A/N: FYI—I needed Kleenex every time I worked on this chapter, so that’s your fair warning.
Sookie wasn’t quite ready to tell her great-grandfather his part in the plan yet. She needed to work up to that. After all, how did someone ask another to kill his own wife?
It was Miranda who saved Sookie from having to address Niall at that moment.
“Okay—I think that our numbers will match up well with theirs. Do you know if they have any reinforcements that they can draw upon?” the Werelioness asked. “The last thing we need is to be outflanked by people we didn’t see coming.”
Sookie shook her head and sighed. “I’m not sure. I tried to listen for that information, but most of the Weres aren’t really ‘in the know.’ What I can tell you is that there is a surveillance feed monitoring Eric, but I’ll be able to deal with that when the time comes. I’m pretty sure that the picture and sound to that one are just bein’ recorded for Russell and de Castro’s viewing pleasure,” she said bitterly, “but the signal’s not leaving the building.”
“To that one?” Miranda asked astutely.
“Yeah,” Sookie took a deep breath, “when I was tryin’ to figure out the best way to leave the warehouse, I overheard a single Were, who was thinkin’ about how de Castro was keeping a close watch on Russell. I can’t be sure, but from the Were’s mind, I’m thinkin’ that there is some other surveillance that even Russell doesn’t know about. I tried digging for more information, but I didn’t find much else—only that the Were was determined to be on his ‘best behavior’ anytime he was outside.”
Miranda looked at Jarod. “What do you think?
Jarod shrugged. “If there’s a signal being fed from the building, I could find it, but if I try to loop it without studying the device, I might set the bloody thing off.”
“Is there some magic or something that we can use?” Sookie asked.
Amelia shook her head. “Magic and technology don’t really play off of each other. We could produce a spell to obscure any cameras we knew about, but the people monitoring the feed would still recognize that there was a problem.”
“So Jarod’s our best bet?” Sookie asked. She smirked as she looked at the shifter. “No offense―but you didn’t sound too sure of yourself.”
“None taken,” Jarod said. “And I wasn’t.”
Everyone contemplated silently for a minute, and Sookie tried to curb Hunter’s rising anxiety by rocking him.
Lafayette was the first to come up with another idea. He chuckled, “Oh—I knows what to do! Let’s bring Pam’s little honey into this!”
Everyone looked at Lafayette in surprise.
“Pam’s honey?” Amelia asked. “But I didn’t know she had a ‘honey.’”
“Molly,” Lafayette grinned. “I thinks she’s got a crush on Molly.”
“Molly?” Sookie asked.
Hunter piped in. “Molly’s a cool vamp geek, Aunt Sookie.” He shrugged. “I don’t know what that means, but that’s what she calls herself.” He went on after another shrug. “She’s good at computers and things, and she’s helpin’ Thalia and Jess do their work. And she’s teachin’ me some stuff too—one hour every Thursday night. Daddy says I could be a computer whiz if I wanna be, but I like helpin’ Daddy in our workshop more. But it’s okay. Molly always shows me fun math games to play.”
Sookie smiled down at Hunter and squeezed him a little. “So this Molly—whom Pam may or may not have a crush on—could help with the surveillance issue?” Sookie asked.
“Sissy does always come to my lessons with Molly,” Hunter observed thoughtfully.
“Sees. I told y’alls,” Lafayette triumphed.
Miranda chuckled, very pleased that she now had something new to tease Pam about. She looked at Sookie and nodded. “Yes—Molly is excellent at almost anything related to computers. I’m sure that she could hack into anything they’ve got. I should have thought of her first thing, but there’s a drawback to using her. It will force us to wait until well after nightfall to start the fight. Molly’s next door at the Queen’s mansion, but she’s young, so she doesn’t run very fast. She’ll have to travel to Shreveport by car, so it would likely take her an hour to even get there. We could just transport her in a coffin, but she would have to collect the equipment she needs anyway.”
“So we’d have to wait until nightfall to attack if we wanted the surveillance down first,” Tray observed.
