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.
The swirl of gaiety they’d enjoyed in Minneapolis at the Summit followed them to New Orleans. Overnight, as if by magic, the Palace transformed into a lighter, happier place. Guards grinned as they passed by and those who bowed before them in the great hall beamed approval. “Feels like we stepped into another world,” Sookie observed.
Pam noticed, too. Before they left, her wardrobe leaned toward reds and blacks, but since they’d returned, Pam could have auditioned for the part of Spring. Her signature pinks were on full display liberally supplemented with creams and lavenders. “I know you’ve heard me say it a dozen times,” she shrugged, “vampires love gossip. News among our kind always travels fast, but news of good fortune? That flies!”
Sookie wanted to believe it, but she found that first week home she grew ever more nervous, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it didn’t. It wasn’t that the Palace before they left had been unpleasant. It had been comfortable, if a little somber. Some part of Sookie expected being dour was part of being vampire. For her, it was one characteristic that set Eric apart, his light-heartedness, but now, it seemed every vampire she met was happy. Even Thalia, who rarely smiled, seemed to unbend a fraction. “It’s as if Sophie-Ann herself had returned,” was a remark Sookie heard more than once.
They’d been home over a week. Hunter and Mr. Cataliades left on the young man’s first official job, and Eric used his absence as an excuse to keep Sookie in bed beyond their rising. “Why are people comparing us to Sophie-Ann?” she asked.
“Because they feel hope,” Eric purred.
“I don’t see what that has to do with Sophie-Ann,” Sookie frowned. “She had money problems. She married that terrible Peter Threadgill and ended up getting everybody killed.”
Eric rolled to his side, propping his head on his hand. “You never knew her, not really. Sophie-Ann was a decent Queen. She liked to laugh,” and he looked toward the far wall, suddenly far away. Sookie could feel how Eric missed the Queen. It was a surprise. She’d had a vague idea he liked Sophie-Ann, but Sookie hadn’t expected his depth of feeling.
“I wish things had been different,” she sighed, offering her comfort. “I did like her, Eric, in Rhodes… Well, until she ordered Andre to fang-rape me in the hallway.”
“I think that was Andre’s idea,” Eric countered. “Still,” and Eric’s grin returned, “it did lead to our first bond.”
“Which I hated,” Sookie reminded him. “So much time wasted! I’m not sure what would have made me feel differently back then. Maybe if we’d talked more, but when I think back, I don’t think I recognize the person I was.”
“Some things about that woman haven’t changed,” Eric teased, tweaking her nipple, and then rubbing it when she squeaked, “My Sookie is still stubborn. You want everything your own way, Lover.”
“I don’t!” Sookie protested.
“And you are most happy when those around you are happy, too,” and Eric kissed her, placing her hand to show where he was most happy.
He was looking all too sure of himself, so Sookie squeezed, then pulled her hand away. “Well, I guess you’re thinking you’re Mr. Open-Minded, since you’ll be sitting on your throne enthralling the vermin again.”
Eric’s eyes narrowed. Maxwell had convinced them to participate in the annual Krewe of Krampus parade. Their appearance on a float in the Hallowe’en Krewe of Boo parade through the Quarter had been a huge success. Maxwell was certain there was money to be made in convincing vampires from around the world that New Orleans, with its ready embrace of their kind, was a destination for any kind of event. Part of Maxwell’s plan included making Eric and Sookie the unofficial crowned King and Queen of all New Orleans. It meant lots of public exposure and so far, they’d gone along. Taking her hand and placing it back where he wished, Eric leered a little as he said, “I don’t mind being put on display.” There was something about how he said it that had Sookie remembering a certain pink Lycra outfit. It had left almost nothing to the imagination.
“I don’t think that’s the kind of ‘display’ Maxwell had in mind,” she scolded, but then sighed. This was New Orleans, and she had a sneaking suspicion she was wrong. Eric was smirking, but his expression changed, and his fangs dropped after she applied the right amount of pressure.
“Besides, it’s not a throne,” he purred, trailing his fingers down her side, tracing the slight curve of her belly where her hip dipped into the crease of her thigh. “We will simply stand on the float, waving, throwing those trinkets.”
“There will be a throne, Eric,” and Sookie shifted, opening her legs further. “Pam said they retrieved the gaudy one from Fangtasia. It’s going to sit on top of the float and it will be you, as the King of Krampus, waving to your adoring subjects, Mr. January come to life.”
