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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chapter 53 ~ Weighing Options

Han and Ivan laid side by side in the large California King bed that was in the underground lair Eric had ordered built beneath the guesthouse. It was early evening and Han was lying pressed against his much larger lover’s side with his head resting over Ivan’s unbeating heart. As some of the oldest, strongest, vampires alive, they too, like Northman, were able to rise much earlier than others of their kind. They were both basking in post coital bliss as Han rolled over the problems they all now faced. “I worry for them,” the smaller Asian warrior suddenly announced in his ancient language, one that he had taught his lover some centuries ago.

Much more fluent in the archaic tongue than English, having used it for many years, Ivan answered fluidly, “We should all be worried. The times we find ourselves in will not be easy. It is unfair they must learn to be who they were born to be so quickly, but they are strong. They will overcome the odds stacked against them.”

“Her heart is so tender,” Han argued.

“Yet strong. I have never met anyone with a heart so strong. In only a year, she has suffered so much, endured so much, and yet she stands strong. She will move past this. She will make her mate see the truth he denies.”

Han kissed Ivan’s hairy chest, rubbing his cheek against the coarse hairs his own chest lacked. “He is so stubborn. So determined not to change more than he is willing to.”

Ivan let out a deep chuckle. “He was made to be stubborn, but he is changing more and faster than he knows. Give him time.”

“We have no time. There is a shadow growing in my mind. Danger approaches quickly. Were I Sargon, I would be preparing to attack. We are not ready. They are not ready.”

“They will never be prepared for what comes, but they are strong enough to persevere despite this. They will learn together. Have faith, Han.”

The smaller man was silent for a moment, before asking, “Do you think we should have interfered last night? He is High King, but she is our queen.”

Ivan thought it over for a moment before replying, “No. Northman is too stressed right now. You know this. Pushing him farther than he can go currently could be disastrous. He has gone from being completely self driven, from always thinking of himself first, to now living to protect Sookie and keep her by his side at all costs in only a few months. He is not ready to accept the fact she owns him. He is not ready to accept the fact he doesn’t have the right to command her. He is not ready to accept the fact it is she that commands him. He must have time to accept these truths, and it is Sookie’s job to teach them to him. Let her handle her King. We will follow the King’s orders unless it becomes absolutely necessary we interfere. He will understand soon enough. For now, her safety is paramount, and the Viking cannot be further distracted. He cannot view us as potential threats. Which he will if we make it known Sookie can command us against him. It is best to wait.”

Smiling up at his lover, Han teased, “Since when did you become a better strategist than me?”

Cupping Han’s face with his large hand, Ivan smoothed his callused thumb over the smaller man’s lips as he gazed into his lover’s dark eyes fondly. “Since you have come to see Sookie as your daughter. She reminds you of Rin, does she not?”

Han stiffened. His dead heart ached for the daughter he had lost as a human so long ago. The daughter he’d been forced to watch die as his Maker ruthlessly and viciously tore her apart before his very eyes. Even as a human, he had been a great warrior, the leader of his village, and the strongest and most capable fighter around. He had defended his home, his people, and his family from many a foe, but even he had been no match for the vampire that had been determined to call him child. Even to this day, Han would never forget the night he’d watched his village be burned to the ground by the vampire that had made him. He’d never forget the sight of people burning alive, and those that did flee their homes lived only long enough to scream before his Maker struck them down. His Maker had broken both his arms and legs to keep him immobile, and because of that, Han had been forced to watch all of it. His daughter, his precious Rin, had been saved for last. He would never forget watching the light and life go out in her eyes as his Maker drained her dry right in front of him. No. He would never forget.

Ivan brushed the bloody tears from Han’s cheeks, and soothed, “It is good you care for Sookie. She deserves all the love she can get, love makes her strong, but do not confuse the present with the past, Han. Sookie is not Rin. You will not be forced to watch her die such a horrible death.”

“We all might be forced to watch her endure Northman’s death and her enslavement to Sargon. That would be worse. Her soul would break from such treatment. I cannot bear to see her soul die in her eyes as I was forced to see my daughter’s.” Remembered pain hammered in his heart momentarily darkening his face; he closed his eyes.

“You will not. I would not allow it.”

“We need to have a backup plan. If Northman falls ….”

Ivan’s reply was soft, “Then Sookie must die.” Han opened his eyes in clear appraisal, then nodded grimly.

“We cannot afford for Sargon to force a tie between them,” Ivan continued, “he cannot be allowed to breed her. The Pythoness showed us the future that would come about if Sargon manages to claim Sookie. Universal devastation. It cannot be allowed. If Northman falls, we will have to move quickly to send Sookie after him. This world will die, as will the fae world, but the loss of two worlds is nothing in comparison to the rest of the universe.”

Han knew Ivan’s words were right. He hated them. He hated the sound of them. The feel of them in his mind, swirling like inky black poison that gnawed at his peace of mind and soul … but they were true words. The fallout of Sargon taking Sookie for his own would be too great. If the Viking fell against the ancient evil they now faced, there would be no other alternative but to send Sookie to her death as well. “She cannot know, Ivan. She cannot see us coming. We can’t do that to her … and I cannot be the one to strike the death blow.”

Ivan had known that Han would not be able to kill Sookie when and if the time came. He’d known it, and he accepted it. “I understand. Most likely you will be needed to hold Sargon off while I see it done. I care for Sookie as well, but I do not see my lost daughter when I look at her. I will be the one to send her after her mate if Northman meets his final death. I will make it quick. She will know no pain.”

Han gave voice to the fear that he knew Ivan had as well. “What if we cannot get to her? As it stands now, their souls are so closely bound the moment Northman meets his final death it will kill Sookie instantaneously. It could come about that Sargon will attempt to separate their souls at a time when no one is close enough to stop him, so he may take Sookie. What is our plan for then?”

“To get to her as soon as possible. I do not like the idea, and find it horrific, but if we must, we will hunt her. If Sargon succeeds in killing Northman, then all our effort must go to sending Sookie after her true mate. She must die before she has a chance to give birth to Sargon’s offspring … if it comes to that.”

For the first time in nearly two thousand years, Han gave into the human urge to shudder. The thought of having to hunt the girl that so reminded him of the daughter he’d lost long ago made his mind reel. The thought of having to hunt Sookie, the woman-child he loved and respected more and more by the day, threatened his control. He actually felt ill for a moment, before declaring, “Hopefully, it will never come to that.”

“Indeed.”

Long moments of silence passed between them as both the ancient warriors were lost to their thoughts. They could feel the sun sinking in the sky and knew it would be time to rise soon enough. As Ivan stroked his bare back softly, Han whispered, “She is so young. Too young to be burdened by so much. Too young to suffer so much. Too young to face enslavement by one such as Sargon, and too young to face death at the hands of her allies and friends. Northman is her only true ally and he mistreats her. She is simply too young to face such unfairness in life.”

“You are right in many ways, but you forget that should she and Northman succeed in defeating Sargon, then Sookie is destined to be happier than any other person ever has been. Past, present or future. The sacrifices are far outweighed by the benefits.”

