A/N: Hi there lovelies! Remember this one? No? Dang it! Well, that's my fault.
My muses flew out the window, cackling at me like the evil bitches they are about 9 months ago (that amounts to just over an eon in FF time). It took a lot of coaxing, encouragement, and threats of bodily harm to get them back. Actually, it was my best friend stephie8869, also sunk in a bit of a writer's funk along with me, who pulled us both out of it. She invented the cure to muse block: "Writing Dates"!
Good news and bad news time. Good news is *gestures downwards Vanna White style and grins* I updated! Bad news is... this is the finale of Royally Dead. Maybe it's because I started this over a year ago, maybe it's because I love it so much that I can't bear to lose the files again, or maybe it's because this is just the right time in the story to finally type out that wonderful HEA I always imagined... likely it's all of the above.
I hope you enjoy reading this even half as much as I enjoyed *finally* writing it.
On with it!
Ch 34: Ava Maria
I awoke to the delicious smell of her skin. Dry and warm and sweet, mixed with the scents of freshly cut wildflowers and newly trimmed grass and glowing, healthy sunshine…
'Sookie. Eve. Oh, Freyja, how I loved her.'
(Eight Months Later)
I woke up in a familiar place for the first time in a very, very long while. The strong afternoon sunlight was filtering through my Gran's handmade lace curtains, casting delicate patterns on the cozy bedspread I was snuggled under. So many things had happened since she had passed away. Countless words were left unsaid, and so many secrets I was left to discover alone. I could never blame her though… for all the lies and indiscretions. The good Lord knew that I harbored a few bombshells of my own.
But today was not the day to dwell on such things. Come Hell or high water, today was going to be relaxing! Amelia, Tara, Freyja and I would be spending the morning being pampered and catered to. Pam was a little miffed that she couldn't attend the day-time spa ritual, so I made sure that her bridesmaid dress was exceptionally spectacular. A few trips to Salvatore Ferragamo seemed to pacify her, as did the several pairs of Manolos I had sent over. Gotta' love that Pam.
I was primped, polished and curled by an expert team of fawning beauticians. I heard straight from their heads that they wanted to do their best work – this was to be, after all, the very first publicized Royal Vampire wedding.
The humans were still unaware of the Fae, and even more so of the presence of real Angels, despite the overwhelming faith of the Christian populace, so the attraction of the marriage extended as far as their traditional concept of royalty… with the added spectacle of blood.
When my hair and makeup were done and absolutely impeccable, I had a while before it was time to dress. The ceremony was due to begin at nine o' clock p.m., so I decided to spend the extra time enjoying the fresh air. Wrapped snugly in a white cashmere bathrobe and detailed more perfectly than a new Ferrari, I lazily rocked back and forth on my Gran's creaky porch swing, simply enjoying the sounds of the early evening. Scores of frogs and crickets lent their chirping voices to the deep Louisiana night. The rhythmic tone of wildlife echoed through the dense forest of weeping trees surrounding Gran's house. Suddenly I heard shouting added to the peaceful sounds of the bayou.
"NO! I don't think so mister!" Is that… Pam? "You turn your Viking butt right back to Shreveport!" Oh yeah, that's Pam alright. "You are SO not seeing the bride before the wedding, you giant dumbass!" Pam yelled.
"Pamela…" I heard Eric's don't-fuck-with-me-voice reply from somewhere in the trees and could picture exactly how pissed off his face must be at the moment.
"Don't you Pamela me, Eric! Not tonight! Not fucking tonight!" Pam's voice was getting higher and higher in pitch, and I was actually starting to worry about Eric's safety. "This means more to me than to either of you, so you just SHUT IT and DO WHAT I TELL YOU! I'm running this fucking show, and you are LEAVING!"
I clutched my robe tightly in my fingers, awaiting the explosion of blood and Princess Pammy-ooze that was sure to erupt in the darkness any moment… but instead, I heard a faint rush of wind in the darkness, and saw my unscathed best vampire friend beaming brilliantly on my porch.
I must have blinked in amazement for too long, as Pam plunked her hands on her silk-clad hips and rolled her eyes. "Oh come on, Sookie! You didn't think that he would actually kill me, did you?" Her sarcastic drawl was so familiar that I giggled in shock.
