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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Chapter 72 ~ Pride and Prejudice

The next morning Sookie greeted her friends with a sleepy grin as she entered the kitchen. Lafayette was at the stove flipping pancakes, and Sam was at the kitchen table sipping on a strong cup of coffee.

“Mmm, smells good and I'm starving.” Glancing around the room, Sookie asked, “Tara's not up yet?”

Shaking his head, Lafayette replied, “No baby girl, she's out like a light. I think—uh—last night might have sapped the rest of her strength.”

No one needed to go into detail about what had happened last night, and Sookie simply observed, “Yeah, well last night took a lot out of all of us.”

Sam and Lafayette shared a look before Sam asked, “So Eric's going to let her stay?”

“Yeah. We talked some more after you all left and he finally agreed she can stay.” Sookie went to the fridge to get a glass of the fresh squeezed orange juice that Lafayette always made sure was ready for her in the mornings.

The two men shared another look, before Lafayette prodded, “So did you two get into it?”

“Boy did we, but I really don't want to talk about it. It's over; Eric agreed that Tara can stay, and I'd really like for us all to just move past everything that happened.”

Lafayette couldn't help but prod, “Come on, Sook! You gotta tell us how you put the Viking in his place and made him cave!”

She took a long sip of her juice, the froth tickling her throat pleasantly. She wore a small frown as she admonished, “Lafayette, I didn't put Eric in his place. I merely made him see the error of his ways and got him to see reason.”

“Uh huh. From what I saw last night Eric wasn't exactly in a reasonable mood.”

“That's putting it lightly,” Sam scoffed.

FLASHBACK:

When Eric, Sookie, and their Fairy guards teleported into the living room of Sookie's farmhouse, the first thing they were greeted with was the news that Tara had returned. Beside her, Sookie felt Eric go rigid, and before he had a chance to say anything she ordered, “Liam, please go get Tara.”

It took Liam less than a second to teleport to the outside of the barrier, set his hand on Tara's shoulder, and teleport them back into the living room. Tara's expression registered her shock at being moved about in such a way, but after the past few days it was pretty low on her list of shit to freak out about. Her gaze immediately went to Sookie, and she was about to apologize to her friend, but Sookie never gave her the chance. Sookie, so glad to have her friend back safe and sound, launched herself at Tara. Her arms wrapped tight around Tara's body and encased her in a hug that was far stronger than was comfortable, and Tara actually heard her bones protest as she gasped, “Sook! You're going to break my ribs!”

“Oh! Sorry about that,” she apologized sheepishly and released her friend, stepping back to explain, “Eric gives me his blood a lot and it makes me stronger. I forget sometimes.”

Rubbing the feeling back into arms, Tara laughed nervously, purposefully avoiding having to look at the brooding vampire who was glaring holes into her from his position near the doorway. He leaned heavily into the doorframe, appearing casual but his eyes said anything but. “No problem, Sook, and I'm happy to see you too.”

There was a strained pause before Tara's eyes lowered to the floor and she whispered, “I'm sorry, Sookie. I'm really fucking sorry. I should never have left with Eggs, and I certainly shouldn't have gone to the Fellowship. Especially after what you told me they did to you. It was stupid. I—I thought I was helping you, and I'm really sorry if I fucked things up for you here.”

Before Sookie could reply Eric appeared at her side, and growled down at her, “I have long since stopped being surprised by your stupidity, human, but the fact remains you betrayed Sookie. You betrayed us. I should order your death right now, but I am willing to spare your life for Sookie's sake. However, know punishment will be meted out.”

Tara's eyes widened in fear. Sookie slapped Eric's chest and hissed, “Now wait just a damn minute! Tara didn't actually betray us! She thought she was helping me! It's not her fault that Eggs and Newlin lied to her!”

He argued, “It matters not. The fact remains she went to an anti-vampire fanatical group, a terrorist group for all intents and purposes, and told them many of our secrets. She worked with them on a plan that was supposed to take you away from me, but was, in fact, a plan to murder you. Actions I cannot ignore. The girl will be punished and imprisoned until the problem with our enemy is handled so she cannot cause more damage.”

Tara backed up a step in fear as Sookie moved to stand right in front of Eric with her hands on her hips as she glared up at her Viking. Her gaze was hard as stone as she insisted, “Absolutely not! Tara made a mistake. One she's obviously sorry for, and it's over. Nothing bad happened, and it's time to forgive and move on.”

Clearly exasperated, Eric denied, “No. She has betrayed us both, she has betrayed our kingdom, and such betrayal must be answered for. As she is such a dear friend of yours I am willing to spare her life and not insist on the death penalty, which she deserves, but she will receive twenty lashes with a whip and remained imprisoned until our fight with Sargon is done.”

“The fuck you're going to whip my cousin,” Lafayette growled as he moved to stand shoulder to shoulder with Sookie, both effectively blocking Tara from the enraged Viking's view.

“Eric, you can't be serious!” Sookie just couldn't believe he'd stood there and told her he was going to whip and imprison Tara as though he was telling her what kind of weather they should expect tomorrow.

“I am perfectly serious,” Eric replied, his hands clasped behind his back as he glared down at his mate. “She betrayed us. Willingly. She abandoned you and went to an organization she knew was working against us. She must pay for her crimes. The law demands it.”

“I'd like to fucking see you try it,” Lafayette growled. He was not going to stand by while this blonde giant tried to whip his cousin like she was some runaway slave!

Arching a brow, his fangs snapping down, Eric goaded, “Would you really, Lafayette? I assure you it will be a sight you will not soon forget!”

