[November 8, 2014, approximately three years & three months after the last chapter]
“Hello Britomart,” Niall said, his voice teasing his sister.
“I thought—by now—that you knew better than to call me that,” she barked, though her voice held no real anger.
Niall chuckled, “It is your name. And Hunter calls you Grandma Brit now, so I thought. . . .”
She cut him off with a growl and then spoke snarkily, “You should not ‘think,’ Brother. How many times must I remind you? Plus,” she paused, “Hunter has his own rules with me—as you well know.”
Niall chuckled even louder.
She rolled her eyes. Her pupils were glassy with the age that had taken hold of her fairy body after it had adjusted its timing to the human realm and before she was turned into a vampire. In fact, because Niall had been in Faerie for much of the time that Britomart had been in the human realm, she had lived many more years than he had. But in her, he still saw the twin sister that he had enjoyed teasing when they were children. In fact, his very first memories were of playing with her and sparring with her and simply enjoying her presence. Twins within the fairy realm were often especially close since their touching bodies in the womb enhanced their telepathy with each other. Thus, she had always known him better than anyone, and when they were young, she had watched out for him like a lioness when their larger—though younger—brother Rogan had tried to bully him. She had also always been the first one to overlook his flaws, even as she encouraged the best from him.
“You are an infant,” she said, her voice sarcastic.
“And you are as easy to rile as ever, Britomart,” he paused dramatically and bowed with a flourish. “Sorry. I meant oh great and wise Ancient Pythoness.”
“That’s better,” she smirked as he sat down next to her.
She nudged him playfully as they took in the sight below them. They were sitting in a small balcony overlooking the huge auditorium of a Shreveport church.
Both of them were quiet for a moment as they watched the Weretiger light candles near the front of the church as a myriad of humans, witches, shifters, Weres, demons, and vampires took their seats and chatted.
The A.P.’s opaque eyes quickly took in the minute details of the setting. The church itself had clean lines and traditional wooden pews with cream-colored padded benches. A lovely circular stained glass window—a rose window—adorned the front of the church. The pulpit had been removed from the front of the altar area; however, a small wooden table had been set near the empty choir box. The simple, yet carefully constructed table―the A.P. knew―had been made of mahogany. There was a lovely pewter chalice already on the table. Its inscription was turned away from the crowd, but the A.P. had seen the object before and knew what it said: “Jag älskar dig, Mamma och Daddy.” The A.P. also knew that the lovely doily that the chalice rested upon had been made by Viola Stackhouse.
A small group of musicians was finishing their set-up within a recess along the left side of the sanctuary space. Framing the wide center aisle, the pews themselves were bare of decoration, except for a series of black and white framed photographs, which had been hung with black ribbon onto every other pew. All of the photos had been carefully selected by Hunter, who had taken many of them himself.
Several large elegant arrangements of flowers had been placed in clear vases around the church auditorium. The vases were set on wooden platforms that integrated well into the understated décor of the church. Light blue hydrangeas were the prominent flowers in the arrangements, but the A.P. also saw white calla lilies and stephanotis as well as dark blue delphiniums and lavender. She knew that each flower had been chosen for both its aesthetics and its symbolism.
The hydrangeas were for enduring grace and beauty as well as for gratefulness. The A.P. chuckled. In some cultures the showy nature of the flower was also taken as a sign of arrogance, and that certainly rang true with her little cat at times.
The lavender had been chosen for its sweet scent as well as its symbolic connection to devotion. They were also hearty little flowers, and that well-suited the pair who had chosen them.
The calla lilies, which had been chosen by her little cat especially, represented great beauty, but in many cultures there was also a somber, serious meaning attached to them. He understood well the darkness of the world and had learned how to appreciate true beauty when he found it.
The A.P. smiled. The delphiniums had been chosen to honor her. Though in modern times they symbolized an open heart and ardent attachment, they were meant to be a nod to her status as an Oracle of Delphi. She remembered well how the people in ancient Greece believed that the flower would repel scorpions. The mate of her little cat had handed her a small bouquet of the flowers when she’d arrived earlier. That bouquet now sat on her lap, though she’d tucked the attached note into one of the pockets in her clothing. It had read: “Thank you for helping us drive away the scorpions” and had been signed with an intricately entwined “E” and “S” in the handwriting of her little cat.
