Eric and Hunter both waved into the air in the general direction they knew Sookie and Hadley were watching from. Eric chuckled as Hunter blew a kiss to the picture of his mother which was sitting on his nightstand right next to a copy of the same picture that Eric had been given by Hunter for Christmas.
Saying goodnight to ‘their women’ had become part of Eric and Hunter’s nightly ritual during the last several days.
Sookie and he had developed a schedule during their third dream together. It had been Sookie’s idea that she and Hadley would try to watch at around the same time each night from the pool. That way, Hunter would know that they were ‘there.’ It had been an excellent idea, and Hunter already felt more tangibly close to his mother and his aunt. Eric—too—felt contented to know that Sookie was with him during one of his favorite times of the day.
Hunter had started holding up pictures that he’d drawn or little notes that he’d written. Sookie always passed on return messages to Hunter from Hadley and herself, which Eric would tell Hunter as soon as he rose from his day-rest.
After waving to Sookie and Hadley, Eric and Hunter would have their story time, and Eric would tuck Hunter in as always, even as they both knew that Sookie and Hadley were looking on. Truth be told, Eric was extremely happy with the arrangement. He had always imagined what it would be like for Sookie to be with him when he told Hunter stories or tucked him in, and now that fantasy was just a little bit closer to being reality for them both.
Eric settled Hunter into his covers and gave him his usual hair tousle and kiss.
During the last week, Eric had been able to place his fears about Hunter being seized from him without notice to the side. It was clear that Hadley was not going to demand that Hunter be brought to her immediately. It was also clear through the discussions that Hadley and Sookie had had concerning Hunter that Hadley was willing to allow Hunter to decide where he wanted to live when the time came.
That both pleased and frightened Eric.
Hunter still didn’t know that Hadley was pregnant, and she was not yet ready for him to be told. Hadley also wanted more time to get her own life together before she disrupted Hunter’s life, but Eric knew that a visit would come eventually. And then a choice would have to be made.
For now, Hunter seemed content to have his mother back in his world on a limited basis, though Eric knew that his son was nervous about actually seeing her.
For several days, Eric had sensed his son’s growing internal conflict about his mother being back in his life, so Eric had made sure that the house would be empty that night except for Hunter and himself.
The two of them had talked about Hunter’s fears from several hours earlier in the evening after their sword practice.
Hunter had become nervous that things might go back to how they were before he’d come to live in the farmhouse with Eric. Hunter had been worried that his mommy would come back and that they would move away again. He had been worried that he would no longer have his people around him.
He was worried that all of the happy times he had been having might go back to being sad times again—where he had to hide his telepathy and be ashamed of it. But most of all, he had been worried that he would have to leave his daddy if his mommy came back.
And because of all of these worries, his son had started to feel guilty for not wanting his mommy to come back at all if she was going to make things like they were before.
Eric and Hunter had slowly talked through all of Hunter’s concerns as they had rocked in their chair together. And Eric had made many promises to his son that he was determined to keep.
The first was that Hunter would not have to go back to living as he’d been living before. Eric had told Hunter that he would never again live in a place where he had to hide or be ashamed of who he was; after all―he’d assured Hunter―there was nothing for him to be ashamed of. He had also told his son that he should not feel guilty for his conflicted feelings about his mother.
But more than anything, Eric had wished that he could assure Hunter that everything would be okay. However, he could not lie to his son.
Eric knew with certainty that it would not be okay; he knew that no matter what, his son would be hurt because he would have to—for all intents and purposes—give up one of his parents. From everything that Sookie and he had discussed, they knew that Hadley would soon want to settle into Faerie. At that point, Hunter would have to choose which of his parents to live with, and Eric could not protect his boy from the loss he would feel in not having both Hadley and himself at his side. And, of course, there was the matter of the time differences. As a vampire, Eric had a lot of time, but that also meant that he would have to potentially experience decades without seeing his boy.
Eric sighed aloud as he watched Hunter sleeping.
The vampire knew that there would be a possibility that Hunter would choose to live with his mother in Faerie once he learned that she had to stay there permanently. In truth, Eric was getting a bit antsy to be more forthcoming with Hunter about Hadley’s situation—not about the rape or her pregnancy—but about the fact that Hadley would not be able to return to the human realm. Eric thought that Hunter needed to begin processing this information, but so far, he had deferred to Hadley’s wishes that they wait to tell him until she was ready for his visit.
Hunter had cried during their talk, and Eric had hated every single one of his son’s tears.
However, in the end, Hunter had been comforted, and his fears had been allayed to a certain extent, but Eric still saw some anxiety in his son’s eyes, and he didn’t like it one fucking bit.
Eric had reiterated many times the first promise that he had ever made to his son—that Hunter would be able to live in the farmhouse for as long as he chose to. That was one promise Eric intended to keep—even if he had to fight every fairy to do it. He would support any choice his son made, but he would not abide anything being forced upon him—not even by the child’s own mother.
Eric watched over Hunter for a little while longer and then got up. He had to do a few things before his nightly appointment with Sookie. The thought of that appointment made him smile in anticipation, just like all of their ‘appointments’ did.
