Outside of Louisiana, Sophie-Anne and her children were taking refuge in the house of a human family. They'd gained access by glamouring the teenage daughter who they'd intercepted as she was sneaking back in after a late night rendezvous with her boyfriend. The fallen Queen of Louisiana was in a vile mood, and even inflicting pain and torment on the family they were staying with was not alleviating her rage and embarrassment. She had lost not only her favorite and most beloved child, but also her entire kingdom along with everything she owned. She'd lost everything, an accumulation of riches gained over many human lifetimes, and gained absolutely nothing. Hatred and rage boiled inside her, and as she ripped the throat out of the youngest child of the human family, a seven year old brown haired doe-eyed little boy, she swore vengeance.
The body fell heavily to the floor with a thick splat and as she turned to survey the room sullenly. Sophie-Anne did nothing to hinder the rivulets of blood running down her mouth, chin and neck. The cowering humans? They were insects: droning, whining sacks of blood. She cared nothing for the screams of terror and pain of those that remained alive. Her focus was only the burning, seething rage inside her. Andre's loss burned to her core. The severed connection to him pulsed with a red agony she couldn't think past. The thrum of his life was gone from her mind, the cadence of what they shared ripped from its embed and now flapped angrily in her head. She could still feel the blood of her beloved child on her hands. He'd been part of her whole for centuries and now he was gone and there had been nothing she could do to stop it. There were no words, no last minute reprieve, no politicking. He was gone and she was alone for the first time in hundreds of years. Alone without his advice, his love, his strength, his knowing—and she hated that he wasn't here to tell her what to do next.
What most people didn't know was that while she was the Maker, it was Andre that had truly brought most of her plans to fruition. The consummate enabler, if she wanted something, Andre would make it happen. Sophie-Anne wasn't stupid, she knew she was impulsive and driven almost entirely by her emotions. It was why she had been so determined to have Andre as her child. Other than his love for her due to her blood bonding him before turning him, Andre had been a being driven almost entirely by logic. In fact, were it not for his love for her, Andre would never have attempted to go up against Eric in the first place. Over a part fairy telepath or not. He had been so good at calculating odds and insuring survival. She had actually been the one to cause most of their problems with her petulance and unreasonable demands. Now she had only herself and her remaining children to depend on. She might not be very good at being logical, but even she knew it wasn't much to fall back on. She'd lost her backbone, her rock, her strength, the one thing she could always count on.
As she watched her children feed on the remaining humans in the home, her eyes fell to her newest child. Jason. 'He could either be a boon or a hindrance. It's obvious that Northman is going to come for him at some point in an effort to salvage some semblance of who the boy was. Northman is obsessed with that bitch of his, and he won't give up. I need to find a way to use this.'
Sophie-Anne commanded, “Jason, come here.”
Lifting his head from the teenage girl he was currently draining, Jason's eyes snapped up, predatory and sharp towards his Maker and queen. Seeing the annoyed and angry expression on her face, he dropped the girl with a thud, and in a flash was kneeling before Sophie-Anne. “Yes, my queen?”
“I need you to tell me about your sister. I need to know all of her strengths and weaknesses. I need to know how to use her. She is the only way I'll be able to get to Northman.”
Nothing remained of the Bon Temps jock as he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth to remove some of the blood. He licked at the remnants on his hand greedily and smiled coldly. “Pretty much anything about Sookie is a weakness,” he offered, “anything and everything. She's slow, stupid, and too caring to make it in this world.”
Sophie-Anne bared her fangs as she lunged at her newest child in unrestrained aggravation. “I know that you fool!,” she hissed, grabbing his shoulders and then pushing him hard so he fell backwards onto his ass, “I want specifics! I want details as to how to hurt her! Tell me more than what anyone who has ever met her knows. You're her brother! Tell me intimate details about her!”
He scrambled to regain his footing and looked up shocked. Shaking his head, Jason refused, “I never slept with Sookie! That woulda been just plain wrong!”
Rolling her eyes at her child's stupidity, the former queen clarified, “I meant, tell me things about her that others wouldn't know just by meeting her. Tell me what she would sacrifice her life for. Her morals. Tell me exactly what makes her strong, and what makes her weakest.”
Jason scratched his head, pondering long and hard on the queen's demand. A light broke over his face as he thought of something. “Family and friends are Sookie's strongest point—and her weakest. She might not be the most accepted girl in town, but those that do call her friend are loyal to a fault. I guess bein' all weird like she is made sure she had good friends. Normal folk don't have much to do with her.”
Sophie-Anne waved her hand contemptuously and admonished, “Most humans are sheep. Easily used and easily discarded. They seek to blend in, so it stands to reason that they would not want to associate with your sister. Tell me about those that did call your sister friend. Tell me about what other family you have.”
“No other family members. Now that Hadley's dead, me and Sookie are the last of the Stackhouses. As for friends? Well Sookie only really had two growing up and that was Tara and Lafayette. Sam too now, I guess. Ever since he came to town and opened up the bar and Sook started working there, he's been real close to her too. Has a bit of a soft spot for her, too.”
“Full names, Jason. What are their full names?”
“Oh! Uh—Tara Thornton, Lafayette Reynolds, and Sam Merlotte.”
That name rung a bell, and after a few moments consideration, Sophie-Anne remarked, “I'm fairly certain I've heard of Sam Merlotte. I believe he is a shifter.”
“Shifter?” Jason asked with a somewhat vacant expression.
“Shifters can turn into different animals. I'll have one of your siblings give you a rundown of the supernatural community later. For now, I need to know more about your sister. Tell me more.”
Racking his brain, Jason offered, “Sook's real emotional. She feels and then acts.”
'Very familiar. Apparently like brother like sister,' Sophie-Anne thought with contempt. 'But it is something that I can use. I'll need to find a way to get the girl to leave the safety of Northman's side. No doubt he will have guards in place to watch over her day and night as well. I will have to use one of the friends to draw her out. Once I have her in my control I will have to work quickly. With how closely they are bound, Northman will no doubt be able to track her quickly. I'll either need to find a way to interfere with the bond, or her demise will have to happen quickly.'
The fallen queen's eyes turned reptilian as she vowed silently to herself, 'Northman will suffer as I had to. He will feel the link he shares with that whore ripped from him as I felt my Andre ripped from me. If I can't find a way to block the bond I will be sure to film the girl's death, that way I can send the footage to Northman and he can see it with his own two eyes.'
With this in mind, Sophie-Anne remarked, “I'll have to use those closest to the girl to draw her away from Northman. There is no doubt he will be guarding her zealously, and I will not be able to attack the girl head on. I'll have to use one of these three people to get her where I want her. Tell me more about these friends of your sisters. Who is she closest to?” Sophie-Anne's smile was without warmth. “Who would she give her life for?”
“Tara. No doubt. Sook loves Lafayette and all, but Tara's her best and closest friend. They only had each other as friends when they were little, and are as close as two people can be. Sook would do anything for Tara.”
“Remove herself from Eric's protection for the girl?”
Unaware of Sookie's pregnancy, Jason was certain his sister would do just that, and told his queen as much. “Definitely. Sookie would do anything to protect those she cares about.”
In a rare display of intelligence and cunning, Jason suggested, “You can still use me, too.”
Arching a brow, the former queen pressed, “How so?”
“Sookie said before that she won't give up on me. We can use that. I'm her brother. She'll do anything and everything she can if she thinks it will save me from you. We can use that.”
Sophie-Anne's smile was feral, suddenly the prospect of having Jason as her child didn't seem so burdensome. True, he was no Andre, but he might prove useful enough that she might not destroy him once his usefulness in regard to Sookie was done. Tapping her sleek nails on the arms of the chair she was sitting on, she cackled, “Oh that will be so perfect! I can torture the girl without even being near her! If we can make her think the human you is still alive inside you, that you don't exist for my pleasure, she will certainly deliver herself into my hands trying to save you!”
Nodding his head, Jason agreed, “She definitely would.”
“So I just need to find a way to use it. The girl might not be the brightest in the world, but she isn't a fool either. If I move too quickly she'll suspect it is a trap. I can't just have you call her up or some such nonsense. She'd be far too suspicious. I also have to be wary of Northman. He has not survived this long for nothing. He might care for the girl, but he won't trust her survival skills against his own. He'll also be aware that her heart is weak. Contacting her without Northman finding out will be difficult, and if he finds out there will be no way we'll get the girl alone to use her against that bastard.”
