Hope Is the Thing With Feathers
A Let Love in side story
By Terri Botta
Disclaimer: I don't own the Southern Vampires. Sole copyright belongs to Charlaine Harris. I'm poor so don't sue.
Rating: M for later chapters.
Timeframe: Post-From Dead to Worse, Ten years after LLI
Summary: Eric gives Sookie a gift.
This is the end of Hope is the Thing With Feathers. :) I thank all of you for hanging with me and for all your encouragement and reviews. It's been a wild ride, and I'm glad I had so many wonderful people along with me.
Lying on a lounge chair on the isle's sandy shore, Eric looks like any other vacationing beachgoer with his sleeveless, white muscle shirt and garish "Bermuda" shorts in a bright floral pattern; a pair of dark sunglasses is perched on his nose to filter out the bright July sun. All he needs is a visor cap and a fancy tropical drink with one of those useless paper umbrellas to complete the picture. He already has the "smokin' hot babe" on the lounge chair next to him, so he has that part covered nicely. His hair is pulled back in a neat ponytail, a big improvement over the ridiculous, twin-braided pigtails his daughter had insisted on plaiting it into last night.
"All the Vikings in the operas wear it like this with those helmets with the horns," his little princess had told him.
"But my dearest, those aren't real Vikings. Real Vikings never wore helmets like that, my sweet," he had replied. "And trust me, Papa knows these things."
But there was no arguing with a seven-year old who knows everything, so in the end he'd let her do what she wanted and prayed no one took any pictures when he wasn't looking.
'You have to admit, though, you did look kinda hot,' his bonded sends him with a smirk.
He looks over at his bikini-clad wife and grins. 'Well, if you think so, my lover, then it must be true.'
'And to think after all this time, I've finally gotten you trained.'
He growls and bares his fangs, but considering he has a dollop of bright white sunscreen on his nose, the menacing effect of his warning is severely diminished. Sookie grins then laughs, shaking her head before she returns to reading her book. In an age where the written word is so often replaced by the digital one, his mate is one of the few people he knows who still enjoys actual, physically printed books to read. He's often offered to get her an e-reader – he has one himself – but always she has refused, saying she prefers the heaviness of the book in her hand and the feel of the paper on her fingertips as she turns the pages.
'Besides, my book will never run out of battery life in the middle of a juicy part,' his mate quips.
'That is what solar powered chargers are for,' he counters.
'This from a man who only goes out in daylight once a year,' she jibes back, and he can see her suppressing a smile.
She is, of course, referring to this very day, his Sun Day: the one day every year when he spends the entire day out in daylight with his wife and family courtesy of Elena's ring and Eros's mint leaves. The Sun Day is a carefully planned event, and a closely guarded secret. Official Sun Days are only held on Isle Elena, where he and his family are safe and the other guests and staff will keep his secret. There are other, unofficial, Sun Days, but those are usually unplanned and involve some measure of necessity, either for the protection of his family or mitigating circumstances.
It took his daughter several months to understand that not all Sundays were Sun Days, and it wasn't until he described the two in Old Norse (where the words for Sunday and Sun Day are in no way alike – silly English being what it is) that she grasped the concept. That his children are multi-lingual goes without saying; it is just that they speak four contemporary languages and two that are considered "dead." Agnarr seems to have a greater talent for them, and he often speaks in a pigeon of several of them all at once. In this it is good that they are all telepathic because Sookie often loses track of which language is being spoken, and she would otherwise be hopelessly lost. Over the years, her Norse has become passable, and her French, but her Latin is sorely lacking and little good can be said about her Mandarin.
'Yes, but I am fluent in Viking Vampirese, which is all I really need to know,' she quips.
'True. How true,' he agrees.
Turning his head, he searches the shallows for his children, and finds Adele hunting for pretty rocks and beach glass. She has a growing collection of trinkets in her bedroom at home, including a rare piece of lavender glass that had once been an insulator many years ago before it was thrown into Superior. The glass – shaped and polished by decades of being churned in the lake – washes up on the shore for anyone to find. He has promised Adele a necklace made from her finds once she has enough "Mermaid's Tears" to encircle her neck.