“You talk too much!” Eric laughed, dipping his fingers into her at the same time rubbing the heel of his hand against her clit. Suddenly distracted, Sookie’s fingers loosed and she arched into him, enjoying the friction he was providing. “Besides,” and he removed his fingers to lick them, “I’ve decided it will be you, my Winter Queen, who will be the one enthralling the vermin. I intend to sit at your feet, the very picture of a vampire charmed by his lovely Snow Queen. It was a dark tale, that one, and what’s more appropriate for a celebration of the Krampus than kidnapped children and lost souls?”
“No one wants to see me on top of that float!” and Sookie smirked, flipping over to straddle her husband. “You’re the ride they pay for,” and she sucked her finger before trailing it down her torso and then licked her hand before wrapping his bobbing cock in her hand. “Sex on a stick. Did I ever tell you that’s what I used to call you?”
“I thought it was Viking sex god,” and Eric wrapped his hand around hers, showing her the amount of pressure he wanted.
“Best ass ever,” she agreed, stroking, and then sweeping her thumb over the top, paying attention to the moisture beginning to gather at his tip.
“Do you still have your jar?” Eric asked.
“Jar?” Sookie asked.
“Your orgasm jar, where you store your extras,” Eric laughed.
“Why don’t you search me and find out?” she sassed and was rewarded by Eric flipping her over instead.
It was their favorite game, playing and stroking. They nipped from each other, but it wasn’t as before. There was a sensuality to feeding on warm blood, but now it was replaced by the cementing of their bond. Sookie wondered if the day would come when Eric would tire of her. It seemed unlikely, but so did the vast future that stretched out before them.
She reveled in the feel of him inside her, both physically and through her blood, and she couldn’t imagine ever tiring of it. She’d heard it happened, how vampires stopped desiring their mates, but just seeing him made her want him. Sookie didn’t think there would ever be enough time to cure her of Eric Northman.
It was almost dawn before Sookie settled back into the crook of Eric’s shoulder. Some might have considered it a night wasted, but she felt too wonderful to think of all the things that didn’t get done. Sighing, her eye caught the carved Christmas tree positioned on the small dresser across their resting chamber. “You sure you don’t mind all these Christmas things everywhere?” she asked. “I may have gone a little overboard. Kind of looks more like a tourist shop out there than a home.” Sookie had done some decorating in past, but nothing like this year. It was the first time Eric encouraged her. He’d walked her through the public rooms debating the right place for a large tree. “I know you don’t believe in all this.”
“In my time, I celebrated the turning of the year,” he shrugged. “We would decorate an evergreen with ribbons and wishes. Of course, we’d burn it,” and he grinned. “And drink. And dance naked around the flames.”
“You wouldn’t!” Sookie laughed. “God, it must have been freezing!”
“There were ways to stay warm,” and Eric pulled her against him, kissing her to let her know what he meant. “There were many babies born after those fires.”
“Do you ever wonder?” Sookie asked. When he raised his eyebrow, she explained, “Whether you have descendants from that time?”
“I have my progeny,” he said in his matter of fact way. “They are my blood,” and then he smiled warmly, “I have the son you’ve given me, a true son of my body. What thin bloodline could compete with that?”
“Well, I’m happy you’re okay with all this,” and Sookie jerked her chin toward the small tree. “I’m not sure it’s sitting well with everyone around here.”
“You are a modern vampire for modern times,” Eric assured her. “You are the first one to be made Queen at so young an age.”
“Folks said Freyda was young,” Sookie sniffed. She knew it was foolish to feel jealous, but she did.
Eric laughed, and Sookie couldn’t help grinning, too. “Oh, my Lover, how human you remain! Are you really fishing for compliments? I never loved Freyda, you know this, and she wasn’t so young as you. She was born when the peoples of this country were fleeing the poverty of the East in wagons, hoping for a better future in the West. No, my Sookie,” and he nuzzled her, “Only you have done the deeds that make you fit for a Queen.”
“What? By being stubborn?” she giggled.
Eric surprised her. He pulled back, suddenly serious. “Don’t you know?”
“I’m vampire, and we’re mated. That’s pretty much it, isn’t it?” Sookie asked.
