Eric’s most recent bouquet sat on her vanity, bathed in the early light of dawn. Calla Lilies, Gardenias, and Tulips this time. Sookie had no idea how he arranged to have them delivered, but they showed up every couple weeks, sometimes accompanied by a hand-written letter, sometimes not. The letters never discussed any battles, but the small moments he experienced: saving a little boy; leading a group of teenage girls who thought it’d be fun to get as close to the front lines as possible back to the shelter; the first day he remained awake beyond sunrise.
Sookie never knew what to write back. Her days seemed frivolous by comparison. Still she wrote to him of arguing with Desmond for two hours just to allow Diantha to accompany her to Fangtasia one evening. She didn’t admit to anyone she went there to be reminded of Eric.
His blonde Mate wrote about her sword lessons, her days spent combing through ancient texts written in olde English, the girls’ night she, Tara, Diantha, and Pam shared, bingeing their way through series after series. Not knowing how wrong she was, she thought these things wouldn’t matter to him.
If Sookie was being honest, she missed Eric. Exhausted, she pushed against the constraints of society, wanting nothing more than to feel his arms around her. Refusing to cry, she put down her pen and scrubbed against her eyes.
“My dearest granddaughter.”
The blonde whipped around to see Niall sitting on her bed, one leg crossed calmly over the other. Jumping up and running over to throw her arms around him, she loved and hated him at the same time. She pulled away.
“Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in over a year.” The last time, had only been for him to join the Court at the Winter Solstice dinner, the usually joyous occasion a solemn affair. “I don’t understand how you could just leave me here to face all of this alone.”
Everything had been difficult since Eric went to war. She had to fight Desmond at every turn for any kind of freedom, always saying he protected her because he loved her. She’d had to remind him constantly that not only did she have Pam, but had learned to protect herself. Eventually her uncle caved, but not until long after Sookie thought she’d go mad if she didn’t leave the mansion.
“You aren’t alone, my child.”
No, she wasn’t, but it didn’t change the fact that it felt like he’d abandoned her. “No, you just convinced me of the necessity of this mission of yours and then went back to the realm of Fairy, only visiting on holidays. You didn’t even tell me what to expect.”
Eyes the color of a summer sky studied her. “Would you have believed me if I told you even half of what you would experience?”
“You knew my future, you still do. You could share some of that info, Grandpa Dumbledore.”
A perfectly sculpted eyebrow rose at the nickname. “Dumbledore…from the Harry Potter series. Yes, I find that fits.” Sookie glared at him. Niall sighed. “Yes, I know your future. I even knew about Eric before he came into your life. But I couldn’t tell you for fear of creating an alternate timeline.”
“Oh, don’t give me your butterfly in Asia shit—”
He interrupted, showing a flash of anger. “It isn’t shit, young lady. You have no idea just what rides on this mission I sent you on. Knowledge of the future is a great responsibility. I can do nothing more than show up when you need me.”
“But I’ve barely even seen you,” Sookie’s countered.
A small smile played across her great-grandfather lips. “You haven’t needed me. You’re doing much better than you think, dear one.”
She hated looking for reassurance, but she couldn’t help but ask, “Really?”
“Really, I promise.” He reached out for her and she went willingly into his embrace. “I am here anytime you need me, child, I am always watching over you. You need to stay strong, there are darker days ahead of you.”
Niall left shortly after, and the fairy princess did feel better for speaking to him. At least she knew now that he hadn’t just thrown her to the wolves.
The devastation of Pittsburgh sprawled out through the valley. Eric stood at the top of the Duquesne Incline overlooking the southern bank where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers merged with the Ohio, staring down at the three rivers, now blood red, the hillside on every side burnt and scarred beyond recognition. The Moshup army set detonations down the lines of every single bridge in the city, demolished in an attempt to keep Amun clan from crossing easily over the rivers. Once the city with the most bridges in the US, Pittsburgh was barely navigable now. Rebuilding would take years, if not decades. Eric scowled at the loss of life and buildings.
He could only pray the Liberty Tunnel remained unhindered, otherwise they’d have to travel south until they, hopefully, came to a bridge left standing. He’d send a team there tomorrow to check it out. From his vantage point, he could just discern the outline of Fort Duquesne. Remembering the commanding structure, he wished it’d still stood today. He’d been there, fighting on the side of the French, for General Braddock’s defeat at the Battle of the Monongahela. If the fort still stood, it would be the perfect place to house the army as it rebuilt the city.
