Disclaimer: Charlaine Harris owns all.
Rated M for several reasons.
Chpt 67 Cusp
Aware of his duties the Viking chose to have me return them to the Palace in New Orleans and I was too relieved to have her back in the land of the living to lament the lack of time I had with her. Time is, after all, something she and I should have plenty of.
Travelling to Chicago, with Mississippi, and altering the memories of the other Monarchs was, of course, child's play to me. Returning everything to its state before that night. Only my little ray and those she trusts remain aware of who and what she is.
They are on their own now, although I have agreed with Eric that one of my Royal Guard will at all times be part of her daytime protection. They can also serve as her tutors, helping her hone her magical skills. They are, as he said, as safe now as they will ever be. Though I reserve the right to interfere whenever I decide it necessary. Aga is anxious to assist me in this as, apparently, I am prone to 'overreaction'.
I really should sort myself out and marry that woman, she has waited long enough . . . .
I have supplied the Vampire, who are terrible gossips, the false memory of Eric and Sookie's Pledging Ceremony. An act of barbarity with a blunt knife that they deem to be a deep and meaningful union between two beings. It will be considered a prudent move by the Viking to secure a beautiful and extremely valuable asset and afford her another layer of protection, for a period, since it will make those who covet her even more cautious than her Vampire's reputation already should, elevating her above the status of mere human in their eyes.
Her Vampire understands and I am sure that she will, nevertheless she is my late wife's Great Granddaughter and so I will graciously allow her mate to explain it to her in my stead.
My last action before returning to Faerun was to forward Eric, with appropriate fanfare, the four thousand seven hundred page marriage contract diligently prepared by Desmond. It is not a hint per se, I just believe in being prepared. When he is ready to ask for her hand, her real hand, the formalities must be in place, she is, after all, a Princess of the Sky Fae and I will not be giving her up lightly, soul mates or not.
I believe I will also allow him to explain the dowry, it is probably simpler, and safer, that way.
I am ecstatic for her.
He is a good man. The child of two good men. Worthy.
And his love for her is completely pure.
Though I could probably gauge that from his mind I do not need to. He came to love her, despite everything, for who she was. And he will continue to love her, as she grows more powerful than him, in a way that only a truly great man can.
As the closest thing she has to a father I will ask for nothing more.
Well, not much . . . .
As is the way with my world, our world, after the danger, and just as suddenly, comes normality.
I had Niall return us to the Palace. Not exactly the surroundings either of us would have chosen but we have responsibilities there. And people who were waiting for news of us.
Sookie recovered quickly from her near death and as promised we had words on the matter. My Lover is a stubborn woman and not afraid to speak her mind. We reached the same impasse, repeatedly. She would do it again to save my life and, as she points out with a haughty tilt to her head, I am in no position to complain since I would do exactly the same thing for her. I cannot convince her that her life is worth more than mine any more than she can convince me that mine has the greater value.
And we both know it is selfish, because the survivor will be forced to deal with the misery of losing the other.
I have never, in either of my lives, given love between partners any particular thought. Except when I saw it and could leverage it to my advantage. I had always assumed it was a weakness. Now I know I was right. Yet I would not change my feelings for her for the world. She is my world.
If I were human the very concept would give me palpitations.
As Vampire it brings only the acceptance born of long experience. This is my new reality. I will, without question, change my life to accommodate it.
And it does not come without its advantages. The compulsion I have to touch her very rarely goes unfulfilled.
I am not an introspective person so I give little thought to what it means so long as it is not denied for any period of time. Possibly it is a physical manifestation of the trauma of thinking I had lost her, proof positive under my body, fingertips, lips and tongue, that she is very much alive and well. Perhaps it is a product of the connection of our souls, for the need to feel skin against skin is entirely mutual and though I much prefer to fully satisfy that need when the two of us are alone, and without clothes, even so little as my finger on the back of her hand while we are in the presence of others, can suffice.
And when we are alone . . . . she consumes me.
So much so that I have had to take extra precautions with our security. As Pam has so kindly pointed out, a nuclear war could proceed unnoticed while my mate and I have a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on our door.
