After Hadley was resting peacefully again, Niall gestured for Sookie to sit next to the pool with him. They both sat on the grass by its banks.
Sookie looked into the water yearningly. “How long do I have to stay here, Niall? I need to get to Eric. I need to tell him that I’m alive and that I love him―please.”
Niall shook his head, “If you leave, you will soon die―as I said before. And your mate will also die.”
“But why do I need to stay here now?”
“You no longer have your magic, so you are safer here. And, when that magic does return, you must learn to use it properly―to defend yourself and your husband.”
“Wait. I learned how to do that tonight,” Sookie said insistently. “I felt my light coming through the fairy bond, and I knew that Eric was helping me, so I wasn’t getting tired or losing the strength of my blasts or anything. So I got this!” she added confidently.
“But what if he had not been here to help you?” Niall asked.
Sookie looked down and then back up at Niall. “That’s another reason that I should be with him then. If my magic is from our bond, then I need to be with him to use it!”
Niall shook his head. “It is not that easy. Your magic is not from the bond. You did use it before you bonded with Eric—correct?”
“I believe that because of the fairy bond, your magic is being amplified by the magic within your mate—which makes you more powerful than any fairy I have ever seen—but you must learn to control your light without Eric having to help you.”
“But if I’m with him, then he’ll always be there to help me—right? So why can’t I go back to him?”
Niall shifted uncomfortably. “What if it is day, and he is asleep when you need help?”
“Well,” Sookie said, “my magic has been able to keep him up in the day before―so no problem.”
Niall shifted again. “At present, I cannot tell you why you need to be able to fully control your own magic, Sookie. But you will.”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “I’m getting tired of being told half of the story when Eric’s and my lives are supposedly the ones at risk here.” She was getting frustrated, and she was having a hard time keeping her voice down.
Niall shrugged. “I’m sorry that I cannot help.”
Sookie fumed, “Listen—I should just go home. Eric and I can exchange blood again—or even redo our bonds from scratch. That’ll fix us both!”
Niall shook his head sternly. “If it were that easy, I would have sent you already. But,” he began.
“But what?” Sookie asked even more frustrated. “I have figured out my magical source thingy now; the magic might not come from Eric, but I know how to keep it going strong now with his help. And once the bonds are back, I will be able to control my magic just like before―in Mab’s palace. Remember? Me kickin’ lots of fairy asses?”
“All you say may be true,” Niall relented, “but the Ancient Pythoness was very clear that you need to train here until you are able to use your magic without requiring a burst of strength from Eric. And she was also very clear that you cannot physically return to your realm until you are prepared—not even for a moment.”
“But how can I use my ‘F-in’ magic when I can’t get it to turn on?” Sookie asked, even more frustrated. She was gritting her teeth to try to stay quiet now. “And I need Eric to turn it on—right?”
“Likely,” Niall answered calmly. “I believe that the magic in Eric could be a catalyst for your own fairy light again.”
Finding it difficult not to yell at Niall, Sookie sighed with exasperation. “Then bring him here.”
“I cannot, or Hunter will be in danger.”
“Jeez!” Sookie let out. “I swear that if I ever meet the A.P., I am gonna punch her in the nose!”
Niall chuckled. “I have often had the same inclination, my dear.”
Sookie rolled her eyes.
By now, her frustration was raising her ire. “So let me get this all straight. I most likely need Eric’s magic to get my light back, but you won’t bring him to me, and I can’t go to him. And without my light, I can’t do your training, which I need for a reason that you won’t tell me—except that if I don’t stay here and do it, then the person I love most in the world will die. Oh—and meanwhile, Godric’s maker is off somewhere spouting cryptic information about my future and my husband’s future and Hunter’s future and who knows what else, but she won’t give us an ‘F-in’ practical clue about how to fix the bonds and my light so that we can get to work on getting ready for whatever threat we are facin’? Which―by the way—she won’t give you any details about?” Sookie shook her head in agitation. “You and the A.P. are seriously pissing me off!” Sookie exclaimed in a loud hiss.
Sookie brought her hands down to the ground hard. As soon as her fingers touched the grass, she felt a little spark of electricity. “Eric?” she asked excitedly, looking down at her hands. For a moment—just a moment—it seemed like her power might be coming back. And even more importantly, she felt a little tingle in the fairy bond.
