It was 3:15 a.m., and Eric had been working on Area 5 and kingdom business from inside the cubby for hours—since 12:18 when Hunter had fallen asleep. Eric had begun going to the cubby each night as soon as all his immediate duties had been seen to so that he would be ready for Sookie’s call. Twenty-three nights before, his wife and he had discovered—quite by accident—that he could literally die for the day holding her in his arms inside of her dreams. He didn’t have to be “aware”―it seemed―to be released from her dreams.
Sookie could also “go to sleep” in the dreams, and she enjoyed doing so as well once Eric was dead for the day. Simply going to sleep and not having to say goodbye at the end of each dream made both of them feel better. They’d figured out that he was likely released from the dreams automatically when she woke up.
To be frank, Eric didn’t really care how the dreams worked—just that they did. It felt very right to go to sleep in his wife’s arms, even if it were just in a dream. It felt real. And he fucking loved it.
However, the first time it had happened, there were “complications.” He smiled as he remembered them. He’d been in their bedroom that night when Sookie called him. They’d made love, talked, made love, talked, and then made love some more. They’d been lying wrapped up in each other’s arms in the dream, and they’d simply fallen asleep there—asleep together. Actually, Eric figured that he had gone into down-time within the dream and then had just slipped naturally into his day-rest after sunrise. Since he’d not “been released” from the dream before that, he’d not moved to the cubby. And that was where the “complications” had come in. He chuckled.
The luxury of simply “falling asleep” in his wife’s arms had been heaven to Eric—until, that is, the next night when he’d woken up to an extremely displeased Werelioness and an amused shifter and Werewolf. Miranda was not happy about having to hoist his “dead ass” up and take him to the cubby. Hunter―apparently just as perceptive as ever―had learned about the raised threat level from the minds of those around him and had insisted―apparently with his arms folded and looking very much like Eric―that his daddy be taken “immediately” to the cubby where he would be safe.
Thankfully, Jarod and Tray had laughed off the incident, but Miranda had not. She’d gone around the house that evening, mumbling about how she was not paid enough to carry around big, stupid, Viking, vampire sheriffs, and how if it wasn’t for the fact that she loved Hunter—who was turning into a little Eric ‘mini-me’ more and more each day, she’d grumbled—she would have been happy to leave his “dead Viking ass” in his own room where he was more likely to become “an even deader Viking ass.”
Eric had known Miranda for a long time, and he knew that she was upset mostly because she was worried about his safety. She was seemingly effortlessly continuing to lead Hunter’s studies while sharing little Godric’s parenting duties with Jarod. At the same time, she was coordinating all the daytime defenses that had been put into place—in all five areas of Louisiana. She had Tray and Jarod to help her with that, but the buck always stopped on the shoulders of the fierce Werelioness because―frankly―Eric trusted her to do it better than anyone else.
Eric had quickly promised Miranda that he would no longer enter his dreams with Sookie before his was safely inside the cubby. Thankfully, she had accepted his apology and explanation; however, she also spoke to Eric about using the situation as “a teaching moment” with Hunter.
After hearing of his son’s ‘ordering’ everyone around so blatantly, Eric’s first inclination had been to feel proud of his son; however, Miranda had convinced him that a six-year-old ought not to be behaving exactly like a thousand-year-old vampire. So Eric and Hunter had one of what Hunter called their ‘serious talks’ so that his son would understand that he needed to be a bit more courteous to adults―especially family members—and not just order them around. Eric assured Hunter that Miranda would always do what was needed to protect everyone in the house from harm, but that Hunter should make requests politely, rather than issue orders.
As they had worked on a dresser for Tara’s future room in the second guesthouse that Scott would be building in the spring, they’d talked about how Hunter had been frightened, and Eric promised that he would go to the cubby every day from then on so that Hunter wouldn’t need to be scared. However, that didn’t change the fact that Hunter needed to be respectful even when frightened. Hunter, as always, had taken in Eric’s lesson easily because Eric had presented it without anger and in a way he could understand.
Hunter had thought about Eric’s words for a while, and the two had continued their work in silence. Then, Hunter had asked his daddy if they could visit Miranda at the guesthouse. Since the Werelioness wasn’t yet asleep, Eric had walked his son over. Hunter took it upon himself to immediately apologize to Miranda, and then he—finally—remembered to tell her “thank you” for making his daddy safe. Moreover, for the first time, he told his teacher and daytime protector that he loved her. All of these acts had caused the Werelioness to get tears in her eyes. Miranda had told Hunter that she knew that he had reacted the way he had because he was frightened. The two had “hugged it out” as Tara would say.
