“I understand,” Eric said detachedly. “Sookie unknowingly offered a fairy bond, and I unknowingly accepted it. Now—what are the effects?” he demanded once more.
The Viking had to restrain himself from taking Sookie into his arms. He could smell her tears now, and her harsh words directed at herself had stung him more than silver. However, all of his feelings for her seemed to be coming from what he now recognized was the fairy bond—a foreign thing that had taken him over and that was trying to control him.
How could he trust that any of his feelings for Sookie were his own? How could he trust anything anymore?
“I can say only what happens between two Fae. There may be differences since you are vampire,” Niall directed at Eric.
“Understood,” Eric said. “Now speak.”
Niall glared at the vampire who was daring to order him to do anything, but he answered anyway. “A Fae bond works to draw two souls together into one. The two Fae become partners in all things. Their love is enduring—even into the Summerlands. Yet, as idealistic as all this sounds, there are drawbacks.”
“What are they?” Eric asked.
Niall sighed. “A Fae bond cannot be undone. There is no magic that can sever it or lessen it. The two become so enmeshed into each other’s spirits that they cannot be separated. That is why taking Sookie to Faerie almost killed her. You also would have felt that pain, but yours would have been spread out to match the time difference. What she felt as concentrated pain in the seconds she was in Faerie would have been mitigated by the fact that it did not come at you all at once.”
“Does the Fae bond create feelings that are not there?” Eric asked.
Again, he could hear Sookie crying softly, but he kept his eyes on Niall.
Niall sighed. “Where there is respect, it will create devotion. Where there is trust, it will create faith. Where there is affection, it will create love. So the answer to your question is yes and no. The bond takes all that is within a pair—all that could make the bond stronger—and it works to multiply those things exponentially.”
“So if Sookie intrigued me before?” Eric asked.
“You would want to learn everything about her, and you would care about all that you learned.”
At this, Eric stood up and walked toward the window. “The same would be true for her?” the vampire asked.
Eric nodded as he looked unseeingly out into the dark backyard. All of their conversations—all of the intimate moments when they had come to know each other—had felt sacred to him. Now he knew that they’d not been driven by either of them, but by a bond that had made him completely vulnerable to her—and her to him. That was why he’d opened himself to her—trusted her with memories and thoughts that he’d not shared with anyone else, not even his maker.
No wonder he’d been so twisted up with contradictory feelings about her! His nature had been telling him to kill her—or, at least, to cut all ties with her. But the fairy bond had been compelling him to do the opposite. And, apparently, it could not be fought against.
Sookie was weeping openly now, and Octavia had gone over to her and now held her in her arms. The witch was rocking her. “‘Twill be okay, child,” she soothed.
But Sookie did not believe it would be. She’d thought that Eric had wanted to know her—that he’d liked what he’d found inside of her. She’d thought they’d been falling in love. But how could she know anything anymore? All she was sure about was that she’d made a bond that had compelled Eric to want to be with her. She’d taken away his choice, just as much as Bill had ever taken away hers. No—she’d taken it away even more, for the Fae bond couldn’t be broken.
“So if I was attracted to Sookie before?” Eric asked.
“You would become even more enthralled by her beauty—until she eclipsed all others,” Niall responded.
“Do not confuse tings dat are compelled with tings dat are untrue,” Octavia cautioned fervently. “What has grown between you both is no less true dan if it had been formed another way,” she added. “Your feelings for one another can make you stronger. Those feelings will mean dat you are in complete sync with your helpmeet.”
“The witch is correct,” Niall admitted, though somewhat unwillingly. “Bonded Fae couples are often very strong. But they are weaker too in one way.”
“They are each other’s weakness,” Eric said.
“Yes,” Niall said. “If one is hurt, the other hurts.”
“Den again,” Octavia added, “if one is injured, dee other can better heal him or her. You have seen dat more dan once. Eric, why else would you have been able to do all you did in Sookie’s blood? And, Sookie, why else would have been able to heal dee vampire with your light? Only with dee bond were these tings possible.”
Eric seemingly ignored Octavia. “And if one of us dies?” he asked Niall.
“When it is two fairies, the other one dies too,” Niall said. “But the bonded pair tends to live longer together because of the bond. I do not know what will happen to you, vampire. You are un-dead and may not die if the bond dies.”
