Sookie woke up feeling more confident than she had in days. It was good to have a plan. And it was even better when that plan had come after six orgasms and before one other. “Lucky seven”, she thought to herself with a smile. “Lucky Sookie,” she revised, with an even wider one.
She just hoped that her luck would hold through her training that day.
The bed that Claude had gotten for her was small, but she still automatically looked next to her; of course, Eric wasn’t there. She’d known he wouldn’t be, but she couldn’t keep herself from looking every time she woke up.
Sookie sighed with longing and then shook herself out of it.
She was, for once, anxious to get back to her training. She stretched and rose quickly; the shift dress that she wore during the day also served as her nightgown, so there was no need to change clothes. She looked at the stack of seven identical dresses that Claude had brought for her the previous day and sighed. As comfortable as the dresses were, she missed her own clothing.
It was winter in Bon Temps, and she missed cozy sweaters and cozier fires; mostly, however, she missed snuggling next to those fires with her husband.
She sighed again as she ran her fingers over the soft clothing; she said a silent prayer that she wouldn’t be in Faerie long enough to wear many more of the dresses in her stack.
Sookie quickly took care of her human needs and then went to join Hadley and Claude, who were talking so animatedly that they barely acknowledged her when she sat down. She picked up a nata and listened in on their conversation.
They were discussing a tale that Hadley was reading about a pair of star-crossed lovers who were forced apart by their families because the woman was a Sky Fae and the man was a Fire Fae―a demon.
Later, the demon, whose name was Artegal, was mortally wounded after the father of the Sky Fae lured him to Faerie under the guise that the secret marriage between the lovers would be recognized and sanctioned after all. Despite his injuries, Artegal had managed to escape with the help of the Sky Fae’s twin brother, who brought the dying demon to his sister, whose actual name had been lost over time. In the story, she was simply called Carlah, which was the word for ‘eternal love’ in the Fae language.
According to the story, the parents of the demon followed their son to Faerie and found Carlah weeping over their dying son. The demon’s father had moved to kill Carlah in order to take revenge; however, the mother stayed his sword, for she did not want for the fairy to travel to the afterlife with her child. Thus, she placed a magical curse on the fairy—that she would live forever, and, therefore, be forever separated from her soul mate. Her curse enacted, the demon’s mother, as well as his father, permanently disavowed their almost-dead child, promising to expunge his name from the history of their people. They had left while Artegal was still gasping for his last breaths.
The dying Artegal, who was able to foretell the future, told his beloved that she should not despair. He told her that she would indeed live a long life, but that they would not be eternally separated. And he made her swear that she would do all that was in her power to make that long life a happy one. He promised her that their souls would one day find one another again—that she would eventually be released from her physical body to seek him out. He said that this would happen on the day that the world accepted the love of a pair such as they.
Sookie listened to the story with interest, and a lump formed in her throat at its conclusion. It seemed that no matter what realm one was from, there were people of prejudice and hate who strove only to drive others apart—never bring them together.
With a little shiver, Sookie thought of the Fellowship of the Sun and of people like Steve Newlin. She thought about Eric being tied to an altar with silver so that he could be sacrificed to the sun. She thought about how Newlin had planned for her to be tied to Eric so that she would burn right along with him.
She shook her head. Steve Newlin and those like him were—for lack of a better word—douches.
She knew that there were thousands and thousands of people in her realm who believed that human and vampire matches were abominations―just as many of the Fae thought the same about a match between a fairy and a demon. The fact that they were both types of fairies didn’t seem to matter at all, unfortunately—just like the fact that vampires were once humans didn’t matter to some people.
Sookie also thought of Lala and Jesus. She shook her head, thinking about how hate so often tried to thwart love. However, the story of Artegal and Carlah was also inspirational, for hate had been unable to destroy their love completely. She found herself drawn to the tale.
Sookie listened as Claude continued talking to Hadley about the story. Apparently, the legend of the fairy and demon lovers was well-known in all of Faerie. Some of the more isolationist types—such as the group led by Mab—used the story as a cautionary tale in order to show that the intermixing of so-called ‘superior’ fairies with those they deemed inferior would lead to only death and misery. Claude, however, viewed the story as sign of hope. For him it taught that patience and fortitude would lead true soul mates back to each other no matter what obstacles they might face.
Sookie smiled at Claude’s sentiments, knowing that he hoped that his own patience and fortitude would eventually lead to Hadley falling in love with him.
The conversation between Hadley and Claude changed a bit in tone when Hadley commented upon the fact that the love story between the demon and the fairy was every bit as enthralling and steamy as romance novels back in the human realm. Sookie had not missed Claude’s blush at her remark, nor had she missed the chance to tease Claude in his head about said blush. For that, she’d received a bit of a dirty look from Claude.
Sookie chuckled to herself as she silently watched Claude and Hadley. He looked about ready to faint when Hadley’s hand accidentally brushed against his when he was passing her the book. As Hadley tried to find the passage she was talking about, Claude looked at her with adoring eyes and then looked at his hand as if it had been jolted with electricity.