Sookie nodded. “Yes, but that was always the plan.”
Several of the occupants in the room looked at her with surprise.
“But wouldn’t it be better to go in before Russell wakes up?” Jesus asked. “To at least deal with the Weres before sunset?”
Sookie shook her head and answered simply. “For what I’m thinkin’ of doin’, I need Eric to be awake before I go in there.”
Niall looked at Sookie seriously. “My dear, you have many powerful allies and an army to rival your enemy’s, but I must ask what you intend to do about Russell himself. He is three thousand years old and will show you no quarter.”
Hunter stiffened in Sookie’s lap at Niall’s serious tone.
“Yes,” Sookie agreed, “and I’m still working on the logistics of my plan for him, but I have most of it figured out. I just need a few clarifications first.”
Niall looked at his great-granddaughter with a great deal of pride. He was impressed by her calmness and the certainty she seemed to have flowing from her. Truth be told, her steady demeanor had reassured everyone in the household.
Sookie was somber as she addressed the room. “I have already told Hunter part of what I’m about to tell you. As you know, Russell’s had Eric for the last couple of days,” she paused and pulled Hunter closer into her. “He’s been hurting Eric. His plan is to get me to come after Eric, which I am going to do, but he’s set some traps for me that Eric was able to warn me about in my dream.”
She took a deep breath. “First, he has two things in place to make sure that I can’t bring any help with me into the basement where Eric’s being held. There are iron walls, which would keep fairies out. And there’s a spell, which requires that those who enter have an invitation.” She sighed. “As you can imagine, I have been invited, but I doubt that any of you could come in.”
“An exclusion spell,” Amelia said. She shook her head. “Those are hard to break because you have to know the names of everyone who has been invited in and recite them in the reverse order that was used to make the spell. And if you screw up even once, the spell will reject any other attempts made against it.”
Jesus nodded in agreement. “There’s a way to do it, but it takes about a week to prep the counter-spell—unless we have the witch who cast the spell to begin with.”
Sookie sighed loudly. “Let’s assume that we don’t.” She paused. “Okay—since the walls are iron, I can’t go into the basement directly from the pool either. The closest I got was the third floor of the warehouse Eric’s in. So I will have to walk through the door of that basement to get to Eric, and that brings me to the next part of Russell’s trap.”
“What’s that?” Jesus asked, concern etched into his handsome face.
“As soon as I go in there, an iron door will close behind me, and I don’t think my magic could get through that―right?” she asked Niall.
Niall shook his head. “Right. I believe that because of your humanity, you will be able to perform magic within the space, but fairy magic—not even yours—can break through iron.”
“That’s what I figured, but I’d still like to confirm that with some iron tools that are in the shed,” Sookie said. “Wait!” she looked at Miranda. “Is the shed still here?”
The Werelioness chuckled. “Yeah—and I think I know the tools you’re talking about; there’s a trowel, a spade, and a rake in the set. They seem quite old.”
“They are,” Niall informed. “I put them there.”
“Why?” Sookie asked.
“I wanted Viola to have them for protection in case other fairies sought her out, and then they became Earl’s,” Niall answered. “They did not harm him, nor did they deplete his strength; however, it is a good idea to test whether this holds true with you, my dear. And if your magic can break through the iron―well―” he paused and laughed a little, “I suppose I would not be that surprised. After all, it would simply be one more seemingly impossible thing that you and your mate had accomplished.”
Sookie smiled at Niall, but her face clouded as she continued her earlier thought, “Also, if I go into the basement during the day, apparently a second iron door will activate—right along with the first one—essentially trapping me into a small area before I can even get to Eric. Obviously, Russell doesn’t want me to be able to reach Eric or himself during the daytime.”
She looked at Amelia and then Jesus. “Fairy magic can’t get through the iron doors, but maybe y’all could cook up something with human magic that could? Just remember that you can’t go into the basement itself because of the exclusion spell.”
Jesus and Amelia nodded their heads and said that they would look for a spell that could rip through iron; Amelia also promised to call Octavia to see if her mentor knew of anything.
