A/N: This chapter occurs chronologically after “INNER-Lude 5,” so I suggest reading that first.
Traveling while dead for the day was often disconcerting for a vampire—sometimes even disorienting—especially when moving from one time zone to another. It was as if the mind wanted to awaken with the time zone from which it had left. But the body was “grounded” (pun intended) in the time zone it was actually in.
In this way, strangely enough, the sun didn’t always have complete dominion over a vampire. Of course, it could still kill him or her.
Air travel tended to complicate things—especially when a vampire was moving toward the west—because of the high speeds at which one could travel.
In fact, I was rather convinced that a vampire had first come up with the phrase “jet lag.”
In ancient times, when traveling ten miles by wagon would have been considered a “long trip,” such “lags” were hardly ever felt. Even traveling via ship wasn’t bad, for waves couldn’t be traversed fast enough to be too disconcerting for a vampire. However, the first time I’d traveled by airplane from Europe to the United States, I had found myself awake in my coffin—unable to move my limbs and soon suffering from the bleeds—long before I should have opened my eyes!
Ironically—though literally closer to the sun—traveling in an airplane was like traveling inside a coffin within a coffin. Of course, that coffin duo was going hundreds of miles per hour and could take one halfway around the world in a single day. Though most airplanes had windows, vampires had begun traveling in the cabins of airplanes only after the Great Revelation—unless the vampires had private jets, that is.
No, indeed, to travel via air before we came “out of the coffin,” vampires had to—quite literally—play dead.
Granted, that was an easy thing for us to do. Ironically, we had always traveled via coffins—within the cargo holds of planes, of course. And “grieving relatives” would be waiting to pick us up at our destinations with hearses.
Not surprisingly, in a coffin, overnight travel time could be as boring as hell, but to avoid “lags” I had always chosen night flights whenever possible when I traveled west.
I didn’t like feeling disoriented. I didn’t like it when my body didn’t answer my mind or when my limbs felt sluggish.
But—most of all—I didn’t like waking up to find myself traveling when I’d not expected to be.
Even as my mind whirred through my past observations and experiences, I registered that I was, indeed, moving at high altitude and in a coffin that I’d not gone to rest inside of. At the same time, I assessed the status and location of my wife—with whom I had fallen “asleep.”
The bond told me that she was nearby and physically fine, but agitated and aggrieved. Though my senses determined that it was at least 90 minutes before the sun set, I tried to make my body move so that I could phone Sookie.
However, I had no success.
My limbs were too sluggish to work properly, which told me that we were, indeed, moving west—likely back to Louisiana. And that meant that my body would take a little while to join my mind in wakefulness. At least, if we were only moving from one time zone to the next, then the “lag” wouldn’t be great.
Despite my lack of movement, I was able to discern that I was as naked as I’d been when I’d fallen into my day-death. And that meant that my phone was likely not with me anyway.
I stretched out the senses that were available to me—my mental ones. I could hear that the jet I was in was the same one in which we’d flown to Rhode Island. Indeed, all planes had a rather distinctive sound, a mechanical fingerprint of sorts. But I ignored the sounds of the plane, and used my sense of smell to hone in on the other beings within my range.
Sookie, Jason, Tray, and three humans were on board.
From the concentration of the scents, I ascertained that my bonded was sitting nearby—while Tray and Jason were slightly further from me. One of the human scents was near them, while the other two humans were approximately fifty feet away from me. I determined that the latter two were likely the pilots, which meant that I had been “stored” in the rear-most portion of the plane, which was standard on Anubis charters. Likely, Sookie was seated on the couch located just in front of the curtain that “concealed” the coffins from the human passengers.
Confirming her relative proximity to me, I heard the ring of Sookie’s phone. I tensed; even that ring told me that something was amiss. Sookie had looked at me as if I’d grown two heads when I’d told her that she could use her phone on the plane when we traveled to Rhode Island. She’d been insistent that she would not be doing something so dangerous since she’d heard that phone use could interfere with plane radios.
“Hello! Alcide! Thanks so much for calling me back so soon!” Sookie said loudly—anxiously—as she answered the phone before it could ring for a second time.
I felt my chest rumble as she greeted the Were. I wondered how in hell she’d come to be speaking to him—of all people. I’d not let on to Sookie just how much of an asshole he’d been when I’d initially sought out his help with guarding her, but I knew that my wife was smart enough to understand that I’d chosen to go with Tray, Brady, and Mustapha for a reason.
