“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. And if they don’t, they never were.”—Khalil Gibran
As soon as she took Niall’s hand, Sookie felt herself moving quickly away from Eric—so impossibly fast that her breath was knocked from her body. The air around her seemed to be spinning—purple and black swirls of light.
The next thing that Sookie became aware of was a piercing scream—her own. And then she felt the pain—so much pain that she knew she’d be ripped apart from it.
Niall’s voice seemed to be coming at her from every direction. “What have you done?!” Niall half-demanded and half-accused as he shook her shoulders roughly. She could tell that her great-grandfather’s grip was tight. And she was sure she’d have bruises from it, but she couldn’t feel it through the searing pain, which seemed to be pulling her very soul from her body.
The sound of her own screams no longer met Sookie’s ears, even though her mouth was still gaping open. Her lungs were on fire.
“Niall!” a female voice yelled. Sookie barely managed to register that a beautiful brunette woman who looked vaguely familiar was now standing near them. “You must take her back—now!”
“No!” Niall yelled. “I won’t take her back—just to be fed on by vampires!”
“Niall! You don’t have a choice!”
“What have you done?” Niall yelled at Sookie, even as he shook her again.
“Niall!” the female voice said insistently. “Please! Go now! She’ll die if you don’t!”
Sookie believed the woman as her pain intensified. She was certain that nothing would ever make it go away, except for her death—and maybe not even that.
Sookie heard nothing else, nor did she see anything else—except for the purple and black colors jumbling together again.
And then suddenly, the colors were gone. And so was the pain as she sank into welcome unconsciousness.
“I thought that you were supposed to be some great and wise elder Fae,” a sarcastic voice greeted Niall as he popped Sookie back to where he’d taken her from—the living room in Eric’s Slidell home. “So far—I’m underwhelmed.”
“What do you want, witch?” Niall demanded. “What are you doing here?”
“I came here with dee day. I figured you might show your face here again—to bring dee vampire harm—and I was not about to leave him here unguarded.”
“You think I would have staked him as he slept?” Niall asked belligerently.
“Would you not have?” Octavia returned with a sneer. “After all, you tore his heart from him just last night! He might have welcomed a stake in it instead!”
“As it turns out, she would die too if I killed the vampire,” the fairy said bitterly, even as he unceremoniously lay an unconscious Sookie down on the couch.
Octavia rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “True. But to see her like dis tells me dat you waited longer dan you should have to bring her back. Given dat fact, why would you not risk her life by killing her bonded?” she asked cynically.
“I am her kin!” Niall yelled.
“Yes. Dee same kin dat was so blinded by your prejudice against vampires dat you did not see dee evidence of their bond. I am no fairy, but I suspected it dee moment I first saw dem together.”
“Do they know about the Fae bond? Why would have the vampire not told me?” Niall demanded.
Octavia shook her head judgmentally as she sneered at the fairy. “I am certain dat Eric Northman knows nothing of fairy bonds. And ’twas not my place to tell dem. I didn’t know you would be fool enough to try to take her away from dis realm. Plus, ’twas nothin’ could have been done ’bout it! And dee two of dem were not ready to know of it.”
Niall glared at her.
“And as for tellin’ you? I would have thought there’d be no need for dat! After all, you are dee great Niall Brigant, Prince of the Sky Fae,” she said sarcastically as she bowed mockingly. “How did you not see dee magic between dem, oh mighty prince?”
“I was angry. I am even more so now!” Niall scoffed. “How could she form a bond with one of them?”
Octavia chuckled sardonically, not hiding her distaste for the fairy. “How would Sookie even have known what she was doing when she chose her mate and made her bond? Dee Fae are taught about tings such as bond making. Dis child was taught nothing by you or others of your kind—not how to shield her mind from dee thoughts of others. Not how to feel like a normal child. No! Because you left her alone, she endured much pain and suffering. She learned to tink of herself as a freak.” Octavia lifted her chin defiantly. “She formed a bond with dee vampire by instinct—because he was dee first being to look at her in a true way and to see nothing but beauty. Inside of herself, she could recognize dat about him—and she, in turn, saw his beauty. Why would she not form a bond with such a man? And how dare you tink of him as unworthy?”