After mulling the matter over, Sophie-Anne declared, “For now, all we can do is watch and wait for an opportunity. We need allies. Not everyone will be satisfied with Eric taking over Louisiana. Most of my sheriffs only swore him allegiance because of that new skill of his and his new allies, however he got them.”
Eyes growing bright with excitement, Sophie-Anne continued, “Adriana! Oh that's perfect!”
“Adriana?” Jason questioned.
“Adriana is one of my sheriffs. She did not stand beside me the other night against Eric, but I realize now she couldn't. However, all know she's held a torch for Northman for decades. She might not want to betray the Viking, but she will hold no great affection for your sister. Perhaps I can find a way to use that.”
“How?” Jason pressed.
Waving her hand dismissively, Sophie-Anne replied, “You leave that to me. I need to think on it. Whatever I do, I'll have to be careful. One wrong move and Northman will strike.” Eyes casting around the room, Sophie-Anne saw that the remaining few family members that had yet to be drained weren't that far away from being dead. And in any case her new plan had excited her appetite. Turning to Jason, she purred, “My child, go find me something young and sweet. I'm in a better mood and wish to celebrate. Hurry along and I'll let you join me.”
When Jason stood and headed for the door, she added, “And blonde. Definitely blonde.”
Further away, an Escalade pulled up to a Hilton in Dallas, Texas. Following Sookie's instructions, Eggs and Tara had headed for the nearest major city and were staying in a hotel with a top-of-the-line surveillance system. They didn't want to take any chances. After leaving Sookie's, several of her Were guards had escorted them to the house they had called home for only a few short weeks, and they had packed what clothes and belongings would fit in the Escalade before hitting the road. The guards had then proceeded to follow them to the state line, but once they crossed, the black Suburbans that had been escorting them made immediate u-turns and headed back the way they'd come. From then on they'd been alone, and had only stopped at crowded gas stations along the way to refuel, use the bathroom facilities, and buy provisions when they were thirsty or hungry. Fear of what might lay out there compelled them to never stop moving.
Eggs had found the silence deafening. He was glad that Tara had come with him, but he was worried that she regretted it with every mile they managed to put between them and Sookie. Tara hadn't said a word to him after leaving Sookie's, other than to hand him the bag of guns and the list of security measures her friend had provided. Tara hadn't suggested a direction, hadn't asked to stop for bathroom breaks and had nursed her bottle of water and sandwich for more than an hour before finally consuming it. Her quiet was unnerving. He'd argued with himself on whether to speak to her about everything that had just happened or to give Tara her space. He knew Tara always needed time to process her feelings, and he wanted to give her that. In the end, he'd allowed them to pass the entire drive in the oppressive silence, but now he needed to clear the air with his girlfriend.
As soon as they were safely in their room with the locks turned and curtains drawn, he gave Tara enough time to take care of whatever she needed to take care of in the bathroom, and as soon as she came back out he ambushed her. “We need to talk.”
Tara knew she couldn't avoid this conversation forever, but truthfully she didn't know what to say to Eggs. On one hand, she was glad to be away from Bon Temps and all the awful things that had been going on there, and that for all intents and purposes would continue to be happening for the foreseeable future, but on the other hand, she was angry that she'd had to choose between her man and her family. Because that's exactly what Sookie, Lafayette, and Sam were: family. They were the people that had stood by her her whole life. Had taken her shit from the very start and never judged her for it. It ate at her that she had left them behind. It made her feel like a coward and a backstabber, and she hated herself for it. What's worse, is that her anger at Eggs was mushrooming and now she had the fear that she might have given up everything for nothing.
Tara had a lifetime of honing that anger of hers till it was a mighty thing. It was her sword for all battles with a blade razor sharp that cut down enemies and all arguments. Once her anger had a direction to go in, it was nearly impossible to stop. It was a tsunami of destruction knocking down everyone in its relentless assault. For hours now it had gnawed at her that she had effectively left everything behind, and she was worried that she wouldn't be able to overcome her anger at Eggs and the entire situation she found herself in and she could easily destroy the only thing she currently had left in her life. She knew her lack of control had gotten her where she was today—surveying a sanitized hotel room in a city far from home with a man she questioned her commitment to now that she'd had time to think. Realistically, she knew that much of her anger was at herself. She also acknowledged it wasn't entirely Egg's fault that things were as they were. She knew the choice to stay or go had ultimately been hers, but she felt that if Eggs had been a little more willing to hang around, she could have stood by her family. Even if Sookie did scare the shit out of her now. All this felt very wrong now.
The room was clean and functional with a simple TV, bureau and mirror against one wall, a king sized bed against another with two small nightstands bracketing it. The third wall held a sliding glass door leading to a small balcony with two chairs set out on it, In the corner stood a plush wood backed chair against a small table with hotel stationery and two pens laid out on it as well as a receptacle holding takeout menus from restaurants nearby. Eggs sat on the bed watching the darkening scowl of his girlfriend and knew she was thinking over all that had happened over the last few days. The ponderous weight of the silence had shifted control from him to her in his desire to make her comfortable and he felt tremulous fingers of anxiety plucking the bowstrings of his nerves. He knew that she would hold some resentment towards him for not being able to stay and was determined they had to talk now to solidify his stance. If they didn't clear the air her anger would only ferment and drive them apart. He couldn't stand the thought of that. They had to talk. They had to get a game plan together and decide together where to go from here. He had an idea of where they should go from here, and he knew he'd have to sell the idea to Tara just right to make it work.
They'd both left Bon Temps behind. He intended it to be permanent. They'd left behind that small town with its small minded, WalMart-garbed, uneducated trailer trash denizens and the thick ever present odor of chicken grease and cheese fries He'd never have to see its beer swilling saucer-eyed devotees of Maryann ever again, nor deal with this new insanity coming from the Viking vamp and his legion of blood suckers. They'd left together, and if Eggs had anything to say about it, they'd stay together. He just needed to get Tara on the same page as he was. So again, he asked, “Tara?”
He recognized that tone, the ugly sound of a chain saw revving up. She could cut down dozens in its fury. He pushed past the menace, he would not stoop or grovel. Eggs rose from the bed and went to retrieve the chair across the room. He brought it back and placed it directly in front of the bed before retaking his seat. “Sit down, we need to talk.”
“Not now, Eggs,” she said, acknowledging the need but not the desire to talk. She didn't trust her temper. “I just want to take a shower and get into bed. We can hash it out in the morning.”
Her gaze lifted to see his waiting for her. Shaking his head, Eggs argued, “No. We're talking now. I'm not going to let your anger take you any farther away from me. I understand this is hard on you, and I know you're already starting to blame me. We need to talk to make sure things don't go bad between us.”
Her body refused to support her weight even a moment longer. She sagged against the bureau heavily, arms folding against her chest and stared at him. She'd be damned if she took his proffered chair. Her voice was tight with anger, “Talk about what? Talk about how you made me abandon my family? My home?” She took a deep steadying breath and her words were wounding. “Talk about how you weren't willing to fight for me as I've already fought for you! I went back to Maryann to save you and you couldn't stand by me!”
He'd been prepared for her rage. He knew this fight had to take place, and he was ready for it. “I didn't make you walk away, Tara. The choice to stay or go was yours. You chose to come with me and I'm not going to let you hold that against me. I know you came for me and tried to go up against Maryann to get me out of that shit. I know and I'm sorry I couldn't stay in Bon Temps for you, but I didn't make you go.”
“You sure as hell didn't make it easy on me!” she snarled.
“I know, baby,” he coddled, his hands coming up, palms out, to assure her of his intent. “I know I argued for you to go, and I stand by my arguments. Whatever Sookie is involved in now is bad. Beyond bad, and we got no business being involved in it. I know she's your friend, Tara, but she's not thinking clearly. She's a danger to us in her present mind. From what I can see she hasn't been thinking clearly since she first got involved with vampires.” When he saw she was about to disagree he quickly added, “You yourself told me that they have lied to her, manipulated her, enslaved her, and all kinds of horrible things, and yet she is choosing to stay with them. Not only that but she was asking you to put your life on the line and wouldn't tell you why.”