“Now—hold on just a minute!” Sookie said loudly.
There was a pause.
“I’m not calling to argue with you about the past, Alcide. And I get that you disagree with my life choices. Frankly, right now, I don’t care! All I care about is getting people to Bon Temps as soon as possible to help guard Andy and his little girls!”
I frowned with concern as there was another long pause.
“Because there’s some kind of fuckin’ faepire roaming Bon Temps!” she yelled.
There was another pause.
I could hear Sookie take a deep breath. “You know, I really am sorry that you feel like I call you only when I need your help—and maybe you have a point, but I’m not asking you to help me this time. I’m asking you to help guard four—” she choked out a sob, “I mean three—adorable little girls who have just been attacked by a vampire who can apparently move around during the daytime because he used to be a fairy!”
My eyes widened and a growl emanated from my chest. One of the Bellefleur girls was dead! Despite my sluggishness, my fangs popped downward.
“I know it’ll be nighttime soon,” Sookie said with frustration, “and I’m on my way with Eric, but I’m pretty sure that other vampires won’t be able to help us!”
There was another pause.
“Because the girls are half-Fae, and the vampires will want to eat them, too!” she said with frustration. “They won’t be able to help themselves.”
“I don’t know why! He just is.”
“My fairy kin are helping—already—as much as possible. And the Weres Eric’s hired to be my guards are there too, but I’m looking for all the help I can get here, Alcide. That’s why I called you.”
“Okay,” she said, sounding defeated. “I get it. This will be the last time I ask for your help, Alcide. And I do appreciate it. Is there anyone at all in your pack that is trustworthy enough to help, too?”
She sighed with some relief. “Thank you.”
There was another pause—a longer one this time.
I could hear the edge in her tone when she spoke again. “Yes—I’m sure that Eric will pay them for any help that they give. Alright—just get to my house in Bon Temps as soon as you can. A Were named Brady will tell you what needs to be done.”
After Sookie hung up, I tried to send her strength and comfort through the bond, even though my body still wasn’t awake enough for me to do much of anything else. I had gained just enough strength to begin using my hands and feet to search for my phone—just in case it had been put next to my naked body, but I couldn’t find it.
“Claude!” Sookie said a moment later. Apparently, she’d initiated a call to her cousin. “Are the girls okay? Andy?”
She began sobbing, and everything within me wanted to go to her, but I could not.
“Do you know which one of them . . . ?” Her voice broke. “Which one was killed?”
She sobbed louder, and it almost broke me.
“Charlaine,” she whimpered; from my confined space I could barely hear her.
I closed my eyes and pictured Charlaine, one of Andy Bellefleur’s little girls, the same girls I’d felt such a protective tug toward. It infuriated me—shocked me—that one of them had been killed.
Charlaine had been the girl with the lightest hair—a shade of chestnut brown to contrast the chocolate-colored locks of her sisters. Her eyes had been green—kind. And she was the one who’d produced the reddish light, which had caused me to wonder if she would turn out to be the warrior of the group. I felt evidence of a tear flowing from one of my eyes as I grieved for her.
I prayed to Thor, the God of War, that little Charlaine would become one of his warriors in the afterlife—if there wasn’t already a place carved out for her in the human heaven Sookie believed in or the Summerlands of her Fae kin.
For a girl like Charlaine, I imagined that the keepers of the various afterlives would compete heavily.
Sookie was still sobbing as I finished my prayer.
“The others?” she asked Claude.
There was a pause.
“And the other fairies? In the club? Are they okay?”
“Thank you. And thank you for moving Hunter and Hadley somewhere farther away. If there’s any chance that monster can get into the club—well—it’s a comfort to know they’re okay.”
“Did you learn anything new from the girls that,” she let out a fresh sob, “survived?”
“So it really was Warlow?” she said with some disbelief. “And he was really there during the daytime?”
“Yes. Alcide agreed, and he’s bringing five others that he trusts with them, though they’ll all expect to be paid,” she added somewhat sourly.
“Willa’s waiting at the house in Rhode Island and will come back with Pam and Tara after explaining things to them. We didn’t want to risk Pam and Tara making things worse by goin’ after fairies themselves. Plus, we didn’t know the codes for their room. And, as you know, Ian and Jessica left—for the new Authority headquarters—this morning before sunrise. But Jason and Tray are with me—though they are both gettin’ some sleep right now.”