“And the rest?” Han asked.

Ivan hesitated, considering it for a moment before responding. “We are not young. Northman is not young. Ahmose is not young. Brigant is not young. The Pythoness is not young. Many that have and will pledge loyalty to the Chosen One are ancient. We are ancient. We are strong. We are powerful. We were meant to be here to provide a wall of safety for her. We will make her safe so she can be the Mother she was born to be. Have faith. Faith in her. Faith in Northman. Faith in The One, and, most importantly, Han, have faith in us. We have not survived so much, worked so hard to be here, to fail. We will see our gods return. We shall see Sookie and Northman raise them in the way they should go. We will see the world change.”

Moving to lean over the large, brutish man he had taken as his lover so long ago, Han pressed, “You are so sure?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I’ve decided we are going to win.”

“Oh, you have, have you?”

“Yes. No one breaks Russian will. Russian will wins wars. It will win this one.”

Han couldn’t help but laugh softly. He once again moved to lie at Ivan’s side, and stretched his arm across the Russian’s broad chest. The tan of his skin contrasted sharply against Ivan’s, but it was a sight Han was long since accustomed to. “You say it with such conviction that I actually believe you.”

Ivan laughed, a deep, guttural laugh that shook Han atop his chest. “Good. Cannot argue with a Russian. Our heads are too thick.”

“That I knew.”

Ivan rolled Han beneath him, and nuzzled the smaller man’s neck as his fangs snapped down. “You seemed to forget there for a moment. I had to remind you. Now, my little warrior, we have only an hour or so before the sun sets and we must rejoin the world. Let us follow the Northman’s and Sookie’s example and make the most of the time we do have together.”

Han didn’t have time to respond as he let out a throaty moan when Ivan began to lick and nibble a path down his chest. When his much larger lover took him into his mouth, Han growled, “Brilliant thinking, my Russian giant. Ah!”

No more was said.







Upstairs in the guesthouse, Eggs was speaking to Tara privately in the guest bedroom. Lafayette and Sam were both milling about the property as most of the day had passed in a tension-filled atmosphere. After Lafayette and Sookie had finished talking earlier, Sookie had been forced to ask her friend to leave so she could take care of some business he wasn’t able to know about. Lafayette had said he understood. He’d passed a short woman on the porch that had been escorted to the house from the road entrance after Sookie invited her through the barrier. Sookie had then disappeared into the house with the woman after ordering her guards to let no one in.

Tara had thought about trying to speak to Sookie, but one look at the armed guards poised at every entrance of the house was enough to deter her. She finally decided to wait until Sookie sought her out to speak again. It seemed like every time she went looking for her friend to talk, it ended badly. So, for once in her life, she was going to wait and keep her mouth shut … for the time being. While they waited for the day to pass, Tara, Eggs, Sam, and Lafayette had walked softly around each other, all unsure what to say. However, as the sun began to set, Eggs had become more and more agitated. Finally he’d asked Tara if he could speak to her alone. Lafayette had simply glared at the other man before storming out of the house, knowing that Eggs was going to try and talk Tara into running. Sam had followed his cook at a more leisurely pace, and simply patted Tara’s arm on the way out and whispered, “We’ll be outside. Remember what we talked about Tara.” Then he’d been gone.

So now, Tara sat on the queen size bed the guest room sported and watched her boyfriend pace the floor in front of her. She pretty much knew what he was going to say, and she wouldn’t lie, she was tempted by the idea to run, but no matter what his arguments were now, she’d sworn to herself that she would speak with Sookie one last time to hear her friend out before she made any decisions. She wanted to speak to Sookie alone and see if maybe she could find out more of what was going on.

Getting tired of watching Eggs pace in front of her and mumble to himself, she finally sighed, “Eggs, out with it already. I’m not going to sit here in silence much longer.”

Eggs spun to look at his girlfriend. His eyes were half wild, the stress of the situation was wearing him down quickly. He couldn’t take much more of this for much longer, and Tara could plainly see that. She knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that if she did decide to stay, she would be doing so alone. There was no way that Eggs was going to hang around for whatever was going on. So she knew, no matter what she chose, she’d be losing someone she loved.

Eggs let out a sigh before moving to kneel in front of Tara. He took both of her hands and said, “Tara, honey, I want you to listen to me.”

“Can’t do much listening if you don’t start talking.”

Eggs cracked a smile at that before sobering up. “Ok, first let me say I can’t even begin to imagine how you’re feeling. You know about my past. You know how I was raised and how I lived before meeting Maryann. You know I don’t have friends and family like you do. From what you’ve told me about Sookie, Jason, and your whole life here, they are basically your brother and sister. This is your home, for better or worse, but … well, sometimes things need to change.”

“Eggs, I—“

“Tara, I need you to let me finish. Ok?”

When his girlfriend nodded, Eggs enfolded her hands in his larger ones and looked deeply into her eyes. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to have someone be there your whole life that you could lean on and depend on. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have such love and faith in someone. The closest I ever came to family was Maryann, and you know how badly that went, but I know how badly it would hurt you to leave this life behind.”

“You don’t know, Eggs! You just pointed out all the reasons you don’t know, so don’t sit here and tell me you know how it would hurt me!”

Shaking his head, Eggs agreed, “You’re right. I can’t understand it. The only person I’ve truly loved is you, and the idea of losing you, losing the first and only woman to see me as the man I can be, and not the fuck up I was, the only woman that gets me, the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with, would destroy me. I can only guess that having to abandon all you know would do the same.”

Tears slipped down Tara’s cheeks as she weighed his words. She had never felt for anyone the way she felt for Eggs. They were both damaged people. They were both riddled with emotional scars from their less than bright pasts. They needed each other in many ways, and what was so great about them as a couple, was that they complimented each other in even more ways. No man had ever born the brunt of her anger and fury the way Eggs did. No man had ever stood calmly before her as she ranted and raved, only to, a few moments later, start laughing, kiss her senseless, and tell her to stop being a bitch and wasting life. She and Eggs weren’t perfect people, but together they were better than they were alone. “It will kill me, Eggs. It will kill me to leave here."

“It will kill you to stay.”

Silence.

As fresh tears slipped down Tara’s cheeks, Eggs continued, “Tara, staying here will get you killed. Staying here will involve you in a fight you not only have no means to fight, but in one you aren’t even sure if you want to fight. Staying here could cost you everything, and you need to think real hard about the decision to stay or go.”

“I am!”

“Are you?”

Tara pulled her hands from Eggs and swiped angrily at the tears streaming down her cheeks. “Of course I am! I know staying here could get me killed. I know that! I know this is a decision I have to make, and I know it’s the biggest decision of my life. I don’t need you stating the obvious.”

Eggs ignored her anger. He knew it was her defense mechanism, and simply pushed past her resistance and pressed onward. “Ok. You’re thinking about it. So break it down for me. What are your thoughts?”

Tara was quiet a moment as she sorted through the tangled mess of her thoughts. Finally, she blurted, “If I leave, I leave everything behind. My friends and family. My way of life. I’d have to start all over, and I’d probably never see Sookie, Sam, Lafayette, or anyone else here ever again. If I stay I could die. Those are pretty much my thoughts.”

