“What have you been able to pull from the girl?” Niall asked after we came to a carefully constructed agreement regarding Sookie once we had both conceded this child would be more important than either of us. “Staci?”
“Her mind doesn’t remember, her body is a different thing,” I sighed, remembering the horror and panic that set into her veins while showing her a photograph of the filthy Impurus Compton. She had yet to react to another face with anything other than indifference, and her fatal attraction to Godric had disappeared the moment Sookie fell from our lives. “Shahbaz is taking her through all the photographs we have but no hits so far.”
“The ranks are still secure then,” he observed to which I nodded. I never wanted to accuse Tulla, and found it hard to do so with the gentlest soul among us, but she was careless, sympathetic to a cause without knowing it, and I feared I had missed something. It was, however, the interaction with Staci that made me aware of a gift we had never taken notice of with Tulla, one she didn’t even realise herself that she possessed. It was that same persuasive glamour that had held Staci in a permanent thrall. I had wasted little time and forced her to practice with Godric by her side perfecting it and undoing it, but we lacked Sookie’s insight into the mind to really check.
“When you send over the healer, spare me Oren,” I petitioned. “He was always good with his mind.”
“I think I should station him with you permanently,” he said with a small chuckle. “He’s more loyal to you than me.”
“Always get them when they’re young,” I winked back.
“You should come to Faerum, visit your mother,” he offered.
I heaved a sigh, stilling the yearning for my beginnings. Being homesick for Faerum never quite escaped my ancient bones. “She would no longer recognise me as I am.”
“She no longer recognises anyone,” Niall spoke with a soft squeeze to my hand. “She still speaks of her dark-haired princess though, the one made for the shadows.”
“Now is not the time to leave unattended, we are preparing for war, conflict in the least.”
“She won’t have forever,” he tried, but my sense of duty superseded my own wants.
“Perhaps I’ll see her when things settle down,” I offered though we both knew it to be a lie, she’d pass before this was settled. Oren had told me as much, time was not congruent there and hers was up soon.
Eric passed us on the way to feed and on his return he unceremoniously plonked a tray of drinks on the coffee table by where we were perched. “Help yourself,” he spoke gruffly before I stilled him on his path out.
“Sit,” I ordered, and he reluctantly adhered. “A healer from Faerum will come here, he will work in conjunction with Ludwig. We all want her back Eric, but it will be your call.”
“I want my sister,” he said instantly. “She may be just human, but a part of Sookie is too. She’s been delivering babies into this world for a long time, she’ll be the one in charge.”
I exchanged a glance with Niall and neither one dared reveal the excitement we felt at the opportunity. “A human,” the Prince of the Fae scoffed with distaste while I shot him a co-ordinated glance that had him retracting his words and acquiescing Eric’s request. With little more words from us, Eric got up and moved away again while we exchanged glances of pure glee at our good fortune.
“The sky is in our favour again,” Niall mused.
The taut smile was yet to leave my face as we regarded the blue vastness that stood without a cloud outside of us. “Indeed it is.”
“Yours, I assume?” my Maker spoke with a little too much harshness when expressing the first word of that sentence. The large stack of packages was dumped ceremoniously with the others. My heart clenched momentarily for the precious cargo inside, but rather than start another fighting match, I uncharacteristically bit my tongue in fear that he might change his mind and decide to leave again.
Admittedly the amount of boxes trickling in was becoming embarrassing, and coming from me that truly was saying something. Jason Stackhouse, bless his heart, had no control over his shoe shopping spending, and it infected me like no other.
“Fucking bond,” I offered as an excuse though I secretly loved it. Jason proved to be a great partner in crime. We may or may not have a couple of pairs that match.
Kristian’s façade slipped momentarily as he mumbled, “Tell me about it.”
I, however, was in no mood to tell him anything about it. As soon as the word ‘bond’ was in the air, he clamped shut or I shouted, usually a combination of both, and I was sick and tired of having him around and being a giant asshole.
“Where is he?” Kristian probed with all the feigned aloofness he possessed. It was little.
I merely shrugged in reply; I wasn’t very interested in Jason’s whereabouts. I could detect him faster than any GPS ever could, and he knew better than his sister to go out unguarded in times like these.
At least he was doing something; Kristian, for all his usual merits, simply sat and stared leaving me to guess whatever was bothering him. He had decided to stay, but never told me why, as if he ever would. Probably for the same reason he came, Sookie.
Men were strange creatures no matter what their mortal state, but at least Jason knew how to shop. He was easy to convince to do just that, visiting his sister was another matter entirely. The fact that I had never asked why he didn’t go visit her was probably the reason he was still talking to me. Godric had dropped a hint, and we suddenly came to understand the very lethal threat a part-Fae could pose. I think my dear uncle is still slightly baffled by it all.
