**A/N: I’m sorry…I am so, so sorry about this chapter… Don’t be surprised if it feels a bit…bookish. Like Sookie’s contracts it ended up being far longer than I had anticipated (totally Eric’s fault), and there isn’t even a lot of verbal dialogue…but it’s filled with things that…well, you’ll see. I had seriously considered breaking this chapter into 2 parts, “A” and “B” as it were, because I’ve noticed that reviews sometimes suffer on really long chapters and it makes me wonder if leaving them super-long makes them a bit boring? Exhausting? Annoying? Holey-Bongo-Nuts-WTF-am-I-supposed-to-do-with-this~ish, maybe? I dunno… Bring snacks to enliven your reading experience. And maybe a pillow.**
~As a certain friend of mine would say, this one is likely a 2 (…3) potty-break’er, and unfortunately I could NOT find appropriate places to stick in those lovely “intermissions” – I searched for 15 solid minutes trying to find good breaking points and NOTHING seemed to work with the flow of the chapter, so…um…just highlight where you leave off?? Happy reading! May the for…Eric’s Broad Shoulders be with you…~
With extreme reluctance Eric gave into the demands of time and slowly descended to land near the bottom of the steps leading up to Sookie’s porch. The Dae Cataliades’s sedately lawyer-esque vehicle was parked close by, his faint odor leading to the front steps Eric was oddly loathe to mount, and the sounds and scents of the remaining Were guards drifted through the wooded lands surrounding the old house.
Fury briefly spiked his blood.
Fucking Alcide off hiding in the bathroom chatting up one of his literal Werebitches while leaving Sookie unprotected… What if I hadn’t been there? What if Compton had managed to… Mangy flea-infested bastard will pay…
It took a second for Eric to refocus.
The contracts that would be discussed that night wouldn’t necessarily provide Sookie with immediate physical protection and he needed to secure more and better guards who were actually responsible enough to warrant his trust.
Obviously that pathetic mutt would rather spend his time chatting on phones in bar restrooms than doing his fucking job, but that other one… Tray? Trey? However the fuck he spelled his name, he might be far more qualified. He’s a loner, too, not overly affiliated with any one pack, so logistics wouldn’t be an issue.
Signed contracts would, however, vastly increase the delightful creature’s future security, as they would be both legally and, possibly, magically binding, but having his arms filled with her warm, soft form noticeably dimmed his enthusiasm for the upcoming discussions.
To his inner satisfaction, Sookie didn’t seem to be in any hurry, either.
She might have stepped away from him when they landed but, he noted smugly, she hadn’t stepped far. His arm was still draped across her back and she wasn’t shrugging it away.
Content to let her set the pace, his arm sank to her waist and was far more “resting” than “leading” as they ambled toward that first riser.
He noted when a curious look crossed her face, and on the third step she stopped and looked up at him although he was still on the first. Her expression was now somewhat disturbed.
When she rose on her tiptoes, he graciously leaned toward her.
“Eric, I can tell someone is in there with Gran and I know it’s bound to be that lawyer, but I can’t make out his thoughts. They’re like a mix of radio static and white noise. I’ve never heard anything like that before.”
He kept his features neutral but inside he grimaced.
Damn. Trust the Dae to have odd brains… This is not the time to have to explain about a new species. I have to tell her something, but how do I tell this sheltered little babe in the woods that those woods are a hell of a lot more crowded than she’d ever guess?
He stared into her eyes with his mind still racing.
Oh, hey, Little Red Riding Hood, guess what – not only is the big bad human-wolf hybrid a thing that exists, but demons are real, too! And there are fairies and witches and maenads OH MY! But never fear, you get to meet a demon in three…two…
Yeah. That would work.
Standing as they were with Sookie two steps above his own, it was easy to see the confusion and hesitancy in her gaze. He took a slow, deep breath while scrambling for the right words.
He didn’t want to scare her off and send her running anywhere but into his arms, and it ate at him that Louisiana was still infested with Sophie-Anne and her brood – Andre and The Berts would have a gay old time with the likes of her and she had yet to sign any sort of contract.
Trying to pretend that his fangs ached because of unsigned contracts didn’t work.
“Our attorney is inside with your grandmother, and I have a feeling that you can’t hear his thoughts because he’s Dae.”
Please…please… Maybe she won’t know what a Dae…
“Dae? Dae as in… He’s a demon,” she whispered furiously as her eyes grew huge.
Damn. No such luck…of course…
“Yes, according to human legends they are, but in reality the Dae are simply another species of supernatural beings, what we call supes,” he explained firmly if quietly. “As time goes on you’ll learn more about the different species, but for tonight the only difference you’ll notice with Cataliades is that you apparently can’t hear his thoughts. As a lawyer and as a person, he is as trustworthy as you could want, and that is all that matters at this point.”
Shock and confusion suffused her features.
Eric understood her reaction and was in fact proud that she hadn’t fainted or, infinitely worse, pulled a Ginger. He remembered his own first encounter with that particular species. In previous centuries and especially in the Old World, the Dae had been far more numerous, so it hadn’t been too long after his change before he and his ever-patient Maker had come upon the stench of a den, and he could well imagine his own expression at the time.