“He is vampire,” Niall said with disgust in his voice.
“If you truly cared for dis child, you could have guided her in another way,” the witch said, looking down at Sookie. She sighed loudly. “She will have to take Eric’s blood now. Only dat will repair what you injured by taking her from him. She should have been able to make dis choice in her own time,” the witch added sadly.
“What do you mean?” Niall asked.
Octavia blew out a puff of air in frustration. “Neither your kinswoman nor her vampire is used to feeling or receiving love. Here, in dis place, dey have been working demselves into love slowly—naturally. And dey have learned to trust demselves. Dey would have eventually exchanged blood out of love—not necessity. And dey would have formed a vampire bond to complement dee bond already holding dem together. Dey would have never doubted demselves or each other. But your actions could make dem doubt all.”
“I had every right to take her; she is my kin!” Niall said stubbornly.
The witch ignored Niall’s words and knelt down by the couch. She gently tucked a lose strand of Sookie’s hair over her ear. “Dis one is stronger dan one so human should be.” She chuckled. “‘Tis her stubbornness and her hope dat feed her fire. I knew dat to be true when she survived what dee vampire—Compton—tried to do to her during the severing and with his woven dreams. And now she has proven it again by holding so tightly to her mate dat it almost killed her. Still, I fear for dem. Eric will likely not take dis well.”
“What do you mean? A Fae of the Sky Clan bonded with him! What do you mean that he will not take it well?” Niall yelled out.
Octavia sighed. “Dee vampire and dis child are both stubborn and wary of having their control taken from dem. Dee reason why Eric did not leave blood in her during dee severing spell was so dat she could know her own feelings. Now dey will both doubt what dey feel. Dey will both believe dat the Fae bond she made took away their choices.”
“It did,” Niall sneered. “The moment it was forged, the vampire would have been drawn to her like no other.”
“Yes,” Octavia sighed. “And dat fact will make dee Viking feel like all his emotions are constructs of dee bond—just as Sookie once worried dat all of hers were due to vampire blood. ‘Twill take dem a while to understand dat she asked him to be hers with her light and dat he accepted. Dey will not understand, for neither one of dem has much experience in dee way of trust—or of love.”
“Northman should be honored that my great-granddaughter chose him,” Niall said, his voice haughty.
“Aye,” Octavia agreed. “And he chose her in return. But dat was before dey loved each other. So dey will not trust.”
“Then they are fools,” Niall said.
“And so are we all fools sometimes—when it comes to love,” Octavia said sadly.
The fairy’s face softened a little. “Yes.” He studied his sleeping great-granddaughter for a moment. “I do not approve of her choice,” he said after a few minutes of silence had passed.
Octavia picked up a bloody dishtowel and a short note from the coffee table. She handed Niall the note. “Read dis,” she said.
Niall read aloud.
I miss you.
If this finds you, I want you to know that your personal items are still in our home in Slidell. In our bedroom.
I will always think of it as ours—and you as mine. (Though I am certain you would fight me on that.)
Could has become do.
“There are many of dese around,” Octavia said, as she held up the bloody rag. “The vampire cried many tears for her. But I imagine your approval is just as far from him as it was before.”
Niall sighed. “The bond she made with him could very well have created the love that made those tears and formed these words.”
“Dat is what Eric will tink too,” the witch said sadly. “And dee child will always worry dat his love is not true—dat she forced him to love her.” She chuckled ruefully even as she brushed a tear from her own eye. “Before Sookie, Eric did not believe he could love—not romantically. And, before Eric, Sookie did not believe dat she deserved love. Dey will likely fall back to those false beliefs.”
“Then they are doomed to their unhappiness, for they can no longer be apart,” Niall said with a twinge of regret.
“Not as far apart as you would make dem be,” Octavia said, looking at Niall accusingly.
“The more they are together, the harder it will be for them if they try to part.” He shook his head. “Even if they are both in the same realm, more than a short separation will bring them much pain. That is why Fae bonds are so discouraged. I did not imagine it would be something to worry about with Sookie,” Niall confessed. “I had stifled her spark. There were very few situations that could have relit it. Plus, she is only one-eighth Fae. I have never heard of one with so little blood having a strong enough spark to form a Fae bond.”
Octavia sighed as Sookie groaned in her sleep. “She would rest easier next to her chosen one. It is still a few hours before he will wake, and ‘twould be best if they were near to each other so that no more damage can be done to the bond.”
Niall sighed heavily, but scooped Sookie up into his arms anyway; this time, he was gentle in his movements. “You know the way,” he said to the witch.
Octavia led Niall up the stairs and into the bedroom where Eric was dead for the day. The vampire’s body was completely vulnerable, despite the fact that it was fully cocooned in the bedcovers. The witch noted that—had he needed to breathe—Eric would have likely suffocated himself because he had so firmly buried his nose into the pillow he was using. There were blood stains on the pillow case.
Niall sighed again as Octavia lifted up the sheets on the side opposite of Eric Northman’s body. The fairy gently placed Sookie next to the vampire and watched impassively as Octavia shaped his great-granddaughter’s body so that it molded against the vampire’s. It was immediately evident that Sookie’s breathing had eased.
Octavia covered the girl lovingly.
Niall didn’t say a word as he left the bedroom, intent to be away from the sight of his kin and the vampire. His people had always loathed and feared the un-dead. In fact, their best defense against the monsters of the night had been to stay away from them. And, if that failed, then they would use their blood to make the vampires drunk in order to disorient them long enough to kill them. Many fairies had sacrificed their lives in order to incapacitate vampires so that their kin could survive.
Niall’s uneasy alliance with Godric had been to save his child Magellen who had been trapped by a coven of witches who also held Godric’s maker. Able to hide his scent, Niall had spotted the vampire getting ready to attack the coven, and the two had decided to join forces. During the ensuing fight, Niall had almost died as he’d shielded his badly injured daughter from an iron sword wielded by one of the witches. But Godric had stepped in and had taken the sword strike. In effect, the vampire had saved both Niall and his beloved daughter. Of course, the monster inside of Godric had soon reared its ugly head as he drained several witches in order to recover. And then—because Magellen could not mask her scent—the crazed vampire had come after her as well! Niall had barely been able to teleport his daughter and himself back to Faerie before the vampire bit.
Recalling both Godric’s honor and his frenzy, the fairy returned to the living room and sat heavily onto the couch. Niall had already decided that he should stay in order to explain the Fae bond to Sookie and her vampire. He owed his great-granddaughter that much before exiting her life. Perhaps the witch had been right in that he shouldn’t have left Sookie in the dark about her Fae heritage. However, Niall would not dwell on the past. He could live only in the now. Experiencing time differentials between Faerie and other realms had taught him that.
“Dey are resting together,” Octavia said as she came back into the living room a few minutes later. “I lit some dandelion blossoms to help dem rest easier.”
“Dandelions are weeds—if I remember correctly,” Niall said with a sneer.
“Aye,” Octavia chuckled. “But something is only seen as a weed if it is stronger den dat which people want to take root. I have seen dee dandelion used in remedies of many kinds.” She paused. “I thought dee dandelions matched dee tenacity of dee two upstairs. There are so many small things dat could prove their love—if dey but open their hearts to dem. Let us hope dat dee wind takes those things and plants dem firmly into dee ground.”
Niall didn’t respond to the witch’s hope, and the two supernatural beings remained silent for a long time.
