cut her off, “I’ll go after Rick. Why don’t you check with the Palace? Find out how long before they get here. Tell them to stop out on the street. We don’t need them trailing scent back with them. Order something ready-made from a restaurant. You know what they liked when they were here last. Rick and I will carry things in when they arrive.”
Eric walked down to the courtyard to find Rick seated at the cast iron table next to the small fountain. The young man stared at the water, his hands dangling over his knees. “I would join you,” Eric announced himself. Rick hastily wiped at his cheek, but he needn’t have bothered. Eric had smelled the tears already.
The Viking said nothing, careful to mimic his son’s posture, and waited. It didn’t take long. “I suppose you’ve killed a lot of people,” Rick opened.
“Many,” and Eric waited some more.
“Do you remember them all?” his son asked.
“Most,” Eric replied. “Not all. There were some on battlefields whose faces I don’t recall. I remember the killing, but when you are surrounded on all sides, fighting for your life and the lives of your clan? The bloodlust would claim me. I became berserker. In those moments you are the sword and the axe, and the battle becomes a dance, a thing of beauty. Those I killed in stealth, or in single combat, yes, those people I remember well.”
“Did it get easier?” Rick leaned forward, clasping his hands. He was staring into the water as though it were the only thing holding him together.
“Yes,” Eric told him, “and no.” He turned toward Rick, “You carry their souls all your life. What you need to decide is how you will accept that burden. For me, I carry it lightly. I know there are good people and bad in this world. For me, what is important is my loyalty and my willingness to die if it will serve to protect the ones I love.” Rick shuddered. Eric placed his hand on his son’s knee. “You must remember why it was necessary for that man to die, Rick. What would have happened if you hadn’t killed him?”
“I could have just knocked him out,” Rick answered.
“No,” Eric snorted. “No, you couldn’t have done that. He was part Fae, strong and magic. There was only one way to stop him and you did it. Now, tell me. What would have happened if you failed?”
“Thalia would be dead,” Rick whispered.
“Yes.” Eric agreed. “What else?”
“I don’t know,” and Rick shrugged. “I guess he would have taken Brigid…”
“You would be dead,” Eric said it with authority, “and once it was discovered Brigid was carrying your child, that child would be dead as well.” Rick gave a long shuddering gasp. “Three deaths, Rick, you prevented. Three deaths for one.” Eric waited and finally, Rick turned to look at him. Eric saw the haunted look in his son’s eyes.
Times were different and Eric had been younger than Rick was now when he made his first kill. It was during a raid and the man had been defending his home. To this day, Eric thought it was as much accidentally rather than purposely that his spear ran through the man’s body. “My first kill was different. You were defending your mate and your clan, Rick. That Fae warrior came to kill you. He had only one purpose and you did what was necessary. There was no choice, and you didn’t seek him out. He came to kill you or be killed.”
“And he died.” Rick’s lip trembled. “I think the thing that’s bothering me most…” and Rick looked away. “It was so easy.”
“It was easy because your heart knew it was right,” Eric told him. “Your human head is telling you to be ashamed, but your blood says otherwise. It is the battle within you causing you pain. You need to accept this thing you’ve done. Embrace it.” Rick nodded, smiled, and then looked even more miserable.
“The only reason your mate and child are alive is because he died, my Son. You saved them both and Thalia.” Eric chuckled, “which puts me in a bad position.”
Eric could see his attempt at distraction worked. Rick pulled himself together, his eyes becoming focused. “What? What puts you in a bad position?”
“Your success,” Eric explained. “Now, I will have to call your Uncle Desmond and thank him. He was your fencing instructor and I must admit to his having done one thing well. I’m sure he won’t ever let me forget it.”
“You don’t like Uncle Desmond?” Rick asked. “What is it with the two of you? He doesn’t like you, either.” When Eric cocked an eyebrow, Rick explained, “He told me one time. He said marrying you was beneath Mom. He thought she deserved a nice Fae mate.”
“The Fae aren’t nice,” Eric deadpanned. “You, of all people, should know this now,” Eric sat back, “but, they are tasty!”
“Really?” and Rick eyerolled. “Don’t! Don’t do that.”