Eric chuckled again; he knew that Miranda was right that Hunter going into “full vampire-mode” was not the best thing for a six-year-old to do. Still—Eric would have loved to have seen his son doing it.
Ever since that night, Hunter and Miranda had been closer than ever, and Eric had done a lot more work from his cubby.
His computer beeped with an instant message from Pam. Eric opened it and waited as his encryption software translated the message. The extreme security measure was probably not necessary, but he was taking no chances that his communications could be monitored by any of de Castro’s people.
“Please—can I just kill her? Pretty please,” the message requested.
Eric chuckled, knowing that Pam was talking about Felicia—again.
“Why this time?” Eric typed.
“She’s once again trying to flirt with me to get info. And she’s wearing a hideous coral top and black corduroy pants.”
Eric chuckled again. “Now what was the difference between pink and coral again?” he typed, even as he imagined the riled look on his progeny’s face.
“Am not going to dignify that with a response,” came the reply.
“Didn’t you have a corduroy skirt once?”
“The 70’s don’t count, Eric. We have discussed this before.”
Eric smiled and then typed, “No, you cannot kill her, Pam. We have gone through this several times—once just earlier this evening, if I remember correctly.”
“Fine,” was the short reply. Then a few seconds later came, “But can I kill her after all this is over?”
Eric chuckled again. “Neither Sookie nor Hunter would want us to kill just because of idiocy.” He then added, “Or fashion.”
“Fine, but if she joins in the assault?”
“Of course,” Eric texted back. “Then you may kill her.” He could imagine Pam’s look of glee. He continued typing. “You will be happy to know that I sent Jessica your way. She has another special message for the object of your disgust.”
“Goody,” was Pam’s one-word reply.
“Be careful returning home,” Eric typed.
He felt a burst of affection from his vampire child through their bond. “Always,” she typed back.
Eric closed the instant messaging window.
It had been extremely difficult for him to dissuade Pam from immediately tearing Felicia limb from limb when they’d confirmed through Duncan that Felicia was indeed the spy. That had required three new pairs of shoes—expensive shoes. The only other consolation for Pam had been that she was able to watch as Jessica performed her subterfuge on the unsuspecting Felicia. Eric smiled; Jessica was turning into a vampire more than worthy enough to be part of their line.
Even though Eric didn’t need to, he looked at the clock that Sookie had long ago put into the cubby for herself. It was 3:30; sunrise was at 7:12 that morning.
Sookie hadn’t called him into her dream until almost 6:00 a.m. the previous day, so they’d had little more than an hour together. His wife was having more and more trouble finding sleep each night, a fact that was frustrating her even more. And she was convinced that he was irritated with her too because she was “taking away” some of their time together due to her insomnia.
However, he felt nothing but gratitude. Every minute of the dreams was a fucking gift in his eyes. Every touch, every smell, every taste—the dreams were the only time when he felt like his full self. They were the only time when he could just “be” without having to “be strong” for others. He’d even gotten used to the fact that he wouldn’t be feeling the vampire bond in the dreams; he didn’t like it, but he’d gotten used to it.
Eric sighed and closed his laptop. Since Sookie had told him what Niall had said—that she might need to go into Faerie to learn how to use her gifts properly—he had been appreciating the dreams even more, knowing that they too would end if she did end up having to leave the ‘in between’ place for a while.
He hadn’t needed the vampire bond to feel Sookie’s vexation when she talked of her training each night in the dreams. He was learning to read her face even better than he could before since there was no vampire bond to indicate her emotions.
The fairy bond held them together and was flourishing in his chest, perhaps due to Sookie using her magic all the time, but it did not tell him what she was feeling. However, he could tell that she was splitting herself apart with effort, trying to learn what Niall felt was necessary for their survival. And he could see her frustration growing and growing; she looked tired and a little sick. He had a theory about why that was, and if he was right, he had a plan to fix it: a necessary, but difficult plan.
In the face of Sookie’s increasing disappointment in herself, he had tried to give her as much support as he could in the dreams. Pam—with the help of Dear Abby—had advised him that Sookie needed a “sounding board” and a “safe space in which to vent her frustrations.”
Eric chuckled, thinking about Pam’s own frustrations when Dear Abby had not answered her initial email asking for advice. Pam had taken it upon herself to travel to Los Angeles and had tracked down the woman who wrote the Dear Abby column, Jeanne Phillips. Pam said that she had “convinced” Jeanne to give her some one-on-one time. Eric hoped that Pam’s convincing had included glamour as opposed to threats; however, he had to admit that when Pam returned, she did have some excellent advice. And more importantly, Pam felt like she had done something to help the situation. He knew that his vampire child needed that.
