**A/N: *peeps around corner* Hi? Anybody home? Hello?? *sets out hot coffee and warm cookies* Any and/or all mistakes are intentional…yeah, that’s it: intentional… Enjoy!
Eric rose as normal the next afternoon and was only mildly surprised that Sookie wasn’t by his side. Normally by now she would feel the need for a nap. A quick check of their bond revealed that while she was slowly tiring, her health was stable and her mood was mostly light. His own senses confirmed the continued presence of Mrs. Bronson, the Were hired to tend to his Sookie during his dayrest.
He moved to sit on the side of the bed and almost doubled over from the onslaught of grief – the inescapable truth of his first Child’s true death was never far from his heart.
His beloved progeny, the brilliant, strong, badly spoiled Child of his heart…
Pam was no longer in the world.
That need to see her existence continued despite everything she’d done was why he had chosen to contract with Sevrin in the first place. Her life would have been exponentially more difficult both in general and as determined by her own actions, but she would have been alive and her needs would have been met. In a few hundred years, if she had truly repented and maybe even have grown up some…
But that was not to be. She was no longer a fixture in his world.
Almost any other Maker would have given her the final death without consideration for such treacherous betrayal…if they didn’t torture her first. He, however, had been “raised” better than that. Godric wouldn’t have killed her, either, he was most sure of it, but he honestly didn’t know what the old boy would have done instead.
It wouldn’t have been good, but he strongly doubted she’d have been ended, either.
Like him, Godric would have gone with the idea, the hope, that so long as she lived there would be that chance, that possibility no matter how vague, of redemption.
A feral grin broke through the pain on his face. Pam had earned her redemption, had earned it with both blood and spirit.
Eric gripped the mattress to each side as a wave of searing pride assaulted his heart.
His Pam had risen well to the occasion. The information she had teased and taunted from the bastards was invaluable and could well be the key to saving his Sookie’s life.
The Ludwig connection didn’t sit well, though, he considered as he purposefully redirected his thoughts. Hiding his emotions from Sookie was normally so easy as to be second nature, but the intensity just then…she certainly didn’t need the bleed-through.
No, he didn’t like Ludwig, didn’t appreciate her tone with him or her so-called bedside manner in general, but he simply could not imagine her purposefully harming any of her patients.
That wasn’t in her nature.
She was bitchy, arrogant, condescending, and bossy as fuck, but she also took strong pride in her work. More specifically, she seemed to genuinely like Sookie in her own weird way.
Maybe there was more than one “little doctor”? He needed to speak with her soon – and in person. He could smell fear and to an extent could almost scent out lies.
And then there was Dean Summers, the now one-armed ex-manager of the Fangtasia complex. He’d come highly recommended and his papers had all checked out or Eric would never have hired him in the first place. He had been pure human when Turned sometime during the 1830s, and while his Maker hadn’t been particularly memorable, there was nothing in the younger vampire’s background that raised any sort of suspicion, either.
He should know – he’d had the usual checks run before hiring him. The only reason he could think of to explain Summers treachery would be greed; it was a fairly common denominator, after all.
In the end it didn’t matter. Summers was on borrowed time; the only question was whether he’d meet his true death quickly or slowly. Currently Eric was voting for “slow and torturous”.
Out of a habit he cherished more now than ever before, he accessed his Maker’s bond with Willa, and was relieved to note that she rested easily in her daysleep. Noting the time, he smirked. Although he wasn’t certain of Sevrin’s exact age, he knew the dark-haired vampire wasn’t much younger than his own advanced age, and would therefore be waking soon.
Sevrin’s history didn’t lend itself to knowing how to deal with such delicate situations as “hanging out in his girlfriend’s Maker’s home”, and “treading softly in a strange land” wasn’t in the male’s repertoire.
Ah, the plagues of new love…Sevrin wouldn’t know what to do with himself in this newest situation and Eric didn’t intend to make things too easy for the mountain courting his Child…
Sookie laughed somewhere above his head, and the relaxed sound brought a genuine smile to his lips. Eric wondered what, if anything, she had told the Were about their situation, and decided to brief the elderly woman himself. She needed to know exactly what they were facing to better protect his Sookie.