Another pause. I could now move my limbs much easier; thus, I had ascertained that there definitely wasn’t a phone in the coffin with me—only a blanket covering me.
Leave it to my wife to make sure that her vampire husband was “warm” and/or modestly covered.
Unfortunately, I could feel that the sun was still up where I was, so I couldn’t risk getting out of my coffin.
I was stuck.
Sookie took so loud of a breath that even I could hear it from inside my coffin. “I don’t know, Claude. But I do know that Eric will be able to help make a plan.”
“No. They can’t go back to their house; Warlow threw a fucking vehicle through part of their house, Claude!”
The vampire who felt he had a claim on my wife.
I growled again.
“I’ve had Brady and Mustapha take them to Eric and my house,” she conveyed. “If all else fails, there’s the cubby.”
There was another pause, longer this time, and I wished that I could hear both ends of the call—as I usually could.
“Thank you. See you soon, and—Claude? Be safe,” Sookie said before hanging up.
Almost immediately, I heard Sookie’s phone ring again.
“Hello?” she answered.
There was a short pause.
“Thank God! Dr. Ludwig,” Sookie said.
She listened for a moment.
“So Adilyn, Danika, and Braelyn are okay? You’re sure?”
“This is all my fault,” she sobbed into the phone.
“Warlow—the girls’ attacker . . . ,” she started and then stopped to let out a cry. “He was in Bon Temps to get me!”
“Because that monster feels as if he owns me!” she yelled out angrily. “Thanks to a contract he signed with an ancestor of mine for the first Fae-bearing woman in our family!” she growled, allowing all of her frustration into that sound.
Then she took several loud, deep breaths that even I could hear, despite the jet engines.
“I know,” she said to Ludwig. “I need to stay calm for the babies. I’ll try,” she told the doctor. “Thank you. We’ll see you tomorrow night then. Goodbye.”
I waited for my wife to end her phone conversation before I sent her a powerful burst of love and support—signaling that I was awake.
I immediately heard the clicking of a seatbelt and the sounds of feet padding toward me.
And then I heard my wife’s voice. “Don’t come out!” she cautioned. “We were in such a hurry to take off that the extra vampire precautions weren’t taken before takeoff,” she conveyed. “Whatever those are.”
I knew that those “precautions” were light-tight shutters that could be affixed to each window of the plane; however, to be 100% efficient, outer covers had to be installed, too—a process which took quite a bit of time since a good deal of welding was involved. However, inner shutters alone had been found to be ultimately insufficient, since the vibrations of the plane tended to jostle them loose.
“Um—there are curtains and all, but I don’t wanna risk you gettin’ burned,” Sookie went on. “And the sun’s literally glaring through the windows as it’s gettin’ ready to set!”
I sent her a burst of understanding through the bond so that she knew I’d be staying put.
“You can hear me?” she asked.
I sent another burst—this time of comfort and hit the top of my coffin so that she could hear me.
“Oh, Eric. The most horrible thing has happened, and I didn’t know what to do, but I knew we had to get home immediately.”
I sent a burst of understanding.
She sighed, and I heard her slump down to sit next to my coffin. I heard a light thud, as if she’d placed her hand upon my enclosure, even as I sent her more comfort and calm.
She took several deep breaths.
“Kenya—that’s one of the deputies in Bon Temps—called me at about 3:00 p.m. She didn’t know much, but she told me that Andy’s daughters had appeared at the station out of nowhere and that one of them was dead. She said that the girl had been bitten and drained, but that it didn’t make sense because it was daytime. And she said that Andy wanted to warn me about someone.”
I sent a burst of love to let her know that I was still listening.
Sookie went on to tell me that she’d hung up with Kenya because the ambulance had come to work on the girls since it looked as if more than one of them had been injured. At that point, my bonded packed up our stuff and told Jason, Tray, and Willa what was going on. Tray had a contact number for Brady, so she’d called him as well.
“And Brady went right over to the police station, while Mustapha went to check out the Bellefleur house,” she continued. “I don’t really know everything that happened after that, but—after seein’ the condition of Andy’s house and because the little girls were so scared to go back there . . . .” She paused for a moment to take more deep breaths. “Well—I just told Brady to take them all back to our house, and I told him how to get into the cubby. I’m sorry I breached security and all,” she added quickly, “but I couldn’t think of anywhere those girls would be completely safe—’cause Warlow might be able to access the fairy club, according to Claude!”