Eggs moved to sit on the side of the bed beside his girlfriend and added, “Those sound like the bare basics to me.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you haven’t thought of everything.”

“How so?”

The edge in her voice was unmistakable. Eggs steeled himself. “Promise to hear me out before you butt in?”

Tara smirked at how well he knew her. “Yeah, I promise.”

“Ok, well the way I see it, by staying, you’re not just risking death. You’re risking yourself. By staying, if Sookie refuses to tell you everything that is going on, refuses to tell you why our lives are in danger and why we have to fight to begin with, then you could be fighting for reasons you don’t believe in. You could be fighting for the wrong guys the way I was when I was with Maryann. Believe me, that’s not something you want on your conscience.”

“Eggs, you didn’t—“

Setting a finger over her lips, Eggs begged, “Let me finish.” When she nodded, he continued, “It takes parts of your soul, Tara. It takes pieces of who you are to the core. Living with yourself knowing that you’ve done such bad things, even if you don’t remember them, or if you believe them to be right at the time, is not easy to do. Trust me when I say you don’t ever want to wake up one day and wonder if you deserve to go to hell.”

“Oh, Eggs.”

“Don’t pity me, Tara. I don’t want your pity. I want your understanding.” When Tara remained silent, he pressed on. “Sookie is asking for more than she has the right to. She’s asking you to sacrifice not only your life, but who you are as a person. She’s asking this of you, and she refuses to give you the reason you should do so. She’s asking for blind obedience. Something else I know about.”

Taking hold of Tara’s hand again, Eggs added, “I followed Maryann because I thought I should. I thought it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t, and it is something I’ll have to pay for for the rest of my life. I’ll never truly move beyond the shadow of self-doubt, self-loathing, and all around self-disgust that Maryann left on my life … on my soul. What Sookie is asking for here is the same thing.”

Tara shook her head and argued, “Eggs, Sookie would never ask me to do anything like what Maryann asked of you. She would never endanger my soul or who I am as a person like that. I know she wouldn’t.”

“Maybe she wouldn’t, but would Eric?” When Tara stiffened, Eggs leapt at his chance. “We saw how he treated her last night. We’ve seen how he treats her since coming into her life. You yourself have told me how many times he’s lied to and manipulated her. How can you be sure he’s not doing it now? Sookie might very well believe she’s fighting for a good reason, but that might only be because Eric is leading her to believe she is. She’s so blinded by her obsession with him, and it is obsession, that she isn’t questioning the things she should question. The people she should question.”

Tara could understand Eggs reasoning there. It did make sense to her that Eric could be playing Sookie as he had so many times in the past. This entire thing might be a ruse on the ancient vampire’s part to further enslave Sookie to his will, to break down her spirit. There was no way of knowing if Sookie wouldn’t tell them what was going on. ‘He’s right. Eric has played Sookie more than once, and she seems to forget that … but she did say this isn’t about Eric anymore. She said it’s about something else.’ Looking at Eggs, she countered, “Sookie said this isn’t about Eric anymore. She said it is about something else. She just won’t tell me what. She said she can’t.”

“How do you know there really is something else? How does she know? How do any of us know this isn’t just Eric trying to further mold Sookie into what he wants? You told me months ago about how he was taking control of her life. You told me how Sookie cried on your shoulder as she talked about how Eric was forcing her to change her life, her looks, her entire way of living to suit his needs. How do you know that this whole thing isn’t just him cleverly stripping Sookie of everything in her life he doesn’t want around her? He made it clear he despises us, and our place in Sookie’s life, so how do you know that this isn’t him going about it in a very manipulative way?”

“Because Sookie said so.”

“And she has been so reliable lately, hasn’t she?” When Tara glared at him, he rushed, “Sookie hasn’t had the best track record lately of making good judgment calls. You know this. It’s why she’s in this situation to begin with.”

She couldn’t argue with that. She and everyone else in town had told her not to get involved with Bill Compton, that it would only lead to trouble, and look how that had turned out. Everyone had warned her about Eric, and look where they were because of it. Tears slipping down her cheeks, Tara whimpered, “I just don’t know what to do.”

Eggs decided to switch to a different tactic. “What do you think Sookie wants for you in life? What would be her wish for you?”

Tara didn’t even need to think about it. “She wants me to be happy. She wants me to have a home, a family, and a good life.”

“Exactly.” Holding Tara’s gaze, Eggs continued, “You can’t have those things here. If you stay here you’ll probably lose your life. At the very least you’ll lose everything else.” Tightening his hand around hers, Eggs swore, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Tara Thorton. I want to marry you. I want to build a home with you. I want to have children with you. I want to go to sleep with you in my arms and wake with you still there every day for the rest of my life. I want you, Tara. I want all you are and all you have to offer. Bad temper and all.”

Tara’s eyes widened. “Eggs, I … I mean—we’ve talked about getting married and all, but … well I ….”

“It’s ok, Tara. I understand you’re overwhelmed. I know you have fears of relationships and commitment. I’m not saying we should run out and get married tomorrow. I’m willing to wait for you as long as necessary … but I won’t wait here.”

Moving to pull Tara so that she was straddling his lap, he pressed his forehead to hers and whispered, “I can’t stay here, baby. I can’t. I can’t get caught up in shit like this again. I barely survived last time. If it were just my body, I could deal with death. I nearly OD’d many times. Got shanked in prison too. You know that. My problem now is that I’m afraid staying here, taking part in this fight, will destroy the last parts of me that are good and decent. I’m not going to sacrifice my soul. Eric is a monster, and Sookie, for some reason, can’t see that. I don’t want part in any fight he believes in. It can’t be good.”

Tara was crying freely now. So much of his words made sense to her. She knew that the first few months after Maryann had been defeated had been very dark times for Eggs. So dark she thought about having him institutionalized because she knew he’d contemplated suicide more than once. He’d been so consumed with not only survivor’s guilt, but his own personal guilt at the knowledge of all the bad things he’d done as a tool of Maryann’s. She knew he’d barely pulled through it, and she could understand why he wasn’t willing to risk himself again. She understood that.

And the points he brought up about Eric definitely made sense to her. She knew she’d defended Eric and his actions at the beginning of Sookie’s arrangement with him, but she’d long since come to see the light. As soon as Sookie had confessed to her and Lafayette about exactly how Eric had manipulated her, how he’d made her best friend his slave, Tara had despised the tall blond vampire. Despised him, and wanted him truly dead. So she could definitely identify with what Eggs was saying now.

Long moments passed in silence as Tara and Eggs sat together. Their breaths mingled since their faces were so close, and Tara felt warmed by the action. Finally, she offered weakly, “I have to talk to Sookie first, Eggs. I need to speak with her alone and see what she has to say. I can’t make any decisions until then. That’s the best I have to offer you.”

He was happy with that for now. “You do that. Speak to her, but know, as soon as I’m told Jason and whatever queen is after Sookie are gone, as soon as I’m told it is safe to run, I’m leaving. I can’t stay here, baby.”

