**A/N: Yeah, Sook’s back and possibly a bit…mouthy? Enjoy.**
“Well, ok, just remembered something else about this big-deal conference…summit, whatever, the one he acted like he’d be the king of that’s coming up in I think about two weeks or so. It’s bein’ moved from someplace I don’t remember to one of those big, highfalutin’ over-done casinos in Vegas. The Castromendous, I believe he called it? It must be a new one because I’ve never heard of it.”
Absolute silence descended in the room.
Sookie, now more firmly enclosed in Eric’s arms than ever, could feel the tension rising in her vampire’s big, dangerous body. If Eric was that tense, she could only imagine how Godric and Niall were reacting. Things could go south real damn fast if she didn’t do something soon.
And poor Claudy…with the way her hair kept flashing from red to orange to darker red and back…she was liable to end up bald unless something stopped the manic color changes! Ok, not really…maybe. She might not know exactly why she was so outraged and fearful, but it was bad enough to send her hair into a tizzy.
She could certainly empathize with all those who cared about her, though. Just because they already knew the basics of LittleLeakyDick’s plans didn’t mean hearing about this game-changer wouldn’t set them off even worse. The fact that they didn’t know exactly what was going on just made everything worse.
But all this tension wasn’t good for anybody and certainly wasn’t going to help a damn thing.
This shit, she rapidly concluded, was for the fucking birds. Her magic may still be depleted and her body itself may still be a bit weak, but nothing was wrong with her brain.
The fact that either the location or the name, or perhaps both, in some way caused even her Eric to have such a visceral reaction meant there was possibly another player in the Fairy-For-Sale game, someone possibly powerful and apparently in Vegas, that she didn’t know. Worse, this someone with such atrocious naming skills was big-deal enough to maybe inspire Dear Ol’ Bill to go crawling and/or sliming his way to them…whoever they were.
She wondered briefly if he’d gone crawling on his hands – one of them still quite tiny – and creaky knees and if he’d worn a hat with a feather in it.
Game on, then. Fuckers think they can buy, sell, and trade my royal ass? Fuck that. Don’t care who that dude is or how much power he might have… WE have well over 3,000 years of vampire experience in this one room, not to mention all the benefits of having a Prince of the freakin’ Fae who just happens to be my grandaddy. Plus there’s Pere… and Desmond, too, and who knows how powerful that sneaky old demon is? And let’s not forget Red – erm, dammit Pam, it’s Sari – and whatever else she remembers, and we can’t forget whatever skills Pam might bring to the table whether she wants to or not. Because of Eric, she’s in no matter what. And if I could ever have a fucking moment or hour or three alone with Eric, that would go a long way toward helping me to power back up. So… We got this – we just need some knowledge and a plan. But first…time to tame a little tension…
“Castromendous? CASTROMENDOUS?” Sookie exclaimed loudly as she purposefully leaned far enough back in Eric’s arms to look him in the eye. “Seriously? What…what kind of self-serving flamboyant little fucknut would name a casino…that? I get that what happens in Vegas yadda yadda but damn. This person – he didn’t… Eric! Really? Is his name Castro? Is he really so full of his own bullshit that he actually named a building after himself? Is that how he came up with Castromendous? Really? How crass is that? What, were Castrosyphilis and Castrodopholous already taken? CastroIhaveaweedickulous too hard for him to spell?”
Sookie’s incredulous outburst served its shocking purpose and disrupted the escalating tensions within the bubble.
Several surprised barks of laughter followed, and soon Eric’s arms had loosened enough for her to actually take a full breath.
Claudy’s hair was still a bit colorfully acrobatic, but at least it stopped looking like it was ready to abandon her head in dizzy desperation.
To everyone in the know’s bemusement, especially Sookie’s, Pam snorted then replied in full snark, “I know, right? Castromendous? That sounds like male sex cream. Perhaps King MiniDick has an appointment? Or would he be an investor and founding member…”
Although the female vampire had maintained perfect posture and a bland expression, when Sookie met her gaze, the telepath could feel the possibility of an odd sort of friendship beginning to maybe, eventually, form. It was enough for now.
Neither Niall nor Godric visually succumbed to Sookie’s attempt at comedic relief, but both obligingly toned down their reactions somewhat. Each, for better or worse, knew the reputation of the one who owned and named the casino and knew to never, ever underestimate that vampire’s usually devious and sometimes evil schemes. Felipe de Castro was as slimy and slick as the best of them, but even worse was his second, Victor Madden.
That one truly was a rabid dog on a questionable leash.
