“Why in the hell did Eric leave me behind to deal with the most irrational fairy I’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing?” Pam lamented. “I could be in the midst of a glorious disemboweling right now. I could be rending heads from bodies, ripping the enemy limb from limb beside my maker. But no, I had to stay here and play Suzie Homemaker with the most deficient Fairy Mate in the history of time.”
Sookie tried to rein in her temper. The blood-sucking Martha Stewart pushed her buttons like no one besides Eric seemed able to do.
“Pam, lay off, I mean it.”
The petite blonde vampire laughed. “What are you gonna do about it, Princess? Hmmm? Shoot sunshine outta your ass? Bend over and let me kick it then, maybe that’s what you need. A swift kick in the—”
“Seriously? I’m only a quarter fairy, maybe the powers just don’t exist. Did you ever think of that?”
“No. I didn’t. Because that’s not how it works, sugar pop. Being Mated means being powerful. Why do you think it’s such a big deal to find a Mate? Did you think it was just about the great sex?”
Sookie’s mouth dropped open. “Are you kidding me? Sex? You think that’s all I’m interested in? I don’t want your precious maker. I don’t give two shits about Eric Northman.”
“Do you know how many people would kill to be the Mate of Eric Northman? Do you?” Pam prowled the room. “You are so busy denying your attraction to him that you’re sabotaging yourself with your ‘Poor me! I’m only a quarter fairy!’ bullshit.”
“I never asked for any of this,” she seethed, almost at her breaking point.
“Who the fuck cares? Have you looked around you? You don’t have a choice anymore little girl, you’re either the fire or the consumed.”
The mostly human fairy reached up and tugged her ponytail tighter. “Damn it, I wish I’d never agreed to Niall’s ludicrous plan.”
Pam stilled. “What plan?”
That certainly got her attention, but Sookie wasn’t listening anymore. “I wish I were back home, sitting on my front porch swing, far from all this madness.”
And poof! The next thing she knew, a breeze blew, whipping strands of blonde across her face.
“What the fuck? How did I get here?” The hard slats of the swing pushed against her bare legs as her head swiveled around taking in the yard around her grandmother’s house.
Apparently she’d just learned to teleport. Looking at it objectively, she’d wanted desperately to be elsewhere, and that appeared to be enough.
She gathered herself together as she enjoyed the moonlight, the freedom. Pam took her job as Sookie’s protector seriously, hardly letting her out of her sight.
She’s probably freaking out right now. The telepath smirked at the thought.
Unfortunately, it also meant that she’d have to call Pam for a ride back to the mansion. Unless she didn’t. She hadn’t seen Tara in months. Training with Pam required most of the time. Her fighting skills may have improved, but her friendship with Tara had suffered.
Climbing down off the porch, she reached behind the azalea bush to the stone that hid the spare key. Not the most unique of places, but she didn’t much worry about a break-in out there. She let herself in and walked straight to the phone to call the one person she really needed to talk to right now.
Tara pulled into the drive half an hour later. Stepping out of the car and crossing the lawn, she leaned against the railing.
“What’s up, Princess?”
“Been busy. Learning how to use a sword.” Sookie swallowed, she desperately needed her best friend. She broke down, tears spilling over and cascading down her cheeks. “Tara, I’m so sorry. I really am.”
“Oh hey, Sook, it’s okay. Oh, come here.” She felt herself wrapped by the woman who might as well be her sister. Once the blonde pulled herself together again, her friend continued. “Alright. Tell me everything from the beginning. We’ll figure it out.”
The words poured out of her. How she’d kept the secret for so long, she had no idea. But once she started, the whole story tumbled out.
Tara inhaled deeply after she’d finished. “So the David Bowie wannabe decided you were destined to tackle both the fae and vampire society. That’s some faith if I ever heard it. Fucked up faith, for sure, but faith nonetheless.”
“Too bad I didn’t get a manual.” Sookie laughed. “You think there is one?”
