“That was the greatest fuckin’ thing I think I’ve ever seen,” Pam said with a mixture of awe and her usual bored tone. Somehow, Pam managed to pull off the contradiction.
“Ding, dong―the fucker’s dead,” she added for good measure.
And with those words, all of the tension was let out of the room, and everybody—vampires included—seemed to take a breath.
Duncan pulled a pair of pants from a bag and threw them at Eric, who caught the clothing smoothly. Of course, he kept hold of Sookie’s hand as he did so.
Eric looked at him with a question in his eyes. “Have you become modest in your old age, Brother?”
Duncan smirked. “No—I just want you to put those on before my woman starts making comparisons.”
“Afraid you’ll come up a bit short?” Pam intoned.
Batanya growled at Pam. So, of course, she had to growl back.
Duncan snickered and put his arm around his woman. “At least I’m not the one tied to a fairy, Pammy” he teased. Then he winked at Claude. “No offense.”
Claude shrugged. “None taken.”
“Tied?” Sookie asked her fairy brother as the others approached Eric and her.
“Yes,” Claude answered, seemingly unfazed. “Pam gave me her blood to save my life tonight. And she’s had mine twice now, so it seems I am tied to a vampire.”
Pam rolled her eyes. “Don’t remind me; I’m just glad it’ll wear off before long. If you’re anything like Sookie, you won’t even heel,” she pouted, even though everyone could tell she was not really upset by the turn of events.
“You’re okay?” Sookie asked Claude.
“Yes. Between Pam’s blood and a tonic from Dr. Ludwig, I am fine.” Sookie moved herself and Eric over to Claude so that she could give her tanu a hug. And then she gave Pam a hug for good measure. Eric took the opportunity to quickly put on his pants, but their hands were interlaced again within moments, causing them both to sigh.
“You saved Claude’s life?” Eric asked Pam.
“That bitch Freyda was gonna drain him,” Pam said by way of an explanation. “And you know I could never fuckin’ stand her.”
“That reminds me,” Duncan said with a grin as he pulled Batanya closer to him. “Pam is the new queen of Oklahoma.”
Pam glared at Duncan. “Like hell I am!”
“You killed Freyda,” Jessica said. “Doesn’t that mean you get her state?”
Pam huffed. “I doubt anyone even knew she was here, and I don’t wanna be a queen, so let’s just all pretend that it didn’t happen, and the Authority can sort it out.”
“The Authority is not in the habit of covering up the deaths of queens,” Kibwe said from the side of the room. “You will have to become queen, or you will be punished severely for Freyda’s death.”
Sensing that his old acquaintance was joking with Pam, Eric chuckled. As Pam glared at him, he realized something very interesting about Kibwe’s scent. It seemed that Thalia had begotten at least two children—though he doubted that Molly and Kibwe even knew about each other. Thalia’s scent in them was extremely faint, but Eric was certain that it was there.
Kibwe kept up the game. “Yes—you will have to become queen within a fortnight.”
Pam looked at Kibwe in horror. “I’ll give it to Thalia.”
Kibwe shook his head. “She already has one new state tonight.”
“So―she killed de Castro?” Eric asked.
Kibwe nodded, “That she did.”
“Eric,” Pam asked sweetly, “you want Oklahoma?”
Eric shook his head. “No.” He drew his wife closer. “I have all I need.”
Pam sighed and looked around the room. “Duncan?”
He shook his head.
Both chuckled but shook their heads.
“Well, fuck!” Pam lamented. “I don’t wanna be the queen of fuckin’ Oklahoma! Hunter needs me! Who the hell else is gonna teach him how to dress properly?”
Kibwe laughed at Pam’s stricken expression but then decided to let her off the hook. “Of course, since I’m not really ‘here’ tonight, I cannot report Freyda’s death, and if I remember correctly, the previous king of Oklahoma had a child whom he’d been grooming to take over his position before his untimely demise.” He paused. “Perhaps, when Freyda does not reappear, the Authority will be satisfied to make him king.”