Sookie pushed herself between the two men, her hand on each of their chests, and pleaded, “Let's all just take a deep breath and calm down before things get out of hand.”

She continued, “Eric, I know that you are upset, but you are not going to whip Tara. She made a mistake, a foolish one, but a mistake nonetheless, and she's sorry for it. I've accepted her apology and it is time to move on.”

“But I have not, nor will I. She was party to a plan to take you from me, a plan that would have resulted in your murder had it not been thwarted. Such actions need and will have consequences.”

“He's right, Sookie,” Pam agreed as she moved to stand next her Maker. “She betrayed you. She abandoned you and betrayed you, and she would have gotten you killed if her plan had worked. WE can't just ignore that. You can't ignore that. You're a queen now, and handing down punishments to traitors is part of being a queen.”

“My cousin ain't no damn traitor,” Lafayette shouted!

“Isn't she?” Haldar moved to stand on the other side of Eric, and asked, “Did she or did she not abandon Sookie?”

When no one said anything, he continued, “Did she or did she not abandon Sookie to go to a vampire hating fanatical group that had nearly raped and killed Sookie before? Atrocities that she was well aware of before she sought them out?”

Again no one said anything, and Haldar finished, “And did she or did she not, no matter how unwittingly because she was too stupid to look at the big picture, take part in a plan that would have led to the queen's murder?”

As silence filled the room, Haldar looked straight at Sookie, and said, “Being a ruler is not easy, Sookie. It is hard, and it is brutal. It is a terrible burden, but one true rulers shoulder because they realize that to fail in their duty would leave those dependent on them subject to chaos. I know you love your friend. I hear it in your voice and see it in your eyes, but you must be a queen first, and a friend second.”

Pointing at Tara still cowering behind Sookie, he said, “As much as you love her, the truth remains she betrayed you. That betrayal must be answered for.”

There was grave silence in the room as everyone waited to see how Sookie would respond. Eric's eyes were on his mate alone. He was grateful to his long time friend for saying the words he was too angry to articulate. He was grateful that someone besides him was trying to beat some sense into Sookie's thick skull for once.

When the silence stretched on, Eric offered gently, “You know they are right, Sookie.”

Sookie's eyes traveled around the room and she saw how all the supes were waiting for her to agree with them. 'But isn't this the problem? The supernatural world has no care for reasons, only actions. They don't care that Tara was doing what she was doing because she loves me and thought she was trying to save me. They care only that she left and went to the Fellowship in the first place. It's not right.'

Shaking her head, Sookie said, “This is the problem right here. You all refuse to see Tara in any of this. All you see is what she did.”

“Because it is the only thing that matters,” Eric argued, “her actions are what she will be judged for, regardless of the intent behind them.”

In a perfect imitation of him Sookie arched her brow, and asked, “Her actions are the only thing that matters? Really? Does it only matter that you hurt me upstairs the other night? Practically tore me apart from the inside? Or does it matter at all that you were doing it because you wanted to be close with me again? That your actions stemmed from your feelings for me?”

Everyone froze as Eric hissed and jerked back, physically affected by the reminder of how terribly he'd hurt his bonded previously. He could still feel the tight ball of shame in his stomach as he remembered how grievously he'd harmed her, the ache in his undead heart as he remembered how she'd curled in a ball away from him, fearing him in that moment. His voice was laced with his own pain, barely controlled, as he slowly shook his head and whispered, “It is not the same.”

“Isn't it?”

Sookie stepped closer to Eric, her hand softly settling on his chest as she stared up in his eyes and insisted, “Eric, she made a mistake. Just like we've all made mistakes. It's time to learn how to forgive. I've forgiven you for most of yours, and right now I'm forgiving Tara for this … and so are you.”

As Sookie and Eric stood there staring at one another, Tara let out a small cough, and began, “L—listen, I know I've fucked up, and I'm really so—“

“Shut the fuck up!” Eric roared as he looked over Sookie's shoulder at the girl his bonded cared for so much. The girl that had been nothing but a thorn in his side and a hindrance in his relationship with Sookie from the day he'd laid eyes on her. “You are nothing but a waste of space! You idiot girl!”

“Eric!”

Eyes blazing, Eric focused on his bonded, and snarled, “She meant to take you away from me! She must be punished!”

Sookie could see that Eric was fast losing control, and she needed to get him out of this situation where he felt the weight of everyone's expectations on him. She needed to get him to where it was just the two of them and she could break through his rage and fear. And she knew it was his fear of her being taken away from him that was causing him to lash out the most.

She begged, “Eric, please take me upstairs so we can talk about this.”

Before Eric could reply, Pam scoffed, “Eric, you're not really going to let this go are you? That idiot bitch nearly got Sookie and your baby killed! She's lucky you're not ripping her fucking head off right now! You can't just let her off!”

“Baby?” Tara asked in shock. Eyes scanning the suddenly very quiet room, she pressed, “What baby?”

Sookie turned from Eric to face her friend and began, “Tara, honey, remember when I said there was a reason I couldn't tell you what was going on? That I was protecting something far more important than my relationship with Eric or our future together?”

Fear building in her stomach, fear that something awful was about to come out of her friend's lips, Tara stuttered, “Y—yeah.”

Sookie set her hand atop her belly as she smiled timidly as she explained, “Well, this is it. Eric and I are going to have a baby. That's what I couldn't tell you before.”

Tara's mouth fell open in shock before she blurted in true Tara fashion, “You're fucking shitting me, aren't you? This is some kind of sick joke?”

Shaking her head and ignoring Eric as he moved to stand directly at her back while his hands moved to settle atop hers over their unborn child, Sookie continued, “No, Tara, it's not a joke. Eric and I are going to have a baby.”