“If there isn’t, there definitely should be.” Tara squinted as if deep thought, “Chapter one: So you’re a fairy princess, now what?”
“Chapter two: how to avoid your vampire mate’s babysitter.” Eric’s red Corvette pulled down the driveway. Thirty seconds later, said babysitter stood in front of her. “Hi Pam, you remember Tara, right?”
Pam’s perfectly manicured nails tapped her upper arms. “Alright, spill it Princess.”
Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama met up in Montgomery, discussing plans of action for the assault on Columbia, SC. After Atlanta, the Moshup Clan had retreated northward, leaving Georgia and Florida under Amun control. Luckily there’d been little loss of civilian life since those nearest the line of demarcation had ample warning that war could reach them. Most people left and headed west, begging sanctuary, but some had no choice but to stay, no way to escape the line of fire.
All the houses they’d passed had been boarded up, though whether they were actually abandoned was anybody’s guess. This war didn’t even need to happen if the old world families hadn’t refused to bring their Courts into the 21st century. The supernatural community couldn’t continue as they had for hundreds of years: using, draining, and discarding the humans as if no more than refuse to be dragged away every Thursday. They all knew this. They’d discussed it at length during the talks about the Supernatural Divide.
At the time everyone had seemed on the same page, but using the little squabbles over territory as a distraction, the Moshup clan had kept a thriving underground human trade going for years. This couldn’t be allowed to continue. The rest of the clans agreed when they heard of the extent of their crimes, and since Amun bordered Moshup it was determined they were the ones to deal with the threat. If Zeus and Narayana had to get involved, then the shit really had hit the fan. Atlanta had fallen easily enough; hopefully the war wouldn’t drag on that long.
Eric focused on the battle ahead, knowing the sooner this war ended the sooner he could go home and make Sookie accept her position as his wife. She had to understand the depth of the bond between them. Having met her, Eric knew he could never replace her. Couldn’t she feel it? Could she so easily push him away? He was awake at eleven in the morning for the first in a thousand years. No, he still couldn’t venture outside in the daylight, but he regained some of the hours between sunrise and sunset. And Sookie was the reason. She had given him back something he thought he’d lost forever.
Shaking his head to clear the ridiculous notions that clattered inside him, he needed the fight. Needed to conquer his foe, not moon over some gorgeous blonde vixen who’d worked her way into his bloodstream. Literally, he thought as he waited through the passing morning hours hidden in the basement of an Augusta, Georgia hardware store. Each day since his time with Sookie he’d stayed awake for a little bit longer, sometimes only by a minute or two, sometimes by ten or fifteen minutes. Eventually, he would not need the rest at all.
The combined vampire armies took shelter below ground, while the fae forces fought topside. He hated being confined with the helpless vampires even if they did have a treaty with Moshup not to attack when the vampires were dead to the world. Trusting the word of the enemy was not something that came easy to Eric. Awake his body yearned for bloodshed, for the feeling of his sword. The way he came alive reminded him of his human days, days he only remembered when he sliced through the adversary.
He stared at the ceiling as he waited for his day death to claim him, picturing Sookie as she stood before him all defiance and pursed lips. He wanted the claim her the moment she opened her mouth to tell him off. But one did not just kiss a princess. At least not for a couple hours anyway, he thought back to the way her lips molded against his. His body grew needy for the feel of her again.
Sookie, Tara, Diantha, and Pam gathered on the wraparound sofa in the entertainment room, ancient texts piled on the coffee table before them. But no matter how much Sookie wanted to find an out from the preposterous coming marriage to Eric Northman, she felt the betrayal of searching for her loophole while he was off fighting a war; a much deadlier and brutal war than expected.
It continued far past the time anyone predicted. The combined fae and vampire Moshup forces had been craftier and far more willing to sacrifice than anyone initially imagined. The Amun army was working at a deficiency: namely their honor and integrity. They had guaranteed the human citizens in their territory safety. Therefore, they couldn’t just destroy everything in their path as they attempted to repel the eastern states. Amun defeated Moshup in Atlanta and Columbia, before pushing the Amun army all the way back to Knoxville. There were days Sookie swore that the war would never end.
