My hands tingled at my sides, while my eyes catalogued every person in the room before they finally came to rest on Eric.
Covered in blood. Paler than I could ever remember seeing him. His face frozen in disbelief.
He was still a sight for sore eyes.
Even after everything that had happened over the last month. After accepting my heritage and all that it would mean. After learning what I was truly capable of once I had, I’d still been nervous over this moment. Worried I would let my human side take over and stress out over the violence I now knew was inevitable.
Sookie Stackhouse may have hidden her eyes from the bloodshed, but I wasn’t Sookie Stackhouse.
I knew now that I never was.
My own Gran had seen to that and then hidden the truth from me. Kept secret from me the reason why I never belonged. There wasn’t a drop of vampire blood in me – I’d stupidly taken care of that all on my own – but I didn’t have a drop of Stackhouse blood in me either. However I now accepted that too and I was even glad for it. A plain old human wouldn’t be able to stand there staring down a vampire queen. A pure human couldn’t rightfully claim what was never theirs to keep.
But I wasn’t a plain old pure human. I wasn’t even Sookie Stackhouse. I was Sookie Brigant and before the night was through, they would all know exactly what happened when they fucked with me.
Eric had once told me fairies were both beautiful and vicious, and I now knew those words to be true. While the beauty was subjective, the intensity I felt for bloody retribution couldn’t be denied. I now had a better understanding of Lochlan and Neave. I understood now why they’d gotten such enjoyment from hurting me. Even a month earlier I would’ve been horrified knowing I could feel those same things.
But now – a month later – I couldn’t imagine feeling any other way.
I relished in it. Let it embolden me. Empower me. Seeing my love standing mere feet from his captor brought out equals parts passion and aggression. I was fighting off allowing my own hostility to shine through, not wanting to show my hand too soon, but I could feel it trying to force its way to the surface. Snarling and hissing its way through my veins, wanting to show husband-stealing vampire queens what true power looked like.
No glittery plastic wands required.
Even Niall had been surprised by that little development. When he’d come to me a month earlier, I hadn’t known what to expect. Wasn’t sure what it was he would ask of me or what I would have to do in order for him to help me, but I was prepared to do anything he said except for one thing.
I wouldn’t give up Eric.
One month earlier…
Karin had immediately left the house upon his arrival. I didn’t know if it was because she didn’t want to be tempted by remaining in the room with a fairy or if she just wanted to give us some privacy. I was okay with either reason, but when I didn’t say anything after her departure, he got the ball rolling by saying, “The demon lawyer informs me you wish to reclaim the vampire as your husband by invoking your birthright.”
“Yes,” I meekly admitted, hoping he wouldn’t deny me. If he did, then I would need to come up with a Plan B where the ‘B’ didn’t stand for ‘Brigant’. “That’s true.”
“Why?” he asked.
Such a simple question for such a complex answer, but I knew now wasn’t the time for holding back. He was my one good shot at getting Eric freed.
Like those figs, I was fresh out of Cluviel Dors at the moment too.
So I told my great-grandfather everything. Everything Eric had done for me over the years. Everything he’d made me feel, both good and bad. I didn’t try to hide my own missteps or downplay my part in how everything fell apart. I told him all that I’d done – or didn’t do – giving him a detailed blow by blow of the buildup of our relationship all the way to its explosive conclusion. Hearing myself lay it all out made me realize our story was both magnificent and tragic.
But it was me and Eric, warts and all.
When I was through, he stared down at me for what felt like a lifetime before he said, “I once told you the vampire was a good man and that he loved you. Did you not believe my words to be true?”
I remembered exactly when he’d said it. Right after the fairies had taken me. Right after both him and Bill had rescued me. Right after Eric had healed me and protected me from the ones who tried to finish the job.
“At the time, I wasn’t sure who you’d meant.”
It was true.
At the time.
“And now?” he asked.
Now there was no question. Bill had shown me his true colors time and again, but I’d been colorblind.
The blinders were off now.
“Now I know you were talking about Eric,” I admitted. “I won’t make excuses for my actions, great-grandfather. I acted childishly and held Eric up to an impossible and unfair standard. I refused to even try to understand who or what he was. I refused to see every other impossible and unfair standard he was bound to abide by in his world. That was my mistake. One I regret deeply. So I beg of you, please don’t make him pay for my faults for the next two hundred years.”
Niall sighed as his eyes dropped to the floor and for the first time I could see a true weariness take over his handsome face. I knew he was quite older than Eric, but he didn’t look a day over fifty. Now, however, I could see the weight of each and every day of his long life etched onto his face, so I reached out and took his hand in mine. Dermot and Claude had once told me that fairies recharged – healed – in the presence of their kin. The touch of skin to skin contact worked like a supernatural aloe to soothe their soul, so I held his hand and hoped it would do him some good.