"Honestly, for a second there I kind of expected it! And the second before that, I thought you were about to kill him!"
"Oh, please…" Pam pursed her shiny red lips and rolled her blue eyes yet again. "Come along cream puff. Someone is gettin' married tonight, and it sure as shit isn't me." With that statement I shut it, and followed my future child-in-law into Gran's old farmhouse.
An hour and a white-knuckle ride in a minivan later, I was safely ensconced in the amazingly opulent penthouse of Shreveport's ritziest hotel, a new and beautiful building called "Idun". People were milling through the sprawling six-bedroom suite as Pam tightly laced up the back of my wedding dress. The bodice still fit perfectly. I was amazed at how this gown materialized on my body effortlessly in the Fae Realm yet continued to be a pain-in-the-ass on solid ground.
Pam hugged me gently, careful to avoid damage to our hair and makeup. She was an elegant vixen in her red silk sheath, as was Amelia. I noticed the two of them noticing each other several times out of the corner of my eyes, and had a feeling that the princess and the witch would renew their relationship tonight. A quick peek into both of their heads when they accidentally-on-purpose brushed against each other as Pam left to retrieve my shoes and Amelia came in to deliver me a glass of sparkling champagne gave more confirmation than I needed to hear.
Idun was swarming with hordes of media. Hundreds, if not thousands of cameras were poised in the ceremony and reception areas of the elegant hotel, but thankfully for my nerves, none were allowed into my penthouse beside the team of two event photographers I had hired myself to capture the traditional pre-wedding moments I wanted for our personal album. I knew directly from their brains that the kind, older couple was trustworthy, and wouldn't sell pictures of me in nothing but my lacy slip to the gossip rags. Edda and Walter had been wedding photographers for over 30 years. They were reliable mostly because they were scared shitless of Eric, but they also genuinely liked me, and didn't wish to upset me for money. And they took stunning pictures. Edda thought I reminded her of her young granddaughter, and believed that Eric and I should have proper family photos, because 'surely even vampire royalty should have those!' Such a sweet woman…
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity spent nervously smoothing my dress and sipping the bubbly, it was time. Pam gave the signal to get moving. Amelia handed me my giant bouquet of red Ecuadorian roses peppered with clusters of white hydrangea and sprinkled with hundreds of sparkling white diamonds. Tara, in a matching red Ferragamo sheath dress, straightened my train and all three of my beautiful bridesmaids clustered closely around my heavy skirts as we exited the bridal suite.
A pretty young wedding coordinator sporting a crisp blue Chanel skirt-suit and an earpiece hurriedly introduced herself as Veronica as she ushered us through the halls and elevators of Idun, and towards the ceremony site. The brunette and petite coordinator seemed nice enough to me, but every time she looked at Pam she shivered with fear. Although Veronica was clearly Pam's type, my soon to be child-in-law had scared the woman half to death with threats over this night throughout the entire planning process. Tara and Amelia had noticed Veronica's skittishness as well as Pam's satisfied smirk and giggled quietly behind us.
I could hear the commotion that was to be the first formal vampire-human-royal wedding (even though the humans only knew of Eric as being royal, it was more than enough) before our little party even emerged from the secluded glass area of the hotel. I could see the reflected flashes of countless cameras splash against the walls in an unrelenting barrage. No doubt the media was getting its money's worth on film, as the assembled guests included many other royals, celebrities, politicians, and prominent figures.
This circus wasn't anywhere near what I imagined my wedding would be like. If I had my childhood dream, I would be wearing a simple white dress and carrying a dainty bundle of white daises at this moment… not wearing a vintage gown that weighed more than I did, or clutching foreign flowers encrusted with more diamonds than I could have imagined existed in my youth. There would have been perhaps fifty people in attendance, all friends and neighbors wearing their Sunday best… not seven hundred strangers seated stiffly in couture, while their entourages waited along the sidelines. My childhood dream wedding happened in the Bon Temps chapel on a Saturday morning… not at nine at night in a palatial garden behind an elegant hotel. And most of all my fantasy may have included a few people with wind-up disposable cameras… not hundreds of high-powered, high-end cameras wielded by a horde of paparazzi, ready to send their pictures off into the world an instant after they're taken. I think that the fact that the world actually wanted to see them that very second was the strangest of all.
