Chapter 02: Loss & Gain

EPOV

I had vowed to myself that I would wait patiently to worship my bonded’s body; I had promised myself that we would have our discussion first.

After that, I’d intended to take my time paying proper homage to each and every inch of her delectable form—before I pillaged her.

Obviously, my plans didn’t work out the way I’d wanted them to.  We’d not even been at the cabin for thirty minutes, and we were already a mass of naked, tangled bodies on the floor.

In my defense, my gorgeous minx had baited me with her ass wiggle.  And there had been the shameless flirting outside.  And she’d clung to me tightly during the whole flight to the cabin.  And there was the lust that she had been sending through our vampire bond.  She had not played fair.  My wife just did not play fair sometimes.

And I fucking loved it.

Also—in my defense—Sookie had been back from the fairy realm for only five weeks, and it was still pretty difficult for me to keep my eyes, my hands, and all the other parts of my body off of her.  Lafayette liked to joke that we were having “catch-up sex.”  Of course, when Hunter overheard that from Lafayette’s mind, he’d thought that his Uncle Lala had said “ketchup sex.”

The poor boy had been confused for days before he’d asked Sookie and me for clarification.  Even if I lived ten thousand years, I would never forget the serious look on Hunter’s face as he had asked me to explain what sex what.  His immediate follow-up question had been about whether we used ketchup when we had sex because it looked like blood.

I could chuckle about it now.  But at the time, I’d wanted to run away and leave answering Hunter’s questions to Sookie.

“What?” Sookie asked, tilting her chin up to look at me.  Gods, she was beautiful.

“Ketchup,” I said.  That one word was enough to make us both start laughing; it would probably make us laugh for our entire eternity to come.

Still giggling, Sookie rearranged herself so that she was turned on her side and facing me.  I mirrored her pose and then pulled her into my body.  I loved to feel her body heat near my cool flesh.  I loved to rest my hand in the valley above her hip.

I loved everything about her.

She smiled widely as we silently looked at each other.

“Hunter’s amazing,” she said after a while even as she took hold of my hand, moved it to where she wanted it between us, and then entwined her fingers into it.  Enjoying her affectionate touch, I closed my eyes for a moment.

“Yes,” I agreed.

“You’re purring,” she said.

“Vampires don’t purr,” I said, my eyes still closed and my contentment flowing into the bond.

“What’s that sound then?” she asked.

“A rumble,” I answered.  “A very masculine rumble.”  I opened one eye, seeing if she would challenge my word choice.

“Hmm,” she sounded a little skeptical.  “A rumble—huh?”

“Indeed,” I confirmed, closing my eye again.

“Do all vampires purr—I mean rumble?” she asked curiously.

I ignored her jibe.  “I have no idea actually.  I have never heard another vampire make this noise, nor had I made it before I was with you.”  I paused for a moment.  “It is odd.  I often do not know that I am doing it until you point it out.”

“Maybe it’s the bond?” she offered.

“It cannot be,” I said, opening my eyes.

“How do you know?” she asked.

“The first night we made love—before we made the fairy bond or started the vampire bond—I made this sound,” I shared.  “You had fallen asleep for a while, and I recognized that I was doing it when I almost woke you.”

“Oh,” she sounded.  “Wait.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Well,” she said with a sly grin, “you said that vampires don’t purr, but you’ve never heard any other vampires ‘rumbling’ either.  So, then how do you know it’s a rumble?  It sounds like purring to me.”

I felt her mirth in the bond.

“Is this similar to how you don’t snort—supposedly?” she asked.

“I do not snort,” I denied, my own mirth joining hers in the bond.

“Then I never cuss,” she grinned.

“I have never heard a single curse word from your delectable lips, lover,” I teased indulgently.

“Then I’ve never heard you fuckin’ purr,” she said sarcastically before she giggled into my chest.

“Exactly, lover,” I said with a chuckle as I drew her tightly to me.

