[A/N: OK, as some have noticed, I’ve taken some liberties with cannon where the Fae are concerned. It’s just easier for me to remember this way, and makes more sense with where I want to take the story. Thanks for bearing with me. Morg]
Part 10 My Heart Is True as Steel*
Sookie stood in front of her closet wrapped in her pink towel, trying to decide what to wear tonight. Her new pink dress was her favorite, but she had worn that to the lake with Eric and she had an idea that’s where he would take her tonight. He had seen the red and white floral and that other little summer dress. She realized she needed to go shopping, but she couldn’t really afford it… unless she used the credit card Eric gave her. Could she do that? She knew Eric would be thrilled, but would she feel funny about it? It was a Visa, so it would work almost anywhere. There were some dress shops in Monroe that she really liked, so she would ask Eric if he’d mind. She knew he’d say yes, but asking made it feel more “OK.” She finally settled on a little denim blue dress with tiny yellow flowers on it. It had an elasticized scoop neck surrounded by stretchy lace, short sleeves and a slightly full, short skirt. It was extra “girly” and she was sure Eric would love it.
Once she was dressed, coiffed and painted with her new Chanel makeup, she went downstairs to wait. She was hoping Eric would be early as he usually was, because waiting was so hard. She was pacing in the living room as Gran sat at the left side of the couch working on her crocheting, watching Law & Order reruns and drinking iced tea.
“Sookie, Honey, you’ll wear yourself out!”
“I know, Gran, I just can’t wait. I’m going to go sit on the porch and wait for Eric, OK?”
“Alright – maybe sitting in the rocker will absorb some of that energy,” Gran laughed. She really didn’t blame Sookie for being anxious. There was a big monkey wrench in her plans and Gran was a little anxious to hear Eric’s reaction to it, too. She even considered waiting up for Sookie, though that was probably not a good idea. She tried not to think about why Sookie had to wash her dress in the sink last time she went out with Mr. Northman. She told Gran she had ketchup on it, but Gran knew better – she wasn’t that old yet.
Sookie turned on the porch light and went out front, pacing up and down. She sat in the rocker for a few minutes, noticing how loud the squeaking was when she rocked vigorously for a few minutes, then she’d pace some more. She was sitting again when she heard the roar of Eric’s Corvette coming down the lane. YAY! She was at the top of the front steps almost jumping up and down when he drove up, and she ran toward the car before it even stopped. Eric got out and caught her as she ran into his arms, picking her up as they kissed each other hard.
“I’m so glad to see you, Eric, you have no idea!” She giggled as he swung around in a circle with her.
“What did you need to tell me?” He looked amazing in a perfect black Armani suit with a silk shirt as blue as his eyes.
“Can we go wherever we’re going first? I want to be alone and snuggled in your arms before we get into it.”
“As you wish. I have a gift basket for your grandmother in the trunk. Let’s give it to her, and then we’ll be on our way.”
“Stand over there.” He pointed to the front of the car as he opened his trunk.
“I don’t want you to see what else is in here,” he wiggled his eyebrows and she laughed, leaning against the driver’s door and covering her eyes playfully. The bond between them was singing, even though Sookie had an undercurrent of fear of which Eric was acutely aware. He’ d assuage her fears soon, though, so he wasn’t worried.
The two of them went up the steps, Eric carrying a beautifully wrapped basket of fruit, meats, cheeses, crackers and a bottle of sparkling cider.
“Mrs. Stackhouse, so nice to see you again! This is for you.” He gave her a dazzling smile and handed her the basket.
“Oh, well, that’s very kind of you, Mr. Northman.” Adele thought to herself that it was hard not to flush in Eric’s presence. That was one good-looking man. She didn’t blame Sookie a bit for falling in love with him.
“Please, call me Eric. It’s just a few small treats I thought you might enjoy.”
“That’s very kind of you. I hope you won’t keep Sookie out too late – she hasn’t been getting much sleep lately.”
Eric knew exactly what she was telling him. “Yes, well, we won’t stay out too long. We’ll have lots of time together Sunday and Monday nights.”
“Yes, I suppose you will.” Gran moved the magazines from one end of the coffee table to the other, then sat the basket on it.
“Well, we should probably be going…” Sookie said hopefully.
“You two go have fun. Drive carefully,” Adele and Eric nodded to each other and he escorted Sookie back out to the car.
Once they were on the road, Sookie shifted sideways so she could look at Eric. He was always so much more beautiful than she remembered.
“Your grandmother seemed in a good mood,” he smiled at her.
“I guess, all things considered.” Sookie was bursting to just tell him now.
“The things you wish to speak to me about?” He sent calm to her through the bond so she’d relax.
“Yeah. Have you ever known somebody for a long, long time then all of a sudden you find out something about them that just totally blows your whole image of them to bits.”
“Yes, I’ve had a few experiences like that in my thousand years,” he smiled softly at her. “Who has shocked you, Sweetheart?” He took her hand in his to calm her.
“Gran, of all people. I swear, Eric, it’s like I never knew her at all.”
“Am I to infer that this is something from very long ago that you only just found out about?”
“Very, very long ago, but it has a direct effect on me, it turns out, and probably on you, too.”
“Sookie, you know that I love you, yes?” He looked at her frequently between looking at the road ahead. Once he got out of Bon Temps, he was flying past other cars on the road.
“Yes, I do, and you know I love you. I just hope you still love me when you find out who I really am.”