With determination straightening his spine and adding purpose to his stride, he showered and dressed. The day wasn’t getting any younger.
Sookie sensed the moment Eric woke up and could tell he had muted their bond very soon thereafter. It made her sad, but she chose to respect his privacy. Tendrils of grief still leaked through, through, enough that she could tell he needed a few minutes to honor Pam in his heart, and subtly – at least she hoped it was subtle – she loaned him her strength.
As long as he and Pam had known each other, as long as they’d been their own little vampire family, she knew it would be ages before grief of that magnitude would lessen.
Unfortunately loss of that type was something she understood all too well, albeit of the human variety. She remembered what it had been like for her after losing the people she’d loved the most, and in all honesty, it had sucked balls. Her dad, her mom, her grandmother…they were there and then…they weren’t.
The feeling of them lingered and she hoped that feeling would last forever, but memory-ghosts couldn’t give hugs or bake pecan pies or kiss away life’s boo-boos.
Sometimes she’d have given anything to have someone around who really understood and cared enough about her to listen to her memories, and other times she just wanted to be left alone to bawl her eyes out and get lost in those memories for even just a little while. She could give him both the ear and the privacy, and she hoped she knew him well enough to know which one he would want or need and when.
That bond was coming in real handy, and she wondered if there was a way to make it even stronger.
A little while later the onions came calling again.
As she started to stand up to visit the lovely bottle of antacids, Mrs. Bronson tutted.
She loved the older lady’s bluntness. From what she could tell without over-invading the Were’s mental privacy, if she thought it, she said it.
With a grimace as the onions reared their burning head again, she said, “The antacids. The onions hate me. They made me eat them and now they’re complaining.”
Not entirely bothering to hide her snicker, Mrs. Bronson rose with her animal-enhanced agility and went to the kitchen.
Sookie felt Eric approaching and looked up to see him entering the room. His face betrayed none of his previous grief, but she could see traces of it in his eyes.
“Well good morning,” she said with a sweetly cheerful smile. Once again she started to rise – her Eric looked like he could use a nice long hug, and once again she was bid to remain seated.
With a small but honest smile, he shook his head and blurred to sit beside her on the sofa. As he lowered his head to give her a kiss in greeting, he sniffed delicately then leaned back with a raised brow.
“What is that smell…onions?”
He over-wrinkled his nose as his eyes twinkled with humor, and barely stopped himself from laughing aloud at the look of horror on her face.
Sookie gasped then covered her mouth with her hand as she spoke.
“I brushed my teeth after I ate but those dang onions are coming back to haunt me.”
Mrs. Bronson returned just then and handed Sookie the bottle of antacids. Under Eric’s watchful eye, Sookie shook out a small handful of the odd-smelling tablets and popped three of him into her mouth.
Eric reached for the bottle.
“Are fruit and mint flavors a normal combination?” The mixture of fruit and mint sounded and smelled very strange to him.
Sookie shrugged as she crunched the tablets and gladly accepted the glass of water Mrs. Bronson held out to her.
After finally clearing her mouth of the chalky remainders, she answered. “It’s an ok combination in real foods, but yeah, it’s kind of strange for a tablet you’re supposed to chew.”
He tilted his head a bit toward the side when Sookie made a face while running her tongue around her teeth, and chuckled when she wrinkled her nose and took another sip of water.
Particles of the chalky, artificially scented disks must have remained in her mouth, he decided. At least they smelled better than the onion…
Once she seemed satisfied that her mouth was clean enough, she sat the water on the table nearby and turned to face him.
“Good morning, Eric,” she said with a cheeky grin before pulling his head down.
As he gladly shared his first true kiss of the late afternoon, he was also glad to note that no trace of foul onion remained in her mouth.
When he raised his head, he noticed that the Were was gathering her belongings in preparation for leaving.
“A moment before you leave, Mrs. Bronson.”
He patted Sookie’s shoulder before standing to face the Were. He crossed his arms and donned what Sookie teasingly called his “serious face”.