“What of Sookie’s lifespan?” Eric asked Niall. “Will it be a human lifespan? Will I be forced to turn her if I wish to guarantee that I live on?”
Sookie whimpered in Octavia’s arms.
Niall responded. “Now that my great-granddaughter’s spark has truly come to life, her aging will slow down. And do not humans also age more slowly if they have vampire blood?”
“Yes,” Eric said.
“Then you should consider giving her blood regularly. That should slow down her aging. Her grandfather died at 714 years of age, but it was not from natural causes. I am over 2,000 years old. My great-granddaughter’s spark is as strong as Fintan’s, but her blood is not as Fae. Thus, it is difficult to know how she will age. But I believe you will have time before you must do anything,” he paused, “drastic. I caution you against turning her, however—unless it is as a last resort. It might kill the spark within her, for fairies are creatures of the light. And that might be enough to kill the fairy bond—and both of you with it.”
Eric took in what Niall had said and looked back at Sookie for a moment before looking once more out the window. “You said we could not be separated. What does that mean?”
Niall sighed. “You may be able to be apart for a day or two within this realm, but there would eventually be a bonding sickness if you tried to stay apart longer than that.”
“But we have spent many days apart,” Eric said. “And I never felt anything before.”
“The bond was likely still in the maturation stages then,” Niall reported. “But did you not find reasons to seek out each other? To be in each other’s presence if only for a moment? Did you not feel more apprehensive when you were apart?”
Sookie thought about the day Bill had gone missing. She’d wanted to seek out Eric then; she’d wanted to see him and had felt better after having confronted him—even though he’d been naked and screwing Yvetta at the time. The next night, she’d returned to Fangtasia. The next night after that, he’d come to her. A few nights after that, she’d seen him again—at Russell’s mansion—and, if she were being honest—she had been relieved to see him there. No—it had been more than relief; she’d felt as if she could breathe again as soon as she’d laid eyes on him. And then, only one night after they’d been together at Russell’s mansion, Eric had come for her in the hospital, and since then, they’d not spent any nights apart.
Even as Sookie was thinking about their encounters since Dallas, Eric was thinking of the same. He was also thinking about how he’d tried to use Yvetta to drive away his thoughts of Sookie. It hadn’t worked.
Niall interrupted the bonded pair’s musings. “The longer you are together, the less time you can spend apart comfortably before the bonds inside of you begin to stretch for one another.”
Eric sighed. “So you are saying that we will have to be close in proximity to each other for the remainder of our lives?”
“Unless you want those lives to be fraught with illness and pain—and short,” Niall responded, “yes, you will have to stay close to each other.”
“And being close will make further separations even more difficult?” Eric asked bitterly.
“Yes,” Niall said. “And, if you are asking if there is a way to escape from the bond—there is not.”
Eric looked at Octavia. “Do you know a way?”
“No,” the witch answered, still rocking Sookie in her arms a little. “I will look into the matter. But dee fae bond was not touched by my severing spell—and dat is dee strongest kind of separating spell known to witches.”
“I understand,” Eric said resignedly.
Octavia sighed. “Dis need not be a bad ting, vampire,” Octavia said. “There is strength in partnership.”
Eric glared at Octavia for a moment, but said nothing.
“Can you tell when the Fae bond formed?” the vampire asked Niall.
“I cannot be sure,” the fairy reported. “Now that I have recognized what it is, I can tell you that the bond is not quite fully mature—though it is close. But that does not tell me when it formed. It would have had to have been after Sookie first took your blood, for that was when her spark became active. And it would have had to have been before the severing spell—if the witch’s interpretation of what she felt from you and my great-granddaughter is to be believed.” Niall paused for a moment. “Forming the Fae bond would have required physical touch.”
Eric looked at Sookie and thought back to when he’d first become aware of his “soul”—which was obviously the bond between them. He looked out the window and began musing, just loud enough for the others to hear. “It was before I came to you in the hospital. I am certain of that. I did not know what I was feeling, but I was compelled to go there by more than just my blood. I had felt discomfort when I was not near you even then.”
The vampire looked at Niall. “Would Sookie have needed to initiate the touch?”
