“Are they making the right decision?” Eric asked.
“Depends on who is asking,” the scheming demon in the lawyer replied. Eric responded with a quirk of his brow, his question causing Cataliades to elaborate, “It is difficult to wear many hats at once. The Brigants all presume Fintan’s shares reside with Dermot as was expected; however, they are in Halina’s trust. They will all be courting the Stackhouse siblings in lieu of you, they are inevitably wasting their time on the wrong people.”
“How much of Fintan’s assets reside in the trust?” Eric asked, intrigued.
“He placed all he owned with Halina,” the attorney answered. “It was supposed to be a temporary solution until he was able to marry Adele. The arrangement lasted longer than intended.”
“His death was not accidental then,” Eric stated.
“I suspect the same,” Cataliades spoke regretfully of his good friend. “Fintan did not trust many. I was one, Halina was the other. He didn’t share with either of us why he wanted the trust established.”
“How did he know Halina?”
“You are aware of her work for the Resistance in World War Two?” he asked at which Eric nodded, her position as a diplomat’s daughter had made her essential role in carrying messages throughout war-torn Europe and still remained a particular point of pride of hers. “Fintan was her liaison. They went through so much together. It was the reason he believed he could trust her above all others.”
“What made him trust you?”
He chuckled before answering. “Drinks will do that to men attending Law School,” he explained as his tone became more serious, “I was his third college roommate in his initial six months. He had great difficulties sleeping after all he witnessed during the war. My own father suffered similar trauma and I knew how to cope with him in a way where others couldn’t seem to manage.”
“How well do you know Dermot?”
“I met him once when he posed as his brother,” Cataliades said with a hint of disgust. “As much as they looked alike, their personalities were polar opposites. Fintan was kind, gentle whereas Dermot is scheming and manipulative. Other lawyers at my firm have handled his business every so often.”
“You will vote on Halina’s behalf?”
“Whenever situations such as these emerged in the past I deferred to Olle, and he always chose to abstain. The decision is now yours,” the lawyer answered.
“I’m not the legal guardian of the trust,” Eric returned.
“This is a mere technicality, you are the rightful heir,” Cataliades indicated… “You can lay claim in the same way as the Stackhouses on your own family estates.”
“I would rather not have a greater target on my back presently.”
“Understandable,” the Demon nodded. “It will be waiting for you when this is no longer the case. I will continue to informally recognise you and still defer to you in the in the interim.”
“Do whatever is in Jason and Sookie’s best interest,” Eric replied. “I have no expertise in these matters,” Again Cataliades nodded in understanding.
“Watch your back among the Brigants,” Cataliades offered in caution. “They have been scheming from the time they stepped off the Mayflower.”
“I’m pretty sure it was their scheming that took to them to crossing the ocean,” Eric returned dryly while he offered his hand to conclude their dealings. “We’ll see you tonight.”
“Do I really need to wear this?” Jason whined in front of the store mirrors. “I look like a monkey and it’s all itchy.”
Sookie huffed out in annoyance and gave Eric a pleading look who disappeared at the sight of it. “Claudine told us it was a formal affair,” Sookie said, slightly piqued with Eric’s retreat. “A tuxedo is obligatory.”
“You have to wear one,” she said in exasperation which, judging by Jason’s vacuous stare, offered little explanation. Thankfully Eric returned with two girls shuffling in behind him whom Sookie quickly named ‘Euro Ass One’ and ‘Euro Ass Two’ as soon as Jason’s eyes travelled with newfound focus. She knew Eric well enough now to know that this would be another one of his visual demonstrations and was quickly proven right when Eric asked the two girls for their opinion on Jason’s outfit.
It helped that they worked in the store, but Jason’s natural charm had them spinning round him like two dedicated satellites with actual compliments on the suit and the person in it. By the time he was changing into his casual gear he had One and Two’s phone numbers firmly tucked in his pants.
“Anything for you here, älskling? “ Eric asked when waiting for Jason to finish up.