“No,” and now Eric sat up, signaling Sookie should do the same. He took her hand and gazed into her eyes. “No, the woman you describe could not be my Queen.” He pulled her from bed and stood her in front of the mirror. “I assumed you knew this, Lover, but now it appears I’ve failed you.”
He was so serious it reminded Sookie of another time when Eric had tried to tell her of vampire things. She’d listened, but only with half an ear and, in the end, she’d cut off his explanations, demanding sex. She could feel dawn calling, but she was determined to let him speak this time. “A Queen is more than whom the King declares,” he told the woman in the mirror. “A Queen is Queen because her subjects accept her.” Eric placed his hands on Sookie’s shoulders, “Do your subjects accept you as their Queen, Sookie?”
She thought about it. She thought of those who automatically bowed and the deference she felt from everyone she encountered. “Yes, but…”
“The respect you receive is what you have earned, Lover,” Eric told her. “Don’t you appreciate the legend you have created? Sookie, half my power, my place as King, is because I had the foresight and good fortune to bring you to my side.”
She couldn’t help it. She laughed. It was so improbable, “Eric! It’s okay, you don’t have to flatter me…”
Eric growled. His fangs descended, and he squeezed her shoulders. “Look at the woman I see!” he demanded. “Look at who every vampire sees when they see you! You are Sookie, the Angel of Rhodes! You are Sookie, the slayer of vampires. You are descended of Fae royalty, both acknowledged and fought over because of your legacy. You were worthy of a war, and you, alone of all women, brought a legend to life. No one credits me for bringing a dhampir into this world. They credit you.” Eric’s voice warmed, “It wasn’t me who Maude invited to stand close, Älskade, it was you. I am legend because I’m old, but you, Sookie, you are legend because you’ve done more in your short mortal life than most vampires do in all the years given them.”
She could feel his sincerity through their bond and Sookie found herself looking at her own reflection with new eyes. “I don’t know…” she stammered.
“I will tell you your story every night until you do,” Eric told her, then laying his head alongside hers, said, “Come, Lover, you are tired. We will rest, and tomorrow I will tell you the story of Sookie Stackhouse.”
Sookie had been sure there was something tricky about Eric’s pushing her to turn the Palace into a Christmas card, and it didn’t take long to stumble across his true purpose. “A ball?”
“A grand ball, in the week before your Christmas holiday,” Pam grinned.
“Where?” Sookie asked. “The throne room here isn’t really big enough…”
“I have decided to re-open Sophie-Ann’s monastery,” Eric interjected. He was sitting behind his desk reviewing a report. “You remember the monastery, don’t you, Lover?”
Sookie did remember that time. She’d been with Quinn then, and her cousin, Hadley, had just died. Sophie-Ann, strapped for cash, was engaged to marry Peter Threadgill, the King of Arkansas. It had ended badly for Peter and for many others that night at the monastery. “It’s the first time I saw you with a sword,” Sookie replied.
“Bowling for vampires!” and Eric laughed. “You wore that dress and I knew I had to have you.” He rose and stalked her, using his exaggerated, hip-rolling strut until he stood before her, bowed, and kissed her hand. He was being blatantly manipulative, playing off her memories, and they both knew it.
He dropped her hand and with a toothy grin, returning to his report, “It’s been re-opened. Felipe was using it as a retreat. He rewarded his favorites by allowing them to chase their companions through the halls. It’s largely intact, but, like any building that’s been unused for a while, it needed attention.”
“Which you’ve ordered done?” As she said it, Pam shifted, drawing Sookie’s attention.
“I should have been allowed to oversee the renovation,” Pam sniffed, “but Eric didn’t like my ideas.”
“You would have remade the place into a statement, modern and cold,” and Eric shook his head, “No, Maxwell Lee was the better choice. He appreciates the charm of this City. His taste is more of what we need.”
“And what is that?” Sookie asked.
“A setting to seduce humans,” Eric answered.
“It will be the first time vampires have invited humans since the old days,” Pam nodded.
“It’s true,” Eric confirmed. “Felipe saved his political entertaining for Las Vegas, and the dregs he sent here didn’t have the cunning or brains to consider the possibilities.”
“So, we are having this fancy do when?” Sookie asked.
“Two weeks,” Pam answered. “The night before the parade.”
“There will be television reporters,” Eric grinned. “We,” and he beamed at Sookie, “We will talk about our involvement and our commitment to the Krewe of Krampus.”
“And what is our commitment?” Sookie asked.