The stephanotis simply represented happiness in marriage. It had been chosen by Hunter.
Britomart followed the Weretiger’s movements to the other side of the altar area as he lit another set of candles. She had seen the demon, Jesus; the witch, Amelia; and her nephew, Claude, pouring the candles a week earlier, and she knew that they contained demon, human, and fairy magic that was meant to bless those gathered together when they were lit.
She noticed the intricate design of the curved wooden platforms that held the thick, ivory candles. Arranged around the candles were more stephanotis and lavender, the combination of which offered a pleasing, delicate aroma that almost covered up the scent of the magic in the air, but her powerful nose was able to pick it up. The Nordic runes that were lightly carved into the sides of the handmade platforms gave away the identity of their maker to the A.P.
She snorted a little. People always assumed that she couldn’t see because of the way her eyes looked, but she could see well enough to recognize the loving care that had been put into selecting each and every understated decoration in the church. All of them had meaning to those who had put them carefully into place, and that had obviously not included the bumbling Weretiger who annoyingly nudged one of the flowers so that the last rune on the candle platform could no longer be seen.
Niall spoke softly. “Ah—I see that young Eric has told a story with the runes of his people.”
Still annoyed, the elder vampiress nodded. “Yes—the rune Gebo occurs many times.”
“That rune symbolizes ‘connections’—does it not?” the fairy asked.
“And marriage—the partnership of lovers,” she added.
“What is the last one? I cannot quite see it from where I sit.”
“It is Wunjo,” she answered stiffly. “The Weretiger should be drained for covering it with his thick fingers and thicker brain.”
Niall chuckled at the passion of her anger.
She turned to give him a dirty look.
Niall had seen that look before, and to prevent her from actually killing Quinn, who was—after all—an asset in young Eric’s Area, he decided to change the subject. “Ah Wunjo—the rune for glory and success.”
“Yes. And contentment after a long journey,” she added with a huff.
Niall could tell that his sister was still quite annoyed. Luckily, Jessica, who had been acting as the de facto planner for the event, inauspiciously zipped to the candle arrangement and put the flower back into place.
Britomart’s posture immediately relaxed. “She is a good girl—that one,” she complimented Jessica. “She is not amusing like Pam—but she is gentle of spirit.” She paused. “She reminds me of Godric in some ways.”
The pair of siblings was silent as the musicians completed their final tuning.
“The rune story is appropriate,” Niall commented after a while. “Both for them and for others. Do you not think so, Sister?” he added with a significant look in her direction.
She did not answer as her attention was stolen by her little cat, who was moving to the front of the auditorium. She smirked as she saw him take in and analyze the crowd in a matter of seconds. She had a conception of the kind of security he had arranged for the event, and it was extensive. Still, he understood that he would always be the strongest line of defense between his family and danger.
She smiled. He’d even had Hunter ask her if there was “anything he should know” related to his plans. Enlisting Hunter had been a wise move on the part of her little cat. She couldn’t help but to alleviate the child’s fears about the security of the event much more directly than she would have with Eric. She enjoyed making him figure out her riddles too much to ever give him a simple or direct response. But—as she’d reminded Niall—there were different rules with Hunter. And she’d told him outright that his father’s plans were sound.
After all these years, her little cat had finally found a strategy for getting a direct answer out of her. Britomart chuckled lightly at the thought of all the times Eric had been exasperated with her riddles.
The object of her thoughts looked up at the sound of her chuckle and gave her and Niall a subtle nod. She smirked. Her vampire grandson had inherited her keen senses of smell and hearing as gifts from her. She’d put them into Godric’s blood when she’d turned him, but she’d told them to wait for Godric’s child—to wait for the Norseman. She’d known that her little cat would need them.
Even when making her only vampire child, the A.P. had known that she had the power to transfer what gifts she willed to whom she willed. Most vampires were never keen enough to figure that out or strong enough to pull it off. Of course, she’d “cheated”; she’d gotten “help” doing both of these things from her gift of future-site. The future had told her who in her lineage would need what gift. It had also told her how to activate the vampire, fairy, and demon magic within her so that she could distribute those gifts effectively.