He nodded to Batanya on the way out of the room. The Britlingen returned the gesture and then focused on Hunter’s room. Eric was grateful, as always, to know that his son was as safe as he could possibly make him.
He quickly went into his office to complete some Area 5 business and some kingdom business. Thalia was still nowhere to be found, so with Jessica and Pam’s help, he was overseeing matters for the state as well as those for his own area.
Jessica continued to work a few nights a week at Fangtasia, mostly to help keep an eye on Felipe’s spy, who had indeed turned out to be Felicia. Jessica, it seemed, was incredibly skillful at drawing people in with her natural friendliness. Even better, the fact that Pam had become Jessica’s maker was still relatively unknown to the people outside their family unit. It wasn’t that Pam and Jessica had desired to keep it secret; it was just information that hadn’t really come up with other vampires. And to save face, Bill had not filed any paperwork on the matter.
Thus, very few knew people outside of their immediate circle and Bon Temps knew that Jessica was a part of Eric and Sookie’s family unit. And Felicia had done nothing to probe into Jessica’s allegiances except to make assumptions based on her faulty idea that Bill was still Jessica’s maker at the time of his death. There was, after all, no reason for her to think otherwise.
All this made Jessica a perfect counter to Felicia’s spying. Jessica was still thought to be loyal to Bill. The reason for Bill’s overthrow and death—at least according to common perception within the vampire community—was that Thalia had resented answering to one so young and had simply decided to take the state for herself. And Eric and Pam were seen as being complicit in the regicide.
Thus, Felicia had been angling to befriend Jessica and had even hinted that there might be some upheaval in the kingdom soon. In turn, Jessica had been playing somewhat ‘hard to get,’ as if she would not be opposed to the idea but that she was scared to get involved too much. However, Jessica had managed to plant a few well-chosen pieces of information—both true and misleading—into her conversations with Felicia.
On the nights that Jessica wasn’t at Fangtasia, Eric had hired her to be something of a personal assistant to him, and that had turned out to be an excellent decision. Jessica sifted through most of the Area 5 and kingdom business while Eric and Hunter had their time together. She handled many of the little things herself via email, which was how Thalia had conducted most of her business. Jessica seemed especially proficient at taking on Thalia’s curt tone in responding to emails. Pam had been exceedingly proud of her child. And Eric was exceedingly proud of both of them.
According to the schedule he and Sookie had constructed, his wife would go to sleep an hour or two after Hunter did each night, and then she would call him to her. That way, Eric could continue to spend as much time with Hunter as ever, take care of area business, stay up-to-date with the preparations for dealing with de Castro’s imminent take-over attempt, and do whatever else needed to be done in the household. Then, Eric would go up to their bedroom and prepare for Sookie’s call.
If there he had work left unfinished―which Eric tried not to allow to happen―then Sookie would ‘release’ him from her dream an hour before sunrise. Otherwise, they would spend every possible remaining minute of Eric’s night with each other.
Eric smiled again in anticipation and then quickly looked over the list of things Jessica had left for him to take care of. It was so well-organized that Eric was looking forward to the day that she could work for him full time.
An hour later, Eric sighed as he lay back on his bed. For the last week, he’d been happier than he’d been in a long time. Certainly, being a father to Hunter had given him happiness, but having his wife back with him too—even though it was in a limited capacity—gave him a feeling of serenity he’d not known since she’d gone to the fairy realm.
Eric smiled into the dark, wondering where his wife would dream them. Last night, it had been to their cabin again. The night before, it had been the cubby. The night before that, it had been the woods again.
Certainly the dreams were not as good as having her with him in person, but they were so much better than not having her at all. However, he had quickly learned that—though the dreams felt real in every way while he was in them—the distance that was still between his wife and himself was clear as soon as he woke up.
For instance, he could feed from Sookie in her dreams, and her blood tasted exquisite as always; however, after the first dream, he realized that the blood from the dreams was not inside of him when he woke up, so he still had to nourish his body with TruBlood, which he made sure to do when he knew that Sookie would not be watching. She had been upset when he’d mentioned it to her a few nights before, and he didn’t want her to dwell on the dreams’ shortcomings because—to him—they were truly moments of paradise after so long in the dark. She was certainly nourishing his soul, and he did not want to remind Sookie that she was unable to nourish his body in the same way.
Her scent also didn’t follow him from the dreams, and that—to him—was harder than her blood not staying in his body. When he was with her in the dreams, her smell enveloped him and comforted him; however, when he ‘woke up, he had to seek out the dwindling traces of her scent as always. But he could live with this fact. After all, he knew that the next night would bring him to her again.
In fact, the only thing that seemed to stay with him once he woke up was her healing magic. The bonding sickness he had been experiencing had gone away completely, and their fairy bond was stronger than ever.
Thus, Sookie’s fairy magic seemed to be able to transmit through their dreams, but nothing else did. Eric posited that it was because her dreams were indeed made possible because of the fairy bond.
Yes—he was more than happy with the new arrangement, and his heart sang when he felt his wife’s summons. He gauged his internal clock and growled in anticipation. They would have 5 hours and 53 minutes together before sunrise, and he intended to enjoy each second he could with her.