The scent and feel of her skin, how it changes as it moves against mine. The exquisite flavour of it, subtly different on every part of her and at every stage of her arousal. The sounds she makes, orchestral in their complexity, ethereal in their beauty. Her body and her mind are byzantine equations I love will take me an eternity of intense concentration to decipher.
Her soul is another thing entirely. That I possess, own and know. I have been able to feel it, I think, since the night she gave herself to me. The beauty of these gifts leaves me breathless in the same way that the rest of her does. She is an amazing woman.
There are not words for how I feel when she offers her neck, and her blood, to sustain me. Nothing that could ever describe the circle of perfection created when my body and my fangs are inside her as she writhes against me in ecstasy . . . .
I have a four thousand seven hundred page marriage contract in my desk from Niall and Cataliades. It was delivered, abruptly, by a cadre of The Fae Royal Guard and mostly details the various unpleasant fates that await me should Sookie fail to thrive as my partner. It also includes a dowry, fit for a Princess of the Sky Fae, that made my eyes water and will undoubtedly send my Lover into orbit when she finds out about it.
This, probably, excuses my reticence. I have never proposed before, and never intend to again, to be incinerated so shortly after taking the plunge would be most, unfortunate . . . .
The Ex Waitress
It took a while to sink in, that we were, as Eric put it, as safe as we would ever be. I didn't go digging for his definition of what that meant, I've a good enough idea.
Am I sanguine about it? Pretty much, yes.
It took a while though. After the shock of nearly losing Eric, and myself, it all came crashing down on me. All this stuff I hadn't realised I'd just accepted and moved on from without really thinking about. And if it weren't for him I think I would have gone just a little bit crazier than the people in my home town already thought I was.
I fell in love with him for a reason. Underneath that frosty vampiric exterior is a good and honourable man, he just has a much narrower focus for it than most people, human or otherwise, do. But I've really seen and felt what it's like to be within that focus in the last few weeks. His patience with my questions, rants and worries has been limitless, even when he's got no better answers than I have. He's been everything I could have asked for and more, and I feel so bad that I'm mad at him, after all it's not his fault, that I've buried it deep down where I can have a good stab at trying to ignore it.
We received a 'Pledging Gift' of some magnificence from Mississippi and Indiana, who apparently had a whale of a time at the ceremony that never was. Niall, whose skills far outstrip mine, decided to implant the memory of Eric and I pledging in the minds of all the Vampire in Chicago that night. Now I'm not stupid, I know our Vampire 'marriage' has raised my status in their eyes and means it's far less likely someone will try to take me away from Eric. And yes, I'm mad at Niall the most, I am not a building that can be 're-zoned' for convenience. But . . . .
I never thought I'd get married, what with being 'crazy' and all. And it never once entered my head, no matter how much he loves me, that Eric and I would get married. For one thing it's not legal in most of the US and for two, well, he's a powerful Vampire, not the boy next door. Seriously, I hadn't even thought about it. And I know Vampire marriage isn't exactly the real deal, there are no papers to file at the Courthouse for a start, but it's an important tradition to them, to him.
The only time it came up in conversation he shrugged and said it was a shrewd tactical move on Niall's part.
My blood nearly boiled, I'm surprised he couldn't feel the rise in temperature since we were curled round each other, naked as the day we were born, at the time. Thalia would have been proud of the way I clamped down on the rest of my reaction before it could spread.
This is a side of me I never knew I had. Practical me I know. Deductive me. Stubborn me. Loyal me. The me that wants the man I love to actually make a commitment to me, and is pissed that he hasn't, is new. And a little bit of an unwelcome shock.
After all, it's completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. I know he loves me. Know it on the most instinctive of levels and am constantly being shown it. Fouffy dresses and official documents add absolutely nothing.
Nothing . . . .
And it is, I think, even sillier when viewed in terms of our being soul mates.
Not that I have more than the haziest idea what that actually means, or how it happened. It was how he was able to call me back to my body before it died too. And, from what he's recounted of Niall's words, it explains why my Great Grandfather kept referring to him as my Stalker.
But it's not something I can get my head round. Eric says it means our souls will always be linked and that when we both die, eventually, they'll be born again and reunited. New bodies, new histories, the same love. Well, I'm assuming the love part, it's not really a word that sits easily in Eric's vocabulary, even if he did blurt it out once. We have a kind of 'gentleman's agreement' on the 'L' word, nobody can say it out loud, but it's okay to show it. What he actually said was '. . . . and everything we are to each other now we will be again . . . .'