Sookie thought about what Eric had said to her the night before about their first touch and how it had changed everything for him. She smiled as she thought about her wonderful, fierce, and sappy vampire. She wondered if she always looked as star-struck as Claude did when she touched Eric. Certainly, she always felt swept away whenever Eric touched her.
With difficulty, Sookie kept herself out of Hadley’s head, though she wondered if her cousin had felt any sparks from Claude’s touch. She hoped that she had. Yes—it was safe to say that she was securely on Team Claude now when it came to his winning Hadley’s heart. She’d come to love and appreciate her half-great uncle—or was he her half-great-great uncle? She still wasn’t really sure—a lot in the last week.
Truth be told, in the last few days Sookie had started to worry more about Claude than Hadley. Her cousin was slowly on her way to recovering from the horrible ordeal she’d faced with Joren, and she was gaining more and more confidence by the day. On the other hand, Claude was falling more and more in love, and Sookie knew that he would be heart-broken—devastated—if Hadley could never return that love.
Sookie sighed. The truth was that she’d grown closer to Claude in the last few days than she’d ever been to Hadley. That fact saddened Sookie a little, but then she thought about what she’d gained in Claude: a friend, a confidant, a person who could keep her sane through all of her frustrations.
It was odd, but Sookie had already mentally grouped Claude together with the friends that had been the most important in her life: Lafayette, Tara, and, more recently Jesus, Miranda, and Jarod. And there was something else too—a kinship between her and Claude that she’d felt right away.
When she’d told Eric about it, he’d nodded and explained to her that he’d always felt something similar when it came to Jesus. And then Eric had told her a little bit about how Jesus had helped to keep him sane and in one piece during one of his darker periods during the previous year.
After hearing that, Sookie had appreciated Jesus—and, in turn, Claude—even more.
Sookie’s train of thought was broken by the ever-boisterous Katherine who was arriving to spend a few hours with Hadley. As Hadley got up to greet her friend, Claude followed her movements with longing and slight disappointment. Knowing Claude, Sookie intuited that his disappointment stemmed from that fact that his conversation with Hadley had come to an end. Sookie could see the sigh in Claude’s eyes, and her heart went out to him. It was clear that he was still keeping his true feelings from Hadley, just as he’d promised he would do.
When Claude’s eyes moved to Sookie, she gave him a knowing look and a little wink. He rewarded Sookie with a slight blush and an eye roll.
In her head, Claude promised to ‘get even’ during their training.
Sookie gave him an eye roll of her own.
Both chuckled lightly as they got up to greet Katherine.
The energetic fairy was excitedly talking about the huge basket full of fabrics and yarns she’d brought with her. The day before, Hadley had mentioned to Katherine that she used to like working on quilts and afghans with Gran, so Katherine had decided to bring along some of the fairy equivalents of those things.
Sookie was happy to see that Hadley seemed just as excited about the basket’s contents as Katherine. However, Claude looked absolutely ecstatic. Sookie knew from a conversation she and Claude had had a few days before that he was concerned that Hadley had not yet found a profession that she would like to pursue in Faerie. Sookie had learned that Claude’s main concern was Hadley finding a niche so that she could continue to explore her fairy gifts without worrying that she didn’t fit in. From his expression, Sookie could tell that Claude was hopeful that this might be that niche.
About ten minutes later, Sookie and Claude had moved to what had become Sookie’s practice area, which was about thirty yards away from where Katherine and Hadley had set up their work. Sookie noticed that Claude was sneaking proud looks at Hadley every chance that he got. He looked at Sookie, smiled, and ‘knocked’ in her head.
“She is getting stronger and stronger each day,” Claude said using his telepathy.
“Yeah,” Sookie answered the same way.
Claude smiled sincerely as his eyes locked back onto Hadley. “I feel her healing from the inside out.”
“Are you an empath too?” Sookie asked curiously.
Claude shrugged. “No—true empathy is rare and precious.”
It didn’t escape Sookie’s notice that those were the words that Claude would use to describe Hadley too.
Claude continued, “However, many telepaths have an element of empathy.”
Sookie chuckled. “I don’t think I got that one.”
Claude shook his head and then looked at Sookie. “Do not sell yourself short. Still,” he sighed as he snuck another proud look at Hadley, “she is simply incredible.”
Sookie grinned at him. Yep—she was definitely Team Claude. She looked to the border of the ‘in-between place,’ where Niall was speaking to a few fairies.
Niall would be joining Claude and her once he was finished with a meeting that he was having with several of the scouts that he had keeping an eye on Mab’s territory. So far, Mab had not tried to bring in more hybrids, but Sookie figured it would be just a matter of time before the psycho queen did something that would once more show her true colors. She just hated that Claude would likely lose his mother when she did.
Claude spoke softly next to Sookie. “She lost the right to be my mother for good when she basically sent Claudine to her death and then killed Ryan in cold-blood.”