“You're having a vamp baby?”

Her smile growing, Sookie nodded and agreed, “Yes. The first, but not the last. Eric and I are going to have many children together.”

“As long as you and your idiocy don't get them killed first,” Eric growled.

Sookie elbowed him in the stomach and stepped towards her friend. “Tara, I know this is a shock to you, believe me it was a shock to me too, it still is a lot of the time, but I'm so excited about this! You know how I've always wanted to be a mother.”

Tara backed away from Sookie, a mix of fear and shock running cold in her body as she shook her head frantically. “But not of some fang-bearing monster baby!”

“Tara!”

“You dare!” Eric snarled while pulling on Sookie's arm to try and push her behind him. He could tell that the situation was about to spiral out of control and he didn't want his bonded anywhere near her now hysterical friend.

Tara ignored the angry gaze of all the supes in the world and Sookie's hurt one. She insisted, “You've got to get rid of it, Sookie! You can't birth a demon! You've got to get an abortion!”

Before anyone could even comprehend what was happening, Eric had Tara pinned to the opposite wall of the living room with his hand around her neck, his fangs down and eyes burning with rage as he said in a deadly soft voice, “If you ever, and I mean EVER, speak of harming my child again, I will rip you in half, you pathetic piece of human shit!”

“Eric! Put her down!”

Sookie rushed across the room to tug on Eric's arm as she begged, “Please, Eric! She didn't mean it! She's just in shock! This is how Tara responds to unexpected news! Please let her down!”

“She fucking threatened our son, Sookie! You just heard her! She wants you to let some fool doctor carve our son from your womb and you are defending her?”

“Eric, please!” Sookie begged, fear for her friend filling her tone as she pleaded, “she's in shock! It's not her fault! Please put her down!”

It was only the desperation and fear he could feel coming through the bond from his mate that had Eric relenting. When he finally dropped Tara, glaring down at her with loathing, he snapped, “I don't care if she meant it or not, she talks about killing my son again and her life is forfeit.”

Sookie ignored Eric and knelt on the floor next to the sputtering Tara who was struggling to catch her breath. “Tara, honey, are you okay?”

Tara, still in shock, blurted, “I did mean it! Sook, you can't do this! You can't have a vampire baby! It will be a monster!” Pointing up at Eric she insisted, “Just like him! You've got to get rid of it!”

When Eric snarled and reached for her friend Sookie threw herself across Tara and looked up at her mate begging, “Don't! She's in shock! I—I just need some time to calm her down!”

Eric's body shook with rage. The need to rend and kill was tearing at him. His beast was fighting inside him with everything it had to break free and go on a rampage. It wanted to bathe in Tara's blood. To rip her entrails right out of her stomach and wear them as a belt. To peel the skin from her weak, pathetic human body and fashion it into a cloak as a warning to any and all what would happen to them if they threatened his mate or son … and yet he could not. Sookie would never forgive him. With one last snarl of rage he vamped from the house, leaving Sookie to deal with her irrational friend and knowing that her guards would make sure Tara did nothing to harm his mate or son.

When he was gone Sookie looked to everyone else in the room. “Guys, can you give us a moment? Tara and I need to talk.”

After everyone filed out save Liam, Sookie asked, “Liam?”

The captain of the guard shook his head and declined, “I'm sorry, my la—Sookie, but the girl has expressed twice now a desire to see the prince killed. I cannot leave you alone with her. I can shield myself if the illusion of privacy will make you feel better, but I will not leave you to be hurt by this human.”

“Tara's not—“

“She is, Sookie,” Liam insisted. “Either she truly believes the prince a monster and will try to harm him, or she is too irrational to see reason. In either case, for the time being, she is a threat. I will not leave you alone with her. If you will not tolerate my presence then I will send for the king.”

Scowling at her fairy guard, knowing he had brought up bringing Eric back on purpose, she huffed, “Fine. Shield yourself and don't interrupt.”

“As my queen commands,” Liam agreed before shimmering out of view.

With him gone, Sookie turned to face her near hysterical friend and soothed, “Honey, you've got to calm down.”

Tara's eyes were wide with fear and revulsion. She shouted, “Calm down! Calm down?! You're pregnant with some demon spawn and you want me to calm down!”

Her own eyes narrowing in anger, Sookie grit out, “Yes, Tara Mae Thornton, that's exactly what I want you to do! And if you refer to my little Peanut as demon spawn again I'll smack you right in that smart mouth of yours!”

The two women squared off before Sookie let out a tired sigh and moved forward to set her hands on Tara's shoulders and use her ability to draw her friend's hysteria from her. When she felt only calm from Tara, Sookie began, “Hun, I'll explain everything to you, I promise, but you've got to act like an adult for once and hear me out. No more shouting, tantrums, or name-calling. I don't have time for that kind of crap right now. Do you understand?”

Calmed by Sookie influence, but still frightened of the unprecedented event of Sookie carrying a vampire baby, Tara's eyes filled with tears as she murmured, “I'm scared, Sookie, like really scared. This is some crazy shit and I don't know what to do. You—you can't—I mean it's not possible, right?”

Sookie could see Tara evidently was hoping her pregnancy was some kind of mistake, so she hurried to assure, “It is completely possible, and I'll prove it.”

Tara watched Sookie disappear upstairs for a moment only to reappear holding a small picture in her hand. When Sookie held it out to her Tara took it slowly before looking down at the image displayed before her.