“Yes,” Niall reported. “And, as I said, though she was the one offering, you would have needed to accept the bond. You would have felt something even if you did not know what it was.”
Eric nodded and looked back out the window. He seemed to be going through events in reverse order as he talked out loud, seemingly to both himself and Sookie, though he didn’t look at her. “We touched in Jackson, but I initiated that. I do not think it was there. I touched you the night before you left for Jackson—when the Were was in your house. But—again—I initiated that.” He closed his eyes and went back another night. “You came to Fangtasia to speak with me about the marking on the Were you and Jessica had found, but I do not remember us touching. And, even before then, I felt myself being pulled to you in a way I had never experienced before. When you cried that night, I am certain I felt something in the place where I now know the Fae bond is located.”
The vampire shook his head. “No—it was already there then; I know it. The night before that, you came into the basement while I was fucking Yvetta,” he mused, still looking out the window and unconcerned about his vulgar language. “Even then, I was feeling unsatisfied with her; I’d been screwing her for hours and was not yet close to release, and when you left, I couldn’t continue—not with your scent lingering in the air.” He sighed deeply. “It could have only been on the rooftop then.” He glanced at Sookie, who was looking at him as if mesmerized by his reverse telling of their history.
He did not look away from her again, and in many ways, that was more difficult for Sookie.
“Godric had ordered me from the roof, and I knew that I was going to lose him. It was a moment—a second at most—but you reached out for my hand, and we looked at each other. I was not looking at your hand, so I saw no light, but I felt something—something like comfort. And I was,” he paused, “thankful for it. It felt like you were saving my life, for—before that—I’d been determined to return to the roof once my maker was gone.”
Eric looked at Niall. “That was the night after she took my blood. Her spark would have been active already?”
Niall nodded in confirmation. “Yes. And—from what you say—that was likely the time that the bond was forged.”
“So everything after that moment was influenced by the Fae bond?” the Viking asked the elder fairy.
“Yes,” Niall said, even as Sookie began to quietly sob again.
“‘Twill be okay,” Octavia cooed softly.
“What do you mean—okay?” Sookie demanded through her tears, even as she pulled away from Octavia’s comfort and stood up. “It’s not okay. It’s not going to be okay! I was so desperate for a connection to anybody—apparently—that I formed a bond with Eric the first time I touched him after taking his blood! And at the worst moment of his life too! I manipulated him at his most vulnerable time! And that’s the only reason he accepted the bond! That’s the only reason he accepted me!”
“Sookie,” Eric said. “Calm yourself. You are still weak from before, and your heart is beating too fast.”
“Calm down?” she asked now laughing hysterically. “How can you—of all people—tell me to be calm? You have just learned that everything after the rooftop has been manipulated by a bond I pushed onto you at your lowest point! Everything we have become is because of that bond!” She was shaking now. “I’m worse than Bill Compton ever thought about being. Because I’m so defective, I have trapped you forever!”
Sookie wobbled on her feet as her world began to spin and then went black.
Eric had Sookie scooped up into his arms before she could hit the floor. He sat them both back into the chair, and though he was cradling her as he’d done earlier, there was an air of detachment from the vampire. But there was also an air of acceptance.
The way he understood things, they had both been manipulated by the fairy bond, and it had effectively trapped them both forever into its grasp. Moreover, he knew that he was just as much to blame as she was. Had he not given her his blood, she wouldn’t have been able to form a bond in the first place. He had made himself a part of her before she’d returned the favor. But they were now stuck.
The best he could do was to try to figure out what was coming from him and what was coming from the bond and act accordingly. He was determined not to let the bond govern him anymore. Otherwise, he would lose himself to it. Looking back at the previous weeks, he realized that that had been what had occurred.
“She has fainted?” Niall asked.
“Yes,” Eric reported in an even tone. “Her breathing and heart rate are returning to normal, however. I can feel the bond asking for my aid. Holding her like this seems to be easing her. But I believe that I must give her my blood again for her to awaken.”
“That is the bond inducing you to soothe her—to heal her,” Niall said coldly.
“As she healed you of dee silver,” Octavia reminded, even as she glared at Niall.
Eric nodded at both of them.
