A/N: Thank you so much for indulging me, my new friends (especially as I let Eric's funny side come through. He really has some of the best one-liners in the books)! I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing. (At least enough to read my next one, As Good As Dead).
I don't know where the dress I was wearing came from. I assumed it was Amelia's, but I don't remember ever seeing her wear it before. Anyway, it was a cute little green dress.
Eric and I walked into the main parlor of the house and were quite obviously the last ones there. Felipe, Quinn, Pam, Amelia, Bill and slew of vampires and humans I didn't know were already in there and seemed to be mingling. The vampires' reaction to me and my fairy blood was immediate as an uncomfortable amount of vampire heads turned instantly in my direction, hissing with fangs out.
Eric immediately moved us so my back was up against the wall and he was pressed in front of me, hissing in return. There was a lot of tension in this room. Bill and Pam moved to Eric's side, even though Pam didn't seem to completely reign herself in, she was at least going to give it a try.
"Ms. Broadway, Mr. Compton and Ms. DeBeauford may stay. Everyone else, leave immediately." Felipe ordered. I would have breathed a sigh of relief if any part of me were able to move right now. As much as their nature fought back, the other vampires did not defy their king and left the room, with humans in toe.
"It would be smart, Sheriff, if you didn't linger long after this meeting." Felipe replied.
"Thank you for your majesty's hospitality," Eric nodded, "but we are anxious to get back to Shreveport, for obvious reasons, of course."
"We'll try not to keep you long." Felipe said. He swept out his hand indicating we should sit down and join him. Quinn took up position at the door. "Ms. Stackhouse, are you hungry? Let's move to the dining room."
I was famished. There was a wide spread of food on the elegant dining room table. There was no way Amelia and I were going to eat all this, but I assumed the humans in residence would come in when we were finished. The king gestured for Eric to sit to his right and I sat immediately next to Eric. Amelia, I was happy to see, sat on the other side of me. Pam and Bill took places on the other side of the table.
Eric smirked when he saw how much food I immediately started loading up on my plate. My Gran would be shocked at my lack of table manners right now, however when a girl spends so much time around people that don't eat, the manners tend to fall by the wayside. Plus, nobody here cares anyway.
Crystal goblets of blood were put in front of the four vampires. I was surprised at how classy it all seemed.
"Sheriff, you've done well." Felipe complimented Eric, raising his glass to him.
"Thank you, your majesty." Eric nodded in return. "I had a good team."
"And they will be rewarded." Felipe replied. I was pretty confident in that. One good thing about Felipe over Sophie Anne was that he did reward good work. Sophie Anne just let you live. Like Eric, I admired Sophie Anne for her bravery, but I was finding myself liking Felipe more…mandatory medical testing aside, of course.
"Ms. Broadway here was telling me about your new business venture." The King continued. Eric turned and looked curiously at Amelia.
"Were you?" He asked her with great interest.
"The particulars need to be ironed out, of course." She replied. I had no idea what they were talking about. The business of what? Royal hit jobs? What the hell did these two talk about?
"Imagine, going out in the daylight, every vampire's dream." Felipe said. Ah, must be the cloak then. "And you have done it now twice, Eric."
"It is more difficult than it looked, your majesty. I needed a near constant blood intake and it is lacking any sort of comfort level, but it got the job done. I think, with more time, Amelia will be able to deliver a superior product."
"Listen, big guy, your only requirement was to not burst into flames. I delivered." Amelia shot back.
"It's all over our news now." Felipe volunteered.
"Shit, really?" Amelia replied, then seemed to remember who she was addressing.
"Yes. Well, there was a coup attempted against a sitting sovereign that was thwarted by his loyal subject during the day. Naturally, it's big news. I have publicly praised you all in the vampire media."
"Thank you, sire." Eric replied. See, he was real good at all this vampire political bullshit. I realized then that I had become something of a political wife and I stifled a laugh. If the human political wives had any idea of what sort of wife I was, they'd faint dead away! They think they had to navigate blood thirsty, cut throat waters. Ha!
"As I said, I reward good work. As such, I am prepared to name your progeny Ms. DeBeauford as the new sheriff of this area."
Wow. We were all stunned. It seemed none more so than Pam. Luckily, Eric recovered first.
"You will not be disappointed, your majesty." Eric replied.
"Thank you, your majesty." Pam whispered, still shell shocked. Go Pam! Pam would make a great sheriff and she loves New Orleans.