The den had thankfully been peaceful but the shock of their existence – and their smell – had been strong. Apparently the look on his face had been quite comical given how Godric had later snickered and guffawed off and on for hours.
What can I say…those purer-blooded bastards had reeked of sulfur and smoke…
Oddly he found himself wanting to share that memory with the stunned blonde lady before him, but at the moment there simply wasn’t time.
He placed a long, strong finger across her parted lips.
“Later. I promise I will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the supe world, but right now really isn’t the best time. I can, however, assure you that you have nothing whatsoever to fear from Desmond.”
The skeptical look she gave him promised untold retribution if he failed to keep his word. His cock gave an appreciative throb in response to the sass in her glare.
Through no control of his own, a saucy grin spread across his lips as he lowered his head. He removed his finger to whisper against her skin then kiss that look from her face but she angled her mouth toward his ear instead.
“A demon named Desmond? Really? What then, a fairy name Finn? An elf named Elrond? Oh, I know, a witch named Wanda!”
Her word spewage was entertaining and strangely astute but he needed to get her back on track. The sooner the contracts were discussed and signed, the sooner she would be safe, well, safer…
“Sookie,” he began but was impertinently interrupted.
“Can I have an angel named Angeline for $500, Eric?”
Suddenly worried that she might be descending into some sort of mental turmoil, Eric steadied her with his hands on her shoulders and looked searchingly into her eyes.
“Sookie, I know this must come as a shock to you but everything will be fine. Now come, let’s get the introductions over with so that you can see for yourself that you have nothing to fear from him.”
The lightly stern tone of his voice was less effective than he’d hoped.
“Ok, but one last question,” she asked with a suspicious twinkle in her eyes as she reached up to brush his hair back away from his face.
The casually performed action shouldn’t have affected him so strongly but he would deal with that notion later.
As far as her question was concerned, he shouldn’t ask…he knew he shouldn’t…
“Is the Boogyman real? Is his name Bob?”
He rolled his eyes for show but felt more relief than anything. She was fine. A little taken aback and filled with questions she had every right to ask, but she was fine.
“Yes and he will bite your ass if you keep it up.” He impulsively lowered his hand to pinch a rounded butt cheek and grinned at her yelp before swiftly dropping the belated kiss to her grinning lips.
When they reached the front door very quickly thereafter, he watched her enter the house with no trepidation. That fearlessness in the face of the obviously unknown made him…proud of her.
His first encounter with this “newly discovered” species had been unexpected, too, and he had likewise been allowed to proceed more or less at his own pace the same as Sookie just now, but the differences between the two situations were remarkable.
He had already become an immortally strong vampire, and he’d had the reassuring presence of his Maker’s fierce strength by his side.
Regardless of his growing suspicions, Sookie was a frail mortal who by definition had no supernaturally strong Maker who was willing and immensely more than able to stand between her and all who would harm her.
As far as protection was concerned, he was it. Sure, barring Alcide there were a couple very strong, fast Weres patrolling the nearby woods, but…
He was it.
Just because he knew the lawyer inside posed no threat didn’t mean she could logically make an assumption of safety except that she believed his word.
The thought was humbling.
So was the knowledge that if something happened, if a threat of any sort were to befall his Sookie, he was currently all that he could honestly trust to stand between her and death…or worse.
At a later time he knew he would be able to trust Godric to help protect this woman, but that was then; this was now.
Both praising and cursing the blonde’s inherent courage. Eric inhaled deeply, and felt himself standing a little taller and a little broader.
The weight of his responsibility over her protection felt strangely comfortable on his shoulders.
When he entered the living room, he subtly nodded at the demon primly sipping tea with the elder Stackhouse and wondered at the odd look the supe sent his way.
Desmond may have appeared pleasantly plump and middle-aged, but he was in actuality very strong, very fast, and older than dirt. He had more than earned every slight wrinkle in his skin that was slightly sallower than a human’s would be.
Sookie went immediately to her bright-eyed grandmother and kissed the woman’s plump cheek, and gladly accepted a affectionate hug in greeting.
Eric was pleased to note the warm change in the elderly Stackhouse’s attitude toward Sookie. The previous version of the old biddy needed what Pam called “a vat of prune juice”.
“I’m sorry we’re runnin’ late tonight but we had some big doings down at Merlotte’s. Jason’s name has been cleared, Gran, and Bill’s been arrested, and I quit, too. I’ll tell you all about it as soon as we get the business done. But yeah, you don’t have to worry about Jason anymore.”
Adele’s mouth dropped open but Eric smirked as Sookie simply turned to the attorney with the now-twinkling eyes and held out her hand in greeting.
“Hi, I’m Sookie Stackhouse, and you must be Mr. Cataliades,” she said, her tongue twisting over his last name so badly that Eric had to suppress a grin. “I’m sorry we’re late. Things got pretty exiting tonight at my now former job.”
The demon placed his cup and saucer on the nearby table and rose with surprising grace from his chair. As he accepted her handshake, for a fleeting moment Eric caught the remnants of a poignant expression ghosting across the old guy’s face.
“I am very glad to officially make your acquaintance, Miss Stackhouse, and please, just call me Mr. C. It’s far easier to pronounce,” he ended his salutation with a quip.