In truth, giving his support to Sookie was not something he needed Dear Abby’s or Pam’s advice to do. He had already been doing it. He was, after all, supremely confident in his wife; he knew that she would learn what she needed to learn and would do so in time to save his ass. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more confident he’d become in her. Unfortunately, with each passing day, he saw his mate’s self-confidence level dip a bit more.
He thought back to what Niall had been telling Sookie for the last month: that she needed to learn to let her Fae side mix with their shared connection in the fairy bond and that she needed to put her emotions to the side.
Eric remembered the conversation that he had with Sookie the night after she’d gotten back from the fairy realm the first time. He’d said that there were two Sookie Stackhouses, and she should let “fairy Sookie” out more. It seemed that Niall agreed.
Eric wasn’t so sure any more; he now thought that there was much more to it. He was certain, however, that his wife had been neglecting both Sookies as she concerned herself only with how to protect him. He sighed. How could he blame Sookie for this? After all, he would always put his wife’s and son’s needs over his own.
According to Sookie, Niall kept talking about how she needed to “embrace” the Fae within her—the Fae that would be able to control her power without being governed by her emotions—but Eric had begun to question Niall’s insistence that Sookie not look to her emotions.
Sookie’s frustrations—at least a good deal of them—seemed to be stemming from the fact that she was trying so hard to stifle her human emotions during her training. And Eric knew that doing that was unnatural for his wife. Sookie—when she was at her best—always integrated her human and Fae sides seamlessly, naturally, and instinctively.
He thought back to the moment he had witnessed and personally felt Sookie’s magic at the Festival of Tolerance. He’d been firmly under Marnie/Antonia’s control. In the back of his mind, he had wanted to stop his attack on Bill and to protect his bonded one. However, he had been unable to shake the witch’s influence. He growled as he remembered shoving Sookie away. He could have hurt her goddammit!
He shook his head to clear his self-imposed anger. The look in Sookie’s eyes as she’d shot him with her healing magic had been amazing—fucking breath-taking actually―and for a vampire to say that, well, that was saying something.
She’d never used that kind of magic before that moment, yet her eyes held no doubts; they’d held confidence and love as she shot him with her light. Eric now knew that the love was for him, though at the time, he’d thought it might be for Compton. The important thing, however, had been the mix in Sookie’s eyes. The “confidence” had be fairy Sookie—primal, instinctual, powerful. The “love” had been human Sookie. The mix of those—probably drawing on extra energy from the fairy bond that they had unknowingly already formed—had been responsible for the great power and efficacy of the blast. Eric sighed. He was convinced that the mixing was Sookie’s “fire.” And that was what had drawn him to her in the first place.
He closed his eyes for a minute. The first moment he’d seen his mate, he had been captivated by that fire—though he’d not known its source at the time. However, he had suspected that she was something more than human—a mix. Vampires, too, were always a “mix.” They were supernatural, but they were left with their human memories and emotions, though most tried to squelch those. Eric had never been able to do that completely, Sookie had seen the “mix” in him too. Eric had come to understand a great truth that most vampires never did: that allowing that mix to happen—embracing it—actually made a vampire stronger, not weaker.
He continued to contemplate his wife’s gifts.
When Sookie was in Mab’s Palace—yes—he was sending her strength directly. But something that she had said about that time stuck out to him. Eric closed his eyes and shook a little as he thought of his wife frozen with fear as the fairy Ivan tortured her mentally with her memories of her Uncle Bartlett. Once more, he wished that he had that bastard’s blood on his own sword.
Sookie said that as she had “woken” up from her fear, she remembered who she was: “Sookie Stackhouse-Northman.” If that moment and that name didn’t hold the answer to Sookie’s problems, he was very much mistaken. The name was symbolic for their love and bonds, but also for the linking of the human to the supernatural. Eric feared that Sookie was stifling her human emotions to the point that she was also stifling her fire. He was certain that she needed to understand the Fae side of herself more—which was why Niall wanted to take her into the fairy realm—but he was just as certain that the ultimate answer was not for her to become “less” human.
Niall had said she needed to be cold and calculating, but Eric didn’t think Niall had been told the whole story. He felt that the A.P. likely told the fairy only what he needed to hear or what she wanted him to hear. Yes—it was likely that Sookie needed to control her emotions better. But Eric felt sure that she ought not to throw them away; in fact, he was convinced that she wouldn’t be able to do that.
Eric remained confident, however, that when the time came, Sookie would be ready and able to do what she needed to do.
But to do that, Sookie needed to remember her fire, and he had several ideas for how to help her with that.
He looked at the clock again and read 4:04. He went over in his head what he wanted—needed—to tell Sookie that night, and he knew that it would be one of the hardest things he would ever have to say.