Tara frowned and opened her mouth to argue; he held his hand up to stop her. “Sookie is not my blood, Tara, and while I appreciate everything she did for me, I'm not willing to lay my life down for I fight I don't have any stake in. I can understand why you'd want to fight for her, but she wasn't even willing to tell you what she needed you to fight for! She wanted you to go in blind, just like Maryann did with me. It's the same thing.”
“It's not the same thing,” Tara protested. “It's Sookie! Sookie, Eggs! And I abandoned her!”
Eggs tried again. A different approach, also rehearsed. “Tara, I'm not trying to belittle what you've given up. I know how hard all of this is on you. I've never had a family, but I know what it felt like when I found out what Maryann was like. She had become my whole world. She was my Northern star. She was my foundation for everything. So when I had to face the fact that everything I believed about her and my life with her was a lie? It shattered me. So I can only imagine how you're feeling now. I was only with Maryann for a few years. You've been friends with Sookie since you were a little girl. You were born in Bon Temps. I understand you've sacrificed everything, Tara, but what I'm asking you to speak with me about now, is why.”
She cocked her head quizzically. He explained, “Why you sacrificed everything?”
Tears filled Tara's eyes. Her breath broke on a sob as she implored, “Why? Why did I sacrifice everything, Eggs? I need you to tell me because right now I'm thinking I've made the biggest mistake of my life!”
He blazed right past her anger with focused determination. She was like a dog with a bone, he forcing her to lose her grip and take it. “You didn't, Tara. I promise you didn't. You did what you had to do. What was your right to do. You chose to have your own life.”
Taking Tara's hands in his own, Eggs wore a slight smile and assured, “Tara, you sacrificed everything back in Bon Temps for a better future. You sacrificed your past for your future. Your future with me.” He rubbed the back of his neck and pleaded, “Sit, Tara, please.”
She sat in a huff, not wanting to be dictated to. Holding her gaze, willing her to see the truth and emotions in his own, Eggs continued in a deep and compelling tone, “Tara, we have a chance here. We have a chance to start completely over. We have a chance to leave all of our combined baggage behind. You've made a great sacrifice, Tara, I'm not saying you haven't. What I'm saying is that you've made this incredible sacrifice for a clean slate. A total redo. How many people ever have that opportunity? How many people ever get the chance to really start over? To walk away from all the wrongs they've done, all the wrongs done to them, and start fresh?”
He held her gaze, backing her down. She looked away, hesitating. Part of her wanted to snatch the keys off the bedside table and haul ass right back to Bon Temps. Part of her wanted to go back to where her family and friends were, where she was Tara Thornton, kick-ass bitch that didn't take shit from anyone. She so desperately wanted to go back so she could stop feeling this way. She wanted to stop feeling like a lost little girl. Since she was a child she'd born the weight of adult responsibility and never faulted. She'd paid the bills her mother drank the money away for and made sure the utilities never got turned off. She'd ensured there was food in the house. She'd gotten herself fed, dressed, and off to school while her mother was passed out in a drunken stupor. She'd taken beatings at her mother's hands one day only to turn around, pick her up and clean her when her mother lost consciousness in a pool of her own vomit and filth. She'd been in control for as long as she could remember. Always intuitively knowing what she needed to do to survive. To get through one more day. She may not have liked what she'd had to do to make ends meet, to make sure she survived, but she'd done it. And now? Now she was totally lost. Lost and unsure. She wasn't even sure who she was anymore now that she was Tara without Sookie, her mainstay.
With this in mind she held onto the only thing she had. She gripped Egg's hands tighter in hers, and begged, “I don't know what to do, Eggs! What do we do? You say we start fresh, but how? Where do we go from here?”
He'd been preparing for this moment the entire drive here. He'd rehearsed what he was going to say, how he was going to spin this, in so many ways. He knew Tara was fiercely loyal, and if he didn't argue his point just right, she'd be out the door and headed back the way they'd come in a heart beat. He couldn't allow that. He knew some trickery on his part would be necessary to make this work. He comforted himself that whatever lies he told here were necessary to ensure their safety. Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly and began, “I have an idea, Tara, but I need you to promise you'll hear me out. That you'll listen to everything I have to say before reacting.”
Tara nodded her head sensing the gravity of the situation, and answered, “I'll do my best.”
Choosing his words carefully, he plotted the course of his lie he needed to convince her of and announced, “Tara, first and foremost, I want you to know that I've thought long and hard about this. I've thought about what's best for us, and a way for you to be ok with us leaving Bon Temps. I want you to be able to help Sookie while not endangering yourself more, and I want you to be able to do this while we stay as safe as possible.”
“So what did you have in mind?”
Eggs decided to show her instead of tell her. He got up from the bed and went to retrieve something out of one of his bags. When he was sitting again he put the pamphlet into Tara's hands and waited for her response.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?!”
Tara's mind was a haze of red anger. Fury. Outrage. Betrayal. Her eyes stared down at the Fellowship of the Sun pamphlet in disbelief and all she could think was that Eggs was definitely trying to turn her against her family and friends. She'd heard all about what had happened to Sookie when she'd been in Dallas. Heard about how she'd nearly been raped, and she and Jason had nearly been blown up. She had no love for the Fellowship. Not to mention religious zealots had been spouting hate at her cousin Lafayette his whole life, and it pissed her the fuck off!
Crushing the pamphlet in her fist she hissed, “You fucking bastard! How dare you! How dare you pull this shit with me! I leave my family, my friends, my home for you and you're one of these fucked-up freaks!”
Jumping up from the chair, she tossed the crumpled pamphlet in his face and lunged for the car keys. She was going home! Before she could get to the door she felt Eggs arms wrap around her and immediately started struggling. “Let me go! Let go, you fuck!”
Her nails dug into his arms savagely and he quickly pinned her arms against her sides and held her firmly in place. “Tara! Tara! You promised to listen to me!” She was twisting her torso like an eel on a fishing line, kicking back ferociously in wild anger. It took everything he had to ignore the pain of her attack. He knew he'd have bruises come morning. As he continually moved his head to dodge the head butts Tara was trying to deliver, Eggs begged, “Tara, you promised! You promised to hear me out!”
“You lying sack of shit! You want to turn me against my family! Lafayette was right about you! I should never have left Bon Temps!”
“Tara! Just listen to what I have to say and if you still want to leave I won't stop you! Please!”
Tara continued to struggle for several more moments before finally stilling. “You have five minutes. Five minutes to convince me that you're not a scumbag or I'm gone. Now let me the fuck down.”
Eggs set his girlfriend on her feet and released his hold on her slowly. He watched as she spun around on him and he threw his hands up ready to deflect any blows she might rain down. When no strike came, he slowly lowered his arms and asked, “You'll listen?”
Crossing her arms angrily over her chest, Tara hissed, “Five minutes! Start talking!”
Eggs knew he'd have to tread very carefully here. He hated having to lie to Tara, but he had no other choice. He was certain that once he got Tara to the Fellowship, once he got her thinking about a life without supernaturals (Sookie included), she'd come to realize his way was the right way. However, in order to get her to do this he was going to have to make her think that the reason he was taking her to Steve Newlin and his church was so that she could help Sookie. Not get away from her. He'd work on the second part later.
So for now, he offered, “I think going to the Fellowship is the only way you're going to be able to help Sookie without actually being there with her.”
His unexpected words caught Tara's attention. By far and large the worst part of leaving Bon Temps, what was tearing her up the most, was that she was abandoning Sookie to a whole world of trouble, something she'd never done, because Sookie had never done it to her. They'd always stood together. If there was a way for her to help Sookie despite not being with her, she'd take it. She was still suspicious, but she was more willing to hear Eggs out if it would help her friend. “I don't understand. How would going to the Fellowship help Sookie? Those people hate anyone they don't consider normal, and they've already caused Sookie a whole world of hurt.”
Having rehearsed what to say in his mind during the long drive, having prepared for this argument, Eggs pressed, “Sookie isn't in her right mind. She's under those damn vamps' influence. You told me yourself she's like a whole new person. That she's not the Sookie you knew, and it's those vamps fault! If we explain that to Newlin he'd help us to get her out of there!”