Watching her friend look at her sonogram of Peanut, Sookie urged gently, “I'm pregnant, Tara. I'm pregnant with a son by the man I love. I know you're confused, and I know you're scared, and I know all of this is very difficult for you, but you've got to give me a chance to explain everything, and more importantly, you've got to promise to believe me when I say that this baby is a blessing. A gift from God, and I won't have you talking shit about my little Peanut ever again. Do you understand?”

Tara collapsed on the grass and moss covered couch, still clutching the sonogram in her hand. She fell silent for only a moment before looking up at her friend and asking bluntly, “What the fuck is going on?”

Sookie took a seat in the mossy chair across from her, “It's a long story, but it's one you need to hear. Especially if you're going to stick around this time.”

“Tell me everything. Leave nothing out.”

“It all started thousands of years ago, with a prophecy. I'm more than just a waitress. Much more.”

“What the hell are you talking about? What prophecy?”

“I'm going to remake the world, Tara. I was born to, and Eric was born to help me.” Smiling softly as her hand settled atop her stomach, Sookie added, “And so were my children. My family is going to save this world.”

“Sookie! Stop talking in riddles, girl! Tell me what the fuck is going on!”

Scowling, Sookie admonished, “I'm trying to!” When Tara fell silent again, she continued, “Thousands of years ago …”

As Sookie launched into the explanation of what she was, who Eric was, who their children were and would be, and who their enemy was, Tara could only sit on the grassy couch and listen in growing horror. Her fear was rising by leaps and bounds and all she could think was that the end of the world was raining down on them and it was all the baby in Sookie's stomach's fault.

When Sookie finally fell silent, Tara burst, “You've got to get an abortion! Do you hear yourself? You don't know what the hell is growing inside you right now! It could be the Antichrist for all you know! How the hell can you just blindly follow along with these people? These monsters? Are you out of your fucking mind!”

Sookie felt herself getting angry and warned, “You need to watch your mouth! I've told you before not to talk about my baby like that! And I know Peanut is good because Gran told me he was! I'm his mother! I can feel it down to my soul that this baby was born out of love! He's not a monster or the Antichrist!”

Tara jumped up from the couch, tossing the sonogram at her feet. “This is crazy! We've got to get you the hell away from this shit!”

Rising as well, Sookie hissed, “You calm down right the fuck now, Tara Thornton! I'm serious! If you don't sit down and speak to me rationally about this I will let Eric throw you in the dungeon until this fight with Sargon is finished! I love you like a sister, girl, but you watch your damn mouth about my Peanut!”

Tara could feel her entire body shaking with the need to flee, the need to grab Sookie and drag her to the nearest abortion clinic. This couldn't be happening! Things like this just didn't happen! Her eyes darted around anxiously before landing on Sookie's stomach and blurting, “It's a monster, Sookie, I know it is.”

Sookie's whole body went stiff and for the first time she shoved into her friend's mind, and what she saw broke her heart. This wasn't hysteria; this wasn't her naturally reacting in anger to something she didn't understand. This was Tara, her best friend and sister of her heart, standing before her with the complete and utter belief that her little Peanut was a monster, a demon child. Tears filling her eyes, Sookie anguished, “Oh Tara, honey, I don't know what to do now. I—I don't want to let Eric lock you up, but you really believe that. You really believe my little Peanut is a monster.”

Tara insisted, “Sook, if these damn vamps and other shit hadn't gotten you so turned around in the head you'd see it too! Girl, we've got to get you out of here! We've got to get you to a doctor and get that thing out of you!”

Keeping her hands clasped protectively over Peanut, Sookie called softly, “Liam.”

When Liam shimmered into view next to her, his expression grim as he'd heard everything as well, she commanded quietly, “Keep her here. I—I need to speak to Eric.”

“Of course, my la—Sookie,” Liam agreed before moving to stand directly in front of Tara with his arms crossed over his chest. His gaze bore into the girl, and without words let her know if she moved a muscle he would cut her down.

Sookie felt more tears slipping down her cheeks as she hurried outside in search of her mate. She ignored Tara calling after her. She knew Liam wouldn't let her friend follow. It didn't take her long to find Eric sparring with Haldar, Han, Ivan, and Pam all at once, obviously working out his own aggression.

“Eric, I need to speak to you.”

Eric tossed his long time friend into a tree, feeling a certain kind of satisfaction as the tree snapped in half at the impact. He turned to face his bonded as he asked, “Well? Have you calmed that idiot girl down yet?”

Seeing the tears in Sookie's eyes, and feeling the bond flood with worry and sorrow, Eric vamped to Sookie's side, took hold of her chin to turn her hurt gaze to his, and asked softly, “Min älskade, what is wrong?”

Unable to stem the flow of her tears, Sookie launched herself into Eric's arms, and cried, “Eric! She really does think Peanut is a monster! She said he's a demon child and I should get rid of him! I saw it all in her mind! She's not just angry or scared, she really believes he's a monster!”

Eric's fangs snapped down and he hissed, “I'm going to rip her fucking heart out!”

Clutching at Eric desperately, Sookie begged, “Eric, please! Please don't do this! I need you to help me right now!”

“Help you?! That bitch thinks my son is demon spawn and wants to have him ripped out of you! I'll rip her to pieces first!”

“Eric, please!”

Feeling Sookie reaching for him through the bond, feeling her need for him to be calm and rational right now, feeling her desperate need for him to help make this situation better for her, Eric forced himself to calm as he pulled Sookie into a tight embrace and tucked her into his chest as he soothed, “Shh, min älskade, do not worry. Compared to the shit storm we're facing this is a small problem. We'll find a solution. Together. I promise.”

She wrapped her arms around Eric's waist, her tears soaking the front of his shirt. “Do you promise?”