“Sounds like a good fuckin’ plan,” Pam said as Jesus, Tara, Alcide, Sam, Luna, and Scott came in. Claude had “popped” out to tell everyone that Russell was dead.
Jesus had a huge smile on his face and a phone held out. He handed it to Eric.
The Viking didn’t need to ask who was on the other end. He let out a huge sigh of relief, smiled gratefully at Jesus, and pulled Sookie closer.
“Son,” Eric said into the receiver, even as Sookie squeezed his hand and let her tears flow again. It was her husband’s joy that caused them this time.
“Daddy,” Hunter’s voice cried out. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” Eric said. “Your aunt Sookie came and got me. We’ll be home soon.”
Hunter sighed, and Eric could hear that his child was letting tears of relief and pent up fear flow from his eyes. Eric simply waited for his son to speak again.
“I’m glad you’re okay, Daddy,” came Hunter’s shaky voice.
“I cannot wait to see you, min son,” Eric responded. “Tell me what you are doing.”
“Well,” Hunter started, “I got to meet Batanya’s daughter, Breeta, today. And she’s real nice! And Grandpa Niall and the A.P. are here too. And Uncle Jason and Uncle Lala. And Emma is here waitin’ for her mommy and daddy. We swam and had spaghetti and played with my cars ‘til Emma went to sleep.”
“Even the A.P.?” Eric asked with a smile in his voice and on his face.
“Uh-huh,” answered Hunter. “She was able to pick the fastest car every time, but I think she was cheating.”
Eric chuckled. “I think you are probably right, son.” The vampire sighed as he listened to more about Hunter’s night. Finally, when his child had told him all that he needed to say, Eric spoke up. “It is getting late, my son. You should go to sleep.”
“Can I wait up for you?” Hunter asked.
“I will wake you before I go to my day-rest,” Eric answered. “But, for now, you should sleep.”
“Okay, Daddy,” Hunter said. “I love you.”
“I love you too, min son,” Eric answered.
He hung up the phone and handed it back to Jesus. “Thank you, Brother,” Eric said sincerely.
Jesus smiled and nodded.
Sookie leaned up and kissed her mate on the cheek. “We’ll see him soon,” she whispered.
Eric nodded and then turned to Alcide. The worry was clear on the vampire’s face, for there were several of their clan that he did not smell, and he knew that they were supposed to be there. “Tray? Amelia? Jarod?” he asked.
Alcide stiffened a little. “Tray’s arm was severed, but Ludwig showed up before he died. When she returned to tend to our other wounded, she said that he would be fine. She was able to reattach his arm, but it will take several months for him to regain full usage of it. If Jesus hadn’t slowed the bleeding, he would have died.”
Eric nodded at Jesus, who was smiling modestly.
“Amelia went with Tray,” Jesus added.
“Where’s Jarod?” Sookie asked Jesus, even as she delved into his mind to get the answer. She was breathing a sigh of relief before he spoke.
“He’ll be fine. He was bitten, but it’ll heal,” Jesus reported. “Dr. Ludwig made him stay at the vans.”
Tara smiled, and Sookie noticed a little blush creep into her cheeks. “Ludwig’s decided to keep your boy, Henry,” she told Sookie in an artificially detached voice. “She says he’s got the instincts to make a fine Supe doctor, and she’s decided to take him under her wing and train him.” She paused, “You sure he’s not still loyal to Gooey here?” Tara gestured toward the puddle of Russell on the floor.
“Positive,” Sookie smiled, happy to hear that Dr. Ludwig had taken an interest in Henry. “He’ll be off the V now, and he can make his own choices for his life.”
“Did we lose anyone?” Eric asked Alcide.
“Four,” Alcide nodded sadly. “Good Weres. Three from the Shreveport pack and one of Rasul’s.”
Eric looked at Rasul. “Thank you for coming, old friend. I will offer restitution to your Were’s family.”
