So, as usual, this chapter benefited from the awesome skills of my beta, onemoon. She rocks, and I'm super-thankful for her constructive input. That said, here's the sixth chapter and I hope all of you enjoy it! Leave a review, alright? Thanks!
For the longest time, all I did was to hold her tightly against my body. The two of us were buried under the covers, my hand rubbing soothing circles onto her nearest arm. I didn't yet know why she was crying, but I would make her stop first before we discussed things.
My voice was barely above a whisper. "Tell me what's hurting you, beloved. I won't be able to help if you don't tell me anything."
Sookie wiped her tears with the back of her hand, looking at me square in the eye. "Just give it to me straight, Eric. What kind of security did you put in place back home?"
Now I had a bit more context. I was certain that her outburst had been due to homesickness, to a supposed inability to help her loved ones back in Louisiana. I was quite sure that her kind soul was making a grand show of itself, as it often liked to do during inopportune times. I kissed her hair.
"Everyone is safe, Sookie."
"Eric, I don't know that. We're not there."
I pulled away from her. "You doubt me now? Now, of all times?"
"I'm just scared, okay? I know you're plenty good at maneuvering, but I can't help it. Lives are at stake back home. Here, I have guards and I'm perfectly dandy. Back there, we have no idea what kind of stuff goes down in our absence."
I couldn't help the scoff that escaped my lips, in my indignation at the whole thing. I told her, "Stop worrying. I have watchers for those who matter, both vampires and day men who would die gladly in my service. There's no point in being needlessly anxious."
She started to say something in retort, but I cut her off and said, "Just grow up, beloved. We both need to evolve if we're to hope for any sort of positive outcome. You must stop worrying about everything. I've taken care of what matters."
I didn't regret being a little harsh with her. Given our situation, we couldn't afford to improve at a slow pace. We would need to identify our flaws and adapt quickly. Moreover, if we hoped to secure the backing of the European monarchs, we would need to show that we were worth their assistance. Normally I would never consider such a subservient stance, but this was beyond my personal pride now.
Entire monarchies, and perhaps even the whole government system of our kind, hung in the balance.
My gaze went back to Sookie. "Dearest, I won't be careless with safety, I promise you that. In return, all I need you to do is to have faith. If we lose belief in our ability to win this, we might as well turn ourselves in right this instant."
That seemed to work. She was still sniffling a bit, but she nodded in understanding and I pulled her close again. My reward was immediate, as she instantly sank into our intimate embrace. It was further proof of how comfortable we always were with each other. I kissed her hair again, and she whispered against my chest.
"Eric, what happens if we fail?"
My answer was forceful. "Do not think of failure. We are prepared should the unthinkable happen, but please don't help that along with unhealthy visualizations."
"We need to be realistic here. We could both die."
"Enough." My voice wasn't meant to be authoritative by any standards, but it was meant to make her shut up. I deeply disliked the train of thought she was pursuing. "I won't lose you," I said.
I tipped her chin up, and her lovely brown eyes met mine. Her small nod acknowledged my fervent faith in our shared abilities. If there was ever a pair meant to make it out of such dire circumstances, it would have to be us. I believed in that still, and I would believe until the two of us took our last breaths.
In the silence, our eyes continued to speak what our mouths couldn't. A stream of intense emotion was being exchanged between us. Somehow, it was as if our focused eyes reflected our bond, that magical and significant connection which tied our blood as one.
I cradled her face this time, leaning in to kiss her forehead, then her eyelids. I was waiting for her permission, for the verbal, or at least visual, assent that she was okay with the idea of a kiss. I sure as hell wanted it, but I needed her to want it too. I suppose it was the selfish part of me at play, the possessive side that wanted her to surrender willingly.
To my extreme delight, she indeed caved in first. "Kiss me," she said, in a voice scarcely above the lowest whisper. I thanked the gods for my vampire hearing. Seconds later, I was lost in the sweetness that was Sookie.
At first, it was just a careful brushing of our lips, a continued quest for permission. Soon enough though, we moved past that point in an explosion of desire, for which we could blame no one but ourselves. After all, we spent majority of our time together, whether we were talking or lounging in bed.
I had of course taken a liking to sleeping next to Sookie, and the contact did nothing to quell my adoration for her and her beauty. My kiss proved that, and I was glad she responded to my passion with her own dose of intensity.
As time passed, our need only grew hotter. Her hands were clutching me viciously, and my hands were locked in her hair. She got a little hesitant when I moved to kiss her neck, but ended up allowing it in the end. I pushed her against the headboard. I was pretty sure that things were going to escalate, until I heard my phone ring from its place on the nightstand.
