“So it has worked, she is coming to full capacity?”
“Yes, sir,” she nodded alongside Hugo who preened with the accomplishments.
“You did well, Cecily,” the Elder acknowledged. “You proved yourself to your kind.”
“Of course,” she answered succinctly.
“You do not seem happy about this,” he ascertained with a light tap of his fingertips. “This was your proposal, you saw the threats, and we acted. Should we have brought her here instead?”
“I just worry,” Cecily admitted with a small sigh. “I forgot what it is like to be that young.”
“You fear your former Maker and his Childe are not up to their task? You assured us this would be the case!”
She shifted nervously on her feet, a strange sensation now after being unable to properly feel the ground beneath her for eons. “I worry for her. That is all.”
“Claudine was right then,” he spoke thoughtfully. “You indeed grew too attached to Sookie, she was right to recommend you leave her side.”
She corrected her nervous posture, standing proud in front of the man of authority. Her fired eyes burning bright, “No, Claudine was wrong; I should have seen her through her transition. She should know what is to be asked of her. If not me, send someone else, send Hugo for all I care. Just find someone to help her through.”
“We cannot afford that risk anymore,” the Elder dismissed. “She is our secret and needs to remain just that. Too many know of her already.”
“I think you’re making a mistake,” Cecily spoke in defiance while Hugo’s hand nervously came to rest on hers in an effort to stop her from speaking out of turn.
The Elder eyed her with warning before emitting a composed breath. “Time will tell then. For now you have done well and you return as you were.”
“Sook?” Jason spoke softly while knocking on the bedroom door that had remained firmly closed for most of the night where he refused to even contemplate the noises coming from beyond. His sister was innocent and pure, Jason Stackhouse was sure of these things. “Have you seen Cecily? Can’t find Hugo either,” he asked after she opened the door slipping out into the hall, not wishing her brother to see the state of the room.
“I don’t know, Jas. Where did you last leave her? Did you check your room?”
“Fuck, Sook, this ain’t my He-Man doll,” he spat in annoyance. “It’s not like her to be gone like this without a word.”
“Let’s get a bite to eat,” she offered, motioning him to the kitchen knowing a bit of food in their stomachs always settled the worst of his worries.
“Jas, look,” she said, reaching the fridge door and finding an envelope with his name on it. “She left you a message.”
Sookie left him to read it through while fishing out the ingredients from the fridge to make them a simple meal. She was happy to see it fully stocked, knowing Eric saw to it with extra care ever since the last time she accidentally went hungry.
“Show me,” the man on her mind asked with his sudden appearance behind her, and, with a wide smile she proceeded to show Eric how to chop and dice the ingredients for their impromptu dinner.
“What does it say Jas?” Sookie asked when he remained quiet, the only noise coming from him being a scratch to his head.
“She’s gone, not coming back,” he whispered, blinking back a tear when he looked up at his sister’s worried eyes.
“Let me see that,” Eric demanded, taking the letter from him while Sookie scolded him before grabbing it back, and then hugging her brother.
“You okay?” she whispered. “Cecily said I only had to think of her and she’d appear. I can try to get her back.”
“No,” he said with a small shrug to get her off him. “Says she’s gone for good, told me to say goodbye to you too. I don’t understand why she never said anything before. I thought we meant something to each other…”
“It doesn’t sound as if were her choice; I’ve left a few of those letters myself,” Eric offered consolingly, leaving out the part that in those cases that the ones he left behind never meant a thing to him, but one did not just disappear leaving no trace without suspicion, no matter how short the stay.
“Yeah, maybe,” Jason sighed. “Really wanted to do that vamp porn thing with her.”
“So Isabel betrayed you for a bit of coin?” Russell ascertained while roaming the halls of the New Orleans palace. “You know, you should really let Pam loose with the swatch books around here; it’s very… austere.”
“I like the simplicity,” Godric replied, not wishing to respond to Isabel’s betrayal even if Russell had guessed correctly. “It suits me fine.”
“That it does,” Russell grinned. “One tends to surround himself with what he needs. You need clarity.”
“Perhaps,” Godric admitted with a small smile. “Tara is very clear.”
“You really miss the human? She must be quite the tigress in the sack.”
“It is not like that,” he disputed. “I enjoy what she has to say.”
“Turn her,” Russell advised in all seriousness. “That’s a rare quality in a breather; the fucking is fun, but one who is able to hold a conversation will last you through the ages. Fucking can always come later.”
He hummed in agreement while Godric left strict instructions with his assembled retinue to tighten the security even further for any attacks.
“You inspire loyalty without fear,” Russell complimented as they made way to the roof of the palace, dawn not far ahead. They’d reached the point of meeting with Nan Flanagan with five minutes to spare at their usual flying speed, but both knew they would be there even faster. “Quite admirable, you’ll lose it of course once they unmask you as a fraud.”