“You won’t be able to get ahold of her at home,” a bright voice said as Diantha joined them in the living room. A storehouse of energy, she seemingly bounced over to where Sookie was sitting with Hunter and held out her hand. “I’m Diantha, and you’re Sookie.”
“I thought you were coming this afternoon,” Jesus remarked.
Diantha looked at him in confusion. “It’s 12:01, so it is after noon. Plus, I’m fast.”
Sookie couldn’t help but to smile at the young demon as she shook her head. “Nice to meet you Diantha. Eric has told me about you. Now―what were you saying about Octavia?”
“She went to Vegas with my uncle Desmond this morning. Queen Thalia told him to take her,” she paused to chomp on her gum a little,” but I don’t know why.”
Miranda smirked. “Well—that certainly fits with what I thought; Thalia is going to take care of de Castro—probably first thing tonight.”
Diantha nodded. “That’s what I’m thinkin’ too, but Uncle Desmond wouldn’t say for sure. Anyway,” she continued, looking at Amelia,” you know that Octavia doesn’t have a cell phone, so just call uncle Desmond’s.”
“Okay,” Amelia said. “Wait—can demon magic break through iron?”
“Nope,” Diantha answered. “We’re fairies too―remember?” She noticed Niall and gave him a little nod of her head. “Mr. Brigant, my uncle’s told me a lot about you.”
The elder fairy nodded. “It is good to meet you, young one. Please send Mr. Cataliades my regards.”
“Sure thing,” the pixyish demon said with a chomp of her gum.
Once Diantha was settled, Sookie continued. “Okay, so whether y’all can find a spell that can get through iron or not, I still have my Plan A. I know that Eric could break through an iron door—or two—if need be.”
“But if he’s weak?” Jesus asked tentatively, trying not to say anything that would upset Hunter too much. Still, the boy stiffened.
Sookie patted Hunter confidently and turned him so that she could look at him. “My magic can heal him, so don’t worry about that―okay, sweetie?”
She felt Hunter relax on her lap, and he curled into her, content to let her cradle him in an embrace.
She began to gently rock them as she continued addressing the room. “By far the hardest part will be the last little surprise that Eric warned me about in my dream. Russell has laid a very good trap for me. Apparently, he got ahold of a magical talisman that will cause any attack that I make upon him to be transferred to Eric. So if I shoot Russell with my light, Eric will be the one to be hit by it.”
The room was silent as everyone took in that information. Niall asked quietly, “A talisman that can transfer the effects of fairy magic?”
Sookie nodded. “He got it from Queen Mab,” she said, looking at Niall and then Claude.
Claude’s face went ashen.
“Is there any way to neutralize the talisman?” Sookie asked them in a quiet voice.
“No,” Niall said. “As long as he is wearing it, it will perform the function it was made for.”
“And my mother likely included a binding spell,” Claude said in a hoarse whisper.
“What’s that?” Sookie asked.
“It’ll make it impossible for anyone—other than himself—to take the talisman off,” said an obviously-worried Claude.
Suddenly understanding his sister’s message and Sookie’s cryptic words earlier, Niall looked at Sookie with understanding in his eyes. “This is the part of your plan that you need for me to perform―is it not, Great-granddaughter?” Telepathically, he added, “You want for me to kill her?”
Sookie nodded. “Yes,” she said quietly.
His anger over Mab’s involvement ripe, Niall’s urge was to leave for Faerie immediately—to once and for all take care of the pestilence that was his own wife. But he remembered his sister’s message to him, and he stayed in his seat.
Niall looked over at his son and spoke to him telepathically. “I have stayed my hand for too long.”
“As have I,” Claude said into his father’s head. “If you do not kill her, I will.”
Niall shook his head. “I would not want that for you, my dear son. It is my responsibility. And I believe that your tanah has another purpose in mind for you this night.”
Niall turned to Sookie and spoke to her telepathically as well. To their credit, the others in the room seemed to understand that the fairies needed to converse privately, so they too stayed silent.