We were silent for a few minutes, each of us content to draw patterns on each other’s body with our fingertips.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling from your side of the bond when you realized that Hunter was broaching the sex topic with us,” she giggled.

I opened my eyes to see hers dancing.

“Godric turned me well before my human children got old enough to learn of such things,” I defended.  “Plus, things were different in my time.  Sex was simply a part of life—not the taboo subject that it is now.  I was just not expecting ‘the talk’—not yet, at least.”

“When he told us that he and Emma had talked it over and that all they could figure out was that I liked to eat French fries while we were having sex, I almost lost it,” Sookie laughed.  “And when Hunter asked you if sex made people hungry, I thought you were gonna just fly away.”

“I considered it!” I admitted.  In fact, I had.  We’d been outside hanging out by the pool after having a swim when Hunter had broached the topic—with little Emma right by his side—and the sky had looked pretty damned good in that moment.

We shared another chuckle.  Of course, being a telepath, Hunter had run into the word “sex” before, but he was only seven, still too young—thankfully—to care much about it.  When Hunter had first entered my life, he was but five years old, and he’d lived a relatively solitudinous life with Remy Savoy and then his birth mother.

But I had come to learn that the differences between five and seven years old were vast, especially if the seven-year-old in question had a precocious eight-year-old “girlfriend.”  Hunter had changed so much in such a short time, and my heart dipped momentarily at the thought that he would one day die—unless he decided to become a vampire, which was a decision Sookie and I would leave completely up to him when the time was right.

I couldn’t help but to hope that Hunter would have the long lifespan of the Fae—especially if he visited the “in-between place,” which Claude had begun calling Dùraig, with adequate frequency.  But when I thought of my son’s future, I saw him sharing a relatively normal lifespan with the girl he’d already hooked his heart to.  I saw them marrying young.  I saw them living a comfortable, steady life, which I would do my damnedest to make sure was a safe and secure one.  I imagined them having children and grandchildren.  But I didn’t want to get my hopes up that he would join Sookie and me as a vampire.

To hope for that was to lay my heart out before a firing squad and to pray that none of them could aim worth a shit.

Thus, I was already trying to reconcile myself to the idea that I would probably lose my child to death one day—just as I’d lost my human children, so long ago.

“Hey,” Sookie said as she reached up to tenderly cup my chin.  “Where did you go?”

I gave her a sad smile.  “I was thinking about the future.  We will have the family Hunter leaves us—his legacy―but . . . .”  I stopped, unable to finish my sentence.

She exhaled slowly, her warm breath—still minty from when she’d brushed her teeth before we left the house—warming me.  As always, she seemed to understand my train of thought without my needing to speak it.

“But one day, we may lose him,” she finished for me.

I nodded and looked at her seriously.  “One day, we will begin to lose many of those who are around us.  This is one of the reasons why vampires do not tend to form relationships with humans or even the two-natured.  And it is hard to find other vampires who will be loyal for an eternity, so we avoid fraternity among each other too—unless it is with our progeny or our makers.  We avoid relationships because we do not wish to face,” I paused, “the inevitable hazard of loss.  We do not want to be vulnerable to it.”  I sighed.  “Demons have always been our best bets for association—as they live long and are known for their abiding loyalty.”

“Association?” she queried quietly.

“Friendship,” I corrected, thinking of Jesus.

She gave me a little smile.

I raised her hand to my lips and looked at her sadly.  “However, now we are both in trouble.”

“Because we’re gonna live on and we broke the rules?” Sookie asked.

“Yes.”  As a matter of fact, with Sookie, I had broken many of the unspoken rules of vampires.  I’d attached myself to others—many others.  And—at least within our clan—I publically showed my affection for her and for my son.  Because Sookie had agreed to join me as a vampire—if the Fae magic that was keeping her young ever began to wear off—she was breaking the rules too.

She exhaled a slow breath, and I could see a tear shining in her eye.  “We’re always gonna break those rules though.”

I nodded.  “Yes.  When Hunter gives us grandchildren, we will value them even as we value our child.”

She smiled a little; she was thinking about the love and not the loss.  And that was only one of the many reasons why I needed her beside me—why I couldn’t do any of this without her there.

“Value?” she asked quietly.

“Love,” I corrected myself again.

“Our grandchildren will give us great-grandchildren,” she said, barely above a whisper.

“And we will love all of them,” I said with a sad smile.

After a few minutes of quiet touching, Sookie spoke again.  “We have found vampires that can be our abiding friends.  We’re lucky.”

I nodded in agreement.  “Duncan, Thalia, Bubba—yes, they will stay our friends through time.  And, of course, Pam and Jessica too.”

“And maybe Molly?” she added.

I chuckled.  “Yes—as long as Pam doesn’t antagonize her too much.”

“But Pam really likes Molly,” Sookie insisted.

“True,” I relented.  “But Pam really likes her new pumps too, but that affection will only last for a season.”

Sookie chuckled, but looked a little sad for Pam.

I shrugged.  “Maybe this time will be different.  I have never seen her maintain a relationship for more than a month or so.  But from my bond with her, I know her feelings spike when she sees young Molly.”

A faraway look in her eyes, Sookie asked, “Do you think Jess will turn Jason into a vampire?”

“If they bond, she will want to,” I responded.  “Will he accept?”

Sookie thought for a moment.  “I think so,” she nodded.  “And they are already talkin’ about adopting kids while he’s still human.”

I smiled and pulled her a little closer.  “Then you will keep your brother and his family.”

“And you and I will be Aunt Sookie and Uncle Eric,” she said.

“That we will, my love,” I returned.

She sighed.  “But we’ll lose Miranda and Jarod and Tara and Lala and Jesus and Henry.  So many others too.”

“I know,” I said softly as I played with her silky tresses.  “Jesus’s demon blood will allow him to live quite a long time, and the two-natured tend to have longer lifespans as well, but we will lose them all eventually.”

“But,” Sookie smiled, “we’ll have little Godric for a while—and the other kids that are coming.”

“Yes,” I agreed.  “The children of our friends may one day step into their parents’ roles—or into other roles in our lives.”

“But we’ll lose all of them too,” Sookie said sadly.

“Yes,” I confirmed softly.  There was no use lying about the inevitable.

Our conversation halted again as we continued our caresses of one another.

“I will never regret the life we have chosen—the people in our family,” she said suddenly.  There was fire in her eyes.

“Nor will I, min kära,” I promised.

She smiled and sat up a little.  I moved to match her.  I could tell that she was ready to move away from the sad topic that we’d fallen onto.  I also knew that we’d have to revisit it many times in the years to come as the members of our clan aged and then died.  However, we would be together to face all of the losses that would occur.  It wouldn’t make them any less heart-breaking, especially in the case of my son—our son—but it would make it easier since my helpmeet would always be by my side.

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SPOV

The thought of eventually losing all the people I loved had initially been the main reason why I’d not wanted to be made a vampire.  Of course, Niall had now confirmed that I was aging very slowly, and as long as I continued to visit the fairy realm—even just what Claude now called Dùraig—with enough frequency, Niall didn’t think my aging would speed up again.

When I thought about it now, most of my previous arguments against becoming a vampire were illogical or null.  The person I loved the most was one―after all!  And there was no way that I wanted to leave him.  No way that I could.

Of course, I’d entertained the notion of becoming a vampire even before I met Bill; almost everyone I knew did—at least in their heads—as soon as vampires revealed themselves to the world.  It was hard not to imagine what it might be like to cheat human death.  However, at the time, my own life was so different, and I couldn’t imagine living forever.  Frankly, I wouldn’t have wanted to live the life I had then forever.  At that time, I still didn’t have great control over my shields, and I couldn’t imagine finding someone I could have a romantic relationship with.  An eternity of being a single waitress, struggling to pay the bills?  Well, I said “no thank you” to that idea!

Plus, I admired Gran’s quiet dignity as she aged.  And I really did love the sunlight; now I knew that I was drawn to it because I was part fairy.  Back then, it just seemed like another good reason not to become a creature of the night.

And then I met Bill, and for a while, I thought that I loved him.  Oh—I now knew that it was mostly his blood that had caused my affection for him, but we did have some good times together, and in those times, I did contemplate what it would be like to become a vampire so that I could stay with Bill.  With him, I had feared that my aging would eventually become a factor and that it would cause him either to leave me or to stay with me out of pity.  Neither of those outcomes was something I wanted, but becoming a vampire would have prevented them.  So—yes—I had thought about what it might be like to have Bill as a maker, but becoming a vampire just to avoid his leaving me or his discomfort over my aging didn’t seem like good enough reasoning.

Plus, the more I learned about the relationships between makers and their children, the less I liked the prospect of having a maker myself.

When we were together, Bill didn’t tell me much about the connection between makers and their progeny, but I had picked up some things.  It had seemed to me that most makers were sexually involved with their children for a while, but then that sexual attraction eventually died out.  I’d learned that that was what happened in Eric and Pam’s case.  Of course, Eric and Pam had become enduring friends after that—almost like siblings at times.  I’d also learned that most makers eventually separated from their children as Godric had separated from Eric.  I picked up that makers could control their progeny through commands, but could release their children if they wanted to.  After I’d met Lorena in Dallas, Bill told me a little more about makers.  He said that some of them became obsessed with keeping their children near them—with keeping control over them.

The thought of being perpetually controlled by someone had terrified me, so I’d bristled at the thought of becoming a vampire after that.  I think that part of my subconscious had known that Bill was, even then, trying to control me with his blood.  Maybe that’s why I’d been so against the thought of him—or anyone else—turning me at the time.

When I was first allowing myself to acknowledge that I loved Eric, I didn’t have the same fears about having him as my potential maker as I’d had with Bill.  There was something in me that had always trusted Eric, even when he’d done underhanded things.  I knew that Eric would not use his status as maker to try to control me or to change me.  What I had still feared about becoming a vampire, however, was that one day Eric might stop loving me.  The thought that I would end up walking the earth forever—all alone and with a shattered heart—had terrified me.

But that was before I completed the vampire bond with Eric.  The fear that he would ever stop loving me as much as I loved him went away as soon as I felt what was in his heart.  The bond hadn’t caused our love, but it did show me our love from Eric’s perspective.  And it was not something that had an expiration date.

Even though I knew from the start that Eric wanted me to eventually join him as a vampire, I had never feared what would happen if I stayed a human.  I wasn’t worried about aging with Eric; I knew that the love he had for me would be the same even if I became an old woman while he remained perpetually young.  And I knew that his eyes would continue to hold only love for me—never pity.

When Eric had come to visit me in the fairy realm, I’d felt the emotional drain that my long absence had caused him.  And that was when I knew for sure that I never wanted to leave his side once we were finally together again.  And if that meant eventually becoming a vampire, then so be it.  To tell the truth, I’d felt a little foolish about dragging my feet about the whole thing.  When I weighed having Eric against having human food and a tan?  Well, let’s just say that Eric weighed a lot more.  A whole lot more!

Plus, I wouldn’t actually lose everyone in my life as I’d feared before.  There would be a lot of people who would remain with us for a very long time—if not forever.

I figured that Pam might one day move on to become a queen.  It was my opinion that “she protested too much” about the Oklahoma thing.  And she’d make a good queen.  Thalia shared with me her plan to give Pam Nevada once Hunter was grown up.  We all knew that Pam would want to stay close to home until then, but Pam—for all her spoiled nature—was a free spirit.  And she’d eventually want to make her own way, but I knew that she would continue to be a fixture in our lives nonetheless.

