Hopelessly distracted from the movie that the others in the unlikely gathering were watching, Jesus continued his inner musings.
Despite the fact that Eric and Hunter were laughing at the film and obviously enjoying their time together as always, Jesus could tell that they were both restless.
Hunter had been especially restless earlier that day before Eric had arisen. To begin with, Hunter already disliked the summer because—as he put it—“It means shorter nights with Daddy.”
And even though Hunter’s summer schedule had been altered so that he could spend more nighttime hours awake, the child was still extremely antsy as he waited for the sun to droop into the sky after the long hot days. It was still well past 8:00 before it would finally disappear.
Until the last week, the situation had been alleviated quite a bit by Emma’s increased presence. Because of its being summer time, Hunter had become used to swimming during the day, frequently with Emma, whom Luna had started bringing over most days once school had let out for vacation. That had given Luna more time to tutor Becky, who was proving to be a quick study and an excellent babysitter for Emma on the days and evenings when Sam and Luna wanted to spend some time alone or when both were working. Becky had also been invaluable help to Luna and Sam with their wedding, which had taken place the weekend before.
Over the last several months, Becky had convinced most of the Hotshot Werepanthers under twenty-five to take Miranda up on her offer of help. Miranda had found a thriving Werepanther group near Seattle, which had agreed to take on the young ones from Hotshot who wanted to leave their pack and start afresh. Of course, the older members hadn’t much cared for that, but one “visit” from Miranda, Jarod, Eric, and Duncan had put them in their place.
In exchange for their continued lives, they’d agreed not to cause trouble. Both Miranda and Eric expected the pack to die out within a few decades; meanwhile, Hotshot was being monitored, and some selective glamouring of their “leaders” and “elders” was keeping them in line.
The only real problem had come when Crystal Norris—who was still just as bat-shit crazy as she’d been when she attacked Jason and allowed the other Werepanthers to rape him—had gone after Becky at Sam and Luna’s house.
It had been early March, and Becky and Emma had been home alone. Crystal and a few others that she’d roped into her plan had been trying to break in—and had even threatened to burn down the house if Becky didn’t come out. Becky had called Luna and Sam, who were out on a date in Monroe. Of course, they’d started home right away and had called Andy and Jason. Meanwhile, Emma had called Hunter.
Needless to say, Hunter had set his daddy into motion. When the Werepanthers were confronted by Eric, Thalia, and Pam, they’d run away with their tails between their legs—all except for crazy Crystal, that is.
She’d attempted to attack Thalia, and that was the very last mistake she ever made. Andy and Jason had shown up minutes after Crystal had been killed. After listening to what had happened from the vampires and Becky, Andy agreed to be glamoured and Crystal’s body was disposed of in Eric’s alligator farm. And that was the end of Crystal Norris.
Jesus sighed. The only positive of the situation was that Jason too had gotten a sense of closure from Crystal’s death. Jessica still didn’t know everything about Jason’s experience in Hotshot—beyond the fact that Crystal had once bitten him—but Jason had confided in Lafayette, Eric and him the night of Crystal’s death. Needless to say, after that, they’d all wished that they could have been the ones to end Crystal’s miserable life.
Becky had felt responsible for the situation, and had feared that Sam and Luna would send her away, but she couldn’t have been more wrong. If anything, the shifter couple was even more supportive, and Becky was now a permanent member of the household.
The newly married Merlottes had taken a two-week family road trip for their honeymoon and had taken Becky with them so that she could see a bit of the world outside of Bon Temps and Hotshot. Of course, the newlyweds were also counting on Becky to look after Emma when they wanted to do couple-oriented things or needed their “privacy.”
After having Emma around so much during the summer months, Hunter had been especially restless since the wedding. Coby and Lisa had spent the day before yesterday with Hunter by the pool, but something had happened during their visit, which had upset Hunter. Neither Jesus nor Miranda had been able to get anything out of him, however.
Neither of the Bellefleur children—who had been officially adopted by Terry the previous year—had done anything overt to upset Hunter. Of that, Jesus was certain. He—along with Miranda, Batanya, and Jarod—had been with them all day. No—nothing was said, and that meant that something was “thought” that had upset Hunter, but the boy refused to speak of it and insisted that nothing was wrong.
Matters were made even worse for Hunter because the rain and sporadic thunderstorms of the last several nights had kept him from his normal routine of learning to ride his horse with his daddy and his uncle Loki at night.
Jesus was brought out of his reverie by the arrival of a very happy-looking Jarod, who carefully—so as not to wake him—scooped the sleeping Godric from Duncan’s arms.
“Many thanks, mate,” the shifter smiled at the Scotsman.
“No bother,” Duncan said sincerely. “Text if he wakes again tonight and cannot settle. I’ll check on him before I rest, however.”
Jarod chuckled. “Many, many thanks, mate.”
Jesus smiled at the exchange. Right after he and Lafayette moved in with Tara, Duncan had moved from the cubby to the light-tight room in Miranda and Jarod’s house. Apparently, since then, he’d become the go-to man to soothe the still-teething Werelion. Sometimes, Miranda would even put the child next to Duncan in the daytime when he was especially grumpy.
“Uncle Loki?” came Hunter’s voice after Jarod had gone.
“Yes, my little mac-bràthair?” Duncan answered. [“Mac-bràthair” is Scottish Gaelic for ”brother’s son.”]
“Maria-Star said that Freya was a little sick today,” Hunter reported. “Would you check on her for me?”
Seeing the twinkle in Hunter’s eye, Jesus couldn’t help but to smile—though he succeeded in hiding it from Duncan.
The little boy only got that particular look when he was up to something. In fact, Jesus had been present when Maria-Star, whom Eric had hired to take care of the stables and horses, had assured Hunter that Freya, one of the new mares, would be just fine. She’d had only a minor toothache, and Maria-Star, who was also a licensed veterinarian, had already treated it. The horse wouldn’t be able to wear a bridle for a few days, but that was the only problem.
“Our Freya is ill?” Duncan asked with some concern. Jesus knew that Freya was the horse that Duncan usually rode.
Hunter shrugged a bit. “That’s what Maria-Star said.”
Jesus held in his chuckle. He knew that Hunter wasn’t lying—at least, not “technically.” But he was definitely up to something.
Duncan rose. “Sure, I’ll check on her, little one.”
Hunter’s lips turned up slightly, but he schooled his expression in the perfect imitation of his daddy. “Batanya?” he said.
She was at his side in a second. “Yes, Hunter?”
“Could you check on Freya too?” the little boy asked, trying to sound casual and still controlling his features.
Of course, a round of smirks broke out around the rest of the room with the largest forming on Duncan’s handsome face.
“Yes, Batanya,” the Scotsman said, “I could certainly use a spot of help from you.”
Batanya glared at him and then looked at Hunter inquisitively. “My place is by your side, my charge,” she said.
“It is fine,” Eric piped in, his own smirk growing. “I am here, and I am sure that Hunter would be comforted if you provided a second opinion about the health of the animal.”
Batanya now leveled a glare at Eric. “But I know nothing of those animals,” she said, her jaw tightening.
“Perfect time to learn then!” Duncan said enthusiastically.
“Would y’alls just gets goin’?” Lafayette chimed in as he paused the movie. “I’s tryin’ to watch this movie and y’alls’ jabberin’ ain’t helpin’.”
“Fine,” Batanya said. “I will help check on the animal.”
“Thanks Batanya,” Hunter said sweetly.
Her back turned to Duncan, the Britlingen gave Hunter a knowing look and a quick wink. Hunter did a decent job of hiding his giggle.
As soon as Batanya and Duncan had left the house, Eric’s brow raised and he turned Hunter around slightly so that he could look him in the eyes.
“Hunter?” the vampire asked.
Hunter shrugged as he finally let his own little smirk come through. He stated matter-of-factly. “Batanya likes Uncle Loki, Daddy. I just know it! But she’s always watchin’ over me, which is cool. But Emma said her mommy and new daddy need ‘adult alone time’ sometimes, and Batanya never gets any.”
Hunter nodded his head as if he had come to a decision. “And I think Batanya needs to go out on a date with Uncle Loki. Maybe she’ll ask him when they check on Freya,” he said hopefully.
Proud of his boy’s perceptiveness and amused by Hunter’s little match-making scheme, Eric chuckled and ruffled Hunter’s hair.
“Did Duncan put you up to this?” Eric asked.
Hunter shook his head and grinned widely. “Nope. It was Batanya’s idea, but you can’t tell Uncle Loki. Promise?” He looked around the room sternly until he’d gotten nods from all those in attendance.
Eric ruffled the boy’s hair again and then settled him back into his chest so that they could resume watching the movie.
Jesus chuckled at Hunter and Batanya’s little confederacy as he also tried to refocus on the movie. However, he soon found himself glancing over at Hunter and Eric again; both of them still wore matching half-smirks.
Jesus thought about the transformation that had occurred in both vampire and boy over the past twenty-one months; it had been quite amazing.
The relationship between Hunter and Eric was thriving. The boy really did seem to be a chip off the old block—so to speak―though their connection was not biological.
Hunter had gone from being unsure of himself and ashamed of his telepathy to being a strong and confident seven-year-old. And even better, Hunter had pretty much mastered his shields since he’d come back from his visit to the “in-between place.”
Jesus had overheard Hunter and Eric talking about what Hunter had picked up from Niall’s, Claude’s and Sookie’s heads—not pertaining to their thoughts really, but to how they were thinking them.
Jesus smiled at the memory. Eric had listened with interest and patience as Hunter had explained about the way there seemed to be little rooms in the heads of Claude, Niall, and Sookie, and about how they were able to shut doors to keep their thoughts private or open them up again to listen—unless someone else was locking a door. He talked about how there had been a lock around his mommy’s head until Grandpa Niall had given him a key to it. Then he talked about how he’d sort of “walked” with Aunt Sookie around his mother’s thoughts.
After that, Eric had encouraged Hunter to think about these walls, rooms, and doors when using his own telepathy. At the time, Scott Cusmano was just getting ready to begin work on the stable, and—for Hunter’s benefit—Eric had asked the Werewolf to change the building plans and the schedule.
The crew for the project had been limited to only a few experienced builders, including Scott, and the work had taken place only at night, so that Eric and Hunter could both be there and participate fully in the process. That way, Hunter could really see how walls were built. And he could help to build them. Jesus chuckled to himself at the memory of Eric and Hunter tearing down a wall one Friday night after the workers had left, just so that Hunter could see what it looked like. Then, they had built it back up together over the weekend before Scott and his crew returned. Jesus was pretty sure that it was the strongest wall he’d ever seen.
Jesus also smiled at the care Eric had shown for Hunter’s comfort during the building process. His vampire brother had pretty much surrounded the building site with portable heaters to keep the space warm enough to work in during the long winter nights. Those stables―Jesus was certain―now had much more elaborate walls than had originally been planned, but after the project was complete, Hunter had been able to control his telepathy much better. He could now visualize the walls separating the rooms in his head and could use various levels of “insulation” inside of those walls. He was also learning to tear those walls down—if need be—so that he could hear the thoughts of people that were trying to keep things secret.
At the child’s insistence, Eric and Hunter had talked a lot about how he could keep his walls in place in the rooms of his mind but still make those walls thin enough to hear if danger was coming. After they talked over each idea together, Hunter tried it on various members of the household, but always with Eric present.
After Claude’s first visit, which had come in mid-February, Eric had asked the fairy to help his son even more. Claude had been impressed by the process that Hunter and Eric had developed to strengthen Hunter’s shields and to stretch his gift. With Claude’s guidance, Hunter was working to fine-tune his gift.
Within two months of his return from the ‘in-between place,’ Hunter’s telepathy was more under his control than it had ever been, and Jesus could recognize that a sense of peace—never before present to such a great extent within Hunter—had settled over him.
As he’d gotten more command over his gift, Hunter’s confidence had grown even more, even as his limbs kept growing like wildfire. Jesus was certain the boy was several inches taller than he’d been last year, and Lafayette always joked that Hunter was trying to be like Eric in every way, so he was willing himself to get taller out of pure stubbornness.
Jesus did see Hunter becoming more and more like Eric, but he was also becoming more himself too. Hunter had lucked into a parent that would appeal to his own natural desire to analyze and plan. Hunter had been quite logical and thoughtful even from the first days they’d all met him.
Eric had fostered this natural aptitude and had a way of teaching his son that would allow him to learn for himself, whether it be the woodwork they did together or the Swedish lessons or the horseback riding or the sword training. Eric would show, Hunter would analyze Eric’s actions, and then Hunter would learn and do it himself. It was the same with his telepathy. Hunter had tried to analyze how the others had used it, and Eric had created a way for Hunter to understand things better—to study something and then apply what he’d learned.
And—just like with Eric—it never took Hunter very long to pick up something once he put his mind to it.
Yes—Jesus thought to himself―Eric and Hunter seemed to be extremely alike in many ways, not because of Hunter mimicking his daddy, but just because they were.
Eric was—quite simply—the perfect match to be Hunter’s parent, and Jesus found himself thinking about the idea of “fate” more and more with every text he studied. Many of the oldest books talked about a primordial kind of magic that all beings drew upon—to one extent or another. That magic could recognize those beings who were similar in spirit, and it would draw them together.
Jesus liked to think this kind of magic was what had brought him to Lafayette. He figured it was also what had attached Bubba to Thalia, or Jarod to Miranda, or Jason to Jessica, or perhaps even Duncan to Batanya.
He smiled; maybe it even brought together Pam and her gold card. He chuckled out loud as he thought of Pam’s ever-expanding wardrobe and the extra room to be put into the “Vamp Cave” just to accommodate it, but thankfully the movie had reached an amusing part, so no one noticed.
According to the manuscript he’d read the week before, this primordial magic existed in everyone and everything, but sometimes it would “choose” a worthy individual to settle into to a greater extent. A loose translation of the Dae word for such an individual was “center.”
Jesus was becoming more and more certain that Eric—and Sookie as well—were two such individuals.
Certainly—if the make-up of their ætt was considered—the ancient magic Jesus had read about seemed to swirl in high levels around Eric. Jesus often wondered if it was because Eric seemed to embrace the magic within and around him more than others; Sookie—Jesus thought—probably had an awful lot to do with that.
Maybe it was them coming together or their bonds which had attracted the primordial magic. Jesus wasn’t sure.
What he was sure about, however, was that Sookie and Eric were what the books called a fated pair, and Claude agreed with him.
But the magic had not stopped with the couple. Fate had also seemed to draw Hunter and Eric together. And it hadn’t stopped there.
Heck, Jesus was pretty positive that fate had brought him to Eric’s side as well. Jesus had recently been learning more and more about demons and his own lineage. It seemed that demons and fairies—though originally from the same realm and thought to have a common ancestor—had always had great distrust for each other, and over the millennia, they’d had many wars. However, like most ancient grudges, the reason for the enmity between fairies and demons was nebulous at best. Claude had no idea of its origins either.
Mr. Cataliades had let him borrow several old manuscripts, which Jesus was transcribing very slowly, given the difficulty of the language (they were written in the demon’s own language) and especially the handwriting—more like scrawling—within the books. But every day he learned something fascinating.
Just that morning, he’d read about some of the first battles between fairies and demons after the demons had accepted their expulsion from the fairy realm.
Apparently, both races had wished to continue settling into the human realm to some extent because they could procreate with humans, and there was just enough magic within humans so that the essential nature of the demon or the fairy could be carried on in the genes of the hybrids. It seemed that around 2,800 years ago—according to human time—a great war had been fought for the human realm, and there were major losses on both sides with the demons suffering more of them.
According to the demons’ text, a treaty had been made after that great war. It allowed the demons to procreate with a limited number of humans, but they were restricted to only certain parts of the human world, the Americas―which were more sparsely populated at the time. The fairies took the rest of the human realm.
Jesus smirked at the fact that humans had no idea about any of this happening.
Of course, over the years, the bloodlines of demons and fairies had traveled beyond initial treaty parameters. After all, many humans did not even know they carried traces of Supernatural blood. Also, since the fairies had been the “official” victors in the war, they had no compunction whatsoever in encroaching at will in the Americas once the population there grew—at least until more recently.
This had, of course, led to many minor skirmishes throughout the years.
Jesus had learned from both Diantha and Claude that there was now a stable peace between the two races―mostly because of two factors. First, most Water Fae now felt that mixing with humanity was polluting the Fae race, so they advocated complete separation from humanity. This had led to fewer fairies settling in the human world, which had, consequently, led to fewer altercations over territory.
Despite her contradictory program to ‘breed hybrids,’ Mab clearly fit into the group that advocated racial purity; according to Claude, she’d planned to use the hybrids only long enough to build her numbers. Then she’d intended to dispose of anyone under half Fae, whether he or she carried the essential spark or not. Knowing that this fact would concern Sookie, Eric had asked Claude about the few hybrids who had decided to stay with Mab. The fairy had assured that all of them had been at least half Fae, which was probably the reason why they’d been treated well enough to want to stay in the first place.
The second factor leading to peace between demons and fairies had turned out to be Niall’s influence. Most Fae and fairy-hybrids who still lived in the human realm were Sky Fae, and Niall had set an example of tolerance for his people, and, over time, they’d begun to follow it. Thus, there had been no recent clashes between fairies and demons—though, by rule, they still tended to stay out of each other’s’ ways.
Cataliades had also told Jesus that the demons and demon-hybrids who decided to make their home in the human realm had long ago established dealings with vampires. According to what Jesus had read, vampires were somehow a product of the human realm too, though the first vampires had kept their true origins a secret. The only vampire whom Eric knew of that might be old enough to give them any answers about the genesis of vampires was encased in cement, and no one was curious enough to want to dig up the nightmare that was Russell Edgington.
Vampires―who were attracted to fairy blood like no other, but were also debilitated by it―were a natural ally for the demons who did remain in the human realm. And the bonus was that the vampires did not like demon blood at all. However, they did like the trustworthiness and secretive nature of the demons. Cataliades, whom Jesus guessed was actually much older than he seemed, had been working for vampires all his life, and his parents had as well. In fact, the half-demon reported that his family had been in the service of vampires for about 1,800 years. The arrangement had worked out very well for Cataliades and his ancestors. They had always had profitable employment and the protection of their vampire employers. Even more than that—they had earned much honor and respect for the quality of their work, and—in demon culture—that quality was what made one a success.
Before finding out about demons, Jesus had always wondered why he was so comfortable with the vampires surrounding him. Now, he figured that it was his demon lineage which had led to that comfort level. Almost since their first meeting—and despite the fact that Jesus had been naturally pre-disposed to hate Eric, given what he’d done to Lafayette—Jesus had liked Eric—respected him. And now, he thought of the vampire as his true brother. It may have been odd, but Jesus felt an inherent inclination to ally himself with Eric as early as that night when Sookie broke their first vampire bond.
Lafayette used to tease him that he had a man-crush on Eric, but that had never been it—though Eric’s attractiveness couldn’t be denied. It had always been a more familial feeling for Jesus. And, of course, Eric shared Jesus’s desire for knowledge and had basically turned him lose and given him every available resource to learn any and all things about the Supernatural world that might benefit them. Jesus had discovered that Eric valued knowledge not only for practical reasons—though he did want to ensure his and his family’s survival—but also just for its own sake. Jesus liked and understood this mix well.
And Jesus felt trusted by the thousand-year-old vampire. And that fact made him feel a kind of self-worth that he’d never felt before.
Yes—Eric seemed to be full of the kind of magic that drew similarly-minded—though extremely different—beings together.
Whether one used Eric’s word, “ætt”; or Pam’s descriptor, “zoo”; or what he liked to use, “la familia,” it didn’t much matter. What mattered was that they were all connected. After all, Jesus figured that fate and the primordial magic discussed in the ancient texts were just two sides of the same coin.
Jesus sighed. Despite how happy Eric and Hunter were together, he was worried about them. More and more, he felt their longing and their restlessness. Both were waiting anxiously for Sookie to return. That would mean the end of Eric’s exile from his bonded one, a separation that―though Eric was handling it much better than the year before―obviously hurt the vampire physically. And the longer they were separated, the more the bonding sickness gripped Eric.
During the last couple of months, Jesus and Claude had been trying to figure out a way to take away Eric’s pain, but neither had found anything. As Eric’s bonded one, Sookie could heal him with her mere presence, but that solution had to wait until she returned from Faerie. There was no other known salve for vampire bonding sickness. And, of course, Eric and Sookie had bound themselves even more tightly together at the Fae pool.
That had strengthened the fairy bond, but it had also apparently made the vampire bonding sickness just that much worse. Eric’s only consolation was the fact that Sookie would not have to suffer because of the time difference and because of the healing magic her own body could produce for itself.
That thought had begun Claude thinking, and the fairy’s theory was that Eric did have the capability to heal himself because Sookie had, perhaps, passed this gift to him through the fairy bond. After all, Eric had been able to keep Sookie alive when she was forced to ingest the light fruit. But—for some reason—he couldn’t heal himself. Claude posited that it might be because Eric had the “capability” but not the “source” to heal himself. In other words, Eric could have healed himself if he still had a cache of Sookie’s healing power within him, but he had used that up against Hallow.
And Claude’s own healing magic—which Eric had finally agreed to accept after much debate and many refusals—hadn’t helped the bonding sickness go away either, nor had it spurred the fairy bond within Eric so that he could heal himself.
Again, after a major protest from Eric, they’d convinced the Viking to take a little of Claude’ blood—in a vial, of course. Jesus shook his head, remembering the effort that had been put into making Eric accept any blood that was not Sookie’s. There had been an “intervention” of sorts, during which Pam had threatened Eric’s un-death many times. They’d finally convinced Eric to take the blood by reminding him that it was what Sookie would want. Plus, he needed to be as strong as he could be for Hunter.
However, Claude’s blood had done nothing to heal the bonding sickness. It had had no effect whatsoever—in fact—except to work as vampire sunscreen, which Eric didn’t even take advantage of since it seemed “wrong” to him to see the sun without Sookie present. Thus, Jesus and Claude were back at the drawing board.
And Eric was still in pain from the bonding sickness.
However, especially in front of Hunter, Eric never let on that he was in any physical or emotional pain, but Jesus knew just as certain as he was sitting there that the Viking was in pain, probably quite intense pain by this point. Jesus realized that Eric had simply accepted that this was a part of his life until Sookie returned.
Jesus smiled as he saw Hunter giggle at the movie and smiled even wider as he saw Eric pat the boy’s arm affectionately.
Sookie’s return would mean almost as much to Hunter as it would to Eric.
First, it would allow the child to reconnect with his mother. Claude had thought about initiating Hunter’s visits to the “in-between place,” but Eric and he decided that they didn’t want to take the chance that their plan could be thrown off-kilter by that. So they had opted to wait for Sookie to reestablish her life in the human realm and completely sync up to its time before Hunter and Sookie visited the fairy pool.
Hunter was also anxious for Sookie to come home for two other reasons as well—neither of which were related to Hadley.
First and foremost, he wanted his daddy to be happier. Often, during the day time, he talked about how wide his daddy had smiled when he was with Aunt Sookie. But there was also another reason. Hunter told Jesus one day that his Aunt Sookie had a way of making him feel better just because of how much she loved him in her head—and in his head. Jesus could tell that Hunter wanted Sookie to return more for Eric and even himself than he wanted her to return to be his agent of contact with Hadley.
Jesus once again tried to concentrate on the movie, but, instead, all he could think about was the date.
Sookie had appeared to Eric in their first shared dream on December 25, 2010. They’d had a little more than a month of those dreams before Eric and Hunter had visited the “in-between place” on the night of January 31, 2011. It was now July 31—exactly 6 months to the day since Hunter and Eric had last seen Sookie and Hadley. Jesus sighed, wondering if the significance of that unwanted anniversary was accountable for the melancholy he felt from the father and son.
Even at that moment, the vampire was unconsciously stroking his fairy bond as he rocked himself and Hunter. The sight made Jesus want to do only one thing, and he did it. He tightened his grip on Lafayette and snuggled into him.