“If you wish to continue working here, there are some things you must know. If you have noticed the difference in Sookie’s scent but have chosen not to comment on it, then your discretion is appreciated. She is a Fae hybrid, but what your senses might not detect is that the child is part Dae.”
Eric paused for a moment to let that information sink in and to note any reaction. If the elderly Were had a problem with the Dae, or, far less likely, with the Fae, now was the time for him to know. When she seemed surprised but nothing more, he continued.
“Certain members of the Dae community are after both Sookie and the child she carries. Because of this, there are few we can trust. Until further notice, that list includes only Willa, Sevrin, your son who doesn’t know that much, and another vampire named Thalia.”
He kept his eyes on the woman.
“There will likely be a war with certain factions of the Dae. While I will not expect you to put your life on the line to protect Sookie and my child, I would have your word that you will in no way endanger them, and as you already know, your discretion is mandatory.”
While he was speaking, Sookie made a concerted effort to read Mrs. Bronson’s thoughts as best she could, and was glad to read the woman’s outrage at the thought of anyone trying to cause them harm. The Were was somewhat confused, which only made sense, but the “how dare they” came through loud and clear. So was the “aww” moment when Eric had proclaimed the child his.
“Mr. Northman, I may appear to be an old lady but don’t be so quick to count us older Were ladies out. My blood and spirit are strong and my teeth and claws are sharp. I’ll gladly leave the warring to the younger pups, but in a fight when it counts I can still rip a body to shreds. Now, why are the demons after her and the babe?”
Sookie sent Eric a burst of what she hoped came across as acceptance and confidence at the same time as Sevrin came into the room.
“She’s a telepath. They want to breed her.”
The Were gasped but Eric couldn’t tell if it was because of Sevrin’s sudden appearance or what he, himself, had said.
“Well they can’t have her,” she finally ordered.
Unbeknownst to Eric and Sookie, Sevrin had been giving the old woman his stern glare guaranteed to make the boldest vampire wish they could piss their pants, but at her words he nodded and headed to the kitchen.
“I know what the demons tend to smell like,” she continued, her own stern features now softening in confusion as she looked to Sookie, “but I don’t smell that on you, dear.”
“From what I’ve been told, Steve didn’t have a lot of Dae blood in him; he had just enough to count.” Sookie rubbed her abdomen lovingly.
“Call me Edna,” Mrs. Bronson said out of the blue to the room at large, then added, “What can I do to help?”
“Just what you’ve been doing,” Eric said, his voice lightening in approval. “Be suspicious of everyone and everything. At this point, there is no such thing as a coincidence.”
“I have a situation and a proposal,” Sookie said when Eric paused, and he caught her emotions as they flowed freely through the bond.
Anyone else would have cringed in fear at the look Eric gave Sookie, but she only smiled faintly up at her Viking. She knew he worried for her safety and comfort and would cheerfully eviscerate any who dared to harm her. His unholy glare was only a symptom of the depths of his feelings for her.
“You know that orange-cream stuff Dr. Ludwig gave me to drink? I’m wondering if it’s safe.”
When Edna gave Sookie a very confused look, the pregnant hybrid elaborated. She knew the jars of orange liquid kept in the refrigerator that Sookie was talking about but couldn’t fathom why they wouldn’t be safe.
“We received information last night that suggests Dr. Ludwig may possibly be working with the bad guys.”
Edna looked aghast.
“Marlene would never…! No, not Marlene. She cares too much about her patients to ever get involved in something like that. Now I could see one of her sisters, maybe Darlene or that Carlene, getting involved in something…”
“How many sisters does she have?” Eric was honestly surprised. He’d never heard of any of them…hadn’t even considered that the doctor might have sisters…
“Why, there’s six of the girls – two sets of triplets. You know Marlene, of course, but in her litter there’s also Carlene and Darlene. They all three went into medicine. Marlene has the most patience so she became an actual doctor as her bedside manner is far better than the others, “she said with a twinkle in her eye at the shock on everyone’s faces. Marlene might not be known for her charming personality but she was warm and fluffy compared to the one sister she’d met. “Her twins went into the research side of things. They might be doctors but they certainly don’t tend to patients. I heard a long time ago that Garlene, Harlene, and Warlene all went into mining. From what she’s said, they have no tact or patience at all.”