“I know Eggs, I know.” Tara wrapped her arms around her boyfriend’s shoulders as he buried his face into her neck to cry softly. Both knew these might be their last hours together. If Tara decided to stay, then Eggs would leave alone. It was almost too much to bear. For either of them.





Outside, Sookie was in the barn brushing out Freya. Today had been busy for her in many ways. First she’d had her talk with her friends, which had been mentally and emotionally draining, and the rest of her day had been filled with thinking of her baby. The small doctor that had treated her back for the maenad attack so many months ago had arrived not long after her talk with Lafayette. She’d stood at the front entrance of Sookie’s driveway arguing with the guards for a good five minutes before Sookie found out she was here and invited her inside the barrier. Dr. Ludwig had informed her that Eric, along with the Council, had ordered her here to see to Sookie and the baby. Ludwig had practically brought a small hospital with her and immediately began setting up for an ultrasound.

Since Sookie knew exactly when she got pregnant, the ultrasound would show how much her baby had developed, and then maybe they could get an estimation of how quickly the child would grow. Ludwig had also taken various samples from Sookie so that she could take them back to her lab and analyze them. Sookie had nearly had another panic attack when it came time to draw her blood, but Ludwig had been quick and competent and the entire ordeal was over in moments. That didn’t mean that Sookie’s house phone didn’t ring as Eric called her with his cell from the panic room. He had been pulled from his slumber when he felt Sookie’s hysteria, and had immediately called her. She’d been short with him on the phone. Told him Ludwig had taken her blood, that she was fine, and then she’d hung up on him. She had been by no means in the mood for any pleasantries with that ass.

The entire check up hadn’t taken long, and while Sookie was barely two weeks pregnant, Dr. Ludwig had informed her that from the sonogram it appeared she was almost nine weeks. That was quite the growth period. Ludwig had also told her that, until she got the results from all the samples she’d taken for testing, she was leery of handing out any advice as to how to handle the baby. She told Sookie she would rush back to her office and run the samples immediately and then return at sundown to give both her, and Eric a full breakdown of how they should manage the pregnancy. Sookie had been fine with that.

After the diminutive woman left, Sookie had eaten a snack, and then headed outside to see her horses. That is when she saw the backyard. She’d actually had to stop for a moment to take in the new sight. Before her was the most gorgeous pool she’d ever seen. It was a natural style pool. Formed out of expensive stone. There was a waterfall and a massive hot tub. Both attached and carved from stone as well. The pool was decorated with foliage and flowers, and it took her breath away. She knew it was one of the gifts Eric had secured for her, and despite her anger at him, her heart had warmed at the sight. The pool was exactly how she’d always pictured her dream pool, and she swore it was like Eric could see inside her head sometimes.

Before she could get too carried away, however, she reminded herself of how Eric had forced her to kneel before him like a slave the night before, and then promptly decided she wouldn’t use the pool at all until he apologized. And she’d make damn sure he knew she wasn’t using it either! With a huff, she continued on past the pool towards the barn with Thor trailing at her feet.

Freya and Balder had both come up to her from the pasture they were in immediately, and she gifted them with some sugar cubes she’d brought them from the house. It was a treat that Julia had warned her against using too often, but Sookie figured since she hadn’t seen her horses in over two weeks it would be ok to give them now. She fed both horses their treats and pet their necks as she climbed through the fence to see them and give them some affection. Thor, knowing the horses were too big and could hurt him if they stomped on him, laid down on the other side of the fence and watched his mistress whisper gently to the larger pets.

Sookie finished saying hello to her horses and then grabbed their halters and lead ropes off the fence so she could take them into the barn. She had about 45 minutes to an hour before sundown, and Ludwig had told her she would be here promptly at sunset. She wanted to finish with her horses in time to take a quick shower. Leading her horses inside she got them settled into their respective stalls before heading for the feed/tack room to gather their grain and hay for the night. When she got both of their feed troughs filled, she grabbed a brush and started grooming them. The repetitive simplicity of the task eased her stress and allowed her to zone out for a few minutes. She had been in the barn for about ten minutes when she heard Lafayette call out her name from the entrance.

“Sookie?”

“Back here.”

Lafayette made his way towards the sound of her voice and found her inside Freya’s stall, brushing the mare out while Thor was dozing in a heap of shavings he’d scratched into a bed. “Hey girl.”

“Hi.”

When Sookie didn’t take her eyes from her task, Lafayette went to grab a brush to help her. He’d actually really liked helping take care of her horses while she was out of town, and Julia, Sookie’s instructor, had actually given him a few lessons on Balder. Coming back with brush in hand, he stepped into the stall and said, “Need to speak with you real quick. Won’t take long. I know you’re worried about Eric rising, and I don’t want to stress you out anymore, but I got a favor I have to ask.”

Sookie looked up from Freya’s flank and asked, “What’s up?”

“I want you to have Eric or one of your other vampires glamour me.”

She certainly hadn’t expected that. “What?”

Beginning to brush the horse’s other flank, Lafayette explained, “I’m no good to you otherwise. The other vamps freak me out, but being around Eric? I can’t do it like this. I know he’s not going to kill me, he wouldn’t do that to you, but I can’t stop being terrified of him. I doubt I’ll ever trust him, but I need to be able to be around him, at least. Right now I can’t do that. I want to help you with all this, Sook, so I need to be glamoured to forget what happened in that basement.”

Eyes widening in understanding, Sookie quickly agreed, “Oh Lafayette! Of course! I can understand why you would want to forget, and of course I’ll arrange for it to be done. I’m sorry! I should have asked if you wanted it done before. I knew how much you were struggling with the trauma of it all, and I know you were having nightmares. It just never came to my mind to have you glamoured to forget. I’m sorry. I should have thought about it.”

“Now don’t go making everything your fault, Sook. The only reason I’m asking now is because I’m going to be around Eric so much. I need to be able to think straight and not have my head all clouded by terror. That’s the only reason I’m bringing it up. It’s not your fault, and you don’t need to be going and thinking it is. You take on too much already.”

Sookie offered her friend a soft smile, and said, “I’ll tell Han or Ivan to make you forget. They’ll make sure you remember what happens if you get involved with dealing V so you don’t make any of the same mistakes, but they’ll take away the trauma of the experience. I’ll also have them take away the knowledge that it was Eric that hurt you. Ok?”

“Sounds good.”

They continued to brush the horse in silence for a few moments before Sookie asked, “How’s Tara?”

“Edgy.  She’s with Eggs right now,” Lafayette replied with no small amount of disdain in his voice.

“He has the right to feel the way he feels, Lafayette.”

“You’re too forgiving, Sook. Always have been. He’s trying to turn her against you.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “I’ll talk to Tara, and you know that whatever decision she makes will be her own. No one has ever made her do something she didn’t decide to do for herself.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Lafayette laughed, “seriously though, what are you going to do if she decides to go?”

“Wish her all the best, and hopefully convince Eric to arrange for some type of security measures to keep her safe during all of this wherever she does go. That’s about the best I can do.”