When I’m not available, Aelia entertains him although I fear it is more the other way round with those two. No one has dared tell him yet he is to be an uncle. These weeks have worn hard on him, he may have finally sprouted a wrinkle in the process, and luckily he carries it well. Niall’s request to come see him was turned down after a hesitant internal struggle. He held up a tough stance of disinterest, but I felt it as it existed in his very marrow. He didn’t dare feel anything other than misery in this moment, and meeting Niall again would make him feel loved. He felt undeserving of that right now and I couldn’t blame him.
While the healers squabbled about how to proceed with our favoured telepath, a cure seemed absent for now. Even Aelia’s blood made no difference to her frozen state. Staci seemed to produce nothing of value in the interim, and all had been suspiciously quiet. Slowly I gave command to lift the curfew as all seemed calm again after we planted one of Sophie Anne’s dim-witted Berts, I honestly couldn’t remember which one, in Compton’s cushy palace position. It also solved my problem in keeping Sophie Anne nearby; the continued targeting of Andre was peculiar to say the least. For whatever reason beyond the obvious, our enemies wanted him dead, so the annoying bastard child would have to be kept alive.
Godric had latched onto Shahbaz taking a position as Consigliore, one he never wanted, to scour out the source that had let this happen to Sookie. I knew the answer no one wanted to hear, Staci was a booby-trap. No matter what happened when Sookie attempted to pull apart the strings that held the information Staci’s mind promised, it was programmed to incapacitate her, and it was probably down to the fact that Sookie was expecting that, that she had been so cautious with invading Staci’s mind for so long. In my mind, it was the reason there was no cure.
The Sookie Stackhouse I had always known would have delved right in, her instinct had given her caution she shouldn’t have ignored, and she ultimately paid the price. The pregnancy had probably made her take caution where she would have ignored it before. I’d seen her in action more than once, if it was a just cause she was on it without a care for herself. The scary part was someone else knew this too, and planted Staci with that exact purpose and like us, had failed to factor in a pregnancy.
We thought we were playing the game with superior knowledge. Our enemies, however, were smarter, and now we were left with a devastating loss.
The knock on the door was assured, but I knew its tentative intent that hid behind it, I barely looked up from the mountain of paperwork as I waved my ‘Bonded’ in, still snickering at the thought whenever I regarded him as such.
Kristian gave a formal greeting, and then moved to get up, vacating his unwarmed seat for Jason. “We’ll talk more later,” my Maker posed without a hint of question in that archaic Danish of his. My automatic nod was stilled by his hands, catching me unaware of his sudden attentions. Lips touched mine, pushing hard while his hands kept me in place. I shoved him off, I was in no mood for his hot and cold behaviour, and my eyes gave warning of exactly that.
“Later?” he repeated.
“Later,” I finally agreed after the silence had lasted too long.
“I want to go see Sookie,” Jason announced after sitting languidly posed on my silk sofa without uttering a word for a good half an hour. At least this time he had the decency to wash his hands after eating all those foul foods without me having to tell him so. Fucking stains.
I looked up, giving an affirming nod to the unasked question that I would accompany him, gesturing at the pile of papers still awaiting my scrutiny which, despite his dim-wittedness, he seemed to comprehend. My head turned momentarily to him instead with narrowed eyes while taking in his appearance, “What will you wear?”
“This is a dream, isn’t it?”
She smiled and bobbed her head shyly. “Doesn’t make it any less real.”
I missed those lips that those words departed from, I had taken their abundance against mine for granted in my pursuit of more and more. Now all I had was this, an artifice of what once was. “Return to me,” I begged, not for the first time and surely not the last.
“If I could I would,” she whispered in return. “Are you still mad at me?”
I shook my head, and held my hand to her stomach that had started to display the same protrusion as her silent countertype in the world where I was forced to reside without her. I caressed that bump, our bump, every day while I washed her, patted them dry with the softest of touches, and measured the change with a dedicated measuring tape. Millimetres were as far as we had gotten so far, and Isa had regarded me sceptically with my recordings. My sister had gotten on a plane without me even having to ask, and scared all the nurses into order with her critical professional eye and instantly earned Dr. Ludwig’s respect.
“Where are you?”
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “Everywhere and nowhere?”
“Care to narrow it down?” Her tinkling laugh of response killed me; I wanted it back for real.
“Yes,” I whispered, kissing against those ethereal lips once more.
“You have to wake up.”
“Not yet,” I pleaded, not wanting this brief moment stolen from me again.
“Eric,” she insisted, with an instilling fear. “You have to wake up! NOW!”
And I did.
With a startle, my nostrils flared with the scent of blood, and upon removing the covers I found the source, never had the sight of blood made me feel so sick. I screamed for Isa while I witnessed it run in rivulets down her thighs. My sister was groggy from her own sleep, but she stood at full attention, and set to work immediately while the nurse rushed in after her.
“Out!” Isa screamed at me with a look that dared me to defy her. I hesitated, but the glare that was far too reminiscent of our menacing grandmother had me retreat into the walk-in closet with the door ajar. It was shoved closed soon enough while I paced restlessly.
The drawer Pam had pulled out called to me, and my hands went through all the small items, urging me to calm, but little did. Everything was examined, down to the care labels. I was momentarily distracted with the use of a dry-clean-only sweater for an infant, but it was not enough to preoccupy me from what was happening next door.