“Krampus is about monsters,” Pam pointed out. “As far as I’m concerned, it belongs to us,” and she glanced toward the door where the Were guards stood. “It belongs to all Supernaturals. We’ve revealed ourselves, so now it’s time we really stepped into the mainstream, and New Orleans is the perfect place. The King and Queen of New Orleans ride a float and we encourage the Weres to join us. We embrace the holidays that are ours, Hallowe’en, May Day, and we make it so cool to be vampire that we become the symbol of New Orleans.”
“And you think this will…what?” Sookie asked.
“Attract others of our kind,” Eric answered. “It’s a common complaint, how much more vampires could accomplish If we weren’t forced to hide our nature.”
“So,” and Sookie marveled again at her husband’s confidence, “We use the people of New Orleans to make the City…”
“A destination,” Pam finished. “The place every vampire wants to visit. The City where they can walk openly, enjoying and mingling, finding acceptance, even celebration of what we are.”
“Until there’s an accident,” Sookie huffed. She glanced at Eric, “Can you imagine what would have happened if Appius and your ‘brother’ decided to dance down Bourbon Street? I don’t think there’s enough glamour in the world…”
“It’s been over twenty years since The Revelation, Sookie,” Eric pointed out. “Even the old ones are learning. Besides, those who truly hold on to the old ways wouldn’t want to come here, only those who want to take mainstreaming to the next level.”
Sookie could feel Eric’s unrest tinged with unhappiness. It was his reaction any time there was talk of Appius, and she was sorry she’d brought him up. Seeking to change the subject, she said, “So, we become the flavor of the month, and…”
“No, not flavor. It will be as Pam says, we will become the symbol of New Orleans. We will be so important to the reputation of the City they will fight to keep us here.” Eric glanced at Pam, “We work with them, but we make the Hallowe’en parade our own. We will take over Krampus as well.”
“I don’t think the current organizers would exactly welcome being crowded out,” Sookie huffed.
“Glamour!” Pam grinned.
“And reality,” Eric added. “What event could compete with a Vampire’s Ball hosted by real vampires, or a Krampus celebration where the creatures who walk the streets are real?”
“There’s a fine line between fun and frightened,” and Sookie glanced from one to the other.
“It’s a line that’s going to make us all rich,” Pam laughed.
“And safer,” Eric added. “We invite monarchs to come and enjoy the holidays with us. These wouldn’t be Summits, but vacations. We offer them the romance of the Deep South…”
“And where would they stay?” Sookie asked.
“The monastery,” Eric answered. “It was the most beautiful of Sophie-Ann’s properties. It is still beautiful.” When Sookie gave him a narrow look, he added, “Maxwell has been busy. I was thinking to visit this evening, and I was hoping you’d come along.” He gave her his soft look that always got her before asking, “You do remember the night, don’t you? The battle? You slipped away, but if I’d found you in the aftermath, I would have taken you as mine.”
“And I would have fought against it,” Sookie replied.
“No, Lover,” Eric crooned. “No, your blood was up as well. I could see it in your eyes. It was in your kiss. Battle called to you. I knew then you had a warrior’s heart.”
“I think your memory’s a little confused,” Sookie eye-rolled, “but sure, I’ll go with you to see the old place again.”
The entrance was as Sookie remembered. The circular driveway flowed gracefully between the gateposts. The plantings seemed to crowd a little closer, but the light hanging over the great doors was welcoming. Sookie wondered if it was a by-product of her being vampire. The smell of vegetation and warm stone flooded her with memories of the night she’d come here for Sophie-Ann’s engagement party. She remembered the garish colors of Alabama’s uniforms, a signal as it turned out. She almost expected to see Jade Flower’s scowling face as they stepped inside the door.
“What is it?” Eric asked when Sookie shivered.
“Nothing,” Sookie half-laughed. “Ghosts.”
The inside was very different from how Sookie remembered it. Where Sophie-Ann kept the religious roots of the place on display, Maxwell had softened the look. The stained-glass windows remained, but their stone embrasures were softened by gauzy drapes and flowers. Sookie remembered being struck by the number of crucifixes and other Catholic iconography that night long ago. Those symbols were gone, the spaces on the walls filled with paintings and fabrics. “It almost looks homey,” Sookie said aloud. Of course, it was still a stone structure with whitewashed walls, not Sookie’s idea of homey at all.