“She’s your best friend, Sook.”

Tears pooled in Sookie’s eyes. “I know, and, if she goes, she’ll take a part of me with her, but this is where I belong, Lafayette. I know you guys don’t understand, and until I am able to explain, you won’t, but I’m not leaving. I’m sticking with Eric. I’m fighting for the choices I’ve made.”

Shaking his head, Lafayette stated, “I don’t understand it, Sookie, but I’ll accept it. I know you well enough to know you wouldn’t be sticking with Eric unless it was the right choice. I wish you could tell me what is going on, but I’ll wait until you can.”

“I wish it was safe enough for me to tell you, Lafayette. Good Lord, I wish it was safe enough for me to tell you, but it’s not.”

Lafayette could see the fear in Sookie’s gaze, and it worried him. Reaching forward across Freya’s back he set his hand atop hers to still her brushing motions. “It’s going to be ok, Sook. We’re going to pull through this. I know we will. The world owes us one, Sook, and it’s about time we collect.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.” They both started brushing her horse out again and Lafayette added, “Besides my sexy ass is too fine to be killed. You’re not so bad either.”

“Lafayette!” Sookie shook her head and laughed when he flashed her a lopsided grin.

Together, they finished up Freya and moved to Balder’s stall to groom him. They didn’t say another word to each other. They simply enjoyed the silence and the comfort they took from one another. With both of them working, they got the horses groomed much faster than Sookie would have been able to do on her own. When they were done, Sookie said goodbye to Lafayette as he headed towards the guesthouse while she headed inside. The sun was just dipping below the horizon and Sookie figured she had about 15 minutes to shower and change for her appointment with Dr. Ludwig.

Sookie headed into the house and nodded at her guards sitting in the living room before making her way upstairs. She stripped down quickly, Thor then promptly scratching her clothes into a pile so he could make a bed out of them, and then headed into the shower. She wanted to hurry because she wanted to be done by the time Eric rose. He didn’t deserve to see her naked until he apologized, and she was determined he wouldn’t. So despite how much she wanted to relax in her deluxe shower, she rushed through her bath as quickly as possible. Even though it was her second shower of the day, she didn’t worry. Now that she knew Eric’s blood rejuvenated every part of her, she didn’t worry about her hair drying out from over washing. It was a nice bonus.



By the time she’d finished her shower and was putting on a pair of pink track pants and matching tank top, she could hear her front door bell ring and figured it was Dr. Ludwig. As she was tying her sneakers, her bedroom door opened and Sookie looked up to see Eric standing in the doorway. He was in his customary black pants and wife beater. He looked good, but she forced her gaze from him. She had meant what she said last night. Until he apologized, she had no interest in socializing with him. It would be strictly business until he made things right between them again.

Eric watched Sookie actively ignoring him and resisted the urge to sigh. He had known by her hanging up on him earlier today that she had not gotten over her anger. She was just so damn stubborn! Crossing his arms over his chest, he leaned against the doorway and asked, “How was your day?”

Silence.

“Sookie, must we go through this juvenile act every time you are upset with me? You know the silent treatment doesn’t work with me.”

Nothing.

“Sookie, we cannot move past this unless you are willing to speak with me about it.”

Finished with her shoes, Sookie stood from the bed and asked, “Are you ready to apologize and admit you were wrong?”

“I was not wrong, and I have nothing to apologize for.”

“Fine.” Sookie moved to push past him, but Eric grabbed her arm to stop her. She didn’t even look up at him as she whispered in a hard tone, “Let. Go.”

Eric had never heard her use that tone before, and its sharpness actually unnerved him for a moment, but he quickly brushed it aside. Pushing Sookie back into their bedroom, he kicked the door shut behind him and declared, “I will not allow things to be like this between us. We are going to talk.”

“No we’re not. Unless you’re going to apologize and admit you were wrong, there is nothing else to say over the matter.”

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Eric sighed, “Sookie, why must you be so difficult over this? Do I not have enough to worry about? Why can you not simply accept the fact that the supernatural world operates differently and that acts of dominance are needed from time to time?”

Sookie could feel rage bubbling up inside her. “You have enough to worry about? Are you freaking serious? What about me, Eric? What about everything I’m going through, huh? What about the fact in less than a year I’ve lost all of my family, I lost my virginity to a liar, I was made into a slave, I was impregnated with a vampire god, and now I’m facing losing the man I love to the most powerful villain the world has ever known?” Setting her hand over her stomach she continued, “A villain, by the way, that wants to kill my baby and put his own inside me so he can conquer the universe?!”

Taking a threatening step forward, she added, “And my mate, my king!, who is supposed to be standing strong beside me is abusing me to make himself feel better! So to hell with you and your worries, Eric! Right now I’m focusing on me!”

He was actually tempted to back up a step. The heat of her anger was radiating off of her, and he could feel it washing over his body in electrifying waves. He stood his ground though. “Sookie, I know you are upset. I understand that, and I’m willing to make amends, but you must work with me in order to do so. What do you need from me to move past this?”

Shaking her head sadly, Sookie whispered, “Eric, why can’t you understand? All I need from you is an apology and for you to admit it was wrong for you to do what you did. I need you to see that I’m not an object for you to manipulate when it is convenient for you to do so.”

“I was not wrong, and I will not apologize.”

It might as well have been a declaration of war. Sookie’s eyes narrowed and she looked hard at Eric as she hissed, “Then we have nothing more to say.”

“We have much to say.”

Her fists clenched at her sides, Sookie snarled, “Get out of my way! The doctor is here and I need to know what she has to say about taking care of my baby.”

“Our baby.”

She didn’t respond and simply glared at him. Eric was torn now. He wanted desperately to finish this conversation and iron out the problems between Sookie and him. He wanted to move past all of it so he could hold her again, so he could mate her again! He’d risen tonight needing her so desperately his entire body had actually felt like it was on fire. It had taken all of his control not to jump Sookie the second he’d laid eyes on her, but he’d been able to hold back. However, as much as he wanted her, needed her, he also wanted to speak with the doctor and hear of the measures needed to provide and care for his son.

As he thought on it, Sookie declared, “Eric, the doctor is waiting.”

He decided. “And she can wait still. We are not done talking about this.”

“I am.”

When Sookie moved to brush past him again, Eric once more pushed her back in front of him. “No, you are not. I do not like this distance and discord between us. I will not allow it. You will smile for me again, and you will do so now.”

Shaking her head, Sookie argued, “It doesn’t work that way, Eric. You can’t just will the problems between us away.”

“Watch me.”

Resisting the childish urge to stomp her foot, Sookie forced herself to take deep breaths so she could remain calm. “Eric, I have no doubt your will could move mountains, but not this time. It’s not just about me anymore.”

Clasping his hands behind his back, Eric replied, “I do not understand.”