I can't make up my mind whether being soul mates is comforting or not. There are some obvious flaws. Unless we die at the same time then someone is in for a rough ride. Eric hasn't spoken much about when he thought I was dead but I've picked up enough from our bond to know it wasn't pretty, enough to make my chest constrict and my breathing to hitch in sympathy. True to his threat we've had words on what happened. I don't remember much about it in fairness. I recall realising that being Fae was good for something when I managed to keep him alive after he was staked, the actual moment when I knew I would die doing it is particularly clear. It was like falling down a slide of silk, it was cool as it billowed around me, and I wasn't remotely bothered, it was a good exchange, my life for his.
He doesn't see it the same way and I'm not sure I do anymore either. It's complicated, even without the unsubstantiated claim that we'll be together again one day. And though we know how much a death would hurt the other we're both just as prepared to sacrifice ourselves to prevent it. This conversation always ends with his face scrunched up and him muttering to himself in Old Norse. I don't understand the language but I fancy I could pick their word for 'stubborn' out of a line up if I had to. He uses it a lot. We've managed, with great difficulty, to talk about what we'd do if anything happened. And the simple answer is, suffer. Neither of us, assuming the soul mate stuff is even real, are the type to just lie down and die so our alternate plan is to work hard, and work together, to avoid either of us ever having to face it.
Another shock is how dedicated I'm feeling to be to that course of action. Theory and practise are two different things I know, but nevertheless without being tested, it's disconcerting how far I think I might be prepared to go . . . .
Is that plain old love? Soul mates? A vicious side I never knew I had, hitting people over the head with shovels notwithstanding? Hanging out with Vampire too long? My inner bloodthirsty Fae manifesting?
I'd love to ask Niall but he's been conspicuous by his absence. He probably knows I've got a flash of bright light with his scheming name on it over the whole 'Pledging' thing.
Seriously, I've got questions. The Ancient Pythoness is his sister, his sister! So, for example, did Niall inspire Machiavelli, or did he just meet him one day and think 'Wow, politics is the way to go, no more epic sword battles for me'? What sort of person do you have to be to be to turn your own flesh and blood into the one thing you despise above all others and then connive to get them to the top of their new food chain? How could you even visualise that, given the time it probably took to come to fruition? Did he do it on 'spec' and hope for the best? Did he do it because she pissed him off and it's all just worked out better than he expected in the long run?
I could ask these, and the more intimate questions I have, of the Fae Guards who rotate through my daytime security, but it doesn't seem right, lovely though they are. I don't know what the etiquette is amongst Fairy for questioning 'the big cheese' and they certainly don't need, and probably wouldn't want, to know about my sex life. I can see it now;
'So, hey, Girvan. Are all Fae nymphomaniacs or is it just me?
Do you have a soul mate, do you need to touch them all the time?
Is even talking to them so much better when you're naked?'
No, not happening, Eric may have left his 'shame' behind a thousand years ago but my Christian upbringing is a heck of a lot more recent. He finds my desperation for answers, and Southern reticence about asking for them, extremely entertaining.
The Guards have been very good at helping me with my magic though. I can now turn the paperweight into coffee. But there's a problem if I drink it, Eric's paperweight is not what it once was and he's taken to referring to it as his 'Post It Note weight', not that many of the people he says that to get the joke. Stupid physics . . . .
So, here I am. Crazy Sookie Stackhouse, ex waitress, living in the dead Queen Sophie-Anne's ludicrous palace. Sleeping most of the day away so I can emerge at night. Riddled with questions, doubts and fears born of ignorance. Apparently beset by enemies on all sides. I'm counting my brother Jason as one for the moment, since his voicemails have been less than familial in their tone . . . .
Happier and more content than I have ever been. Strangely excited about what the future might hold.
With Eric . . . .
A/N First and foremost, heartfelt thanks to all of you who have read, reviewed and otherwise encouraged this story. It wouldn't have been any fun without you.
Second. It was always my intention that this story would have a 'squeakquel'. New Fairy / Old Vampire / Niall. There's a tale to tell there if you want it . . . .