He felt the pull of sunrise threatening, and although it no longer caused him to fall into his dreamless day death, its rays would still burn him and the wind would scatter his ashes to the four corners of the earth. He had too much to live for now. Turning away from the encroaching light, he vamped to the Sylvan Energy building with its UV protected glass that served as one of their barracks. The rest of the army clustered in the houses, restaurants, and even the elementary school along the edge of the hillside, left abandoned when the populace fled, the last remaining neighborhood in the once bustling city.
Everything else lay in ruins.
Without the Fort, Pittsburgh wasn’t a city for a stronghold; it could only serve as an impediment for the oncoming army. Moshup cared nothing for the families it burned in their beds. Reports of battles fought in Charleston, Charlotte, and Atlanta, were nothing compared to the destruction of the retreating army.
Over the following days as the convoy picked its way through the Pennsylvania countryside, they passed too many towns laid to waste. The highways clogged with abandoned vehicles, the Amun army watched as streams of humans traveled west, belongings dragged behind them in red wagons, pushed in wheelbarrows, and carried in backpacks. It would take all of the clans, as well as humans, uniting to rebuild once the war ended.
When the Moshup clan could run no more, they stopped and faced off in Harrisburg. The all but beaten enemy used the remains of slaughtered mortals, and the charred timber of the once beautiful townhouses that lined the east side of the Susquehanna River, to build barricades against the oncoming army. Once again, they bombed the bridges that connected the western Harrisburg suburb to the city proper. It only enraged the fae and vampires of Amun more.
Eric led the charge of thousands as they crossed the shallow river, surging into the urban historic neighborhood. They pushed over the boundaries, and chased the enemy through the potholed streets past boarded up houses. Second Street, once a bastion of nightlife, in the end, turned into a smoldering ruin. Bodies of the citizens who once resided there lay forgotten in the streets. These people deserved burials, not to be picked over by the circling vultures and ravens.
The battle lasted another three weeks, while they searched through alleys and abandoned houses and businesses in search of the remaining army. At last, on May 7th, 2015, the Moshup clan finally admitted defeat. They would meet on May 15th in the city of Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love, to sign the Supernatural Treaty of 2015. There their territory would be divided up amongst those of the Moshup clan who’d stayed loyal to the Supernatural Divide and those of other clans willing to relocate and help the East rebuild.
Eric might have been willing to relocate three years and two weeks earlier, but he had a reason now to return to Louisiana.
May 11th, 2015
The war ended four days earlier and they expected the troops to arrive any time now. Sookie waited every night for Eric’s return. She still didn’t want to marry him, but she needed to know he was safe and unharmed. In the small hours of the night, she heard the rumble of vehicles and the sounds of the mansion coming to life. Pulling down the blackout shades she’d installed in her room, the blonde rushed out into the night.
Headlights blinded her as they pulled into the circular drive until one by one, the engines shut off and fae and vampires alike exited the vehicles. The dead already accounted for; it was the living who searched the disembarking soldiers. Relatives, lovers, and makers embraced, joy suffusing the air intermingled with a palpable feeling of absolute relief.
Sookie waited, unable to move for fear that no one had told her he died. Worried, she fidgeted when all of the vehicles finally emptied and she still stood alone outside in the dark while the celebration started within.
Where was he? Eric Northman’s Mate’s heart began to shatter. She felt Pam’s hand slip into her right and Diantha take her left.
“He is coming.” An infinitesimal squeeze came from her left.
Sookie wanted to believe anything right now. “How do you know?”
Pam actually smiled at her. “I would know if he’d gone to his final death. And though he would consider it a good death, he is a Viking at heart after all, he still lives.”
Scrubbing at her eyes, she looked up when she heard the rumble of one last engine.
An old black Trans-Am barreled its way down the driveway. Screaming to a stop, Sookie heard the scattering of pebbles and dirt and she went running. She didn’t care that she didn’t want to marry the arrogant vampire. Nothing mattered but that she could touch him for herself and know he’d come back to her.
Eric tore out of the car and swept her up, his glacial eyes drinking her in before his lips claimed hers. She’d never felt more like coming home than she did right then, safe and protected in his strong arms.
May 12th, 2015
Eric and Sookie sat on the terrace, across the round cafe table from one another. Trees towered around them, moonlight streaming through the leaves. With the soldiers leaving again the next day, the troops grabbed a moment to breathe. Last night the celebration felt stifled, as if the past wrapped itself around them like an overcoat in July. Tonight they clung to each other, the world outside kept at bay by the comfort.
