The demon lawyer explained the studies I would be required to undertake; apparently, I had to learn Spanish as soon as possible because many of Felipe’s business associates would be “thinking” in that language. I’d been planning to take Spanish when I finally started college anyway. In fact, I had been looking forward to it. But no longer.
It was odd how one’s perspective changed immediately when something transformed from being voluntary to being forced.
Next, Mr. Cataliades told me more about my “official position” at court. Although Angie Weatherspoon was still Felipe’s consort, she wasn’t in Nevada that often (not that I could blame her). Thus, I would be required to function as the “acting consort” on some “formal occasions,” which seemed to refer back to what I was thinking of as the “dates clause,” which the demon lawyer had covered earlier.
I shook my head, again marveling at the fact that contracts seemed full of redundancies. I smiled wryly as I thought about the first time I’d read the “fine print” on Sam’s contracts with his vendors.
Redundant. Wordy. Needlessly complicated.
Legalese—as I’d learned that that kind of “English” was called.
I was—for the pettiest of reasons—glad to hear that Angie wouldn’t be around much. She’d once ruined Eric’s favorite table by dancing on it in the sluttiest looking spiked heels I’d ever seen—for no other reason than that she was an unthoughtful bitch.
I had the distinct feeling that Angie wouldn’t be upset in the least that I would eventually be “scheduled” into de Castro’s calendar.
As Mr. Cataliades read more “legalese,” I let my mind wander again. I had no idea how long it took to drown, but I was already thinking that the tub was my best bet when it came to a quick, clean (pun intended) suicide. I figured that if I didn’t hold my breath at all—if I just submerged myself, opened my mouth, and breathed the water into my lungs on purpose—I could end my life swiftly. I would also find something heavy to keep me from floating up once I was unconscious. And I would NOT let myself thrash about.
And—if I could find a blow dryer? Bonus!
“And the last clause. You cannot be turned by either the king himself or any other vampire in his employ,” the lawyer said, interrupting my planning.
“Really?” I asked, feeling a level of relief, despite my overall numbness.
“You should read this over for yourself,” Mr. Cataliades said softly, motioning to the contract.
I wanted to decline. After all, it wouldn’t matter what I signed—considering how little time I’d be dealing with the consequences of my name on the sheets of paper.
But there was something in Mr. Cataliades’s eyes that screamed at me to read the pieces of paper he held out.
“Sure. Okay,” I said. “I just need to use the bathroom real quick first.”
Even with a broken spirit and heart, it seemed as if the bladder kept working.
As I began to rise, Mr. Cataliades was immediately in front of me—taking my hand almost gallantly.
“Ask to read the contract over again in your room,” the demon said as soon as we’d made physical contact.
It took me a moment to realize that he’d not spoken aloud. He’d projected his thoughts into my head. Of course, I had suspected that he was a telepath. After all, it was from his blood in my system that I’d gotten my own telepathy. I also knew that not many people knew about my personal connection with the demon. Moreover, I was pretty sure that the vampires Mr. Cataliades worked for had no idea about the fact that some demons were telepathic. As a race, they were even more secretive than fairies or vampires.
“Keep your shields fully down; otherwise, even my attempts to project to you will be wasted,” he conveyed—his thoughts to mine—before he dropped my hand.
I gave him the tiniest of nods before letting what remained of my battered shields fall away.
“Try not to react, but I must inform you that your entire home is under video and audio surveillance, even the bathroom.”
I teetered a bit on my feet, but kept my countenance calm. The demon looked at me almost proudly.
“Niall told Felipe that you were suicidal and that you should be monitored closely for the time-being. Since you cannot read the minds of demons—unless we allow it—a half Dae has been hired to monitor you during the daytime. Vampires will do it at night. I’m sorry, dear, but your privacy here is only an illusion,” Mr. Cataliades added, sounding contrite in his thoughts.
