Three nights had passed and Sevrin had yet to come to a decision. The Viking was becoming vaguely curious as to why nothing was actively being done about the prisoner, but the black-haired mountain couldn’t yet bring himself to either reveal his suspicions and thus his talents, or to have the backstabbing bitch sent to her future home and lose the opportunity to find out what damage she had either caused or committed.
He also knew he owed Willa an apology, or at least an explanation, for blowing hot then cold with her. He realized that he’d been an ass, and he knew she was taking his implied rejection to heart, but he hadn’t meant things to go that way.
Yes, he was interested in her, but even if they tried to make a go of it, he wasn’t sure how far it could progress, and she didn’t seem like the type to enjoy a fling, either, not that he would do that to her anyway.
She was too young to move to his home – the base of operations in Poland where he vastly preferred to live. While it might be more of a kingdom than an estate and he could easily see to her every comfort and convenience, at her age she still needed to be with her Maker. Sure, she was bright, intelligent even, and certainly mature enough in her thoughts and actions to survive without a Maker if she had to, but she shouldn’t have to. A good Maker was worth their weight in gold.
Had the Northman appeared to be in any way abusive, or even negligent, he would then be justified in just taking the youngling with him and daring the Maker to say a word. As it was, her fucking Maker was genuinely both damnably competent and unquestionably caring.
He drained his third bottle of side-market Pure and stretched his long legs out under the booth as he tried to ignore some obnoxious troll’s hyena giggle in the background.
For the last two nights and somewhat against Sevrin’s security-driven advice, he, Willa, Eric, and Sookie had ventured to Fangtasia together. The excursions – considering the telepath’s gravid condition, that’s exactly what they quickly became – were ostensibly so that the three vampires could tend to their feeding needs more easily while keeping an eye on the telepath for her safety, but these outings were mainly to provide Sookie with something to do.
It seemed that boredom was a bad thing to any species.
One of the Northman’s employees had come through with a Were-mom to keep an eye on the blonde during the day when she was up and waddling around, and while they appeared to be getting along great, she wasn’t accustomed to being kept behind closed doors even when her own security was at stake. According to Eric she was behaving a lot more responsibly than she would have in the past- apparently surprisingly so – but hell, he had no way of knowing.
He had to hand it to the blonde, though. As uncomfortable as the pregnancy obviously made her no matter how hard she tried to hide it, she was still determined to “be useful” and “do her share” by reading the dubious patrons of the bar, and she had already caused the eviction of quite a few under-aged teens and several spies from other bars and other kingdoms.
That had been fun.
Unfortunately for his fangs, the moving offerings in the bar were far from his usual fare. Most were contaminated with strange and unnatural substances to the point that they were revolting – the stench of the place was horrendous, and he didn’t care who tried to tell him otherwise – a discerning palate most certainly could detect the presence of sexual diseases, and it wasn’t in his nature to “settle” or “get used to” such nastiness. So, he took most of his meals bottled while keeping guard over the telepath as she sat with studied nonchalance at a more private booth in the back of the bar he’d been told had been revamped.
He decided he didn’t need to know what it had looked like before being improved.
Apparently the Northman agreed with him, and some time had been spent the previous night discussing the changes he planned on instituting once the issue with Sookie’s safety had been settled.
To that end, no new information had surfaced. As expected, the illustrious ex had disappeared into the Dae-infested woodwork, and his lawyer naturally knew nothing. Mr. Cataliades had been contacted and while he had no information at the meeting, he was going to look into things. His excellent reputation provided the security of knowing that he truly would delve into the matter and that if there was something to find, he would find it.
It was just a waiting game, something none of the four main participants enjoyed. It certainly made Sevrin antsy, but…
Thus far he had held himself back from “checking on” the prisoner. He had no actual desire to spend even a second in her foul presence, but more than that, if he did visit her and therefore heard something important while there, his innate sense of fair play would force him to come clean to these people for whom he was starting to feel something vaguely along the lines of “like”.
His gaze, surreptitiously ever-roaming in case of trouble, had shifted to notice the other two members of their party, and he looked down to stare at the bottle between his hands. This, he concluded as Eric escorted Willa back to their booth, was why he chose to avoid playing with others.
“Enjoy your dinner?” Sookie asked both vampires as they approached the booth where she sat with the minimally talkative Sevrin who was now staring intently at the bottle dwarfed between his huge hands.
He had been surprisingly good company as she read different brains while toying with the meal Eric had had delivered for her. His taciturn personality meant she didn’t feel obliged to try to keep a conversation going while also trying to concentrate on her task, but when she felt the need to comment on something, or usually someone, his unexpectedly dry sense of humor would sometimes sneak out. His massive presence also kept other vampires from daring to bother her, and if he signaled for the floor manager to approach to evict a customer, she did so very quickly.