The sound was all it took to break the spell.
"You should answer that," Sookie said, out of breath and heart pounding away in her chest. Lust was still the predominant emotion coloring our bond.
"Can't I just go back to kissing you?"
She shook her head and laughed. Her voice was still different because of her crying session, but it was normalizing rapidly. "Seriously, Eric, you're gonna miss the call!"
That was true. I picked it up and answered. "Northman here."
It was the king's assistant. "Good evening, Sheriff. His Majesty would like the courtesy of your presence at ten this evening." Glancing at the bedside clock, I saw that we had a little over an hour and a half to prepare.
"And what is the purpose of this meeting?"
"The monarchs of the surrounding countries will be there," she said. "The king said you would understand the importance."
Henrik, as always, was being smart. He was telling as few as possible about our purpose in his territory, discretion for which I was extremely grateful.
"Please tell the king that my bonded and I will be there as requested."
"Thank you Sheriff."
I hung up, and Sookie asked, "Is it Henrik?"
I nodded. "As discussed, he is gathering support for us. We are requested at ten tonight, for a meeting with other regents here in Europe."
"Crap. I have nothing to wear, Eric!"
It was my turn to laugh. "Not to worry, dearest. I previously instructed the staff here to bring our clothes from the hotel over. You missed their delivery because you were out with John and Katrina."
She exhaled loudly, relieved. "I really like the two of them, you know, and Kat wants you to turn her, if you never sensed that before."
"That pleases me. Well, except the part about her getting turned. As I'm sure you're aware, I have very high standards. She doesn't really fit the criteria."
I would turn you, though. I didn't voice those thoughts. Oh, if only Sookie would consent to the idea of becoming a vampire. She would be magnificent, and I was certain I'd be surprised by her everyday. Even after thousands of years, I would still not have enough.
Sookie took my silence as a cue to change the topic. "Time to prepare," she said.
"Indeed it is."
I pulled her close and kissed her lips one more time for good measure. I smiled at the blush in her cheeks, watching her walk away toward the bathroom.
She was stunning in her black dress and pumps, the very picture of understated Swedish elegance. With her in that outfit and me in my all-black ensemble, we really did make a fetching pair.
"You look beautiful, dear one."
She blushed again, saying, "Thank you. You clean up nicely, too. Shall we, Sheriff?"
I opened the door in front of us. "Yes, we shall."
We walked in after that, and I closed the door behind me. I saw Henrik press a small remote, and I heard the sound of gears turning. I could only assume it was his security system being put on alert mode again.
Once we reached Henrik, I nodded to him and Sookie did a small curtsy. He smiled at us in return, and made us sit on the couch. My bonded's arms stayed linked with mine, and my hand was resting protectively on her knee.
It was Harald who spoke first. "So nice to see you again, Eric."
"And you as well. How are you doing in Norway?"
"It is so boring, but the peace has some benefits once in a while. It is certainly conducive to money though, so I suppose I could have it worse."
"Indeed," I said, turning to Sookie. "May I introduce you to my bonded?"
The two of us stood, and Harald had a smile on his face. His chestnut hair was gleaming under the bright lights in Henrik's office. He kissed Sookie's hand, and I watched his nostrils flare in curiosity. In that moment, I cursed his sense of smell.
"What are you?" he asked, observing her with his piercing green eyes. "You smell too good to be a human, my dear. Especially in this age of pollutants and bad diets."
I was set on telling the truth, but I looked at Sookie first. Her nod was almost imperceptible, and it warmed my heart when she sent her trust through the bond. She was taking my words to heart and having faith in my ability to judge our situation.
Even so, I would tolerate nothing untoward. Dropping my fangs, I said, "What I tell you all in this room, no one else must know. If you dare betray my trust, I will hunt you all down, past histories between us be damned."
The four monarchs in the room looked taken aback by my forceful stance, but otherwise pledged their agreement to my demand. I already knew they would agree as I was older than all of them, but it still paid off to have their verbal assent recorded in my memory.
Henrik said, "Your words are noted, Eric. We will all abide by them."
I tipped my head once and said, "Excellent. Now that we're all clear, Sookie is Fae."
"But the Fae are extinct. At least in this realm."
The words left me a little incensed, as they reminded me of Russell's words on that fateful day back at Fangtasia. It appeared that my mood was also infecting Sookie through the bond, as she tightened her hold on me quite a bit.
I told Harald, "I didn't say she was a full fairy." The words grated on me, they were the same ones I spoke to the deranged Edgington.