Sookie could only imagine.
Eric was briefly amused by the information he’d just learned but quickly refocused on the situation at hand.
“How identical are these sisters?”
“I’ve only met Marlene and Carlene, and while you definitely can tell they’re related, they’re not exact copies of each other. They also smell slightly different, too.”
Sevrin came back into the room carrying a glass of blood in one hand and one of the containers of orange-cream liquid in the other.
“If she was your pup, would you tell her to drink this or not?”
Sevrin didn’t have much use for Weres, didn’t hate them for their species but had never spent much time around them, either. They…smelled. When regular vampires bitched about it, he’d roll his eyes – with his enhanced senses, the “wet dog” stench was even worse.
All odor aside, this one seemed ok. He’d listened to what Sookie and his gut both had to say about the woman, and she appeared to be sincere. While that didn’t mean he trusted this Edna person, it didn’t mean he’d be looking for ways to dispose of her body yet.
With a sigh, Edna shook her head.
“If it were me, yes, I would trust it,” she said having recognized the stuff Sookie had been told to drink. “But given the situation…I wouldn’t advise it, not until you guys are certain it’s ok.”
Eric and Sevrin both nodded approvingly.
Sevrin tossed the glass jar into the garbage can in the kitchen where it landed…loudly.
Sookie flopped back against the couch and huffed.
“I hate this. I need whatever is in that stuff but I’m afraid to drink it now. I skipped today’s dose and I can already tell the difference.”
Her lower lip trembled threateningly.
In a blur Eric retook his seat beside her and put his arm around her shoulders to draw her into his side. He was pleased when Sookie automatically placed her hand on his thigh. This new-found familiarity was both pleasant and comforting.
“I’m more worn-out than I should be at this time of day, and I feel that same old hunger that isn’t for food. But how can we make sure it’s ok for me to drink? What if Dr. Ludwig is innocent in all this but got the jars from her sister who maybe is? I need to know that I can trust this stuff. Anyway,” she said with a sniff, “I was thinking that maybe we could somehow talk to Gail and see what she knows about any of this mess.”
Sevrin had moved to take one of the chairs across from the couch, and looked confused by the new name.
“Gail is Marlene’s main assistant,” Edna clarified for the dark-haired vampire whose presence put her Were-senses on edge. She appeased that innate distrust with knowledge that Mr. Northman wouldn’t have someone he didn’t trust around his pregnant woman. “She’s good people,” she added authoritatively.
Eric chose to delay forming his own opinion until later. At this point he barely trusted Edna.
“I thought about contacting Gail and setting up a meeting somewhere so that I could chat with her,” Sookie said with a squeeze to Eric’s thigh at the word “chat”. “I don’t want to bring her here for obvious reasons, but I can’t think of anywhere else to meet with her, either, and I wanted you guys to be there, too. She’s not the kind who would go to Fangtasia so I’m thinking that’s out.”
Sevrin shrugged. “Kidnap her. Blindfold her. Bring her here. If she’s innocent, she can leave. If not, she won’t.”
Sookie glared at Sevrin for the suggestion and then at Eric for appearing to give it serious consideration.
“Ugh, you guys…!” She met Edna’s knowing glance and the two shared a certain look that encompassed all males regardless of species. Edna knew exactly how protective, and yes, possessive, both Were and Vampire males could be and honestly wasn’t surprised by that hulking mountain’s suggestion. Sookie, bless her tender and fair-minded heart, would learn in time.
“No, we’re not gonna be kidnapping Dr. Ludwig’s assistant, not unless we can’t think of another way. Look, Fangtasia has an office part, right? Empty rooms where maybe we could meet with her, say, have her bring me more of that stuff as an excuse? I only have, well, had two jars of it left anyway, so it’s time for more. Or what about having her meet us at a restaurant maybe tomorrow night or something?”
Clearly seeing the expressions on her guys’ faces, she added, “And we can decide from there.”
Eric met Sevrin’s undeterred stare. Sure, they’d play it nice…for now.
**A/N: Ya know, I like Sevrin’s way of thinking. Now, what are YOU thinking?**