**A/N: I’ve been told that no one will look at baby carrots the same way again…sorry, baby carrot industry… Hope this makes up for the cliffy!**
Sookie came to with the weirdest headache of her life. She felt drained…utterly, completely drained…which directly contradicted the trembly, jittery sensations pulsing through her muscles.
A strong sense of self-preservation floating around somewhere in the back of her mind urged her to caution, though, so she made herself remain still as she observed her surroundings as best she could with her eyes closed.
Bill…that motherfuck… ERIC!
She choked back a cry and concentrated frantically on getting herself together.
Several shallow breaths helped as well as let her test the air. While it smelled somewhat familiar and far fresher than any basement would, she couldn’t place her location…but she didn’t smell any iron, either.
Plush softness beneath her made her think of a bed with soft pillows but only movement would prove or disprove her theory and she wasn’t ready to risk that just yet.
The sight of that iron netting coming at her was still far too fresh in her mind even if she didn’t seem to have any iron burns.
Temperature-wise it wasn’t too hot…wasn’t too cold…and she could hear quiet shuffling movements somewhere in the area.
She tried to open her mind to receive thoughts but all that did was make her brain hurt.
After a few moments of nothing happening to or near her and some strong attention paid to those odd shuffling background noises, she felt almost safe enough to try moving.
Her head did hurt, and in an odd way at that, but not too terribly badly, same with her body…but her power resources were painfully depleted, which made sense…
ERIC! Where is he??
The suspense was more than she could tolerate and her own muscles decided it was time to move.
With a gasp she sat up much too quickly and immediately grabbed for her head – now it felt as though it wanted to fly off…
“Sookie, don’t move so quickly! You’ll need to take care to move slow and easy for a long while yet,” she heard Niall’s too-late admonishment.
She opened her eyes and…and had no idea where the hell she was…and she didn’t see Eric anywhere.
A frantic glance around showed what appeared to be morning’s earliest light seeping in through a haze surrounding an enormous…bubble?
She was in a bubble? A sphere, maybe?
As she searched for anything approaching normal, she realized that she was, indeed, on a thick, comfortable, fairy-soft bed complete with cushy pillows and delicate blankets, and creamy linens of the finest material. She was also now wearing a sleeping gown along the lines of what she would have worn in…Fairy?
Niall was dressed much the same as he would have been in Fairy and he stood near a heavy mahogany table that had a tall glass on it, but…
But…this isn’t Fairy…
The floor wasn’t flooring at all but a thick carpet of neatly trimmed grass with yellow dandelions cheerfully blooming here and there. Three Fae ladies – now that she was more aware, she could sense that they were Fairies – were speaking quietly amongst themselves as they toiled away at something along the far side of the bubble, and to the right she saw of all things two plush armchairs positioned near a fireplace set against the curve?…the wall?…of the bubble.
A fireplace…in the grass-floored…hazy…bubble?
Niall…Niall had to have done this…
That was as far as she went with the visual examination of her surroundings before she refocused on her unexpected relative.
“Niall? What are…where are we? Where’s Eric? What happened?”
Speaking made the inside of her head burn even worse but she had to know.
“Here,” he said as he handed her the tall glass now magically filled with the familiar glowing liquid while autocratically ignoring her questions. “Drink this and then we will talk.”
Knowing the elder’s quirks as well as the indescribable benefits of the light water, Sookie dutifully downed the contents of the glass. Within moments the odd pain in her head began easing and she could feel the aches in her body slowly following suit.
Even the jittery aftereffects of the adrenaline rush were fading.
As if waiting to see her swallow the last drop from the glass, he finally spoke. “Your Viking and his progeny are quite well, I assure you. This,” he proclaimed with a grand gesture, “is nothing but a temporary bubble-realm I’ve created near the Portal behind your childhood home. You are safe here. Only those of our blood or someone escorted in by one of us may see this place, much less enter it.”
Niall gave an almost stern look when he noted her surprise.
“We covered this, remember? If for some reason you cannot teleport yourself to a direct Portal or if you do not have a direct Portal nearby and you need the presence of your blood, you are to transport yourself into one of the tiny realms maintained on this mudball by your relatives? Does this ring any bells, beloved descendant of mine?”
Feeling the mild chide, Sookie averted her eyes to the empty glass in her hands. Suddenly she remembered…
“So it’s like that Fairy place outside of New Orleans, right?” She glanced around both searching for Eric and studying the hazy boundaries. “The one with the weeping willows planted in an ‘X’ shape?”