Finally, Henrik's sister Carina decided to pitch in. "So that's why she smells so divine. No wonder you're bonded with her. She's a rarity and must taste amazing."
A stab of pain came from Sookie's end of the bond, and I quickly corrected the Danish queen. "I did not bond out of rarity and taste," I said. "I bonded with her because I love her, and there will be no other reason. You had better be careful with your next words, Carina. I'll not have you insulting the connection I share with my beloved."
Henrik placed his hand on her shoulder. "Go easy, sister. Do not underestimate the bond Eric shares with his woman. There will be consequences otherwise, I'm sure of it."
"Yes, there will be," I said. "Sookie is my first bonded and my only. The fact that she is the first already establishes what sort of person she is. How perfect, and how special."
"Oh, this is rich," Franz said. "You are completely smitten."
He stepped away from the desk he was leaning on, getting close to Sookie and kissing her hand with a flourish. I saw Sookie's blush, which only caused a smile on his face. I tried to stem the possessive instincts wreaking havoc within me. Even my fairy noticed the sudden surge of sentiment and glanced at me from the corner of her eye.
"I am pleased to meet you, little one," Franz said, excited and his smile getting wider. "Congratulations on capturing the famous Eric Northman's heart!"
"I'm happy to meet you too, Your Majesty," she said.
"She's respectful," Carina said. "That's good."
"Of course," I said. "My bonded is the epitome of good manners. Still, she is a little spitfire." I felt a rush of Sookie's embarrassment through the bond, and she pinched my side a bit. For my part, I just turned towards her and gave her hair a small kiss.
"I'll second that," Henrik said. "She truly is a treasure, and of course very beautiful."
Franz nodded his head vigorously, eyes still twinkling with mirth. "Shall we move on though? I'd love to discuss your bonded, Eric, but we are all here for a purpose are we not? The sooner we get business out of the way, the better."
"I concur," Henrik said, facing me. Sookie and I sat back down as he said, "It's my pleasure to assure you of our full support against the Authority."
"Excellent." My smile was wide. "Let me be clear that I don't seek to overturn our government, but merely have the Authority pause in their little crusade. I also want your assistance as I search for Russell Edgington. If he can be found and captured, it would be enough to make the Authority reconsider."
The four monarchs nodded. Franz told me, "You'll have the assistance, my friend. Though I must ask you, why are you not the king of your state in America? You are an eminent vampire, a fearsome warrior and very well-regarded among our kind. Why is Compton the monarch? It's unjust."
"Agreed." Harald said. "You need a kingdom, Eric, not an Area. It would give you more clout. Don't you want that?"
I shook my head. "Despite excelling at politics, I don't like it at the top level. That would cause too much of a drain on my time. The only amount I desire is already mine as Sheriff. Besides, I despise the constant maneuvering you all must undergo."
"How true," Carina said. "It does get tiring some days. At least Europe is quieter. The New World is undoubtedly worse, since all of you are much too competitive."
I heard Sookie say a small 'yep' from beside me. It was a shy little sound that I found endearing. Facing Carina and the others from my place on the couch, I said, "America is still a new frontier. The country is young and still untamed, despite the technology and the progress that's been made. The monarchies there reflect that."
"Which is why," Henrik said, "the Authority has so much clout. If we'll ever seek to make them pause, we'll need a show of power they cannot ignore."
"I concur, brother," Carina said. "It's about time too."
Sookie pressed closer against me, evidently taking stock of the charged atmosphere in the room. I sent a flood of calm her way, and she whispered, "You all are talking like there's a revolution coming, Eric."
Obviously, Henrik heard. "There may be one," he said. "The Authority is not universally-liked, despite what all their PR might have you believe. We have no shortage of allies, but the problem lies in getting them to take action."
"I find that a little hard to believe," Sookie said, her voice respectful. "Vampires aren't exactly poster boys for being still and peaceful."
"That's true, my dear, but our allies have monarchies, and their own positions to bolster. This is a time where power is the only currency, and you know that vampires are notoriously greedy." Henrik sighed. "We also like to preserve ourselves, so it will be hard to push the others to risk the power they've built up."
My little telepath was silent. "Can't we show them the benefits of helping?"
I was the one who responded. "Certainly my dearest, that's what we're doing now. With the monarchs of the Scandinavian countries banding behind us, it will be easier to convince the others. Even so, some are just too committed to the Authority, or too inflexible to be counted on."
"But at least there's hope, right?"
"Yes, there is, beloved. There always is."