Smoothing her hands over her abdomen, Sookie explained, “Eric, we’re having a baby. We’re going to have a family together. We’re going to fight together to save the world. We have incredible challenges ahead of us. I can’t back down anymore. I can’t let you abuse and hurt me anymore. I won’t let our child grow up in a home like that. Our child will be raised to see people for who they are, not what they are. You treat me as a lesser being because I’m human. That is wrong. I’ve tolerated it before now, but I can’t anymore. I can’t because I’m going to have your baby. Our son will not be raised to be prejudiced. I can’t and won’t allow it. Our son will not be raised to think he can abuse his lover.”

“I do not abuse you.” Eric’s words were hot and hard as steel. The idea of abusing Sookie was abhorrent to him. He did not beat his mate, and keeping control of her was not abuse in his eyes.

“Yes, Eric, you do.”

“Sookie, you are not—“

“Eric, stop. Just stop!”

“Sookie, I—“

“NO!” Shaking her head as tears built in her eyes, Sookie forced herself to ignore her need for Eric, her need to take shelter in his arms, and she forced herself to ignore Eric’s own need he was loudly broadcasting to her through the bond. She could tell how badly he wanted to fix things between them, but he wasn’t willing to back down. Until he could come to understand how wrong he had been to do what he did, there could be no forgiveness from her. Taking a deep breath, she said, “I can’t do it anymore, Eric. I just can’t.”

He felt fear build in his chest at her words. “Can’t do what?”

“Let things go. Every time you’ve hurt me, every time you’ve manipulated me, every time you’ve lied to me, all of it, I’ve let it go. I’ve let it go to keep the peace, but I can’t anymore. I can’t let you continue with your delusions on what we are.”

“I have no delusions.”

“But you do. You believe me to be lesser than you. You believe you have the right to do whatever you want with me. I do belong to you, Eric, but only because I love you. My love for you makes me yours, but you belong to me just as much. You say you don’t, but, deep down, you know you’re wrong.”

When it looked like he was going to argue, she held up her hand and continued, “Stop. We don’t have time to go around in circles over this. You have your position and I have mine. We’re at odds right now because of a mistake you made, again. I’m not going to fix it for you this time. I’m done letting it go when you hurt or demean me. I’m done letting you treat me like your pet. I just can’t do it anymore.”

Reaching for him, she cupped his cheeks and pulled him down to her. Placing a soft kiss on his lips, she whispered, “I love you with all my heart, Eric Northman. I love you, I love our baby, and I have dreams of eternity with you … but I’m not going to live eternity like this. I’m not going to live my life in fear that at any moment someone is going to offend or upset you, and that you’ll hurt me because of it. I can’t do it.”

She kissed both his eyelids as she added, “I’m right here, Eric. I’m here and I’m waiting for you. As soon as you’re ready to apologize, I’ll be here to work everything out with you, but, if you can’t see that you were wrong, there is nothing to talk about, because I am not backing down again.”

Stepping back she brushed the tears from her cheeks as Eric looked at her. “I’m done making things right between us when you do something to hurt me. I’m done being a pushover. I’m going to be a mother and a queen. I have to learn to stand my ground, and I’m making my stand right now. You either apologize and admit you were wrong, admit that we are equals in this, or we can’t be lovers anymore. I will not be in an abusive relationship.”

Eric could only gape at her. The lingering sweetness of her kisses gripped him painfully and he couldn’t wrap his head around her vehement stance. He could feel her resolve and determination through the bond and knew she meant her words now to her very core. He thought for a moment and finally decided he needed to regroup. He would take Sookie downstairs to speak to Ludwig, and then later he would try to reason with Sookie again. He would make her understand. This was all a misunderstanding; she simply wasn’t understanding his position. He would make her understand.

Stepping back from her, Eric announced, “We will discuss this more later. For now, we must speak with Ludwig and hear how best to care for our son.”

Sookie decided it would be best not to point out that she was done arguing the matter. It was enough that Eric wasn’t going to push her right now. “Fine.” When he reached for her hand to lead her downstairs, she jerked out of his hold and stomped past him.

Eric shook his head behind her and decided not to press the issue. He did not want to upset Sookie further. Silently, they made their way downstairs and found Dr. Ludwig sitting on the couch with her feet hanging off the side while Han and Ivan stood behind her. Sookie smiled at the three of them and then waved Han and Ivan over. She ignored Eric as she said, “I need one of you to do me a favor.”

“We do no favors, Sookie, you have but to command,” Han informed her.

“Well you call it a command, and I’ll call it a favor.” When the Asian enforcer smiled at her, Sookie continued, “Lafayette wants to stand with me, but he’s afraid of … well, he’s terrified of Eric.” Glaring at her mate, Sookie continued, “Eric kidnapped and tortured him some months back, and Lafayette is suffering panic attacks because of it. Either that or PTSD. In any case, he can’t be here like this. So I want one of you to glamour him into forgetting what happened. He asked for this, so he’s waiting for you guys at the guesthouse. Glamour him to forget, but make sure he remembers that selling V is bad and dangerous.”

Han bowed to Sookie and said, “I shall see to it now. Ivan will guard the door while you and your king hear what the doctor has to say of your son.”

“Thank you.”

After the enforcers left the house, Han to see to Lafayette, and Ivan to stand guard at the door, Sookie turned back to face Eric and Dr. Ludwig. Eric was looking at her curiously and she could tell he was wondering why she hadn’t asked him to do it, but she decided to leave him wondering. The big ass. Focusing on the small woman doctor, she asked, “Did you get the results from all the tests back?”

Ludwig looked back and forth between Eric and Sookie, clearly picking up on the discord, but not wanting to get involved, and replied, “Yes.”

Now Eric was fully focused on the topic at hand. He stepped forward and asked, “How is my son?”

Ludwig rolled her eyes at the vampire and looked solely at Sookie. “Everything is ok. I have some concerns, however.”

Sookie could feel her heart skip a beat. Fear began building inside her. Setting her hands over her stomach as she sank into one of the chairs, she whispered, “What’s wrong with my baby? Is he ok? Am I doing something wrong?”

Shaking her head, Ludwig rushed, “Oh, no child, not like that. Perhaps I shouldn’t have phrased it like that. What I meant to say is that some of the tests showed that you’re not getting all the nutrients you and the baby need. I have a list of foods for you, and a list of suggestions to make sure you stay in the best physical condition. You have nothing to worry about.”

Sookie immediately felt herself relax, but before she could say anything, Eric ordered, “You will tell us everything you know of our son … now.”

Again Ludwig ignored Eric and spoke directly to Sookie. “First, you aren’t eating near enough. While the baby doesn’t need food, you do. Your body is supplying everything the baby needs to survive right now, and it is taking a toll on your body. I want you to eat five small meals a day, and plenty of healthy snacks in between.” Digging in her bag, Ludwig retrieved several sheets of paper and said, “Here are all the foods you can eat, and I’ve highlighted the ones you should get the most of. Eat lots of meat, and make sure you order it from the butcher shop I named. You want good meat that isn’t contaminated with chemicals. Only supe-owned meat stores carry such meat. It would be even better if you hunted fresh game. Venison is very good for you.”

“I will hunt for her tonight,” Eric stated determinedly. It had been some years since he hunted such an animal, but he knew it would not be difficult. He had caught the scent of deer around Sookie’s woods many times.

