Pam came out the office to join me at the bar. I wasn’t feeling real talkative, but I was glad I wasn’t alone. We sat in silence for a while, me sipping my drink, Pam hers. I hadn’t been lying when I told Eric that I felt better and it shocked me. I’d expected to feel remorse, but I couldn’t find it in me to feel bad for torturing the man who had skipped right over sanity’s edge and down the rabbit hole. What I regretted was realizing that I would never be innocent again, until it occurred to me, that I hadn’t been innocent for a long time. It had been me that had pressed Eric into killing Victor. I let the thought sink in. I had already been protecting the people I loved for years. It was just that now I was ready to admit it to myself. The thought I’d had a few months back that Eric and I were more alike than I had considered before rippled through my mind. It was true and I was okay with it. Oh I’d never choose to kill people if I could see a way around it, but neither did Eric.
Pam interrupted my train of thought asking, “Is he killing him?”
“No, we decided that we would make an example of him,” I said bluntly.
“We?” Pam asked, looking at me askance.
“Yes. Bill revealed that it was his plan to kill Bubba. We couldn’t let that stand. If I’m going to be with Eric, I won’t do it halfway. It took me a while, but I’ve realized that this is me. I am as bloodthirsty and protective as any vampire. I won’t delude myself into thinking differently anymore.”
“Good,” she responded simply. “He’s the reason Bubba died?”
I nodded to her, feeling the grief that I carried with me.
“Then Bill will be around a few days longer then I imagine?” I shook my head smiling, knowing where Pam was going with that. “Good. I’ll have to pay him a visit.”
We fell into a comfortable silence until hearing the door to the bar open. We jumped to our feet ready to defend ourselves, but then we noticed that it was Mr. Cataliades.
“Pam. Sookie. I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
“No of course not Mr. C, but I thought you were headed back to New Orleans.” I asked, curious as to what might have brought him back here.
“I was until I was given instructions to return,” he replied. “Is Eric around?”
Eric’s voice came from the back of the bar and he strode across the room to join Pam and I. “Yes Desmond. What can I help you with?”
“I’m here to inform you that word of your overthrow of Freyda and Felipe is spreading like wildfire throughout the supernatural community.”
Eric smirked, pleased. “Yes, we expected that. So what’s the problem?”
“Several letters were delivered to anyone who aided you in the coup to be back in Shreveport in six days’ time. Word leaked out that she was coming here. Completely unprecedented.” Mr. C began babbling, which was concerning in and of itself, but he wasn’t getting to the point. “Your town, I expect will be flooding with supes over the next few days. Anyone’s who’s anyone will be here. So much to do. Lord knows how she was able to contact all of us…” His voice drifted off in contemplation.
Eric however was losing patience. “Who Cataliades? What decisions? Who contacted you?”
“I did,” announced the primeval voice from behind us. We all turned immediately to see the Ancient Pythoness seated in my throne. Eric, Pam, and Mr. C fell to their knees, but I just stood there mouth gaping. She made an odd picture this physically old vampire, tiny, gnarled, and blind sitting in the girly pink throne that was Pam’s idea of a joke. Where the heck had she come from? I was stunned to say the least.
“It is an honor to kneel before you oh Ancient one…” Eric began, but she waved him off.
“Northman, we meet again. Rise, I find I tire of the bowing and scraping.”
“Ancient Pythoness, what are you doing here alone? I am here to deliver your message. There was no need for you to venture out.” Mr. C said, crossing the floor to stand before her.
“Have I no mind of my own demon? Think I know not what was demanded of you?” The Oracle asked contemptuously. “Think I helpless? I who was consulted by Alexander? I have outlived every vampire who existed in my time. I simply use what you young ones perceive.”
Helpless? Well, yeah, I thought to myself. I mean she looked like someone’s grandmother: frail and about to be blown away by the next stiff wind. The only thing that looked strong on her was her wild white hair. Her cold laugh rippled through the bar, creating Goosebumps across my flesh.
“Oh fairy. You are so entertaining. I am no one’s grandmother, but I am glad to see you have finally come into your own. I was wondering how the future would play out since the first time we met.” I choked in fear not realizing she could read my mind. “Your telepathy gives me access to your thoughts if I choose.”
Eric had wrapped his arm around me protectively. “Ancient Pythoness it seems you have us at a disadvantage.”
“Yes and I enjoy that.” She stopped letting the weight of silence settle on us before continuing. “You three were the instigators of the deaths of Freyda, Queen of Oklahoma, and Felipe De Castro, King of Nevada.” It wasn’t a question. “You did so without the permission of any of the ruling council. Do you think yourselves above the laws?”
Eric answered her, his tone humble and respectful. “No Oracle. We meant no disrespect. I could not live in slavery and though I attempted to free myself by legal means from the contract my maker signed, I was not successful. I was left with no choice, but to surrender or fight. I chose to fight. Please take my life and spare those who aided me.”