Niall chuckled. “I wondered if that would work.”
“What?” Sookie asked.
“I’m afraid I was conducting a little experiment my dear,” Niall said almost apologetically.
“Experiment?” Sookie asked.
Niall nodded. “You told me that you used your light for the first time with the Maenad. I took the liberty of looking into your head to read your memory of that interaction.”
Sookie looked at him angrily and whispered through bared teeth. “You can’t just do that.”
“Sorry,” Niall shrugged, though Sookie didn’t think he’d meant either of his apologies.
“Of all the high-handed things,” Sookie began.
The fairy smiled at her. “Indeed. But you like this trait—high-handedness—do you not?”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “Just tell me what your little experiment was.”
“Well,” Niall said, “when you met the Maenad, you were frightened of what she had done to your friend Tara and to Bill Compton, but,” his eyes twinkled, “your overarching emotion was frustration when you shot her. You were―what did you call it? ‘Pissed off?’ It is what your young Eric calls your fire—yes?” He chuckled again. “Yes—your Eric would very much have enjoyed your confrontation with the Maenad.”
Sookie couldn’t help but to smile at the mention of Eric and the fact that her great-grandfather had called him ‘young.’ However, she was still confused. “Okay—so?”
“So,” Niall explained, “I purposely tried to ignite that frustration—that fire—in you again while you were sitting right here.” He pointed to the grass.
“Why here?” Sookie asked.
“When your mate was here, he sat there—right there—which is also where you sat as you were looking in the pool when you first came here.”
“Okay—so?” Sookie asked again.
Niall explained, “Fairy magic is a wonderful thing, Sookie. It lives in all Fae and also in our world. It can be pooled and shared when we wish it to be. You played with this grass when you looked through the pool at Eric. He played with it and felt your residual energy as he sat here sending you his own strength and magic to sustain you during your fight. I couldn’t be certain before, but it seems that this world—specifically the ground where you are sitting—absorbed Eric’s magic just as it did yours. That magic―along with his magic which was already in your blood—seems to have reignited you, so to speak.”
Niall closed his eyes and continued, “Yes—I feel the light magic in you again. It is weak, but it is there.”
“Okay,” Sookie said, still confused. “I’m still not gettin’ this. First, I sorta understand how my magic got absorbed into this grass because I felt my light thingy when I was looking at Eric in the pool. But what about his? He’s not part fairy—is he?”
Niall chuckled. “No. However, you are forgetting what a fairy bond does, Great-Granddaughter.”
She gasped. “It allows us to share our gifts—our powers. So—you are saying that his magic absorbed into the ground here just like mine did?”
Niall nodded. “I had felt that he might have left a bit of himself behind here, but I couldn’t be sure because it also felt so much like you.”
Sookie’s fingers had been unconsciously playing with the grass for several minutes. She looked down at them. “So when you got me to feel the emotion—the frustration—that worked as the catalyst for my very first blast,” she paused, still trying to figure everything out.
“At that point, it was simple ‘muscle memory’ in a way, Sookie,” Niall explained helpfully. “The emotion, plus the residual magic from Eric absorbed into the grass, plus the magic of his blood still inside of you—well that all seems to have added up to give you just a little spark. Just a little charge. Did you not feel it?”
Sookie nodded but spoke quietly, “Yes, but it was so small.”
“But it was something, and your magic needs to return in order for you to train. So you must begin with what you have.” He winked and then grew more somber. “I share your frustrations, Sookie. I want to bring your Eric to you, but I cannot. I want to send you to him, but I cannot. To do either is to risk you both and the child, and I cannot have that. So you must find a way to heal yourself.” His eyes twinkled. “And I would venture a guess that you will need to heal your vampire as well in order to heal yourself.”
“But how?” Sookie asked.
Niall shrugged. “I am learning along with you.” He filled up a cup of water for her from the pool.
“But you said that this wouldn’t heal the bond,” Sookie observed.
“I do not believe it will—especially not on Eric’s end where the damage occurred—but it may foster that fledgling spark in you, child.”
Sookie drank. “Okay. Let’s say that I heal my light somehow. How long will the training take?”
“That will take as long as it takes.”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “Okay. How long will it take to heal my light so that I can get the bond working with Eric again?”