But then I thought about the most obvious difference between that childhood dream wedding and the one I was about to face. In that dream I saw a man waiting for me at the end of the aisle. The man was a Ken doll. A nameless, faceless human man who had kind thoughts… a cookie cutter ideal of a man who would say that he loved me and that my family approved of. He'd smile widely, say "I do", and after a chaste kiss the fantasy would dissolve like a fairytale into a vague and cloudy "happily ever after". The end.
Here, now, tonight, at my actual wedding… the man waiting for me at the end of the aisle wasn't a faceless cookie-cutter Ken. He isn't always kind, and I'm pretty sure I am the only person he has ever been exactly "nice" to. He's rarely polite in the conventional sense, is frequently crude, and could break much more than my heart in the blink of an eye. He has seen and dealt with more horror in the world than anyone I have or will ever meet has, and he will certainly never come with me to church on a Sunday morning.
No, the man waiting for me is ruthless and intimidating. Commanding and overwhelming. But, unlike Ken, he is not merely nice to me… he worships the ground I walk on. He's not merely handsome… he is so beautiful that he shattered the mold so completely that it could never be used again. He is not merely polite… he attends to my every need before I know I need it. He is not merely loyal… he would give his life for mine every second of every night. He is not merely funny… his lust for life is infectious and vibrant. And also unlike Ken, he's certainly sporting a LOT more than a slight plastic bulge down there!
Never in those fantasies had I imagined the amount of sheer, desperate love I was capable of. That faceless man in Bon Temps, perfect as he may have been on paper and in dreamland, couldn't be a third grader trying to coax a spark from flint for the first time in Boy Scouts, much less hold a candle next to the blazing inferno of my reality.
Eric. My Eric. I would walk down a platinum-plated aisle that stretched a thousand miles with the population of the world staring at me, draped in every single precious gem there was to be found… if I got to have my Eric.
I was pulled out of my musings by Pam, whose eyes were suspiciously rimmed with red. Tara and Amelia had already elegantly and proudly strode out into the limelight, when my best vamp-friend leaned close to me. "Care for him, Sookie," she whispered. "You are our life." Pam kissed me on the cheek before she went strolling down the aisle to the delicate swell music from an unseen orchestra.
I was sure that there were heaps of protocol in the vampire world when marrying a king, but I couldn't imagine them for the life of me. My heart was beating like helicopter blades as Bill stepped up, looking dashing in a tailored black tuxedo, and wound my arm through his. 'Where did he come from?'
"I hoped you wouldn't mind if I escorted you to a party this one last time, Sookie." He looked so melancholy, and yet so hopeful at the same time. His familiar lips wore a tired smile and his kind eyes crinkled a bit at the corners in a way I still admired. The orchestra played a soaring note, and I knew it was our turn. I looked at my first love and nodded.
"Thank you, Bill." I tried to put all the love and friendship I had for him into those three words. His smile relaxed and become entirely genuine… he understood.
The first stanza of Ava Maria swelled outside and I could hear hundred of bodies shifting in their seats, turning to watch the doors sweep open once again. An angelic voice began to sing as I stepped into view, ringing out beautifully in Italian. The voice drowned out the gasps and murmurs of our audience, and the vampire's arm steadied my steps. The photographers had been threatened at fang-point against using flashes during the ceremony, but the incessant clicking of shutters was obvious.
Bill guided me down the aisle proudly. As the singer came into view over the mass of bodies, I saw none other than Freyja. Draped in a floaty gown the exact shade of red as my bridesmaids, the goddess belted out the beautiful aria with more flare and emotion than the most talented human on earth could ever hope to achieve. Her otherworldly song reached a crescendo the very instant I finally laid eyes on my groom.