“You need to learn to acknowledge things that are,” Eric scolded. “Speak truth! I say Fae are tasty and I know it to be true. You enjoy the same sweetness in your woman.” Rick flushed, and Eric found his teeth grinding. “When will you embrace your true nature, Rick? You are vampire. Each passing day makes you more so. Soon you will be invulnerable, as we all are, but stronger! Silver doesn’t poison you. Daylight doesn’t stop you. You have every advantage and none of the drawbacks. You can walk through any mind and you can see us coming before we are anywhere near you. All these gifts and instead of using them, you shackle yourself with human chains!”
“I am who I am!” Rick protested. He jumped up, pacing around the courtyard. “I didn’t ask for any of this! All I ever wanted to be was a guy who could spend his time walking through the woods and playing music. I’m not going to be some vamp superstar, stuck in this shit show for life!”
Eric had a sudden memory of another time; another father lecturing his headstrong son about the duties awaiting him. “I once told my Father the same thing you are telling me now.” Eric confessed. “Yet, here I am, walking that path he foresaw, happily.” Eric waited until Rick stopped his pacing before saying, “You are no longer the boy who grew up in Chester, Massachusetts. You are a man with his own woman and your first child on the way. Already you have changed. Who is to say where this life will lead you? There is one thing I do know. Fate, the life you are born to lead, doesn’t let you go.”
“So, you think becoming a killer is my Fate?” Eric saw Sookie’s eyes the night she’d killed Debbie Pelt staring at him from Rick’s face.
“Defending your own doesn’t make you a killer. It makes you a man willing to fight for what’s yours,” and Eric stood. His impulse was to raise his arms, offering Rick his embrace, but unsure of his son’s reaction, Eric hesitated.
“Will they come looking for me?” Rick had taken a step closer.
“The Fae? No…” and Eric saw that wasn’t who Rick meant.
“The police,” his son clarified. “I mean, we left that man lying in the street. They do have police in Liverpool.”
“It was handled,” Eric said, although he wasn’t certain. He pulled his phone, texting Charles in England. “I will verify, but it is our way. The assassin is sent back to his master as a message.”
Rick glanced toward the house. “Thalia didn’t say much on the flight back. Well, maybe I didn’t ask her, either. So, Brigid was right about her family wanting to grab her? Thalia said Mom met them.”
“Her people are based in Rhode Island. They are like your Great-Grandfather. They live among the humans and tie themselves into human affairs. They are wealthy and entitled. They arranged a mate for Brigid.”
“But, why?” On instinct, Eric opened his arms and his tall, bearded child stepped within them. For the first time, Eric registered how good it made him feel, almost as though he had made this child through his blood, like Pam or Karin. ‘I did,’ he thought, ‘just not in the vampire way.’
“We think they are trying to consolidate their Fae nature. They are hybrids, like your Mother. The true Fae are gone from this world. No one thinks they’ll return, so these Cranes, Brigid’s relatives, would remake themselves. They seek to regain magic, breeding to strengthen that part of their nature.”
“Eugenics,” Rick sniffed. “Like that’s ever gone well!”
“Desperate people believe foolish things,” Eric agreed, releasing his child. The Palace car pulled up to the courtyard entrance and car doors opened. “Your things have arrived.” Another man chose that moment to walk around the wall, bags in hand. “Ah, and food for you and Brigid. It smells like that gumbo you had here that you liked.”
“Brigid liked it, too.” Rick’s voice was steadier. “Look, I’m sorry I yelled.”
“I don’t mind you expressing yourself,” Eric grinned, “as long as it’s with family. There are realities to ruling a kingdom that can’t be ignored, certain conventions, traditions. They include disagreeing publicly with your King…” and Eric looked up at the apartment, “or your Queen. You are our child, but it doesn’t give you, either of you, permission to confront us in front of others.”
“I get it,” and Rick turned to grab shopping bags from the humans streaming past them. “United front. Got to have each other’s backs.”
“If you mean back each other up, then yes,” and Eric followed, pointedly not taking any of the burdens himself. “Yes, that’s what I mean.”
When they walked into the apartment, Brigid was seated at the table. Sookie had opened a gallon of milk that had come in with the Palace people and was pouring a large glass. “For the baby,” she was telling Brigid.
“I was just leaving,” Amy Ludwig scolded. “I don’t have all day to waste like some folks do!”
“I pay your bills,” and Eric let fang drop.
Sookie laughed at Brigid’s shocked expression, “Oh, don’t mind them! I don’t think they know how to talk nicely to each other. They’ve been snapping and snarling since the first time I saw them both together.”