Niall sighed, “I do not know that. Claudette was a powerful fairy, and her hatred fueled her magic, so her final spell may last a long time and may be very tenacious.”
Sookie sighed deeply. “So you don’t know much.”
Niall smirked. “As I said, I am learning right along with you. But I imagine that you can find all kinds of answers if you put your mind and your heart to it.”
Sookie shook her head, but then closed her eyes. “What could it hurt?” she asked, mostly to herself.
She took a deep, cleansing breath and tried to relax. She put the cup down and allowed her fingers to caress the tops of the grass blades. Immediately, she felt better; she felt like she wasn’t alone. She sighed. Eric had been there not long before her. But then again, it had been a long time before her. From his perspective, it had been months and months since he had sat where she was sitting. And she needed to figure things out quickly so that it would not be months and months longer before they were together again.
She thought about the last several hours from her own perspective. And when she did, she felt very tired. Only earlier that day—from her point of view—she’d come to the fairy realm in order to save Eric’s life from Claudette. She had been forced to eat the light-fruit after that. Then she’d almost died. Then she’d been brought to this place and had seen Eric and heard a bit about Niall’s history and the fairy world. Then she’d gone to rescue Hadley and had almost been raped by Ivan. And she’d killed a bunch of fairies. And she’d learned about her cousin’s pregnancy. Sookie shook her head. All told, she’d probably only been in the fairy world—both at the pool and inside the realm itself—for five hours or so, but it felt like days.
However, despite all of this turmoil, she had begun that day with her husband. They had made love, and Jessica had joined their family. He had joked with her about her fear of flying when they’d gone to Santa Fe. And he’d held her hand tightly in his when they’d spoken to Hadley and Hunter. No—though a lot had happened to her, she was mostly sorrowful about all the moments of life—Eric’s life and Hunter’s life—that she had missed. And she was distressed that her vampire had been heart-broken through many of those moments. She shook her head. She couldn’t even imagine the toil Eric had gone through for more than a year. But she was thankful too—so thankful that her husband had had a bright spot in his life: Hunter.
She knew—with even more certainty than ever—that there were two great truths in her life. One was that she loved Eric Northman more than anything. Two was that she would do anything necessary to protect his life and their love.
Yes—she determined—as hard as it would be, she would have to stay in the fairy world as long as needed to make sure that her husband would be safe, and she would do whatever training she had to do. But she still wanted to kick the A.P.’s ass for not just telling her who was after them and what she needed to do to stop them.
Sookie shook herself from her frustrations. She focused again. She needed a plan. She just wished that her husband was with her to help her come up with one. She let herself slip into thoughts of him.
She pictured Eric’s beautiful face in the moments before she’d been brought to the fairy realm. She focused on recalling the feeling of the love pouring from him through their vampire bond. Sookie sighed. She knew that he was waiting for her—just as she’d asked him to do. And he’d already fulfilled his other promise of caring for Hunter. She smiled as she recalled the image she’d seen earlier of Eric and Hunter in the pool. Eric was a father to Hunter now, she realized. Both times she’d seen them together, they had looked happy. They had looked like father and son—like family.
Sookie’s eyes popped open as she remembered something else about the last time she’d seen Eric in the human world. He’d asked her to dream of him. She thought about the version of Eric that she saw in her dreams, the one that was―perhaps―a representation of the fairy bond itself. She thought about the time that she was able to use her power within a dream to wake herself up when she’d been drugged by Debbie Pelt. She had aimed her power at Dream Eric. She wondered if she could wake the bond up if she shot him with her light—even just a spark of it. And if she did, could she restore the fairy bond in the real Eric as well?
And she especially thought about the time when she dreamed that she was trapped in the dark in the Bon Temps cemetery; she’d been running from Bill in that dream. She’d desperately wanted Eric―knew that he would be able to help her—and even with only the beginning of a vampire bond, she’d called him into her dream. She wondered if she could do it again.
She thought about their empty bonds and about that little spark she had felt a few minutes before. She knew that it was possible to start a raging wildfire with just a tiny spark, and she was just the ex-barmaid, telepathic, fairy/human hybrid to do it too! She felt her determination rising; she had to do it for her husband.
Niall spoke. A half-smirk/half-smile graced his elegant face. “That might just work, my dear.”
Sookie was startled out of her thoughts. “Stop doin’ that,” she admonished Niall. “I mean―I appreciate the support and all, but you can’t just be in my head all the time unless you’re invited, okay?”