“I will be leaving you with this,” Niall said, producing a book seemingly out of thin air. “It will help my great-granddaughter to understand how to use her light. That is why you asked for me to come to begin with—correct?”
“Correct,” Eric said evenly.
“Your fate and hers are now one and the same, vampire,” Niall said. “I wish it were not so, but there is nothing to be done for it. I would ask you to take care of her, but I know it is not required of me to do so now. If you have survived for a thousand years, then you understand how to do that already.”
“Yes,” Eric responded.
“Do you have any further questions for me before I leave?” Niall asked stiffly, though wearily. “I do not intend to return to this realm again for a while.”
“Can she get help with her powers? Perhaps from this Claudine you mentioned earlier?”
“No!” Niall snapped sharply. “My granddaughter is going to return to Faerie, and I will not risk her by letting her be around you.”
Eric sighed. That was the answer he’d expected from the fairy; however, he had asked for Sookie’s sake. “I ask for a compromise then,” the vampire said.
“What?” Niall asked gruffly.
“It seems that the time difference between our two realms favors Faerie now in that a day here would be less than a minute there—correct?”
“Yes. It is about that now, though the tide will begin to shift again soon enough.”
Eric nodded. “I ask that Sookie be allowed one day—only during the daylight—with her cousin, Claudine, in one week’s time. That will give Sookie time enough to read through the book you are leaving and to generate any questions she might want to ask. Claudine’s interaction with her would mean only minutes more away from Faerie, and then she could go back to your realm.”
Niall considered for a moment. “I agree to this.”
“I will leave word with Cataliades about a location.”
“Claudine will come only during the daytime,” Niall rejoined.
“Of course,” Eric said.
“And Sookie and she must meet in the sunlight—outside—not in a dwelling of any kind.”
“Agreed,” Eric said with a frustrated sigh. “In one week’s time, I will make sure that we are in a secluded place so that Sookie and Claudine may safely meet during the day. Sookie will meet her outside of that place, and Claudine will leave before nightfall. And Claudine will not be allowed into the home since I will be resting there.”
Niall nodded. “Agreed. After that, Sookie cannot expect to have any contact with her fairy kin. Her involvement with you will effectively end our involvement with her.”
“She will not expect more,” Eric said evenly. He caught himself unconsciously stroking Sookie’s hair and immediately stopped the action.
“Is there anything else?” Niall asked somewhat impatiently.
“The child—Hunter. Sookie wants to help him. I have Cataliades searching, but it would be easier if . . . ,” he began.
Niall interrupted. “Fine, I will tell the demon the last known location of the child in order to facilitate your search.”
“Is that all?” the fairy asked, looking like he was about to get up.
“Is there something she may have to keep of her grandfather’s?” Eric asked. “She was forced to leave everything behind in her home, and having something from a being that never did her harm would help her. She does not have many memories of him, but those that she has are among her best.” The vampire paused. “She shared those memories with me. She likely sensed that he was like her. She always felt close to him.”
Niall sighed. “I will try to find something appropriate.”
Eric nodded. “Then that is all.”
Niall returned the nod and, after a single glance at Sookie, he stood and teleported away.
Octavia went over to the couch and sat down. She looked into the fire. “I hope dat you eventually see dat what dee bond dat has been made may have been forced, but ’tis no less real because of dat. Dee tings dat you feel are true. And dee moment Sookie made dee bond with you was as much to soothe you as to soothe dee scarcity of love in her own life.”
“You should have told me about the bond before,” Eric said bitterly.
“I was not sure dat a bond was what I felt,” the witch answered honestly. “I thought it might just be your love for each other.” She sighed. “I learned as much as you did tonight about Fae bonds. Plus,” she paused, “would it have changed anything?”
“I could have tried to separate my own feelings from those of the bond.”
“If you do dat, you will hurt yourself, vampire,” Octavia said softly. “And dee child.”
Eric sighed. “I will find a balance. And I will know my own mind. Sookie and I can exist together without being forced to feel what we do not feel.”
“You have not listened to me,” Octavia said sadly. “What you feel is real!”
“Stop, witch!” Eric said harshly.
Octavia sighed but nodded. “I brought more of dee potion to conceal your scents. ‘Twill last for a while—for dee both of you, but be sparing. I will not be able to make more for at least month.”