That’s when I found it, tucked at the bottom of the drawer, a small envelope with Sookie’s handwriting. Pictures of a blip in a sea of black that was our child. I knew it already, but it pleased me like no other to see my name listed as the father beside hers. They were accompanied by drafts of letters where I could see her struggle to explain, but not finding the words, guilt written in the margins that she had forced me into fatherhood unwanted. She had done what Freyda had intended and carried twice the remorse of it.
The inheritance had lain like a boulder between us; I disregarded the weight it carried for her, discrediting it as merely money. Now I understood the burden I had added to it by being so dismissive and uninterested. My fingers were still tracing over the small blob in the sonogram when one of the nurses beckoned me. My feet felt like lead, unwilling to meet doom.
“We stopped the bleeding.”
“Are they ok?” She didn’t answer directly which made me wary to take another step.
“I’m not qualified to say,” she offered sympathetically. It was something the nurses had said more than once, much to the grievance of Isa who urged them we would never sue and to be upfront with the information they had, regardless, they kept their unqualified diagnoses to themselves. She was useless, so I rushed past her to Isa who was washing off the last of Sookie’s blood from her arms.
“Mamma and baby are fine,” she said instantly before I fell into her arms, telling me all I needed to hear. “Nothing serious, Lillebror. You take good care of her.”
“I need a drink,” I sighed in relief.
“I’ll join you,” she grinned before shoving me towards the small seating area that in my mind had already been redecorated as the nursery.
“You can’t go on like this,” Isa spoke sternly. “You’re not some pussy, Eric Northman.”
The strong spirit escaped in a mist from my mouth with her admonishing and harsh words. I had expected this from others, but not from my own sister. I tried to retain some dignity by wiping away some of the liquid with the back of my hand and wiping it away menacingly on the side of the chair. Isa wasn’t impressed much and had the audacity to laugh. Bitch.
“You need to get angry and jump into action,” she continued with little regard for my bruised ego. “That’s who you are. This caring and protectiveness, it’s sweet-”
I coughed again, fortunately not choking on any liquid in the process this time. “Sweet?”
“Yes,” she grinned. “Sweet and it’s not you.”
“You wouldn’t do this for your husband?”
“Course I would,” she shrugged. “I’d yell at everything and everyone to make him better first. Take a risk, Eric.”
“What is this really about?” I knew I hit a nerve when she exhaled a deep sigh that had nothing to do with fatigue.
“They’re handling her like spun glass, bror. We sit and talk in meetings, and nothing gets done.”
She appeared tired, a thing I had failed to notice with all my focus being absorbed by Sookie and her care, and I knew it had nothing to do with the hour of the night.
“Accountability,” I surmised, having been reminded of it by the mute nurse only minutes ago.
“I don’t know what is so special about her or the child she carries, lest not forget I’m the human here who gets told as little as possible, but no one dares to propose anything. Instead they argue whether it’s physical, meta-physical, magic, poison… the list is endless when the solution is so simple.”
I dared take a small sip again from the heavy tumbler while eyeing her sceptically, “Which is?”
I scoffed, preparing to get out of my seat, drinking down the last of the spirit in one large gulp before returning to Sookie. Anger and I had been steady friends for a while now. Isa didn’t know shit.
“I’m serious,” she stated while obstructing my path, pushing harshly against my chest. “I mean it.”
“Go to bed, Isa.”
“She woke up when you got angry, Eric,” my sister reminded. “What harm is there in trying?”
“I suppose you have a theory?” It was a dumb question; Isa had theories from the moment she could babble nonsensically, stringing random thoughts together into a narrative only she ever seemed to understand.
“You’re connected,” she pointed out. “You’re the answer to pulling her back. Screw my medical opinion and the cowards that don’t even dare come near her. You’re allowed to be mad about this. You’re allowed to be mad at her.”
With that something broke. I had been upset, pissed, and enraged for the situation, with Sookie’s nobility and willingness to save everything and everyone, but herself. Never with her. As ever, Isa was right, I was mad and denying it. I was fucking mad at fucking Sookie Stackhouse for fucking leaving me, for leaving her child, and not telling me about it, for dangling a fucking carrot of happiness in front of me, and then taking it away! It boiled over and I tapped into that dark side, that shadow that was cast from the moment I was reborn, this untethered beast that fed off the extremes, bloodthirsty and pounding into the drums of my ears till there was only one way out, startling Isa only for the moment with the intensity as it all expelled with a roar.
It filled the room.
A loud gasp.
She was awake! She was fucking awake!
A/N: So it got a little nerve wracking there but it was all okay you see… thank heavens for Eric’s sister who we still have yet to figure out why she is so significant… next time we’ll get a little insight what’s been happening with Sookie. Does this count as a cliffie? Thoughts welcome as always!
Thanks as ever to msbuffy for her work on this.
I have yet to make a banner but meanwhile meet Isa (Sofia Helin), she certainly got the raised eyebrow gene right: