Sookie woke up feeling fresh and well-rested for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t that the actions in her dreams had ever physically worn her out—though with all the exertion she did within the dreams, they probably should have. In fact, the dreams always helped to renew her. Lately, however, it had been the thought of another day of failure in her training and the pressure that came with that which had been making her weary day after day.
That pressure seemed to be gone now since there was a new plan in place. Sookie hated the fact that Eric was the one that would have to suffer most as that plan was put into action, but between the orgasm that he’d given her with his tongue and the orgasm that he’d given her with his fingers―after their fight the night before―he’d gotten her to admit that his plan was brilliant, especially since it meant that they would be together in person very, very soon.
Of course, she would have probably agreed with anything her husband had to say given the—uh—persuasive nature of his skillful and sinful fingers and tongue.
She smiled and blushed. It turned out that Eric was easily able to fight off his day-sleep within their dreams, and after an extra hour of pillaging, with a little more planning and talking thrown in, she’d finally made him fall asleep—so that he didn’t hurt himself in the “real world.”
She closed her eyes for a moment, thinking about just how delicious make-up sex with her husband was. “Oh—who am I kidding? All sex with him is delicious,” she said to the empty room. “Yummy.” She giggled and hugged herself like a teenager.
After another minute of lusting for her husband, she stretched and felt her muscles protest a little as she got up. She quickly went to take care of her human needs and noticed that the flap of Hadley’s little dwelling was still closed, which meant her cousin was still sleeping.
As if he’d been waiting for her for a while, Niall was sitting next to the pool, looking at her expectantly.
“You woke up with new energy today, Great-granddaughter. It is pleasing to feel the strength of your magic flowing.”
Sookie walked over and sat next to him, taking the cup of water he offered her. She knew that it would be both refreshing and would clean her teeth and mouth better than any toothpaste. If there was one thing she’d miss when she went home—other than her fairy family, of course—it was the pool. “I do feel better today,” she confirmed.
Niall nodded. “I trust your visit went well last night?”
“Which one?” Sookie asked with a raised brow.
Niall chuckled. “Both. She told me that you would wish to speak to me alone this morning, so I am here.” He paused. “I hope she didn’t frighten you last night. She insisted that you two meet alone.”
Sookie shook her head. “I was a little startled when she first showed up, but she didn’t frighten me. She was—uh—nice actually.”
He chuckled again. “Nice is not a word I have ever thought of where she is concerned.”
“How long have you two known each other?” she asked curiously.
“Long enough to know that she has a particular way she likes to do things,” Niall said, not really answering the question.
Sookie let his evasion slide. “She didn’t hurt you—did she? I mean―did she use your blood to get here?”
Niall grinned and his eyes were glowing with humor. “In a manner of speaking.”
Sookie rolled her eyes. It seemed like she was surrounded by people that liked to talk in riddles.
Niall was still smiling. “Given her secrecy about the nature of her visit to you, I suspect you wish to keep some secrets from me as well.”
Sookie nodded sheepishly. “Maybe—a few.”
Niall chuckled heartily.
There were a few minutes of silence between them as Sookie sipped her water and contemplated what she would need to tell Niall and what she should leave out.
“I feel young Eric’s energy swirling within you today as you are making your plans,” Niall said. Sookie looked up and saw that her great-grandfather was smiling at her. “I am still amazed that you and your vampire are able to pass your respective strengths through the pool, Sookie. And although I’m uncertain of exactly how it is possible,” he paused, “it continues to please me very much.”
Sookie finished her water and handed Niall the empty cup. “Trust me—I don’t have a clue how it works either, but I’m glad it does too.”
Niall chuckled, “Love is the greatest mystery of all, child. A fairy and a vampire should not love, yet you do. A fairy and a vampire should not bond, yet you have.” He winked. “I can empathize a little. It is still a mystery to me how someone as lovely as my Viola could accept me as well. You see—I showed her the ‘real me’ before I allowed for us to make love for the first time, and she only,” he stopped and closed his eyes for a moment as if savoring his memory. “She only asked to touch my teeth,” he finished.
Realizing that Niall’s memory had moved to the erotic side, Sookie blushed. “Okay—I’m real happy that you had a,” she paused and her blush deepened, “nice time with my great-grandmother, but seriously—seriously—too much information―okay?”
Niall grinned. “Do not tell me that your vampire does not enjoy it when you touch his fangs, child. They are erogenous zones for vampires as well―are they not?” he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
Sookie’s blush grew deep red, “What I do or do not do to my husband’s fangs should be kept just as private as what anyone has ever done to your—um—pointy teeth.”
Niall grinned wider. “All right then, child.” He gave her a minute to compose herself before speaking again. “Can you tell me what has you feeling so hopeful and happy?”
Niall looked at Sookie in question.
Sookie took a deep breath. “I told Eric about Hadley wantin’ to see Hunter, and he’s agreed to the visit, but he’s comin’ too,” she said as matter-of-factly as she could manage. In truth, she was still a little nervous that Niall wouldn’t agree to bring him.
Niall shook his head. “He cannot come here again. I told you that he must stay in the human realm until you are ready in order to protect Hunter.”
“That’s where the A.P. is one-hundred percent right!” Sookie said triumphantly. “But if Hunter is here at the time, then Eric can be here too.”
Niall’s eyes twinkled. “You and young Eric think you have found a loophole?”
“Yep,” Sookie said with satisfaction. “It does seem to be one. And she made sure that she—uh—clarified the rules with me last night, so I’m certain that even she couldn’t argue with this plan. She reminded me last night that I couldn’t go to the human realm and Eric couldn’t leave Hunter to come here, and neither of those things would be happenin’ if Eric came here with Hunter.”
Niall nodded and chuckled. “It was clever of you to think of this.”
She smiled, “It was all Eric’s idea.” She took a deep breath, “So Hunter will come and visit Hadley, and Eric will come and visit me.” She blushed again. “And we’ll need privacy, so can you make sure that the privacy spell around my little tent—um house—works? I mean really—really—works?”
Niall chuckled again, causing Sookie’s blush to deepen. “Certainly,” Niall said with a knowing grin.
Sookie sighed, “Thanks. Eric wants Batanya to come too.”
Niall considered for a moment and then nodded, “The Britlingen will be welcome here.”
Sookie took a deep breath. She’d decided to let Niall think that her going into Faerie was Eric’s idea too; after all, that wasn’t a lie. It was. The A.P. had just told her that she’d need to go first. However, since the A.P. hadn’t told Niall of their topic of discussion the night before, she wasn’t going to either. She figured the A.P. had her reasons; she always seemed to, and Sookie wasn’t going to be dumb enough to unintentionally mess things up.
She spoke, “After Eric leaves, he thinks I should go into Faerie with you to train, and I agree. It’s time.”
Niall smiled a little, though his expression also held sadness. “I think you two are making the right choice.” He sighed. “But I wish that neither of you had needed to make it.”
Sookie nodded. “I want to be there for one hour or less,” Sookie said firmly. “So we need to make sure the—uh—fairyness thing happens as quickly as possible.”
Niall got a faraway look in his eyes, and Sookie was tempted to poke into his mind, but she could sense that he had his thoughts shielded from her.
The elder fairy contemplated for a few minutes, wondering if an hour would be enough. Certainly, Sookie would be able to sense the swirl created by the connection of all fairies within his community; the joining of the magic of the fairies combined with the magic within Faerie itself created a kind of hive. However, he was not certain that an hour would be enough for Sookie to embrace the potency of that magic—to join the hive, so to speak. At least, subconsciously, she would be suspicious of linking herself to the others for fear that it would somehow disconnect her from Eric or the human realm. That was not possible, but she would fear it just the same. Niall knew that if Sookie could truly connect with the magic of Faerie and its people, she would feel her own magic augmented. He just hoped that would be enough to help her to achieve all that she would be required to achieve—to become all that she could become.
He once again thought about the innate connection he felt with Sookie and its similarity to what he felt with Claude and just one other person during his long life. Fate had not allowed him the opportunity to test his theory with the other, but since Sookie was going to go into Faerie, he could test it with her. And if he was right, he knew that all of Sookie’s problems accessing her power would be over in much less than an hour.
Still—he wasn’t certain, and until he knew for sure, he could not prepare Sookie for the choice she would have to make if he was right. He shook his head a little. In truth, he had no idea how she would react if his theory was correct.
He sighed. So if his hypothesis was wrong, could Sookie connect herself fully to the Fae world within an hour’s time? Maybe. If she could just let go of her resistance and fear—maybe. And if his hypothesis was right, would she be willing to do that which would guarantee that her Fae power would reach its maximum potential?
Finally, he spoke. “I think an hour would be enough time, Sookie. I hope. Perhaps even less than an hour will be required.”
Sookie breathed a sigh of relief. “Less would be excellent.”
Niall continued seriously. “But, Sookie, I will need for you to do as I say—even if you doubt my methods once we are in Faerie. Will you promise me this—even as I promise you that I will do all that is in my power to make sure you are there for no more than an hour?”
Sookie took in the seriousness of Niall’s expression. “Yes—I promise.”
“Good.” Niall smirked, “I suppose you and your vampire will want to try to strengthen your bonds while he’s here.”
Sookie, with difficulty, held her blush at bay this time. “I did tell him about our fairy bond bringing the two realms closer together in time.
“It is only practical then?” Niall asked teasingly.
Now Sookie did blush. “Gosh, I hope not,” she said before she could stop herself.
He chuckled loudly.
After she had recovered her normal color, Sookie said, “And—yes—we are gonna strengthen our bonds, and we want you to help with fairy magic if possible.”
Niall was thoughtful for a moment. “I think I know of something, but it might,” he paused, “cause a powerful reaction.”
“Powerful enough to help us affect time?”
Niall smirked. “Maybe.”
“Then the more powerful the better,” Sookie said confidently.
“When does he plan to come?” Niall asked, the smirk still prominent on his face.
“He has synthetic blood at the ready, and he is going to talk to Hunter tonight in order to prepare him a little. So tomorrow night.”
Niall nodded. “That will be enough time for Katherine to bring me what I think will help you and young Eric with your bonds.”
Sookie smiled gratefully. “Eric wants Claude to go with you—so that he can bring Hunter here.” She continued sheepishly, “He thinks Hunter will be more comfortable with Claude.”
Unoffended, Niall smiled. “Yes—Claude is less,” he paused, “formal. Then, tomorrow night it is. Claude and I will go to your realm, and we will bring them both back here. Hadley will be happy to see Hunter.”
Sookie looked toward the little dwelling where her cousin was still sleeping. She sighed. “What do you think she’ll do?”
Niall shrugged, “I do not know. But I do think she will do the best thing that she is able to do for Hunter. Yes—of that, I am certain, or I would not have agreed to bring him.” He smiled toward Hadley’s dwelling. “She has grown so much here,” he said proudly. “She is like a flower opening. And she is doing it in the midst of an event that could have destroyed her from the inside out. You may look more like my Viola, Sookie, but Hadley has inherited her gentle, sweet spirit.”
Sookie chuckled a little. “I’ve never been especially sweet.” In her head, she thought back to the first time she’d met Eric and he’d called her “sweet” in that sexy, sarcastic tone of his.
Niall chuckled, “That is true, my dear. You inherited Viola’s fiery side. And, of course, my son chose Adele for her feistiness, so you got some of that as well.”
“Gran was a firecracker,” Sookie agreed, “and if I’m half the woman she was, I’m lucky.”
Niall nodded as both of them got lost in their memories for a few minutes.
Thinking about the two women who had obviously passed on so much of themselves—their spark—to his great-granddaughter, Niall smiled. Over the years, he’d learned that there was more than one kind of spark. The fairy spark within Sookie―which had lain dormant for so long, save her telepathy―was one kind of spark. The Viking’s blood had kindled that spark so that it could grow into an inferno. But Eric and Sookie had also ignited something brand new within them both as they had made their bonds together; that too was a kind of spark.