Yes. The A.P. had most definitely known what she was doing when she had given her gifts; they’d saved her little cat more than once and had helped to bring him to this moment. She had been saddened that she had to keep them strong but dormant inside of Godric as they waited for Eric. However, she had passed along what gifts she could to her own beloved vampire son. The greatest of those gifts, ironically, had been Eric himself. It was she who had made sure that Godric was in the region where he would find his own greatest joy, his child. No—she did not make errors when it came to gift-giving. Even Pamela had indirectly received an ability from her; she’d received the skill to dampen down her bonds via Godric, who’d gotten it from her. Of course, the A.P. had “told” that gift to skip over Eric so that it would be stronger when it fell to Pam. After all, Eric would not have used it anyway. The A.P. was pretty certain that the gift to shut down bonds had derived from her remaining Fae blood, for it reminded her of shielding people from her thoughts when she had telepathy.
Of course, given her bond with Artegal, it was sometimes difficult to know exactly from where and how her many abilities had originated. And—despite the fact that her own vampire maker had been a bastard—he’d also passed gifts along to her. She sometimes wondered if she was more vampire, demon, or fairy.
“He looks nervous,” Niall chuckled, breaking her from her reverie.
“He looks happy,” the A.P. corrected but then chuckled. “And nervous too.”
“Why aren’t you down there?” Niall asked his sister as he took in the crowd sitting in the pews.
“Too many vampires there would recognize me,” she returned. “I do not want to take away from their day or raise any suspicions about his connections to me, so I decided to stay up here and,” she paused before continuing impishly, “cloister myself.”
Niall chuckled. “So you are still able to mask your scent after all this time?”
She rolled her eyes again. “Of course, dumbass. Just because one goes from a fairy to a vampire does not mean that one loses oneself.”
“But you did lose your telepathy, double-dumbass,” Niall reminded teasingly as he joined her in using the human translations of the taunts they used to throw at each other as children.
She scoffed dramatically, “That particular gift was never strong in me to begin with. No—the fairy gifts I needed most and those I needed to pass on to others stayed with me through my transformation into vampire.”
That comment earned her a curious look and then a smile from her little cat. Taking in the room, she knew that none of the others there had ears strong enough to overhear her and Niall’s low voices, despite the cornucopia of species represented below. But she knew Eric could hear her. Indeed, when it came to giving him the gift of her senses, she’d held nothing back from him.
“And why aren’t you down there?” Britomart asked her brother.
“I think you know why,” Niall said―his voice changing to a much more serious tone.
“Ah,” she replied. “Just in case this is the last of me.”
She sighed. “I admit that this is my fondest hope. I have said my goodbyes to them―just in case.”
Niall knew that she was referring to Sookie, Eric, and Hunter. “Do you think this is the time?”
She smiled. “Who knows, but it feels right. Perhaps, it will wait until morning. I would hate to miss the party. Hunter has asked for a dance.”
Niall tried to smile but failed. “I do not wish to lose you.”
She sighed and took her brother’s hand in an uncharacteristic display of physical affection. “Artegal said that I would be freed to come to him when the world finally accepted a pair like we were, and those two are . . . ,” her voice trailed off as she looked at Eric.
“They are just as awe-inspiring and unique as you and your Artegal were—are,” Niall completed in a whisper as he squeezed his sister’s hand. He sighed heavily. “If this is the end of your time on this plane and you really do go chasing after his soul tonight, will you do me a favor?”
“If I can,” she answered simply.
“Will you tell Artegal that I am sorry I didn’t do more to protect you both when it most mattered? I am sorry, Brit.”
She scoffed and squeezed his hand back. “Tanu, I will tell him hello from you. As for protecting us—what could you have done? You could not have gone against Mother and Father. You were little more than a whelp at the time.”
“You were old enough to stand up to them,” he said sadly. “And strong enough.”
She smirked. “Well, I was born three minutes earlier than you. I was always much more advanced.” She paused. “And intelligent. And beautiful,” she added.