“Whoever else you turn out to be, you are and always will be MY Sookie. Do not be afraid that anything will ever change that.”
“I just don’t know if there are any rules or prejudices among Supes, though…”
“Yeah. If I tell you something shocking, that I never knew myself until this morning, you won’t get us in a wreck, will you? Should I wait ’til we get to the lake?”
“I am not easily shocked, Sookie,” he smiled sweetly at her, raising her hand to his lips and kissing it gently.
“OK, you know about the Fae, right?”
SHIT! Eric braced himself for something concerning Niall, trying to send only calm to Sookie. “Yes, I know the Fae. What has that to do with you, Sookie…?” Asking was only a formality. Obviously, this was the source of Sookie’s abilities.
“Well, a long, long time ago, my Gran had… an affair, I guess… with a Fairy man.”
“And you are part Fae?”
“Yeah, and apparently my great grandfather says he wants to meet me now because I “need” to know him or them or whatever.”
“Sookie, is your great grandfather’s name Niall Brigant by any chance?”
“YES! How did you know?”
“He left a message for me that he wished to discuss our engagement tomorrow night at 8 o’clock. He’s coming to Fangtasia.”
“So you already knew?”
“Not exactly, though I did have an intuition that you were upset about something concerning Niall. I just couldn’t imagine what it could be. I never imagined he might be a blood relative.” No, by the gods, he did NOT imagine that!
“Do you hate me now?”
“No, Sookie,” he smiled softly, and a little sadly, “I will always love you. Niall being involved is a complication of sorts, but it’s not…”
“A deal breaker?”
“No, Sookie, it’s not a “deal breaker.” As with many things in life, it has positive as well as negative aspects.” He was trying to minimize the importance of this huge revelation so she wouldn’t panic.
“OK, he said something about “rights and responsibilities” about me – he can’t object to our getting married, can he?”
“He could, but apparently he does not. If he objected, he would simply kill me and be done with it…”
“Oh, yes, Sookie, there is no love lost between vampire and Fae. We have been at war on and off for thousands of years. We have a type of détente at the moment, but if he had decided against me, he wouldn’t bother meeting with me. His assassins would have come at me in the daytime if they could find me.”
“He is a Fairy Prince, Sookie – the most powerful Fae that lives at the moment. He has armies, assassins, anything else royalty might need.”
“Indeed.” He thought to himself that his bonded had a gift for understatement.
“So it’s a good thing that he wants to meet you?”
“Yes, Sookie, it’s a very good thing. He probably wants to establish some ground rules and make a few demands about your support and security.”
“He’s the patriarch of your family.”
“Gran said that, too. It sounds medieval.”
“It’s much older than that, Sookie. Humans have lived in patriarchy for 6,000 years or so, and Supes adapted some of those power structures during the Christian invasions and inquisitions. Fae were originally matriarchal, but when they were run underground, they developed armies to defend themselves. Their crown passes through the Queen, which is why Niall is only a Prince and not a King. His wife, Titania H’Eloise, was murdered, so he rules in her stead until her designated heir comes of age or he is bested in battle by opposing forces.”
“My great, great grandmother was murdered?”
“She was poisoned with lemons.”
“Yes, Fae are sensitive to lemons as vampires are to silver.”
“OK. I can drink lemonade, though…”
“Then you did not inherit that weakness. That’s a very good thing.”
“How will other vampires feel about you marrying a Fae?”
Eric laughed. “I hadn’t thought about it, but now that you mention it, I will be the envy of all who know me.”
“Yes. I’ve told you that you have an unusual taste and scent, yes?”
“Yeah, you said I’m extra sweet.”
“You’re fairy-flavored, to an extent. Vampires get high from fairy blood as humans do from vampire blood. Yours is a weaker version, so it doesn’t drive me mad as pure fairy would, but still, you will be considered quite a delicacy. It’s no wonder I became so attracted to you so intensely and couldn’t stay away from you.”
“So it’s not because you love me?” She was beginning to get upset now.
“Sookie, I love you more than anything.” He stroked her cheek to calm her. “That is only one small part of the attraction, but it’s a powerful one. I love everything about you, though, Sookie, never doubt that.”
He hit the turn signal and turned off the road, pulling up to the gate, then kissing her hard as he stopped the car. She was smiling again as he got out to unlock it. When he closed the gate and got back in the car, she said, “we always get here so fast – is this really close to my house or does time just fly when I’m with you?”
“It’s a bit of both. This is about half way between Bon Temps and Shreveport.” He pulled the car up on the sandbar and there was something already there.
“Hey, what’s that?”
“What does it look like?” Eric teased her.
“A table and chairs.”
“You sit here for a minute while I set things up.” Eric moved at vampire speed, taking things from the trunk quickly, setting a beautiful table with a white cloth, a small candelabra and pink roses, almost faster than the eye could see. Sookie watched in amazement as he set a picnic basket and a bottle of Perrier-Jouët champagne on a small table beside the dining table. He put a small thing like a deck of cards on the table with some cute little speakers and it played soft violin music as he opened her door and led her to her seat.
“Eric, what is all this?” She could barely take it all in. He held her chair for her then went to his own seat across the table.
“This is a romantic dinner. I hope I’ve got everything you would like. It’s more of a picnic, but I didn’t think sitting on the ground was a good idea. There may be snakes.”
“This is amazing! You’ve got flowers and candles and… is that champagne?”
