Just before dawn, Eric and Sookie were meeting with Niall and the Ancient Pythoness in what was the former living room and now was what Eric was calling their “indoor greenhouse”. Eric and Sookie were sitting on the mound that had once been the couch and the Ancient Pythoness and Niall were both sitting on the two smaller grassy mounds that were once chairs.
Niall had taken one look at the room when he’d first entered, his brows rising significantly, and laughed softly as he recommended that Sookie practice her magic outside from now on unless she was planning to turn her entire house into a grassy wonderland. The Pythoness, not able to see the room, but able to feel the magic in the air around her, had simply told Sookie it was good she was so easily able to access her powers. It put them farther ahead than she had expected. All the girl had to learn to do now was control her powers and bend them to her will instead of the other way around.
At the moment, everyone’s attention was focused solely on Niall as Sookie had just explained how she wanted him to procure vast amounts of fairy blood on a nightly basis for all of her vampires so that they would be immune to sunlight and silver while they were combating Sargon. Everyone was waiting to hear his reaction.
Niall finally asked, “And you say your fairy guards have already donated blood to the vampires here currently?”
Nodding, Sookie replied, “Yep, well everyone but Eric, since he doesn’t need it. After the hackers bond to the vampires in a few hours, we have this thing planned for this afternoon and we’re going to need them.”
“And what is it you have planned?” Niall pressed.
Eric and Sookie exchanged glances before Eric curtly bypassed his question and demanded, “How long will it take you to acquire steady donors to come and give blood? They need to be here to give. I won’t allow my vampires to feed directly from the fairies as I doubt they’d be able to stop themselves, but I want to be able to watch them donate the blood so I know nothing is being added to it that can harm my warriors.”
Niall looked back and forth between Eric and Sookie. Taking into account they had not answered his question and seemed to be studying him intently, he put two and two together and sighed heavily, “You doubt my loyalty.”
“Absolutely,” Eric affirmed.
Sookie, not wanting to alienate her great grandfather, begged, “Niall, you have to understand that we have too much at stake right now for us to take anything for granted. We appreciate all the help you’ve given but we also can’t ignore the fact that your race’s survival doesn’t depend on Eric surviving this.”
“We need only the children you birth,” Niall finished.
Nodding, Sookie continued, “First, we need you to provide the fairies necessary to inoculate Eric’s vampire forces, and after that, we need you to prove to us that you are trustworthy.”
Niall looked back and forth between his great granddaughter and Eric as he queried, “Did I not already prove my loyalty by confirming that there was indeed a pledge fairies could make to Eric that would kill them the second they betrayed him?”
Waving his hand dismissively, Eric countered, “That is nothing. We already knew of the practice and it would have raised suspicions for you to deny it. I need a better show of faith to prove I can trust you with the lives of my mate and son.”
“And how would I do that?” Niall asked plaintively. “I have already sworn my loyalty and done my best to aid you and still you suspect me and mine. I’m at a loss as to how I can prove to you that I am on your side.”
Sookie glanced at Eric who jumped in with, “My mate has suggested that you provide a detailed outline of how you would betray us if it became necessary to do so. If Sargon were to approach you and offer you the blood you need to save your race, if he were to attempt to make a deal with you, how could you hurt me and mine?”
Niall looked back and forth between Eric and Sookie as he repeated, “You want me to tell you how I’d betray you?”
“Yes,” Eric and Sookie said together.
“I suppose pointing out that I wouldn’t betray you won’t do much good?”
When Eric shifted, his aggravation palpable, Sookie set her hand on his knee to calm him. She leaned forward as she remarked, “Niall, I know you’re family, and I know you’ve done a lot for us so far, but only an idiot wouldn’t have realized that you don’t need Eric to survive. You only need me, and I don’t believe either you or Sargon is an idiot. Either he’s already approached you or he will at some point, and as old and intelligent as you are, you have to know that as well.”
Niall kept his gaze solely on Eric at this point. “And I suppose if I have no answer forthcoming as to how me and mine might betray you, you’ll decide I’m already in Sargon’s pocket and dispose of me.”
“In a nutshell, as Sookie would say,” Eric agreed soberly. His protective measures were already in place. The witches that had arrived previously had been told to perform a counter teleportation spell around the house before Niall and the Pythoness arrived. If Niall failed to appease his suspicions this night he would not be able to teleport away, and without teleportation he was not fast enough to get away on his own. Eric fully intended to kill Niall Brigant this night if the fairy prince didn’t prove himself to be trustworthy.
Still looking at Eric, Niall asked, “And whose idea was it to confront me like this? I doubt it was yours, Eric; you’ve been a vampire too long to come at me head on in this fashion. Vampires like to move in the shadows.”
“It was Sookie’s idea,” Eric said with no small amount of pride. “She pointed out to me that if you are truly on our side, you’d make it clear as to how you could hurt and betray us if it became necessary to survive, as well as how to counter those measures. If you fail to do so, you will not leave this house alive.”
Turning his eyes to his great granddaughter Niall’s expression was the picture of surprise. “This was your idea, Sookie?”
“Yep. I’m glad to know you, Niall, and I’m glad my family isn’t as limited as I once thought, but this is about the survival of my mate and son. I’m not taking any chances. If you’re on our side, you’ll tell us how you could hurt us if you find it necessary to switch sides.”
There was a tense silence in the room for several moments before the Ancient Pythoness finally drew attention to herself as she announced, “I think we have all once again underestimated you, Chosen One.”
Niall broke into a smile as he agreed, “Indeed. Great Granddaughter, I cannot deny the fact that Eric is not vital to my race’s survival. You and your children are, however; I can promise you that me and mine are not in league with Sargon.”
When it looked like Eric was going to say something, Niall held up his hand, shaking it slightly and assured, “I will tell you all you wish to know, but I believe it unnecessary. My house’s and my people’s loyalty are to you.”
“Prove it,” Eric growled.
Choosing not to respond to Eric’s hostile tone, Niall explained, “Well I guess you could say that the means with which we could betray you or hurt you lies in our powers and positions.”
“Meaning?” Eric pressed.
Gesturing around them, Niall said, “The barrier surrounding your Sookie’s home will allow no one intending to harm her or you inside. However, should those inside simply be manipulating you or spying on you, the barrier will do nothing. It protects only from action. Thoughts are fair game. So if we turned on you, then one of us would probably try to lure Sookie out of the barrier so they could teleport her to Sargon. We’d use our magic against any and all warriors you have outside the barrier and could teleport Sargon’s troops all over the globe with ease. We could use our magic to create massive storms and natural disasters to take out power supplies and means of communication, decimate cities, ports, food and water supplies. Simply put, we could make every aspect of your life very difficult. Victory near impossible.”
Eric refused to show any emotion at Niall’s words, and instead pressed, “Then why has Sargon not approached you?”
“Because he knows that my father, those of my house, would never ally with him. It is one of the reasons we are working so hard to keep the secret of Sookie, who and what she is, from other fairies.”
Sookie frowned, “I don’t understand.”
Niall smiled gently at his kin. “Sookie, fairies are creatures of light and creation. Our magic is tied to the will of The One. My father, High Lord Oberon, understands that the will of The One is not meant to be thwarted, and that a creature as unnatural as Sargon cannot be allowed to rule. He could bring devastation not only to this world and my own, but to the universe at large. That is a very dangerous thing. My father, myself, and those of the royal house are prepared to die if it comes to it. If the sacrifice of this world and ours is the price to prevent Sargon from taking control, so be it.”
Eric, understanding where Niall was going, added, “But not all fairies believe this way, do they?”
Niall shook his head. “No. Not all. There is a faction, the purists that were responsible for the death of Sookie’s parents, who would be more than eager to join with Sargon if it meant saving themselves. They might despise Sookie’s muted bloodline, but they would be only too happy to trade her to Sargon if it meant taking control of my world and solving our breeding problems. It is why my father and I have worked hard to all but eradicate them. Only a few remain, and none are aware of Sookie.”