It hadn’t slipped my notice that Eric kept using the word I when Pam and I had also been part and parcel of the plan to free him. There was no way I was willing to let Eric die alone and though this Ancient Pythoness terrified me I spoke up. “Well, if he’s gotta die than I’m going with him.” I slipped my hand in his and gaze it a squeeze.
“And I as well Oracle.” Pam added. Eric glared, trying to silence us with the weight of his stare. I would have laughed if I hadn’t been so scared. Like that was going to happen.
She let loose that same chilling laugh once more. “I had considered this as well as demanding that you come before the council, but I did not wish for the tedious bureaucracy of convening a summit, not to mention the last one did not end well.” I’d say. The hotel had been blown up and reduced to rubble. We’d all barely escaped with our lives. “But I have seen the futures and in every possible avenue, your deaths would cause more harm than good. It seems that the three of you still have roles to play. Your actions will determine the paths of both the human and supernatural races.”
Huh? What madness is this? “Um I don’t really see how that’s possible. Besides I’m not really a fan of being used as a pawn.” Eric was sending me keep quiet vibes through the bond, but apparently my mouth was quicker.
“Of course you wouldn’t child. That is why I am the Oracle and you are not.” She declared raising an eyebrow over one milk-white eye. “And you will not be a pawn. You and your vampire have chosen this path of your own free will. You will only be following the decisions you have already made.”
When she fell quiet I realized she wouldn’t say anything more about this mysterious future. Well, I guess we’d just have to wait and see what happened. Big surprise there.
When the tension in the room seemed ready to shatter us, she spoke again. “In six days hence I will preside over the coronations of those who you have decided upon to rule, giving them and you my approval. The following evening I will officiate your wedding.”
And the weird just kept on coming, must be Sunday. I needed to sit down and backed up to one of the barstools. I’d figured Eric and I would simply have a small ceremony in my backyard, I’d realized I didn’t really care about a big church wedding, all I cared about was Eric. Apparently fate had different plans. I was going to be married by the Oracle of Delphi, which even for my life was a strange turn of events. Eric and Pam rushed to my side. They seemed to have a much better handle on the situation than I did. When we looked back to the stage, the Ancient Pythoness was gone. Mr. C still seemed to be rambling, his lips moving as if speaking to an invisible companion.
“Raise your hand if you think this was really odd?” I asked rhetorically. “Did y’all know that she could do that? I mean appear and disappear at will? Or, Lord have mercy, read my mind?”
“There is much that isn’t known about the Oracle. Her powers have been kept a secret for millennium.” Eric stated. “Well it looks as if we have a lot of to do in the next few days: kill Bill, and plan not only a coronation, but also a wedding.”
Pam piped up, “I’ve got the wedding. Actually I already started. I’ll simply have to move up the timetable.” Eric and I both gaped at her. “What? You weren’t going to ask me to plan it anyway? Seriously you two, it’s like you don’t even know me,” Pam pouted.
“Nothing big Pam, I don’t care if Queen Elizabeth came back from the grave just to marry me, I want to keep this small.” I gave her a firm look.
She huffed. “Obviously. I assumed you’d want to have it in your backyard, right? I haven’t contacted any of your friends yet thinking that you’d prefer to do that.” She was right, but I wasn’t sure how many friends I had left who would want to attend my wedding to a vampire. Well, nothing ventured nothing gained, as my gram used to say. The worst they could say was no.
Mr. C. pulled himself back from his ramblings. “Quinn has already been contacted about the coronations. He secured the Riverdome for Saturday evening. It seems there was a last minute cancellation and they were happy to be able to fill the slot.”
Eric had been quiet, which meant he was thinking, and I could feel his turmoil. “Could you guys excuse us?” I asked.
“Of course Sookie,” said Mr. C, “I will stay in contact regarding the ceremony, Eric.”
Pam was practically giddy with the prospect of planning my wedding so she simply kissed me on the cheek and bounced from the room, her voice trailing behind her. “Shopping tomorrow evening Sookie, no ifs, ands, or buts.” Sigh. It seemed Pam had taken it upon herself to ensure that I learned to love shopping. I had a feeling I would have to give in or suffer the consequences.
I turned to Eric, “Is there something wrong? You haven’t changed your mind about the wedding have you? Because I know the Ancient Pythoness declared herself, but we can always tell her no.” Though I wasn’t quite sure about that, she didn’t seem like a woman accustomed to being disagreed with.
“No. Absolutely not. I told you, I want to marry you as soon as possible and truthfully it’s a great honor for the Oracle to be the one to perform the ceremony, it’s not something she does often. I think the last time was sometime in the 17th century. No, I just have a lot to do between now and then.” He bent down to kiss me on the forehead. “I need to start now. Will you be alright to get home by yourself?”
My heart fluttered a bit with his chivalry. “Sure sweetheart. It’s not that far and it’s not like I haven’t made the trip by myself a time or two before. Should I expect you tonight or will you be too busy?” I was saddened that vampire politics had intruded on our lives so quickly, but I understood.