Sookie could see the regret in her great-grandfather’s eyes as he spoke to her, “Mab has—in endeavoring to hurt you and our family yet again—broken treaty with me for the last time.”
Sookie nodded and responded. “Still—it must hurt you.”
Niall smiled ruefully. “Great-granddaughter, it is time that my wife dies. I am sorrier about her part in all that has happened than I can express with words. This is my fault in many ways, for I have not had the heart to kill her before now. Part of me always hoped that she might change for the sake of our children.”
“It’s not your fault, Grandpa,” Sookie said out loud before continuing telepathically. “I’m so sorry that I’m asking you to do this.”
Niall shook his head before responding, “I regret only what she has taken from me and those whom I love. And now, I will do as I must to preserve the family I still have from Mab’s hateful ways. She has hurt someone I love for the last time.”
“I love you, Grandpa,” Sookie said into his head.
Niall smiled gratefully. “My sister has told me many times that you―and only you―can save your bonded, but remember that she also made clear that only together can you two conquer your foe.” He smiled as he continued, “Remember how strong you can be, Sookie, and you and young Eric will find your way together.”
Sookie smiled as tears rose into her eyes. “I won’t forget. Are you leavin’ now?”
Niall shook his head. “No. My sister sent me a message via Batanya that I should wait to seek my revenge until she is here.”
“Good,” Sookie said out loud. “You can stay with us for the rest of the day then. Plus, I have something I need you to do for me before you go.”
“Of course, my dear,” Niall said out loud.
Sookie looked down at Hunter. “You still okay, sweetie?” she asked into his head.
He nodded bravely, and she kissed his head before continuing to gently sway them.
Sookie took a deep breath and addressed everyone again. “So, here’s what we’re gonna do and what I need from you all. Tonight―as soon as possible after sunset―I’m gonna go in to that basement to get Eric.” She looked down at Hunter, who was giving her an encouraging look.
In that moment, she felt afraid. There was so much responsibility on her shoulders, and the fate of the precious child in her lap—as well as everyone in the room—was now resting in her hands.
Sookie closed her eyes. She wished more than anything that Eric was with her to help her plan what was to come, but then she realized that he was there—in their bonds, in her heart, in the little boy cradled against her, in the people gathered around the room, and even within the walls of the house itself. No matter what happened—no matter how far apart they were—he was her center. She re-steadied herself and once more kissed Hunter’s head.
“Okay, here goes nothing,” Sookie thought to herself.
Thirty minutes later, the specifics of her plan had been laid out for everyone. She looked around the room. “Okay—if anyone sees any holes in what I’ve said, I need you to tell me.”
Jarod spoke up. “Won’t the Weres be able to smell you, Sookie? I mean—everything seems to hinge on the fact that you’ll be goin’ into the warehouse first and alone. Your mind trick is ace, but what about Russell?”
“I have that covered,” Sookie smirked as she once again put a virtual cap on her scent. The four Weres and the shifter in the room immediately looked at Sookie with surprise. Niall was grinning at her with satisfaction.
“I knew you’d be able to do that,” the elder fairy remarked.
Sookie smiled at each of the two-natured in the room, “The Weres won’t be able to smell me, nor will Russell.”
Jarod chuckled. “Beaut, Sheila! Bloody ace!”
Sookie grinned at her shifter friend. She’d missed his sometimes almost-incomprehensible Aussie slang.
“What’d I miss here?” Jason asked, looking around.
“Yeah—for once―Stackhouse isn’t the only one in the dark either,” Tara said with confusion in her voice. “What gives?”
“Sookie’s learned how to cover her scent―like Niall and I do so that we won’t,” Claude paused and winked at Hunter, “get eaten by members of the family.”
Hunter giggled and looked up at Sookie. “Aunt Sookie, did you know that Sissy always wants to eat Uncle Claude, but I won’t let her?”
Sookie couldn’t stifle her snort.
Hunter went on. “That’s why Uncle Claude turns off his smell. Can you do that to?” he asked with a little awe in his voice.
“Yep, sweetie. I just learned how,” she informed as she tickled his side a little.