Sookie looked to Eric as her mate mulled her great grandfather’s words over. She believed Niall’s explanation, but as she had promised, she would allow Eric to take the lead when it came to matters of safety. They could discuss what Niall had revealed in private later to further dissect it and look for trouble. She wanted to believe that Niall and her family would never betray them, but if Eric didn’t trust it, she wouldn’t either.
Eric thought over Niall’s words, glad Sookie was staying quiet so he could do so, and finally announced, “I hope you mean what you say, and I guess only time will tell if you do. For now, I want your answer as to when you can have the fairies here to donate, and be assured I will not stop monitoring you for betrayal. I will not endanger my mate and son foolishly.”
Nodding, Niall replied, “I understand your hesitation. I cannot say if our positions were reversed I wouldn’t do the same. As for the fairies? Tell me how many vampires you are looking to inoculate, and the required number of fairies will be here the moment you need them. I do not wish to weaken those loyal to me so two fairies per vampire should suffice. Each night they will come and donate in front of you.”
Eric focused on the Ancient Pythoness and asked, “How long can Ahmose stay to lend his assistance?”
“Another week. He can leave as many forces here as he’d like, but he must return to New York next week.”
“What does he have to do in New York?” Eric pressed.
Shaking her head, her wispy silver hair floating around her shoulders, The Ancient Pythoness replied, “You will know in time. For now, focus on the problems at hand.”
Eric decided to let the subject go and moved on. “The witches currently here, and Ahmose are all working on lists of all wielders of magic in this realm that we can recruit, but they have both admitted that they don’t know everyone. I will need you to use all the resources the Council has in order to fill in the blanks. I need as many who can wield magic and will be loyal to give me their oaths. I need magic to combat Sargon’s.”
The Pythoness and Niall both nodded and agreed they would do their best to have a complete list ready for him as soon as possible. Niall may not have been an actual member of the Council, but he had been a part of this world’s supernatural order for longer than most vampires had been alive. There was no doubt he knew many beings that could wield magic and aid them in their fight.
They continued to talk strategy, mainly Eric telling the Pythoness and Niall what resources and actions he required of them in order to help him transition into his new station, before Eric finally called a halt to the meeting. The sun was coming and the Pythoness had to be taken to shelter. Also, he had to meet with the hackers and have the binding spell performed on them and the vampires so that they could work through today acquiring the tools they’d need to combat Sargon’s technology.
After the Pythoness and Niall bid their goodbyes, Niall promising that not only would he return the next night with the required number of fairies needed to inoculate the vampire forces Eric had currently, but he would also return with the required tools to perform the binding spell that would ensure the Fairies that had pledged to Eric and Sookie could never betray them. However, just as Ahmose had explained to Eric, it was forbidden for female fairies or fairies of the royal line to take part in the ceremony. Eric assured he understood and it was enough that the fairies that would be guarding Sookie loyalty would be absolute.
When they were gone, Eric called his people into the living room to begin handing out instructions. He pulled Sookie up from the grass, moss, and flower covered couch to stand beside him as he commanded, “We cannot afford to wait to acquire the tools we’ll need to combat Sargon’s technology. My hacker team has told me of a conference that is being held where all the equipment we’re going to need to fight Sargon is being held starting tomorrow. They’ve found a way for us to get in, as well as come up with some sort virus program to launch that will use the world’s computers to aid us. Because of this I’ve ordered the witches to prepare for the binding spell. We are going to perform it this morning, then pair up with fairies to teleport where we need to go. We are moving this afternoon. Any questions?”
When no one said anything, Eric continued, “Very well. We’ll meet with the witches in the guesthouse and begin immediately.”
Taking Sookie by the hand, Eric led their procession through the kitchen and out the back of the house. Making their way around the pool, which Eric reminded himself to ask Sookie later whether she liked it or not, the mismatched group soon found themselves walking into the small living area of the guesthouse where Pam was still speaking to Amelia.
Eric didn’t spare a glance towards the witch that had only become another problem for him as he focused on his child. “Pamela, we need to perform the binding spell. Your time questioning the witch is done. We have work to do now.”
Eric turned his attention to the nervous witch and ordered, “Go outside and collect the rest of your coven so we may begin. We still have much strategizing to do today before our mission this afternoon and we have no time to waste.”
As Amelia jumped up and scrambled out of the house to follow her King’s command, Pam stood from the couch, brushed her designer pants off, and said, “As Sookie is not bonding to anyone and neither am I, we’ll take this time to catch up on our own while the rest of you are busy with the spell.” While speaking, Pam slanted her eyes towards Sookie to make sure the girl understood she was to take her side in this.
Sookie’s eyes widened perceptively at Pam’s declaration, not to mention outright glare the vampiress was leveling towards her, and wondered what it was they were supposed to “catch up” on. However, as she had been wanting to pull Eric’s child aside and talk to her about everything that was going on now, especially a chance to talk to her without Eric hovering, she wasn’t about to pass it up.
Before Sookie could respond, Eric refused. “Now is not the time, Pamela. Sookie will remain here with me while I oversee the bondings.”
When Pam merely continued to stare at her, Sookie cleared her throat and looked up at Eric as she offered, “Eric, I really don’t need to be here for the ritual since I’m not taking part in it, and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to talk to Pam alone. This is the perfect time. You can stay here and observe while the witches perform the ceremony, and Pam and I will talk by ourselves in the house.”
Eric glanced back and forth between Sookie and Pam, noticing the tension between them. He knew Sookie probably wanted to speak to Pam about her pregnancy, and he was certain Pam wanted to speak to Sookie about convincing him to let her turn the witch, but he wasn’t sure he wanted them discussing such things without him there to control the situation.
‘I need to be smart about this. If I refuse them, it will only have Pam plotting behind my back to get to Sookie, and have Sookie giving me the silent treatment and cold shoulder for ordering her around … more so than she already is.’
Eric had been hard hit by the talk with Sargon tonight, as well as his altercation with Sookie. The things she’d said to him in the barn, about manipulating her by wanting to spend time with her, the things she’d said about their relationship had been wounding. He hated having to admit it, but he couldn’t deny it any longer. Over the last couple of days his relationship with Sookie had been pushed to the limits, not only by Sargon and other outside forces, but because of their own differences, differences he’d been doing his best to ignore and circumvent since he’d first taken her as his bonded … differences he could no longer ignore.
He was faced with a dilemma he was ill equipped to handle, born in a time when women cleaved to their men unquestioningly, where male/female roles were clearly defined and uncomplicated, He was a good provider, a fearless warrior, astute in politics, a fair leader with skills honed for war, for action and reaction; the nuances of a human relationship were a mystery, a vampire-human union unusual beyond that of Maker/child. He was out of his element. Eric worked best by acknowledging his past, and for this, there was none. He knew what he wanted, he didn’t know how to finesse it. His relationship with Sookie strained, and Eric couldn’t seem to find a way to fix it that would please his mate. The truth was becoming more alarming to him by the day: the mere notion that he might not be able to make things right between them again made his undead body clench in fear. He couldn’t tolerate the idea, and he would not let it be true.
Quickly thinking the current predicament over, Eric decided allowing the two women in his lifetime to talk would probably be the best choice possible. He knew Sookie and Pam well enough to know that even if he did forbid it now, they’d find a way to talk behind his back at some point, and worse, they’d hold his refusal against him for quite some time. So it was best to simply allow the conversation and then take them aside later and find out what it was they said to one another, performing any damage control that needed doing.
Making his decision, Eric nodded his head in agreement. “Very well. The two of you may return to the house and discuss whatever it is you feel you need to discuss, but once the binding ritual is done we will all be talking over what it is we need to accomplish today to set the hackers up and I expect you both to be focused on the problems we face, is that clear?”
“Perfectly, Master,” Pam replied while Sookie simply nodded, her eyes skidding away from his, denying him warmth. Pam pulled the door open so Sookie could proceed her out of the guesthouse and back towards the main house.