The Viking studied the telepath’s face for clues as to how she was handling not only her first encounter with the Dae but for how her telepathy might be handling the encounter. Only because of previous scrutiny did he catch the still puzzled expression around her eyes as her mind undoubtedly sought to establish a connection…or whatever it was that telepathic brains did.
He resolved to ask her exactly how her telepathy worked when they had time to sit and chat.
Then it dawned on him that using her gift might not be comfortable, that it might actually cause her some pain of a sort, and that thought did not sit well.
He would definitely ask at Fangtasia later that night.
After exchanging general pleasantries for a few minutes – Eric silently congratulated Adele on keeping her extreme curiosity over the night’s happenings contained – it was decided that he, Sookie, and Mr. C would adjourn to the kitchen table. It would provide room for the lawyer’s laptop, high-tec mini-printer that Eric couldn’t wait to investigate, and the ubiquitous stacks of papers and files that seemed to follow attorneys around.
“Gran, you can come too,” Sookie happily invited, but the older lady shook her head and waved them on.
Eric, still tuned in to every minute expression crossing Sookie’s face, caught the subtle tells of telepathy in active use. Something in the older woman’s thoughts seemed to be bothering the younger woman.
“Oh, no, you young’uns go on. It’s time for my show,” she nodded toward the ancient TV in the corner of the room, “so I’ll just stay in here while you put the world to rights.”
Sookie stared at the elder woman for a long moment, then nodded her head.
“Right this way, gentlemen. I’m going to fix Gran another cup of tea, would you like a refill, Mr. C?”
“That would be quite lovely, my dear,” Mr. C replied as he grabbed the substantial briefcase he’d tucked in beside his chair and cheerfully followed along. “If you will excuse us, Mrs. Stackhouse?”
Eric came to attention.
“My dear”? But…Sookie is a stranger. Now it’s true that Cataliades is a gracious sort…attentive and fanatically loyal to his family and few notable friends but his extreme professionalism is world-renowned… “My dear”? Very curious…
Sookie indicated the obvious table when they entered then kitchen then busied herself with refreshments while the demon set up his laptop, the printer that would later fascinate Eric, and a few of the files he would need for Sookie’s portion of the evening.
Once everyone had taken a seat, the only word that would later come to Eric’s mind regarding the ensuing hours was grueling.
The Dae attorney was always most thorough when doing his job, sure, but as the hours wore on, it seemed he also had an enormous knack for knowing far more about vampire politics in general, and the courts of King Texas and Queen Louisiana in particular, than a logical person would ever dare wish or presume.
The multitude of amendments, clauses, addendums…and various other legal bits and pieces he peppered into Sookie’s potential contracts boggled the Viking’s already highly intelligent mind and left him ravenously jealous of the demon’s apparent army of stealthy contacts. The information obviously provided by those contacts had lead to some surprisingly specific suggestions from the Dae – inclusions that added greatly to Sookie’s freedom, safety, financial gain, and comfort.
King Texas and Queen Louisiana had best hope they never make an enemy of this wily and scarily meticulous old soul. I would love to watch him and Godric at chess one night…that would be a game for the ages.
During the discussions, Eric found himself somewhat in awe of Sookie’s intuitive understanding when it came to legal matters. Granted she had never been formally educated about such things, but her mind apparently knew no bounds and could grasp explained concepts blindingly fast.
He had a sudden image in his mind of Godric teaching Sookie how to play chess…and of Sookie eventually, perhaps after several years considering his Maker’s extreme skill, beating the pants off the wily old master strategist who would laugh proudly…then demand a rematch.
The thought warmed him in unexpected ways.
Just as his Maker would be, the Dae was patience itself with her questions, which were shy and uncertain at first but quickly became focused and logical. He answered and led the discussions in such an avuncular way that even an increasingly possessive vampire could find no fault.
Even if the occasional “my dear” continued to slip out seemingly unnoticed by either.
The refrigerator abruptly kicked on and the sudden noise caused his ears to twitch, but the sound of the electricity continuously running through old lines in the old walls remained oddly soothing.
As for the relevant contracts, between the telepath and the demon no stone was left unlifted, uninspected, unturned…then repositioned until both were satisfied.
Although known for being unerringly thorough and attuned to specifics, Eric himself had never known the Dae to be so intensely focused on a client’s needs, much less those of a new client.
Obtaining the best possible outcomes for Sookie seemed to have become almost a personal quest for Cataliades, and while Eric was glad for her sake, the situation did further spark his curiosity.
Time continued to drag on as the two eagerly investigated, thoroughly explored, and expounded upon the ins and outs of every possible and sometimes impossible thing either could bring to the attention of the other.
At first Eric had actively participated in the discussion. However, he had quickly realized that not only did Cataliades know far more about the subject than he ever would or would ever care to, but that this was what he was paying cold, hard cash for anyway.
His eyes did remain oddly drawn to the delightful telepath sitting across the table.
Her hair looks so soft in this plain kitchen light…purses her lips when she’s thinking hard about something… She’s not chewing the inside of her cheek, is she? Why do humans do that? Ohh, nice question to the lawyer… Well done, Sookie…
Honestly, however, once Sookie had shed her hesitation about the subject and began holding her own, his support was no longer needed to ease her way.