I fought off the urge to cringe. Felipe intended to watch me everywhere—even in my bathroom! Never mind that Niall was right—that I was suicidal!
I felt even more hopeless—more helpless—than I had before. And the matter was made worse because Niall had been involved in my surveillance! That seemed almost as brutal to me as the murders committed by his enemies.
“Do you mind if I read the contract in my room?” I asked noncommittally.
The demon lawyer smiled and placed the contract into a manila folder. “Of course. I will just take a walk on the grounds; I will return in about an hour to answer any questions you might have.”
He added telepathically. “I will be scouting for gaps in the surveillance outside of your home. Be sure to read the document in this envelope while I’m gone.”
“Thank you,” I told him as I went into my bedroom and then my ensuite bathroom.
It took all of my courage to go to the bathroom as I’d planned—lest I would be suspected of knowing that I was being watched.
With difficulty, I didn’t attempt to figure out where the cameras were, and I tried to “show” as little flesh as possible as I pulled down my pants and sat on the toilet. I could only wonder if whoever was watching was getting his or her thrill over me peeing. Would de Castro watch all my “naked” activities later? Did he plan to watch every shower? Every shit? In that moment, a part of me wished that I had a good shit to “share” with him—one full of gas and other unpleasant noises.
Gran would be ashamed of my vulgar thoughts, but—honestly—I was too fucking raw to care.
Sadly I didn’t have any food in me to murder my new toilet with. And—in the end—even my bladder under-performed. Stage fright—I supposed. After I’d done all I could, I quickly wiped and pulled up my pants. I washed my hands without looking in the mirror—just in case the camera was there.
And then I went into the bedroom. I bypassed the comfortable-looking bed and took a seat on a settee covered in the softest fabric I’d ever felt in my life.
I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the feel of it. Instead, I impassively opened the envelop Mr. Cataliades had given to me, and I read.
My Dearest Sookie,
First of all, no one in Felipe’s retinue knows about our connection with one another, and none know that we can communicate telepathically. Also, there is magic on this paper to ensure that only you can read my words to you. To any other, this document will look like a copy of the contract I just read to you.
As meager an offering as it is, this letter is an attempt to correct what has gone wrong because of the gift Fintan begged me to bestow upon all of his offspring who inherited the essential spark. Without that “gift,” you might have lived a peaceful life. It is not enough penance, but I have experienced many hours of guilt over your suffering. My only defense is that I did not know you were telepathic until after Hadley had told Queen Sophie-Anne.
Perhaps, however, that fact paints me in a worse light. When Fintan left your family to their own devices—partly in order to make sure they were not discovered by other fairies—he asked that I check in on his children to make sure the fairy spark never manifested in them. Since it turned out that neither Corbett nor Linda had inherited the spark—I made an assumption that cost you dearly. During my many years, I had never heard of a Fae spark skipping a generation—let alone two as it did in Hunter’s case. Still, I checked the status of both Jason and Hadley when they were infants, for—if a spark takes root—the magic has always appeared in the firstborn child of a part-Fae.
Except for you Sookie.
I cannot defend my actions—or lack thereof—in your case. Such a thing would be an insult to you. If I could go back in time, I would have visited your family on many more occasions, just to make sure. I would have helped you to control your telepathy from an early age. I would have never allowed Niall to get within a hundred miles of you.
But I cannot travel back in time.
In truth, if I knew then what I know now, I would have told Fintan, the best friend I ever had, “No,” when he asked for my blood to give to Adele when she was with child. I would have risked his turning his back on me forever, rather than allowing my perceived “gift” to his offspring to place you upon the path you are on now, a path that is not unlike Mr. Northman’s.
Mr. Northman’s maker was a monster in many ways, but in “making” you telepathic, I find I am no better than he was—at least in the results.
Because of me, you are now enslaved—forced into a life of servitude and “comfortable imprisonment.” Yes—I’ve negotiated that you cannot be turned, but de Castro clearly hopes that his blood will give you a long life. A very long life—thanks to your Fae blood. And—Sookie—I must warn you: he also secretly hopes that you will breed.