Haldar watched them disappear behind a tree, following their movement in his head to the house. In the next moment, he heard the screen door open and then bang shut and he grinned at Eric, slapping his friend on the back in camaraderie. “I bet you that whatever they talk about now only causes you more grief later on.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” Eric replied ruefully. He was saved from commenting further when Amelia returned with the other witches in tow. It was time to begin.
A few minutes later Pam and Sookie were seated at the kitchen table since Pam refused to sit on grass, even if it was magic grass covering the brand new couch. Sookie had heated a bottle of royalty blend for Pam as well as retrieved a glass of water for herself. After taking a sip, Sookie said, “I’m glad you asked to talk to me, ya know, because I was hoping to get to talk to you too.”
Arching a brow, Pam commented, “Indeed?”
“Yes, I—well, I wanted you to know that I have no intention of trying to come between you and Eric. I know how close you two are, I know how strong your connection is, and even if you deny it, I know that finding out I’m pregnant with Eric’s son must hurt you. And I—well, I just wanted to assure you that even though I am having Eric’s baby, you will always be his first child and I respect the place you hold in his life and his heart.”
When Pam simply remained quiet and continued to look at her, Sookie explained, “I’m sure you’ll never admit it to me, but if I were in your position I’d feel hurt and insecure from all of this. I’d worry that Eric was replacing me with natural born children. I’d worry that I was no longer important to him in the wake of the new life he’s building himself. I’d be hurt, angry, and most of all, resentful of the person I believed was trying to take him away from me.”
Pam gripped her bottle of Royalty Blend tighter, and asked tightly, “You believe I feel all these things? You think you know me so well? I’m not some simpering human at the whim of my emotions, Sookie. I am vampire.”
“Oh, believe me, Pam, I could never forget you’re all vampire. Ever. But you’re also a woman. A woman who loves Eric very much. He’s been the foundation for everything you are and has been for so long. For centuries now it’s just been the two of you, and now I come along, and in a matter of months I’m bonded to him, mated to him, and carrying his child. Within months everything we all know about the world around us has changed, and any way you look at it, I’m the reason we’re all about to fight a war with the most powerful vampire to ever live … before Eric, of course. Vampire or not, those truths have to upset you, and I think the two of us need to clear the air.”
“Clear the air,” Pam repeated, tasting the words, her eyes narrowing.
Releasing a tired sigh, Sookie realized that Pam was Pam and she wasn’t about to make any of this easy on her. She was blunt. “Pam, I know things haven’t been great between us, and I know you resent me to some degree, but I want us to get along. Eric loves you, and I can’t bear the thought that I’m just something you tolerate because you don’t want to leave his side. I—I want us to be family. Eric’s my mate and you’re his daughter, we are family.”
When Sookie finished and sat there as the uncomfortable silence between them grew, Pam considered what she’d just been told. She hadn’t expected such a heartfelt confession from Sookie, nor had she expected the girl to be so brazen in her words. “What is it you want from me, Sookie?”
“I want you to tell me how you feel about me. No snarkiness. No jokes. No falsities of any kind. I want us both to be real right now, and I want us to come to an understanding. Hopefully one that allows us to grow closer. Eric needs us to be united so he doesn’t have to worry about us.”
“How I feel about you?”
“Yes,” Sookie nodded. “I want to know how you feel about me, and what you hope our relationship will be like in the future.”
Pam took a sip of her Royalty Blend as she considered how best to answer Sookie. After a moment she set her blood down and began, “You want to know what I think, Sookie? Really?”
Sookie knew she could be opening herself up to some really harsh words from Eric’s child, but if she and Pam were ever going to be more than what they were, this conversation had to take place. If she and Pam didn’t hash this out now, the issues between them would only fester and get worse. “Yes, I really want to know.”
“Very well. When I first met you I thought you were a ditsy blonde with a fuckable body and even more fuckable scent. I thought you a fool and sheep due to your attachment and loyalty to Bill because, as you now know, he is the lowest form of vampire and totally beneath the notice of someone such as myself or Eric.”
Twirling her bottle of blood in her hand, Pam mused, “I thought you would make a lovely pet for Eric. You were beautiful, telepathic, and again, your blood called to us, but I never thought he would get attached to you the way he quickly did. The more he became obsessed with you, the more I disliked you. You were ruled almost entirely by your emotions and thought only of yourself. It was always about your problems and what you wanted. You never once took notice of how much Eric put himself out there to help you, to try and warn you as best he could about Bill, and instead, followed along blindly with whatever that idiot told you instead of ever trying to think for yourself.”
Sookie swallowed a comment, noting how she had never been exposed to the supernatural world so how was she supposed to know that Bill was a douche bag? She was about to be a mother and queen, she couldn’t partake in emotional outbursts and childish tirades anymore. She forced herself to remain quiet and hear Pam out.
Pam had been expecting Sookie to jump to her feet and shout about how unfair her description was, but when she remained silent, only narrowing her eyes slightly, Pam explained, “I know you are young, but really, with your telepathy you above all people should know that nothing is as it seems, and yet you never once suspected Bill until it was too late. You bemoaned your fate as my Maker’s bonded, despite that it was only his actions that saved you from the fate the queen had planned for you, and that Bill was preparing you for. And even after you learned the truth, you never thanked Eric for doing all he’s done to keep you safe.”
Pam’s contemplation mixed with her ire, “Since I’ve known you, you’ve portrayed yourself as childish and so emotional it keeps you from making smart choices, and due to Eric’s connection to you, it endangers him as well as me. Time and again you’ve failed to look at the big picture, and instead railed about how unfair everything that is happening to you is. Well, Sookie, what in the hell makes you think you’re so special? Who in life gets a fair deal?”
When Pam fell silent, signaling that she could talk, Sookie countered, “I’m not going to disagree with half of what you’re saying. I did follow Bill blindly, and I did fail to look at the bigger picture, and I more than paid for those mistakes, but the rest of it? You’re being unfair. You’re placing Eric’s and your safety and happiness above mine, and why? Because you’re vampires? Well, newsflash! That doesn’t entitle you to any more rights, freedoms, or fairness than I deserved. Do I think the majority of what’s happened to me is unfair? Of course I do. No one deserves slavery. Am I coming to understand that much of what’s happened so far was necessary? Yes. I realize that my happiness is not worth more than the fate of this world, but my rights as a human being, a person? Those are worth fighting for.”
Pam scowled, Sookie maintained, “Pam, you and Eric are living a way of life that is not right. The supernatural world is not right in the way it treats each other and humans. You all think that just because you’re magical beings, just because you’re older and stronger, you have the right to take anything you want as long as no one stronger wants it. Your world relies on lies, trickery, manipulation, and just overall the worst parts of our world, and I’ll never stop fighting that. Am I going to accept being Eric’s slave? Absolutely not, because no person has the right to own another. Am I willing to stand beside him as his mate? Yes, but first he has to be willing to stand beside me instead of trying to force me to kneel. Do I realize it is time for me to stop being so emotional and reactive instead of proactive? Yes. I know it’s time for me to grow and change, but I’m not the only one. It’s time for all of us to change, including you and Eric.”
Pam and Sookie stared off for a moment, neither blinking, and finally Pam broke out into a grin, “Maybe there’s hope for you yet. As I said, when I first met you my opinion of you wasn’t favorable, and while I do feel that you owe Eric thanks for saving you from Sophie-Anne, I do agree that you are not his slave.”
Sookie’s eyes went as wide as saucers. “You—you don’t agree with Eric?”
“On this particular subject? No. As you said, you are his mate, not his slave. I may not be entirely comfortable with your position in Eric’s life yet, but just like you, I respect it.” Pam’s voice lowered as she finished, “He was wrong to make you kneel like he did, Sookie. Very wrong.”
Sookie sat back in her chair with a whoosh of breath, at a total loss for words. She had never imagined her discussion with Pam would be going like this. After a beat, she asked, “You really think I’m right? You really think that Eric is wrong to treat me the way he is?”