Wonder where that cat is… Is Adele snor… Nope…loud commercial woke her up…
Although part of his mind continued paying attention to everything covered, several times he caught himself flexing his back and shoulder muscles, then his thighs and calves… He didn’t descend into active fidgeting but did think rather vaguely a few times about going for a brief flight around the state just to stretch, but he couldn’t force himself to leave the table.
Out of what he figured was probably extreme boredom, his proud “immobile for hours vampire predator” facade seemed to have flown the proverbial coup. And until now, the only two beings he would normally allow to see this much of his honest reaction when bored were Godric and Pam.
Of course, the poor attorney already knew how tedious he found such matters…
I wonder what they would do if they suddenly saw a 6’5″ Viking vampire vigorously reenacting one of those strange exercise programs from the early ’80s… Pam probably has some leg warmers gathering dust somewhere…still not sure what the benefits of “jumping jacks” were supposed to have been – much less who the hell Jack was or why he was jumping about so peculiarly…
Days and weeks passed. More things were discussed.
Wonder if they’ll wrap this up in time for us to make it to Fangtasia tonight…need to see if she can…Long Shadow… Heh, I could leave the bar to Thalia just to piss her off…I mean, to thank her for her help with Compton… Is that a miniature spider in that far corner?
At some point several seasons later, Sookie rose to fix herself a drink and check on her grandmother who’d been lightly dozing in the living room. Unknowingly observed by the Dae attorney, Eric intently tracked her every movement.
All too quickly, the discussion resumed.
Those thin blue plastic exercise mats…they were required for getting on the floor back then, weren’t they? Wonder if Sookie’s grandmother has any tucked away in a closet somewhere…maybe she had of those machines with the wide band that did nothing more than jiggle the victim’s belly and ass fat…that could be fun…interesting choice for a torture device if nothing else… Sookie needs to walk over to the counter again so I can watch her coming and going…coming…going…coming… Ohhh kay, time for a change of thought…
Things previously discussed were now being discussed again…again.
Where the hell is Tina? I wonder if she actually chases small mammals or if she just watches them… Pam’s hairless wonders just slept and stared a lot…note to self – cat toys…acquire massive quantities of whatever cats shit on inside the house…sure as hell won’t be letting her go outside in Dallas, even in the pre-burbs if we stay at…trash bags, definitely trash bags…food so Tina can shit more…a vacuum cleaner…oh, wait, Pops might have one already…will need to check…
Now new things were being discussed but they somehow pertained to old things that had already been discussed…by a factor of twenty.
And where the fuck has this strange bout of impatience come from, anyway? Why does my skin feel the need to crawl off my bones? I’ve never had patience for this kind of crap but this is getting ridiculous.
His thoughts didn’t meander for long at a time, however.
Beholding the naive young woman blossoming in such an unusual setting was strangely entrancing. Her mind was far more agile than she gave herself credit for, and her enthusiasm for a subject most sentient beings, himself hellaciously included, would consider painfully dry enlivened her already addictive beauty.
Thoughts of taking off for a flight around the state, even the perimeter of the old homestead, were put on indefinite hold especially as the surprisingly compatible dynamic duo branched off on yet another tangent.
Eric eyed the salt and pepper shakers that, along with the napkin holder, had been shoved to the side of the table.
I can juggle…surely. Never tried it before…can’t be that hard… Do wonder where Tina is…maybe the demon smell …
Another bored-Pam text interrupted his thoughts.
He’d known she would “hang out” at Fangtasia for few hours after securing Compton so as to not raise suspicions about his own absence at the moment – the two of them being gone at the same time truly might have sparked a few questions – but knowing her, she’d mainly want to enjoy Compton’s incarceration. He had skimmed over her initial two texts, the first notifying him of her arrival and of the whiny prisoner being “stowed away in lock-up”, and the second being a reply to his own text and a request to “throw away the key”.
She knew the plan of course, but laying the foundation for their innocence was of paramount importance.
Now…now his “precious” child was simply bored. He would describe her as “precocious” but the brat would only take it as a compliment.
Maybe that’s my issue – her emotions may be bleeding over into…
He tested their bond a little more intently then mentally rolled his eyes. Pam was apparently feeding and boredom was the last thing on her mind. And besides, as he’d just then proved to himself, emotional bleed-throughs with his child didn’t happen during the course of a regular night.
The impatience was all on him.
During a lull in the conversation, Eric quickly texted her to remind all staff via mass text of the mandatory meeting at 3:15 am and to collect and remove some specific things from his office and the dungeon…after blindfolding Compton with a silver-threaded cloth, naturally. Just because he couldn’t see what she was doing anyway didn’t negate the need for security, did it?
Nope, it didn’t…
A bit of an evil gleam brightened his eyes momentarily as he considered the pain Compton must already be suffering.
Well golly…sucks to be Lorena’s baby boy right about now… Now, what else do I want to remove from Fang-fucking-tasia…
He knew they could remove a few more things when he and Sookie visited later that night – if they wrapped up the contracts sometime before the next century – and if needed another trip could be made the following night before heading to Dallas, but it was best to move things slowly if they wanted to avoid arousing suspicion.
The place was closed to non-employees for the next two nights, sure, but too many eyes could still be watching.