Niall thought back to the night that he had formed his fairy bond with his beloved Viola. To his knowledge, it had been the only bond ever formed between a human and fairy—though he knew of a few between hybrids and full-blooded fairies. Their bond had not created the kind of crackling spark that Eric and Sookie’s had―for it had no vampire bond to couple itself to―but it was still the most beautiful part of his existence. It still housed and nourished the love they had shared even though she was no longer alive in him as she’d been before the human cancer had taken her body.
On the day that they bonded, his Viola had worn a dress of ivory satin and lace, a dress that she had made herself. She’d covered her hair but not her face with a veil. She’d looked like a beautiful bride that day—the bride that she’d always dreamed of being. And they had both treated it as their wedding day as well as their bonding day. Niall closed his eyes and allowed himself a moment to remember exactly how radiant she had been.
Also, he remembered what it felt like to him as their bond was formed. Since humans had no innate magic—like fairies did—he had expected very little along the lines of gift transfer after forming his bond with Viola. He had hypothesized that humans simply did not have the inherent magic necessary to form a bond that would be truly useful. But that was not why he had wanted to bond with Viola anyway. He had wanted the bond in order to feel closer to his beloved, but he had thought that it would be mostly symbolic.
Niall had been both right and wrong. As he had hypothesized, the bonding between himself and Viola had not led to his being able to share great amounts of his magic with her; her human body simply didn’t have the underlying magic necessary to link fully to his own magic. But he was wrong when he had thought that there was no human spark at all. No—his Viola had surprised him by becoming somewhat telepathic, though her skill only worked with him and later their son. Their bond had also linked her to Faerie in a way that Niall had not even dared to hope for. As she had died from the disease that even Niall’s healing magic could not cure, he had instinctively filled their bond with as much love and magic as he could, and after the passing of her human body, he had felt her spirit traveling to the Summerlands where she had been dwelling ever since. Niall had beckoned his own grandmother to stay with Viola there until he could be with her next. Her spirit had found contentment and peace in the Summerlands. And when he finally met her there, he would never part from her again.
But what Niall had been most wrong about concerning their bond was that he would receive nothing from her—that Viola, since she had no innate magic, would have nothing to pass to him. What he hadn’t realized before he had bonded with her was that humans did have their own kind of magic, something that was unique to them. He’d underestimated the spark within humanity until he’d felt it from his wife.
After that, he’d been unable to ignore it or to undervalue it. Through the bond, Viola had given him an impulse—that was the best way he could describe it, at least. It was an impulse to strive to be the best man he could be. Niall had always enjoying learning new things, but he began to thirst for knowledge—just like his Viola, who was always reading and asking questions of her world. Also, Viola had an extremely loving heart, and her love for their son, which Niall felt through their bond, taught the fairy more about being a father—a true father—than anything he had ever felt before. Even then, it had been too late to make a difference with Claudette, though he had tried. But it was not too late with Claudine and Claude, whom he formed much stronger relationships with after he returned to Faerie. Yes— through their bond, Viola had given him precious gifts that he’d not anticipated, and those gifts had made him a better leader to his people and father to his children.
As he thought about Viola, Niall realized that he may have been inadvertently hindering Sookie’s progress by asking her to snuff out her emotions―which had, in turn, likely been stifling the human spark within her. The Ancient Pythoness had told him that Sookie could not succeed if she allowed her emotions to be in control, but maybe there was a balance to be attained. If his Viola taught him anything through their bond, it was that human emotions could be beautiful and make one stronger.
Niall remembered that it had taken him a while, too, to find his “footing” after receiving his gifts from Viola, but he’d done it. Perhaps balance was what Sookie needed to find. As Niall analyzed the words of the ancient lady, he recognized that he’d misinterpreted them due to their vagueness. He shook his head; he could almost hear her now, laughing at him for his short-sightedness and for jumping to the conclusion that Sookie’s fairy spark was more important than her human spark. He should have known better.
The fairy was sure now that he had been wrong, but he also posited that he had needed to be wrong for a reason or for a time; that was likely the plan of the Ancient Pythoness all along. He shook his head again.