“Yes, very good champagne, I’m told.”
“It’s got flowers painted on the bottle!”
“The caterer told me some couples like to save the bottle from a special occasion like this.”
“Special occasion, huh?” She was being flirty now, because this was like a dream.
“Very special,” he gave her a smile that she felt right down to her loins. “May I pour you a glass?”
“Yeah, please!” Sookie didn’t tell him that she’d never tasted champagne before. She’d had wine, of course, but it was cheap stuff from the Rite-Aid. He filled the crystal flute and as she tasted it, he took the platter from the basket and set it in front of her. She already had a beautiful Christian Dior plate in front of her with a pink rim on it and a pentacle done in some sort of greenery. He sliced the fresh, still slightly warm bread as he was advised to do while she used the serving fork to choose rare lean beef, gruyere cheese (how did he know it was her favorite?) some leafy lettuce, butter and mustard on two slices of the bread.
He watched her with love in his eyes as she took a big bite of the sandwich she made and drank a little champagne.
“Mmm – this is so good! I wish you could taste it.”
“I’ll be tasting something much finer in just a little while,” he wiggled his eyebrows and she giggled. “I want you to enjoy your food first and then we will have our time together.”
“I know what you mean but I already count this as our time together. Just being near you makes me feel so good I can’t believe it!”
“I was just thinking the same thing about you. So what do you think? Shall we build a small fishing cabin here or a grand glass house?”
“I don’t know if we ought to do either. I like your house.”
“We’d keep that house, too, of course, but I do dream of lying in bed with you in front of this view.”
“OK, how about a small glass house with just a big bedroom, a fireplace, a bathroom and a tiny kitchenette.”
“That sounds very nice. I’ll have my architect draw up some plans we can look at.”
“You have an architect?”
“Yes, I do, which reminds me, for some reason, that the pool is open.”
“Really? ” YES!
“Yes, so be sure you bring your bathing suit, and I bought you an iPod for your days in the sun.”
“What’s an iPod again?”
“It’s one of these.” He held up the small device. “It holds all kinds of music, so you can have your whole collection in your pocket. Just tell me what you want on it and I’ll set it all up for you.”
“Cool. I like Matchbox Twenty, Counting Crows, Sarah MacLachlan, Stevie Nicks and lots of Sixties hippie and surfer music.”
He laughed with delight. “That’s easy enough to remember. I’ll have it ready for you Sunday night. I’m going to put a little traditional Swedish music in it, too, if you don’t mind.”
“I’d love that! It will remind me of you when you’re resting and I won’t be so lonely.”
They chatted about nothing in particular until Sookie finished her main course and he presented her with a crystal dish of ambrosia fruit salad. As she was finishing that, Eric refilled her wine glass and suggested, “take a good drink, Sweetheart,” and as she did, he walked around the table with a napkin. He spread it out on the ground next to her, knelt on one knee, and Sookie turned toward him, her eyes huge.
Eric took a small box out of his pocket and took Sookie’s hand, kissing it a long time as he bowed to her. Sookie couldn’t breathe!
“Sookie, my bonded, and my lover, will you do me the honor of also being my wife?”
“Yes,” she said breathlessly. He held the box forward and opened it as she caught her breath. It was beautiful. “That’s a diamond, right?”
“This is probably really rude, but Gran will want to know – how many carats?”
“The diamond is four, the rubies are one each.”
Sookie was speechless, so she just grabbed his face with both hands and kissed him as hard and as long as she could.
Eric laughed softly. “Is that a ‘yes?'”
“YES!” She kissed him again, then he put the ring on her delicate finger. He snuffed the candles and picked her up so she could wrap her legs around him. Sookie was on fire by this time and so was Eric. Before she knew what was happening, her panties were shreds on the ground and her skirt was up to her waist as she lay on the hood of his car. Eric was inside her as she helped him out of his jacket. The first release was fast and furious, but the second seemed to last for hours. Eric was taking long, luxurious strokes in and out of her as she opened his shirt so she could touch his muscular chest. Now her dress was bunched around her waist, her breasts completely exposed and pressed against him, his hand squeezing her lower cheeks as he took her. The heat pouring from Sookie was unlike anything Eric ever felt, seeming to surround them in a shimmering red cloud, almost sparkling. Eric shook his head – that had to be lightning bugs, right? They weren’t in a shower of sparkles?
All the energy Eric had to repress the night before came out now and he howled loudly into the night as Sookie cried out with each thrust. She came with a jerk and hit her head on the hood of the car, making her laugh out loud. Eric laughed and lay across her, nuzzling her neck and taking her a third time as he bit her neck and sucked hard at the blood. It almost seemed as if Sookie’s taste had changed – as if it were more fairy than it was before. He decided that was his imagination. He was just more aware of it now that he knew about her ancestry. He felt a definite buzz this time, though, that he didn’t remember even from the night before. Something had changed.
Whatever the change, even if it was just Eric’s perception of her, it was wonderful. It was warm and sweet and utterly, definitively, intoxicating. She might not be susceptible to his thrall, but she had completely enthralled him. “I would die for you, Sookie.”
“Eric! Don’t say that!”
He took her face in his hands and pressed his forehead to hers. “I know I shouldn’t say it but I never felt this before and I want you to know. No matter what I say to anyone, at any other time, know this to be true. Keep it in your heart. I’m giving you everything I have in every way. Don’t ever forget.”
“Eric, I love you, too, but you’re scaring me.”