Scheduled breaks during longer readings for rest and tending to human needs? Well of course… Temperature of the reading facilities? Why would…oh, that makes sense. Vampires don’t always notice temperature in the same way that mortals do. Guards…but they discussed guards in excruciating detail three weeks ago…or was it months…
Hope Pam remembers to remove the cash stash to the left of the cash stashed behind the other bookshelf…
Light-safe and human-safe, Head of Security-approved resting facilities for both Sookie and her guards – and her Viking Vampire Manager who at the moment would also be her Head of Security – in case of any needed stay-overs…extra provisional clauses in place for any unexpected, non-pre-agreed-upon extensions of service… Transportation to and from all sites… Transportation during any engagements… All to be pre-approved by the Manager and/or Head of Security… Right of immediate termination of any agreed-upon telepathic services…with appropriate forfeiture…should any…
Internally Eric was suddenly more than a little peeved with himself.
Damn it! How could I have overlooked so many potential…and any little thing could have put her in serious danger…but that’s precisely why I have Cataliades, isn’t it? This is his specialty and is why he is worth every penny… Tonight’s time will cost a small fortune…but he earns every bit of it. Knowing one’s own weaknesses is a definite strength, however, so I did right by Sookie in calling in Cataliades, the most respected and best possible New World attorney for her needs… No one would dare question his work. Yes, ok, so I did do well by her…
Without moving a muscle Eric managed to preen a bit at that realization.
If you realize that you don’t know something, you hire someone who does…and you pay them well for their expertise while you’re at it so you’ll have dependable use of their specific knowledge. The old man is right as always. I can still hear him…surround yourself with people who are loyal, smart, and strong – you’ll go far… Still wish I’d thought of even half these potential situations, though…but that’s why the Dae earns the big bucks, right?
I fight with swords and fists…but he fights with books and words.
Desmond Cataliades – Warrior at Law…
Since first coming up with the idea, Eric had kept a portion of his mind busy compiling bits and pieces that would need to be included in whichever contract or contracts Sookie decided to accept for possible presentation to King Texas or whichever other party she chose to work with. He had somewhat erroneously concluded that the printed copies would be a hefty 12, maybe 15 pages long at the most.
He had been more than aware that an abundance of material needed to be covered to assure her safety in the supe world and he wanted to ensure that she had all possible protection…and that his place by her side was secure.
As for his own contract with her, he wanted to be certain that they both negotiated the best and safest understanding possible, but as far as any contracts she may potentially form with those who would employ her services, many more provisions would of course need to be included.
The contracts Sookie and the Dae finally decided upon after discussing, creating, and rarely tossing excruciatingly detailed minutia for years and decades and eons…made his former notions resemble children’s bedtime books.
Cataliades was the attorney for a reason.
The resulting contracts – novellas, in fact – when printed would be respectively 48 and 53 pages long….
…not including a plethora of supplemental bits to be included as needed.
Desmond Cataliades – Warrior at Law indeed…
Grueling – very satisfactory, but…grueling. Cataliades couldn’t have been more thorough if Sookie had been his own beloved flesh and blood! Novellas to be sure…
King Texas, if that’s who Sookie chooses, will not know what hit him, but he can’t say a word, not that he would. No one would dare to even attempt to question Cataliades’ work.
Every letter of the alphabet has been crossed, dotted, and sometimes thrice post-referenced, for fuck’s sake, but it’s all good.
Godric will have a field day with these…
And then it was time to create the contract between himself and Sookie.
The enormity of the situation suddenly hit him hard.
Whatever was decided between the two, really three, of them within the next few minutes would strongly and directly affect both his and Sookie’s lives.
This didn’t involve buying houses or cars… this wasn’t about horses or restaurants or campy bars in seedy districts.
This was about entwining lives, their lives, both of which would now change forever.
Oh. Hell. Yeah.
A satisfied light brightened his eyes as his entire being seemed to fill with purpose, and that strange impatience suddenly shifted to keen anticipation.
From an already highly detailed draft the attorney had initiated that day, the three of them created an ironclad yet easily amendable contract naming Eric as Sookie’s Manager and Head of Security. Cataliades had already identified and blocked every possible loophole that an outsider could legally use to forcibly dissolve the official instrument.
The Dae also pointed out to them how a second Manager or Head of Security could easily be added should someone, perhaps The Northman’s Maker?, wish to join their “team”. And, should they be later desired, alternate titles were also suggested and of course, Mr. C assured, amendable copies of all contracts were always immediately available should quick alterations become necessary.
In remarkable contrast to the previous discussions and disregarding a bit of a…hiccup, in seemingly no time at all he and Sookie came to satisfying agreements regarding Eric and Sookie’s respective rights, responsibilities, obligations, and compensations.
Under the demon’s level gaze, the vampire found himself allowing Sookie to gain the better deal in several small instances, but he didn’t honestly mind. The terms for all parties involved were very satisfactory.
Cataliades’ conservative opinion of Sookie’s probable opportunities and potential earning power were even more impressive than his own guesstimates had been.
Seems having so much inside information was beneficial in more ways than one. Godric and I may have joked in the past about starting our own country…if we ever do, I’m definitely bringing Cataliades on board.
And Sookie. She has a way of seeing things…
As Sookie’s Manager and Head of Security, his conditions and requirements had been smoothly worked into both of the main contracts Sookie had eventually chosen to potentially present to…someone, so Eric knew he was set either way. However, regardless of which contract was accepted by any potential clients, the contract between himself and Sookie would not – could not – be negated.