Ludwig nodded her head and replied, “Good.” Looking at Sookie she added, “I know you might not like it, but eating the meat as rare as possible will be good for you.”

Clearly appalled, Sookie asked, “Won’t that make me sick?”

Shaking her head, Ludwig replied, “No. The baby and Northman’s blood have changed your chemical makeup. You have a human body, but the blood inside you is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s so complex it makes vampire and fae blood look like dirt in comparison. Which reminds me, you need to make sure no one ever gets a hold of your blood for analysis. It could be disastrous. I had all the samples I took destroyed as well. Not a drop of your blood should leave your control.”

Eric growled. “What could be done with her blood?”

Shrugging, Ludwig answered, “Any number of things. Her DNA is so complex it baffles me. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I doubt I will again. It’s so much different now than it was when I examined her after her attack. It was different than other humans then, and carried power, but now it is pure magic and energy. Her blood itself carries its own life force. It would be dangerous for anyone who knows magic to get hold of it. Powerful spells and potions could be cast with it, and if humans got their hands on it? With their technology, there is no knowing what they could do with blood as powerful and potent as Sookie’s.”

As fascinating as all of that was, Sookie wanted to focus on her baby. “Fine, no more donating blood for me. Now I want to know about my baby.”

Nodding her head, Ludwig continued, “For now, you need to exchange blood with Northman at least once a day, but, as the child develops, you will need to exchange with him much more often. You will need Northman’s blood to help give your body the energy it needs to carry this child, and the baby will need his father’s blood in order to form a proper Maker/child connection.”

Eric was confused. “Do we not already have that now? I am the father.”

“No, you don’t,” Ludwig answered. “If anything, Sookie has a firmer connection, but she hasn’t the strength or power to properly control a vampire. Her children will always be connected to her because she birthed them, but they will need a Maker/child connection with you so that you can control and guide them as they grow into their powers. Because of this, you must feed Sookie your blood often. That will get more of your blood into the child so you can bond with him appropriately.”

Neither Sookie nor Eric had a problem with that. They already shared blood often, so it would be easy. Eric crossed his arms over his chest and ordered, “Continue.”

“I tested all the samples I collected from Sookie extensively, and while there is the presence of fae in her blood, I don’t think lemons would harm the child, but, to be safe, you should avoid them. Iron as well. Just to be safe, until we know more about the baby.”

“That should be easy,” Sookie confirmed. “I usually only have lemon when I put it in my tea. I’ll be cutting back on my caffeine now so I can avoid that, and I’ll get rid of everything that is made of iron tonight. Anything else?”

“Yes. You need to stop eating anything unnatural. Until we know more about this baby and what he is doing to your body, you can’t eat anything man made. No artificial foods, preservatives or anything else. No Cokes, no candies, no frozen foods, no potato chips, nothing. If it’s not fresh meat, vegetables or fruits grown straight from the ground, you shouldn’t eat or drink it. Vampires do not respond well to chemicals in their bloodstreams, and you don’t want to eat anything that your baby could have a bad reaction to.”

Seeing the surprised look in Sookie’s eyes, Ludwig continued, “I know this will be hard since basically everything you buy in a grocery store now has chemicals, preservatives and artificial ingredients. You need to stay away from all of that until we know more about the baby. I would suggest setting up a greenhouse here and growing all your own fruits and vegetables, and either having Northman hunt you fresh meat each day, or buying from the supe butcher shop I told you about. You don’t want anything that had pesticides on it, or growth hormones or anything of that nature. Humans contaminate their food far too much, and it is no longer safe for you to consume it while you’re carrying a vampire baby. It could make you both very sick.”

Eric reached for his phone in his pocket. Hitting one of his speed dials, he had Bobby on the line immediately. In moments he had ordered his day man to see to the purchase of a large greenhouse that could be installed at Sookie’s immediately. Alcide and his men could assemble it once the materials arrived, and Eric ordered Bobby to have them overnighted. He then called the Council and ordered the representative he spoke with to find him the most trustworthy garden gnome that could be found, and have him or her delivered to Sookie’s by the next evening. When he was done, he focused on Ludwig and asked, “What else?”

Sookie couldn’t help but be touched with how quickly Eric had moved to make sure she and their baby would have what they needed, but before the warmth she felt for him could grow any larger, she pushed it aside and focused solely on Dr. Ludwig. “What about exercise and things like that? Is it ok for me to be up and about?”

“Oh yes,” Ludwig assured. “You want to stay as mobile and active as possible while you can because it might become necessary for you to go on bed rest as you progress in your pregnancy. I’m not sure yet, but, for now, stay as active as you can. Avoid anything that puts pressure on your stomach, of course, but walking, running, horseback riding, dancing, yoga and so on will be good for you. If you’re healthy, the baby will be healthy. I intend to have a check up with you every three to four days to monitor your progress since the baby is developing so quickly, so I’ll warn you in ample time if you need to slow down.”

“What about sex?” Eric questioned. Of course that would be one of his concerns.

Sookie glared at him and hissed, “Like you’ll be getting any!”

When Eric growled at her and flashed his fangs, Ludwig couldn’t help but laugh. Reaching over to pat Sookie’s knee, she said, “I think I’m really going to like you! ‘Bout time someone said that to him!”

Eric was not amused, but before he could respond to either of them, Ludwig announced, “Physically I see no reason for the two of you to stop having sex. If you experience any bleeding or discomfort, then you should stop, but, until then, it’s up to the two of you.”

“Will she need to drink blood?” Eric queried.

“I don’t think so. Right now her body is supplying the baby all the blood he needs. That lowers her blood count though, and that’s why she needs to feed from you for her sake as well as the baby’s. Your blood will give her body the energy and rejuvenating ability it needs to continue to care for the babe. I will monitor her closely and, if it comes up, then yes, she might need to drink blood to feed the baby, but I seriously doubt it will come to that. Your blood is powerful enough to rejuvenate her a thousand times over.”

Clearly relieved, Sookie said, “That’s good to hear. I don’t think I could drink blood unless it’s ….” Blushing, Sookie let her words trail off. The only time she could stomach taking blood was when she was feeding from Eric, and then it was a wholly erotic experience. Sneaking a peek at him she saw him leering at her as he had obviously caught onto her emotions and her meaning.

 She glared at him and looked back at the doctor. “Is there anything else?”

“Not currently. The baby is still in its early stages and nowhere near fully developed. For now those are the basics. As he grows and I monitor him more, his needs might change and I’ll fill you in on any changes as they pop up.”

Knowing that Ludwig had told them all she could currently, Eric ordered, “Good. You are dismissed for the evening. However, you will not be monitoring Sookie every three to four days. You will come to give her a check-up every day. All of your other patients are insignificant from this point forward. Sookie and my son are your primary concern. You will give her your personal cell phone number, and you are to be on call for her at any time. I might also move you here as the pregnancy progresses. It depends on how hard all of this is on Sookie’s body.”