Niall grimaced at Sookie’s oversimplification of the design made purposefully plain so that it would be easier for Fairies to envision for quick teleportation if needed.
“But I thought that was, like, a house or something,” she continued. “But where’s Eric? It looks like the sun is coming up and he can’t be in the light!”
“Be at ease, Sookie,” he quickly declared to quell her rising panic. “He and his progeny have been given shelter in a light-safe structure of sorts shielded behind this bubble and are why we remain on this side of the Portal. I did not think you would wish to be parted so far from him but you need the healing rays of the sun which he could not tolerate. He knows you are being cared for by your own, and I would think that by now he is in his day-death. By tonight you should have regained enough of your strength to see with your own eyes that they are fine.”
Sookie blinked as she considered his words.
“What do you mean by “of sorts”? And, yeah…his progeny? The only one I know of is Pam…she’s here? What is…,” she trailed off as the glass in her hands suddenly felt heavier. When she glanced down at it in alarm, she saw it was once again filled with glowing light water.
With a chuckle at Sookie’s consternation, he affirmed, “Yes, child, drink. It will continue refilling until you have had enough. Unfortunately it will take some time before your spark has fully recharged, but this will help tremendously.”
Niall’s tone struck Sookie as being both impressed and aggravated and she couldn’t figure out how he managed both. With a mental ‘whatever,’ she raised the glass to her lips. This time the liquid seemed to demand that she sip rather than gulp, so after a small swallow she asked Niall to continue.
He raked his hand through his flowing silver locks in an unusual display of emotion. “Whether you realized it or not, you were attentive enough during at least some of our lessons to know how to call upon a relative’s powers – particularly mine and Claudia’s.”
The shock on her face brought her a bit of a glower from the Fairy Prince. She vaguely noted that he seemed more expressive than usual just now.
“The sudden drain alerted us to your troubles, but we did not know what kind of situation you were facing. Because of the time differential between these realms, we dared not wait to bring assistance because you would not be attempting such a precarious feat unless the need was dire. Far better for me to arrive with armed guards that might not be needed than arrive alone and need them. Sadly, I was right.” He gestured to the glass in her hands and waited until she obligingly sipped again.
“Claudia and I were in the gardens with several others when this happened, and she chose to remain behind and gift you with as much of her bolstering power as she could while I ordered my attending guards to accompany me to your location. You, my dear,” he glared in obvious fury at some place over Sookie’s shoulder, “were on the ground with two vampires poised above you with an iron net. Barely an instant later and before I could reach your side, this blonde female vampire – I later learned she is your Eric’s progeny – blurred in from the opposite quadrant and flung the net away. As she engaged those vampires, I joined her while my guards turned to aid the Northman who was heavily outnumbered.”
Niall paused with a look of admiration on his face.
“Your vampire fights as viciously and as skillfully as any war-trained Fairy,” he commented thoughtfully, his voice trailing off as he remembered the valiant rogue slashing and thrusting with his short-sword and his dagger, his enormous fangs bared and his snarls rumbling the earth as he fought with hell’s own elegantly-clad fury. Several undead body parts littered the battle site but the large blond male was badly overwhelmed. Still, he fought on with single-minded intensity, his furious assault relentless, almost fanatical, despite his bloody injuries.
How could any self-respecting Fairy not rise to assist such a courageous warrior defying the odds so heroically?
The Viking…of course Niall knew him, not well as he had only dealt with him a time or two long, long ago, but the male’s reputation was certainly well-known. Cold, not unkind but definitely cunning… Sookie apparently seemed determined to allow him into her life for some reason, though.
Ah, females… He never could understand them himself.
Regardless of the vampire’s reputation, however, it had quickly become obvious that this Eric of hers was fighting not just for his own survival but for Sookie’s, too.
Once assured of the Fairies’ assistance, without showing any sort of surprise he had proceeded to end the two vampires he was currently engaged with then immediately vaulted over the vehicle’s top to assist Niall and the snarling, defensive female guarding his prone granddaughter’s too-still body.
The Viking’s timing could not have been better as two more vampires appeared from seemingly nowhere. Niall was already veering toward the newest intruders and fought in tandem with the warrior protecting Sookie while the rest of his Fairy troop dealt with the remaining adversaries.