"Eric, you will liase with Sandy in your new capacity." The King continued. "And the other sheriffs will go through you." Bill looked a little surprised and I realized he probably wasn't aware of Eric's new "royal thug" title.
"Mr. Compton, Ms. Stackhouse and Ms. Broadway will receive substantial monetary compensation." Oh. Well, that was nice and unexpected. "Ms. Stackhouse will continue to receive my official protection, as now will Ms. Broadway." That was great and all, but a fat lot of good it's actually done me. The only one that's done any protecting has been Eric…well, and Bill and Pam. So, I guess it actually wasn't that bad after all.
"My father is going to love that." Amelia muttered next to me. I shoved a big forkful of chicken into my mouth so I wouldn't laugh.
"Any interview requests regarding the incident will need to be cleared through my public relations office." The King went on. He certainly had a lot to talk about. "This is all very big news in our community and must be handled very carefully. I would have preferred much more to have a simple change in command -" Read that, 'just killed Victor quietly, "-rather than this, but Eric's actions are shedding light, literally, on the whole mess. Thankfully, the speculation is focusing more on the how Eric did it than the why Victor rebelled."
"I don't know why anyone's surprised." I piped up around a mouthful of food. "Eric can do anything." Eric smiled and in an extremely rare show of public affection, kissed me on the temple and rubbed my back. That made me wonder what happened in the basement when I was unconscious. Then again, when I woke up in the courtyard, he was outside with me and seemed unwilling to not be touching me in some way.
"Sookie's loyalty to you is very endearing, Eric." The King said. His smile seemed a little tight to me. I got the feeling that Sookie's loyalty was only endearing so long as Sookie didn't really say anything. "While the actions of Mr. Madden may have indicated otherwise, my court recognizes your marriage bond with Ms. Stackhouse and as such, will uphold the laws pertaining to it. You were perfectly within your rights to punish Mr. Madden for the threat." I was interested to see the vampire news now. Why did I get the feeling Eric was about to outed as some kind of romantic hero? He was sure to hate that. But then again, if that were to happen, he wouldn't be afforded the same fear as the king's thug would need. Did he have an actual title now other than 'The King's Most Bad Ass Sheriff?'
I pushed my plate away. I had eaten quickly and now I was full. That and I was very much ready to leave New Orleans.
The King, thankfully, was an astute individual and took my gesture as me being ready for departure. And given my very tasty fairy scent, he seemed to be likewise ready for me to leave.
"A car will take you back to Shreveport, Eric." Felipe rose and everyone around the table rose with him. "I would like to speak with Ms. DeBeauford a bit more, as well as Mr. Compton and Ms. Broadway. We'll be in touch if we need anything further from you regarding this incident."
Already it was downgraded to an 'incident.' "I am at your disposal, your majesty." Eric nodded. I noticed immediately he did not say 'we' were at his disposal. Yes, even the King was going to be required to go through Eric to get to me. I was just fine with that.
Sookie stayed curled up against me on the ride from New Orleans to Shreveport. Felipe thankfully enlisted a Were to drive us. I wasn't looking forward to a vampire escort given the reaction everyone had to her earlier. This also meant that she shouldn't come around Fangtasia any time soon and that was really going to suck for me.
"What do you think of Pam being made Sheriff?" she asked.
"I was surprised, but she is up to it." When I first heard it, I hated the idea. I had been feeling pretty territorial lately with all the trouble surrounding Sookie and it immediately overflowed to my child. She was my child. I should be the one that decided whether or not she was ready to move on.
And if I stepped outside myself for a moment, I could see that she was. Not only that, but as soon as Felipe said it, I felt from her that she wanted it. And I had to grudgingly admit that I tended to give Pam what she wanted. It was just easier that way.
"She won't be far. It could be worse. He could have sent her to Arkansas or Nevada." Sookie said softly. I realized that she was attempting to comfort both of us there. Pam and Sookie were quite fond of each other. I saw quite a few trips to New Orleans in the future for my wife.
"It does leave me a little short handed though." Pam would think of that though for the transition and make sure someone competent was put into place.
Well, I wasn't expecting that. "We will, will we?"
She sat up and looked at me, her eyes wide and curious. "Well, sure. Right? I could help you with that. I know how to run a bar. Or do you not want that?"
"I would like that very much, lover. There are things to consider."
"Is there enough human interaction there for you? You've said if you weren't around humans for an extended amount of time that it was difficult when you returned."