“Maxwell has done well,” Eric remarked, leading them into the hall. The vaulted ceiling was still held up with great carved beams and the dark wood floor gleamed. He was pointing out the changes, but all Sookie could see were the terrified faces of the humans running for the doors and Wybert’s head rolling across the floor to rest at her feet.
“You protected me,” Sookie whispered.
“You sent me to protect the Queen.” Eric was suddenly close. Sookie hadn’t seen him come, she was so wrapped in memory.
“Bill came to see me after,” she told him.
Eric growled. It was long and feral, and Sookie looked up to see the light in his eyes he didn’t bother hiding anymore. “You never told me that! What did he want?”
Sookie sighed, suddenly tired. It was all so long ago, and now Bill was dead. “He apologized. He told me he loved me, and he wouldn’t have turned me over. He wanted me to forgive him.”
Eric touched her face, waiting until she met his gaze before saying, “I should have killed have him then. I wanted to.”
Smiling, Sookie laid her hand over his, “If you had, we wouldn’t be here now. Things would have been different. Who knows? Maybe I would have ended up with Quinn…”
“That never would have happened,” Eric growled again. “Even then, you sensed what he was and what he wasn’t. He was never good enough for you!”
“It would have been a mistake,” Sookie agreed. “I know that, now. This is where I’m meant to be, Eric, by your side, yours.”
He dipped his head and kissed her as he once had, hard and fast. He glanced toward where the Queen’s chambers once lay, his intent clear. “Not there,” she hissed. He didn’t question. Instead, he led her in the opposite direction. They turned down a hall, and then another. There were many doors opened here, and Sookie thought they must have been the monks’ cells.
Whisking her into one, Eric barely slammed the door before reaching under the hem of her dress. “I want you!” he hissed from between clenched teeth, pushing her against the wall. His fingers were probing and stroking, and Sookie pushed him away from her. He looked startled, until she reached for his belt. Eric’s fangs clicked into place, his eyes glowed. He barely waited for his pants to drop before he’d picked her up, slamming her against the wall, his need as hot and quick as his kiss had been earlier.
Sookie’s head fell back and her mouth opened. She was lost in him, their joining both primal and true. She cried out and he quickened his pace, racing her. He knew just how high to hold her, pressing her clit with his pelvis, the coarse hair that marked the end of his happy trail rubbing just right. When she felt herself begin to clench around him, she pulled him closer, burying her fangs in his chest, and he roared. She could feel him cumming within her and the echo of his voice in the small room gave sound to their completion.
She didn’t need to pant, but Sookie did anyway. Perhaps it was habit, perhaps it was comfort, but it felt right as she licked the wounds she’d inflicted, luxuriating in the slow pulse of her muscles working through her orgasm. “This is best,” he purred, rocking forward again.
“Damn, you’re good,” Sookie sighed, clenching again.
“One for the jar?” he asked.
“Might need its own jar,” she answered. She could feel Eric’s smug happiness, which was fine. Sookie was feeling pretty smug herself. “Not bad for a woman with a full-grown son,” she grinned.
“I wish you still had your marks,” Eric said quietly, laying his hand where once she’d carried stretch marks. Bill had carved them from her, along with all her other scars, making her ‘perfect’ before he’d turned her. Sookie didn’t bother hiding her skepticism as Eric lowered her. “Why do you doubt?” he asked. “I find I regret it, not seeing my seed growing in you,” and he cupped her slightly rounded belly. “I never wished to feel my other children within Aude. We were doing our duty. It was different, but you, Lover,” and he kissed her again. “With you, it is something else. I would have lay beside you every night, rubbing your belly with oils as my Father once did.”
“I wish that, too,” Sookie replied, and then said aloud the small fear she felt in her heart. “I wish you were closer to Rick. I know the problem is him. He holds us both at arm’s length. I wonder if I should have allowed him to return Chester. Maybe it would have been better if we’d kept him here. It was a hard time, but at least we could have come through it together.”
“I have said this before,” Eric answered, helping her dress. “Whether you sent him away or kept him here, he still would have found a way to be angry. It is the way with young men. They yearn for independence yet fear it as well. They hold onto their mothers while resenting them for the attachment. It makes no difference, and when the time is right, he will remember the love he holds for you and return home.”
“Sounds like the voice of experience,” Sookie grinned.