Although the fighting was bloody and intense – at some point the Viking lost hold of his longer blade but more than compensated for that loss with the frighteningly useful daggers in his mouth – with the skills of the Fairy contingent protecting one of their own, the fight was over relatively quickly.
He was certain the snarls and roars of the vampires – the Norseman had reminded him oddly of an enraged lion – would haunt his nightmares for some time to come. For undead creatures vampires certainly could be rather loud…
While Niall seemed to be lost in thought, Sookie continued slowly sipping the water. The elder’s praise of Eric was a genuinely welcome surprise. Niall didn’t compliment easily or often – it wasn’t that he was stingy with praise; it simply took a lot to impress him, and it warmed her heart that Eric had managed to do so.
It sucked that it took bloodshed to do it, though.
Another glance around the amazing space led her gaze to the old Prince’s hand where she spied an almost healed cut. A closer examination of his ancient face revealed several other cuts of varying sizes also appearing to be almost healed.
“How badly were you hurt,” she blurted, ready to hand him her glass.
He refocused his gaze on her and waved his hand negligently. “I’m fine, child.”
She wasn’t entirely sure she believed him, but let the subject drop. The old goat knew how to take care of himself, but knowing him as she did, she knew her next question would please him. “And your enemies?”
“Dead,” he proclaimed with a feral grin.
They shared a slightly scary and very familial smirk.
“And now, while you sip, tell me how this bit of chaos came about,” he said rather more suddenly than she had expected.
“Bill Compton,” she snarled with a malevolent light in her tired eyes. “Well, as you know, he’s the self-proclaimed King of Louisiana now, and Eric is one of his Sheriffs. So, when Bill decided for whatever reason to throw some party tonight, Eric’s attendance was mandatory, just like all the other Sheriffs. He and I both suspected that something was up, that the bastard had some sort of weird plan, but there was no way Eric could get out of attending, and one thing led to another. Long story short, we were going to end Bill tonight.”
An intrigued and oddly proud gleam shined from Niall’s eyes. “Do tell,” he enjoined as he called one of the plush armchairs over to sit beside the bed.
Sookie snorted, then took another sip before continuing.
“You know I have issues with Bill, right?”
Niall’s expression darkened as he nodded…and remembered.
“Well, I’d had enough. I’d had a little run-in with him the first night I was back, and for several reasons it was just time for him to meet his final reward. Eric and I planned accordingly, had quite a few different strategies in mind since we weren’t sure exactly what we would be walking into, but we were ready to do this. Only Bill had far more extensive plans in motion than we could ever have anticipated. I didn’t sense it at first; Eric did and then he pointed it out to me, but Bill had forced an older, powerful witch to set up some weird spells including a strong boundary spell of some sort that started pretty far away from his actual so-called residence.”
The more Sookie spoke, the more focused Niall’s eagle-eyed gaze became.
“I have to be honest here and admit that I could have used my power to basically blow Bill up from the car several miles away while he was in his house, but…” she trailed off then exhaled with a puff.
“But you wanted to see him die with your own eyes and know in your soul that he is truly gone,” Niall stated in perfect understanding a minute later.
“Yeah, exactly,” she said as she trailed a fingertip around the lip of the glass. “I wish now that I had gone ahead and done that, but…but that’s not what happened. Eric…he would have gone along with whatever decision I ended up making but he really wanted me to take the safe way out. He would have been best pleased if I had just poofed Bill out of existence with a huge fireball from the safety of the limo then we could have gone on our first real date, so don’t hold any of this against him. But…yeah, that’s not what happened.”
After taking a couple of small, pensive sips, she shrugged and continued.
“Ok, so, there was something about the magic we sensed that seemed just familiar enough for me to think that I could follow it. It was like my magic recognized that other kind but that they didn’t speak the same language, if that makes any sense.” Sookie glanced up at Niall and was glad when he nodded. She wanted him to know what she had accomplished, wanted him to be proud of this new ability she had discovered, but mostly she wanted him to understand what had happened.
“I wanted to investigate it and see what was going on and find out what Bill was up to, but I’d never had any experience with witch magic before. Anyway, long story somewhat shorter, I was able to figure out how to use my magic to follow that…trail, I guess you would call it, and I was eventually able to “find” the witch responsible. Bless her heart but she wasn’t doing it of her own free will. Bill had somehow managed to glamour her into doing his bidding, but her mind was still her own enough that she was able to let me into her head…in a way.”
Sookie paused to sip her water and was amazed by how quickly her health was improving. She still felt as weak as a newborn kitten but her body and her head no longer felt like personal enemies.