Pam nodded, “The moment Eric woke from his dream with his father he should have known that everything between the two of you had changed. Do I still think he should call the shots when it comes to protecting you? Protecting us? Yes, because he is so much older and has far more survival experience than most, but do I think he has the right to make you kneel like he did? Absolutely not. You are not a pet, a bonded, or anything else our world currently has. You are Eric’s mate, his mate in every sense of the word. Mate by blood, mate by choice, you are mates to your very souls, so Eric forcing you to kneel was disrespecting everything between the two of you.”
“Did you tell him that?”
“Yes, he does not agree with me and it is not my place to make him to. You want respect and equality from Eric? Fight for it yourself. It is not my concern. He knows my position, and now you do as well. What happens between the two of you now is up to you.”
Before Sookie could say anything else, Pam finished, “As to the rest of your claims? Claims that I feel insecure in my relationship with Eric due to all that has happened?” she paused, her lacquered nails tapping against the table, “you are correct. I do not like that you have such an important and irreplaceable role in his life now. I do not like that I no longer come first with him, and I do not like the fact that we are about to wage a war where your survival is guaranteed but Eric’s and mine are not.”
Sookie forced down her shock that Pam believed Eric had behaved wrongly to focus on the matter at hand. “Do you think you’ll ever move past that resentment? Do you think we could ever be friends?”
“We can be friends with benefits.”
Flashing a fangy smile, Pam laughed, “Eric is right, you really are too easy sometimes, and in answer to your question, I’m sure after I have time to adjust to everything, and, of course, if I survive this fight, we will have an amicable relationship.”
“I’m glad to hear that.” Sookie felt as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She’d been so scared that Pam would hate her for everything that had happened.
Crossing her legs, Pam announced, “Now, as we are now best girl friends, and since you so obviously owe me a tremendous debt for taking my Maker from me, I have several favors to ask.”
Sookie’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “What is it you want?”
“First, you will make time for me to introduce you to Amelia. She has agreed to go shopping with me tomorrow night in order for us to get to know one another if I arrange for her to speak with you. I have promised her you will be her friend, so be nice to her.”
Sookie didn’t see anything wrong with that. From what she’d seen, Amelia seemed to be a perfectly nice girl. “And the second favor?”
“You are to help me acquire Amelia as my child in any way you can. I will need your help to convince Eric to let me turn her. I have several ideas on how to bypass her being a witch, and I will discuss them with you as it becomes necessary when I need more of your help. I haven’t spoken to Amelia yet of my intention to turn her, for now I simply wish to begin building a foundation for our inevitable relationship. Do not mention my turning her to Amelia, but become her friend, and speak with Eric about it as often as you can.”
Again, Sookie saw no problem with that. She already thought that Pam shouldn’t be kept from turning Amelia if she felt the pull towards her, even if Amelia was a witch, providing Amelia wanted to become vampire. Having no issue with the favors Pam had asked for, Sookie nodded her head and said, “I’ll do my best to help you. I’m sure Amelia and I will become good friends.”
“I know you will,” Pam said meaningfully. Having addressed the heavy topics, Pam decided it was time to begin building her “friendship” with Sookie … in true Pam fashion. Sitting back in her chair, she purred, “So Sookie, now that we are to become besties, how about we partake in a passionate pillow fight, naked, of course, and then we can practice kissing. I assure you that I can teach you a few tricks with your tongue that Eric will thoroughly appreciate.”
Cheeks turning bright red, Sookie gasped, “Pam!”
Gearing up, Pam’s smile was all fang as she continued, “Or we can simply share our deepest, darkest secrets. Tell me Sookie, how many times did you pleasure yourself to thoughts of Eric before finally yielding to him? Hmm?”
Cocking her head to the side to observe Sookie closely, Pam took in her flushed appearance, the darkness of her eyes, and the small gasping breaths Sookie seemed to be taking as she struggled to maintain her composure. Trailing her tongue along her fangs, Pam remarked, “I wonder if this is what you look like when Eric’s cock makes you come? All rosy and flushed, those adorable little pants you make. I can see why Eric is so enamored with you.”
As Sookie gaped at her in stupefaction, Pam pressed on. “Sookie, as my new best friend, and, of course, since you owe me tremendously for taking Eric from me, you must allow me to put a recorder in your and Eric’s bedroom. Since he’s being so awful and refuses to share, I should at least be able to see you in the throes of passion secondhand. I’m sure Amelia and I will take great enjoyment in the videos while we play together.”
Sookie jumped up from the table and hissed, “Pamela Ravenscroft! You are not now, or at any point in the future ever to record Eric and I having sex!”
“How about you just masturbating? I can even provide the toys you might like to use. Just remember to keep your legs spread nice and wide!”
When Sookie grabbed her glass of water off the table and stomped from the room, muttering about weirdo lesbians, Pam laughed heartily and followed after her, teasing, “I have always wondered whether you wax or shave? Eric won’t say and that picture in his office is covering the good china. So Sookie, is your pussy bald or just neatly trimmed? I’m simply dying to know!”
“Shut up, Pam!” Sookie hissed.
“But, Sookie! We’re BFF’s now! As the elder here, I’m supposed to introduce you to the joys of lesbian experimentation! Strip and let me show you this one tongue technique I picked up in Greece. First you—“
It was a good deal later when Eric, Sookie, Pam, Haldar, Ivan, Han, Caesar and all the hackers stood outside the house with the fairies that were going to be teleporting them to the conference. After the binding ceremonies between the hackers and the vampires, Eric had called everyone together to go over the plan for the mission in Las Vegas. As so many of his best warriors and fairy guards were going to be manning the mission, Eric was staying behind to protect Sookie. He was loathe to stay behind during such an important operation, but he did not trust that Sargon wouldn’t find a way to get to Sookie in the barrier while everyone was gone.
The hackers had assured him that the entire foray in Vegas for the DARPA/MILspec conference would only take half a day for their reconnaissance and stowaway as they waited for the show to wrap. They were arriving as the conference was winding down, intent on identifying what equipment would be useful and then hiding in the building until close. Once the hall was deserted, it would only be security to glamour. The fairies would be positioning themselves with their designated vampire and hacker behind the scenes at the convention and teleporting the electronics the hackers specified useful.
The Weres were still hard at work outside, building all the structures Eric had ordered, and Frannie was upstairs in her room, having returned from her friend’s house shortly after sunrise. Eric had paid her no mind and Sookie had ushered the girl upstairs quickly, telling her it was best for her to just go straight to bed and stay out from underfoot as Eric was very busy. Frannie’s shock at seeing Eric and so many other vampires out in the daytime had been apparent, but a few soothing words from Sookie had the girl in her room and getting ready for bed shortly. Lafayette and Sam, who had returned as well just before sunrise from the bar, were asleep in the guesthouse they were sharing with the witches that were also finally getting some much needed rest.
The sounds of construction could be heard quite clearly as the centaurs formed a protective ring around everyone while Cerberus kept Thor busy. Everyone’s face was grave as Eric delivered his final orders.
Eric stood with his arms crossed over his chest, Sookie at his side, as he looked each of his followers in the eye and ordered, “As you all know, once you leave the barrier there will be absolutely no communication. Each of your four groups in essence is to act as an independent cell. You have your objectives, and you are to complete them as quickly and efficiently as possible. Do not concern yourself with any of the other cells, and worry only over yourselves. If at any point in time one of you feel that you have been identified, you are to teleport back here immediately. I cannot afford for Sargon to snatch any of you. Do you all understand?”
There was a chorus of agreements. Each hacker, their bonded vampire, and the fairy assigned to transport them knew what they were to do. They were all eager to get going so they could get started.
Eric looked to each person in each cell one more time before announcing, “If you are all not back by nightfall, I have seven Council strike teams in position ready to try and get you out, but as you all know, the chances of us accomplishing this goal is unlikely. Watch your backs.” With a wave of his hand, he ordered, “Go.”
The four groups blinked out of view as the fairies transported them away. Eric looked down at Sookie as he took her hand and said solemnly, “Now we wait.”