With eyes that still glowed ever so faintly, Niall observed his precious Sookie as she stood in the protective circle of her vampire’s arms. This news was distinctly unsettling and he was satisfied that the Northman was duly aware of the myriad issues before them.
Of course the Prince had heard of the new casino with the dreadfully cheesy and self-important name. His advisors performed their duties well and one of their assignments was to keep him up to date on supe matters of a noteworthy nature. He did tend to pay closer attention when it came to vampires, however. It wasn’t just that they were his people’s natural enemy; it was also because his beloved descendant was so damn’d and determined to remain involved with one of the biggest up-and-coming players in the vampire world.
Women… would never understand the lot of them…perfectly acceptable fairies flitting around all over the place and she’s determined to…ah, well, at least he’s worthy…
He sighed. Given the state of affairs in his realm – turmoil…there always had to be turmoil of some sort or other – he really shouldn’t be spending so much time away from his duties but he would remain in this mudball of a realm as long as it took to secure his granddaughter’s safety…and at the moment her safety was in no way assured.
Would it ever be?
He glanced around the room and took heart in the combined strength and knowledge of the beings gathered therein.
Best to get the girl healed and as strong as possible as soon as possible because he knew…deep down he knew…there would be no way of preventing her from aiding in her own safety no matter how well she might be guarded. He would gladly haul her back to her rightful realm if he had any reasonable hope whatsoever that she wouldn’t simply teleport herself right back again.
But she would…of course she would. Women…
To Claudia’s consternation, Godric held himself as still and impassive as only a vampire could. She’d known what her cousin was doing even while enjoying her little burst of humor, and had hoped it would calm her vampire somewhat, at least maybe soften the set of his jaw or the rigid muscles holding his shoulders so…but it didn’t.
As for Godric, in his heart he knew this was all, all of it, his fault.
Had I not left, this would not…could not have come to pass. Ending de Castro, ending Madden…ending them all would have been but a night’s work, but no, I had, simply had, to go… And now my Eric must fight battles that were not meant for him, and my Sookie…my poor Sookie!
Regardless of his darling Sookie’s words on this subject in the past, he knew he had brought this about. Had he remained, he could have easily…but no, there in the end he hadn’t been paying attention to the various political instabilities and revolting underground practices the vampire world seemed to cherish.
Had he not been so passive, so disconnected as he drifted about in his own mind, he might have maintained a better watch over the vampire world and ilk of the de Castro and Madden sort would never have been allowed to thrive so offensively.
Logic dictated that no, this was not his doing, and he knew full well that Sookie would pelt him with grapes (again) if he dared suggest such a thing yet again, but he knew, and he mourned.
As one of the greats had said, with great power comes great responsibility, and I had great power but failed to use it accordingly.
This is not your fault, he then heard her voice repeat as though her lips were by his ear. You couldn’t control the entire world even if you had remained in it, and you shouldn’t have had to regardless, she would say, had said…would surely say again. It was not and is not your job to police every vampire everywhere.
This is not your fault.
He knew this to be true, of course, what with logic stating so, but why did it feel so painfully othewise? Had he stayed…had he taken his rightful place…had he…
Godric swallowed around the stone in his throat.
His strong hands remained fisted and the tips of his fangs remained visible but the desire to rip heads from shoulders via soft, shredded necks remained somewhat…almost… hidden.
Intuition told him de Castro, and therefore Madden, were somehow involved, that the change in summit location had everything to do with the kingling and his erstwhile plans for Sookie. Neither of the Nevada vampires would wish to bother with the hassles inherent in hosting a large gathering of their kind unless they were to receive something worthwhile in return.
Claudy’s slight cough drew his attention and although her sweet lips remained slightly upturned in a small grin thanks to Sookie’s well-timed bit of levity, the worry in her eyes reminded him to tone down his emotional state.
She softly poked at his clenched hand and raised an enquiring brow as she then tapped at her lower lip. It took a moment but he finally forced his hands to open and his fangs to retract. He retook his seat beside her then and almost relaxed when she wrapped her arm around his.
Pere observed those in the room and naturally approved of their reactions. As part of his duties to his Prince, he received and reviewed information of all types and had recognized the name of the games building and the name of the vampire involved.
He held respect for neither, and irreverently he still thought “Castromendous” sounded like a second-rate strip club in bad need of a hose-down.
The vampire father and son held their fierce angers and protective stances in check better than he would have thought, but even so he was thankful for Claudia’s calming influence on the ancient one. He would have especially hated having to go after Godric to bring him back from a frenzy; their growing friendship might suffer, and he really didn’t want that to happen.