Eric Northman could never be nervous or unwavering even in matters of the heart. He stood in front of this huge crowd of people in his raven-black tuxedo as comfortably as he would stand commanding an army into battle wearing animal skins and holding a deadly sword. He was, and would always be, a pillar of power and strength - a magnet for loyalty and subservience - and his beautiful face and impressive aura overwhelmed every being present in that garden, and all those watching on screens across the planet…
But when I looked in his arctic eyes I saw them melt for me. Eric's casual, sexy grin widened slowly into the most joyful and genuine smile I have ever seen. Our Bond burst open wide, and with the swelling of his heart he seemed to grow even taller and stronger. The force of emotion nearly staggered Bill and Pam, and I noticed all of the supernaturals in the audience jerk simultaneously. Even the humans gasped as the wave of power crashed over the moonlit garden.
Bill recovered easily and led me to the altar. He placed my hand reverently in Eric's, and a single drop of blood fell on my palm. Bill leaned in to kiss my cheek and whispered: "Be happy my darling. I wish it were me." Then the vampire flashed away into the night.
I felt a twinge of loss at Bill's departure, and through the swirling mist of memory I heard Niall's voice:
"The vampire is a good man and he loves you."
I finally knew that he meant both of them. Bill and Eric both loved me deeply, and would surrender their undead lives for mine. But in my heart I knew that my father truly meant for Eric to be my mate, to protect and love me. All my trepidations evaporated as I stood before my Viking. The puzzle-pieces of my existence came together when I looked at him. Love swelled within me again, and I was undone.
Freyja had moved from her position in front of the orchestra and donned a heavy, black hooded robe over her elegant Grecian dress. The garment looked a bit singed in places, which was odd… until I caught Eric's playful smirk. It was the robe he had worn to marry Mississippi and Indiana! The robe I wrapped tightly around his skin as the Pyramid of Gizeh exploded and he flew us through broad daylight to safety!
I looked at Eric with awe. 'How did it survive? Why did he keep it?'
Eric watched the shock dance across my features, and leaned in close to my ear. "I may not have remembered our time together then, but I knew that I loved you. I loved you long before the witches, my Sookie."
With tears in my eyes, I watched Freyja cut my wrist, then Eric's. Our blood poured into a jeweled chalice, words were said, and we drank of our combined essence. Somewhere in the fog of my weary brain I said, "I do." And then I was caught in the most idyllic and delicious kiss. It was heaven. It was home…
With his lips pressed to mine, the crowd applauding, and the situation quickly accelerating down PDA highway from PG to NC-17, I heard a gasp. Then several more gasps and yells… followed by a few screams…
Eric and I finally broke apart to see ourselves bathed in brilliant white light. Spikes of light spanned over nearly the entire crowd, and every color of the rainbow was broadcasting across every face, every chair, every blade of grass and bloom… from me.
In the overwhelming emotion of the moment, I had transformed into my Fae body. Cameras flashed, video cameras rolled, cell phones were snapping and texting and tweeting away… and the world watched in astonishment.
"OH SHIT!" Eric and I shouted together in panic before he swept me up in his arms and took off like a rocket into the sky.
Yo: Yep, I'm mean! *Muwhawhaw* Honestly, that wasn't how it was supposed to go down when I started, but when the elusive muses show up and are actually willing to help me, I listen! It was pretty damn HEA-tastic up until the last bit, wasn't it? *winks*
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to everyone who read this story! Your comments, messages, and friendships are honestly what made it possible. Even if I never heard from you, I still saw an extra alert or favorite in my inbox, or maybe even just one more number on my traffic, and smiled like crazy. I couldn't show my thanks enough if I had a stockpile of naked chocolate-covered Vikings to send to each and every one of you!
And to min beta gudinna and vackra tvillingsyster… we've come a long way from those crabs, haven't we? Haha! Your chocolate Viking gets an extra layer of organic cashew butter ;).
Yo-Yo: More good news? I managed to save the outline and a few chapters of the sequel to Royally Dead. Be on the lookout soon for Royal Dynasty of the Dead! (Come on, you didn't actually think I was THAT mean did you?) In the meantime, head on over to Letting Go by stephie8869, a fantastic story which I not only stole my bff from, but also a certain swanky hotel in Shreveport, Louisiana ).