He giggled and squirmed and then hugged her tightly, letting out a sound of contentment as he did so.
“Well that solves that,” Miranda said with a chuckle. “But how will you keep Russell from hearing you?”
“We can do a simple stealth spell for that,” assured Amelia.
Sookie smiled at her. “Thanks. That’ll make things easier, but eventually, I’ll want Russell to hear me coming, so I’ll need to be able to turn off the spell.”
Amelia nodded. “No problem, Sook.”
Sookie liked the way that Amelia already seemed to be treating her as a close friend. Sookie instinctively felt the same way about the petite witch, and she was pleased that Tray had found such a strong and worthy mate for himself.
“What if Russell comes for me?” Claude asked as he considered the part Sookie had told him that he would be playing in her plan.
Sookie sighed. “Then I’ll be waiting for him next to the entrance of the basement, but I don’t think he’ll leave that space—not after the trouble he’s gone to in order to set things up down there.” Sookie shook her head. “I honestly don’t think he’ll leave Eric. Russell wants me to attack him so that Eric is there too,” she paused and tucked Hunter into her further, “for obvious reasons.”
Claude nodded. “You are right, Tanah.”
“Okay,” Tray confirmed, “the Shreveport pack—along with our reinforces—will engage Russell’s Weres as soon as you give us your signal, Sookie.”
“And we’ll see about bringing down those iron doors and setting up a spell to conceal you,” Jesus said, looking at Amelia who was nodding.
“And if Yvetta is there,” Amelia added, “we’ll make sure that she doesn’t cause you any trouble.”
“And we’ll have Molly and the other vampires there right after sundown,” Niall assured.
Sookie took a deep breath. “And I’ll go in there and get Eric. According to the A.P., I’m the only one who can,” she chuckled a little. “And let’s just hope that I don’t need the back-up plan.”
“We’ll be ready if you do,” Jarod promised.
Hunter looked up at Sookie with trepidation in his eyes, “You’re gonna be okay―right, Aunt Sookie? You and Daddy are gonna be okay?”
Sookie looked at Hunter with as much confidence as she could muster. “I’m plannin’ on it, sweetie.” She paused. “But if something does happen to us, you have so many people who will take care of you and who love you. And,” her voice caught a little, “your daddy and I will always be watching over you—no matter what. Even if we aren’t with you every day, we’ll always be here.” She touched his chest over his heart.
Hunter let a tear fall and said a prayer that his daddy and mommy would be okay.
The little boy didn’t even recognize that he’d thought about his aunt Sookie as “mommy” in his head; he was too worried about her and his daddy to think about it.
Sookie, however, did hear Hunter’s “loud” prayer, and she brushed a tear from her own eye even as she brushed Hunter’s away and then kissed his forehead.
“I love you so much, little man,” she whispered into his hair as he clung to her.
She held him close for a couple of minutes. “All right,” she finally said, “I think that’s it, but if y’all think of any concerns or questions, let me know.”
“You need anything else right now?” Jason asked.
Sookie smiled at her brother. “Well—I’d appreciate it if you and Claude could get me what I need to trap Russell—just in case we have to go with the back-up plan.”
Jason nodded and sat up straighter, “Whatever you need, Sook!”
“And you kiddo,” she said, looking down at Hunter, “are gonna show me everything that you and your daddy have done to this place since I’ve been gone. I didn’t even get a chance to see all the renovations. We’ll start with your room so that I can get a better look at the dinosaur bed your daddy made for you and so that you can show me the nightstand that you made.”
Hunter’s face immediately lit up.
“Plus,” Sookie continued, “I need to see your horses. Then, we’re gonna take a swim and sit out in the sun until it’s time for me to get ready to go.”
Sookie put Hunter onto his feet and stood up behind him. “Sunset isn’t until after 8 at this time of year, and we all need our rest for tonight. We’ll meet here again at six, but until then, get some sleep if you can and let me know if you think of anything else.”
With that, she took an excited Hunter’s hand, and let him lead her up the stairs.