Seeing a spark of hesitation and hope in his girlfriend's eyes, Eggs hurried on, “Sookie needs help, Tara. You and I both know we couldn't help her back in Bon Temps. I'm not going to lie and say she's my main priority, because she's not. You are, but the way I see it Newlin and the Fellowship are the best way to ensure we both get what we want most. I want us to be safe. I want us out of all that crazy devil shit, and you want to help Sookie. You want to save her, Lafayette and Sam from whatever that giant vampire has planned. There was all kinds of crazy shit going on back there, Tara. Fucked up monsters, crazy lights exploding in the sky for no reason, and all kinds of other stuff we got no business being a part of. We had to leave, Tara, but that doesn't mean we can't help your friends.”
“But what about Sookie being a mind reader, Eggs? The Fellowship doesn't like anything not like them. Anything not human, and I'm not saying Sookie isn't human, but they'll think she's a freak. They'll try to kill her again like they did last time!”
“Then we just have to make them understand she's one of us.” Taking hold of Tara's hands, Eggs argued, “Tara, Sookie is a good person. I know this. In the short time I knew her she did a lot for us, and you've told me about everything she's done for you over the years. Right now though she's mixed up with the wrong people and they've done something to her. Something that is making her act like this. She needs help. I'm sure if we were to get her away from those fucking vamps she'd start to realize how wrong she was about everything. If we explained that to Newlin I don't think he'd want to hurt her. He'd want her to help him. She could help find other humans that are being abused by vamps with her mind reading and then help the Fellowship save them. We just have to explain that to Newlin.”
As Tara mulled his words over Eggs forced back his guilt at having to lie to his girlfriend. He was very doubtful that Newlin and the rest of the Fellowship would be at all very receptive of Sookie, but he couldn't tell Tara that. He just needed to get her in the door. He had a tentative plan on how to work all of this out, and a great majority of it centered around a phone call he'd made to the Fellowship earlier today while in a truckstop bathroom. Tara didn't know he'd done it, and he was hoping she wouldn't find out. He was supposed to call back tomorrow during the day and supposedly he'd be able to speak to Newlin himself. If he could work this just right Newlin would be on board with how he needed to work things.
Eggs was fully aware that the Fellowship had it out for Sookie. Aware of it and intended to use that information. He intended to meet with Newlin privately, explain the situation, and hopefully get the reverend to agree to going along with pretending they wanted to save Sookie. Eggs knew that if he could get Tara away from supernaturals and the strange, basically everything to do with her old life, she'd realize she was better off without all that. They were better off. Better off without Sookie, Sam and Lafayette. They needed a new life together. A new life with regular people. He'd tried living on the fringe of society and look where that had gotten him. He was done with that. He was going straight and he was taking Tara with him. He wanted to just keep running. Everything in him pushed, insisted he keep going and never look back, but he knew he could run to the edges of the continent and then what? Tara might be with him now in body but her heart was in Bon Temps and her doubts were already eating at her. Her doubts and her guilt. She'd never be able to build a new life with him thinking she'd completely abandoned Sookie. Tara just couldn't do that. Her loyalty and love for her friends and cousin was just too damn strong. So if he wanted to make a new life with her, he had to first make her think that by being with him now she was helping Sookie. In order to do that careful planning and a little deception was needed. He contented himself with the fact he was doing this to keep Tara safe, so a few lies were ok.
When Tara continued to remain silent, Eggs went in for the close. “This is the only way we can help her, Tara. We can't do anything for Sookie in Bon Temps. That vamp has got her mind so screwed up she can't see what a monster he really is. Her head's not on straight, baby. If you want to help her we need help. We can't do anything for her on our own. We're just two people. Two humans against vamps and whatever else those things were back there. We wouldn't stand a chance … but the Fellowship is an organization with numbers and resources. If we can get to them, explain the situation, explain how Sookie is being used and that she needs rescuing, I'm sure they'd help us.”
When his girlfriend's expression wavered with her uncertainty, Eggs crossed the t's and dotted his i's. “If you want to save Sookie, Tara, it's the only way. It's either forget about her completely and move on, start our lives over and forget we ever knew a Sookie Stackhouse, or we have to go to the Fellowship and hope they'll help us. It's up to you.”
Tara held Eggs gaze as she rolled his words around in her mind again and again. On one hand she doubted the Fellowship would want anything to do with Sookie since she'd helped rescue that vampire awhile back, but on the other hand if she could make Newlin understand that Sookie had only done it to save Lafayette and because the vamps were making her, perhaps they would help her. There were just so many unknowns. Tara thought about it long and hard and finally offered, “Ok. We'll go to the Fellowship and feel them out, but I'm not committing to anything, Eggs. I don't trust those people, and if I think for a second they'll hurt my family, I'm going back to Bon Temps.”
Nodding his head, Eggs quickly agreed, “Ok. Ok. WE'LL make it work, Tara.” He took a deep breath and promised, “I'm going to take care of you, Tara. WE'RE going to get through this.”
Tara gave him a watery smile. “I sure as hell hope so.” She collapsed on the bed, staring numbly at the ceiling, to tired to think. The shower would wait.
In Monroe, Quinn made his way up the stairs of the house the Council had procured for him and his sister when they'd bought out his debt from the King of Nevada. Toeing open the door of his sister's bedroom he found her packing the last of her bags and asked, “You just about ready, Frannie?”She looked up from under a waterfall of long brown hair and grinned at her big brother. Placing another folded shirt into her suitcase, Frannie answered, “Yeah. I just have to pack the rest of these clothes, grab some stuff out of the bathroom, and I'll be ready to go.”
“Good. I want to get you settled at Sookie's before the king comes back.”
He crossed his arms as he leaned against her doorframe to watch her. Shifting nervously, Frannie asked, “Isn't it dangerous for me to move into the main house if the king doesn't want me there? You told me that Sookie said it was fine, but what about him?”
He saw a flare of doubt heat her eyes and rushed to allay her fears. He shook his head and reassured the tiny girl. “It's Sookie's house and she said she wants you in the main house. She calls the shots. Besides I'm willing to bet the king is going to be doing some major groveling for awhile so I doubt he'll make to much of a fuss. Just remember he doesn't like sharing Sookie's attention, so as long as you stay out of his way at night it shouldn't be a problem.”
Still packing, Frannie pressed, “What do you mean he doesn't like sharing her attention?”
Quinn's voice took on a very hard edge, his tone showing his distaste. “Northman's obsessed with her. He can't stand for anyone or anything to take Sookie's attention away from him. He doesn't like her having friends or family. He wants to be the center of her world, and he doesn't like her focused on anyone but him. When Northman is in the house, stay away from Sookie and you'll be good. He gets very jealous.”
“Sounds like one of those psycho stalker boyfriends you see on Jerry Springer.”
Laughing, Quinn agreed, “Something like that. Problem is not only is he one of the most powerful vampires in existence, he's also backed by the Council, so his treatment of Sookie isn't something that is up for discussion. We talked about this Frannie.”
“Yeah, you told me he doesn't treat her very well, which isn't surprising. All vamps are evil.”
He pushed away from the door and swiftly moved to grab her shoulders, his eyes bearing into hers intently. “Frannie, I've told you you need to stop talking like that. I know you don't have any reason to like Vamps, but Northman is our king now and you need to respect him.”
Frannie snorted and Quinn shook her once. “Frannie, I'm serious. Our loyalty belongs to Northman from this point forth. Northman and Sookie. They're our king and queen, and while we may not like Northman, our loyalty is important. You don't have to like him, his relationship with Sookie, or the fact he's our king, but you do need to show him the respect he deserves because he is our king.”
“Why, Quinn?” Gazing up at her brother with curious eyes, Frannie asked, “Why did you swear our loyalty to him? Why would you put us under the thumb of another fucking vampire! Why are you so determined to protect that bastard's relationship with Sookie now? Before you told me how you wanted to help her get away from all this crap and now you're on board with the rest of them! You're helping them to hurt her like those damn vamps hurt us!”
Quinn's jaw tightened. “Our situation was completely different than Sookie's.”