His little girl is shaping up to be a graceful beauty. Already he can see her developing her mother's long neck and slender frame, and she has his blue eyes and slightly wavy, blond hair. He will be beating would-be suitors off with a baseball bat and a wooden stake before too long, but considering her constant shadow, he may just be left with the leavings once Agnarr gets done with them.
His son is becoming everything he could ever hope a son could be. Agnarr will be tall, and he is already beginning to show signs that he will have his father's broad shoulders. His face is a pleasant melding of both his parents' features, although his striking blue eyes and generous mouth are all Eric. But they are alike in more ways than just physical. They are both warriors, with keen minds for strategy and tactics. Both love the rush of battle – even mock ones – and relish in the feel of a sword hilt in their hands. And both are ruthlessly, viciously protective of their loved ones.
Even at seven years of age, Agnarr is showing very strong territorial instincts towards his sister. He follows her everywhere, never far from her sight. Even now he trails his sibling as she wades through the shallow waters, his posture alert and defensive. He is her protector and champion, and he is swift to come to Adele's defense should she need him.
As close as they were as when they shared a womb, the two are bonded more tightly than he and Sookie, perhaps, and they are rarely apart. When they are together, and at ease, they are never more than a few feet away from each other, and their telepathic link is almost seamless. He has seen them playing together, not a word spoken between them, and yet their communication is complete.
This closeness they share is both a comfort and a sadness for Eric because he can see the signs of what their future will be, and he prays their bond will be strong enough to bear it. Already he can tell that one will embrace eternity and one will not. Agnarr, his son and protégé, will come to him in the darkness – when he is ready, when he is of age. Eric knows this just as surely as he knows Adele will stay in the sunlight, and he prays this inevitable diverging of their paths will not sunder the extraordinary connection they share.
He does not voice his suspicions to his mate. He knows Sookie can read the signs as well as he can, but they do not speak of it. Sookie still clings to her humanity, and Adele clings to her mother's metaphorical apron strings. The two love sunshine, and gardens, and Southern cooking, but it is impossible for either of them to miss the signs that Agnarr will become his father's heir in all things, not just the business ventures.
It is all right. He is patient, so is Agnarr. They will give the women plenty of time to get used to the idea. In this his position of authority guarantees that both of his children will have many years to grow and develop and decide what they want to be. That was his primary goal when he seized control of Felipe de Castro's throne and deposed the old regime. It's taken only two years to solidify his rule, and he is already developing a reputation as a fair but ruthless leader. His subjects adore him and his enemies fear him. This is exactly as things should be to ensure a long and prosperous reign.
But Agnarr's crossing over into vampirism is decades away and much will happen in those years. His children will grow and become all that they were meant to be, and he and his mate will be there to guide them. He will further solidify his hold on his Kingdom, and maneuver the right people into the right places to get things done. Life – or undeath – will be good for all of them.
He breaks from his self-satisfied musings before his wife can "take him down a notch" with a mental slap, and turns his attention to scanning the beach. His eyes fall on another member of his extended "family," Vincent Piazzi, and he sees the young Fire Demon paying court to a lithe, teenage girl with long black hair and amber-colored eyes.
At twenty-four, Vincent has grown into a stunning man, and he has come fully into his powers. There are rumors that he rivals his father in pure explosive energy, but he possesses none of Zolan's dour stoicism. Vincent smiles, and laughs, and plays the violin almost as well as his mother, but he can still create beautiful pieces of obsidian from a single blast of his Fire. Adele has several examples in her collection, all of them made at her request. Vincent is a sucker for a pretty smile and a pair of pleading blue eyes, especially a pair belonging to a girl who has known how to use them to maximum advantage almost since the day she was born.
Vincent catches his eye and smiles at him. He smiles back, but then lets his gaze go further up the beach to where Maria and Izzy are sitting under a big, blue umbrella. They are joined by two others whom Eric has come to know as close friends of the pair, one of whom is human like Sookie, the other is a kitsune Halfling with two tails. They are the parents of the girl Vincent is playing court to, and given the besotted expression on the young Fire Demon's face, Eric has to wonder if the girl has taken lessons from Adele. He has to grin at that.