He smiled back at me.
That was certainly good for me.
When he asked what I was doing, I explained and it was his next words to me that really hit home.
“So you accept that you are a Brigant?”
“Of course,” I replied.
Wasn’t that why I was born with a target on my back?
As if he could read my mind, he added, “Truly, Sookie. By your own admission you refused to see the Northman for what he was. Who he was and all that entailed, just as you have never accepted your place in our world. Not just as a fairy, but your own inclusion into the supernatural world the vampire you claim to love is a part of. You have declared yourself a human time and again, rebuffing anything that didn’t conform to those same ideals and morals at every opportunity. You’ve claimed to be accepting of others and yet you’ve snubbed your nose at traditions that predate your own by thousands of years. So if you want my help, then you must make a choice. You can no longer stand firmly on the side of humanity and then use your Brigant bloodline only when it suits you.”
He all but called me a hypocrite, but I couldn’t exactly deny it. Not when he’d laid out an ugly truth I couldn’t hide from. Not even from myself.
And still I opened my mouth to argue that I was human, when his words really sank in.
I wasn’t. Not completely.
I cut myself some slack on it though, considering I was raised as a human, with human ideals and morals drilled into me from birth. But now that I knew better – really knew better – what would that mean? What choice did I have to make? Would I change? Did I want to? Did I really think my life up until then was so great that I didn’t want it to change?
And wasn’t that what life was all about anyways?
I loved my home, but even I could admit had I been ‘normal’ I doubted I would’ve stayed. There was nothing for me there other than my brother and I’d always wanted more than what Bon Temps was capable of offering. I’d stayed because it was easier – expected – and out of my loyalty to a woman who had lied to me for my whole life. I still loved my Gran and I was grateful she had taken me and Jason in as children. But I was angry at her for keeping a secret I had every right to know.
I was never a Stackhouse. I’d been born a Brigant.
And it was more than a mere change in last names. The essential spark coupled with the demon blood is what made me who I was. What I was. It made me an outcast in the only world I’d known. She could’ve told me. She could’ve explained why I was different. But she kept silent and allowed me to silently suffer instead.
And now I would never know why.
Once I decided to accept it – I had no choice, really – it felt like everything else fell into place on its own within my mind. The first twenty-five years of my life had been spent as a chrysalis, cocooned in the human world I’d been born into. A world that had brought me some joy, but the pain, misery, and isolation outweighed any brief moments of happiness I could recall. Nothing I could’ve done would have ever made me fit in with them because I was never really one of them to begin with. I knew that now, just as I knew I never felt more like I belonged than when I was first introduced to the supernatural world. Suddenly I wasn’t the only ‘freak’ in the room. I wasn’t treated like a pariah because of my abilities. I was accepted by them as much as my declared humanity would allow.
Ironically I’d never felt more alive than when I was with the undead.
Niall had said I couldn’t have it both ways. I couldn’t proclaim my humanity if I wanted to reclaim my vampire husband. But now that I’d had the time to really think about it, I knew my decision would have nothing to do with Eric at all. I would do it for me.
I was ready to be a butterfly.
And the smile he graced me with when that realization dawned on me was a brilliant one. I knew Niall too was still mourning the loss of his kin, but now he had one back.
And so did I.
He went on to tell me what I would need to do. The choices I would have to make and the consequences of what would happen once I did. Thankfully he didn’t sugar coat any of it. Fairies were sneaky bastards, but they didn’t lie. They couldn’t lie, so he told me the dangers that could be found on either side.
Human and fairy.
But nothing he said had deterred me. My decision had already been made.
I was a fairy goddammit.
Hear me roar!
I went with him into the Fae realm for a week. It was necessary to fully charge my essential spark. Niall said it was needed if I intended on claiming Eric as my own. Other supernaturals would see my new glow – recognize me on sight as ‘other’ – so there would be no question what I was. My human side meant I would never be a full Fae, but I was more than okay with that.
Eric and I would really never work out if that had been the case.
Their realm was a beautiful place to be sure, but nothing out of this world spectacular. Maybe my expectations had been too high. Maybe it held no real interest to me because I knew I didn’t want to stay. It reminded me of the pictures I’d seen of Ireland.
But I could hop on a plane in Shreveport and be there by nightfall. No portal necessary – just a passport – so I wasn’t all that impressed.
