Sookie awoke with a start and immediately tried to sit up.
“Easy child,” a male voice said.
Sookie found the owner of the voice above her and saw that it was the same beautiful fairy who had come to her rescue with Queen Mab. She realized that she was lying on a bed of soft grass.
Sookie tried to sit up.
“Easy child,” the fairy said again. “You are still weak from your ordeal. But do not fear. You are at the pool along the borders of Faerie. You have been here before. Do you remember?”
Though still a bit dazed, Sookie nodded.
“Good, we will have time to speak here after you are feeling a little better.”
The use of the word, “time,” by the fairy was like a jolt to Sookie. She felt suddenly more awake and remembered why she’d woken herself up from her dream in the first place. She shook her head as the fairy helped her to sit. “But I have to get back to Eric now. It’s been too much time already.”
“Yes, child,” Niall said sadly. “It is a pity that our realm and yours are out of sync in this way; that is why I brought you to the pool as quickly as I could. Here, you needn’t worry so much about time.
Sookie looked around and saw the beautiful gardens and pool she’d seen when she’d first met Claudine after Bill had almost drained her in the van. The man next to her turned to a group of fairies that Sookie had not noticed before, including one she recognized as Claude. “Guard the perimeter,” he ordered.
Sookie watched as Claude and the other fairies took up positions about twenty yards away from where they were sitting.
Niall spoke as he looked at the pool. “Sookie, this pool is a conduit between your world and mine. It is one of only two such places left in the fairy realm. There are other doors between our two worlds, but this one can take you wherever you wish to go.”
“To Eric?” Sookie asked, looking at the pool. “I could just go through that pool, and I’d be with him?”
“Yes,” Niall said, “there is a little more to it than just getting in, but essentially, this pool will take you to where you choose to go in the human realm. But I’m asking you, Sookie, to choose to stay here with me for a little while so that we can talk.”
Sookie shook her head and scooted toward the water, “I’m sorry. I appreciate you saving me, but I have to get back to Eric. All the time that I’m here is so much time there.” Sookie paused, “But Hadley. Can you bring her here too? Can you save her like you did me?”
Niall shook his head sadly, “She is in the confines of Mab’s castle now, and Mab has built up the magic of that place too much for even me to breech it. Moreover, I have no specific claim to Hadley.” Niall looked up at Sookie. “I am ashamed to say that because I did not sense the spark in her, I did not officially claim her at her birth, and now it is too late for me to help her.”
Sookie shook her head. “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, but we have to try to save Hadley from that,” Sookie paused, “monstrous fuckin’ bitch—excuse my French.”
Niall looked a bit confused but then shook his head again. “I’m afraid that I was,” he paused, “delayed in coming to retrieve you. Because of this, I was late in stopping Mab from forcing Hadley to eat the light fruit. As a hybrid, Hadley can no longer go to your realm without facing her death.” Niall paused again, “And if you had not rejected the fruit, we could have been too late for you as well.”
Sookie looked down at her feet, the conflict clear as it whirred across her face. “Then I have to get back to Eric. And maybe we can think of a way to help Hadley together.”
“Will you give me one minute, child?” Niall asked. “One minute for the life I saved? If you still wish to go after we have spoken, I will show you how.”
Sookie looked at the pool and then at the fairy. She nodded. “One minute.”
Niall smiled, “First, you should know that at this pool, time is no longer working as it does in the fairy realm proper. This place,” he continued as he gestured to the area around them, “is a kind of ‘in-between’ place, connecting our two worlds. So as long as you are here, long periods of time are no longer passing in the human realm.”
Sookie looked up at Niall with questions in her eyes, not certain whether she could trust him.
Niall smiled at her proudly. “You are so like your great-grandmother. She too questioned things. She too was beautiful and good-hearted.” He smiled wider. “You are wise to be skeptical, my dear, but consider your own experiences for a moment.
“Who are you?” Sookie asked instead. “How did you know my great-grandmother?”
Niall smiled, “Viola was my human lover, Sookie―my chosen mate. We had a child―your grandfather.”
“Yes,” Niall nodded. “I am your great-grandfather, Niall Brigant.”
Sookie shook her head and took a deep breath, “That’s all well and good, Mr. Brigant, but your minute is over, and I need to get back to Eric.”
Niall held up his hand, “You have been to this place before—correct?”
“Yes,” Sookie confirmed again. “I was here after I was almost drained by Bill Compton once. I came here and saw Claudine and other fairies.”
“Yes,” Niall said. “My people sometimes come to this place to look in on yours. Here—as I said—our worlds are connected.” He paused, “Tell me, Sookie, did time pass quickly in your realm while you were here then?”
Sookie thought for a moment, “It was like normal―well like human normal. But my body wasn’t here. Only my mind was; I was dreaming, I think. The same thing happened that morning at Fangtasia after Eric and Russell took my blood.”
“Yes, child,” Niall said, “both those times, your fairy nature instinctually sought the healing power of this pool and this site, and you brought yourself here. For fairies, it is the mind that is the most essential part of oneself, as is evidenced by our telepathy. The location of your body does not matter. In this place, time is the same for both realms, whether you are here in body, mind, or both.”
Sookie shook her head, “I don’t know whether to trust you.”
Niall once again smiled. “If you promise to stay here a while longer to speak with me, I will show you what you most wish to see from your realm, and you will see that time is traveling along at the same pace there as it is here.”
Sookie slowly nodded. “Okay.”
Niall held out his hand, “Come then and sit by the pool next to me, but do not touch the water.”
Sookie obeyed and took his hand.
“Through this pool, you will see into your world―kind of like with one of your television sets. You will see, but not be seen.”