She smiled and kissed my cheek. "It's very sweet of you to think of something like that. Yes, there is enough human interaction there for me. And maybe if I'm there, you won't need the perky, pretty Marcy."
Ah, look at Sookie's jealous side coming out. I liked it.
"Perky, pretty Marcy has not passed the Sookie test yet."
"The Sookie test?"
"All potential employees are subject to final approval by you."
"When did that start?"
"When you were attacked in Las Vegas."
"You're going to try this with vampires, too?"
"Yes, though they won't know you were doing it."
"What were your other concerns?" She asked snuggling back down to my side. She wrapped her arms around my waist and dropped her head to my shoulder.
"Sookie, if Dr. Ludwig is right, and I have every confidence that she is, after a while, people will begin to wonder why you aren't aging like everyone else. There is a very small amount of people who know the truth of what you are. I would prefer no one else ever find out. If you were with me, in my environment, people would be less likely to wonder so much."
"One of my concerns about not being turned was outliving everyone I knew." She said quietly as the enormity of her new situation began to sink in. She was now going to be put in that position anyway. "I would be able to still see Sam and Jason."
"Yes, of course. The supernatural community wouldn't need an explanation. Jason knows what you are, but Sam does not."
"They might all just assume it's your fault."
"They might." I chuckled. "I will happily take the blame."
Sookie yawned into my shoulder in a very un-ladylike way. I began to stroke her hair and continued until well beyond the point that her breathing evened out and I knew she was asleep. She began to slump forward, so I eased her down until her head was in my lap. Now my fingers trailed from the top of her head, down her neck, over her shoulder, down her side and along the flare of her hip, then repeated themselves over and over.
I liked watching her sleep. She was beautiful doing anything, but especially more so during times of suspended consciousness. I didn't know what she dreamed of. A part of me always hoped it was me, but her dreams were her own. I liked how peaceful and innocent she looked. I liked using this quiet time to reflect on how far she and I have come.
I often thought about the night we met and how utterly far off my first impression of her really was. I was typically good at reading people, but I've got nothing on her. Then again, her first impression of me was likewise wrong; but that was because I was intentionally giving her a certain image and idea of me. I often wondered what she saw in me. When did she start seeing any of the good that I tried so hard and in vain to hide from her? Who was this girl who had strolled into my life and toppled it over?
I ran through all the things I had done right for her and all the things I had done wrong. Admittedly, I could have handled the tiger better but that whole affair made me crazy. She should have been with me then. She would have been had I shown any kind of acknowledgement or respect for what had happened between us when I was cursed. Once I remembered though and she knew it, her carefully crafted façade fell.
She haunted my dreams and my reality. She never seemed to realize that some of her words just cut right through me to the core. And if she did, she didn't realize I was so affected by them. Not until I allowed her to anyway.
Just her very nature challenged me. The fact that I couldn't glamour her into giving me what I wanted meant I had to get it by more honorable methods. Of course, that wasn't always the case. I was elated when she dumped Bill in Jackson and should have killed him for breaking her heart in New Orleans. Of course, it was at my order, so he didn't have a choice, but once I found out he'd lied to her, I couldn't look her in the eye and I would be damned, no pun intended, if I was going to let Bill's fuck up affect my chances. I would not have that kind of secret from her.
History was jammed packed with lovers parted for stupid reasons. There were tragic endings everywhere. I wondered what it would say about us. The Beauty and the Beast has been told. And I wasn't ugly anyway. Love had changed me in a way I never thought possible. It had softened my edges, mostly. I wasn't tripping the light fantastic through life or anything. I was as ruthless as ever. But there was one person I could escape it to. One person that through all my fantasizing I never really allowed myself to believe she would be willingly mine.
And she is. The blood bond was not influencing her now. It wasn't really influencing either one of us now. I wanted to change that as soon as it was safe. I liked how she could sooth me without being in the room. But not feeling me so strongly was allowing her to rely on what she felt more strongly and boosting her confidence in us.
That she could look at a monster and still see good, still see me could warm my cold dead heart. We were the two most unlikely people in the world to fall in love, against impossible odds, constant struggle and danger, unfavorable outside influences and the pure inability to live without each other. All that made us the greatest love story that would ever be told as far as I was concerned.
I continued to stroke her silky sun-kissed hair until we pulled into the driveway of the house in Shreveport. I leaned forward and kissed her forehead.
"Wake up, my lover."
Her eyes fluttered opened and fell on mine filled with sleep and contentment.
"Where are we?"
I smiled down at her and something in me swelled.