And I met other fairies there. Each one more beautiful than the last and they all looked like they could grace any New York fashion show catwalk or glossy magazine cover. And again, I wasn’t impressed.
None of them held a candle to my vampire.
We learned by accident that a charged essential spark combined with a southern woman’s temper made fairy fire extinguishers a necessity. I’d been practicing my sword skills – something I clearly hadn’t inherited from my Brigant bloodline – and I’d thrown the sword away into the grassy meadow we were practicing in, in frustration.
Why couldn’t guns be a part of the supernatural arsenal?
But my actions left a flaming burnt trail behind it like Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider character had been riding the hilt.
We gave up on sword play and from then on we practiced my flick a Bic skills. Like flying vampires, some fairies had gifts. Niall could mask his scent and I seemed to have not only a hothead, but hot hands to boot. He suspected it had something to do with Mr. C’s blood because it was something he’d never heard of happening before.
But I didn’t care. I was officially badass.
For once my anger worked for me and I had no trouble setting things ablaze. All I had to do was think back on my relatively short life to find the fuel.
Gran’s secrets and lies that could’ve given me the answers I’d been desperate for my entire life.
Bill’s betrayals over everything I’d held dear.
My Uncle Bartlett.
Everything I’d suppressed over the years had exploded out of my hands at will. I had lots of time to practice since no one wanted to come near me for fear of pissing me off and being turned into a crispy critter for their troubles. But that was okay. I didn’t feel isolated or scorned because of my freaky fingers.
I felt focused.
We returned a week later to find out a month had passed. Niall had said time moved differently between the two worlds, but hearing and seeing were two different things. I hated that so much time had gone by, not knowing what had been happening to Eric while I was gone, but I appeased myself with the knowledge it was coming to an end.
And feeling the bloodlust now rising within me, I let my eyes trail over to Freyda and smiled.
Her reign was about to come to an end too.
She took my smile as her cue to yell out, “What is the meaning of this? Guards! Bring the human to me!”
“Ah ah…” I smiled back and raised my hand up, sending a little warning shot across the room and onto the floor at their feet. I hadn’t wanted to show her my full power just yet, so it merely scorched the floor.
Fairy smoke and mirrors. But only one of us would be the fairest of them all by the end of the night.
And just in case she was too stupid to pick up what I had just blasted down, I added, “There’s no run of the mill human over here.”
“Things are always so much more fun whenever you’re around,” Pam whispered gleefully behind me.
Karin added an amused, “I finally see what you’ve been going on about, sister.”
Freyda’s confidence took a hit, but she didn’t let that stop her from informing everyone in the room, “Sookie Stackhouse is banned from entering this state under penalty of death.” Hesitantly locking her hateful eyes onto mine, she added, “By law, your death will be mine.”
Mr. C. took his own turn at playing smoke and mirrors, seeming to appear out of thin air when he stepped from the crowd and in between our two groups. He gave me a quick wink and a smile before turning a stoic face back towards Freyda. He nodded deeply as he said, “Your majesty. The contract precludes the human Sookie Stackhouse from entering Oklahoma. But considering what we have all just witnessed, one might conjecture the woman who stands before you now is not human.”
“Nor is she a Stackhouse. She is a Brigant,” Niall added warningly, as he came to stand beside me. “A royal in her own right, born of my bloodline and into her station as a Princess of the Sky Fae.”
So shove that into your tiara and smoke it, you Okie bitch!
Mr. C. said we would cause a ruckus and boy was he right, given the hushed whispers that thundered around the room like tiny tornadoes. I doubted this is what he had in mind though, but I was not only still fig free.
I gave not a single fuck what any of them thought about it save one.
Eric’s eyes hadn’t left me. I cursed myself for getting rid of our blood bond because I had no idea of how he felt about this little development. His expression gave nothing away.
I wanted to be able to feel him.
And as if Pam had been gifted with telepathy, she took a step forward and bowed towards Eric, saying in a questioning tone, “Master?”
Back when I was still living as a plain old human, I’d always viewed those kinds of things as demeaning. But now I knew better.
Now I knew it was a show of the love and respect she had for him.
My back automatically began to bend at the waist to mimic her actions, with me feeling those very same things for him, but Niall caught my arm in his hand and kept me upright.
Okay then. I supposed I could bow later, just not right now.
Pam went on to say, “I hope you are well. I have felt great…discomfort coming from you over these last several months.”
We hadn’t had any time to talk. When Niall poofed me back into the human world, we’d popped into Fangtasia – literally – and popped back out with both Pam and Karin in tow once I told them what I was going to do tonight. For all of her worries about me acting rashly, Pam looked genuinely relieved to hear me say the words and no one asked any questions. There hadn’t been time.
But looking at Eric now, I was starting to realize what she was trying to say. I’d noticed Eric had looked paler than I remembered him being, but hearing Pam’s words made me put two and two together.
And the likely answer made my hands heat up in response.
When he didn’t answer her right away, too busy staring at me with no expression, I asked, “Have you been injured?”
My eyebrow quirked up like I’d learned to do from him over the years as I spoke directly to him for the first time in over a year. My eyes traveled over his blood covered body and while he could have already healed from a recent wound, his clothes weren’t torn. I didn’t think the blood was his.
So whose was it?
And because he knew me better than anyone else ever had, he answered my silent question by simply saying, “Bill.”
It explained the massive pool of blood he was standing in. And once upon a time I would’ve been outraged and horrified over finding out my first lover’s death had been brought about by the hand of my second. But I wasn’t that same girl anymore.
My fairytales had a different theme to them now.
Eric studied my expression like there would be a pop quiz later on, but I had no reaction to hearing he’d killed Bill. If anything, I might have found some guff to get up over not having a hand in it myself, but I couldn’t begrudge Eric for taking Bill’s life on his own.
God knows Bill had pushed both of our buttons over the years.
So I only shrugged finding out he’d finally pushed Eric’s one time too many. Sloughing off the knowledge Eric was standing in a Bill puddle of his own making, I repeated, “Have you been injured in your time in Oklahoma?”
My mind and hands were still simmering over Pam’s choice of words.
Code word for pain.
Freyda decided she’d had enough of being ignored and moved to stand in between Eric and I. Far enough out of our physical reach so that neither one of us could touch her because she foolishly thought she was untouchable.
I’d show her differently.
“The Northman is my royal consort to do with as I wish. If I choose to carve him up piece by piece, it is my right,” she sneered.
Both Pam and Karin hissed behind me and I hated my own ignorance for the last year. Not only because I hadn’t given much thought to what Eric would be subjected to, but because I’d been too ignorant to stop it from ever happening in the first place.
Eric and I may have perfected the art of dancing – both on a ballroom floor and in between the sheets – but our communication skills with one another were practically nonexistent. That was never truer than it was now. We had no blood bond for me to know what he wanted. My telepathy was of no use when it came to reading his mind at will.
But I had. Once before.
Of course I couldn’t be gifted with another glimpse into his head right now to know for sure he still wanted me. To know for sure he wanted away from Freyda. There wasn’t any time to pull petals off of daisies and play ‘He loves me/loves me not’. So if I chose to go ahead with our plans now, I would have to do it by taking a leap of faith.
So I jumped in with both feet.
My eyes returned to the vampire queen, but I showed her no reaction. She deserved more than a harsh glare and I was more than prepared to give it to her. She wasn’t as good as Eric was at hiding her feelings. She’d been shocked – and a little scared – seeing me mark her floor with nothing more than a flick of my fingers. But now her face held nothing but contempt. Unadulterated anger and hatred dripped from her eyes and down her extended fangs as she stared back at me.
But I’d been confronted by more than one bitch like her. However, I doubted she’d ever been confronted by a bitch like me.
Maybe she thought her gown was fire retardant. Maybe she had an ANSI fire suppression system built into her tiara.
Maybe she didn’t know the wrath of a Princess of the Sky Fae burned hotter than the sun.
But she was about to find out.
I steadied my mind and fingers, recalling the words drilled into me by Niall before I spoke up, saying, “As a royal by blood and Princess of the Sky Fae, I hereby invoke my birthright and claim my husband by the knife, Eric Northman.”
Freyda’s eyes widened, but I had no clue if she knew what that meant. I had no clue if she’d even known about my tasty fairy blood before now. But even when I was still human, I knew one thing to be true about the supernatural world.
A blood offense was a serious infraction.
And considering Eric was my husband and he was never truly her royal consort, I knew she owed me a debt.
And us Supes always collected on our debts.
The air turned electric – or maybe that was just me – but perhaps sensing her demise was on the horizon, Freyda crouched with her hands turning into claws right as she screeched, “Attack!”
I’d been involved in more than my fair share of Supe brawls in the past. Everyone around me had always seemed to move at the speed of light and I’d always done my best to scurry out of their way. But not now.
Being in Faery had given me more than a charged essential spark. Now I was able to see the inhuman speed all supernatural creatures seemed capable of. It reminded me of Neo in the movie ‘The Matrix’. Everything slowed down and I was able to react with the added time it allowed me.