“So this lady was powerful enough to I guess let me into her mind through a side door or something. After that I was able to help her break that glamour hold. Between us, she and I were able to void the spells she had been forced to cast, and I guess she figured out that I was “the telepath”, the point of the missions, because she showed me in her mind a lot of things that Bill had been up to and was planning,” she ended abruptly.
The thought crossed her mind that just because she knew the horrible things Bill had planned didn’t mean Niall had to be exposed to that kind of depravity. She really hoped he hadn’t cottoned onto the part about the missions she’d let slip…
“Between us,” she continued quickly and hoped he didn’t notice or mention anything, “we were able to undo all the magical crap, but by then… I guess Eric and I were both too focused on me telling him what all I’d heard, seen, and learned from that lady to notice the vampires before they were suddenly attacking us. Eric tried to get me to pop away from the limo to safety but I couldn’t leave him behind, and by the time we figured out how bad things were, I was too weak to pop us both out. I tried…I tried so hard, but I guess all that de-magicking and then all the fireballs I threw drained me. I don’t remember connecting with you and Claudia, though, but I do remember how weak suddenly I felt.”
Niall stared at Sookie for a very long, uncomfortable moment before seeming to let the missing information slide.
“Yes, you are very much drained. No one can entirely drain their spark to the point that it no longer exists; it’s a fundamental part of all Fae born with it and as such it cannot be “used up”, but it can be exhausted to an extremely dangerous degree.” He stared strongly into her eyes. “To a deadly degree, in fact. Had you not taken your vampire’s blood at some point shortly before all this, I’m afraid you would have neared that point.”
Sookie gasped. She’d known her “spark battery” was low, but…
“What? But you just said that it couldn’t be used up! I’m confused… And how did you know I’d had Eric’s blood?”
“I can smell it. Now, the difference between the two is technical but in reality, irrelevant. Draining your spark to that degree won’t make the spark disappear. It will simply kill you instead, and your death will void the spark.”
Wide-eyed, Sookie eventually closed her mouth then decided to take a gulp of the water whether the water liked it or not.
To her relief, the water didn’t seem to mind.
Finally she mumbled, “Well, shit.”
“Indeed. Don’t do that again.”
Still a bit wide-eyed, she nodded rapidly.
“Will your vampire allow you to take his vein again?”
She shrugged and tried not to blush. “I’m sure he would, why?”
“The healing power inherent in his blood will aid in your recovery. As of now, you’re facing weeks of minimal activity, lots of rest and sunlight, nourishing foods…in short, a long convalescence. Your vampire’s blood will surely help hasten the process.”
Niall theorized that the Viking would be healed by the evening and so chose not to mention the vampire’s wounds to his granddaughter. She had already suffered enough shocks for the nonce, and besides, two could play the missing-information game.
He would simply speak with the Norseman about it later.
Noting Sookie’s slight improvement but sensing her fatigue, he rose, bowed slightly, then indicated her water. “Drink, and then you shall eat and sleep. The exterior of this shelter which encloses us will allow your sun’s rays to, as you would say, recharge your batteries. We are surrounded by our best guards, and all our scents are cloaked. I must return home and let your cousin know of your health as I’m sure she is frantic with worry, but assuming I can time things correctly, I expect to return before dark.”
Still feeling markedly weak but noticeably better than before, Sookie placed her water on the nearby table and rose on slightly unsteady legs. She needed the bathroom that she had yet to spy…and she needed to hug her grandfather.
When she walked toward him, Niall enveloped her in his arms with gratifying strength.
Never too physically demonstrative with his familial affections, the warmth of his Fairy embrace was doubly healing.
“I can’t lose you,” she thought she heard him whisper to the top of her head.
A moment later and with a kiss to her forehead in parting, he disappeared.
The scent of light, savory foods wafted over from where the three ladies quietly tended to…whatever they were doing on the far side of the hazy bubble with the dandelion-enhanced yard.
Well, hell, Sookie thought as she turned to sit in the comfortable chair and finish her water. She’d wanted to ask him more about what in the world was going on with Pam and her sudden appearance, but easily shoved the issue from her mind. While she was glad the blonde vampire had showed up for whatever reason in time to help and while she was especially glad that Eric had his child with him considering everything that was going on, she was tired, she was hungry, and she still hadn’t found a bathroom.
**A/N: Erm…so…y’all forgive me for the cliffy now? What did you think?**