Sookie knew how hard this was on her bonded, how much he hated having to send others out to accomplish such important tasks while he was essentially deaf and blind to all that was going on. Wanting to allay his fears despite how upset she still was with him, she squeezed his hand and replied, “Well, at least Claudine and Claude are supposed to be here soon and we can occupy ourselves with my next magic lesson.”
“That doesn’t exactly make me feel better, Sookie, given what happened at your last lesson,” Eric commented.
Pam’s eyes darted between the two as Sookie reminded Eric that he was going to be with her this time and he shouldn’t worry so much. While Eric began to point out all the reasons he had every right to worry, Pam turned her thoughts to the fact she was standing out in the sunshine and not burning. While she hadn’t been one of the ones required to go on the mission today, Sookie had still insisted that her fairy guards donate so that she would be able to stay awake today while everything was going on.
Holding her hand out, Pam thought, ‘My manicure looks much better in the sunlight. Who’d have thought? I’m really liking the idea of being able to walk around in the day anytime I want. Sookie being able to command the fairies is wonderful! It works out well for me on many levels. Not only will I now be able to move about in the day, getting to all the best sales before stupid, smelly humans can beat me, but with this newfound ability it is one less obstacle I face with Amelia. Oh yes, Sookie is being much more helpful than I had ever hoped she’d be.’
Pam’s attention was returned to her Maker and his mate when Sookie kicked Eric and hissed, “Why is it so hard for you to believe that I can take care of myself?”
Eric, just as irate from their discussion of Sookie always getting into trouble of some kind, countered, “Pardon me for taking into account every moment of your life for the past year and the resulting near-death encounters that resulted from you ‘taking care of yourself’.”
“So what, all the years before this one don’t count?”
“Well, why not?”
“Because you weren’t a part of my world before then, didn’t understand how truly dangerous the world is, or how unprepared you are to survive in it. That is why they don’t count.”
“Oh, you make me so mad!”
“You’ve said this before.”
Pam watched Sookie’s eyes narrow dangerously as she moved directly into Eric’s personal space, tilted her head all the way back so she could maintain eye contact, and snarled, “One of these days I’m going to save your life, and I’m never going to let you forget it!”
Eric scoffed, “Such a time will never come about. You belong to me, you are mine to protect, not the other way around.”
Eric growled as his mate stormed away from him and demanded, “Sookie, get back here! We’re not done talking about this!” When Sookie only proceeded to flip him off over her shoulder as she headed back into the house Eric took off right after her. “You are not to walk away from me, woman!”
“Come back here! I will not chase after you just to have an adult conversation with you!”
Pam watched as her Maker did just that. When the front door slammed after them, Pam commented to the centaurs that had observed the entire spat between the two lovers along with her, “Those two have seemed to replace sex with arguing.”
Lucas, Prince of the Centaurs, agreed, “It is amusing to watch the queen so completely and thoroughly strip the king of his control the way she does.
Pam grinned, “It is rather amusing, isn’t it?”
In the house, Sookie headed straight for the kitchen with Eric hot on her heels. She was hungry, and she figured it would be a good idea to get a hearty snack in her belly before her lesson with her cousins. She could use the energy boost. As she began preparing herself a bowl of the gumbo Lafayette had made previously, she studiously ignored her mate standing at the kitchen door watching her every move.
From the doorway Eric observed his little mate doing her best to pretend he wasn’t there, and he was having none of it. Crossing his arms over his chest, Eric demanded, “Sookie, you will stop acting foolish and speak to me about this!”
“Damnit, woman! Why must you make this so difficult?”
Sookie slammed the door of the microwave shut and depressed the buttons to start the gumbo heating. She spun to face Eric and hissed, “I’m being difficult? I’m being difficult?! You’re the one that refuses to listen to anyone’s reasoning but your own! I know I’ve made some mistakes before now when it comes to your world, but I’ve learned from them! I’m not some simpering idiot that has to hide behind you, Eric! I’m your partner in all this, and I’m doing my best to stand beside you so we can fight Sargon together, but you keep trying to hold me back!”
“Of course I am! It is not your place to fight this battle with me! I am your mate and protector, it is my job to see to your health and safety as well as that of my son’s. Your job is to stay home and raise my child while I keep us all safe!”
Sookie’s eyes widened in outrage, her fists clenching at her sides. The fuck! he’d just reduced her importance to that of being a walking womb or nanny! His child indeed! Even his words proved that he still saw her as something that he owned. His woman, his son, his duty! Damnit! Why couldn’t he see that they were in this together? This was not his burden, his threat, his war! It was theirs!
Sookie hissed, voice strained with barely controlled anger, “You listen to me, Eric Northman, and you listen damn hard! The next time you state, imply, or even fucking hint that all I’m good for is to wander around this house barefoot and pregnant, waiting for you to do all my fighting for me, I’ll kick your ass clear to Timbuktu! Just see if I don’t!”
Stalking forward she poked him in the chest. “I may not have a thousand years of experience under my belt, and I may not have the skills at fighting that you do, but I am not helpless! I am powerful within my own right! I am going to learn to wield my power, and I am going to stand beside you in this fight to help protect our son!”
Glaring up at him, she continued, “Now you can either accept that fact, get on board with me learning to fight alongside you, or you can pack your shit and go sleep in Cerberus’s new dog house with him, you male chauvinistic pigheaded Viking!”
Eric didn’t get a chance to respond as a hesitant voice from the doorway drew his and Sookie’s attention. Frannie, who had been woken by the shouting, asked quietly, “Is everything okay, Sookie?”
The small teenage girl eyed Eric warily as she addressed the woman that had come to mean so much to her and her brother. Despite Eric’s good looks, Frannie saw him for what he really was. She could see that he was just as evil, just as selfish and despicable as all the other vampires she’d ever met. Just like the ones that had hurt her and her brother so many times in the past. It only solidified her resolve to use the Fellowship to help her get rid of Eric and save Sookie so that the beautiful woman she looked up to so much wouldn’t be at the mercy of evil vampires.
Sookie plastered a smile on her face and hurried to assure the teenage girl, “Frannie, everything is fine, sweetie. Eric and I were just having a heated discussion. Nothing for you to worry about.”
“Or intrude in,” Eric added hotly. “Go back to your room, girl. You were told to stay out of the way. I am speaking with my mate, and it is not your place to interfere.”
“Eric!” Sookie admonished, angered he would speak to sharply to a young girl. “It’s not her fault your dumbassery woke her up!”
“That’s not even a word, Sookie!”
“Well apparently I need new words to describe what a dumbass you’re being lately!”
Eric’s fangs snapped down as he glowered, “Do not speak to me that way!”
“I’ll speak to you any damn way I please, your highness! I’m sick and tired of you walking around acting like you’re the only one that deserves respect around here! I’m done putting up with it! I am queen and I’m telling my king that he is acting like a total dumbass!”
“Woman! you are just begging for punishment, aren’t you?”
Sookie’s eyes narrowed as she replied coldly, “I’d like to see you try and punish me, Viking. Just see how that turns out for you. I told you before that I’m done with putting up with that kind of behavior. You just try and order me to my knees again, see what happens!”
There was a tense and angry silence that filled the kitchen as Eric pondered what to do. Just days before he’d forced Sookie to her knees because another challenged his authority in front of other’s, and now Sookie was outright humiliating him herself in front of some teenage nuisance … and yet he could do nothing. He’d already come to the conclusion that if he ever forced Sookie to kneel again it would cost him her place in his life entirely. He’d decided that he would never use that punishment again, and instead would try other means of keeping her in line. But seeing her like this, with eyes so dark and angry, he knew if he tried to exert his control over her now it would end terribly … for him. With nothing else to do, Eric let out a snarl and disappeared from the room with a gush of wind. He’d go a couple of rounds with the centaurs to alleviate some of his aggression, and then he’d try speaking to Sookie again later in private.
When he was gone, Sookie tried to rein in her own anger before looking at Frannie, and comforting, “Sweetie, I’m sorry you had to see that. Sometimes couples fight, and mine and Eric’s can get pretty epic.”