I figured that Duncan and Batanya would shadow Hunter for the remainder of his childhood.  And I was certain that Eric and I would stay close to Hunter as long as he lived—no matter where he wanted to settle once he became an adult.  After that, I didn’t know what the Britlingen and her mate would do, but I was betting they’d stay close too.  Duncan lacked the ambition to become a king—just as Eric did—and the two of them were truly brothers in every way that mattered.

If my own brother became a vampire, I wasn’t sure what he and Jessica would do or where they would go, but I knew that they would remain constants in my life and that we would all visit one another.

And my fairy kin would also live a long time—though I wondered sometimes whether Niall was becoming a little weary of his life.  Claude had the same thoughts.  He told me that some fairies had lived to be three times Niall’s age, but at a certain point, most of the elders simply decided to move on to the Summerlands when they were pulled there strongly enough by those who were waiting.  I sometimes wondered if my great-grandmother Viola had begun pulling him more forcefully.  Goodness knows―I wouldn’t blame her if she had.  I knew that I would always pull to be near Eric.

So—yes—somewhere along the line, I had realized just how messed up my logic about becoming a vampire had been.  All life had death and loss mixed in—human life included.  Even as a “normal” human, a person could outlive his or her entire family and all of his or her friends.  I thought of Gran.  What if Neave and Lochlan had attacked my parents’ car when we were on our way to Gran’s house and not when my parents were leaving it?  But for a twist of timing, Jason and I would have been dead too.  Aunt Linda died of cancer not long after that.  Hadley would likely have never found her way back home.  And Gran—having lost all her children and grandchildren—would have been alone with no family.  Death was unpredictable—especially human death.

As time moved on, Eric and I would lose a lot of people that we loved.  However, I knew that I’d have my vampire by my side for eternity.  We would survive our losses together.

Eric had zipped into the bathroom to bring me a light robe and a warm washrag so that I could clean up after our little romp.  He came out with a pair of dark grey boxer briefs on.  I knew that they were for my benefit.  I still had a hard time talking to him when we were naked—mostly because my husband’s body was just too damned distracting—and it was too hot to stay under the covers.

“You got the list?” Eric asked me.

I nodded.  We’d been compiling a list of all the topics we wanted to talk about during our time at the cabin.  At home, we’d spent as much time with Hunter as possible since I’d come back from the fairy realm.  Not that I was complaining about that!  I loved that little boy more every second I was with him, but there were many things that Eric and I needed to discuss without Hunter present.

And there were a few things that needed to heal too.  Oh—Eric and I were solid, and I could feel his love for me growing with each day, just as my love for him was increasing.  But since I’d gotten back from the fairy realm, Eric’s fear about losing me again had remained.  Even though he tried to hide it, I could feel his fear edging into the bond now and then.  Instinctively, I knew that the more time Eric and I could be alone together without outside distractions, the more likely he would be to realize the depth of his fear and start to overcome it.

Of course, after Hunter went to bed each night, Eric and I had certainly had some time alone, but much of that had contained more moaning than talking.  Plus, there always seemed to be something that we needed to do when we were at home.

It seemed that almost every night, there were reconnections for me to make or work to do.  Plus, in my absence, we’d grown to be a big family, which I loved.  But there was a drawback to that; it automatically meant less uninterrupted time for Eric and me.

Still, I did love family time, and Eric and I wanted to stay close to the people around us—and not become a closed-off world in ourselves.  Eric had been a mostly solitary creature for so long, and I could tell that he was thriving from having a “clan” to watch over.  He’d kept himself from forming close relationships—with the exceptions of Godric, Pam, and Duncan—for a thousand years, but now that he had a big family, I could tell that he was happier.

I was happier too.  I’d always wanted a big family, and I loved spending time with everyone.  For instance, every Monday, we had a huge group of people over to the house.  First it was for a movie night, but now—since Monday Night Football was about to begin—it would be for a football night.