He nodded. “I understand.”
“I have also made another concealment spell capable of covering a home—as my spell covered dis one. You can use it if you want to stay in one place for a while. ‘Tis dee log of wood by dee entryway. Just burn it in dee hearth of dee place you want to conceal. It should last a fortnight.”
“What of the spell here?” Eric asked, knowing that it was due to expire soon.
“I was able to bolster it a bit. Dee fairy helped. ‘Twas dee only ting he did right,” she commented acerbically. “‘Twill last through the night now, probably until tomorrow evening. But do not count on it past dat point.”
“Very well,” Eric said.
“You should complete a vampire bond with her,” Octavia observed, gesturing toward Sookie.
“Yes,” Eric responded. “I have already thought about the possibility of doing that, but it would add another complication. Still, it might be easier to isolate the emotions coming from the fairy bond and the ones coming from me if I had a vampire bond to confirm what I feel—and what she feels.”
Octavia sighed. “Dee Fae bond isn’t controlled by just Sookie’s emotions, Eric. ‘Tis a living thing in and of itself now.”
“Then we will be able to control the power it has over us to a degree,” Eric said stubbornly.
“Do you love dee child?” Octavia asked.
“I thought that I . . . .” Eric stopped midsentence. “But what I thought does not matter anymore.”
The witch shook her head sadly. “As I said, a vampire bond would make tings easier between you two. ‘Twould satisfy the Fae bond’s desire to bring you closer. And Sookie will need your blood to remain young for a longer period of time. And you will need hers too.”
“Yes—other blood is beginning to taste almost like TrueBlood to me,” he said dejectedly.
“If you have sex with another, dee bond will likely make you ill,” Octavia said cautiously.
“Yes, I have figured that out on my own,” he responded stoically.
“I am sorry dat you cannot see dee great gift of dee Fae bond,” she said. “I will hope—for both of your sakes—dat you do eventually.”
“How can I see the gift in a thing that has taken hold of me and wishes to create a lovesick fool?” Eric seethed quietly, not wanting to disturb Sookie.
“Perhaps dee bond wishes to create dee best of both of you? Perhaps it wishes to give you happiness, Eric Northman.”
“You are being a little hypocritical—don’t you think?” the witch asked knowingly. “Did you not initially tie yourself to Sookie with your blood so that you could control her?”
He shook his head. “It’s not the same thing, and you know it.”
“No—’tis only similar,” she said, glaring at him. “But you are right. From what I learned today from dee bastardly fairy, the Fae bond seems more powerful than the other kinds of bonds of which I know.”
Eric sighed. “Yes. It is difficult to know what I think and want versus what the bond is influencing me to think and want.”
“Those tings are dee same ting now, Eric,” Octavia said. “And dat could be a very good ting for you and Sookie.”
The vampire shook his head in denial.
The witch could see that Eric as not yet ready to accept—let alone embrace—the Fae bond. She looked from him to the girl in his arms and wondered what their fate would be.
“I believe a vampire bond would help in another way too,” she said after a few moments.
“How?” Eric asked.
“Dee Fae bond will compel you and Sookie to be as close. ‘Twill be uncomfortable for you not to be. However, dee vampire bond will—I believe—mitigate dat a bit.”
“How?” Eric asked again. “Won’t it pull us even closer?” In truth, that was the only reason he hesitated in making such a bond.
“Yes,” Octavia answered. “But a vampire bond would allow dee two of you to feel each other—to know each other’s emotions. Knowing dat, you would both be,” she paused, “easier and would not be so uncomfortable if you weren’t physically close. You would be close in another way, and dat might satisfy dee Fae bond even more dan physical closeness.”
Eric considered Octavia’s words. “Would the bonds compete within us? Could making a vampire bond make things worse?”
The witch shrugged. “Nothing like dis has ever happened dat I know of,” she said honestly. “But my inclination is to believe dat dee two bonds would complement each other—just as you and Sookie complement each other. And dee vampire bond might actually help to empower you both in a way. Or—at least—it might help you to understand dee Fae bond better.”
Octavia rose to her feet. “I hope you and she live through your conflict with dee Mississippi king. And I hope you both find your peace. You deserve these things. Both of you.”
With those words, the witch left the house.