Sookie looked up at him.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry, Sookie. You were thinking too loudly for me to avoid hearing your thoughts that time. We’ll have to keep working on your shields to keep others out of your head.”
She nodded. “It’s okay. In the past, I’ve only had to worry about keepin’ others’ thoughts out of my brain—not keepin’ my own thoughts shielded.” She sighed. “I am sorry that your mom and dad are enemies, Claude. That must have been an awful thing to have to live with for so long.”
“Yes,” Claude agreed. “It was most difficult when I was a young child and first heard my mother’s disdain for my father. She would try to shield her thoughts, but some would slip through, especially when Father was not there.” Claude looked at Niall in the distance. “He was still trying to make their marriage work at that time—mostly because they’d finally had children—but there was never true affection between them. And then I heard from her mind one day that she wished my sisters and I had never been born.” He sighed. “She wanted to have children with Rogan, my uncle. So she was quite unhappy when she realized that my sisters and I were my father’s children.”
“I’m sorry,” Sookie said as she took Claude’s hand.
Claude gave her a rueful smile. “I have had many years to come to terms with the fact that there was enmity between my mother and father. And when Claudine and I chose to follow my father’s ideological lead, my mother turned her venom directly onto us. I tried for a long time to keep a kind of relationship with her because she is my mother—after all—but there are some betrayals that cannot be undone.”
Sookie squeezed Claude’s hand. “I know.”
They were silent for a few moments as Claude looked at Hadley again. Seeing her so happily talking to Katherine brought a look of peace back to his face.
He gave Sookie a little smile. “Did you find what you were looking for in your dreams, Sookie?”
She immediately blushed and chuckled a little. “Always.”
His smile brightened. “One day, I hope to have a bond as you and your vampire do. My wife and I never felt the pull to make one, though I held a great deal of affection for her. She was a very good woman and wife—and a strong warrior—but she did not stir my heart as Hadley does.”
Sookie squeezed his hand again. “I know—hindala.”
Claude gave Sookie a sincere look. “I know of your previous reservations regarding my affection for Hadley, but I would take good care of her.”
Sookie nodded. “I know,” she said again. “And I hope that you can win her once she has healed, Claude. I don’t have the reservations I used to. I mean—I still think of you as related to me.” She chuckled. “I’ve just quit thinkin’ of you as related to Hadley.”
Claude laughed and then grew more serious. His gaze bore into Sookie. “I will miss you and our talks a great deal when you return to your realm.” He paused. “I find myself torn. I wish for you to become strong in your powers and to return to the life that you love, but at the same time, I am saddened that each day you are here is a day less that I will spend as your friend.”
Sookie patted his arm. “We’ll stay friends after I leave,” she assured. “You just won’t have to put up with me every day.” She chuckled. “After all, you are family now. It won’t be like we have to say goodbye when I go. You can visit me whenever you want, and I’m sure I’ll visit here too.”
There were a few minutes of silence between them as they continued waiting for Niall and watching Hadley and Katherine.
Abruptly, Claude looked at Sookie earnestly. He took a deep breath. “It hurt very much to lose my two sisters and Ryan, Sookie, but I would face the possibility of that kind of pain again if you would consider me as a brother. I know that you have one already in the human realm, but I would like to stand as your brother here—if you would allow it.”
He paused. “I realize that we have not been acquainted with each other for very long; however, fairies know whom they are drawn to almost immediately, and I have not felt kinship such as I do with you since I was in the presence of Claudine and Ryan. I hope that you will consider my offer.”
A tear rose to Sookie’s eyes as she listened to Claude’s heartfelt words. She retook his hand and squeezed it. “There’s nothing to consider. I’m glad that you want to think of me as your sister, Claude. And I’m honored.”
He smiled, and the light of the Fae sun brightened his hazel eyes so that they looked forest green. “It is I who am honored to call you my tanah, Sookie.”
“It means sister in the Fae language.”
She smiled, “How would I say brother?”
“A brother is a tanu.”
She squeezed his hand again. “I’m glad you’re here, Claude. I don’t think I’d be able to do this without you here supporting me.”
He smiled. “You would be doing fine; however, I am glad that I have been able to help you. And you have helped me a great deal too, Sookie. After so much loss, it is good to gain something again.”
Another tear fell from her eye as Sookie nodded. “Yes—yes it is.”
“Do not cry, Tanah,” Claude said with concern. He quickly changed the subject. “Let us talk about your plan with Eric.”
Sookie nodded and wiped her tear away. “Well, basically, Eric helped me to visualize where my abilities come from and gave me a way to think about how to use more than one of them at a time. I just hope it works.”
“Me too,” Claude whispered conspiratorially as Niall began to walk toward them. “It would be nice if you could send my father to the dirt today.” He winked.
Sookie looked at Claude in surprise.
He shrugged. “He helped me to develop my abilities during my adolescence, and the day I sent him to the ground was a very good day for me.”
Sookie giggled. “I bet it was. It would be nice to see Niall get a bit,” she paused, “ruffled.”