That had been his primary stipulation to Cataliades. Sookie needed protection in and from the supe world and Eric was determined to provide it for her. The finely crafted masterpiece that resulted would be as inviolable as a Vampire Pledging or a Marriage.
Just as it should be.
In the demon attorney’s infinite wisdom and through his considerable skill with precise, delicate wording, instead of being listed as the Northman’s asset as had initially been discussed and strongly vetoed by the lady in question, Sookie retained her status as a “free but protected agent” in the vampire world. Barring situations involving her security and despite the tendency of vampires to view mortals as second-class citizens, as his equal partner Sookie’s decisions were legally hers alone to make.
The fact that such things had to be stated in legalese, as she called it, deeply angered the fuming telepath. Until that time she hadn’t realized exactly how bigoted certain factions of the vampire population could be.
For a brief moment Cataliades had had his hands full trying to calm her down, and as the only available member of the vampire species, Eric had wisely remained silent but alert until she had calmed sufficiently for a productive conversation.
Although he was rather impressed with her fair-minded and tolerant nature, he knew that the rest of the vampire world would literally eat her alive…unless she had protection, and unless she knew the risks.
Godric will adore her open-minded take on life but maybe he can help tone down her naiveté so that her passion doesn’t get her killed. That, however, is for another night.
The knowledge that many in the vampire would not hesitate to force a bond the naive little blonde before he could intervene made his blood boil. Attitudes were changing but not nearly enough to let Sookie have more than the illusion of freedom, but he tried to see things from her point of view.
He didn’t like what he saw. She was absolutely correct in the basis of her fury.
Unfortunately it was during this time that he truly wished he’d somehow managed to sneak some of his blood into her system so he could help calm her down…and then he berated himself for thinking just like one of those jackass vampires he now despised even more.
Women…why do they always have to make life so much more complicated?
Finally, he saw his opening.
“Sookie,” he called quietly but firmly and waited until her somewhat less furious gaze met his own before continuing. “I am presenting myself as your manager and as your security, not as your owner. The contracts – both between us and between us and whomever you choose to work for – all specify that you are your own “free but protected” agent. You are not listed as belonging to any vampire. Frankly, considering how some vampires view mortals, you would be considerably safer in many situations if I did claim you as mine. And I will be blunt with you,” he added as his voice deepened and his fangs snicked down, “if it comes down to it and your safety is on the line? Make no mistake, Sookie, I will claim you as mine own.”
Even the Dae’s eyes rounded at that stern proclamation.
Sookie gaped at the vampire for a moment before narrowing her eyes at him, but she waited for him to continue.
Eric pressed on. “Even with as little time as I have known you, I realize that you are naive but you are not stupid. As you become more familiar with the supe world and, unfortunately, meet more of my kind, at some point along the way I feel you will come to see that the benefits of being claimed by me would by far outweigh any perceived negatives. For now, however, I will not press this issue. Just know that I will take your security as seriously as I take my own and that I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe. I am going to trust you to listen to me. You must trust me as well.”
Sookie, who by then had calmed considerably, seemed to take his words seriously.
“I really, really don’t like that “vampires rule, humans drool” attitude but I see what you’re saying. What I don’t understand, though, is why you don’t seem to think like that.”
Eric’s fangs appreciated the challenge in her eyes as she once again directly met his gaze.
Something about that innate bravery of hers would always grab his notice.
“My Maker. Godric has never agreed with that line of thought and he has worked for eons to quietly correct that prejudice wherever he could. He reasons that simply because vampires are stronger and can think faster and more accurately doesn’t automatically mean that vampires are so vastly superior to the humans they once were. Plus,” he added, a twinkle suddenly appearing in his eyes, “without humans we would be relegated to drinking from forest creatures, and,” he looked pointedly down at his arm, “no vampire worth his fangs would want to sparkle.”
His ploy worked when Sookie laughed.
“Do not worry about this, Sookie. I will keep you safe. If it means claiming you, then yes, I will do so, but only if it is necessary or if you request it of me. In the meantime our incredibly talented wordsmith has given you yet another layer of protection, an extremely valuable one that is incredibly subtle yet infinitely significant.” Eric nodded toward the laptop screen.
In all three contracts it was clearly stated that she would remain under the formidable Protection and Management of one Eric the Northman, Viking Vampire, Esteemed Child of Godric, formerly known as Death.
That Cataliades had thoughtfully included mention of his well-respected and well-feared Maker ensured a further, if strongly implied, layer of protection for Sookie.
With a strong burst of familial pride, Eric knew no vampire worth their Blood could ignore his Maker’s name and all that went along with it.
When he had first read that sly inclusion, Eric had not halted the slightly feral grin that ensued – a grin that had been more graciously if fully shared by the Dae who had known exactly what he was doing.
Cataliades kindly highlighted the relevant text in the contract on the screen for Sookie. She gaped a bit when she read it – undoubtedly, in Eric’s opinion, at Godric’s former name.
That same almost feral grin, perhaps vaguely tinged with a bit of smug pride, graced his lips again.