“I promise.”

Aware of all the prying eyes of those around them bearing witness to this tender moment with his bonded, Eric swept Sookie up into his arms and rushed into the house. He passed Liam standing guard over Tara in the living room so quickly he was little more than a gust of wind and moved to sit cross-legged on Sookie's bed with her tucked into his lap as she broke down into a fit of tears. Releasing a very human sigh, he begged softly, “Sookie, my lover, please do not cry. You know I can't take it. I promise we'll get through this. Your friend is a fool, and we are both very adept at dealing with fools.”

Her tears fueled by her hormones and her fears, Sookie cried, “How could she think Peanut is a monster?! How can she hate my baby so much?!”

“Because she is a scared fool as many of those who will stand against us will be. People fear what they do not understand, you know this. You've known this for a while. And what they fear they seek to destroy. It is human nature.”

Wiping the tears from his mate's cheeks, he beseeched, “Please, do not cry. Please, min älskade.”

Sookie tried to gain control of herself. She felt devastated by Tara's steadfast belief that her little Peanut was a monster. Burrowing into his embrace she sobbed, “How can she hate my baby? I thought she was my friend?”

Eric wanted to point out that Tara was beneath his bonded's notice, unworthy of his Sookie's affection, and that it would be better for everyone involved if he simply glamoured the girl into going away and never coming back, but he knew he couldn't. It would only drive Sookie farther away from him, not to mention make her cry harder. Both things he did not want.

Instead he offered, “Sookie, she is scared. Nothing like this has ever happened before, and even I can admit she's had a trying few weeks. Perhaps she just needs time to adjust?”

Shaking her head, she replied, “No, Eric, she meant it. This isn't shock or fear, this is a real and true deep belief that Peanut is a monster. She really believes it.”

“You cannot be sure. Perhaps—“

“No, I've been a telepath long enough to know the difference between real and true thoughts, and thoughts that are merely a reaction to an event or driven by intense emotion. She hates you. She hates supes, and she believes Peanut is a monster because not only is he a vampire, but he's your son.”

He cursed in his native language about the stupidity of the people his mate seemed determined to surround herself with. Tempering his anger, he reached for calm. “Then we'll just have to prove her wrong.”

“It's not that simple, Eric.”

Long fingers wiped at the tears on her face as he assured, “It is that simple, my Sookie. It will take time, and it will probably not be pleasant, but it can be done. She just needs to see that Egil is not evil, and that what we are fighting for is right.”

“Do you really think that we can get her to see reason?”

“Yes. Your friend is young, irrational, and extremely prejudiced, but you have sworn to me that in the end she is a good person. If that is true she just needs time and opportunity to adjust to the situation and see reason. We can provide that for her.”

Tucking herself into Eric's chest, Sookie murmured, “I love how you can make my world calm and okay again. Even if for only a little while.”

“I would do anything for you, Sookie, you know this.”

'If only that were true,' she thought ruefully. She knew he would go to great lengths to make her happy, and incredible lengths to keep her safe, but he still refused to do some of that reasoning and adjusting that he insisted Tara needed. She knew that when it came down to it she was going to have to drag him kicking and screaming into the realization that they were equals, but that was a fight for another time. Right now she wanted Eric to hold her and help her figure out what to do with Tara.

Allowing herself several moments to indulge in Eric's embrace, to take comfort in his hands as they smoothed along her back and sides, to allow his soft words of comfort to make her feel better, Sookie finally said, “Okay, so what do we do?”

“For starters, she cannot be allowed alone in your presence.”

Sookie's first response was to say that was going too far, but she stopped herself. While she'd like to believe that Tara would never do anything to hurt her baby, she could no longer be so sure. She hadn't thought Tara would be capable of going to the Fellowship either but she had. And she wasn't willing to do anything that might risk Peanut.

'And I know firsthand how fear can make a person do some crazy shit. Tara really believes Peanut is a monster, so she might do something drastic. Eric is right. Until we can get her to see reason I can't be alone with her.'
There was no other option, she thought ruefully. “You're right. I can't be alone with her. She's unpredictable. So what do we do? I can't send her away.”

“You won't have to do much of anything. One of your Fae guards will simply be with you at all times. They will ensure that Tara cannot do something stupid. We will also assign her several guards. She will be watched at all times.”

“Okay.”

She could feel his surprise at her easy acceptance of his terms as he pushed her away from him to observe her face. “You are not going to argue at all?”

She laughed, finding his incredulous expression rather cute, “You know I'd do anything to keep Peanut safe. I love Tara, and I really want to help her get past her hate, but I'm not going to endanger my baby to do it. I saw in her head that she is dangerous. I'm willing to do what needs to be done to stay safe.”

“I am glad, but I can honestly say I expected you to put up a bit more of a fight.”

“Well if you're that broken up about it I can certainly pitch a fit to make you feel better.”

Eric took pleasure in her humor, “No, that's alright. You can save your need to scream at me for later.”

“Okay. So what are we actually going to do with Tara? You said she can't be alone with me, and I'm on board with that, but it's not like we can keep her locked up, either?”

“I think we should consider confining her.”

“What? No! I know we need to be careful in how we handle her, but that doesn't mean we are going to lock her up.”

Rolling his eyes, Eric admonished, “I'm not talking about throwing her in Fangtasia's basement or anything like that. She will be very well taken care of, but I can't afford to have that small minded little—“

“Eric! You'd better watch yourself.”

Releasing a very human sigh, he tried again. “I cannot be distracted by that girl. I understand she is your friend and you love her, but we need to prioritize right now.”