“I’m scaring me, too,” he laughed hoarsely, “Min Guddina, Sookie, how did I live without you?” He held her tight and close for a long time and she just melted into him. She was pretty sure she knew exactly how he felt because she was feeling it too. They both had tears leaking as they gradually put themselves back together and got ready to go home. Sookie finished the champagne as Eric cleaned up and packed the remains of the picnic.
Once the trunk was packed up, he tucked her into her seat and got into his, but before he turned on the car they kissed quietly and reverently for a while. Finally, Eric tore himself away, “if I don’t take you home now, I’ll never be able to let you go. It’s everything I can do to keep from carrying you home to my resting place to keep you with me all day!” He laughed at himself, but it made her curious.
“During the day, are you aware of anything?”
“Generally, no. It’s as if I am dead. On rare occasions, in an extreme emergency, it might be possible to rouse me, but it would be very difficult and I wouldn’t be good for much.”
“But would it be possible, if I wanted to, to stay with you all day?”
“In my usual resting place, yes. You’d be comfortable and have air, but you’d be bored.”
“Not if I was with you!”
“That is very sweet,” he smiled as he started the car, “but there would be nothing to occupy you if you were awake. Except my laptop, of course, but then being with a waking vampire is very dangerous. As romantic as it might sound, you’d be risking your life to be with me as I arose. I might harm you before I came to my senses.”
“Could you ever stay in the bedroom with me all day?”
“I could, perhaps, if I were confident it was safe. I could in a vampire hotel.”
“Ooh, like if we went to that spa we talked about?”
“Yes, that would be a possibility. They have very good security.”
“When can we do that?”
“Well, anytime, really. That could be our honeymoon, or we could go sometime before or after the wedding.”
“Wedding! I hadn’t even thought about a wedding!”
Eric cracked up. “Isn’t that the point of that ring I just put on your finger?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t think that far ahead.”
“Well, you have plenty of time. Your grandmother insisted on a long engagement, did she not?”
“Yes, she did.”
“Before I forget – be sure you wear your ring and your rubies when you meet Niall.”
“Fae are very fond of treasure. I’ll have to show him that I offer you proper respect by buying you many jewels when we are married.”
“Buying jewels shows respect?”
“In their world, yes.”
“But we don’t live in their world.”
“Like it or not, Sookie, you are part of Niall’s clan. As your husband, I will have to show him that I am supporting you properly.”
“So why is it a big deal now after all these years?”
“You are getting married. He would not interfere with your life while you were single but when matrimony became a possibility, it set the wheels in motion. Remember how I had to present myself to your grandmother?”
“Yeah – it’s like that?”
“Only more formal with greater requirements. Your grandmother only wanted love and respect for you. Niall will demand a great deal more. I’ll be lucky if I don’t have to pay a bride price for you.”
“A bride price? You mean like buying me?”
“Exactly. In some cultures, the bride’s family pays the groom, but I’m quite sure a vampire marrying Fae royalty is going to mean I pay Niall. Even if that were not their tradition, he’d make an exception for me and his heir.”
“That’s so unfair! You’ll refuse, of course?”
“Of course not! I would not dare! He could still have me killed rather than allow us to marry. If he’s not satisfied with what he sees after, he might kill me still.”
“This is so awful, Eric! Are you sure you want to marry me?”
“I want that more than anything, Sookie,” he smiled softly at her to reassure her. He considered not telling her these details, but he knew it would be best to explain things clearly so she’d know what to expect.
“Yeah, it’s better if I know up front,” Sookie was looking out the window, and didn’t realize that Eric hadn’t spoken out loud.
Eric was shocked, but he didn’t confront her about it. Did her telepathy extend to vampires now? Or only to him?
He needed to think about this. If Sookie could read vampire minds, she would be in grave danger. She would also be a great asset, though, provided he could keep her ability secret and keep her safe. He decided he would wait and see if it happened again. Maybe she simply knew what he would be thinking as a logical extension of their conversation?
They followed their usual routine of Eric coming through Sookie’s window and staying until near dawn. She fell asleep a bit early and he left earlier this night because he needed to prepare for his meeting with Niall. As much as he loved Sookie, he dreaded dealing with Niall. He was ruthless and tricky like any Fae, and Eric hadn’t fully briefed her on how sneaky and underhanded they might be, or how unusual their motivations. He thought that he had lain a foundation tonight, and he would add more to her knowledge of them tomorrow. He would most certainly want to see her and tell her about their meeting. His mind was churning when sleep finally took him.
Sookie got to sleep in this day, and woke up before Gran even had to wake her. There was a scent of pork chops and eggs, even though it was almost noon, when Sookie came down the stairs.
“Hey, Gran. You makin’ breakfast this late?” Sookie sat at her usual spot.
“I thought you needed a good start today since you didn’t eat much yesterday,” Gran smiled as she put a basket of biscuits on the table.
“I ate with Eric last night. You should have seen it, Gran!” Sookie was bubbling as Gran put plates and silverware on the table. “Remember I told you Eric has this romantic spot by a lake? Well, he had a table and chairs out there and a wonderful picnic basket and champagne and tablecloths and candles and flowers…”
“Lord almighty, child, take a breath!” Gran teased her as she filled her plate. She was becoming more comfortable with the idea of Sookie being in love and she was pretty sure Sookie was about to show her a nice engagement ring. She had no idea.