“I’m perfectly content with my own Euro Ass,” she smirked while she swatted his behind playfully. He steadied her wrist to still her hands, his gaze preoccupied by something on the other side of the shop window. While he was perfectly happy to indulge Sookie’s hands on his ass under other circumstances, he had remained alert at all times since arriving in Switzerland.
“Stay here,” he commanded before he took off into the street. He reverted back to his training, trying to appear non-threatening while strolling down the street leisurely as he stealthily stalked the man who had taken an interest in their company with less conspicuous attention than intended. Eric used the camera on his phone to photograph the man while pretending to take a phone call before walking back towards the shop, using a quick demonstration of tying his shoelaces to photograph the license plate of the car in which the unidentified man had quickly taken refuge.
Eric didn’t hesitate to text it to his local contact and transferring the appropriate amount to the accompanying bank account to retrieve the necessary intel which he then forwarded to Lina, the hacker in Stockholm, knowing a full report would be at the ready by the time they’d arrive back at the guesthouse.
Eric found Jason and Sookie indulgently waiting inside the clothing store, bags at the ready. Jason seemed to have moved on to Euro Ass number Three whilst Sookie looked on with worry.
“Everything okay?” she whispered out of Jason’s earshot. Eric simply gave an affirmative nod though it did nothing to pull the concern from her face.
“We’ll know soon enough,” Eric offered frugally. “Did Jason get the hunting gear too?”
Sookie nodded as Jason was pocketing number Three’s phone number. Contrary to his dislike of the formal wear, Jason had expressed little protest to the necessary hunting gear, until he discovered the tweed uniform was just as itchy and constricting.
No Brigant reunion was deemed a success without the Brigant men to depart the reunion in full regalia at the break of dawn to hunt in the mountainous estate that now belonged to Rogan. Jason had been all too eager to join in, considering himself quite the huntsman, but to Sookie it sounded like an awful idea, considering the volume of alcohol the Brigants consumed on a regular evening, let alone on a celebratory one. Jason had accepted the invitation without her knowledge. Sookie had been quick to force Eric to join them, knowing what her brother was like holding a gun with a few drinks down his system.
When they arrived back at the estate, a drastic makeover had taken place. A large party tent overlooking the lake stood fully erect on the green lawn as a flurry of people moved large items back and forth. Claudette and Claude were seen bickering over the decorations and other points of fine taste while Claudine made sure all ran smoothly in the background.
“All set for the night?” Niall asked when greeting them at their car as Sookie nodded politely while Jason began to voice his complaints over the required attire. With an indulgent chuckle, Niall couldn’t help but agree as Jason began to list the superiority of denim, flannel, and elasticised waistbands.
“Come,” Eric whispered to the shell of her ear, nudging her along to the edge of the lakeside that stood quiet.
“Is everything okay?” she whispered, though there was no necessity, far away from any prying ears to warrant the secrecy.
He squeezed her hand encouragingly, “It’s probably nothing, better safe than sorry.”
Before she could voice her concern and general unease again, they were interrupted by the chiming noise of his phone, causing him to scan the documents that constituted Lina’s report. It indicated the man following them was a local private investigator and a terrible one at that. His track record was embarrassingly short and inconclusive.
“We should be fine,” Eric decreed with an authority that allowed the ever present tension in Sookie’s shoulders to slacken slightly. “It’s either the journalist or one of your newfound relatives looking into you two. Not serious enough to warrant concern.”
“Not serious?” she hissed in another whisper. “It’s not every day someone investigates me, no matter how bad they are! I’m concerned!”
Eric let out a tired sigh, turning towards her to address the concern in her panicked eyes. “Sookie,” he soothed, “It would be a concern if there wasn’t a discernible investigation. It would mean they would be doing a thorough job, those who we cannot perceive are the ones we should be worried about.” With the weight of that statement only causing more distress, he pulled her to him, cupping her cheeks, and offered, “Don’t worry. You forget I was imperceptible once, I know exactly where they hide, and I know when to worry.”
“Promise?” she breathed out against his chest.
“I have taken precautions, and there are triggers. I’ll tell you when to worry, now is not it,” he assured. “In fact, now is the time I wish to see you in a dress.”
“You always want to see me in a dress,” she retorted with a careful smile, her cautions momentarily secured by his assertions.
“Don’t you want to see me in a tux?” he grinned cheekily in return.
“How am I gonna eat?” Jason grumbled once more while displaying the limited room in his tailored pants for necessary stomach expansion. His numerous complaints, however, had begun to fall on deaf ears some time ago. Eric was far too entranced by Sookie in her dress, the act of zipping her up being almost as satisfying as the promise of pulling the small tab of metal down again at a later time. In contrast, Sookie was still fixated by the events of the afternoon. It didn’t really matter that the investigator wasn’t a legitimate threat. What mattered was that one of the 55 Brigants present was already trailing them and gathering information. It would only take so long before a proper investigator started digging at the crumbling foundations of her existence. She worried for Eric most of all. For now she’d have to be content with her heels sinking into the slightly damp lawn of Niall’s estate.
As ever, the Brigants retained their regal composure, and the numerous guests flooding the estate exchanging air kisses and false platitudes in a spirit of bonhomie that to the uninitiated was convincingly sincere. Niall was eager to introduce Sookie and Jason to each and every relation with a knowing glint. Sookie wasn’t quite sure what that glint represented, especially since it seemed mirrored in Claudine’s eyes who seemed in charge of funnelling the guests their way.
Sookie’s eyes sought out Eric’s across the lawn numerous times, proving he was especially proficient in becoming undetectable as he stealthily observed the party from the edges, the only one to truly notice him and subsequently seeking him out being Mr. Cataliades.
“They certainly smell blood in the water,” the lawyer commented with a malicious grin.
“Says the blood thirstiest of them all.”
Mr. Cataliades couldn’t help but chuckle before adding, “In my defence, I make no excuses nor hide my inclinations. Do not worry, my boy, this is all for appearances. A Brigant is far more dangerous out of its natural habitat than in it.”
Eric cast him a sideward glance, studying the rotund man momentarily, “Should I be worried?”
“No more than usual, you’re a cautious man after all,” he shrugged before downing the remnants from his crystal tumbler, setting its heavy weight on a side table while greeting a familiar face across the room and making his excuses. Eric didn’t have much time to digest the small talk, be it a warning or something else as Sookie’s face beckoned him, the congregation suddenly moving as one mass towards the immaculately set table with the chime of a delicate bell.
She smiled appreciatively when he found her, her fingers lacing into his for added comfort before taking their seats close to Niall at the head of the u shaped table. Niall held an especially long-winded speech while Sookie nervously braced herself for an announcement that never came. Beyond the curious glances and formal niceties there had been surprisingly very little interest in her or Jason. Instead her great-grandfather spoke of the family’s good fortunes and the company’s plans for expansion and acquisitions.
Dinner was served, and Jason’s protestations of uncomfortable formal wear soon turned to the fact that the tiny portions wouldn’t even give him the possibility to pop out of his pants. Their newfound relatives laughed along indulgently, Jason soon becoming the life of the party at their section of the table, unaware his popularity was down to being laughed at rather than with.
Sookie tried to enjoy the company, but had a hard time with a supposed scrutiny on her. She only seemed to relax somewhat when the party moved outdoors again after dessert, away from the more formal setting of the table. Euro Ass number Two had shown up not much later by invitation of Jason and consequently kept him distracted. Eric attempted to do the same by whisking Sookie to the small dance floor, even though he was clearly terrible at it with his long limbs and Nordic rhythm, shuffling close together seemed to suit them best. She was actually quite relieved to find something he wasn’t that competent in, and by the third time he stepped on her toes, she burst out laughing with his fluster. He was so relieved to see her smile that he kept up the terrible attempts that washed away the caution and enjoyed the night like any other Brigant present.
“I think it’s time for bed,” he murmured when she dozed off for the third time against him.
“No,” she protested. “I’ll stay up. I want to stay at the party.”
“Sookie,” he chuckled. “You’re already in bed.”
She blinked, confused to find herself tucked into their bed, in her pyjamas and all, while he was changing into his hunting gear. “I don’t want you to go,” she whispered while pulling her knees cautiously to her chest, arms hugging them close.
“We’ll be fine,” he promised.
“How drunk is Jason?” she asked with a pout.
“Too drunk to notice his prospective Euro Ass slipped away, but insistent enough to shoot something.”
“Lordy,” she yawned. “Take care of him, please?”
“Of course,” he grinned before kissing her softly, only to be interrupted seconds later by a very insistent Jason raring to go. After being shuffled into a convoy of old Land Rovers, they were greeted with a hearty breakfast to soak up the night’s alcohol. Jason seemed to be the only one crowding the table of goods while the Brigants seemed to have exchanged their familiar tumblers for flasks. The larger group dispersed into smaller factions, Niall insisting Jason and Eric hunt with him, and leading them down a familiar path with a virility unexpected for a man his age. Jason was quick to display his prowess by immediately taking out a small rabbit which one of the hounds dutifully fetched.
Jason seemed more pleased with the dog than with his prize as it joined them again, inundating Niall with questions where he could get one for himself. While Jason continued fawning over the dog that seemed as playful as he, Eric’s cell buzzed to life. Expecting to calm Sookie’s nerves, he answered without regard for the name on the display, “What can I do for you, älskling?”
“You can stop referring to me as your lover for starts,” came Lina’s snarky voice down the line.
“I thought you were someone else,” he offered in apology.
“I’ve heard that one far too many times,” she retorted back.
“What has you calling me at this hour?” he asked, hoping to divert the conversation.
“You told me to call if anyone ever tried to access your files. They just did,” she explained. “Very sloppily I might add.”
“The investigator from this afternoon?” he whispered while crouching down in between the bushes per Niall’s gestures. He looked intensely into the distance searching for the sign of animal life.
“No,” she answered. “I’ll be surprised if that man can find Internet porn. This is courtesy of the associates at Locke and Nave.”
While that very word would have been the appropriate response to Lina’s news, the curse had slipped out for completely different reasons. Time suddenly moved differently, Lina’s voice was heard in the background, muffled as it fell to the dirt floor before becoming muted indefinitely as the phone fell into a puddle. Noise became an odd observation of time as thuds and shouts alternated while Eric tackled Jason and Niall. Ears stung from ringing, nostrils filled with the scent of gunpowder that had emerged from the bushes in the direction in which Eric had been staring.
A stained hand went very still in front of them. “Fuck, I’m bleeding,” Jason whimpered, his dirty blonde hair suddenly dark and wet,and his otherwise tan face suddenly startling white.
Eric didn’t hesitate to tie his jacket around the wound to stem the bleeding, putting as much pressure on it as he could. Niall nervously came to action, screaming at the top of his ancient lungs for help in every language he could think of. Time seemed to last an eternity as Eric continued to focus singularly on Jason who seemed to be falling in and out of consciousness while ignoring the cacophony around them. A helicopter arrived, and without hesitation he declared to be Jason’s only family and was airlifted to the hospital.
Eric cursed profusely as he felt Jason’s clammy hand turn cold on their swift flight to the hospital as the EMT’s worked diligently in stabilising him. He’d seen so many die, at his own hand and others, but none had seemed quite like this, none so undeserving or messy.
“A bullet isn’t going to kill you, Jason Stackhouse,” Eric threatened lowly to his unconscious form before he was rushed away behind closed hospital doors that barred entry to anyone but medical staff of the Intensive Care Unit. He exhaled deeply against the door that suddenly felt so solid, the light surrounding him felt excessively bright while black spots stung from the periphery. Focus lost, suddenly he was heavy, his feet no longer able to uphold his tall frame forcing him to collapse on the pristinely white floor of the dreary hall, adrenaline making way for blinding pain as it shot through him with a shout, and the realisation that the blood soaking his arm was not a residue from Jason, it was live and gushing, an open wound of his own.
A/N: There was a reason why I didn’t post this before my summer hiatus… ehm yeah, you know why… #sorrynotsorry
I’ll be hiding out in the luxuriously fitted out basement of the wonderful msbuffy whose editing skills I’d be rather destitute without but feel free to yell away, I just might respond 😉