Sookie nodded and looked into the pool. In it, she began to make out Eric. Her heart leapt when she saw him, and she wanted to leap head first into the water, but Niall held her hand tightly.
“Keep watching,” the fairy said.
Sookie saw that Eric was sitting in the rocking chair in their living room. Her heart melted when she saw that Hunter was sitting on his lap, lazing comfortably into Eric’s chest. Eric was rocking slowly, and the two suddenly both chuckled, as if they’d seen something funny on the television that she knew―based on their position―they were both looking at.
Eric looked beautiful, and his face was serene as he took in whatever he was watching. Hunter also looked very much at ease as his brown eyes followed the program. Sookie watched as Eric brought his hand up to brush aside Hunter’s bangs―which were once again blond―as if it was an unconscious action he’d done a thousand times before. She saw the two laugh again, and she laughed with them as tears began to drip down her cheeks.
“This is happening now?” Sookie asked.
“Right now,” Niall confirmed.
“When?” Sookie asked.
Niall understood what Sookie meant by her question. “It is the day you call the 25th of July.”
Sookie looked at the image with longing. “More than eight months already?”
“Yes,” Niall confirmed sadly.
“And I could go to them there, right now?” Sookie asked.
“Yes,” Niall said again.
“So let me go to them. Let me see them, and then I will come back here. Let me tell them I’m okay.”
Niall shook his head, “I’m afraid you would not find your way here again unless you were once more injured and pulled yourself back to this place by instinct. However, I suspect that you would not even do that anymore. Your instinct now would be to wait until your vampire came to heal your injuries. I can feel the fairy bond that links you pulling you to him even now.” Niall closed his eyes and smiled, “It is as if the two sides of that bond are singing to one another through the pool; it is quite exquisite, my dear.”
“Then you know why I have to go,” Sookie said, her eyes still trained on the beautiful image in the pool of her husband and Hunter.” Her voice caught in a sob. “I have to be with him—with them.”
“I know, child,” Niall said, “but once again, I would ask for you to stay at the pool with me for a while. I have things to say―things that might help you to preserve the sight you see in front of you. I’m afraid that if you choose to go back now, the reunion you have with your mate will be very short-lived.”
Sookie ripped her eyes from the image in the pool and looked at Niall, “What are you saying?”
Niall looked at her sadly, “I’m saying that you came here for a reason, Sookie, and if you do not stay, both of the people you see in that pool will soon be dead―as will you.”
Sookie, who had been unconsciously inching toward the pool, stopped her progress. “Okay, fairy, you need to start talking, right now!”
Niall chuckled, “So like my Viola.” He looked at the pool. “I will need to shut this magic down, Sookie. It takes too much of my concentration.”
“Wait,” Sookie said, looking into the pool again. “Give me just a few more moments―please.”
“You tell me when, child,” Niall said kindly.
Sookie looked at her vampire and at Hunter, sitting together so comfortably.
“Do you know if they’re okay?” Sookie asked in a quiet voice.
Niall smiled at her, “I have been able to look in on them from time to time, monitoring their safety. Your mate has proven to be an excellent protector and father to the child,” Niall paused, “a much better father than I have ever been, I’m afraid. But the vampire and the boy are both finding it difficult without you and Hadley being there.”
Sookie nodded, “And Jason and everyone else?”
“Yes―thanks to the efforts of the vampire, they are all safe, but you are terribly missed, my dear.”
Sookie nodded and reached out her hand, letting it hover inches above the surface of the water, inches above Eric’s beautiful cheek.
Eric rocked Hunter slowly, enjoying having his boy safe and close as always. He smiled as Hunter chuckled at the Disney movie called Aladdin. Truth be told, Eric was enjoying the movie as well, especially the genie character. He chuckled right along with Hunter.
A few minutes later, as Hunter hummed along to one of the songs from the movie that Eric didn’t really enjoy, the vampire’s mind began to wander to his wife. He felt the fairy bond begin to pulse, and he looked around. Sookie seemed to appear right next to him―a translucent image, watching over him.
Outlined in a faint white light, she was gazing at him―her eyes brimming with tears, her hair reflecting an unseen sun. Those eyes that he loved held a mixture of longing, love, and regret. The image was so strong that he reached a hand out to where he saw her, but he couldn’t quite touch her. Still, his blue eyes stayed locked on her brown eyes as more tears fell from hers, and he reached out even farther, but still he couldn’t touch her.
This second movement stirred Hunter, who looked up at Eric, “Uncle Eric, what is it?”
Eric looked briefly at the child and then to where Sookie had been. She was gone. “Nothing,” Eric’s voice caught with emotion, so he paused for a moment in order to compose himself. Perhaps he was going crazy, seeing first Godric and now Sookie. He managed to give Hunter a little smile, “It is nothing, smár rekkr.” Eric swept the boy’s bangs from his forehead and ruffled his hair playfully. “Now, let’s finish our movie, and then after you have had your bath, I will tell you the story of Aladdin as I first heard it many years ago.
Hunter smiled and sunk back into Eric’s chest.
Niall chucked, “Amazing. You―my dear―are amazing. Your vampire―I suppose―deserves some of the accolades as well.”
Sookie was still looking at the image. It had seemed that Eric had been looking at her and had reached out to her moments before, but now he was speaking to Hunter. “What happened?” she asked. “I thought you said he couldn’t see me. Did he see me?”
“Apparently so―at least for a moment,” Niall chuckled again. “I have never seen the like, my dear. You are definitely strongly connected to one another―stubbornly so.” He looked at Sookie, “Are you ready?”
She looked at the image one last time and tried to suppress a sob, “Okay.”
With that, the picture of Eric and Hunter disappeared into the water.
Niall let go of Sookie’s hand and gave her a moment alone, as he walked over to speak to Claude.