Worried about Eric, though she would never admit to the assembled company, Sookie aimlessly flipped pages of yet another dusty tome, the sixty-inch television turned to the Supernatural News Network that ran updates about the war. They never really learned anything from it, but it comforted the women nonetheless to know the little knowledge that seeped through. Desmond gave them more, but not enough to quell the barrage of questions that flowed out of her. She needed to know about the state of the army, she reasoned, not the state of a certain vampire turned Commander of the Louisiana fae and vampire forces.
Pam caught her zoning out. “He was born to this life, Sookie. Eric will return to you whole and unharmed, you shall see.”
“I’m not worried about him, only the army as a whole. If your maker never stepped foot in front of me again, I would feel only relieved that I wouldn’t have to read another of these boring books.”
Fire flashed in the blonde vampire’s eyes. “Be careful what you ask for, your uncle would auction you off to the highest bidder before you could pack your first suitcase.”
“He wouldn’t,” she protested, but knew the truth. “Without my virginity, I’m of no use to him. Uncle Des would send me back home before he’d let me besmirch the honor of his court.”
“You seem to forget that being Mated suits you, Sookie. Your powers grow in strength every day. Fae or vampire men would be happy to control such power. In that, the law is clear. The eldest male kin of a Mated female, fae or vampire, has a duty to said woman to secure a champion for her in the form of a husband, in the case of her Mate’s untimely death. And believe me, there is no one who would tolerate your tongue save Eric Northman. So the best you can do is pray that he makes it home in one piece.”
Sookie sank in on herself, pushing the Fae/Vampire Accord of 1423 off her lap. “This is a huge bunch of horseshit.”
“I couldn’t agree more.” Pam’s smile predatory, her teeth elongated, Sookie’s stand-in Champion pressed on. “So what are you gonna do about it?”
Ever since she’d come clean about her mission for Niall to both Tara and Pam, the women had been stalwart supporters of Team Sookie. It occurred to the princess that she was being incredibly selfish, using all her time and intelligence to find a way out of her marriage to Eric, when she should’ve been trying to find a way to better the lives of the women the Courts controlled.
“Well, I don’t suppose my Northman Problem really ranks in the grand scheme of things…and we do have all these books from before the menfolk took over. It’d be a shame not to double down on the research. I’m not saying I’m going to abandon all hope of a way out of the marriage, only that I might as well make good on that promise while I’m doing it.”
Her best friend smirked. “It’s about damn time, Sookie—no offense—but Eric isn’t your only problem, or even your biggest problem.”
Tara summarized it so neatly, making her path forward that much clearer.
Pam put it bluntly. “What honey cakes over there is saying is it’s time to shit or get off the pot, young one. The world isn’t getting any better sitting in your corner crying about how life isn’t fair.”
“I know life isn’t fair, you pushy twat,” Sookie snarked out. “If there’s one thing I do know, it’s that life isn’t even remotely fair.”
“Then start acting like it,” Diantha stated. “More than your life hangs in the balance here. I might have been fine and untroubled by the blatant bullshit that runs rampant in the kingdom if you’d never pointed it out to me.”
Sookie often wondered if she did the right thing talking to Diantha about her concerns. She figured it was only fair. Her dark-haired cousin had a right to know that she wasn’t simply a silent broodmare for the supernatural community. She had a choice. Just because offspring were hard to come by didn’t mean that the men had stopped using the women the same way they had for hundreds of years. It needed to change. Sitting on her ass worrying about a husband seemed trite indeed in the face of everything else.
Sookie sighed in resignation. “These books aren’t going to read themselves, though I wish upon all that’s holy that they would.”
Eric stalked through the darkened streets of Columbus, OH, searching every open door or window for the hidden enemy. Movement from just behind him caused him to whip his body around, sword already slicing through the first vampire that thought to stand before him. Three more skulked from the shadows, one holding a small curly-haired child who whimpered almost inaudibly.