“Faepires” were a myth used to entertain the young, an entity most thought created in history by the bored or the delusional…until Godric had appeared.
He mentally sighed…a good man, he was, but to have survived so much…
Inevitably Pere’s less introspective thoughts returned to pondering how long it would be until he could shed more enemy blood; that it would be on The Royal Family’s behalf would make the spilling all the sweeter. His stores of magic were rising again; either that or he was simply horny.
He mentally shrugged; they were often one and the same. The dance with a well-honed weapon in battle, the dance with a well-honed woman in sex, the dance of glee in hard-won magical victory…they were all dances he had long ago mastered.
“Felipe de Castro,” Eric stated as the final snickers from Sookie’s tension-breaking quips quietened. He glanced around the room and was satisfied that all seemed to give the situation the serious consideration it was due.
“He’s the King of Nevada,” he explained for those who might not know, “and owner of that casino, owns or controls much of Vegas in fact. He’s a very powerful, wealthy, and influential vampire. No one is certain of his age, but it is estimated that both he and his second are younger than I am. The king is considered a worthy opponent but his second, Victor Madden, is the real threat.”
Godric nodded. From what he remembered before his second death, both King Nevada and his second were younger than Eric and therefore far younger than his own advanced years.
This was good.
“So let me get this straight,” Sookie chimed in, her voice now serious. “First of all, Bill arranges for some kind of oddly-timed party at his house with plans in place to murder Eric and kidnap me. His house was set up with a ton of witch-magic wards and a basement full of iron to keep me in there so he could do vile things to me and with my blood.” Eric growled at that and she patted his chest hoping to calm him down some. This wasn’t the time for angry posturing or letting emotions run free. He could vamp out later, preferably in privacy…lots and lots of privacy…
“Now it turns out that instead of the vampire conference or summit or whatever being held where it normally is, we find out that it’s suddenly being moved to another state under I guess another vampire king’s, what, jurisdiction?”
She looked at Eric who tipped his head toward her.
He liked this side of Sookie, the side that took her own safety more seriously. He also liked the side that knew when a burst of levity was needed, the side that teased and played “catch me if you can”, and he especially liked the side that responded so urgently and naturally to his touch.
Discovering that not only had the conference been moved but that it had been moved to King Nevada’s territory had momentarily thrown him off his game. From what he had heard, de Castro wasn’t a bad king all told – suspicious, devious, flamboyant while remaining ruthless, he was a vampire’s vampire…so long as there weren’t any problems. He was known for adhering to his own version of an honor code, was as fair as an underhanded vampire king could be, and, Eric had to admit, was loyal to his dedicated subjects.
Unfortunately, that included Victor Madden. That one was a snake in the grass waiting to strike, and if Eric wasn’t mistaken, one of his targets would eventually be his own king.
As he listened to his Sookie verbally setting the facts in her mind, he pondered that after they were settled safely elsewhere, his first order of business should be to discover which of the pair had caused the conference to be moved to Nevada. That would tell him…much. The king would be concentrating on profits and peddling influence, and while there would definitely be back-room deals, the king seemed to have some actual standards.
Such scruples, what few there were, did not affect Madden. The king’s vainglorious second would be most concerned with the latter. He gave sly, cunning, and devious vampires a bad name.
Madden was what Compton would be if Compton had balls and a brain, and if there was an underground market for fairy blood…or worse, it would have Madden’s prints all over it.
“Ok, so, I take it that it’s not normal for the location of these conferences to change, right, so it means something to us that it has? What’s more important,” she continued without waiting for an answer yet, “the fact that the location changed or the fact that it changed to that stupid sounding casino in particular cause nobody here liked the sound of that.”
“Both most likely,” Godric answered after a thoughtful moment. “Vampires are creatures of habit and so are mired in tradition. For better or not, if a thing has always been done a certain way or an event is always held in a certain location, those practices will continue until or unless something comes along with enough benefit behind it to warrant that change.”
“If it works, don’t fix it,” Claudia interjected as she stroked her thumb across the back of his hand.
“Exactly. So…for some reason, moving the gathering from its normal and accepted location to that casino brings enough benefit to someone to warrant the effort and the breaking of the tradition no matter how young it is. We must discover who gains the most and what that gain might be. And you are right,” he stated, “We know enough about King Nevada, and especially his second in command Victor Madden, to not like this change. At all.”
“Well, Bill wouldn’t have decided to throw that party unless he was gettin’ something out of it,” Sookie replied. “And like Eric said, it was odd that he’d throw a party so close to the time of the upcoming conference, but now we know why he did it – to get rid of Eric and to capture me. How far away is that stupid conference now anyway?”