“As you know, Godric is an ancient vampire. His extreme age grants him respect in the vampire community. It also gives him far more strength and far stronger abilities than even vampires my own age. Bluntly, he is known, feared, and revered by most every vampire on the planet. Even vicariously linking your name with his gives you a certain umbrella of protection. “
Sookie looked understandably pleased for a moment then pursed her lips in thought.
“Does he know that y’all are linking his name with mine? I mean, won’t he mind? He doesn’t even know me.”
Eric’s eyes softened at the chit’s concern for his ancient Maker.
“We will ask him when we meet him, but I can assure you that he will not mind. He may even offer to have his name formally listed along with an actual title to increase your worth in the vampire world. We’ll just have to see.”
Sookie nodded, and the Dae quickly resumed his perusal of the contract at hand.
Impatience once again began slithering down the Viking’s spine.
The notion that this was real, that he was actively taking irreversible steps leading to a far brighter future, made his blood tingle with excitement and anticipation. The surge of emotions must have bled over to his Maker – either that or the nosy oldster had been keeping closer tabs since the previous night – because he received an enquiring ping.
That the ping also held a subtle bit of humor was duly noted…
It was surprisingly gratifying to respond with excitement and anticipation tempered only very slightly with caution…and maybe a little awe as well. Just to mess with Godric, he also sent along a nice burst of his own humor.
That should keep the old guy up past dawn. I imagine he’s pacing in curiosity by now. He would try to read for a bit, maybe dabble with a painting or whatever his current passion might be, but the need to pace while perhaps mumbling to himself as he speculates about…
That was when he realized exactly what had led to his edginess.
His eyes flicked across the table and for a moment he studied Sookie as she eagerly read whatever was on the attorney’s screen. She was tiring slowly – it had been an eventful evening for her already and, although forming the contracts seemed to have taken for-fucking-ever, the night was actually still quite young. If there was enough time available after the Dae left, she might be able to rest for a bit before heading to Fangtasia and the erstwhile “employee meeting”.
The cause was a two-parter, actually.
He was impatient. He was beyond ready to not only to conclude this business with the attorney so that Sookie would legally be under his direct protection (whether she truly realized it or not), but he was also impatient to go home…to his Maker.
He didn’t understand what the blonde across the table had to do with it, and her figured that in all likelihood it was probably nothing but coincidence, but something had changed the night he’d first met her.
For years he’d thought of his Maker, of course, but mainly in passing. Memories would surface now and again, but nothing serious. Now, however…something had definitely changed, and while the knowledge was unsettling, it wasn’t…it wasn’t terrible.
It wasn’t even that particularly bothersome.
Even six months ago…hell, even one month ago the idea of leaving his position in Sophie-Anne’s hierarchy would have been met with an eye roll…if the other person were lucky. The nightdream had been there for as long as he could remember, but it had never seemed particularly wise or viable.
The notion of returning to his Maker, of abandoning his cherished “independent lifestyle”, would have been met with all suitable derision.
Now…now he just wanted to go home.
Reinforced by the feelings accumulating since the night before, he once again felt that it had been far too long since he had been able to simply bask in his Maker’s presence. Godric was his father, son, and brother, yes, but in his Vampire soul, above all Godric was his beloved, cherished, all-powerful Maker.
And he missed the old man.
For fuck’s sake, I’m close to 1050 years old and here I am missing my…home. I miss my home, and Godric…he’s, well, he is home. Tomorrow night can not come too quickly.
He glanced around the room quickly. Next thing he knew he’d be calling Pam to him just to give the brat a hug…and that would never do.
She’d slug him.
Besides, while he and Sookie were invading Godric’s house, she needed to stay behind and pack.
Suddenly the idea of allowing her to remain behind at all, even for a week or so while he left the state, did not sit well.
Her ass would be covered, though, when word would mysteriously leak out that he had been called home by his own Maker, so she needed to be seen at Fangtasia the next week and a half or so in official “covering for my Maker while he tends to his Maker” mode.
Compton needed to be monitored before being released to his death, and appearances needed to be kept.
Plans were subject to change, though, and he needed to…
Equilibrium restored by the strategies once again running through his mind, he watched as Cataliades read over what they had been calling “the Manager contract” one last time while Sookie fiddled with the now watery drink she’d poured herself three lifetimes ago.
The moment the Dae was satisfied with the wording, he inserted a surprisingly thick stack of paper into the mini portable printer that Eric had been eyeing off and on, pressed some buttons on it and on his laptop, then leaned back to wait while the little device did its job.
“I’m printing a physical copy of the Manager contract for all three of us that will be signed immediately. Tomorrow I will ready physical copies of the Work contracts and deliver them to this address so that you can take them with you when you leave for Dallas, but the Manager contract will be in full effect the moment you sign it.”
It was all Eric could to do prevent his hand from reaching for the Dae’s pen before the printer had finished spewing forth the precious papers.
To keep both his hands busy since he could write equally well with either, he took the opportunity to check his messages, and in the process was astonished to realize that slightly less than two and a half hours had passed. He’d known that naturally not nearly as much time had passed as it had felt like, but…
Less than two and a half hours…less…than… two and a half… fucking hours… Hell. Abject boredom with the subject at hand will do that but…damn.
It had seemed far, far…far longer.
Eric despised it all…loathed the persnickety mindset needed to deal with the mincing language. Swords…action…bloodshed – those were his game.