“Let the child go, he has nothing to do with this war.” Eric shoved his anger down, focusing on the best way to disarm the enemy soldier standing before him.
The pale ginger-haired vamp laughed. “Cattle. All of them. The sooner you all realize this, the sooner the war can end. We are the sharks, they are the chum.”
Eric stepped carefully forward. “There is no reason to continue killing the humans. What you Moshups forget is that there are far more of them than us. If they decided to rise up, we would be hard-pressed to defeat them for their sheer numbers.”
This whole war was so shortsighted. Humans and Supes could peacefully coexist if both sides put their minds to it. The humans had seen the benefits to a supernaturally run government; three of the four mainland clans agreed. All but those on the east coast where most of the vampires and fae had originally settled when they left Europe with the first of the human pilgrims: they had been overruled.
For centuries, they’d lived in hiding, taking only the blood they needed. When a vampire stepped out of line, the older ones would take them firmly in hand. The danger of discovery was all too real during the time of witch-burnings. If humans had no problem burning women of their own species, what would they do to the “creatures” that plagued their nightmares?
Eric loved the 21st century, its technology and ease of travel. He loved being out in the open, not having to lurk in the shadows.
“You risk everything for something that would be given willingly.” He took another silent step forward, planning.
Greasy soldier number two responded this time, his hand clumsy on the handgun he held outstretched before him. “We take what is by right ours. Superior beings do not wait for it to be given. I thought you were a great Viking warrior. Do you fear the mortals so much that you have turned coward?”
“Coward?” Eric scoffed. “Cowards are boys who use pistols playing against a man with a sword.”
Ginger soldier argued, “Wooden bullets, dumbass.”
“Go ahead, take your best shot. I warn though, you won’t like the effect,” Eric taunted. He needed to get the crying child out of harm’s way. Cocky assholes one, two, and three just needed to make their move.
In the instant before the gun fired, Eric saw greasy-hair’s trigger finger twitch. The other two soldiers followed suit. In less than a blink, he vamped behind them, removing two of their heads, stabbing ginger hair in the heart with his silver dagger, and swooping the boy out of the way. Shielding the child from the ashes of their demise, he felt the boy shiver in his grasp.
He slid his sword into the sheath on his back and lifted the shaking child into his arms.
“Where are your parents?” His dirt-streaked face gazed up at Eric in fear, tears hovering at the end of his lashes. He pressed the boys head against his shoulder in an attempt to calm him. “Shhh, I’m not here to hurt you. What’s your name?”
Sniffing the boy answered quietly, “Jeremiah.”
“Well Jeremiah, I’m Eric. If you can tell me where your parents are, I’ll get you home. But we need to get you to safety.”
A tiny arm rose and pointed to the right. The Viking moved assuredly in that direction, whispering reassurances in the Jeremiah’s ear as the curly blonde-haired boy led him to his home. They were lucky not to run into any other enemy soldiers, but Eric would be much happier when the child was safe in the arms of his parents.
With their child’s safe return, the boy’s parents tried to pull Eric inside, but there was a war to be fought and only so many hours til sunrise. The destruction of the states the armies marched through had suffered so much already. This needed to end.
Considering greasy soldier’s words, the vampire prowled through the streets looking for enemy holdouts. The supernatural community had existed for so long believing that might made right, that what could be seen could be taken. What he realized was, as he slunk past piles of rubble and boarded up houses, that the other three clans weren’t much different.
No, they didn’t sell the mortals on the black market, but the way they treated the women of the Courts wasn’t much different. They just shined it up and said it was for their own good, their protection. Though Pam had influenced his thinking over the century they’d spent together, Eric realized that he hadn’t cared what happened outside his own small world. He would never treat Pam in the manner of the supernatural community at large, but since his time with Sookie, he started considering that his inaction was as much a consensus as anything.