He was resolved. He had to make sure that Sookie did not suffocate her human spark as she tried to bolster her fairy spark. If she did that, she would stifle the gifts of her human ancestors—including the fire she had inherited from Viola and Adele—in order to connect to the Fae. And that would not be right for Sookie.
Finally, Niall spoke. “I want you to connect with the Fae inside of you, Sookie, so that you will not crumble in your emotions as you face your enemy. But if I have caused you to think that none of your humanity will be useful to you, I am sorry. That was not my intention, though I recognize that it is what I have been doing. I now believe that you will need some of your human emotions, just as much as you will need your fairy power.”
Sookie chuckled and Niall looked at her in question. “Eric told me something similar this morning,” she reported. She didn’t add the fact that he’d told her that just after bout one of their make-up sex while he was still inside of her revving up for bout two. Thinking of that part of their—uh—conversation almost caused her to blush yet again. She shook her head and tried to focus on Niall rather than the memory of her husband getting hard inside of her only minutes after he’d seemingly spent himself. She shook her head again, once more trying to clear her thoughts, as a blush finally made its way to her face. Luckily, Niall still seemed a little lost to his own thoughts, so he didn’t notice the blush or the goose bumps that rose up on Sookie’s arms.
He spoke, “Good. I believe that you should work for balance when we go into Faerie, Sookie. Remember your humanity. Remember your passions. Remember your love for the Viking and your bonds. And then if you let yourself fully connect to the Fae inside of you, I believe that you will find the control to bring all the sides of yourself together.”
Sookie nodded. She had refocused and had taken in Niall’s words, which were uncannily similar to Eric’s. More importantly, those words felt “right” to her—both when spoken by her husband and her great-grandfather. They felt very right.
She sensed some of the knots that she’d tied herself into beginning to untie. She felt more hopeful than she’d been in weeks. The A.P. had told her that she was giving her the time she needed to save Eric, and Sookie had to begin trusting that she would be in time instead of fearing that she would be too late. She also needed to begin trusting in herself in the same way Eric and Niall trusted in her.
Yes—she felt much more positive now.
It didn’t hurt that Eric would be coming the next night. She was also looking forward to spending some time with Hunter, and a smile lit up her face until she thought about the possibility that Hadley might try to do something to influence Hunter so that his choice wouldn’t be his own. She was also worried that Hadley might try to force the issue and make Hunter choose before he was ready.
Sookie realized that she was chewing her fingernails and yanked them out of her mouth. She sighed loudly. She feared what would happen if Hadley did separate Hunter and Eric. She feared for her husband and her nephew equally if that happened. Truth be told, for all that Hadley had changed, Sookie still heard the “but’s” in her mind when she thought of Hunter. And Niall couldn’t always be with them to keep those but’s from flowing into Hunter’s head if he stayed in Faerie with Hadley. He’d eventually hear them, and his little heart would be hurt. A hot tear rose into Sookie’s eye and fell down her cheek.
Niall cleared his throat. “I am sorry, Sookie,” he began, “but when you worry with such loud thoughts and you think my name within them, I cannot keep from hearing you.” He sighed and gave her a little smile. “I have heard Hadley’s stray thoughts too.”
Sookie felt another warm tear travel down her cheek. She brushed it away.
Niall looked at her with a tilted head. “Say what you wish to say to me, Great-granddaughter.”
Sookie sucked in her lip and then spoke. “It’s just that I don’t want Hunter to ever be able to hear what I hear. It would,” she paused and lowered her voice, “hurt him.”
Niall nodded in agreement. “You worry about what will happen if he comes to live here with Hadley. You worry that he will eventually hear her thoughts—all of them. And you wonder if I can do something to keep those thoughts away from him even when I am not with them.”
Niall sighed and shook his head sadly. There was a moment of silence before he spoke again. “Hadley doesn’t wish to have reservations about Hunter. She wishes to love him fully; however, she associates him with the times in her life of which she is most ashamed.”
“Eric loves him so much,” Sookie said passionately, as she brushed more tears from her eyes.
“And you too,” Niall said with a gentle, knowing smile.
Sookie could only nod in agreement.