“You told me he treats her like a slave! She saved us Quinn! Sookie is so good! So sweet! She doesn't deserve to be some slave to a damn vampire! We should be helping her escape Northman! Not swearing our allegiance to him!”
“No, Frannie, we shouldn't. You don't know the whole story and I can't tell it all to you without direct permission. I told you that danger is on our doorstep and that's why I'm moving you to Sookie's. I've told you Northman is our king now and our loyalty to him is absolute, and I'm sorry I can't tell you why these things have happened, but it is important that you be loyal to Northman and his bond with Sookie. Very important.”
Shaking her head, Frannie insisted, “I'd never betray Sookie, but I don't trust any vampire. There has to be some way we can help Sookie.”
Still holding his sister's shoulders, Quinn gazed down at her and continued, “Frannie, even if we could find a way to get Sookie out of her bond with Northman, find a way to free her from his control, she wouldn't come with us.”
His sister's eyes widened in shock. Quinn pushed ahead empirically, he had to make her understand. “She loves him, Frannie. She loves him more than words can describe. I got no idea in hell why she loves him, but she does. Sookie is with Eric because she wants to be. He doesn't treat her right that's for damn sure, but that's for Sookie to handle. We just focus on our jobs. Mine is to protect Sookie, and yours is to try and be as much of a kid as you can. Sookie wants you to try and have a normal life. Will be kind of hard with all the increased security, but I'm hoping you can have some kind of normality in all of this.”
Frannie was silent a moment as she stared up at her brother. He was so earnest, his eyes so heartfelt. She would do anything to strip away the layers of pain and suffering she saw in them. She cursed the vamps that had put it there. She asked softly, “There's something big you're not telling me, isn't there?”
“Yeah, there is, but I can't tell you without permission from the king or Sookie. I'm not sure I would even if they did give permission. Knowing is dangerous, and I want you as safe as possible.”
“Does it have to do with Sookie?”
Laughing bitterly, still wounded that he had truly lost any chance with her, Quinn nodded his head and agreed, “Apparently everything has to do with Sookie, and I mean everything … but that's not for you to worry about right now. Right now I need you to promise me that you aren't going to cause trouble when you get to Sookie's. I have too much to worry about to be worrying that you're going to do something that will piss off the Northman.”
Hating having to lie to her brother, but believing she was doing the best thing for her brother and Sookie, Frannie agreed, “I promise, Quinn.”
Kissing his sister's forehead, Quinn said, “Good girl. Now finish packing up so we can go get you settled at Sookie's. She said she's got the guest bedroom all ready for you.” As he turned to leave, he tossed over his shoulder, “Remember to leave your laptop and cell phone here. No electronics with transmitters are allowed on Sookie's property.”
“I know. I'm not taking them with me.”
Once her brother had left the room, Frannie quickly grabbed her laptop off her bed and ran into the bathroom. Locking the door behind her, she took a seat on the toilet and got online. She immediately logged onto the secure site she'd been given the password to. Trumping any fear she'd had, she felt now only the thrill of standing strong and righteous. She began to type.
FRANNIE: We're leaving soon.
It was not even a minute before she received a response.
NEWLIN: Good. Remember to find out as much as you can about the security personnel as you can. Find out about Sookie's schedule as well. If we're going to get her out of there we need to know when the window of opportunities arise.
FRANNIE: Ok, but how do I get in contact with you? I'm not allowed a computer or cell phone.
NEWLIN: You'll have to find a way. Use the computer at the public library or some other means. We cannot contact you without being discovered, so you will have to contact us with updates when it is safe for you to do so.
FRANNIE: Ok. I'll contact you as soon as I can.
NEWLIN: We will wait to hear from you. I already have a team training to extricate you, your brother, and Sookie from the hold of the vampires. You all will be safe in the arms of God's love soon. Safe and in the light.
Frannie watched as Newlin logged off and she did the same. She knew it was wrong to get involved in the Fellowship. She knew humans like that had no tolerance for the supernatural, but she didn't have a choice. She had to get her brother and Sookie out of the control of the vampires. When a Fellowship representative had discreetly made contact with her a few weeks ago her initial reaction had been to tell her brother, but she'd heard the man out. Apparently, the Fellowship had been keeping and eye on Sookie and believed she was enslaved and wished to help her escape the clutches of the vampires. Their surveillance of Sookie had led to them learning about her brother Quinn being one of her bodyguards and they had decided to try and get him out as well. So Newlin had sent an undercover to approach her. He'd simply left her a password and web address. Telling her she could speak to Newlin directly if she logged on, and they would explain more.
After careful consideration Frannie had decided that she had no other choice. She was determined to save Sookie from Eric-freaking-Northman. She knew it was wrong to work with scum like Steve Newlin, but she only intended to use him. She'd use Newlin and the Fellowship to free Sookie and then they could flee. She, her brother and Sookie could get away from all of this trouble, all these vampires, and find their own place in the world. Her brother and Sookie could get married and be happy. They could have babies together and she could be the aunt. They could be a true family … and Frannie was determined to make it happen.
Much farther away, Sargon stood staring out at the city below him. His home sported an entire wall of glass that lent a magnificent panoramic view. He often found himself looking out at the city, watching the humans coming to and fro, gazing at the many multicolored lights that illuminated the ebony night, listening to the sounds of civilization around him. Humans fascinated him, their short lives playing out within their skyscrapers and businesses, the glitter of streetlight and neon illumination a hedge against the darkness they sought so hard to stave back. Their industry had made him a wealthy man many times over and in the long millenia he'd walked the earth he lacked for nothing. The sounds of both commerce and recreation drifted up to his home and for brief moments of time they eased his anxiety and loneliness.
Initially he had a mindset much like Northman's. Humans were animals, beings that existed solely to serve vampires and provide food and pleasure. He'd used them at will, and discarded them just as easily. However, over the many long years he'd walked the world, he'd learned from them. He'd learned that while they were not as strong, nor as fast, while they possessed so little magic and foresight, they were capable of unimaginable things. He'd seen young boys that had known no riches, no comforts in life, sacrifice their lives for strangers during wars. He'd seen inventors turn night into day. He'd seen women take children not their own and bring them to their breast for naught but love. He'd seen cities burned and destroyed by war, only to be rebuilt by the survivors who had little to hope for, but such inner strength they refused to give up. He'd seen and he'd learned. He'd learned that status, station, and nature of existence was not what made a being great. It was their actions and desires. A king that desired nothing but food, wine and women was not a hero. A peasant boy that stole for bread for his family was true royalty. These were the lessons humans had taught him. It was these lessons that enabled him to love Sookie as she deserved to be loved, and it was why he knew he had to take her from Northman.
Did Eric love Sookie? Without a doubt, but he only loved Sookie, and therein lay the problem. Sookie loved without rancor or judgment. Her heart hoped and dreamed for a better world. A world she was determined to create from the dregs of the old. She could not be happy with a man that did not long for the same. Was Northman fair? Oh yes, but was he impartial? No. Northman judged by existence. He judged by physicality. A vampire is a vampire, and a human is a human. He categorized as such and judged as such. A vampire was judged on one scale, and a human upon another. Sookie could not live with such a man. She need a man that judged on action alone. And Sargon was such a man.
His eyes scanned the city he had been based in for many decades now, but would not be here for much longer. The construction on the home he intended to share with Sookie had finished last week, and he was more than eager to relocate there. He did not mind city life, but he knew his Sookie would not take to it. It would put too much strain on her shields, and really, Sookie just wasn't meant for big city life. He would take her around the world to visit all the major cities, as she did so love to travel and experience new things, but he knew his southern belle wished to live the country life. Knowing this, knowing her, he'd built her the dream home she'd always fantasized about. His own home had been built to suit his own tastes, masculine lines and textures throughout, wide open spaces, but it was an empty penthouse, missing the warmth of a woman. The house that awaited her would be their home, a place of peace and serenity, a place of comfort to raise their children, a place of love.