Hugging herself, Frannie offered quietly, “He’s not good enough for you, Sookie. He’s just like all the other vampires. He takes, and takes, and takes, and wants nothing more than to control you. You should leave him. Leave all of this!”
Sookie darted to Frannie’s side and grasped the younger girl’s shoulders. “Frannie, listen to me. Never, and I mean never say anything like that again! If Eric were to hear you’d even suggested such a thing I don’t know what he would do. It’s very important you never talk about me leaving Eric ever again. Besides, right now even if I wanted to leave Eric I couldn’t. It’s just too dangerous.”
“Why is it dangerous?” Frannie asked. She wasn’t a fool, she knew something huge was going down, but no one would tell her what. Her brother had just said it would be safest for her to stay with Sookie for now, and that by order of the king he couldn’t tell her or anyone else anymore.
Shaking her head, Sookie replied, “I can’t tell you that. It has been decided that for now only those that have to know what’s going on will. It’s safer for you to not know, honey.”
“So Eric told you not to tell me?”
“No, we decided together that it’s best if people don’t know everything that is going on until absolutely necessary.”
Mulling that piece of information over, and deciding she was going to be doing some digging around, Frannie finally asked, “What did you mean that even if you wanted to leave him? Does that mean you still want to be with him? Even though he’s so awful to you?”
Sookie stroked a lock of Frannie’s hair back and soothed, “Sweetie, I know this I hard for you to understand, but I love Eric. I’m not happy with him right now, but I know he is a good man, and I know he can change. I just have to help him through that change.”
“He doesn’t seem like a good man to me.”
“That’s because you’ve never seen the real Eric Northman. I have, and I know what I’m talking about. Eric just needs some time to come to terms with the fact he was wrong. I don’t know a man in existence that is able to do that quickly, or with any degree of grace.”
Sookie wrapped her arm around Frannie’s shoulder and steered her deeper into the kitchen, “How about you have some gumbo with me, and then you get back to bed. You were up all night with those friends of yours.”
Frannie thought, ‘If only you knew. I’ll save you, Sookie. I’ll get you away from that vampire and then you, Quinn, and I can be a real family.’
Samuel turned to Haldar as their fairy escort cloaked himself with a shield of invisibility to keep from being noticed. “Once we teleport the equipment back, it shouldn’t take me too long to start the botnet once it’s all wired up. We have a lot of wiring to do, yes, but I don’t expect problems making it ready to go. Once I have the programs installed, we can activate it from the house with the equipment we’re obtaining.”
“I have to admit I don’t understand how this is going to work,” Haldar mused.
“Think of it as a virus. It will send out packets—like viral spores—to millions of computers, infecting them and creating a zombie army. The computer owners will not even know their machines have been infected. We’re choosing to infect Apple products because Macs, iPads, iPhones, their entire technology doesn’t get viruses like the PC market does so no one would ever expect this. Mac users don’t employ the kind of protective guards PC users do, so infecting their machines will be much easier to get away with.”
“Surely people have programs to prevent this kind of thing.”
Samuel shook his head. “No, the average user is inadequately protected. We’ll be sending this out initially to home-based products as they’re easier to compromise. We’ll be sending out a kind of Trojan horse through an Internet port that most computers leave open. The Trojan will carry a program for activation. At a certain time, we turn that program on and unleash its effects with a single command.”
“All I can say is I’m glad you’re on our side.”
Samuel chuckled. “When we send out that command, we make all those millions of computers our slaves. They form a botnet that we’ll program to redirect transmissions, send out denial-of-service attacks, and replicate a million times over through people’s address books and the internet.”
“Impressive,” Haldar exclaimed and congenially slapped the boy on his back, sending him sprawling into the hard body of the faery guard who rolled his eyes at Haldar who let out a little, “Oops! Sorry, don’t know my own strength!”
“Brianna, Boris, and Sarah should be scouting equipment from the floor right now. I’ll know if they are successful in a few minutes. After that, we wait. You can see a lot of the vendors are already knocking down their displays. In a few hours this place will be deserted except for the military police that will be guarding the place. All the equipment will be crated up for its transport to Munich—the European counterpart of this show going on three weeks hence. No one will know the equipment has been stolen for at least two, maybe two and a half, whole weeks, not till all those crates get unpacked in Germany … in which time the botnet will already be running, our equipment installed and in use underground, safely and discretely inside the perimeter.
“Before Sargon will have any idea what we’ve done,” Haldar nodded, a toothy grin lighting his face. “A very good plan. I’d give anything to see the look on that bastard’s face when he finds out!”
“For now, we wait and watch. Then we move in fast and teleport what we mutually agree will be beneficial. I’m taking the north wing and surveying those booths while the other teams take the East, South, and West areas of the conference. It should only take us a few minutes to identify what’s usable and tag it for teleport after close.”
“Agreed. Let us get moving. I know Eric is anxious there can be no communication between any of us,” Haldar’s shoulders squared while his eyes continually scanned the crowd for signs of threat.
The hackers had created false identifications for them the night before and they had the proper badges with barcode scans displayed on their jackets. The badges were needed not only to enter the event but visit the vendor booths. A dummy corporation had been set up so that the scans would render effective company credentials good enough to fool any vendor collecting the data. The riskiest work had been in the careful placement of the data in the DSS (U.S. Defense Security System) forms required for national security clearance purposes by everyone attending the event. The standard questionnaire needed backdating in the log files so there would be no question of legitimacy. An attached kill order would delete them and their paths and make any hunt for their trace impossible, timed to trigger within minutes after they all left the building.
Haldar wanted to get all this computer mumbo jumbo over with. Along with Eric, Pam, Caesar, Sookie and the fairies, he hadn’t understood most of what the hackers said last night, but he knew without this technological stuff there was no way Eric could defeat Sargon. All vampires knew that human technology was a devastating weapon.
Close to a half hour later, Samuel was rounding the final aisle of vendor exhibits in his area. As he scanned booths and its technology, Haldar continued to scan the area for threats or detection from the many military security personnel he could see positioned throughout the floor. While he could not see the fairy guard that had come with him, he could detect him. The magic of the invisibility cloak he was using electrified the air around him, and the air smelled noticeably sweeter to his vampire senses.
Haldar had not seen sunlight since his last day as a human, but he took no time to enjoy the fact he was awake and not burning in the sun. He had a mission to accomplish first, and once they had achieved it and returned to the barrier where it would be safe for the human hackers to begin doing whatever the hell it was they’d been talking about before he would then enjoy the fact he had a boon few vampires would ever know. And of course he intended to spend a good deal of time enjoying his newfound sunlight chasing Pam. ‘She can’t really be as angry about that little incident as she makes out to be, can she? It was decades ago! And I sent her mountains of jewelry in recompense. No, she’s not really that angry. She just likes to put up a good fight, and I like a feisty woman.’
Grinning at the thought before remembering where he was, Haldar thought, ‘Mission first, chasing after Pam’s skirts later. Focus on the task at hand.’
“I’ve been tagging equipment that will be useful now AND a year from now,” Samuel exulted. “I can’t believe what’s here. I can’t wait to work with some of this stuff!”
Haldar gave a careful nod and waited for Samuel while he surreptitiously tagged another box. He didn’t know much about human technology, but he trusted these four humans implicitly. His bond with Samuel hummed strong and steady in his chest and he felt the smaller man’s determination to accomplish their goals this day. He admired the fact that despite the high risk of this operation Samuel seemed to be very calm and controlled.
Soon they were standing at the most crucial booth that held the technology they would need for Eric to combat Sargon’s networks, and all three were waiting for the mark. Haldar and Samuel both could feel the hands of the fairy on their shoulders, just waiting for the cue to teleport them. When Samuel gave the word the fairy would teleport them directly in front of the machine they would steal first, Samuel would lay his hand on it, and then the fairy would teleport them all back to the barrier before teleporting them back to snatch up the next item Samuel had marked for them to take. There were two dozen items in total that Samuel had said were their responsibilities to snatch, and it would only take less than five minutes to grab each one and teleport them all back to the barrier. Each of the other three cells would do the same with the equipment they had been assigned to snatch.