“And I'm on board with that, but it doesn't mean I am going to let you lock Tara up. You said yourself she just needs some time and for us to show her that we're the good guys in all of this.”

“And that is true, but right now we don't have the time to spare her. I think it would be best if we had her confined until we've dealt with Sargon and then you can begin trying to get through that thick skull of hers.”

Shaking her head emphatically, Sookie denied, “Absolutely not! We have no idea how long it is going to take us to defeat Sargon and I'm not tossing Tara into some cell until then!”

“Stop being so dramatic. I said nothing about a cell. I said we should keep her confined. I can have another guesthouse built on your property. Hell, we can build her a fucking mansion! Just as long as she stays inside it and well away from you and my son until she can see reason!”

“No!”

“Damn it, Sookie! Would you listen to reason for five fucking minutes!”

“Don't you dare take that tone with me, Eric Northman!”

Angered that Sookie was once again failing to see the big picture, he growled, “Well maybe if you would stop acting like a child I wouldn't need to take a tone!”

Eyes slanting in outrage, she hissed, “I'm acting childish?! Me?! You're the one failing to be open minded about this!”

“Did you or did you not just admit that your friend was a danger to Peanut?”

When she remained stubbornly silent, he pressed, “And did you or did you not just admit that precautions would need to be taken in order to ensure that she cannot cause harm to you or my son?”

“And I'm on board with taking precautions, but not with overreacting! And how is Tara supposed to agree with us and our cause if we keep her locked away? It will only make her hate you more!”

“Then what do you suggest?”

“She has guards at all times and I'm never left alone with her. That's it.”

He shook his head emphatically, “Absolutely not, not good enough. She needs to be confined. I don't want her near you at all.”

“But you just said she need time and exposure to us and Peanut so she can see that we're the good guys in all of this.”

“And she can have those things once Sargon has been dealt with and I have the time to monitor all interaction between you two.”

“Be reasonable.”

“I am being reasonable, you are the one letting your emotions for this girl overrule your good judgment.”

Clearly exasperated, Sookie insisted, “Tara is just a normal human woman. Sure, she is capable of causing damage, but not if she is properly monitored. She can have a Fae guard shadow her at all times, and when she is with me I'll have all of my guards. There is no way she could get past any of them. Even if she did try.”

Eric wanted to argue, but he could see the determination in Sookie's gaze and he knew trying to force his will upon her would not only be nearly impossible, but would definitely cause her to distance herself from him even more. Considering his options he finally relented, “Very well. I will agree to this course of action as long as you swear that you will never be in her presence with less than four of your personal guards, and one to keep control of her.”

“Fine.”

In an effort to lighten the tense atmosphere between them, Eric grinned wolfishly and asked, “I guess I won't be able to convince you to seal this deal with a kiss will I?”

Rolling her eyes, Sookie pushed away from Eric and rose from his lap hurriedly. “You're incorrigible, and the answer is no. No kisses for you.”

Eric watched Sookie walk away from him out of the bedroom, frowning ruefully, 'I have to find a way to get her to forgive me. I cannot go much longer without her.'

END FLASHBACK

As Sookie dug into the plate of pancakes Lafayette set down in front of her, Sam asked, “So what are we going to do about Tara? I doubt with what she said about the baby Eric is just going to let her run around unchecked.”

“And you're right about that. We discussed it and she is to have a Fae guard with her at all times, and anytime she is near me I must have all of my guards in attendance.”

Lafayette took a seat at the table with his plate of pancakes as well and asked, “Is that really necessary? I know Tara is dead set against you having this baby, but I don't think she'll try and hurt either of you.”

“I don't think she will either, but the small amount of doubt Eric and I have is enough for us to be unwilling to chance it. Until I see in Tara's mind that she accepts Peanut and is no danger to him I can't be alone with her. I can't risk my baby, Lafayette.”

Sam and Lafayette shared a look before the flamboyant man finally agreed, “I can understand that. Peanut should be all of our priority right now. It's just hard having to think about doing that to Tara. She's going to feel like an outsider.”

Sookie, just as uncomfortable with the idea, but determined to do what was necessary to keep her family safe, agreed, “I'm right there with you, but I don't have a choice; I hope Tara comes to understand we're the good guys really fast, but we all know how hard her head is.”

The three of them shared a laugh before a disgruntled Tara interrupted their thus far quiet breakfast by bursting into the kitchen with one of the Fae guards trailing behind her. Immediately Liam and Sookie's other Fae guards materialized around Sookie in the kitchen, their expressions very grim.

“Sookie, who the fuck is this guy? He said he's my guard and he's going to follow me everywhere. That I'm not allowed to be alone with you. What the fuck?”

Tara's expression was all indignation, but Sookie maintained her composure and replied evenly, “That's exactly what he is, Tara, and you are not allowed to be alone with me. You made sure that these precautions were necessary the moment you threatened Peanut. My son is not a monster, and he and his siblings are vital to the future of not only this world but other worlds, and neither Eric or I am willing to let you endanger him.”

Eyes darting to Lafayette and Sam confirmed they were siding with Sookie and Tara shouted, “Sookie, you can't seriously treat me like a prisoner! Just because I think you need an abortion to get rid of that thing growing inside you doesn't mean you can treat me like this!”

Liam stepped forward threateningly and ordered, “You will watch your tone, girl! That is the High Queen you are speaking to, and you will address her with the respect she is due or I will personally throw you from this house and alert his majesty tonight about your behavior towards his mate.”

Tara turned her eyes to Sookie and said, “Are you going to let him threaten me?”