“I did not expect this visit to end up as it has,” Niall said finally. Resignation laced his tone.
Octavia cackled. “It seems there is already a weed in your garden den!”
Eric woke up to find that his prayers to Odin had been answered and immediately wondered if he’d gone insane sometime during his day-death.
“Sookie,” he said as he pulled her body closer to his.
He shook his head to clear it. She seemed real.
He stretched out his senses, and his fangs immediately snapped down. Niall and Octavia were downstairs, but they were stationary at the moment. He assessed the woman in his arms. She was weak, much weaker than when she’d been taken from him. But she was real.
“Sookie,” he said again as he nuzzled into her hair and took in her scent. He wanted to bite into her—literally and figuratively—but he kept the beast inside of him at bay. She was unwell, and he needed to know why. He needed to know what he could do for her.
The vampire disentangled himself from Sookie and quickly dressed. That done, he carefully picked her up, retrieved the quilt from their bed, and carried her down the stairs. In that moment, the vampire was certain of only one thing: he was not willing to let her leave his sight again.
Octavia and Niall were sitting on the couch, but did not even look at him when he walked into the room. It was just after sunset. Eric had expected to wake up a bit sooner, but the previous night and his blood loss must have weakened him. However, he now felt whole again, for the empty place inside of his body was filling with light once more.
Once more, his soul was a living thing.
Gently, he placed Sookie into an oversized chair next to the couch before wrapping her up into the quilt. Then he turned his attention to building a fire. Sookie’s body temperature was cooler than normal, and he knew that he could not provide her with warmth from his own body, but the fire and the quilt would be enough to do what he could not.
He kept a wary eye on his “guests” as he quickly and wordlessly performed his task. Then he picked Sookie back up and sat into the chair, curling her into his lap. She was still sleeping very soundly.
“She will need your blood,” Niall said stiffly. “If she is to heal, she must have it.”
Eric stiffened and pulled her body closer. “No. Not unless she is awake and asks for it—not unless it is her choice!” he said vehemently.
“Neither one of you ever had much choice,” Octavia said sadly. “She will stay as she is without your blood. And dat is not a fate dis child would choose.”
“What do you mean?” Eric asked.
Niall sighed. “I will say what must be said only once, and it will not be while she is unconscious.” His voice softened as much as it could as he addressed the vampire, but it was still gruff. “You should take her blood as well. An exchange would help to heal what has been damaged.”
“I will not take her blood,” Eric hissed insistently. “She is too weak.”
“She is not weak ’cause of lack of blood, Viking,” Octavia said kindly. “She is weak from a lack of connection, and you are dee only thing in dee universe dat can fix dat problem.”
“What are you talking about?” Eric asked insistently. “She and I have no blood tie!”
Niall sighed deeply. “There are many kinds of ties in the world.” He held up the short note Eric had written. “If she is yours, then you must take her blood. If you belong to her, then you must give her your blood.”
Niall crumpled up the note and threw it into the fire—almost as if by burning it, he could burn the vampire who had written it.
Eric looked down at the sleeping woman in his arms. “Not with you two here,” he said curtly. If he was to do an exchange with Sookie—force an exchange—then it would not be for an audience.
“I’ll just introduce Niall to iced tea den,” Octavia said, standing up. “Would you care for lemon?” she asked with a grin on her face.
Niall growled a little, but stood up. “We will stay in the kitchen until you call,” the elder fairy said before walking out of the room. Octavia was a step behind him, but stopped at the doorway.
“Dee way tings happen does not necessarily ruin their significance,” Octavia said knowingly. “Dee woman who gave you her light will not hate you for creating a blood tie.” She turned and left the room quietly.
Hoping that the witch was right, Eric looked back down at the woman in his arms—the woman he’d been certain that he’d never see again.
The woman he loved.
I hope that I’ve made those of you who were fearing a long separation feel a little better. However, I’ve gone and opened another can of worms—haven’t I?