“If nothing has changed other than the venue, a little over a week and a half from now. It’s to be a three-night event.”
Sookie exhaled and dropped her head to Eric’s chest.
“Bill’s an asshole.”
Almost of their own accord, Eric’s arms rose and enfolded his fairy.
Sari, having remained silent except for a giggle at Sookie’s earlier nonsense, appeared concerned. She pulled her chair closer to the large table between the two sofas, sat down, and started to place her drink on the table but reconsidered given the amount of condensation on the bottle. Her mother had taught her better than to leave sweat marks on the woodwork.
Observant as always, Claudia barely moved a finger and a coaster appeared before the witch who blinked twice before making appropriate use of the mysteriously appearing coaster.
She paused in the middle of leaning back into her chair.
“You guys really are fairies, aren’t you,” she stated more than asked as she finally sat with a clumsy thump. Her expression appeared more thoughtful than surprised as she gazed at Sookie, Claudia, and Niall in turn.
“Ding ding ding, give the witch a wand,” Pam said with a tad less snark than usual.
“In the flesh,” Sookie replied. She gave Eric one last squeeze before extricating herself from his arms then grabbed his hand to lead him back to the couch.
“And iron…somehow iron really is bad for you guys, right? Well, all that iron in his basement makes a lot more sense now. I’d heard about you guys, of course, heard from some of our elders who had heard from their own elders that you guys were real but had left or something, had gone somewhere else, but I honestly thought you guys were truly just a myth. Even with the evidence right before my eyes, right inside my head even, I hadn’t truly thought…maybe the confusion was a left-over from all that glamouring…”
She turned to Eric.
“And you guys are vampires,” she stated the obvious as she glanced at him and then Godric, and Pam who was now repositioning her own chair. “Myth says that vampires eat fairies,” she attempted to continue but was interrupted by snickers from Sookie and Pam and, surprising to her if to no one else, Eric.
“Fairies are delicious,” he deadpanned. He couldn’t help letting loose a brief if self-satisfied rumble of a growl; the lovely flush on his Sookie’s skin brought back too many memories. Then, with a suitably almost serious face, he concentrated on the red-haired woman while purposefully not seeing Niall’s raised brow.
The strange witch confounded him. She was too open, her expressions too easily readable for him to automatically distrust even given his knowledge of their kind, had been too helpful to his Sookie to disregard, and could be too potentially helpful to drain.
Sari’s sudden observation – complete with non sequitur and all – had again provided a bit of levity but they needed to plan hard and fast.
“It’s hard to know what’s really real and what’s simply as yet unproven, isn’t it? But, unfortunately this makes the things I heard in WonderDick’s McMansion make a lot more sense now, I guess. This doesn’t sound right but I have to ask if fairies supposed to be going to that vampire conference or whatever in Vegas?”
This time Niall snorted.
“We may not have been invited but it appears that we may well be putting in an appearance.”
Pere nodded…and made plans to pop back to the realm for his blade sharpening kit. And his other blades. And, if the conference was still a week and a half away, he might even find time for a nice, long…dance.
Although now seated on the sofa, Sookie by then could have cheerfully stomped her foot in impatience. They were going to have to move, and the sooner the better. And wherever they ended up had best have actual bedrooms, damn it.
“Before we get bogged down in the particulars, I vote we move from here. I really don’t like bein’ all-but in Billy-Boy’s back yard. Does anyone know where we’re going yet?”
“One of my homes should do nicely,” he announced blandly as he turned to Sari. “Will you be joining us?”
The witch thoughtfully held his gaze for a moment before nodding.
“The house I have in mind,” he continued thereafter without allowing the witch to elaborate, “has more than enough living space and bedrooms, both light-safe and otherwise, for those of us here plus several others I may have in mind. It’s in a nondescript residential area complete with well-tended lawns and a pool in the back so as not to draw unnecessary attention.” He shrugged; such things meant nothing to him other than the safety of being able to blend in with the neighborhood. However, Sookie could make use of the pool in her quest for her sun’s healing powers.
“As per my will before my second death, the Dae would have kept active the housekeeping service and maintenance agreement made with members of the local Were pack in case Eric needed the place, so we can move in immediately.”
Although no longer blessed with a vampire bond with his Maker, Eric still felt a niggling suspicion…something in the elder’s demeanor…
With a quirked brow, the Viking asked rather too innocently, “And where is this house?”
Godric’s smile and the glittering look in his eyes brought a slight chill to the room. “Las Vegas.”
**A/N: Heh. So, what did you think?**