“It was so romantic, Gran. He got down on one knee and kissed my hand and asked me to marry him. It was like something from a movie!”
“He’s good at that,” Gran had to agree.
“Yeah, he really is. Oh, I forgot – here’s the ring.”
Adele felt faint. “Oh my god, Sookie, is that real?”
“Yeah, why? Isn’t it a good one?”
“It’s lovely, honey, but isn’t it a little… big?”
“You know I don’t know anything about diamonds, Gran. Does it look gaudy?”
“No, it’s very pretty, I’m just surprised he would spend so much money. It must have cost a great deal of money, Sookie. I know he’s wealthy, but my lord!”
“He kind of always does that, though, right?”
“Yes, he does. I did insist that he buy one. I should have given him a limit as to the size of it.”
“Do you hate it?”
“It’s beautiful, Sookie, I just hope you’re going to be safe walking around with that on your hand. Maybe you shouldn’t wear it to Merlotte’s?”
“Gran, I can’t take off his ring!”
“Well, we’ll think about it. I know you want to show it off, so wear it tonight and after you’ve seen everyone’s reaction, you can decide if you think it’s appropriate for work or not. Remember, you wouldn’t want to lose the stones while you work!” Gran didn’t say that she was more worried about someone killing Sookie to take that ring. She didn’t know how many thousands of dollars it was worth, but she was sure ‘thousands’ was the right unit of measure.
“I’ll just avoid things like washing glasses so it’s less likely to get damaged. Most people will think it’s a cubic zirconia, anyway, right?”
“That’s true – most of them will think it’s one of those Diamonique things from QVC,” Gran said hopefully, but she doubted it.
“I’m going to mow the lawn today before I get in the shower. Is there anything else I need to do?”
“Carry the laundry downstairs for me, please, and dust the living room?”
“Sure, Gran, no problem.” Sookie paid attention to her breakfast for the first time. “Is it OK if I don’t eat these eggs, Gran? I’m sorry you went to the trouble and I hate to waste them, but my stomach can’t stand the look of them.”
“I hope you’re not coming down with something, Sookie. This is two mornings in a row you’ve been nauseous.”
“I know – it’s not like me, is it? Suppose there’s flu going around?”
“That’s always a possibility. I think you just need more sleep. I want you to promise me you’ll sleep in all weekend.”
“Oh, I will, Gran. I forgot to tell you – Sam gave me time off because I seemed so upset yesterday. He told me to take Saturday off so I could do whatever family thing I have to do and then he said I might as well take Sunday, too. Kim told me she asked for more hours, so it all worked out. After dinner with Niall, I’ll probably go to Eric’s house.”
“Well, let’s see how the evening goes. You did tell Mr. Northman about this, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, I told him on the way to the lake so he knew the whole deal before he gave me the ring.”
“He wasn’t shocked?”
“No, apparently Niall called and scheduled an appointment to talk about our engagement before he ever saw me.”
“Why would he do that?”
“Eric says he has to approve because he’s the patriarch of the clan. It all sounds medieval to me, but Eric understands it and doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.” She didn’t want to worry Gran by telling her that Niall might try to have Eric killed, or that Eric might have to spend more money because of Sookie. She figured if Niall cared about her at all, he wouldn’t hurt Eric, anyway, because she’d die without him.
Sookie went out to mow the lawn and she hoped Gran didn’t notice that she had to get off the mower twice to throw up. She was starting to think she really must have the flu, but she had no time to get sick. She had to deal with Niall tomorrow, and she was going to spend the weekend with Eric, and the pool was open! No way she was getting sick right now!
Eric must have awakened early because Sookie could feel him as she drove to work at the edge of dark. She could feel that he was apprehensive about meeting Niall, so she sent calm and love to him and she knew he could feel it. She kept a part of her focused on Eric as she went through taking over for the girl on the early shift and she didn’t mention her ring to anyone. She just did her thing and they were all too busy to pay much attention to each other. Kim thanked her for the extra hours and Sookie thanked her profusely for taking them.
It was 8 on a Friday night, so Merlotte’s was jumping by the time Sookie felt the shift in the bond. She never felt such intensity before and it made her a little dizzy. It wasn’t anger, exactly and it wasn’t hate, but it was big and it was dangerous. Eric was ready for a fight and Sookie knew it. With feelings like that, she was glad he was on her side. Damn!
She was dying to know what was going on at Fangtasia especially at 8:16 when she felt a shock ripple through the bond –confusion, fear, disbelief, melting into love and happiness and determination. Whatever was happening, she could feel that it was for the good and that let her relax a little. The rest of the night Eric sent love and actually seemed to be gloating about something so Sookie’s shift was uneventful until 10:23. Sookie had just looked at the clock and was filling pitchers of beer when Arlene yelled, “holy shit, Sookie, is that real?”
“Is what real, Arlene?” Sookie concentrated on the beer flowing out of the tap.
“You know damned well I’m talking about that huge rock on your hand!”
“Yeah, well, I got engaged, OK?”
“So it is? REAL?”
“Yes, it’s real, Arlene,” Sookie said in a tone meant to shush her, “you don’t have to tell the whole county!”
“What’s real?” Kim asked as she walked over to the taps behind the bar.
“That big honkin’ diamond Sookie is wearing!” You’d think she was the town crier or something.
“Diamond! Sookie, did you and Eric get engaged?” Kim was thrilled for her.
“Yeah, we did. It’ll probably be a long engagement, but, yeah, we’re official.” Sookie was beaming and bragging a little now that the cat was out of the bag.