I overheard a conversation he had with Sandy Sechrest, his top vampire advisor.
The part of the contract giving you “leave” to take lovers is not for you; it is for de Castro. He plans to place enticing men in your path—the two-natured and humans. He has already decided to begin with Quinn since you had an affinity for him before.
Any birth control pills you ask for will be placebos. Any condoms used will be defective—unbeknownst to you or any lover you take. Felipe believes that you wouldn’t even consider abortion if you got pregnant “accidentally.” He would, of course, accept the pregnancy as your “right,” making himself look magnanimous by discontinuing his bi-monthly feedings while you were pregnant. But—make no mistake about it—he would find a way to make sure you had his blood during your pregnancy, even if the annual bonding didn’t take place while you were with child. He plans to do whatever he can to increase the chances of any children you have inheriting your magical abilities. The minute details within Felipe’s plan have led me to believe that it was conceived well before the current situation brought you to this place. Felipe has simply been waiting for his opportunity, an opportunity which has been difficult to come by because of Mr. Northman’s efforts.
As you may know, I worked for months to try to help Mr. Northman find a way to avoid becoming Freyda’s consort, but there were no loopholes in the agreement between Freyda and the late Appius Livius Ocella.
Upon study, I determined that the only aspect of the contract that Mr. Northman could renegotiate involved increasing the tenure of his “service” to Freyda. You need to understand that Mr. Northman could not simply deny the contract once his maker had died—at least not without the backing of King Felipe. If Mr. Northman had, he would have become a fugitive, and he would have been hunted. Unless a maker has released his or her progeny—as Mr. Ocella never did with Mr. Northman—the right of the maker to have complete control over the child is considered sacrosanct among vampires.
Only a monarch can petition the Vampire Council to argue that a child has been wronged by his or her maker, and de Castro refused to do so.
Trust me when I say that Mr. Northman would have been tortured and killed if he refused to fulfill the contract. Ms. Ravenscroft and Ms. Slaughter would have met the same fate—just so that Mr. Northman would have been forced to feel their pain as well. And, of course, anyone else whom he cared for might have also been tortured and killed in front of him—just to make his punishment that much more gruesome. His day man. His known human associates. And you. Especially you would have been at great risk.
Mr. Northman would have been used as a lesson reminding all vampires not to disobey their makers. Throughout history, such lessons have been beyond cruel. And they have been few and far between because of that.
I know that you were led to believe that Mr. Northman had a choice and became Freyda’s consort out of a sense of honor or obligation to his maker. That is what he wanted you to believe in the end. He felt strongly that you should have the opportunity to go on with your life—without pining for him.
He felt it would be better if you hated him.
Because of Appius, Mr. Northman has been “enslaved” (this was his word, not mine), but he has reconciled himself to the fact that time will provide him with a solution for each thing that has been taken from him—except for you.
Practical vampire that he is—he knew that, even if you lived a long life, he was destined to never be with you again. But that does not mean he failed you—that he does not love you.
Even now, I believe he feels great love for you.
In fact, I have become convinced that no one has ever loved another more than Mr. Northman loves you. And it was this love that compelled him to renegotiate in the only way that he could with Freyda. He agreed to give her an additional one hundred years of his service if she could convince Felipe to let you live out your life in peace, as well as to continue to offer you royal protection from afar.
Money and favors were the price of your relative freedom, but Eric didn’t stop until he’d done all he could do for you.
In fact, the only “complication” in putting together your current contract with Felipe was getting Mr. Northman to allow for alterations in his own contract with Freyda.
As the one writing the new contract, I sat in on the conference call between Felipe and Mr. Northman. Mr. Northman was told about the deaths of your family and fiancé. He was told that your new contract with de Castro was set into motion by your fairy great-grandfather, who was positive that your only chance of survival was with the king.