“I left to go a-Viking when I was only twelve. My mother cried, cursing my Father and scolding me, telling me if I got myself killed it wouldn’t be her fault.” Sookie could see the image in her mind and it made her laugh.
“And did you learn to appreciate her when you got back?” Sookie asked.
“No,” Eric laughed, “Although when I was in my first battle, it was her face I thought of. I thought of how angry she’d be with Fader if I was hurt, so I fought harder.” Taking Sookie’s hand, Eric turned her back toward the hall. “No, Sookie, it wasn’t until I was older I realized how much she had done for me, the sacrifices she made. I needed to be old enough to not think just of myself, and once I gained that wisdom, my Mother was the first person I considered.”
“Thank you,” Sookie sniffed. It wasn’t the same as hearing these things from Rick, but the idea that is was only a matter of time made her feel better.
“Chester at Christmas is beautiful,” Rick crooned, stroking Brigid’s small breast. “Why spend the holidays in Italy with strangers? You like Peter. Karin will be away. There will be a tree and snow. We’ll skate on the lake when it’s cold enough, and the music…”
“Thanksgiving is one thing. It’s a short holiday and fixing my grades is believable. I’m not doing well, and if I don’t get things turned around, I’ll be out next semester.” Brigid shrugged, “I wouldn’t care, except now I want to stay here.”
“Because of me,” Rick grinned.
“Because of you,” Brigid agreed. She turned on her back and stretched like a cat. Rick’s bed was narrow, but her hips didn’t take up much room. “Still, no one will believe my staying over Christmas break is about that. It’s a whole month, Rick. If I beg off this one, Mamere will send someone to check.”
“You don’t think they’d like me?” Rick only meant it half-joking.
“No,” Brigid answered, and then started maneuvering herself to get out of bed. Rick reached for her but she batted his hand away. “Don’t give me a hard time about this!” she scolded. “I know these people. I’m on a short leash and until I’m twenty-one I have to dance to their tune.”
“Or what?” Rick asked.
“Or…” and Brigid shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe the old lady will decide she can stand seeing my face for more than a minute and will have me taken back to Rhode Island. Maybe she’ll decide I need to be in some ‘safer’ place and I’ll be stuck with one of my Aunties.” She threw her hands up, “The important part is for me to not be here. We won’t be together.”
“I love you,” Rick said. Since telling her for the first time in Chester, he found he liked saying the words.
Brigid’s seawater eyes widened, and her sad face lit up from inside. “I love you, too!” she replied, and suddenly it didn’t matter. They could be apart, forced to meet their family’s expectations, but, somehow, they would always have each other.
Rick got out of bed, anxious to hold her against him. She fit perfectly, her long leg matching his own. She was only a little shorter than him, and he found he enjoyed not having to bend to kiss her. “You’ve become a habit,” he whispered in her ear. “I’m addicted, and I don’t know how I’ll survive without my daily dose of you.”
“When do you go home?” she asked in her practical way.
Rick thought of the call he received last night. He’d fantasized about running but knew it would only cause trouble. “Friday,” he sighed. “After the dorms close. Pam’s coming.”
Brigid bit her lip and Rick watched her connect things he’d told her. “Your step sister,” she said.
“Blood sister,” he corrected. “Half sister is probably closest, but yeah. I thought it would be Mr. Cataliades…”
“Who?” Brigid asked.
“Desmond Cataliades,” Rick grinned, “my parents’ attorney. Aunt Fran’s, too, I guess.” When Brigid still looked puzzled, he added, “More than a friend of the family. He considers himself kind of a step-father to my Mom. He was best friends with my Great-Grandfather on that side.”
“He must be very old,” Brigid remarked.
“Older than Harvard,” Rick huffed, and when Brigid’s eyes widened, he explained. “He’s a demon. It’s not like the Church says, though. No horns or pointy tail. He looks like you and me, only fatter when he’s happy. Happy demons eat.”
“That’s…” and Brigid bit her lip, picking up her pants to cover her hesitation. “Weird,” she finished.
“Yeah, well, that’s my family,” Rick shrugged. He leaned down to grab his pants, too, and looked up to see Brigid swimming in her jeans. “You have mine,” he chuckled, and offered the pair in his hand.
“You don’t talk about them much,” and Brigid slipped him a sideways look.
“Who?” Rick asked, although he knew full well what she was asking. When she stared, he sighed, “Fine. You’re right. I don’t.”