Before Sookie could admonish Eric for being so rude, Ludwig surprised them all and bowed her head to Eric. “Of course, my king. I understand the importance your mate and child hold, and as you said, they are my main priority.” Grabbing a pen Ludwig quickly wrote her cell and home number on one of her businesses cards and passed it to Sookie. “You call me anytime, child. I will come immediately.”

“Thank you so much,” Sookie replied.

Having said all she needed to stay, Ludwig hopped off the couch, patted Sookie’s knee and bid them a good night. When she was gone, Sookie got up and headed into the kitchen, Eric following behind her. He watched as she retrieved two boxes and several black trash bags, and asked, “What are you doing?”

“Following the doctor’s orders.” Handing Eric the black trash bag she’d opened she said, “Hold that.” She then pulled open the fridge and began chucking everything inside that violated the doctor’s orders … which was pretty much everything. She had never noticed how much of the food she ate had chemicals and artificial ingredients in it.

Eric was silent as he held the bag while Sookie filled it with yogurt cups, pre-packaged cheese, fruit cups, Cokes, ice cream, etc. When she held up the meat he’d ordered Bobby to buy early this morning, he confirmed, “It has chemicals on it. It came from the nearby grocery store. I will hunt you fresh meat in a moment.”

Sookie simply nodded her head and began tossing the meat. She looked at the eggs in the fridge and glanced at Eric with an arched brow. He shrugged and said, “Toss them. I’ll have some chickens delivered with the greenhouse and you can have fresh eggs. Just to be sure.” The eggs ended up in the garbage.

For the next thirty minutes Sookie and Eric poured through the kitchen, stripping it of iron cookware (though Sookie refused to actually throw it away since it was her Gran’s, and, instead, had Eric promise to store them somewhere safe for her), and all the food that violated the doctor’s orders. In the end, there was no food left because practically everything was made with artificial ingredients, and those that weren’t, Eric detected the smell of pesticides, growth hormones or other chemicals on. By the time they were done Sookie had a mental list of all the things she would need Eric to get for her to make up for the fact that she could no longer purchase food from the store. She held back a small piece of chicken for Thor’s dinner to mix in with his kibble tonight. Even he would be feeling the effects of the more purified diet Sookie would now be on.

She couldn’t believe she was actually going to have a milk cow and chickens since she couldn’t buy eggs and milk from the store anymore. It was so bizarre! But she would do it for her baby. While Eric left to hand the food off to the guards so they could take it to the homeless shelter in Monroe, Sookie walked about the house and looked for anything made of iron. There were only a few pieces in the house that were made of it, and she took note of them so that she could tell Eric to remove them. By the time she was done, Eric had finished with the guards and was hanging up his phone after having called Bobby to add to the list of things he wanted delivered to Sookie’s soon.

Eric watched Sookie standing at the kitchen sink looking out over her much changed yard, and said, “Everything will be delivered come dawn and Alcide and his men will have the greenhouse built and hooked up to the electric line I had installed on your land by nightfall. The garden gnome that will arrive tomorrow night will be able to grow any and all foods on the approved list Ludwig gave us within a week or so, but, until then, I have arranged for Bobby to pick up fruits and vegetables for you daily at an all natural store in Shreveport. Supposedly no chemicals are used. It should suffice until your own food is grown. The chickens and milk cow will be here in the morning as well, and can be situated in your barn.”

Sookie nodded her head, but didn’t turn from the window. Her mind was in overdrive. So much was changing so fast. She absently noted, “That seer woman is supposed to be here tonight with Niall. They are both supposed to be bring more guards.”

“I know. I’m expecting them shortly. You will meet your fae guards tonight, but they will guard you during the day so as not to distract your vampire guards.”

“Were are you going to be putting all these people? The guesthouse isn’t that big.”

Eric moved to stand behind Sookie and set his hands on the counter on either side of her to trap her in his hold. “The clearing of the land around your home will start tomorrow morning, and a perimeter set. I’ve purchased all the surrounding land, and cleared out all inhabitants. Compton’s home will serve as a security base. It is close enough to the barrier that those staying there can come to your aid quickly. The house will be remodeled and updated, and additional housing will be built as well. Alcide’s construction company already has the plans drawn up. Quarters for your guards will be cramped for the next few weeks, but, with the speed Alcide’s crew works, it shouldn’t take long to have adequate housing up and ready for them.”

“Good.”

Raking his mind for something to say that would breach the distance between them, Eric asked, “How are your friends?”

“Do you really care?”

“I care about you, and you care about them, so, in a roundabout way, yes.”

Not turning around, Sookie answered, “They are scared, angry, and confused. Lafayette and Sam will stay and stick it out, but I’m fairly certain that Tara will go.”

“I thought she was your closest friend.”

“She is, but she can’t understand why I won’t tell her what’s going on. She sees it as a betrayal. If I can’t tell her, she’ll see it as me taking your side over hers. She’ll see it as rejection. She’ll leave with Eggs.”

“You can’t tell her, Sookie.”

“I know, Eric. I’ve made the decision to do whatever I have to in order to protect my baby, and, if it costs me a lifelong friend, so be it, but that doesn’t mean this decision doesn’t hurt me.”

Eric nuzzled the top of Sookie’s head, and soothed, “You have me. You’ll always have me.”

Sookie ignored the heat that pooled low in the juncture of her thighs at the feel of Eric all around her, and the comfort his words brought her. “I’ve told you where I stand on this, Eric. I’m done arguing about it.”

Eric weighed his options and finally decided to make a tactical retreat for the time being. Sookie was scared and feeling cornered from everything. Pushing her now would only make her angrier. He would hunt her the meat she needed, and then when he brought her back the sustenance she needed for herself and their child, he would try reasoning with her again. Regardless, he would not go another night like last night. Sookie would be beneath him offering her body to him soon. He would make sure of it.

Planting a kiss on top of her head, he said, “I’m going to get you some venison. I’ll be back in a few moments.”

Sookie didn’t turn to watch him go. She listened as the door opened and closed before letting out an exasperated sigh as she offered up a prayer. ‘Lord, or whoever or whatever is out there, give me the strength to get through that Viking’s thick skull. Amen.'

2 comments:

  1. Love Han and Ivan sometimes. Only thing is that Sookie shouldn't have to endure abuse until Eric grows up. Sigh. Their backup plan sucks though. Eggs is going to be a big liability. I can see him leaving, them (badguys) getting to him, and him turning on them (sookie et al) all. Not sure if I want Tara to stay around or not. Stay the course Sookie. No pool, no naked times. Glad she has the horses to help calm her mind with. Can understand Lala's request. ROFL for Eric's thinking that would work. Hope she can stay strong enough to stay the course this time. Good questions she is asking the DR. Be nice to be able to afford to eat that way for all of us. Love her prayer after he goes hunting.

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  2. i do not like Eggs at all, if anyone is manipulating Tara it is him..... she will figure it out when it costs her everything.... I love the tendernees between Ivan and Han.. it is very loving... However our big ass viking needs to grow up quick or he will loose his bonded.... i loved the end when she said her prayer my best Kristie

    WOOT WOOT i found not OOPPPS

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