Still and all, he was more than ready for the moment that Cataliades presented the contract that would bind…allow him to provide protection and managerial services to Sookie.
His expression must not have been as placid as he’d have liked because Sookie gave him an odd look as she accepted the attorney’s pen.
The moment he and Sookie officially signed the contract that placed her under his direct protection, Eric felt the weight of a few small words lifting from his shoulders.
She was his to care for now – her protection was in his more than capable hands, and something about that knowledge made him sit a little straighter.
The Dae’s slyly approving glance made no sense to the Viking who promptly reached for the now quiet mini-printer.
Oblivious to the interaction, Sookie rose with a groan from having sat for too long. She’d checked on her grandmother during the second hour but hadn’t sense. Eric could tell that the elderly woman had dozed off in her chair in the other room.
“So…we’re done with my part and with mine and Eric’s parts, right? It’s Eric’s turn now?”
When both Eric and Cataliades nodded, she continued, “Well, before y’all get started, does anybody want anything? Eric, we still have that True Blood, and Mr. C, would you like more tea or maybe some coffee? How about something to snack on? We have salty-crunchies, cookies, fresh fruit, and there are apple and pecan pies in the fridge.”
Having seen the demon attorney’s eyes light up at the mention of “salty-crunchies” and Eric shaking his head about the True Blood, without waiting for a reply Sookie opened the appropriate cabinet door and began placing bags of snacks on the counter. She put several larger snack bowls near the line-up then turned back to the table.
“Coffee or tea,” she asked with a grin.
When the demon happily suggested that a coffee would be welcome, she set a pot to brewing while she arranged coffee mugs, spoons, and saucers nearby. After she preparing the milk and sugar service, she faced the men at the table.
“Take your pick of the snacks and the coffee will be finished soon. I’m going to go check on Gran then try to find Tina.”
When she left the room, instead of heading for the snack display, the attorney gazed off in deep thought for a moment. After apparently coming to a decision, he told Eric, “Contact me when she is ready, and keep in mind that despite current appearances, I am bound to no particular monarch. Also remember that throughout my lifetime I have known and dealt well with a surprising number of species. Some secrets are not mine to tell, however, I will answer her questions when she has them. Now, I do believe I shall investigate those corn chips.”
Eric’s gut told him that something big was going on and that it obviously had everything to do with Sookie. Knowing the demon as he did, however, he knew that Cataliades would never reveal anything until he was ready or able, so not even the direst of threats would loosen the demon’s tongue.
What could the old demon know about Sookie? He seems very comfortable, almost avuncular, with her, but she’d never met him or any other demons for that matter before tonight. This is very interesting…too interesting…
Cataliades was widely known for being trustworthy – his reputation directly depended upon it, and Eric knew for a fact that the demon carried the weight of many life-or-death secrets upon his slightly stooped yet surprisingly strong shoulders – some of them were his own secrets, in fact.
When Sookie cut through the kitchen to open the back door in search for Tina, he shrugged. Time had a way of setting things right. That the Dae himself had brought up the subject in the first place assured Eric that apparently necessary information would flow when whatever time came. He tucked the odd exchange away to contemplate later.
As it was, there would be enough chaos and upheaval in the coming nights to keep him busy.
Sookie finally managed to coax a reluctant, poofed-up Tina into the kitchen but the glaring cat refused to move from the door. After looking between the suspicious cat and the demon happily munching away on the corn chips, she laughed.
“I think I’m going to feed her in the living room. I’ll be back in a bit.”
Within moments she passed by carrying the bowl of cat food in one hand and a Tina who hissed at the table in the other.
Eric laughed at Tina’s reaction; he couldn’t help it. He knew he liked that cat for some reason…
Desmond Cataliades crunched merrily away with a joyfully contemplative gleam in his eye as he completely ignored the feline’s expected reaction.
To the murmured sounds of Sookie tending to the cat and her nosily alert grandmother, the snack was finished, hands were washed and dried at the kitchen sink, and all evidence of previous business was cleared away.
Eric reluctantly handed over the portable mini-printer – watching it spew out the reams of paper comprising the Manager contract had been fascinating to the secretively tech-addicted vampire – as the Dae hauled out what was needed for the next phase of the evening.
Soon thereafter it was Eric’s turn to discuss transactions with the attorney still emitting that strange sense of approval, but Eric wasn’t concerned.
His business should only take a few minutes.
Everything’s going to Godric – the end. Sign, seal, and squeal, right?
Unfortunately, the already printed contracts Cataliades withdrew from his briefcase were somewhat more numerous and complicated than he’d thought they’d be. It was as though Cataliades recognized that not only were Eric’s nights as Sheriff and bar owner coming to a quick ending, but that his unlife would be heading in a distinctly different direction.
Still and all, they wrapped things up just before the roaring noise of a truck coming up the long driveway disturbed the local peace.
**A/N: *passes around restorative beverages* Yeah, y’all are troopers – Word tells me that was 8,651-ish pretty little written parts of speech, so I’m sure a restorative beverage would NOT go amiss… (Mr. C did leave some corn chips if anyone wants some and I’m still totally blaming Eric) So…what’d ja think? Reviews are appreciated…reduce/reuse/recycle, you know the drill…**