Niall chuckled, “It is our way, Sookie. But I will try to stay out if you wish.”
“I do wish,” Sookie said forcefully. She looked at Niall thoughtfully, “That said, do you really think it could work?”
Niall shrugged, “It will not hurt to try, and you could use the sleep anyway. Humans must replenish themselves much more than fairies do, and I can tell that you are tired. I will keep watch over you and Hadley. Do not doubt it.”
“And the other hybrids?” she asked.
Niall smiled. “Claude and others of my numbers are already on their way to them. He will contact me if he needs my aid. Do not fret, child.”
Sookie nodded. She was surprised, but she didn’t doubt her great-grandfather; she felt certain that she could trust him. But―then again—she was now doubting the fact that she wasn’t doubting him. After all, Niall seemed to have the ability to insert thoughts into the minds of others. Sookie decided to use her telepathy to enter his mind in order to gauge his true intentions.
Niall chuckled, “You did not ask permission. But you may poke around any time you wish. You are clever to be skeptical and suspicious of me after what fairies have done to you in the past.”
Sookie nodded and probed his brain a little bit more. He seemed to genuinely care for her and Hadley and felt a lot of guilt over what had happened with Hadley. While she was there, she also tried to figure out how Niall knew the A.P., but that section of his brain shut down to her.
“I’m sorry, Sookie,” Niall said, “but I made a promise to the lady long ago that I would not tell of our connection.” He winked at her. “Perhaps, she will tell you one day.”
Sookie nodded and then looked at the pool. “May I?” she asked quietly.
Niall nodded as Sookie filled the water cup and lifted it to her lips. She closed her eyes and said a little prayer. As she drank, she felt her mind grow somehow ‘quicker,’ and she felt the power of her telepathy sharpen, so for good measure, she sought out Niall’s intentions once more. Again, they seemed benevolent. But this time, he didn’t seem to know she was there, and Sookie realized that she was blocking him and concealing her presence.
However, the second cup of water did not reactivate the fairy bond in any way she could discern, nor did it invigorate her light any more.
She sighed and looked back at Niall. “Can I see him―just for a little while? Please?”
He nodded and took her hand. This time, Sookie saw Eric alone, except for the cat. He was sitting on their old bed. The picture of her and Gran was in his hands, and he was looking at it intently, stroking her image in the picture with his thumb. He put the picture down, picked up a bowl of something that looked like soup, put it to his nose, and inhaled deeply. With a satisfied look, he set the bowl back down and settled into bed. He was wearing only his dark gray track pants and a T-shirt, and Sookie noticed that he was now absent-mindedly thumbing a necklace she’d not seen before, one that looked like a carved locket of some kind. The cat cuddled up next to him, and Eric moved his fingers from the locket to the cat’s ears, scratching them.
Everything about him in that moment was stunning. She felt her heart reaching for him. Her hands dragged along the grass, and again, she felt the tiniest of sparks. But Eric did not seem to sense her presence as he had before.
Finished with his text, Eric got up and put on his flip flops. Sookie could see on the nightstand that it was 1:00 a.m. She followed Eric’s image as he went to her old room―now obviously Hunter’s room―and looked in on the child. Eric then moved downstairs. Pam and Jason were working to put together something that looked like it should be a bicycle; however, they were seemingly arguing over the directions. Eric stopped and spoke to them for a moment. Sookie chuckled as her husband laughed at the pair in front of him.
Then she followed his image as he continued out the back door to his workshop. Once inside he went over to a corner of the room and fished a bundle from behind a pile of wood. He unwrapped the cloth to uncover a beautiful wooden sword with a blunt end. Eric sat down with the sword and pulled out some tools. She saw him focus his work on the hilt of the sword, and her eyes moved there too. He was carving Hunter’s name into the wood. Sookie smiled.
Niall spoke, “He has worked to craft this sword in secret for the boy.”
“A Christmas present,” Sookie whispered as she smiled at the image.
After a few more minutes, Sookie nodded to Niall, who dropped her hand. The image in the pool was gone, but the sight of Eric stayed with Sookie as she went to lie down near Hadley on a second pallet that Claude had brought earlier.
Exhausted by the emotional and physical toll of the day, she slept.
And she dreamed.