He'd seen to it that her own personal Tara awaited his Sookie. Complete with pool and barn, it boasted plenty of acreage for her beloved horses as well. He'd ordered a faithful replica of the whitewashed brick southern plantation Tara for Sookie several years ago. Right down to the dogwood tree landscaping and the dark cedars hugging the graveled driveway. He hadn't decorated the inside, it all awaited her touch knowing she might wish a more modern decor. He wanted to gift her with everything she'd ever wanted, and Tara would be a perfect acknowledgment of his deep feelings for her. He knew that the Northman was already beginning the construction of his own Tara to give Sookie, but once he succeeded in taking her from the Viking they couldn't very well live in the same house. 'No,' Sargon thought, 'We'll begin anew in a different Tara. A better Tara.'
His long black hair was pulled back in a ponytail. He was dressed in faded jeans that hugged his strong thighs and a white shirt with rolled up sleeves displaying thickly muscles forearms that were folded across his chest. Even before the expectant knock on his office door, he'd already heard the thin heartbeat and the shuffling of his servant approaching, and Sargon anticipated him with a commanding, “Come.”
A tall wiry-built man entered with nervous bearing, his eyes quickly finding Sargon before he bowed his head. He had worked for his lord since he was old enough to work, his father having worked for him before him, and his father before him down through the generations of his family. They had always been servants born into the service of Lord Sargon, and he knew that his Master never took such news as he was about to deliver well. “Uh, sir ... you said, well—“
“Henry, what have I told you about stuttering? If you bear ill news, simply state it and let me make of it what I will. Hesitation only incurs my ire.” Sargon never took his eyes from the city that lay sprawled before him as he waited for his servant to say whatever he'd come to say.
Straightening, Henry announced, “My Lord, there have been several security issues in regard to Miss Stackhouse brought to my attention and I thought you should be alerted immediately.”
Sargon twisted around angrily, his dark eyes almost black. When he moved, muscles rippled across his broad back and strained the shoulders of his white shirt The time when he had been forced to take a passive stance to the events of Sookie's life, never allowed to interfere, had passed. Now he was an active part of her life and he would tolerate no threats to his future mate's wellbeing. He was the oldest vampire in existence, possibly one of the oldest creatures on the planet, but nothing could strip him of his careful control like the thought of his mate-to-be in danger. “Speak.”
“We tracked the former Queen of Louisiana on satellite after Northman ejected her from the state. She and her children took refuge in a domicile occupied by a human family. Cleaners will need to be sent in, she has created a blood bath and the Council will be involved in damage control. We hacked the home security system and the family cell phones and have been monitoring conversations inside the home for several hours. Sophie-Anne has been questioning the girl's brother extensively about your Mate's weaknesses. The brother has informed his Maker that your mate's greatest weaknesses are her family and friends. As we speak, he is detailing as much as he can about Tara Thornton, Lafayette Reynolds and Sam Merlotte so that Sophie-Anne can find a way to use them in order to draw Sookie out of her protective barrier.”
Henry hesitated as he cautiously watched his lord's jaw clench. Usually his lord was as still as a statue, never showing emotion that could give his thoughts away. When Lord Sargon conducted business, planned war, or interacted with others in any way he was as resolute as a mountain. 'Waver' was not in his vocabulary. However, his lord became an entirely different person when Sookie Stackhouse was involved. The girl had a profound effect on his Master. Lord Sargon went from the most powerful, pragmatic, ancient vampire in the world, to someone governed by emotion, a man without the millennia of experience, survivalist intuition and forethought. In its place, he was simply a mortal man with wants, and hopes, and desires, and dreams, and needs. For there was no doubt in any of Sargon's servant's minds that their lord needed this Sookie Stackhouse. This human female had gone from being yet another obstacle to overcome in his quest to rule all to the sole focus of his attention. From the day that blonde baby girl was born she'd had the world's most powerful being wrapped around her little finger … and she didn't even know it.
Henry could remember quite clearly some of his Lord's worst outburst in regard to the girl. He could remember how his lord ripped and tore at his home the night she was first molested by her uncle. He remembered the humans and vampires that had lost their lives that horrible night as his Master sated his blood lust and need for vengeance upon them. His Master had wanted to go to Miss Stackhouse, to shield her, to protect her, but he couldn't because the slightest interference in her life could alter the path of destiny and prevent her from finding her true mate who was needed to unlock the power of The One inside her. Henry knew it had taken all of his Master's control not to simply go to Sookie over the years. He had seen the strain on his Master's face as he'd been forced to stand by and watch his mate-to-be suffer at the hands of her uncle, her unloving mother, her classmates, the small minded town that reviled her special gifts, all the pathetic humans around her for so long, but Henry knew the wait was almost over. The girl's powers had been awakened and it was almost time for his Master to lay claim to her.
Sargon's gaze bore into him as Henry continued carefully, not wishing to agitate him. “The brother also suggested that his queen use him to get to your mate. They have a tentative plan to trick the girl into thinking that there is more of her human brother still inside the boy than she immediately thought. That perhaps he is not completely under control of the queen.”
Sargon's fist clenched in exasperation as he slammed it into the wall thunderously. 'She's suffered enough for a dozen humans what with the death of both her parents, her grandmother and now the loss of her brother. And this scheming, hot-headed child queen would seek to enslave her? She's a goddess, people should be bowing down to worship Sookie.
'What the hell is wrong with Northman? Why didn't he incarcerate Sophie-Anne and all her minions until every avenue to save her brother had been thoroughly researched? Why let her free to run amok knowing what a vengeful bitch she is? It makes no sense at all. It's beyond foolish, it's unwise and could cost Sookie further.'
He knew he would have to investigate this situation thoroughly and decide what action to take. He inclined his head. “And the second issue?”
He cleared his throat, bobbing in place. “Miss Stackhouse's friend, Tara Thornton, is in Dallas. Her boyfriend has suggested they team up with the Fellowship in order to rescue Sookie from the Northman. Intelligence shows that Mr. Benedict contacted the Fellowship today during the drive from Bon Temps to Dallas while at a gas station just inside of the Texas state line. The conversation was brief as he was not able to get in contact with Newlin directly. He revealed only that he had information about vampires of importance in Louisiana and Miss Stackhouse. He is supposed to call again tomorrow and be able to speak to the reverend personally.”
“And Miss Thornton has agreed to this?” Sargon was very skeptical of such an idea. Just as he had studied Sookie extensively over the years so had he studied her friends and family. He was not fond of Tara's often angry and violent outbursts, but he knew her to be a dedicated and loyal friend. He doubted she would be foolish enough to think the Fellowship could be any type of friend to Sookie.
“According to the conversation, the boyfriend has convinced her that this organization is the only means to sever Miss Stackhouse's connection with humans, but voice analysis indicates he is lying.”
'No doubt the boy hopes that once he brings Tara into the fold of the Fellowship her loyalties will sway, which is a possibility. Humans are notoriously susceptible to herd think. Once she becomes a part of this Fellowship cult she might very well become a danger to Sookie. Her intimate knowledge of Sookie's life as well as Sookie herself could be a powerful weapon in the hands of such fanatics. I will have to think on this,' Sargon thought.
“Monitor both situations accordingly and notify me of any change. Is there anything else?”
“Yes, sire. Miss Quinn is departing her home to head to the Stackhouse compound. She and her brother should be there within the hour.”
“Did she make contact?”
Nodding his head, though it was for naught as his lord had turned back to observe the city, Henry agreed, “Indeed, my lord. Your ruse to fool her into believing she is working with the Fellowship is still in effect. She believes the lack of more direct contact is a security precaution. She has no idea she is working for you. She has assured she will find some way to contact us with specifics of the comings and goings in the compound now that the statuary will prevent our surveillance.”
Sargon nodded, his gaze continuing to focus on the distant thrum of the city while his mind ruminated on the news. “You have made it apparent that discretion is necessary? I'd prefer a lapse in communication over the loss of such a valuable asset,” he mused. “The girl's placement in Sookie's home will be invaluable. She must curb her anger at vampires in order to remain in their fold. Sookie might be fond of her, but if she can't harness that temper of hers Northman will suspect her less than resolute loyalty. Be sure in your next contact with the girl you stress how she must acclimate herself to her surroundings. Become one with the inner circle Northman is forming around Sookie. Frannie cannot afford to stand out due to her resentment and hatred. Make this apparent.”
“Yes, sire. Your daytime orders, sir?”