Mr. Northman’s power was limited because of his position as consort, but I want you to know that it was he who insisted that you be given ample time to grieve before you are required to give yourself to the king sexually. But—for the five years granted for your grieving—there was a price for him too. His queen required an additional quarter century of him. And Felipe has required that Mr. Northman never speak with you if you are at the same functions.
Just so you know—Mr. Northman tried to ensure that you would never be touched sexually by King Felipe. He offered a fortune, more years to Freyda, and fealty to de Castro after his term with Freyda was over. Felipe denied these proposals.
Sookie, I have not been a good “guardian” to you; I know that. But—despite the fact that I’ve met you only a few times—I have gotten a sense of your personality that I do not believe Niall is capable of understanding. I think this is because I live among humans, and—for better or worse—you continue to think of yourself as one of them.
Niall believes that—with time—you will come to find some contentment in your life with the vampire king. He believes that you will rally as you have done in the past.
I am not so sure. Without something to live for, I sense that you will choose to seek the only escape available to you: death.
Indeed, there are only two differences that I see between you and Mr. Northman’s situations. However, there are many similarities.
You are both imprisoned in cages you despise.
You are both obliged to work for a vampire monarch.
Soon enough—you will join Mr. Northman in living a luxurious life that you don’t want.
You both have been given just enough of an “illusion of freedom” by your masters to foster your gratefulness to them.
Beginning in five years, you must yield your body, just as he does.
And—finally—you would both rather die than be slaves.
Here are the two differences between you.
One—Mr. Northman will not kill himself because he can still be of service to those he loves: namely you and his vampire progeny.
Two—he will not kill himself because he is immortal and, unless he meets his true death, he will become free again in some distant future.
You have neither of these two consolations for your state of being.
Dearest Sookie, I should attempt to convince you to stay in this world. Like Niall, I ought to do all in my power to try to force you to stay alive, even going so far as to tell Felipe that he needs to keep you constantly guarded—perpetually—lest you try to harm yourself.
But I am not that cruel.
Instead, I am prepared to offer you two choices beyond the “non-choice” of the contract with Felipe: my help in killing yourself or a chance to live your life differently.
After I leave you, I will be traveling to see Mr. Northman so that I can give him a copy of the addendums to his contract. Knowing him, he will read every word before he signs the new document. Knowing Freyda, she will insist upon reading it first.
Just as this letter is enchanted so that its true message will only be seen by you, Mr. Northman’s new contract will contain a secret message that only he can see.
My dear, I have discovered another cluviel dor. As you know, the fairy token can be used only in a pure act of love. I have great affection for you, but what I feel doesn’t come close to what I believe Mr. Northman feels. I intend to ask him to use the cluviel dor to ensure your safety and freedom from Supernatural creatures. In fact, I will be instructing Mr. Northman to make a very precise wish regarding your safety and well-being.
You may ask why I don’t simply give you the object. Sadly, I do not believe that you have enough love for yourself to try to save yourself. Instead, I believe that you would opt to free Mr. Northman rather than yourself.
Once Mr. Northman’s reads my request, I will hand him a pen—a pen that contains the Fae charm. He will keep that pen and—hopefully—use it as soon as he’s alone.
What the wish will do for you exactly, I can only—hope.
However, I am confident in the vampire’s love—in his ability to somehow set you free.
I believe that I asked you once to memorize my telephone number. Once you are free, phone me if you need my counsel or help.
Of course—this choice at another chance might very well not appeal to you. You may be too far broken to wish to go on—even if the cluviel dor functions to give you your safety and freedom. That is why the pen in the envelope I gave you contains an untraceable poison. If you open the lid and drink, you will begin to feel tired after a few minutes. You will sleep. And you will die, and no one will be the wiser. Unfortunately, your home offers no privacy.
This is why I hope to have the opportunity to explore the grounds—to find a place where you can take your life without my involvement being known if possible. Also, if Felipe’s people see you drinking from the pen, they might find a way to counteract the poison before it does its work.