Eric, naturally, sat down beside her, and both watched as Willa settled herself uneasily near Sevrin. Something had definitely cooled between the two of them and Sookie hadn’t figured out what the deal was yet. Willa was as baffled as she was.
Eric nodded, knowing that Sookie already knew that he wouldn’t be partaking of any of the regulars. Between his bagged blood and the unofficially acquired Pure his feeding needs were more than well-met. His purpose in escorting Willa during her feeding was to help her to refine her selections according to her palate. He’d been extremely pleased with how discerning she was and how very delicately she used her fangs when she fed, and suspected his “useless dad advice” was only tolerated out of her respect for him.
With a nod he indicated Sookie’s mostly filled plate. “Did your tastes change?”
He didn’t understand exactly what she’d meant before when she’d explained how she might choose something one minute then ten minutes later not want it at all, but figured it had something to do with the weird cravings she would get. According to the picked over but uneaten food on her plate, it had happened again, and no matter how much he loved her, he dreaded hearing what her taste buds were actually wanting. His poor future daughter…
Sookie made a face at her plate and once again ran her fork through the offending morsels. The food had sounded good when she’d placed the order but by the time it had arrived, it had lost its appeal. No matter how much she’d have liked for it to, the “rotisserie chicken with roasted broccoli and buttered pecan-cranberry brown rice” in no way changed to “hot dogs with sauerkraut, onions and peach salsa, and curly fries with chili sauce, radishes, and Reese’s Pieces topping”, either.
“Yeah,” she answered mournfully. “It was nice and hot when it got here,” she specified, not wanting anyone to suffer Eric’s wrath, “and there was nothing wrong with it, but…yeah. And no,” she interrupted what she was sure was a question about what she’d rather have, “you don’t want to know what I’m actually craving.”
She’d noticed his face the few times she’d answered honestly and, bless his heart, she knew he truly didn’t want to know but would dutifully ask anyway.
Eric started to remove the offending food from her presence, but she stopped him.
“Nah, I need to eat this.” She stabbed a perfectly caramelized piece of broccoli with a vengeance. “It’s good for me,” she mumbled as she crammed it into her mouth and chewed and swallowed stoically. “Really, it’s good for me,” she said again, more to herself than anyone else, as she stabbed another piece and repeated the process.
Eric watched with amused pride as Sookie eventually, if somewhat sulkily, cleared her plate of the vegetation. From the smell of the green bits he didn’t blame her for not wanting to put that food into her mouth, but he trusted her judgment…as well as the judgment of the books written by doctors he had found and read online in the mornings after his beloved had dozed off in their bed.
Those books had provided a wealth of sometimes-contradictory information. She was to seek enough rest yet she was to exercise often. She was to eat enough food yet she wasn’t to over-eat. She was to avoid many of the foods that even he from his human days knew to be nutritious yet she was to take supplements. However much sense these books did not make, still, most provided advice he knew to make common sense.
He, of course, was glad to provide her with the exercise she needed… beds were, after all, the safest place for women in her condition…
As she minced the chicken with her fork and knife, he noticed her gaze sometimes straying over to Willa and Sevrin, and wondered if she had any idea what had happened between the two of them. Eric hadn’t thought of Sevrin as being the type to lead someone on or who blew hot and cold, but obviously something had happened to make him reconsider pursuing Willa.
It didn’t make sense. He continued to treat her with noticeable respect and care, but there was a strange reserve now that wasn’t present before. It was almost as though he somehow feared Willa, which was not at all logical.
Eric had also noticed how often Sevrin’s eyes had strayed to Sookie, but was sure the dark giant wasn’t aware of either the frequency of the act or the fact that Eric had even noticed it.
There was nothing of the lovesick fool in that gaze, for which he was thankful. He’d hate to have to go Viking berserkr on his ass.
The look Sevrin would give his Sookie had more of a searching quality to it, more as though he was thinking of questions to ask but for some reason held himself back from doing so. Eric decided to wait for more evidence before asking for particulars. People could be so weird sometimes.
“Has Mr. C come up with anything yet?” Sookie had to break the tension at the table somehow and the sudden question seemed to serve the purpose.
“No,” Eric replied. “He has left me a status report every evening but so far he hasn’t found anything. He has his nieces tracking down some potential leads, though, so that sounds promising.”
“His nieces?” Apparently the chicken won as Sookie suddenly shoved her plate away in disgust. Eric was glad to note that she’d eaten all the green bits that somehow seemed familiar and most of the crumbly shit with the berries and nuts in it.