Sargon thought it over for a moment more before adding, “Until I decide how each situation is best handled, you are to leave Sophie-Anne and Miss Thornton to their devices. Let's see what the specifics of their plans are, however, should immediate threats to Sookie's safety arise you are to notify Northman's daytime security personnel immediately. Is the security team in Shreveport prepared?”
Henry agreed, “Indeed, my lord. They have all safely and securely infiltrated the Shreveport area and are living under cover. Two of your best men have also successfully taken up residence in Monroe without suspicion. Should the need arise, they will be able to be at the barrier surrounding your mate in under 20 minutes. Those in Shreveport would take longer, but with our surveillance that should not be a problem. Two of your satellites monitor all comings and goings in and around Northern Louisiana. We will see any human or supes attempting to get close to Miss Stackhouse long before they get there. In addition to Miss Thornton and the former queen, we are also monitoring all land lines, cell phone communications, and we are shaping all their internet packets within a a 50 mile radius of her NOC. ”
“Begin monitoring all forms of communication for any known Fellowship members and cells.”
“Sir, that would require more analysts than we have in our personal employ.”
Not moving his eyes from the city before him, Sargon declared, “Delegate some of the work load to the CIA. Make sure that the director is aware this is an issue of top priority to me. Only his best are to be working on it and I expect hourly reports to be delivered.”
“Yes, sir. There's one other issue my lord.”
“Your son, Master.” Henry held out his hand and waited for his lord to take his offering.
Sargon turned sharply at his servant's words. Seeing the slip of paper in his hand, he moved with lightning speed and snatched it up. Gazing down at the image before him, he whispered with awe, “My son.”
Nodding, Henry agreed, “Indeed. Sookie emailed the pictures to the Northman earlier. She has nicknamed him Peanut, our sources say.”
Sargon shared the warmth of a rare smile with his servant as he continued to stare down at the photo. “Peanut,” he said, tasting the word with amusement. “How very appropriate, though once she is here, home with me, we'll definitely have to discuss proper names. My son will not be named Peanut.”
Henry shared the moment of mirth. “I'm sure you will name your son well, my lord. I'll leave you to your thoughts.” Having delivered his news and knowing his lord would not want him to linger, Henry bowed reverently and left the room.
After his servant left, Sargon continued to stare down at the picture of his son. He was small, but he was healthy. A fact Sargon intended to remain fact. He was aware that humans would not tolerate the birth of a vampire baby by a seemingly human woman, but he was determined that nothing would come of their intolerance. He would defend his family with a vengeance this world had never seen if anyone dared threaten his mate and son.
'He will be tall, much like his other father.' His head tilted to the side, a boyish expression lighting his face. Smiling, Sargon mused, 'No doubt he will have just as much love of war and fighting as his other father as well. I'll have a wooden sword crafted for him and begin his fighting lessons as soon as he is walking. He will be a fine warrior, though I doubt Sookie will be as happy with the idea of our son fighting.'
He could practically see it now. He would be trying to teach their child the proper way to hold a sword and all the while Sookie would be insisting quite adamantly that the boy was too young to even hold one. He knew she would be a fierce mother, and he would respect that about her, however, he would not allow her to be so overprotective that it stunted their children's growth. Peanut would someday rule beside him, and Sargon believed wholeheartedly that it was his job to make sure his son turned into a fine man. And a fine man was, first and foremost, a warrior. A warrior who was always ready to defend his home and family. His smile dropped to a grim line as he began to ponder the new security developments.
He'd been saddened for his mate when her oldest and most trusted friend had not chosen to stand and fight beside her, and he'd been angry on her behalf. Angry that those closest to Sookie were so unworthy of her love. Sookie gave all of herself to her friends and family. She had put her life on the line to save Tara from Maryann, had done her best to turn her situation with Northman into opportunities for Tara and her friends, and yet Tara had chosen to leave her behind. Tara's trust in Sookie had failed, and Sargon was saddened for his mate. All around her was the fallout from callous, selfish, cruel behavior, associations beneath the attention of her gentle heart. Her loving, precious heart was always up against a world that was heartless in its regard.
'But I shall remake it for her. I will make the world into something beautiful and perfect for my mate. She will know only joy and happiness for the rest of her life once I succeed in making her mine,' Sargon vowed as he finally moved away from the window and strode to the back of his office where a secret panel was revealed behind a mammoth floor-to-ceiling bookcase that easily swung away from the wall when the powerful vampire moved it.
He pressed his thumbprint into the biometric read device and held still as his eyes were recognized by a retinal scan and waited as the door's pneumatics whooshed open. When the door swung open, the room's overhead halogen lights were triggered to turn on and he stepped inside. Letting his eyes roam the room he inhaled deeply and then sighed, a completely unnecessary breath but comforting in his cold chest. This room was his oasis. His small piece of happiness. His getaway from all the planning, the responsibilities, the waiting. This was his Sookie room. The focus of the room was a large oil painting he'd done himself of Sookie on her last birthday. Which explained the halogens: while he was able to see quite well in the dark with his enhanced vampire vision, the lights provided full spectrum color he needed to make sure his paint colors that he used would appear in their natural hues. He'd mounted the painting so it was the first thing he'd see whenever he entered the room. Instead of the shorts and t-shirt she'd worn that day, he'd painted her in a floor length midnight blue ball gown. She was seated elegantly on a golden throne and her bright smile warmed his heart. He longed for the time when she would smile thus for him.
The walls of his Sookie room were adorned with photograph after photograph, painting after painting. All of his angel of light. Each portrait, every photo cataloged Sookie's life down to the second. He had pictures of her chronicling every important moment of her life from the day she was born. There wasn't an inch of wall space not showcasing her beautiful visage, and he gloried in his haven. He loved his treasured escape here. He loved to come into this space and be surrounded by nothing but Sookie. In the far corner there was a replica of her wooden dollhouse that her father had built her, and beside that, a stack of replicas of Sookie's most favored stuffed animals through her childhood. Several mannequins were placed throughout the room as well, each showcasing a different stage in Sookie's development, each wearing an article of clothing that formerly belonged to his beloved. He'd shamelessly scavenged them from her donation bags throughout the years when she decided she'd outgrown certain clothes and wished to give them to charity.
He had her favorite white jumper with the little yellow flowers all over it, and, of course, her sneakers with the yellow laces that matched it. Near it was the lacey pink dress Adele had bought for Sookie to attend her first school dance all those years ago. He'd hated her having to suffer the cruel words of those spiteful girls back then, but luckily that was one of the nights that her brother had stepped up and actually done his sister proud. Further down was Sookie's prom dress. She'd been so excited about the prom, and saving up every spare penny to try and buy her own dress since her Gran was struggling financially by that time. The event sparked one of the few times he'd broken his own rules and interfered in her life. He knew she didn't have near enough money to buy the dress she'd really wanted, so he'd used his resources to ensure a brand new designer gown in the perfect size would be strategically placed in the discount clothing store he'd known Sookie was going to shop for her prom dress at. He'd made sure the gown would be there positioned where she'd find it immediately, and he'd glamoured the clerk into pricing it well below $100 so she could buy matching shoes for it as well. He'd never been more proud than to watch Sookie leave for the prom in the dress he knew she'd wanted that he'd arranged for her to have. In some small way it made up for the many times in the past when he'd been unable to care for her as she deserved.
Coming to stand along one wall that showcased Sookie's early years, Sargon's eyes filled with bloody tears as he stared at one photo in particular. It was a snapshot of a young Sookie sitting on the front porch of her house. Her mother had just told her that her uncle Bartlett was coming over to babysit her and her brother while her parents went on a date night. Sookie's expression tore at Sargon just as much now as it had then. Child Sookie's eyes were far older than any child's should be. They were dark and full of pain and dying hope. When this picture was taken, Sookie had been sitting on the steps of her house waiting for a monster to arrive. Sitting there all alone with no one to confide in as to why she didn't want to see her uncle and why she refused to wear the dress her mom picked out for her to wear special for him. She was only a child but those eyes had in them the knowing that thick overalls were defensive wear. His eyes tracked her soft blond curls falling to her slumped and defeated shoulders in the photo. How could no one have guessed what was happening at the time? A child so alone and waiting for the touch of a man who had no right to touch her.