'What are you grinning for?' his mate asks him, peering at him over her book.
'Nothing. Just an amusing thought of our daughter giving lessons in soulful eyes.'
'The ones that make every man within a fifty-foot radius go unstable?' she presses.
'She'd make a fortune.'
'No doubt. I can see the infomercial and book deals now.'
'Don't forget classes.'
'An entire seminar and lecture series, I'm sure.'
'DVD sales alone would increase our bottom line by 500%.'
'And to think you once told me you had no mind for business.'
Sookie laughs and sends a wave of love across their bond. It fills him and warms his dead heart, and he sends love back tenfold. Her eyes go soft and tender, and she gives him a secret smile before returning to her book. Oh yes, he thinks their very good friends will be babysitting tonight.
'I heard that,' Izzy's mindvoice interrupts, full of amusement.
'Do you object?' he asks.
'To watching the munchkins? Nah. You know Sparky loves them, and they're no trouble. Besides, Adele and Rosie will have fun ganging up on him.'
'She's gotten into braiding hair,' he warns.
'I'll hide the hair brushes and alert the media.'
He chuckles and shakes his head. If someone had told him twenty years ago that he would fall in love with a human woman, blood bond with her and make her his mate, then pioneer an entire new fertility treatment that allowed them to have children, he would have ordered them chained in silver and dumped in a barrel of brine for fifty years. Now he is a husband, a father, and a ruler. He is adored by his subjects, favored by two goddesses, and surrounded by family and good friends who would do almost anything for him.
Who could have known there could be so much joy in his life after so much pain, bleakness and emptiness? He had all but given up hope of ever being truly happy again, and it had taken a brazen, infuriating, willful Southern woman to show him what his future could be like if he chose to take the chance. It had been a leap of faith, and a rocky start, but in the end, it was more that he could ever have imagined.
The cry of a Herring Gull catches his attention, and he raises his eyes to see it soaring overhead, its body silhouetted by the sun. And he is reminded of a poem about hope and its delicate wings.
'Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.'
"Papa! Papa! Look what I found!" Adele's excited voice cries, and he turns his head her way.
"What is it, my most beautiful princess?" he asks as he rises to his feet.
'She found a piece of cobalt glass,' his son responds.
'Hey! I was going to tell him! No fair!' Adele's indignant mindvoice accuses.
'Now, now, you know there is no fighting on Papa's Sun Day. It's a day of happiness, and good times, and peace. Yes?' he reprimands.
'Yes, Papa,' the two reply, chagrined.
'Good. Now what is this treasure you have been so lucky to find?'
'It's blue, Papa. It's blue!'
'Blue you say. Now this I must see. Blue glass is indeed a rare prize.'
'Can we put it in my necklace?'
'But of course, my sweet. We can do anything you want with it.'
'Awesome! I'm gonna put it right in the front. Do you think Vincent would make me some more black glass to go on either side of it?'
'I am sure he would if you asked nicely.'
'You think so? Awesome!'
'He's so whipped, isn't he,' he hears Izzy comment to Sookie.
'He has a thing for blondes,' his wife answers, not skipping a beat.
He scoffs, snorting, and casts the women a baleful glare with a fanged sneer. They just look at him with amused faces, not cowed at all.
'He's so cute when he goes all scary vamp, isn't he,' Izzy remarks.
'Cute isn't the word I'd use, but it's definitely hot.'
He growls, lifting his lip up even further in a menacing expression that usually sends his minions scuttling away in sheer terror. Sookie just raises an eyebrow.
"Papa! Look! I found another one!" his daughter crows in triumph. "Papa! Come see!"
He sighs, retracting his fangs and ignoring the tittering snickers coming from behind him, as he turns around.
"I'm coming, dearest," he replies.
And with that, Eric Northman, Vampire King of Louisiana, Nevada and Arkansas, wades barefoot into the shallows of Gitchee Gumee to follow after his children.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
- Emily Dickinson