“I am not a fraud,” he denied. “I lacked…”
“Clarity?” Russell grinned before shooting of into the sky.
“Clarity,” Godric agreed with a grumble before following in quick pursuit.
“He has risen,” Salome smiled at Niccoló while she washed away the last remnants of blood from his lifeless body.
“You are certain?”
“Yes,” she beamed. “I feel him inside me.”
“The girl is gone,” he noted with a pointed look.
“Franklin’s taking her out for a walk,” she dismissed with a wave of her hand. “He’s taken a liking to her.”
“Probably worried I’ll kill them if they don’t return.”
“He’d be right,” Niccoló chuckled. “We don’t have much time.”
“How are things on the other side?”
“War is nearing the horizon,” he spoke proudly. “The humans’ tolerance of us has diminished with the bombings of the Fellowship. It won’t be much longer and we won’t even need to subcontract those duties, the humans are doing them for us.”
“Roman is trying to rally the troops? Mitigate peace?” she posed, both chuckling at the thought.
“He is weak,” Niccoló shrugged. “His defence will be weak.”
“What of little Nan?” Salome sing-songed while gently patting at the body, urging it to wake.
“Putting out the fires, bringing the assets we need all to one spot.”
“You are certain this will work as planned?”
He growled with impressive incisors hovering over her. Despite her superior age, she backed down instantly and amended, “Of course it will work.”
Their stand-off lifted, the sound of an inhaled gasp disrupted them. Their eyes shifted from their boring gaze on another to fall to the washed body whose eyelids had suddenly started to flutter.
“Now,” Franklin urged, pulling Tara along through the portal with Alcide quick to follow them. In the momentary daze of the teleportation, Tara quickly moved a makeshift stake into the werewolf’s hands. A small grin befell his face when he recognised it as one of the wooden stool legs from her room. Still, concern quickly overtook him when Tara doubled over, crying in pain while she clutched at her abdomen.
Alcide didn’t hesitate, dropping the stake in the process to lift her into his arms bridal style and sprinted out to the end of the portal to return them to their world.
“Traitor!” Franklin fumed, chasing after them with the discovered stake in hand, knocking the pair down to the ground once they exited the portal. Godric caught Tara before the fall only seconds after landing himself startled by the sudden commotion, having arrived far ahead of the agreed time. Without hesitation, he fed her weak body his blood once again until he could discern the thundering heartbeat of the foetus inside her once more.
Russell incapacitated Franklin, snarling and holding him with fierce menace to the ground in the bright beams of the headlights that just pulled up with Eric and Sookie inside.
“Go!” Russell commanded to Godric who hesitated a moment before taking off into the sky with a pained Tara in his arms. “Puppy, go with the Viking.”
“What’s going on?” Sookie whispered while Eric urged her to stay in the car before ushering a hesitant Alcide inside.
“Russell?” Eric questioned before shutting the door.
“Call your Childe home, Bottom, I’ll trade the state if necessary. I can always get another. Now GO!”
The car roared to life, accelerating loudly while tearing up the terrain beneath them.
“Fuck!” Eric growled when they appeared to be approaching a convoy of Authority vehicles. “Wolf, duck!”
“Eric?” Sookie whispered with concern when she felt his hand carefully loosen the lock on her safety belt.
“Prepare yourself,” he instructed while gesturing she move to open the car door.
“Franklin did not hurt you?” Godric whispered with concern while a very grumpy Ludwig looked her over.
“She’s fine! Can I go now?” the little doctor demanded while she impatiently tapped her foot.
“You are certain?” Godric asked with worry. “She was in pain, the baby?”
“Right where it should be at twenty-two weeks. I’ll forward you the bill.”
“Twenty-two?” Tara stammered, but she never received a confirming reply as Ludwig had already popped herself out of the room. “Is that how long I’ve been gone?”
“No,” Godric returned with a pained expression. “It was that long for you?”
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “There was no window. I wasn’t awake very often.”
“I’m so sorry this happened to you, Tara.”
“Why?” she shrugged before swallowing a grape. “You didn’t kidnap me.”
“They took you because you were tied to me,” he spoke tentatively, the sorrow written all over his face.
A snort escaped her before swallowing the grape she was sucking on. “They took the wrong person then. I don’t mean a thing to you.”
“I care for you,” he frowned at which she scoffed. In a firmer tone he added, “I do.”
“You care more for this,” she said, pointing to the bump that had grown substantially in the transition through the portal.
“Tara,” he spoke with a small sigh. Shifting slightly on his feet beside the plush bed she was resting upon before he could find the words, annoyed that his carefully crafted speech would now lay to waste. “I made you an appointment.”
