“We’re floating again,” Sookie said when she’d finally regained her ability to speak.
Eric chuckled, “Again—not my fault, lover. Yours,” he sighed contentedly. “All yours.”
Sookie shook her head and realized that she was smiling so widely that her cheeks hurt. She giggled, “Well it definitely ain’t my fault, vampire. I’m not the one who flies.”
Eric sighed and then spoke playfully. “You make me fly, min kära, and that makes it your fault.”
Sookie grinned to the point that she felt like the Joker in a Batman movie. “Maybe I will be able to fly now. After what just happened, I might have all your gifts.”
“God forbid,” Eric joked. “Pam would kill you if you could fly and she couldn’t.”
Sookie giggled. “You’re probably right about that.”
She raised herself up onto his chest even as he supported her completely as they hovered off the ground. “What about these?” she asked, biting down dramatically and running her tongue over her canine teeth. “Any sharper?”
He chuckled and scrutinized her teeth with mock seriousness. “Nothing yet, lover. I suppose we will just have to keep trying.” He pushed her body above him a few inches before letting her drop back onto him.”
“Hey!” she laughed as she tried to retain her balance on top of him.
“Tsk, tsk,” he sounded. “No flying yet from you. At least Pam will be happy about that.”
Sookie giggled and buried her face into his chest. She snuggled even as he floated. “Don’t you think we outta stop flyin’ now?”
Eric chuckled. “You think I have control of this thing? I’m like you—just along for the ride at this point.” He sighed and pulled her close.
Their bonds felt full, sated—at least for the moment, and content.
Sookie kissed his chest, “That was something, wasn’t it?”
Eric nodded into the air. “For a second there, I thought I was going to be burned from the inside out. It was like the sun was in me. But then I felt the healing of your magic, and I knew I would be fine.”
Sookie propped herself up to look into his eyes. “If you hadn’t sent that burst of strength to me when you did, I think I would have keeled over instead of just passed out for a minute.”
“Good I sent it then,” Eric chuckled and then got serious. “We will always take care of each other, my love. Promise me that you will never doubt that.”
Sookie smiled, “Now that—I can promise.”
Eric returned her smile.
Sookie sighed. “I think we should go and join the others, at least for a while.”
Eric nodded. “As much as I want to stay in here pillaging you all night, I agree.”
Sookie looked at her vampire and winked. “You miss Hunter. I think I have competition now.”
Eric looked at a loss for a moment, but then he sensed his wife’s mirth through the bond.
She laughed and popped his chest. “It’s the kind of competition I can get behind, husband.” She grew serious. “It’s the kind that makes you happy, after all.”
Eric brightened. “I do wish for you to get to know Hunter better, min kära. He’s such a,” he paused, finding himself speechless.
“I know,” Sookie said.
“I know you do,” he whispered and kissed her forehead.
After a few moments, Sookie smiled. “Well—I’ve been sexed up and—um—blooded up, and I am adequately sore, at least for the moment, so let’s go be social for a while.”
Eric growled. “There will be more sex later, lover. That—I promise.”
She laughed, “I’m gonna hold you to that, Viking.”
They floated back down to the remnants of the bed, and Sookie reached for her dress to pull over her head while Eric took the dagger into his hands and wrapped it into its covering—but not before it made his hands glow red again.
As Eric looked down at his hands with fascination, Sookie took the wrapped dagger from him and put it back onto the table where she’d had it before. She handed him a pile of clothes, which he looked at warily. She laughed, “Hey, these things are comfy, and I noticed you didn’t wear your track pants here.” She winked.
Eric shook his head and stood to put on the cream colored pants that were reminiscent of the ones he’d worn when Niall had first brought him there. He chucked, “I must agree that these are,” he paused, “comfy.” He bypassed the tunic, however, and put back on his T-shirt.
Eric looked at her innocently. “This, lover, just feels right,” he said as he gestured to his ‘look.’
She nodded and grinned at her husband, clad in the light colored, almost linen-like trousers of the fairies and a blood red T-shirt reading ‘Fangtasia.’ “It looks pretty right too—at least from where I’m standin’,” she smiled. Her cheeks were sore again.
Eric pulled her to her feet and gave her a quick kiss before leading her out of the dwelling, their hands joined.
Almost as soon as they had cleared the magic barrier that was ensuring their privacy, Hunter was running to them.
“Daddy!” he yelled as he launched himself to be hugged by both Sookie and Eric at once. “I saw the,” he paused, “red sparkly magic you and Aunt Sookie did!”
Eric chuckled even as Sookie blushed. “And what, my son, have you been up to?”
Naturally, as if neither of them could do anything else, Eric held out his arm—the one that wasn’t still holding onto Sookie—and Hunter began to swing on it.
“Where did you get those cool pants, Daddy?” Hunter asked, as he swung and giggled.
Eric answered, “Your Aunt Sookie gave them to me.”
Hunter cried out with glee as they approached the place where Hadley, Claude, and Niall were sitting.
Claude spoke up, “Would you like some, Hunt?” he asked.
Hunter landed on his feet and looked toward Claude. “Cool, Uncle Claude!” he said excitedly.
Eric sat down, opposite Hadley and Niall. He gave a little bow to both of them and then looked at Hunter with a smile. “Tell me,” the vampire said simply.
Niall couldn’t help but to note that Hunter was much more animated than he’d been before. And Hunter’s comfort level also rose greatly. For that, Niall was extremely grateful. He could feel his great-great grandson settling into himself again.
Hunter began talking excitedly as he sat down on Eric’s lap. “Mommy is gonna have a new sister for me.” He looked at Hadley and grinned, “Her name’s gonna be Adele just like Gran.”
“How did you know that?” Hadley asked, a little nervous that Hunter may have been able to read her thoughts during his whole visit.
Hunter stiffened as if he’d been caught doing something wrong. He looked up at his father with big brown eyes, full of uncertainty.
Eric didn’t like those. Unconsciously, he rocked his son a little and broke his touch with Sookie so that he could soothe Hunter with light pats. “Det är okej, smár rekkr,” Eric said quietly. “Du kan berätta för oss.” [“It’s okay, little warrior. You can tell us.”]
Hunter took a deep breath, glanced at his mother, and then looked back at his father. “Uncle Claude—uh—thought it. I’m sorry that I was listenin’ to him.”
“Were you speaking with your Uncle Claude, was it accidental, or were you doing your poking?” Eric asked, though his voice contained no harshness.
“He was talkin’ to me in my head,” Hunter said quietly, hazarding a quick glance at his mother before refocusing on his father.
“Then there is no reason to be sorry,” Eric said confidently.
Hunter looked back at Hadley with uncertainty in his eyes.
“No,” Hadley said softly—kindly. “It’s okay to use your gift here, Hunter. And it’s okay to talk to Uncle Claude and Grandpa like that.”
Hunter relaxed a little and looked back at Eric.
The vampire smiled. “Adele is an excellent name for your sister, min son.”
His smile coming back slowly, Hunter nodded.
“Tell me more,” Eric requested after tousling his son’s bangs.
“Well,” Hunter considered, “I told Mommy that we could make her a new rocking chair so she can rock the baby. Is that okay?”
“Of course,” Eric smiled at Hunter, “What wood shall we choose for your mother and sister?”
“Ummm,” Hunter sounded. “Cherry wood like Emma’s stuff—cause I’m sure Adele’s gonna be pretty! Or maybe we could use some fairy wood—‘cause she’s gonna be a fairy.”
Eric looked at Niall. “Would this be possible?”
Niall smiled at his great-great grandson and Eric. “I will have some wood spelled so that it can travel to your realm.”
“Thanks Grandpa,” Hunter said, the smile now back in his eyes.
Eric nodded. “We will start right away.” He ruffled Hunter’s bangs again.
Hunter grinned, his dimples sinking deeply into his cheeks. Just then, Claude returned with some pants that were a smaller version of Eric’s and a little tunic. Hunter jumped up and ran to then. “Cool!” he cried as Claude handed the garments to the boy. He turned to Eric, who had unconsciously retaken his mate’s hand.
The vampire said, “You can go and change in the bathroom. Do you know where that is?”
“Uh-huh,” Hunter nodded with a yawn. “Mommy showed me.”
“Good,” Eric said. “Potty while you are there, and then it is nap time for you. There is plenty of night left, and you should have a short rest, smár rekkr. I can tell that you are sleepy.”
Hunter nodded. “Okay, Daddy. I’ll be right back!”
He zipped quickly into the little enclosure to change. While he was gone, an awkward silence settled over the rest of the group.
Niall broke it by chuckling. “I would offer you nourishment, young Eric, but,” his voice trailed off.
“No need,” Eric said quickly, pulling Sookie closer to him.
“No—I would think not,” Niall chuckled again.
Sookie blushed and spoke in her warning tone, “Niall.”
Hadley laughed, though Sookie could tell that her cousin’s thoughts were more sad than happy. However, Hadley was happy that Claude had resettled closely next to her.
Sookie gave her tanu a subtle wink, and he blushed a little too.
Hadley joked quietly, “Niall’s not the one that gives off red magic sparkles when havin’ sex, Sook.”
Sookie blushed even more and buried her face into Eric’s T-shirt as Hunter returned. “Daddy!”
“Yes, Son?” Eric answered.
“Look! I have pants just like yours!” the boy exclaimed.
Eric smiled and then tilted his head. “I see that the dinosaur is still here.”
Hunter giggled. “Yep. Like you, Daddy.” Hunter motioned toward Eric’s T-shirt.
Eric laughed, “Did you tell your mother and your uncle Claude about the T-Rex?”
Hunter shook his head and then sank to the earth next to Eric. He launched into a long talk about all that he’d learned about the Tyrannosaurus Rex and eventually exhausted himself in his own enthusiasm. Hunter sank into sleep as he rested his cheek on his daddy’s leg. Eric had been unconsciously stroking Hunter’s hair through the last part of his story, even as Sookie had lain down on his other leg. He was soon petting the hair of both of his beloved ones as they both fell asleep on him.
As Hunter had been wearing himself out, the others had looked on quietly as the vampire moved his head slightly back and forth, taking in the forms of the two people who had nested into his body.
Eric didn’t notice the red tear that had worked its way onto his cheek as he sat contentedly, gently playing with the blond hair of the two people he loved the most.
Hadley was the one to speak into the comfortable silence that had settled over them. Seeing her boy so contented with Eric had made her final decision for her, and though she cried a tear of her own, she knew she was making the right choice.
She looked at Eric closely, “I cannot feel the emotions of vampires—you know.”
He returned her gaze and noticed that Claude had tightened his grip on her. He gave Claude a little nod before focusing on Hadley. “I had heard that you were an Empath, Hadley. I think it is good that you are happy here. So does Sookie.” He continued to caress the heads of his sleeping family.
“It is good,” Hadley said as she leaned more into Claude.
“Yes,” Eric said, looking down at his lap again.
“I will never take him from you,” Hadley said. “He needs to continue living with you.”
Unable to speak or even to take his hand from one of their heads to wipe his now second tear away, Eric simply nodded his thanks.
Eric could see Hadley grasp Claude’s hand tightly as she spoke again, “Please remind him of how much I love him all the time.”
Eric shook his head. “He has yet to decide. He loves you too. And you may decide to stay here so that he can see you often.”
There were a few more moments of silence between them all.
Hadley spoke in a low voice, “Sophie-Anne took me off the streets and helped me get off of drugs. She brought me much physical pleasure too.”
Eric looked at Claude, who had stiffened a bit. “Sophie had her good points,” he said a bit awkwardly. He looked back at Hadley. “Not many—but I am glad that she helped you for a time.”
Hadley’s tone turned sad. “Do you remember when she offered me to you? It was several years ago.”
Eric nodded. He spoke evenly, “I remember. She offered me your blood and your body.”
Eric saw Claude tense up even more as Hadley continued to speak, “Why didn’t you take her up on her offer? That was before you met Sookie, right?”
Eric nodded again and closed his eyes. “It was twenty-four days, two hours, and thirty-nine seconds before I first saw my Sookie.”
Hadley tilted her head. “Then why?”
Eric sighed. “It was the look in your eyes. You looked,” he paused, “unhappy. But you also looked like you would have done anything for Sophie-Anne. Even then, I did not have sex with the unwilling, Hadley—not even when they seemed willing.”
Hadley stared at him for a few moments. “Thanks.”
“I am sorry I used you to get information from Sophie-Anne,” Eric said.
“Are you?” Hadley challenged.
A half-smile graced Eric’s lips as he looked down at Sookie. “Let me rephrase. I’m sorry that you had to be hurt, but I am not sorry for protecting Sookie.”
Hadley chuckled a little and shook her head. She looked at Hunter. “I’m not sorry. If you hadn’t done what you did, I wouldn’t have been able to get away. It was your influence—or your blood’s influence—that helped me. And because of that, I was able to take Hunter away and try to do right by him.”
“Remy Savoy was not a good father to my boy.” Another tear slipped as Eric kept caressing his son’s hair.
“No,” Hadley said quietly. “And though I tried in the end, I was not the best mother either.” She paused.
“He loves you,” Eric said firmly.
“Not as much as he loves you,” Hadley said quietly.
A few more tears slipped from Hadley’s eyes as they sat quietly for several minutes.
Eric looked up at Hadley. “You do not look unhappy now, Hadley,” he said, despite her tears.
Hadley smiled. “I am happy here.”
Eric spoke in an even tone. “I am happy for you.”
They were all silent for a few more minutes.
Eric broke the silence this time, “Hunter speaks of you every day. He loves you very much.”
Hadley sighed contentedly. “Thank you for that.” She chuckled, “Not a minute goes by when he doesn’t speak of you.”
She unfolded a picture that Hunter had given her earlier. “This is the picture he brought for me.”
Eric recognized it immediately though he’d not known that Hunter had brought it. “It was a summer’s night by his new pool. We talked of many things that day. One of them was how much he missed you.”
Hadley smiled and looked at the picture of Hunter and Eric talking by the pool. She spoke, “He will choose you, Eric.” She said his name tentatively. “He should,” she said more confidently.
Eric shook his head, even as he monitored the vital signs of the two that were sleeping against his body. Both were resting soundly and in peace against his legs. It felt like Valhalla to him. “You don’t know that,” he said to Hadley.
Hadley smiled more widely even as tears continued to fall down her cheeks. Claude pulled her to lean further into him, and Eric saw that Hadley accepted the comfort gratefully. “I know,” Hadley said simply. “I know it because I feel it from him. And I will encourage him to choose you because he is happiest with you.”
There were several more minutes of silence as Eric continued to stroke the hair of the two beings that would always determine the future course of his life.
Hadley spoke again. “Has Sookie told you about me—about me here?”
Eric nodded. “She has told me of your happiness here. She has told me that you wish to live inside of Faerie—that you are a successful fairy.” He chuckled. “I’m afraid my wife doesn’t feel like a very successful fairy most of the time.”
Hadley laughed lightly as she brushed some of her tears away, “She’s not—most of the time.” Hadley grew serious. “But when she is—she really is. She saved my life, you know. She saved me.”
“She’s saved my life too,” Eric said looking down at his wife.
Hadley relaxed into Claude’s embrace and sunk into him further. Unconsciously, her hand went over her belly, where she sensed her girl growing even then. Safe in the embrace of a man who loved her, she spoke rawly, “I’m frightened of my own son, Eric.”
He looked at her curiously, even as Niall and Claude stayed silent, knowing that the two parents needed this time to talk. “Why?” he asked.
“He is making me feel more that I ever have before,” she whispered.
Eric nodded. “I understand. They both have made me feel more than I knew I could. It was not always,” he paused, “comfortable.” He looked down at the blond heads in his lap.
Hadley smiled at Eric. “I used to be scared of you.”
His expression vulnerable, Eric looked back at her. “And now I am scared of you.”
“Don’t be—okay?” she said.
Eric sighed. “I’ll try.”
“You know that I can feel what Hunter wants most,” Hadley said.
Eric nodded again. “I know. I can feel it too—in my own way. Maybe because I’ve spent so much time with him. But he must still be left to choose.”
Hadley sighed, “I know. But I am finally ready to be a good mother to him, and I won’t let him pick the wrong thing for him.”
Eric let out a breath that he didn’t need. And with that breath fell another tear, again left untended because the vampire could take his soothing hands away from neither his son nor his mate.
Hadley looked at him and spoke confidently, despite her own tears, which were also now left unabated.
“You look like a family to me,” she said simply as she took in the three before her.
Eric could only look down at the two blondes sleeping on his knees and nod. After a few moments, he looked back up at Hadley, who what now virtually cradled against Claude, and who was holding Niall’s hand for strength as well. “So do you,” he said.