Freyda’s guards and her retinue moved in on us, while the guests in attendance moved to the sides of the room, not wanting to be caught in the fray. My hotheaded temper was still front and center, making my hot hands rise up and shoot what amounted to sunlight at the star of the party. But she jumped up and to the side, just as I saw Eric lunge for her with his sword at the last second, and made me miss my mark before it could inadvertently find him instead.
Everyone froze – or so it seemed – when my sunshine hands lit up the room for a second and left a crater where Freyda had been standing only moments earlier. But just as quickly the battle picked up pace again, with a sense of urgency and glee that could only be found in the supernatural world.
Our royal fairy soldiers, covered in silver chainmail and armed with silver swords, spread out and tore down any and all who approached us. In my peripheral I could see Eric swinging the sword in his hand like a true master, beheading vampires left and right, while his hair fanned out all around him.
He truly was beautiful.
His eyes were both hard and soft. He seemed to need the release a violent battle would afford him and with every body he left in his wake, so too did the tension in his body seem to diminish.
He was clearing a path towards Freyda where she was huddled behind five of her biggest guards. I didn’t want to believe he was headed that way to protect her, but I couldn’t be sure. And I couldn’t say that I really cared either.
He and I could just fight about me killing his pseudo-wife later on.
Also not the first fight I would have of that nature.
She too had gotten her hands on a sword, but with the five of them surrounding her she had no one to use it on. And while Sookie Stackhouse may have tried to run and hide, Sookie Brigant was no coward.
I would be running into the fight.
Everyone in our group was involved in the battle around us, but I didn’t need their protection. Nor did they need mine, so I left our protective circle. Every vampire that came at me met their crispy end at my hands, with their bodies exploding like vampire fireworks in the air. I’d always been good at dancing and this felt very much the same. I twirled and moved around the room to my very own music, smiting those trying to cut in on my solo dance as I went. In a way it reminded me of a red carpet movie premier with the flashes going off left and right, only now the room wasn’t lit with camera flashes.
It was lit up by a pissed off fairy princess who was hell bent on showing vampire queens a thing or two about stealing their man.
The room was a whirlwind of violence and my fire hands only added to the cacophony. Left and right, up and down, Oklahoma’s vampires met their explosive ends at my hand. My fairy dress was ruined by blood and soot, but I couldn’t be bothered to care. My only focus was on Freyda the closer I got to her. On some level, I continued to register the others still fighting around me, but I paid them no mind and they did the same. I didn’t know if I’d possessed the same kind of power Niall had to make others not notice him – like when I’d first met him in that restaurant what now felt like a lifetime ago – but given the fact everyone else seemed to pass me by, I would guess it to be true. It wasn’t something I was trying to do. I just had tunnel vision.
And my concentration brought with it another revelation.
Freyda’s mind opened up to me and in it I could see every depraved thing she’d done to Eric. Everything she planned to do to him once this night was over to make him pay for what was happening now. The torture he’d faced at her hands already and her plans to repeat them. The rapes he’d suffered by drugging him with fairy blood that she would force him to endure all over again.
They say the devil was in the details.
And she had no idea that the one she missed – the bitch coming for her who in fact had demon blood flowing in her veins as well – would be her end.
I felt my body heat up along with my growing rage. While the battle waged on around me in blurred images, only two were crystal clear in my field of vision.
Eric – who was currently fighting off a vampire I recognized as belonging to Felipe’s retinue.
I didn’t spare him a glance as I raised my left hand and exploded his foe’s body, while I continued on my path towards the only other in my sights.
Perhaps it was my own hubris that lifted the fairy veil I’d seemed to put over myself, while I’d strolled through the carnage like I was on a leisurely walk after a springtime rain, that allowed her to finally see me. After all, supernatural seemed to be synonymous with pride.
I wanted her to see me.
I wanted her to know she hadn’t met her match because she was no match for me.
Her eyes grew wide and I could see in her thoughts my own approach towards her. I felt her fear. I felt her anger.
I felt her snap.
A snarl ripped from her lips as she raised her sword in the air facing me. Still standing behind her defensive line, I decided she needed a lesson in picking fights with someone her own size, so I raised both hands and shot down two of her soldiers. Another second ticked by and she was covered in the smoking bits of two more. With only one left to hide behind, I prepared to microwave him like his name was TrueBlood, when I was blindsided by a blur, knocking me to the side and making my shot go wide.
I found my footing, but lost my focus seeing the vampire version of Michael Oher now standing directly in my path and staring back at me.
I couldn’t stop myself. Not that I tried. Not that I wanted to.
We still had plenty we needed to talk about, but now wasn’t the time for words. Communication was never our forte anyway.
So I didn’t think twice before I kissed him.