She frowned, uncertain to what he was referring. “Before,” he explained. “When I was coming to your home, I wanted to give you a choice, options.”
“One of those options included you?” she asked with a high arch to her brow.
“I never cancelled the appointment,” he continued on, not taking much notice to her expression. “You can still go. I could go with you, if that is what you want.”
She remained silent for an extended moment, “I’ll think about it.”
“So Franklin?” Godric started again, returning to the question Tara had not been given the opportunity to answer earlier. “Did he harm you?”
“No, he was quite friendly actually. A little messed up, but I can handle a little messed up,” she grinned before patting the empty space beside her on the bed.
“Are you implying something?” he joked right along with her while he climbed on top of the covers.
“I’m probably the crazy one between us…” Tara jibed before sipping on her fruit juice, wishing it could have been laced with copious amounts of alcohol after all the shit she had been through.
“I’m the prophetic fraud who was haunted by his dead Faery-vampire Childe for centuries, so I think I have you beat.”
She shook her head whispering “No.” His hand was pulled into hers where she observed the small history of his humanity as it once existed in the callouses of hard labour. “Besides, my mother still wins.”
Tara gave a sideways glance and caught the small smile on his face. “It’s good to have you back, Tara. I’m glad you’re okay. I have a hard time imagining you and Franklin as a happy family.”
She nodded in return before carefully considering her next words, wondering if she wished to share them with him. “This is going to sound sick, Godric, but somehow the thought appealed to me; I was no longer playing the part. Maybe it was glamour, but maybe, just maybe it was me.”
“Is it such an awful thought?”
“Vampires and humans aren’t meant to play house,” she scoffed before registering the hurt it caused across his face.
“It was not so long ago when man said the same of people with different skins.”
“That has to be the oddest politically correct term I’ve ever heard,” she frowned.
“I have seen the insides of plenty,” he admitted with some regret. “The blood is as different as it is the same. It is but the skin that differentiates you. Nothing else, it is a truth I have known for long. Longer than most of man.”
She smiled appreciatively. “Why can’t you say the same for yourself then? Are we not the same underneath these skins?”
“I have fangs.”
“So do I,” he raised an eyebrow at which she amended, “mine just don’t move. What else?”
“A beast lives inside me,” He gave slight warning with a pulled brow not to equate to the thing living inside her.
“I don’t see it. You know where I saw it?” She gestured to an obituary of Steve Newlin that was measured heavily across the newspaper that was brought in with the foods Godric had sought out for her soon after he rushed her into the secured basement. “In him,” she said while tapping her finger on the portrait. “He lived with one, and since he couldn’t handle it, he forced everyone else to believe they suffered the same condition. So he wouldn’t be the only one.”
“You think that’s what it is?”
“I think you were both in pain and wanted to feel something other than pain. Just like us, I’ve been there, we connect through pain, not love.”
“Tara, I would like that for us.”
“What you, me, and the bug?” she spoke with far less sincerity than earlier, when it had been an act for Franklin. “Our very own happily ever after?”
“We seem to be missing a bit of company,” Salome noted with a bristle once she came to observe the empty field, and found only a calm and collected Russell sitting atop her incapacitated Childe.
“They got what they came for,” he shrugged while gesturing at the body beneath him. “Your security is rather lacking. Shall we trade?”
“You think I care for that psychotic freak Childe?” she scoffed.
“He wouldn’t still be walking and talking if you didn’t,” Russell noted dryly before coming to stand. “So a Childe for a Childe?”
Her arms crossed firmly while staring him down, “I think not.”
“What is it you want from me, then?” he posed with little regard.
“You fight our cause.”
“What exactly is your cause?” Russell questioned. “You work for the Authority, but that is clearly an office of convenience for you.”
“The world of humans is but our playing field,” she quipped, gesturing to the active portal behind her.
“That is where you have kept my Talbot for so long,” he ascertained while she beamed brightly. “Have you fallen on your Sanguinista principles again?”
She snorted momentarily, remembering their last conversation where she had failed to convince him of her cause then. “That was so last century.”
“So what’s this century’s cause?” Russell grinned expectantly.
“Do you care?” Niccoló questioned while he emerged through the bright light of the portal, carrying a shadow of a body behind him. Russell was on him in an instant, looking him over for any damage.
“Talbot, my dear boy,” he whimpered. “Did they hurt you?”
“Who are you?”
A/N: Yes, so a lot has been happening… and mostly poor Russell, more next time I promise. Thoughts, conspiracy theories, prophecies, etc. welcome as always.
I’ve made some changes as to the appearance site and in that have also decided to rid chapters of the character banners, if you want to see them they’re in the story home page here. I’ll put in a link whenever there is a new one.
Many thanks to msbuffy and her editing skills.