“Ooh, let me see!” Kim was jumping up and down, she was so happy for her, “oh, it’s so gorgeous! Oh, it’s wonderful!” She hugged Sookie and kissed her on the cheek, which really took Sookie pleasantly by surprise.
“Why are you girls all bunched up at the bar? Are your tables covered?” Sam said as he came from the back, oblivious to what they were talking about.
“Yeah, not a lot of room back here with that big diamond and all,” Arlene sneered, so green with envy she could spit.
“Diamond?” Sam asked, dreading the response.
“Sookie got engaged! Isn’t that wonderful?” Kim apparently had no clue about Sam’s crush on Sookie.
“Yeah, that’s great,” Sam wasn’t able to hide his disappointment no matter how hard he tried. “So let’s see the ring, Sookie?” He was going to try to be a good sport.
Sookie held her hand up to him and his eyes bugged out.
“Tell you what, Sookie, stop by my office if you hit a lull at some point tonight, alright?”
“Sure, Sam – it should slow down a bit after midnight.”
“Alright, I’ll be in the back,” Sam went to the office. How was he going to do this without looking like a miserable, jealous shit? He turned on his computer so he could make sure of what he was thinking before he talked to Sookie.
Eric was early getting to Fangtasia, his hair still wet, straightening his red silk collar crumpled up in his leather blazer as he approached the back door. It was so early he had to use his key to get in. He needed to look as if he belonged at Fangtasia, but he wanted to dress up for Niall a bit, too. This was a big deal, and he needed to show that he knew that. He was primping in front of the mirror in his office when Pam came in.
“Master, did I understand your message? You’re meeting with a fairy?”
“Not just A fairy, Pam, THE fucking fairy. Niall Brigant will be here at 8.”
“That’s awfully brave of him. Why would he come here?”
“To show me he’s not afraid of me, nor of vampires in general.”
“This has something to do with Sookie Stackhouse, I presume?”
“Sookie and I are engaged and it turns out that Niall is her great grandfather.”
Pam howled with laughter. “Did you know this before you became bonded?”
“No, I found out about this yesterday, just after she did.”
“Neither of you knew?”
“We did not.”
“So you are bonded to a fairy?” Pam was enjoying this entirely too much for Eric’s liking.
“She’s only part Fae,” Eric said indignantly.
“That explains that yummy scent of hers,” Pam was close to jumping up and down with glee.
“So it would seem,” OK, Eric was starting to get steamed. Pam knew she’d better leave him alone now.
“I’ll just go check the front door – though I doubt Niall Brigant will come in the front of a vampire club,” Pam said as she left, laughing all the way down the hall.
Eric went back to primping, adding some cologne from his bottom desk drawer and trying to look over his email as he waited. He quickly realized that he wasn’t going to accomplish anything so he leaned back in his chair and focused on the pleasant feelings flowing to him from Sookie. He let them wash over him and felt a bit calmer until he heard the knock at the door.
He was up instantly, opening the door and finding himself face to face with Niall, who was also dressed up for the occasion in an old fashioned black suit with a long jacket and silver vest. His long silver hair was glowing and the ubiquitous silver topped cane was with him, so Eric stood back, knowing it was a weapon of some sort. “Niall, come in, please,” Eric was being very formal.
“Northman,” Niall nodded, “so glad you could meet with me.”
“My pleasure, Niall.” He nodded as Niall passed him and took the chair in front of his desk. Eric sat in his own chair behind the desk and leaned forward. “What can I do for you?”
“Your engagement to Sookie is official as of last night, yes?” He looked very pleased with himself, which irritated Eric to no end.
“Yes, I gave her an engagement ring and we have been bonded for nearly a week.”
“Until I hear otherwise from her, I’ll assume she is happy about the arrangement. Should she ever become unhappy, that will be a different matter.”
“Yes, I understand that.” ‘OK,’ Eric thought, ‘he threatened my life right up front so that’s out of the way now.’
“Does Sookie remind you of anyone, vampire?”
Eric tried to suppress a little panic. “Remind me?”
“Yes, someone from your past, perhaps? Someone you might call ‘Divine?'”
“What do you know of this?” Eric was shocked. He knew without a doubt that Niall was aware of more than anyone else except himself and he wanted to know how. She wouldn’t…?
“Patience, vampire. She has gone to a great deal of trouble for you, and so, for that matter, have I.”
“What exactly have you done for me, Niall?” Eric didn’t like the sound of that.
“I want you to brace yourself for a shock. At first, you will not believe what I am about to tell you, but I assure you, it is true.”
“Alright…” Here we go! Eric sat up straight in his chair and braced himself for some kind of Fae bullshit.
“You are going to be a father – Sookie is with child.” The smugness with which Niall spoke would make Eric homicidal under normal circumstances.
Eric shook his head. He couldn’t be saying what he thought he said.
“What are you saying?”
“I am saying that, by Freyja’s command and instruction, I have made it possible for Sookie to bear your child. You are going to have a son.”
Eric was frozen. His head was swirling for a second, then he saw a clear vision of a young King who looked very much like him, and he knew it was true. A SON! After all these years…
“Does she know?” He was jumping out of his skin now. If this was true…!
“Not yet. I’m telling you now so that when she breaks the news to you, you won’t kill her for cheating on you. Have no doubt, Northman, you are the child’s father.”