“Is your family terrible?” Brigid asked, “Like mine?”
“No,” and Rick found he couldn’t meet her eyes. “No, not terrible…just… I don’t know.”
“They want to see you, though,” Brigid persisted.
“Yeah, they do…” and Rick sighed again before sitting heavily on the bed. “But it’s not like before. It’s different.”
“What was it like before?” Brigid asked.
“When we lived in Chester,” Rick began, “my Mom and me. We lived in the B&B. It was our home. I grew up there…”
“Yeah,” Brigid smiled, sitting beside him and taking his hand in hers. “The posters on the wall and the Legos were a tip off.”
He felt so comfortable, sitting next to this woman, ‘The one I love.’ The words were in his head and they allowed him to keep speaking. “I didn’t really know I was different until I was eleven or twelve. Until then, I was just another guy. I was stronger than anyone else, faster…but it wasn’t so I couldn’t explain it.”
“Did your Mom know?” Brigid asked.
Rick nodded, “Yeah, she did, but she didn’t want to tell me. She said she wanted to wait until I was old enough, but she was really hoping I’d never find out.”
“Why would you say that?” Brigid’s eyes were wide. “Fran told me the story of how your Mother found her, and how you were the most precious thing to her. I can’t see someone who loves you that much purposely deceiving you.”
“Can’t you?” Rick could hear the bitterness in his voice. “There’s whole syndromes named for this stuff. Happens all the time.” He knew he wasn’t being fair, but for the first time he opened a well of bitterness starting the moment his Mother told him about the Father he never knew. “She told me my Father was dead,” he huffed. “She didn’t tell the whole truth about it until she had no choice, and once she did, she couldn’t stop mooning over the guy.”
Brigid squeezed his hand until he met her eyes. “She loves him. If it were me and I had a child to protect, I could see myself doing the same thing. And now they’re together…”
“Yup,” Rick bit out, “Yes, they are! When she was turned? I’m the one who kept people looking for her. I pushed everyone we met to find her and once we did, when I found her, you know what my Father did?” Rick hadn’t realized he still angry about that night until now. “He took her! He took her away to New Orleans and he left me with my friend’s family. Aunt Fran had to come down and force the great Eric Northman to let me see my own Mom.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be that way…” Brigid stammered, but Rick could feel it all over again. It had been just the two of them, then suddenly he was a consequence in some grand love story, no longer the hero of his own life.
“You don’t know!” Rick said it louder than he’d meant, and he stood up, needing the distance to calm himself. “Everything changed! You know, since that time, I’ve never really been alone with her again? It’s not the big things, it’s the little things you notice. She used to ask my advice or include me whenever she was making plans. Now, she just tells me. He’s her guy now. They have each other.”
“He’s your Father,” Brigid said it so quietly, and Rick was tempted to dip into her head. She patted the place beside her and he sat. She wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his shoulder. “I remember them, my parents. You could see how much they loved each other. It was like they were connected, never the same when they were apart. It was like they had their own language. Maybe if I hadn’t grown up seeing them, I would have felt the way you do, but I didn’t. I knew what was between them was special, but I also knew they’d both fight to the death for me. I was loved and protected, and they taught me there wasn’t anything I put my mind to that I couldn’t accomplish.”
Rick felt tears crowding his eyes, and Brigid kissed his arm before tucking her head against him again. “Everything you’ve told me about your parents tells me they love each other. I know I’m not supposed to believe everything I read, but even the magazines talk about them being a Hollywood love story. The fact is, we come into their lives because of that love, but then we grow up and we start our own lives. We’re meant to leave them. You shouldn’t be jealous of her happiness.”
“I’m not,” Rick growled, but somewhere deep down, he knew Brigid had read him all too well. “What am I going to do without you?” he sighed.
“You’ll miss me,” she said briskly. She stood up and pulled his hand until he stood, too. “We’ll text and Skype. You will realize you can’t stand being without me. You’re going to wake up in the middle of the night,” and she cupped him through his jeans, “and pretend it’s me fondling you.”
“Fondling?” and Rick pulled her closer to kiss her teasing lips.
“Hours and hours of fondling!” she laughed before pushing him away. “And once we return after break, we’ll stay in bed until neither of us can stand upright.”
“You really have this all planned out, don’t you?” Rick laughed, playing along.
“I need to,” Brigid told him. “Otherwise, I couldn’t stand being apart.”