Of course, any other type of self-harm you tried would also be met with countermeasures as well.
I fear that—no matter what Felipe has sworn—he will turn you if he can. Don’t risk that, Sookie. If you decide to die, make sure you use the pen’s contents while the sun is up and where you cannot be seen.
I truly am sorry I cannot do more for you. I am even sorrier that I did not do more when I had the chance.
I hope that you will take some time to decide what you will do. I pray that you will give Mr. Northman the chance to help you become free. I pray that you choose to live.
I sat motionlessly, waiting for tears to come. They refused me.
I guess I truly was out of them.
I should have been able to cry for Eric. The demon lawyer had compared his situation to mine, but it was worse.
“Two hundred and twenty-five years,” I mumbled almost silently—almost incoherently—so Felipe’s minions wouldn’t hear me.
I should have cried for the man I still loved.
Or for Sam.
Or for Jason.
Or Remy. Or Michele.
Or the innocent children who’d been added to my victims: Hunter, Marie.
However, in my numb state—my brokenness—I couldn’t feel anything.
Actually, that wasn’t true. I felt a little relief as I looked at the pen in the envelope.
I gripped the pen, imagining my body heat warming the elixir inside—an elixir which might take me to Heaven or to the Summerland.
Or even to Hell.
Honestly, I preferred anywhere but the opulent bedroom that seemed to be closing in upon me.
Despite the temptation to drink the poison right away—to get my life over with—I wasn’t going to implicate the demon or risk being “saved.” Anyway, I already had an idea about how I could take the poison in “private”—even if Mr. Cataliades didn’t find a gap in the surveillance outside.
I felt the demon’s mind reenter my new house, and I went to join him in the living room.
The lawyer looked at me expectantly, even as we both sat down on the lush couches in the well-lit room. “Do you have any questions for me, Miss Stackhouse?” he asked aloud, though the query echoed in his thoughts as well.
“Is there anything else I need to do other than to sign this?” I asked calmly.
“Could my death be traced to you?” I asked telepathically.
“No,” I gave me an answer for both the questions.
“Did you find a gap in their cameras?” I asked silently as I looked back down at the contract.
“There is a gazebo fifty feet west of the pool. At the northwest corner of the structure is an oak tree. If you lean against the gazebo and directly face the tree, you will not be seen by any cameras,” he answered.
I lifted the poisoned pen to paper.
“Will this thing write?” I asked with my mind.
“Yes,” he responded. “There is a lower reservoir of ink.”
“Thank you for all your help, Mr. Cataliades,” I said aloud before quickly signing my name.
“You’re welcome, Sookie,” the demon said before leaving me alone to contemplate the choices he’d given me.
It had turned out that he was a good guardian after all.
Better late than never.
A/N: Sorry I’m so late with this! I’ve had a “day.” It’s a busy time at work, and I was rattled this morning preparing for classes. And then I had a fully-booked calendar for my office hours.
So—I will keep this note short.
A lot of people have speculated that Niall might be tricking Sookie to believe that Sam and the others are dead. And THAT IS A GREAT TWIST. Sadly, it’s not one I thought of. But I hope someone writes that!
In this fic, I wanted to go with the idea that Niall is like a benign tumor. He may not be actively trying to harm Sookie, but she can feel his presence and is freaked out by him. Also, despite being “benign,” he could still cause damage to other systems. (Too many Grey’s Anatomy reruns—LOL.) Anyway, to have Niall lie about the deaths of Sam, Hunter, Jason, and the others would have made him evil, and—for this fic—he’s not evil. Just utterly clueless and selfish and ineffectual. He didn’t intend harm—like so many people in Sookie’s life (beginning with Gran never telling her about Fintan)—but sometimes harm comes anyway.
Until next week,
Here are some character banners by Sephrenia!!! Thanks to her and Kleannhouse as always!!!