Rasul bowed and smiled. “Thank you, Eric. Me and mine were glad to help you—as always.”
Alcide spoke again. “Since Tray’s out of commission tonight, me and Scott will inform our Weres’ families.”
Eric nodded. “Good. Make sure that they want for nothing and that their loved ones are honored. Miranda can make arrangements.”
For a moment, everyone in the room simply looked at each other. Given the number of their foes, they all knew that they’d been lucky—very lucky. Their losses had been small, and every single one of them understood what could have been lost that night.
There were a hundred sentimental things that Eric Northman could have said, but none of them seemed adequate. And none of them seemed “him.” He could have expressed how thankful he was that everyone in that room had felt him worthwhile enough to risk their lives for, but he didn’t need to. His gratefulness was clear from his eyes as he looked around the room.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here and torch this place,” Eric finally said.
“Fuckin’ A,” came Pam’s response.
Eric insisted that he was going to fly them home, despite Sookie’s protestations that he should rest after using the fairy magic. However, after Eric had pointed out to her that she’d been streaming her magic into him since he’d used it, she relented and then confessed that she didn’t even realize she’d been doing that.
Eric gratefully accepted an extra shirt from Alcide. As he buttoned it up, Sookie smiled mischievously.
Eric gave her a brilliant grin when he realized what she was smiling about. “I’d wear flannel for you every day—if you really wanted,” he whispered to her, as Pam, who heard his words looked at him with distaste.
Sookie shook her head and grinned, “Nope—I want you just like you wanna be, Mr. Northman.”
They both laughed when they heard the sigh of relief from Pam.
Eric kissed Sookie’s forehead. “I need to go back down there to get my father’s sword.”
Sookie looked at him and then nodded soberly, squeezing his hand tighter. He grabbed a canister of gasoline that had been brought in by one of their Weres, and she led the way into the basement. The couple said nothing as they entered the room where Eric had been tortured. Sookie once again took in all the dried blood on the table, noticing especially the pool of blood in the middle of the table, which had obviously resulted from Russell’s raping her husband. Outside of the heat of battle, Sookie let herself feel her sadness over what Eric had gone through. She felt guilty for not being able to prevent it.
Eric set the canister down on the table and spoke quietly, “I know what you are thinking about, min kära. And you must not think it. Nothing that happened in here is for you to feel guilt about.” He looked down at her and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
Sookie shook her head. “But he hurt you. If only,” her voice trailed off.
“There must never be ‘if only’s’ between us, min kván. Promise me.” His hand trailed a tear down her cheek and then wiped it away. “Everything is as it should be right now, and if anything up to this point had been different, then we may not have been able to defeat Russell. One or both of us might have died, or we may have lost our son.”
Sookie nodded. Eric was right. Another tear—a very different kind of tear—fell from her eye at hearing Eric identify Hunter as their son. Maybe she could never give Eric a son of their own, but she was determined to be a good mother to the son that he already had. She gave Eric a little smile as he led her over to where his father’s sword had been discarded by Russell. He found the shoulder strap in the corner of the room and secured the weapon to his back.
Eric chuckled at Sookie’s groan as he dropped her hand for a few seconds to complete this task. She took his hand again as soon as he was finished securing the sword. “What?” she asked, looking up at him.
“Nothing,” Eric said, squeezing her hand. She felt love and contentment flooding the vampire bond. And she felt gratefulness. She returned all of those feelings.
He gestured toward the canister of gasoline. “Would you care to do the honors, wife?”
She shook her head and then dropped his hand again so that he could douse the room with gasoline. She would have liked nothing more than to burn the room herself, but she felt like her husband needed it more.
As soon as he was done, their hands were once more together, and they left the basement and the bad memories of that place behind.
Neither one of them looked back to witness the warehouse being consumed by flames as Eric took off into the night sky. Sookie simply held onto her mate—as tightly as she could hold. And he held her back.