She relaxed against me after that, and I continued to send her strength through the bond. After our little exchange, the four monarchs got thoughtful looks on their faces, observing us with eyes that were intense and focused.
Franz ran his nail against his jaw, thinking. Carina on the other hand, was standing immobile near her brother. Even Harald was silent, and a deathly stillness seemed to overtake the previously animated room.
It was only Henrik's voice which broke the silence. His tone was low as he turned towards me, perhaps even a little hesitant. "Eric," he said, "would you consider war if it came to it?"
Sookie tightened her hold on me again, and I heard her heart rate pick up. "Why war?" she asked. "Isn't that a bit much?"
I forced my mind back into an orderly state. I did not want war at all. Had the circumstances been different, I would have been all for it. Now that Sookie was with me though, war seemed less and less attractive with each passing second. It would have been easier if my death were my own, but now I would have to think of her too. With the stakes being so high and so precious, inveterate warmongering was not an option.
I mirrored Sookie's question. "Why war, Henrik?"
"I have been thinking," he said. "Reliably, we could count on the support of the majority here in Europe. That said, some will always oppose us. Those opponents may very well band with those in America, and you know how many of our kind reside there."
His mention of the numbers rang out in my mind. Europe was the bastion of the old ones, and America was the stronghold of the young. Ordinarily that wasn't a cause for fear, but the sheer multitude of the vampires in America was now a very valid concern.
I told him, "America is not all pro-Authority, Henrik. We can pull many of them to our side, just from the threat posed by our ages. War is a last resort, my friend. In this age, diplomacy is key."
Franz remarked, "Never thought I'd see the day, Eric. You proposing diplomacy over war? Oh yes, hell will freeze over very soon."
Carina got a small smile on her face from that. She said, "Harald's child is the king of Illinois. So we have that state on our side. It's certainly time that we begin tallying up."
I said, "Well, Illinois is ours, along with Louisiana. I am friends with the kings of Arizona and New York, as well as the queen of Georgia. I am not sure about many of the others. They are almost certainly on the Authority's side, and the best we can hope for is their ambivalence on the issue."
Harald spoke next. "That's good enough, I suppose. We can count on the support of Portugal and Spain here, along with Italy and Switzerland. Like you said though, I'm not sure about the others. France may be on our side, but who knows. Louis has always been a vague monarch. Never clear with his alliances."
"Germany, Austria, Romania and the other Slavic territories will never be with us," I said. "The Authority's Chancellors come from those lands, and their influence will be too strong to oppose. We're better off with the more neutral ones."
"So it's safe to say that the odds are 40-60 in favor of the Authority," Carina concluded. "Depending on how many will pledge support, declare opposition or stay non-aligned, we may win or we may lose."
"Which was our original position in to begin with," Franz said. "We may be forty-sixty, but that's alright. Great odds for any battle, that's what I say. At least we have Northman on our side. He's handy with a sword and what not."
I barely acknowledged Franz' compliment. My mind was racing at a thousand miles an hour, thoughts being brought up and replaced at breakneck speeds. Primarily though, I was pursuing stranger avenues of battle already. If only I had access to the ancient seer, things would be so much less complicated.
Sookie nudged me with her hand. "You okay?"
"I'm fine, dear one." We reassured each other through the bond. "Not to worry, I was just thinking of some things."
"Will you tell me?"
"Later, perhaps." I leaned in to whisper. "I may tell you, for a steep price of course."
An unmistakable dose of lust flooded our connection, and even Sookie's temperature heightened a little. I was slightly worried about the effect if her scent changed with her arousal, so I sent calm through the bond again.
I told her, "Be still, sweet one. This is not the place for you to show your desire."
She actually laughed, but it was the nervous sort. "Be still, says the dirty-talking Sheriff of Area Five. That's a shocker. Can we please get back to the conversation?"
Franz decided to tease. "Yes, let's get back to the matter at hand."
Sookie's responding blush was delicious to witness, at least until the mood was killed by a knock on the wooden door.
"Enter!" Henrik said.
It was his secretary. "Good evening, Your Majesties. Sheriff, Miss Stackhouse."
All of us acknowledged her slightly. "What business do you have?" Henrik said.
"It's from the Vampire Authority, sir. Chancellor Dieter Braun is on the line for you, and he is clearly looking for significant information."
Oh yes. The mood was dead already.
Review, review! It's what keeps me writing, and is the best motivator towards posting a new chapter. (Well, because I obsess over each one, and that's why it takes time to get posted. I need to learn to just post!) So, can I challenge you guys to reach 60 reviews? My gosh, how blatant of me.