After taking another sip of her juice, Sookie stared straight at Tara, and replied, “Liam is the Captain of my Fae guard and is fast becoming a trusted friend. He is not only doing his duty in defending me, but he's being a good friend by refusing to allow you to verbally abuse me.”

Sookie let her anger show in her gaze as she continued, “Tara, I told you before I'm not going to let you yell and scream at me, and neither will anyone else here. We have too much to do and far too much going on to tolerate childish behavior. If you have complaints I am willing to hear them as long as you conduct yourself as an adult, but if you are going to start screaming again I will have you escorted back to the guesthouse. Is that clear?”

Tara was silent for a moment before hissing, “You know, Sookie, the more time you spend around all these monsters the more you become just like them!”

With a huff Tara spun around and stomped off from the kitchen with her guard right behind her. In her wake everyone in the kitchen was silent a moment before Lafayette remarked to no one, “Well, things are definitely going to be interesting around here.”

Sam laughed and teased, “Yeah, because everything was all sunshine and roses before now.”

Everyone laughed before the Fae guards shimmered out of view to leave Sookie and her friends to eat their breakfast in peace, however breakfast was once again interrupted when Frannie came into the kitchen letting out a loud yawn and asking, “What smells so good in here?”

Lafayette, who was becoming more and more fond of the young girl, especially since she let him give her makeovers practically on a daily basis, jumped up from his seat and answered, “My world famous pancakes, sugar lips. Let me fix you up a plate, darlin'.”

“Lafayette, you are so good to me!” Frannie smiled happily at the man she had taken quite a shine to before focusing on Sookie and asking, “So Sookie, what are you going to be doing today?”

Sookie, believing Frannie was just being polite and making small talk, answered, “I have several security meetings today and a meeting with the hackers. They've got the equipment set up and Eric wanted them to perform some kind of testing. I didn't understand a lot of what it was, but I'm supposed to check in with them and have a report for Eric when he rises tonight.”

Frannie wanted to ask some more questions, but wasn't sure if she could without tipping her hand. After the attack on the Fellowship yesterday, which she had seen news reports about, she had thought Newlin was dead. The news and government agencies were reporting he had been killed in the attack, but he'd contacted her very late last night while she was still at a friend's house in Alcide's pack letting her know some of his contacts in the government had helped him to fake his death so he could escape vampire notice and continue his holy war. He'd told her he would contact her again as soon as possible and until then she was to continue to gather as much information as possible that he could use to help free Sookie. Newlin had let her know than any information she could provide about Sookie's security or hacking capabilities would be beneficial, and that was exactly what she was going to do.

So she pressed, “I guess these hackers are pretty good, huh?”

There was something in her tone ... Liam was the only one whose gaze became guarded, but Sookie didn't think much of answering Frannie. “Oh, they're better than good. Sargon isn't going to know what hit him. These guys were onto the fact that someone was pulling the strings of all major governments for a while now, but since we've pulled them into our circle and gotten them the equipment they need from the conference they are making leaps and bounds. We're very hopeful we can get a lock on Sargon's main location soon.”

Frannie was about to ask another question but she chanced a glance at Liam and saw his suspicious gaze so she dropped her eyes along with her line of questioning. She reframed her thoughts and drew a smile across her features, “Well, my day will seem pretty boring. I'm just going to the library to do homework today. Finals are next week then we get out for Christmas break, and I have some major cramming to do.”

“I remember those days,” Sookie laughed as Lafayette set a plate of pancakes and bacon down in front of Frannie before retaking his seat.

“I'm headed into the city to swing by the all natural store. I need a few spices things that we aren't producing yet. Sookie's garden gnome said it will be a few more weeks before he has some of it. I can give you a lift if you need one,” Lafayette offered.

“No, thanks. I'll have one of the guards drop me off at the Bon Temps library. There won't be much room for me in your SUV, between your groceries and your guards on the way home if you take me, Laf,” Frannie replied.

Patting Frannie's hand, Sookie interjected, “Well, if you need any help with your homework you just let us know, ok?”

“Thanks, Sook,” Frannie replied with a genuine smile. She couldn't wait to get Sookie away from the vampires so she could be with her brother. Then they could be a real family. 'All I have to do is get enough information on Sookie's security and hacker team to Newlin and he'll help me get her out of here. Then me and Quinn can get her as far away from here as possible and we can be happy. I know it.'

23 comments:

  1. Tara will never learn and Frannie is incredibly naive isn't she?
    Sookie is in for a world of hurt regarding these two.
    Thanks for the update and already looking forward to the next.

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  2. Oh my --Tara is SO not worth it --let that gal take a long walk off a short pier. Is Sookie going to second guess her judgements when she finds out about Frannie? Will she second guess Tara because I'm certain that toad won't change her warts.....sigh.......much trouble on the home front still. And Sookie and Eric are still not a fully functioning team. Time to "man up" --all of them --the time for "all or nothing" draws close!
    So good to see an update ladies! I've missed you all!
    Pat

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  3. Wow Sookie needs to get a little more proactive on reading everyone. Hopefully Liam will talk to her about Frannie and have a guard stealth follow her.

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  4. oh damn, so many enemies so close and they are unsuspecting. Frannie is the biggest threat since she is actually in cahoots with Sargon. Tara needs to grow the fuck up but i see her pissing off another Supe and her ass being made an example. sooner or later Eric will figure out what he needs to do to change things for the better between him and Sook, the way he is going he is putting a further gape between them with his hardheadedness. KY

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  5. I was so happy when I saw the update for this chapter in my inbox! Poor Sookie! Tara is just horrible to her. I wonder what she will have to do to get through to her. I hope something will make Tara see the light! I hope Sookies guard sees that something is not right with Fran and has her followed by a cloaked guard and that can catch her giving info to the fake Steve Newlin. I wonder what Sookie will do about her. I can't wait for more! Loving this story!