I sent her approval and understanding.
“Thanks. So—yeah—apparently Warlow is Ben Flynn, the same guy that Andy and I found at the side of the road the other day. One of the girls—Braelyn, according to Claude—picked up the name in his head before he attacked. And she was somehow able to—uh—project his image to Andy, who realized that he and Ben Flynn were the same person. And—once Claude joined them at my house—he confirmed that the image in her head was Warlow!”
She took another deep breath.
“So it looks like we’re now dealing with a vampire who can be out and about during the day—a fuckin’ faepire!”
I might have been amused by the label if I’d not been so fucking angry that he’d gone after the little girls.
So fucking heart-broken that he’d killed one.
So fucking scared that he’d be going after Sookie and our sons next.
She sniffled. “Three of the girls got away. From what Claude just told me, Charlaine tried to fight Warlow. She was so brave.” My bonded broke down for a moment. “But that bastard killed her!”
Sookie got choked up with tears again, but eventually continued. “He went after Braelyn next, but she managed to shock him hard enough to stun him for a moment, and then Danika and Adilyn were able to get to her and teleport inside. Braelyn was in really bad shape because of blood loss, but Adilyn healed her, and then Danika teleported them all to Andy, who was at the police station. I called Dr. Ludwig earlier to ask her to go check on them; she said they’d be okay, and she’s going to come to the house tomorrow night—to check on them again and on me and the boys.”
I sent Sookie my approval.
She sighed. “As you know, Claude went back to the fairy club last night, and I called him to help. But it’s tricky. As a full-blooded fairy, he’s even more of an attractor for Warlow. And it’s not like the sun could protect him—or any of the fairies—from Warlow!”
I sent her more comfort as the implications of a day-walking vampire began to simmer in my mind.
“His immunity has to be because Warlow started off as a fairy—don’t you think?” Sookie asked, clearly having spent some time considering the situation.
Though she couldn’t see me nodding in agreement, I sent approval through our bond.
“Claude told me that Niall and Claudine never knew that he was immune to sunlight.” She took a deep breath. “Clearly, Warlow intended to kill all of the girls—so that his cover wasn’t blown. Maybe he didn’t expect them to have any Fae abilities yet? Or maybe he figured they’d panic and, therefore, be easy prey? I doubt if he expected one of the girls to be able to literally project his image into Andy’s mind, and then—of course—Andy was able to see that Warlow and Ben Flynn were the same person. By the way, all of Ben’s records were missing from the hospital.”
She scoffed and I could feel a thump against the coffin. “Brady made an emergency call to his pack master for more help, but it’ll take them at least a day to get here, so I called Alcide for help.”
I growled, but I knew my bonded couldn’t hear me. Regardless, I was prepared to “get over” all my misgivings about Herveaux and to keep my future growls to myself—if he behaved!
“He agreed to help,” she reported, “but he was an asshole about it.”
It seemed she had misgivings as well.
Despite the situation, I chuckled. I was glad that Sookie’s rose-colored glasses had been taken off where the Were was concerned.
I sent my wife support to let her know that I approved of her short-term plan to secure protection for the Bellefleur girls.
“Maybe we could all just run away?” she sighed in anguish. “Go somewhere that Warlow couldn’t find us until the boys are grown up—at least?”
I sighed, too. As much as the father and husband in me wished that it were possible to hide from a creature with both fairy and vampire capabilities, I had to wonder if it was. Claude had thought that Warlow was in another realm—exiled there by Claudine; however, that was clearly not the case. And—obviously—Warlow had found Sookie. Moreover, he’d put himself into a situation that had painted him as the victim of a vampire—me.
If Sookie and I hadn’t reconciled, she would have doubted me—and, likely, would have tried to help him.
Warlow’s pretense that he was a Fae-hybrid like Sookie was both meaningful and telling. It meant that he wanted to form some kind of connection with her—rather than simply to steal her away.
He’d not immediately and directly approached her with the contract her ancestor had made. He’d not just outright claimed her. And there had to be a reason for that.
Regardless—his hesitation might mean that Sookie and I had more time to figure out his motives.
My body began to feel the decent of the airplane just as the pilot announced that passengers should take their seats.
I heard Sookie rise from the floor next to my coffin and then call the flight attendant.
“How does this work?” I heard Sookie ask.
“The seats up front are really more comfortable,” a female voice responded.
“But this works—right?” Sookie asked.