I could already tell that Eric was excited about the season opener of Monday Night Football, which was now less than a week away.  The New England Patriots, one of Eric’s favorite teams, were going to be playing the Miami Dolphins.  To tease my mate, I’d bought a Tom Brady jersey to wear during the game.  It was a well-established fact in our group that Eric “admired” the quarterback of the Patriots.  I’d had a crush on Tom Brady too, and I couldn’t wait to tease Eric about it a little.  I figured that it would provoke some intense “half-time activities” for my husband and me―during which I knew Eric would show me just how superior to Tom Brady he was.

Since I’d gotten back, there had also been several “fishing nights” as Hunter liked to call them.  Pam liked to call them “opportunities to use Eric’s credit card.”  Either way, it had been fun to spend time with both of the groups which had formed.  Plus, Hunter absolutely loved fishing with his daddy, his uncle Jason, etc.  Terry Bellefleur brought Coby over for most fishing nights, and Sam usually came too.  After her first trip out with those of us who chose shopping over fishing, little Emma had declared herself a “fisherwoman.”  I smiled, knowing that part of her choice had been dictated by her desire to be close to Hunter.

Eric and I had also hung out with Duncan and Batanya quite a bit.  It turned out that the Britlingen was quite “fun” when she was off duty—if a bruising, saccharin sense of humor could be considered fun.  Luckily, both Eric and I thought it could, and Duncan was obviously head over heels for her.  In fact, the snarkier Batanya was, the more he seemed to like her.

In addition, Eric and I had gone to visit Amelia and Tray, who was still working to recover the full usage of his arm, a few times.  Eric, Hunter, and I had also had several dinners over at Jason and Jessica’s place.  Jesus, Lafayette, Miranda, and Jarod would often build fires and hang out at night, and Eric and I—as well as Hunter, if it wasn’t past his bedtime—usually joined them to chat for at least part of the night.  Also, we’d had Niall and Claude over quite a bit, and Claude was keeping up his Sunday visits since we all thought it was prudent for Eric to keep “popping” to and from Fangtasia.  Plus, Claude enjoyed working with human plants quite a bit and I liked having my tanu around.

Indeed—we’d been very busy with a lot of family commitments and reconnecting, and I’d enjoyed every single of them, but when Eric had suggested that we spend a couple of nights at the cabin, I’d jumped at the chance to be truly alone with my mate.

In fact, I’d leaped at it.

After Pam had teased us relentlessly about the noise we made the night that Eric and I returned from defeating Russell, we had Jesus put up a privacy spell around our room and bathroom.  Or rather, I’d insisted on the spell.  My Viking liked the idea of all the supernatural ears in our house being able to hear him “claiming” me.  But when I reminded him that we also had our son’s ears to consider, he relented.  I—for one—was glad to have the privacy.

It meant that I didn’t have to be self-conscious when I wanted to be a little “loud” during sex.  And Eric seemed to have the gift of making me want to be loud quite a bit.

We did, therefore, have a lot of privacy in our home when we wanted it, but there was something about the idea of coming to the cabin―so that we could talk about everything we needed to talk about without worrying about anyone or anything else—that was appealing to both of us.  The cabin had always been a kind of sanctuary for us, and it was heaven to be there with my mate.

And I could tell that Eric was already much more relaxed as well.

Earlier that evening, we’d spent a couple of hours with Hunter and then—with his blessing for what he so sweetly called our “play-date”—we’d packed our bags and taken off.  Barring emergency, we planned to return to the ætt land a couple of hours after dark the night after tomorrow.  So that gave us the better part of two more nights to just focus on each other.  And that also meant that I’d have two more nights to have my way with my husband.

I thought briefly about letting the robe slip off my shoulders—accidentally, of course.  But I decided that it would be better to get our conversation over with—or at least started.  Then, I would tempt him to pillage me again.

How could I not?


 

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