Looking down at his watch as the minute hand clicked into place, Samuel whispered urgently, “Now!”
Back in the barrier, Sookie, Eric, Pam, Ahmose, the daytime Were guards, the remaining fairy guards, some of the witches that had woken, Lafayette, Sam, the centaurs, minotaurs, Cerberus, and Thor watched in awe as one massive piece of equipment after another began to appear in the makeshift warehouses that had been speedily erected the night before. It had taken all of the vampires Ahmose and Caesar had brought with them to make sure the job was completed, their speed being essential. The cells and their equipment appeared so quickly it was the mere blink of an eye before they were gone to snatch the next. After less than two minutes Sookie’s land was covered in several huge mainframes and other technological equipment that cost in the hundreds of billions and only the most advanced nations could lay claim to.
“Damn,” Sookie whispered as her eyes took in everything. When the last of it was done the cells moved forward to bow before Eric, save the humans who did not understand it was supernatural custom for followers to bow before their king after such a successful endeavor. However, Eric was so focused on the new acquisitions he didn’t think to correct them on their slight, also, Sookie had spoken to him at length about how the hackers needed to be made to feel at home while they were here, so he’d decided to be very lenient with them when it came to court protocol.
Keeping his arm around Sookie’s waist, Eric stepped forward and announced, “I am very pleased. I trust everything went well? There were no problems? You got everything we require?”
Haldar put his hand on Samuel’s shoulder and gently pushed him forward as he said, “There seemed to be no security risks. Our appearance was deleted from their video feeds. They were quite thorough. The guards never heard a thing.”
“And you had no trouble substituting weight for the emptied crates? So they’ll still have the the heft of the items when they’re picked up and loaded for transport?”
“Done and done,” Haldar grinned, “as for the rest of it? You’ll have to ask the hackers.”
Samuel affirmed, “Yes, we got everything we needed and then some. There’s a new supercomputer we nabbed from a company from Spain. Such a beauty. It works on cell phone processors.”
“Cell phones?” Sookie cocked her head. “Ordinary cell phones?”
“Yes, because they’re everywhere, Sookie, everyone has one. And because cell phone chips are so low power they don’t need super cooling. Less heat, more speed. “
“I still don’t understand,” Sookie admitted.
“Sargon will undoubtedly be monitoring the grid for major power uses, he’d be a fool not to. We will be. These computers won’t show up! This technology is going to be the base of our operations.”
Eric nodded at Haldar, both pleased with this new turn of events. Keeping themselves off the grid for as long as possible would give them a huge advantage. He suddenly frowned. “What about the I.D.s, the badges and stuff? Any chance any of it remains to be used against us later?”
Shaking her head, Brianna came forward from where she’d been standing with Caesar and assured, “No chance. We hacked into the security mainframe and made sure their surveillance didn’t register our initial presence. Then our I.D., even our appearance on the show floor was all wiped. We’re good.”
“Now we just have to begin getting everything into place and set up, you realize this will probably take well into tomorrow night for us to get everything set up?” Sarah asked.
“I’m aware,” Eric said. “I also sent fairies to the factory you specified and they collected the cooling towers you’d said you’d need. Meet with the Weres and they’ll make sure your power needs are met. Let us know of anything you need, your work is of vital importance right now.”
“Da, we will,” Boris said before he and the other hackers turned back to the equipment to begin dividing up the immense amount of work that needed to be done.
As the hackers got to work, Eric looked down at Sookie and said, “You need to eat and then go to bed. Your fairy lesson took a lot out of you.”
That was true. While the hackers were gone, Claudine and Claude had shown up and they’d helped her with her next lesson in mastering her fairy magic. Eric had immediately opened their bond wide so he could help her control it as they stood outside in her front yard.
Thankfully she hadn’t exhausted herself like she had yesterday, and instead had only caused the vegetation already in her front yard to grow taller. She loved that her Gerbera Daisies and rose bushes were looking so much better, but she didn’t like that once again she’d had no control over the magic that had come out of her.
She’d called her light forth four times quite easily, each time affecting the area around her, but not once had she been able to control it, and the only reason it hadn’t exploded out of her each of the four times was because Eric was holding it back through their bond, suppressing it. Eric had called a stop to the lesson when he felt Sookie’s energy level drop.
When his mate had been so disappointed in herself at not having made any progress, Eric pointed out that most Fairies couldn’t even find their light after only two lessons, let alone manifest it, so why would she be so upset with herself for failing to accomplish something in two days that took most fairies lifetimes? That had made her feel marginally better, and she’d thanked him for helping her control her power.
Eric had wanted her to eat and go to bed directly after, but Sookie refused. She didn’t want to go to sleep until the cells were back from the mission and she’d seen for herself that everyone was ok. Now that she had, she looked up at Eric and said, “That sounds like a great idea, but you guys need some rest as well. You were up all last night, so you can’t expect to stay up all day and then work again all night.”
“You are right. We will take our rest when you do, and we will all reconvene at dusk,” Eric agreed.
Han, Ivan, Ahmose, and Caesar all stepped forward to tell Eric they were going to go rest in Han and Ivan’s daytime resting place in the guesthouse now, their duties having been done. Haldar, hearing Eric’s command, complained, “Ah Eric! I wanted to play in the sun! Make love to my Pam in the sun!”
“Fuck off, dipshit!” Pam hissed from her place beside Eric. When Haldar blew her a kiss, she kicked a rock up into her hand and then hurled it at his head. When he merely caught it and tossed it over his shoulder she gave an indignant huff and turned away.
Eric shook his head at his friend, not even bothering to try and tell him and Pam to behave, and said, “You can play in the sun some other time, but Sookie is right; we need rest so we can be prepared for everything we need to do tonight. We cannot play now.” Looking down at Sookie he said, “Let’s get you inside and fed and then into bed. I feel how tired you are.”
As Eric led Sookie into the house, Pam turned to the witches and called out, “Amelia, come with us. You may eat with Sookie in the kitchen and begin to get to know her.”
Amelia looked up at Octavia and when her mentor gave her a reassuring nod she scurried forward and followed Pam into the Queen’s house. She’d only ever seen the outside of it, and even that had surprised her. She’d expected Eric and Sookie to live in a palace with all the riches and power they had, but Sookie’s home was simply a delightful country home with a beautiful wraparound porch. As she stepped inside she took in the light and homey décor, before gasping as she felt the immense magic coming from the “living room”. Seeing the awesome sight of a fairy glen inside the house she whispered, “Holy Moly! Who did that?”
“Sookie did,” Pam replied before taking hold of her future child’s shoulder and directing her into the kitchen and pushing her into a chair beside Sookie. Lafayette was scurrying about the house to serve up some brisket and baked potatoes he’d prepared early as Pam announced, “Sookie, this is Amelia. Amelia, this is Sookie.”
Eric was not pleased by this turn of events and began to growl, “Pam, now is not the ti—“
“Nice to meet you, Amelia!” Sookie quickly interjected, cutting Eric off and not giving him time to intervene. “Pam has told me what a delightful person you are and I’ve been so interested in meeting you!”
Amelia was wringing her hands as her eyes darted around nervously. Eric and Haldar were openly glaring at her, Pam’s expression was determined, the hilarious Lafayette she’d had the pleasure of meeting earlier was supportive as he sashayed around the kitchen getting all the food together, and the queen’s? The queen who apparently held more power in the nail of her pinkie finger than she and her entire coven would ever be able to lay claim to? The queen she was literally in awe of? was looking at her with a bright, happy, and friendly smile, her eyes sparkling. She honestly didn’t know what to do or say.
Finally she blurted out, “I can’t believe you’re actually talking to me! I—I mean! Gosh you’re you! And … and you’re going to save the world! And … and you’re the Mother of legend and … and—and I—I ….”
As Amelia sputtered on, Pam rolled her eyes and turned her glower onto Sookie as she said, “Say something to make her feel at ease, Sookie!”