“Well—yes. But it’s the seat that I sit in during landings and takeoffs.”
“Can I use it?” Sookie returned, even as I heard the jump-seat in the back of the plane being put into place.
The flight attendant seemed a little frustrated but answered in the affirmative before making sure that Sookie was strapped in.
I smiled a little. My body was telling me that our landing would correspond with the sun going down, and my bonded wife was as anxious as I was to be reunited. I sent her anticipation through the bond.
“Plus, I didn’t want her to see you with your clothes off,” Sookie said with a little chuckle as if she were reading my mind. “It was already bad enough that Jason and Tray had to get you into the coffin. By the way, Jason said congratulations when he saw what you were packin’.”
I grinned inside of my enclosure.
“When Tray told him that he should congratulate me instead,” Sookie went on, “I thought Jason was gonna have an aneurism. Apparently, you can be complimented for having a big—uh—man part, but my—uh—enjoyment of it shouldn’t be mentioned.”
I could imagine Sookie rolling her eyes, and if I couldn’t still feel her overriding distress and grief—which was matched by my own—that “man part” would have reacted to her kind words for “him.” But—as it was—I wasn’t feeling very amorous, and neither was Sookie.
“Well—at least Jason was good for helping me not cry for a little while,” she added sniffling again. She sighed. “I really, really missed you today. I kept on tryin’ to think of how you’d handle stuff. But it’s not the same as having you with me.”
I sent her regret through the bond. I hated her having to go through any toil without me by her side. But the sun would always limit me.
I growled when I acknowledged that the sun obviously didn’t limit my newest foe—Warlow.
Sookie pushed love—and acceptance—to me through our bond. “I know. It sucks,” she said. “But—as much as I missed you—it felt good when other people looked to me to lead them. Different—but really nice. You know?”
I placed my hand on the inner lid of the coffin, wishing to be even closer to her. I did know what she was talking about. I also knew that Sookie was a natural at leadership. She was clever, and she saw the potential—the good—in people in ways that I never could. This fact made us good partners, but I had total confidence in her when I was dead for the day. I just wished that I didn’t have to leave her alone.
As I felt the plane’s wheels skip off the runway before settling on it, I pushed comfort to my bonded. She didn’t like takeoffs and landings.
As the plane taxied, I felt the sun go down—finally—and immediately opened the lid of my coffin.
I was met by my wife’s smile. She was still secured in the flight attendant’s jump seat. She gestured toward the little closet my coffin had been put next to.
“Your clothes are in there,” she said—even as she “checked me out” as I got out of the coffin. I knew that we both would have preferred the plans we’d initially had—enjoying our honeymoon for a few more hours before we left Rhode Island.
My clothing, however, could wait.
I moved to crouch in front of my wife. “You okay?” I asked softly as I leaned my forehead against hers.
She shook her head. “No. I feel responsible—for Charlaine.”
“I do too,” I shared. “I should have arranged for protection for them right away.”
“But you couldn’t have known that they were in danger—that there was a homicidal faepire running around town.”
“And neither did you,” I whispered, hoping that she would quickly realize that we ought not to become stuck in our feelings of guilt. In my experience, that particular emotion was like quicksand—to both the mind and the spirit. “We know better now. We will do better now. And that is the best we can do,” I added fervently.
Thankfully, she accepted my words, and her guilt ebbed a little.
I realized then that my hands were over our sons. Sookie had clearly had a little sleep before all hell broke loose. And the boys were moving much more now. She was also clearly bigger than she’d been. If we were right about one day’s sleep equaling about a month of pregnancy, then Sookie was the equivalent of six months along now.
“He’s not going to get to them,” Sookie said of our sons.
“Or to you,” I vowed, praying to my gods that I could—indeed—protect them.
“We’re gonna kill him—right?” she asked.
I didn’t need to ask to whom she was referring.
“Oh, yes,” I assured as the plane came to a stop.
“Then get dressed so we can start planning how to catch and kill a faepire.”
A/N: Well—now Eric and Sookie are going right into the lion’s den.
I hope that you liked this chapter. It is—in many ways—a transition part for those not reading the INNER-Ludes. I always wanted this to be a stand-alone piece from Eric’s POV, so we have to “catch him up” on what he “slept” through. At the same time, I wanted to offer quite a bit of new stuff too. I hope I’m striking the right balance.
Next week: we will have another INNER-Lude, this one from Thalia’s POV. I wonder what she’s done with Sarah?