“Freyja did this?” Could a vampire have an out of body experience? Eric felt as if he was floating above himself. What the hell…?
“Apparently you are much favored by the Goddess. Only She knows why,” he said with some distaste. “You knew that Sookie was intended for you, did you not?”
“Yes, I did.” Eric had known almost from the moment he saw her.
“This is a part of the package. You will be the only walking vampire with a child.”
“Will he be vampire?”
“A hybrid of sorts. We’re not sure exactly how it will work out, but he will be some mixture of vampire and Fae. He will look like you, though, we’ve taken pains to see to that. You are acquainted with Dr. Ludwig, I presume?”
“Yes, of course.”
“She will attend the birth. As soon as Sookie tells you of her condition, introduce her to the doctor and she will see to all of her needs.”
“I can’t tell her?”
“It would be better to let her come to you. The farther along she is when she realizes she is pregnant, the better.”
“But she needs special care…?”
“She will, yes, but it’s very early. After all, you’ve only known each other a week or so. It happened very quickly, much more so than I expected. Either she was very fertile or you were, in your own way. The Fae half of you, I suppose. It only took a little magick.”
“The FAE half of ME?”
“Yes, your mother, Erin – you knew she was Sidhe.”
Eric cast his mind back and remembered that, yes, there were rumors that his mother was a fairy, but he hadn’t thought of that in hundreds of years. Niall was telling him it was true. He’d have to think about that later, though, because he needed to focus on Sookie right now.
“Sookie really has no idea?”
“The only sign so far has been a bit of morning sickness. She and her grandmother think it’s a human influenza of some sort. It will occur to her gradually, though at first she’ll think it impossible.”
“How long until…”
“Until he is born? We aren’t sure. Humans require 9 months, Fae 5 and a half to 6. Then, of course, there is the healing power of vampire blood. At any rate, this kind of detail should come from Ludwig. She knows all of the particulars. I’d meet with her very soon, if I were you, and work together to see that Sookie receives proper care.”
“Will it harm anything if I tell her? I don’t like the idea of keeping a secret from her, especially something this important.”
“That’s admirable,” Niall said condescendingly. “Talk to Ludwig first. Just see that my granddaughter is not upset. There is more at stake here than your ego or your happiness. That child is sacred to the Goddess, and has a destiny he must fulfill.” and with that, he was gone.
Eric was stunned. A FATHER! He flipped through his Rolodex and called Dr. Ludwig.
“Yes, doctor, you were expecting my call?”
“Yes, Niall warned me you would be in touch. Would you like to do this face to face?”
“Yes, if possible.”
“Are you alone?”
“Yes, I’m in my office at Fangtasia.”
The little doctor appeared before his desk, already seated where Niall had been. She nodded and he returned it.
“Doctor. You know the situation?”
“Yes, I do. I assume you’ll want to put me on retainer at least until the child is born.”
“And for some time after, I should think. Why do you think it best that I not tell Sookie?”
“In case it doesn’t take.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s very early. If she were to miscarry at this stage, she might never know what she had lost and we’d simply try again. She’s less likely to be hurt by it.”
“How long should I wait?”
“Until she misses her period, which might take five or six weeks.”
“I don’t know if I can keep it from her that long…” he was quite sure he couldn’t.
“Well, take it one day at a time. Don’t lie to her, of course, but just don’t bring it up unless she starts to think that she is ill. At that point, she could take one of those little pregnancy tests to confirm.”
“Is it safe for us to have sex?”
“Yes, it’s good for her, and it’s safe for you to exchange blood. It would be good if she’d drink from you regularly. It will help the growth of the baby.”
“I know nothing about babies…”
“Use your computer and learn about them. No one knows anything about this type of baby. It may be the first of its kind.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can find no record of a vampire/Fae hybrid, though Freyja assures us this will work.”
Eric smiled. His son would be unique.
“She’s given you a great gift, Northman. Take good care of that little girl. Keep her off her feet all you can, too.”
“That might present a problem. She’s a bar maid.”
“No, no, that won’t do. Do whatever you have to do to get her to quit. She’s going to be tired as it is. This baby will draw a lot of energy from her. She’ll need her rest.”
“What if she does not want to have a baby?” It finally dawned on Eric that no one had consulted Sookie.
“She wants it, especially because it’s yours. Have faith in her, and in yourself. Niall assures me her maternal instincts will be strong. She may figure it out before we expect her to. As soon as she knows, give her my number.”
“Yes, of course, Dr.”
“Alright, call me if you need me.” She left as abruptly as Niall had.
Eric was getting a little tired of people popping in and out of his office. He needed to think and that wasn’t going to happen with that music thumping through the walls. He went to the front of the club, made a sweep through the room to speak to anyone important who might be there, then told Pam he was leaving for the night. He drove home at top speed and put his car in the garage, then spent a couple of hours on the Internet.
All this information about babies and parenting was making his head spin – there was so much to learn! Finally, he couldn’t stand it anymore so he took to the sky to clear his head and get some perspective. He hadn’t planned on it, but he found himself in the parking lot outside of Merlotte’s. He needed to talk to Sookie more than anything. Did he want to bother Sookie at work again? He berated himself for even stopping to think about how it would affect her job. Better she quit this ridiculous job anyway. That diamond on her finger would pay for five roadhouses like this, so the idea of her serving drinks here was absurd.
Sookie caught a slow spell and went back to Sam’s office.
“Knock, knock,” she peeked in the door.