Sookie shot Pam a dirty glare before smiling at Amelia and reaching out to set her hand atop the terrified girl’s. Drawing her anxiousness away, Sookie soothed, “Amelia, calm down. Before this insane year, I’ve had I was nothing more than a backwater waitress in a nothing town no one except those who live here knew about. I’m just a woman trying to make sense of life, just like you. No need to get all worked up.”
“Sookie, do not speak so poorly of yourself,” Eric interjected. “The girl should be in awe of you. She is nothing compared to you, you deserve to be worshipped, and she is right to tremble in our presence.”
“Eric!” Sookie hissed. “Don’t talk that way about Pam’s friend! You promised to be nice.”
“I haven’t thrown her out, have I?” His eyes slanted at the girl who was looking nervous again despite Sookie’s calming touch, and growled, “No matter how much I might want to.”
Shaking his head from where he was leaning against the counter, his thoughts obviously mirroring Eric’s, Haldar announced, “This is not a good idea, bringing the girl in here.” His gaze sought Pam’s as he added, “She does not belong in our circle, Pamela. You are setting yourself up for unimaginable pain.”
“Haldar is right,” Eric agreed.
“I’ll thank both of you to stay out of my personal life,” Pam snapped. Her hand tightening on Amelia’s shoulder as the girl trembled where she sat at the table.
“She should go,” Eric staunchly maintained.
“Well I want her here, and so does Sookie. Don’t you, Sookie?” Pam asked as she turned her eyes to her mistress.
Nodding enthusiastically, Sookie declared, “Amelia, Pam and I are going to be best friends.”
“Best friends,” Eric repeated, unconvinced.
Pam, sensing a way to diffuse the situation, agreed, “Indeed. We’re going to have naked, sweaty pillow fights, and then experiment with lesbianism. I’ve promised to teach Sookie everything I know.”
“Pam! I told you no more weirdo lesbianism!” Sookie cried out.
Pam flicked her tongue at Sookie suggestively and promised, “I assure you, Sookie, one night in my bed and you’d forget all about Eric. Catalina certainly did.”
“Pam!” Eric barked.
Eyes narrowing, Sookie turned to Eric and asked angrily, “Who is Catalina?”
“No one.” Eric said through clenched teeth, refusing to look at Sookie and instead directing his wrath solely at Pam. Why was she always trying to get Sookie angry with him? Didn’t she know he had enough trouble trying to control his mate without her exacerbating things?
“Ha! I remember that story!” Haldar laughed. “That’s the woman Pam seduced right out from under you in Spain, wasn’t it? Pam tied her to her bed and went down on her for over four hours, right? The woman never stopped trailing after Pam after that, if my memory serves me correctly.”
“Haldar, you’re seconds away from going right through that wall,” Eric hissed.
Pam, ignoring her Maker, smirked at her frienemy, and answered, “Indeed she did. No one willingly leaves my bed after they get a taste of my oral superiority.”
“Oh my,” Amelia whispered as Pam’s fingers stroked slowly along her shoulder. These people and this situation were very strange. She didn’t know whether to laugh or run away. Pam and Haldar were smiling, the High King was growling and looking ready to do violence, and Sookie looked mortified.
Turning her attention back to Sookie, Pam purred, “So how about it, little Miss Sunshine? Want to walk on the wild side and see why Sapphic love beats cock every time?”
Slamming his hand down on the table, making Amelia jump and Sookie glare, Eric snarled, “Stop trying to seduce my mate, you impertinent child! Sookie has no need of Sapphic love, she is perfectly content with my cock! And my oral skills far exceeded yours centuries ago!”
“Pfft! Keep telling yourself that,” Pam replied lazily, thoroughly amused at her Maker’s ire.
While Pam and Haldar chuckled, Lafayette sauntered forward with plates for the three humans in the room. After setting all the plates down and taking his own seat, Lafayette announced, “I don’t know, Pam, from what Sookie told me she’s pretty much addicted to Eric’s cock. She’s pretty fond of his cute little tush too.”
“Lafayette!” Sookie couldn’t believe he’d said that. Her cheeks burned. “I told you that in confidence!”
Rolling his eyes, Lafayette laughed, “Sook, nothing about sex is secret with me, you know that!”
Eric, his aggravation vanishing in light of this new bit of information, leaned towards Sookie and purred, “Min alskade, what exactly have you been talking about with Lafayette when I am dead for the day? Hmm?”
Hot with a brilliant shade of red, Sookie shook her head rapidly and squeaked, “N—nothing!”
“I call bullshit, lover.”
“Don’t call me that!”
“Or what? You’ll kick me in my ‘cute little tush’?” Eric’s eyes waggled suggestively.
Turning to glare at Lafayette, Sookie grumbled, “He’s going to be impossible now, I hope you realize that! And it’s all your fault.”
“Yeah, like he was so easy to live with before,” Lafayette scoffed before taking a bite of his brisket.
Eric, realizing that Sookie wasn’t going to be very forthcoming, turned to her flamboyant friend and asked, “So Lafayette, what exactly has Sookie been telling you about me and my remarkable bedroom skills?”
“Lafayette! Don’t you dare!”
“I dare,” Lafayette laughed as his eyes danced merrily. Looking at Eric and leaning away from Sookie when she tried to slap her hand over his mouth, he said, “Let’s just say she said something along the lines of there not being enough numbers to adequately calculate your skill when it comes to fucking and sucking.”
“Lafayette!” Surely the earth could open and swallow her whole right now, or what good were her fairy skills anyway? Truly! Why couldn’t God ever take any mercy on her?
“Is that so?” Eric asked as his triumphant gaze swung back to his mate.
Sookie could tell that Eric was gearing up to embarrass her more than she already was, and she needed to put a stop to it before her face literally exploded in flame. She scrunched her face and hissed one word. “WalMart.”
Eric’s smile vanished. “You wouldn’t.”
“Try me, Viking.”
Eric and Sookie stared off for a moment, before Eric huffed and sat back in his seat with his arms crossed over his chest. Sulking quite clearly.
Pam’s eyes lit up. She remembered her trip to WalMart with Eric for pregnancy tests earlier and had sensed ammunition. Focusing on Sookie she asked, “Sookie, what is it about WalMart that has my Maker so hesitant? I know it’s something you’ve done, but he won’t say.”
“Enough, Pamela.” Eric hated being bested. Loathed was more like it.
Sookie just smiled at Pam and replied, “Now, Pam, if I tell you then I can’t lord it over Eric, now can I?”
“That good, huh?”
“Better than that time you smuggled a girl out of Argentina with the use of a mute chef, a talking parrot, and a spiked bottle of rum.”
“Eric told you that story?” Pam smiled fondly at the memory. She had been quite proud of that little feat. Even if Eric did bitch about it for damn near 50 years.
“Yep, I was very impressed with your ingenuity. Very impressed.”
“Enough foolishness,” Eric remarked. “Sookie, eat your food, it is time for us all to rest. We have much to do tonight, and we’ve all had a very eventful day.”
Sookie’s annoyance at Eric’s highhandedness was evident as she looked at Amelia. “Don’t mind him, Amelia, he just doesn’t like that I won this one.”
“You didn’t win,” Eric denied. “I simply decided that the conversation wasn’t worth continuing.”
“Of course you did, Viking.”
“Why must you always argue with me?”
“Because you make it so very easy.”
“Nothing is every easy with you, woman!”
“Like you’re a walk in the park, you hard headed jerk!”
As Eric and Sookie continued to bicker, everyone watching in various stages of amusement, Amelia looked up at Pam and asked, “Are they always like this?”
Nodding her head, Pam assured, “Oh yes, though sometimes there is the hurling about of things, and of course Sookie kicks Eric a lot of the time. They are very amusing when they are upset with each other. Very amusing.”
Amelia returned to watching the High King and Queen argue and snipe at each other like an old married couple, trading insults and such, and thought, ‘I pray one day I’m so hopelessly in love with someone like they are. They are so cute together.’