“The Maenad,” Eric recalled.
“You should have died!” It didn’t sound funny, but the short doctor laughed anyway. Sookie set a single pastry on the table and promised coffee. “Fine!” and Amy hopped into a chair.
Rick helped his Mother and Eric leaned against the counter, watching Sookie find bowls, and then prepare three bowls of gumbo. There were fried pickles, rice, and cornbread, too. Sookie set everything out on the table. Finally, the Palace people were done. Eric acknowledged their bows and the door shut behind them. “Is there blood?” he asked Sookie, taking an empty chair.
“There is, and maybe you should serve yourself!” his wife scolded, but then she placed the two bottles in the microwave.
“I think you’re saying I’ve been bad,” Eric teased, pushing through their bond in a way that would have made her blush.
She got it. Her heated gaze told him as much. “Drink your blood!” she said instead, handing him the shaken bottle. She pulled up a chair and turning her attention to the Doctor, said, “Well, tell Eric what you told us.”
“Baby’s fine.” Amy’s table manners left something to be desired. “Something more, but how would it not be, with these two as parents.”
“Vampire?” Eric asked.
“How the hell would I know?” Amy barked. “Give it another month or two. We can hook her up to one of those fancy machines and you can get a 3D image, but I don’t need one of those to tell you there’s magic there.”
“Is her smell…” and then Sookie caught herself. “Sorry, Brigid, but will the scent get stronger?”
“It’s pretty pronounced now,” Amy confirmed. “Can’t say, but I’m sure you’ve already figured out they can’t stay here. There’re more vampires in New Orleans than any other city in the United States. Even if they only go as far as the courtyard, someone’s going to catch a whiff.”
“You liked the house in Bon Temps,” Sookie said to Rick.
“There’s trouble up there,” Eric reminded Sookie.
“But we know who the problem is,” Sookie pushed back. “You’ll pick her up and things will settle down! They know Rubio and Mustapha. You know Jason will just about move in, he’ll be so happy to have family in his backyard.”
“Like I said before,” and Rick held up his hand. “Brig and I will talk about it.”
“It’s okay,” Brigid spoke up, settling her hand over Rick’s. “Bon Temps sounds good to me, too. It’s pretty. The gardens are nice. I felt…happy there.”
“Whatever you want,” Rick told her.
“You will make this decision,” Eric told his son, settling things. “Tell us when you are ready, but the Doctor is right about this. Already, there is a scent in the courtyard.” He bowed his head toward Brigid, “It is very attractive.”
“Thanks,” and Brigid smiled warmly. “I was starting to think I smelled like the city dump!”
“Far from it!” and Eric winked.
“Yeah, enough of that, Mr. Charm!” Sookie scolded, turning to Brigid. “Now you can see where Rick gets it. Charms the pants right off a girl before she knows a thing!”
“Well, as ‘charming’ as all you can be, I have other patients who need my attention,” and Amy pushed back from the table. “The herbs I told you about will be here tonight along with instructions. I’ll be seeing you once a month. When it gets closer, more often. Bon Temps would be good. I have a place in Shreveport that would work if you decide you want to have the baby in a hospital rather than at home.”
“You’ll treat her, then?” Sookie asked.
“What choice do I have?” Amy groused. “Can’t send her to some human doctor, not like that!”
“But, she’s okay, right?” Rick asked.
Amy paused, then pulled at Rick’s hand until he leaned down. She kissed him right on the mouth, surprising him so much he stumbled back. “You are a sweet boy!” she declared. “Your Brigid is fine. Her baby is fine. You’ll make a lovely family. Your Auntie Fran would have been proud,” and then she was just gone.
“How did she do that?” Brigid stammered.
“I know,” and Rick picked up his spoon. “It’s crazy, but it grows on you.” His eyes met Eric’s, and while the Viking could still see the shadow his son carried, he also saw a new respect.
“If you do decide on Bon Temps, I bet Peter and Karin would be willing to visit,” Sookie was saying.
Eric watched them, his family around this table and his thoughts expanded, encompassing these people he loved and all of his extended family and vassals. Each person clicked into place, like pieces on a chessboard. Pam would return to New Orleans as soon as Heidi was captured. Rasul would travel to Lafayette to take up his Area. Rubio would consolidate power. Pieces to move. Plans to make. ‘King!’ a voice echoed in his head and Eric was sure he heard his Father’s laugh.