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  6. I just want to take Sookie and shake some sense into her!! Use your god given talent and read Frannie! This blind trust and loyalty she shows people is admirable but not very smart when those people (ie:Tara) have proven themselves very untrustworthy! I thought Eric showed a huge amount of restraint in this chapter by not ripping Tara's head off! Thanks for a great update!!

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  7. I was excited to see an update. It was a great chapter.

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  8. So excited for this update. Excellent as always. Can't wait for the next one. This is one of my fave stories. Hope Eric gets his act together. I hate that they still haven't made up.

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  9. I don't know why Sookie puts up with Tara, she needs a foot up the arse.
    Thanks for the update, can't wait for the next one ☺

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  10. So many of their human problems could be solved if Sookie would get over her "I'm not going to read my friends minds' schtick! They have more traitors on the inside than they have enemies on the outside!
    kleannhouse, they are both far too stubborn. They need to learn MORE about how to compromise before their hard-headedness causes a rift which can never be forded.

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  11. At least Sookie finally read Tara ' s thoughts. Goodness why does she put her life in danger by keeping her around. I really feel Sookie is being unreasonable with the Tara situation. I wish she would read Frannie 's thoughts. Sookie is too trusting. I was so excited for this update. I really hope Eric and Sookie can mend their relationship soon.

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  12. Always so happy when I get a new update from you. I love your Sookie. Thank you for your story and looking forward to anything you write.

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  13. I get so exasperated with Sookie - she's just too trusting of her so-called friends. Though Eric's solution may have been extreme, he was right in labeling Tara a traitor and also that she needed to suffer some consequence for what she had done. As for Frannie, hopefully soon someone will realize that she's a traitor in the midst.

    Glad you're back with an update!! I've missed your writing and am happy to be able to catch up on this story.

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  14. Great as always, thanks for updating :)

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  15. GAH! Sookie said she would read everyone who came around her and peanut and she isn't doing it!
    Hope not to wait so long for the next update Love love this story!

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  16. I dont know if you got my previous comment. My mobile doesn't seem to be cooperating with the reviews. If this is a dublicate kindly disregard.

    So yeah, Tara has become a nuisance. I want Eric to glamour her into being agreeable just to save Sookie from the stress. And Frannie, what a stupid girl. I hope Sookie accidently gets in her head and sees her idiotic plan. After everything she witnessed with Tara does she really think Eric won't hunt her down and slowly kill both her and Quinn?

    Sooke and Eric are coming along...slowly. But slow is good for them now. Eric is conceeding a bit for Sookie even if he doesn't really notice it and that is progress.

    Thanks guys for the update, you rock!

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  17. Sookie just isn't taking Tara's threats seriously. I don't think I'd be happy, nor would I keep, a "best" friend who shows so much hatred towards my husband and unborn child and insists I get an abortion. That's not much of a friend. And what is with her not reading her people? Doesn't she understand how much danger she is putting everyone in? From Frannie also? Frannie isn't even a long time friend like Tara. She's just some flotsam picked up along the way. The naivete or stupidity is blinding! I think something bad will happen soon and put it all into perspective for her.

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  18. Sookie calls Eric stubborn and unwilling to adapt to their current situation...then what the hell do you call your idiocy? You're busy spending all day telling people that you will do anything to protect your unborn son, but you're unwilling to actually go through with it. Words are very cheap Sookie you more than anyone SHOULD know that.

    Tara's a lost cause get rid of her and Frannie is a very lost young girl which is why Newlin was able to get to her in the first place. I just hope that once it's discovered what's going on; that Eric won't take it out on poor Quinn.

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  19. Always so excited when I'm altered that there is an update to one of your stories. Cannot believe that Tara had the gall to return to those that she had rubbished and abandoned and expected everyone to be welcoming. She reacted in such a abhorrent way to the news of her alleged best friends pregnancy gives further cause for concern for the welfare of the estate. Please that there is to be a guard of her at all times as her impulsivity could endanger all of them. Frannie's dreams for this 'happy family' with her brother and Sookie fed by Sargon manipulations make her just as dangerous as Sargon himself. Really liked the way you moved your plot on and balanced the drama of their lives. Thankyou.

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  20. fantastic story. always happy to see an update. I hope you don't leave the others either. thank you and regards.. to both of you. :)

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  21. I can't decide if Tara's overt hatred on Sookie's child is all her, or enhanced by whatever Sargon implanted in her head back at the hospital.

    I'm at the point where i think they should wash their hands of Tara. Sookie needs to prioritise herself, and her role in future events. I have to admit, Eric's anger toward Tara is not misplaced. On this, i agree with him.

    Sookie's unwillingness to read her 'friends', is idiotic. She should be reading everyone, all the time. Her naivety is going to bring about big problems. Frannie is a young girl, craving a family free of Vampire influence. Once Sargon's manipulation of her comes to light, i hope Eric goes easy on her, realizing she wasn't unequipped to deal with the situation she found herself in. And, that the poor treatment she received at the hands of Vampires fueled her actions.

    I really do love this Odyssey of a fic. And, will look forward to the next installment.

    H.

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  22. Never been a Tara fan and especially don't like her here. I was happy to see sookie evolve alittle throughout the story but not checking in with the people around her is just so stupid. Sargon told them during his phone call he had people on the inside awhile ago and Eric and her had a conversation about reading everyone. Aww it's so frustrating.

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