“Nothing could keep me from joining you lover.” I shivered at his tone. I stood on the rung of the bar stool to kiss him, allowing my hands to run down his body and settle into his back pockets pulling him closer to me.
I whispered against his lips, “I’ll be looking forward to it.” His smile just about melted me.
He didn’t release me though, asking instead, “Where would you like to go my love?”
“Go? What do you mean?” I was confused.
“On our honeymoon. Isn’t that traditionally what couples do after the wedding?”
“Well that’s one of the things they do after the wedding,” I said coyly, rubbing my body against the length of his. ” I hadn’t thought about it. I just thought what with you being King and all, that you’d be too busy. I’m a simple girl anyway. I don’t need much, just you.” I could tell my words made him happy.
“Yes, but you are also a fairy princess and therefore we shall go wherever you desire.”
“Rome.” I said without hesitation. The fake vacation I was supposed to have taken when I was really killing vampires and being abducted by my psycho ex had me dreaming.
“Done. I had thought you might like to see Paris or London though.”
“Well yeah, of course I do, but we can start with Rome.” It was overwhelming this romantic side of Eric and would take some getting used to.
“Why don’t we do them all? Actually, why don’t we take our time and meander through Europe. Prague, Dublin, Edinburgh, Florence, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium. What do you think of that my love?”
“I think that you are going to spoil me,” I giggled.
“Never,” he replied seriously.
“But why don’t we save some cities. It’s not like they’re going anywhere. Why don’t we drive from Rome to Paris and then fly back home out of London? Then we can take our time, stopping when and where we want. Are there enough vampire hotels in Europe to make that doable?”
“Everything is doable with you,” he said giving me one of his trademark heat-filled insinuating looks that sent ripples of anticipation through my body. “But don’t worry, I know plenty of places there, it will not be a problem.”
“You’re amazing you know. Best boyfriend ever.”
“That would be fiancé lover,” he said gently correcting me and his eyes lit up at the title.
“Soon to be husband,” I amended and kissed him.
“Calm me when you get home. I want to know you are safe.” I didn’t point out that he would know if I was in trouble because of our bond, but I thought it was sweet and so I quickly agreed.
“I’ll wait up for you.”
He really did have to leave then and I drove back to Bon Temps deliriously happy.
Eric woke me around four when he got home. I had fallen asleep on the couch and he was bent down placing butterfly kisses all over my face. I smiled sleepily and turned my lips to catch his.
“Did you get everything get done everything you needed to?” I asked sitting up and holding open the afghan for him to slide in next to me.
“I did. Everything is set for Bill’s execution which will take place Tuesday night. I’ve made it known that everyone in the state is to attend. But never mind that. I have something I have been waiting to give you for a long time.”
“I was serious Eric, you don’t need to give me anything. You are enough.”
I had curled into his side, my legs tucked up underneath me, and I felt him reaching into his pocket. “Yes, I do, now hush.” I tilted my chin up to look at him so I missed it when his hand pulled out from beneath the blanket and settled in our laps, still closed. “I bought this for you some time ago, but with everything else that was happening the time never seemed right to give it to you.”
I glanced down and he opened his palm. In it lay the perfect ring. White gold with intertwining infinity symbols that gathered together in the center holding a heart-shaped pink diamond. I gasped and reached out afraid to touch it. It was too beautiful.
“Eric…” I breathed, “I’ve never seen a pink diamond before.”
“That’s because they are one of the rarest gems in the world, as you are to me. I spent so many years alone Sookie. I’d never thought to find love again until you waltzed into my life. I wanted you to have a physical reminder of just how precious you are to me. I love you Sookie, like I’ve never loved anyone before.” He gazed shyly down at me, taking my hand and placing the ring gently on my finger.
Tears streaked down my cheeks and I couldn’t contain my joy. “You bought this for me before you went to Oklahoma?”
“Yes. Once I knew that a human ceremony meant as much to you as it did, I went out and had the ring crafted especially for you. I only regret that I did not give it to you sooner.”
“No, right now is perfect. I had to learn on my own how much I loved you.” It was true; I didn’t want to think about how I might have treated this gift had he given it to me before. “Eric. Even as a girl I never thought I’d be able to find love, my telepathy left me at such a disadvantage. Then the Great Revelation happened and I realized that there was hope for me. I don’t know if I ever told you that even that first night I met you, I could tell there was something between us, but I was too naïve to recognize it. We have been through so much together as well as apart and we’re stronger for it. There is no one else in the world that I would consider spending my life with.”
I could feel his extreme bliss through the bond, as he could feel mine. “I had our wedding bands made at the same time, I hope you don’t mind. If you do we can go and pick out different ones together if you like.”
“No, absolutely not. You are perfect and whatever you’ve chosen will be as well. I love you Eric. More than I can adequately express.” I looked down at the sparkling ring and then back up at him and decided that words were unnecessary. I showed him just how unnecessary they were until dawn, when we fell asleep, limbs entangled on the bed in the tiny hidey-hole beneath my closet. I didn’t want to leave him, even for one second.