“Come on in, Sookie.”
“What’s up, Sam?”
“Well, Sookie, I don’t know how to tell you this without coming off like a dick, so I’m just going to say it. I don’t want you to wear that ring in this bar.”
“It’s nothing against Eric, Cher, but that ring is worth more than this bar and everything in it. If it were lost or stolen, my insurance would never cover it.”
“It couldn’t be that expensive.”
“Yes, I’m afraid it could be. I looked some stuff up on my computer and I’m pretty sure that ring is worth a quarter of a million dollars, at least. Depending on the quality of the diamond, it could be a lot more than that.”
“Yeah, that’s what – a 3 carat?”
“And then with the genuine rubies?”
“Yeah, they’re one carat each.”
“I want you to work here as long as you want to, Sookie, but I just can’t have you wearing that ring in here. What if we were robbed? Or somebody follows you home to take it from you? It’s just not safe. I think if you talk to Eric about it, he’ll agree with me.”
Sookie stopped and focused for a second, then said, “well, I guess I’ll just ask him because he’s here.”
“Go on out and talk to him. Tell the other girls you’re on break.”
Sookie bopped out to the front, yelled “hey, Kim, I’m on break!” then ran out the front door of the bar. Eric was standing in the parking lot, not knowing what to do when she came out.
“Hey, Sweetie!” She bounced up to him and kissed him.
“Hey. Are you having a good night? How do you feel?” He wrapped his arms around her and looked at her as if he had never seen her before.
“I’m fine. I just had a weird talk with Sam, though.” They were sort of swaying together a bit, playfully holding each other. Eric felt as if all was right with the world the minute he touched her.
“What did he say?”
“He doesn’t want me to wear my engagement ring in the bar.”
“Why not?” Eric knew exactly why not.
“He says if we got robbed or it was lost or stolen, his insurance wouldn’t cover it and he’s afraid someone might follow me home to rob me.”
“Yes, he is right.”
“Huh? You mean you agree with him?”
“Yes, the ring is worth more than the entire bar, and you are in danger of someone trying to take it from you.”
“Wouldn’t that be a problem at Fangtasia, too, though?”
“No, I’d be at Fangtasia with you. You’d be in no danger there.”
“I don’t want to take off your ring, though!”
“But then I’d have to quit my job.”
“Then do. Please?” Eric was actually pleading a little.
“Eric? I thought you were OK with me working here?”
“Not “OK,” really, just tolerant while I must be. I think it is too strenuous for you. I’d prefer you save your energy for me,” he wiggled his eyebrows and was trying to act as if he was joking but Sookie knew he was completely serious.
“You really want to support me and Gran?”
“Yes, I do, and I don’t want you to demean yourself by working here. Honestly, Sookie, it is beneath you now.”
“Yes, you have moved up in the world. You are wealthy now.”
“I can’t wrap my mind around that, but since we’re talking about money, would it be OK if I used that VISA card to buy a few dresses.”
“Yes, of course, Sookie, buy anything you want.”
“OK, I’m going to try to buy something new tomorrow before Niall comes to dinner. I don’t have to work at all tomorrow.”
“No, or Sunday either. If you come to my house tomorrow night, I might go back home with you after Niall leaves, if that’s OK.”
“That would be wonderful! You could have more time to swim.” He nuzzled her ear and made her giggle. As they were laughing and kissing, Jason, Hoyt and Catfish arrived.
“I’d tell you to get a room if that wasn’t my sister,” Jason said with disgust.
“Oh, Jason, we’re official now. See?” She held her ring out to him and took wicked pleasure in watching him nearly swallow his tongue.
“Damn, Sookie, that’s nice!” Hoyt said, “congratulations!” He offered Eric his hand and Eric shook it.
Jason was afraid to get near Eric, but after Catfish shook his hand, he didn’t really have a choice but to do the same. He shook Eric’s hand grudgingly then continued into the bar with his friends. Sam Merlotte was just inside as they came in and asked them if Sookie was still out there. Jason said yes, so Sam went on out.
“Merlotte. How are you this evening?”
Sam knew Eric didn’t give a damn how he was but was putting on a show of civility for Sookie. “I just brought Sookie’s wallet and keys. I think you ought to go on home tonight, Cher, and enjoy your days off. You and Eric talk about whether you really want to keep working here. I told you, I’m happy to have you as long as you want to stay, and you’re always free to come back any time, but I think you’ve already moved on.”
“I could not agree more,” Eric said smugly.
“OK, Sam, thanks. I’ll see you… Tuesday night, I guess?”
“I’m going to put someone else on the schedule. If you decide you still want to come back Tuesday, call me Monday night. I really don’t expect you back, though. You all have a good night.” Sam nodded and went back into the bar.
“Did I just get fired?”
“No, he simply acknowledged that you are moving up in the world and your time here is wasted.”
“What’s going on, Eric? You feel so… determined.”
“Let me drive you home and we will talk, alright?”
“Yeah, I guess…” Now Sookie’s head was spinning. This was all happening so fast!
Eric tucked her into the passenger seat of her Camaro, and they were quickly on their way to Sookie’s house. They didn’t talk much on the way home. Eric put a Counting Crows CD in the player and adjusted the volume so it was soft and soothing. Sookie laid her head on his shoulder and just enjoyed being close to him as they covered the dark roads home.
*”My heart Is true as steel.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Act ii. Scene. 1. William Shakespeare