He wasn’t quite ready to let her change the tone of their conversation. “I wish things had been different, Brit.”
There was silence between the siblings for a long minute.
She squeezed his hand again and a tear fell from her glassy eye. “I used to wish so too, but now, looking at my little cat and knowing what he and his mate have become together—what they are still becoming—I cannot wish for anything different than what has come to pass.” Niall followed her teary gaze back down to where Eric stood.
“Had I not been cursed by Artegal’s parents, I would have never been maker to my Godric. Eric would have died a gory death on a battle field long ago. The kind-hearted Sookie we know would have become sad and jaded after having been taken to the former queen of Louisiana by Bill Compton. After being used up, she would have died young. She would have never found love. And then Hunter would have been collected by Sophie-Anne Leclerq as well.” She paused. “I did not see Hunter smile in that future. Not ever. He did not know how.”
There was more silence between them as Niall absorbed what his sister had said. He often felt sorry for the burdens she faced in knowing what could have come to pass.
Once more, it was she who broke the silence. “Our Hunter smiles all the time in this timeline. How could I wish for anything different than that?”
Niall leaned over and kissed her cool cheek. “You’re right―of course―but you have been the one to pay the price with many, many years of separation from Artegal.”
“Ah,” she said, “what are millennia when I have eternity waiting for me? Artegal made me promise that I would be happy, and I have been—for the most part. I enjoyed watching my beautiful Godric. Pamela is quite amusing as well―as you know. My little cat has been a joy. And recently, his little clan has been a pleasure for me to become a small part of as my time in this plane seems to be waning.”
Niall closed his eyes to keep a tear away and then gave her a warm smile. “I have enjoyed watching over Eric and Sookie too—and Hunter, of course. Did you know that the boy named his two new kittens after you and your mate?”
The A.P. scoffed, but there was a smile on her face. “I knew that I ought not to have used my true name when telling him my story that night, but I find it difficult to deny him anything when he raises those brown eyes to me and says his little ‘Please.’”
“Still,” Niall chuckled, “it was sweet of him to name his kittens Brit and Art. He believes that they will one day fall in love.”
The A.P. rolled her eyes again but then chuckled along with Niall. “Do not be so certain of it. The elder cat, the one they call Ham, has his eye on little Brit as well.”
“Yes,” Niall agreed. “I noticed that during my last visit, but young Art is as tenacious as his namesake, and he was already trying to challenge the older cat. I suppose only time will tell.”
The A.P. laughed. “Why should little Brit limit herself? She should have all the adoration she can get―as far as I’m concerned. Why should she not take two lovers?”
Niall chuckled and squeezed his sister’s hand again. “Yes, little Brit should always be adored.” He gave her a little pinch.
“Shut up,” she said. “And remember that I will bite you if you pinch me again, NiNi.”
Niall smiled at her usage of the nickname she’d given him when they were children.
As the music started below, the twins turned their attention back to the front of the church and chuckled together as they saw Eric shifting nervously from one foot to another.
A/N: Forgive me for skipping 3 years. The side story that I drafted takes place in between the last chapter and this one; it is called Sojourn if you want to read it before you continue.
So—a wedding! Yes. I was just sappy enough to go there!
And—yes—I am going to be even sappier too! I will be putting lots of pictures of the things that I’m envisioning on this site as a bonus feature (access below). When I planned my own wedding a few years ago, I did it on a relatively small budget, so I looked for little things that would make it special. I imagined Eric and Sookie doing the same—but having lots more money. LOL.
I hope you enjoyed this little transition chapter through the eyes of the elders in this story. If you are wondering, I DID name the Ancient Pythoness Britomart and her lover Artegal after the characters of the same name in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. And—yes—that is why I spelled my version of Faerie that way. 😉
Finally, thanks for the many responses received about the last chapter. I was nervous about putting our family back together in the “right way.” In the end, the moment of Eric holding his two dear ones as they slept during the daylight was what stuck into my head. It was one of the early visions I had for this story, and that moment was the END of Come Back to Me in the first draft.
In the second draft of the story, I realized that I had a few more things to shore up to bring this story to a full resolution, so I hope that most of you stick with me!
Thanks again for reading.