He still didn’t want to know what she’d have preferred and liked it that way.
“Yes, Mr. Cataliades has two strong Dae-hybrid nieces, Diantha and Gladiola. Both used to work for the queen until he bought out the remainder of their contract. I’ve met them before on rare visits to the queen’s compound in New Orleans, and they are…hard to describe,” Eric ended with a tolerant smirk.
Sevrin agreed with a snort. He’d met the sisters once in Budapest a while back. The lovely city’s vibrant underground culture had never been the same after their visit.
“Strange fashion sense…the one talks a mile a minute while the other talks violently with her hands. Good runners. Clever. Strong.”
As Sookie nodded in polite if not especially concerned acknowledgment, Sevrin’s eyes met Eric’s and just that fast a plan was formed.
Either one of the sisters, preferably both, would make the perfect companion for Sookie. Not only could they provide very capable protection, but they would be females more her own age, at least in appearance, who she could chat with about…whatever it was females talked about. And they could tell her more about her future child’s other species, too. The sisters would be perfect in conjunction with the Were-mom.
Willa, having noted the unspoken communication between her Maker and the asshole lounging all long and tall and sexy beside her, knew something was up and that it had to do with the Dae sisters.
Oh, goodie. More secrets. More crap that has nothing to do with me. More excuses for dear Sevvie to shut me out for whatever fucking reasons he doesn’t care enough to tell me about.
Punk-ass’d non-communicating hot and cold running git.
Since she suspected such descriptions also annoyed…him, she just had to ask in the ensuing silence, “So, Sookie, what did you want instead of that?”
Knowing the reasoning behind Willa’s sudden curiosity, although she had to admit that Willa did find her strange tastes amusing, Sookie hid a smirk and answered honestly.
“Man, just before dinner arrived, I would have and would still kill for a couple of spicy, salty hot dogs smothered in sauerkraut and onions and dripping with hot peach salsa. And to go with it? You would not believe how badly I want some garlicky curly fries and corn chips absolutely flooded with greasy spicy cheesy chili sauce with radishes and Reese’s Pieces mixed in with it”.
To both Sookie and Willa’s nicely hidden delight, Sevrin looked vaguely ill. Eric wisely pretended he hadn’t heard a word. He wanted to ‘sleep’ peacefully with her later on.
Just then a well-recognized look crossed Sookie’s face and Willa immediately stood, more than ready to escape the sexy asshole’s vicinity. “Bathroom?”
Eric rose to help her slide from the booth and, with a nod to Sevrin to remain in the booth if he wished, escorted his girls to what had formerly been Pamela’s private but operational “powder room” near the offices on that floor.
There was no way he was going to let Sookie have to endure the masses just to go to the toilet, and especially not in her condition. Pamela’s ‘facilities’ had been surprisingly well decorated given her propensity toward the garish and he’d been relieved when Sookie had found the large stall and sitting room acceptable in both appearance and cleanliness.
After ensuring their safe arrival and checking the stall for security reasons, he left the ladies – only after hearing his progeny lock the outer “powder room” door, of course.
Knowing that they would be taking their time with the girl talk he knew was part of their agenda, he blurred to his office on that floor and proceeded to scan security videos and reports, then moved on to what memos and correspondence had accumulated during his brief absence.
Finally, with a curiously heavy heart he called up the feed to Pamela’s cell.
As expected she sat on the concrete in the middle of the room, but what he hadn’t expected were the red tear tracks on her face. A part of him felt a tiny nudge of grief on her behalf, but a larger part was surprised at the nothing he felt.
Seeing her this way in the cold light of a new night brought him no pleasure, but then, she had wrought this on herself. He’d been so determined for so long to have such high hopes for her…for it to come down to this…
So much wasted hope, effort, everything.
An inquisitive grunt from the open doorway caught his attention, and Eric looked up.
Although he didn’t know it, the dark mountain blocking the entire doorframe had been watching him for a long moment before clearing his throat, and had seen the look on his face as he watched the screen. He had also caught the look in his eye when he’d glanced up at him.
With a curiously long sigh, Sevrin announced in an oddly resigned voice, “Going to visit the prisoner.”
**A/N: So…there’s that. What do you think? Poor Willa… Poor Sevrin… Confused Eric and Confused Sookie… Gotta admit that Semi-Vengeful Confused Sookie’s fun, though. Reviews…muse, etc., and that applies not just to me but to all fanfic writers, so be generous if you have the time and inclination – your words, especially when they’re kind and plentiful, truly do have the power to inspire more of OUR words. Y’all are powerful like that!**