The vampire and the fairy princess spoke little. He sipped absently as she picked at the food in front of her. Trying to sneak glimpses when she thought he wouldn’t notice, garnered her nothing, his face a mask frozen in marble.
She broke the silence. “Thank you for the flowers.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, glancing at her and away again. “They each had meaning.”
Wanting to reach out to him, she held herself back. “I know. I looked them up.”
Each flower had been a love letter in itself. Gladiolus: faithfulness, honor, remembrance. Gardenias: secret love, joy. Heather: solitude and beauty, protection. Sookie saved a bloom from each, collected in a wicker basket on the side table of her bed.
The quiet fell over them again. They’d spent the day together, carefully avoiding any real conversation while she demonstrated her powers to Eric, all except the ability to create sunlight: a great ability to control except in the case where you don’t wish to obliterate your vampire ally as well as enemy. It appeared both the vampires and the fae retained one defense against the other. Death by draining or sunlight, though both could create ecstasy in the final moments of a life.
Eric broke the silence this time. “We will start on your training when I return.”
“You’ll be going back then?” Sookie asked, hoping he’d take Sophie Ann up on her offer to let him remain with his Mate.
“Yes. I must. Much work needs done, especially in Pennsylvania.”
“Of course.” His honor would allow nothing less. “I wish I could go with you, you know, to aid in the clean-up.”
“Never. I won’t allow it.” His voice harsh, his eyes met hers. Intensity raged there. “There are things in this world you should not witness.”
Her mouth set in a grim line, she tried to gentle her reply. “It’s not a matter of allow, but I understand your reasoning, though I think I could handle it. I’m stronger than you give me credit.”
“It’s not your strength I worry about, but that you shouldn’t have to see it. Sookie, there are atrocities that I—” his voice faltered, strangled by constrained emotion. “I would keep those visions from you.”
Eric’s Mate did reach over to him then. “I’ll miss you.” He relaxed his hand, allowing her fingertips to trace his calluses.
“I’ve arranged our wedding for tomorrow eve, before I return.”
Her fingers stilled. “What do you mean?”
He pulled back, his arms crossing over his broad chest. “We will be married tomorrow night, before I leave you again. Desmond agreed.”
“But I didn’t.” She wanted to cry, didn’t want him to force the issue. There was something between them, but it was fragile. Any emotion he might have shown fled at her statement. Pieces of her felt like they shattered.
“You are my Mate.” He studied her. “You came to me last night.”
Her voice came out small, “Yes.” She’d needed to feel him, to know he was alive.
“Then why do you resist?”
The crickets serenaded the breaking of her heart. “I don’t want to marry you just because of some cosmic Cupid. I refuse to be tamed and by assuming my answer about our wedding, you disregarded my opinion. I can’t live like that. I won’t.”
Eric picked up his glass; finishing it and setting it back down as if it were a priceless antique.
“You need to let go of these human reactions. Now that your powers have manifested, we have centuries ahead of us to figure this out.” He gestured between them then let his hand fall back on the table. “I will not be rebuffed again, Sookie.”
Her blood iced over in fear. She didn’t want to lose him, but in capitulating, she risked who Sookie Stackhouse was at heart. “Please, don’t push this, Eric. I want to know what this is between us as well. But you forget, I lived as a human for most of my life, those reactions are me. They cannot be swept under the rug. I can’t commit to someone I barely know. Don’t ask me to. Please,” she added reaching out to touch him, but Eric retreated once more.
“I won’t ask again.”
Sookie could feel the truth in his words. Sitting up straighter, “I understand.”
The vampire burst up from his seat, glaring down at her. He sped down to the center of the lawn, encircled by trees and the glow of torchlight, he never seemed more like the thousand year old Viking.
“Don’t do this,” she pleaded, knowing he could still hear her from where he stood motionless. Minutes passed like hours as he stared at her.
Then, before she could blink, he had her in his arms, his mouth insistent, searching for answers she couldn’t give. Their lips dueled like their hearts, needy and desperate, but unwilling to cede the battlefield. Their kiss steeped in the years apart; in what Eric had seen, and how Sookie changed.
They both knew when it ended that a breach cracked open between them.
“I’m taking Pam,” were the last words he said as he fled from her.
“Goodbye, Eric,” she whispered to the empty space, carried away by the wind.