Sargon could feel his gut twist as righteous fury tore at him even now. He'd hated having to stand by and do nothing back then. Hated it and felt his soul cry out in agony. He'd even toyed with the idea back then to saying the hell with the prophecy and collecting Sookie to shield her from the world. He'd thought about simply making her his child when she came of age and taking the world on his own. He had come very close to doing that many times over the years as he'd been forced to watch Sookie suffer. Too close. The only thing that had held him back was the knowledge that if he did Sookie would never have children, never see the sun again, never be what she needed to become if he had. So he'd held himself back and allowed life to carry Sookie through the years as it was meant to. Stood back and waited for the time to make everything right.
'And once that bastard vacated her life, he was fair game for me to take revenge!' Sargon thought with total satisfaction. The moment Bartlett had been banned from Sookie's presence by her grandmother, he'd moved in on the despicable human and done his best to ensure that foul loathsome being would get not even a moment's peace. He'd entertained the idea of killing him, but found the thought lacking. Dead was dead, and dead the man wouldn't suffer as he deserved to. So instead Sargon had made every moment of the man's life agony.
Even now he smiled to think of the horrors he'd visited upon the man for the crimes he'd committed against his Sookie. First, he turned Bartlett's own body against him, afflicting him with mysterious illness after illness that doctors had no idea how to diagnose let alone treat. Illness that prevented him from ever getting an erection again as Sargon didn't even want that man masturbating to memories of what he'd done to his precious one. Following that, he'd taken out his legs and doomed him to life in a wheelchair and from there it was an insidious deterioration snaking through the rest of his body. He made sure his kidneys always troubled him and his bladder had absolutely no control of his bodily fluids forcing the man to wear a diaper and ultimately use a colostomy bag. He'd used his magic to ensure every part of Bartlett's body hurt and plagued him and no amount of prescription or illegal narcotics would take the pain away. After that he'd reached into the man's mind to fill his every waking moment with horrifying visions of hell on earth, demons and monsters stalking him. And Bartlett's dreams? There simply weren't words to describe the agonizing visions Sargon conjured for his dream state. Sargon had ensured his magic worked so that Bartlett not only saw his dreams and hallucinations in vivid detail, but lived them. He felt everything done to him in those moments. 'Oh yes, he paid for the crimes he committed against my precious one. More than paid.'
In fact it had not taken long for Bartlett to long for death, try for death. The man knew he was doomed to hell, but he had reached the point where he figured that hell had to be better than what he was going through in life … but Sargon denied him that. Denied him and jubilated in his continued existence that was nothing but pain and suffering. Every time Bartlett had tried to take his own life, Sargon had thwarted him. Many times he'd stopped the man himself, taking joy in appearing before him as a ghoul—bone white, a living skull with eyes blazing fire, his fangs razor sharp extending past his blood red lips. As Bartlett would shriek over and over again, Sargon forced him to revisit the hell he had made of his life. The mental devastation he inflicted was beyond comprehension.
“It is you who is the real monster, Bartlett,” he had told him at one time. “You will live long and make old bones, I'll make sure of it, and you will never know a day without pain, you sociopathic pedophile.” Bartlett's eyes had widened in shocked awareness. Sargon nodded contemptuously. “Yes, your niece, Sookie,” he had confirmed and melted away in a swirling grey fog. “I do this for Sookie.”
Other times, he'd made sure the appropriate measures were in place to prevent him from carrying out his suicidal plans. It was why he was so angry with Bill Compton. Not only had the fool wounded his beloved's heart with his lies and deceit, not only had the imbecile dared to take Sookie's innocence under false pretenses, but the idiot had also killed Bartlett. Sargon had been furious when his spies had reported that Compton had killed the man. Compton had robbed him of years of vengeance for his wrongdoings against Sookie. He'd nearly killed the jackass for allowing Bartlett peace in death, and it took everything to rein in his enmity.
Sargon despised Bill Compton. The vampire was little more than pond scum in his opinion. What he most hated about the pitiful excuse for a man was that Compton had robbed Sookie of her first time. Sargon had wanted Sookie to experience her first touch by a man at the hands of Eric. She had deserved to be loved purely. Not because she was a means to an end, a plot point, a mission for a queen. Sargon knew that Compton loved Sookie, but he also knew that at the time Bill had taken Sookie's virginity, the vampire had only been coming to love her. He had not loved her the night she gave herself to him. That had been a crime in Sargon's opinion. He had wanted Sookie to have her first time with Eric so that she would never have to know the pain of love betrayed. Eric might not be willing to admit he loved Sookie, but Sargon knew the truth. He knew that Eric had fallen in love with Sookie long before their first time at the cabin. So he was angry that Bill fucking Compton had robbed his precious one of such an experience. He wished he had been more vigilant during Compton's brief stay in his future mate's life, but he had been unable to step in and take the necessary measures to prevent Sookie from knowing such betrayal.
Sargon was pleased that Eric intended to make sure Bill paid for his betrayals against Sookie, but he also knew that nothing the Northman did would be enough. Just as with Bartlett, there simply weren't enough tortures or horrors that could be inflicted to adequately pay back any crime committed against Sookie. Any wrong done to her was irreparable, but it had to be enough that those who loved her would never stop trying to make reparations. It was why he was continually scouring his personal library, his many spell books, manuscripts and magical history logs, desperately trying to find a way to save Sookie's brother from Sophie-Anne, even though he was sure it was a lost endeavor. He would not give up. Just as Northman had, he swore to Sookie that he would find a way to save her brother.
“She will be happy,” Sargon swore. The prophecy had ceased to mean anything to him some time ago. It was no longer about power to him. It was about Sookie, only Sookie. He didn't want an army of children to conquer the universe for him. No. He wanted Sookie. He wanted a family with her. It's why he already loved the child in her womb, and prayed that Sookie would come to him willingly when the time came. He didn't want to have to kill his son to ensure his beloved's place at his side for eternity. It would hurt him immensely for anything to happen to Peanut, as he truly did view the boy as his child. Anything that was a part of Sookie was, by default, a part of him, and he would love and raise the boy as a true father should. Sargon cared nothing for power anymore. He cared only for Sookie. He cared only about having a life, a family, a future with his mate. He'd maintain the power he'd amassed over the ages, but only because it would be necessary to adequately protect his mate and children. As soon as his son was born the humans would turn against them. Sookie and Peanut would be in danger and he would need an army and power to protect his family.
'No one will harm them!' Sargon swore. He would destroy anyone and everyone that tried to harm his family. He would enslave every last human on this planet with his magic if necessary to protect Sookie and Peanut. She would fear nothing because he would use all the power he'd gained over the long time he'd walked the planet to make the world perfect for her. Sookie would know only joy in motherhood. He would protect her and their son so that Peanut could grow strong and stand beside him. Sookie would give their son more brothers and sisters to play with and he would watch over all of them.
Smiling to himself, Sargon moved farther into the room to the back corner where the Majestic Carriage Crib from an online company called Posh Tots was located. He'd ordered it special a day before Sookie left for Sweden, knowing she would return pregnant and wanting his son to have the best. He'd ordered a more masculine version of the ornate crib in cherry wood with a powder blue satin and fox fur bedding set adorned with his crest. Along with the Carriage Crib he'd had a matching changing table, dresser, rocker, and toy chest crafted. He couldn't resist the whimsy of a standing clock that looked altogether human and some plush cabinetry and added that to his order.
He could not wait to see her sitting in the rocker feeding their son Peanut at her breast. Singing to him in that off-key voice of hers that sounded beautiful to any that loved her. It was a sight he intended to see many times. Moving to run his hand along the smooth wood of the crib, Sargon swore, “Soon the waiting will be over. I will have my mate and son with me soon.”
He glanced down at the first picture of his son one last time before turning back and retracing his steps to the large painting he'd done of Sookie. He tucked the sonogram photo securely in the bottom corner of the frame before stepping back to look at his wife and son. He smiled. Casting his eyes once more about the room before heading out of it for his office, he acknowledged he had more work to do tonight before he went to rest, and he needed to make sure Northman was adequately protecting his mate from potential threats. He would review the reports detailing the Viking's activities, and if the boy was not living up to expectations he would have to give him a call and take him to task for failing Sookie yet again.