Chapter Fifteen: Conspiracy
Sookie stretched widely and let out a jaw-popping yawn as she awoke late Sunday morning. To her amusement, her legs were aching all the way from her hips to the tips of her toes. Aside from a few decadent rounds with her vampire throughout the evening, all of the dancing, especially in heels, had left her calves and feet tender.
Reaching for her phone on the nightstand, Sookie found a text awaiting her.
Trent: Sookie! You made the front page! The wife says your dress was gorgeous.
Frowning, Sookie pulled herself out of bed, put on her robe, and went to take care of her dogs after retrieving the newspaper on Eric’s driveway. While Mags and Junes ran around the backyard, Sookie opened the paper to find exactly what Trent had meant.
There staring up at her in grainy, dull color was a photo of Eric and her standing in front of their limousine from last night. Despite the lackluster quality of the photograph, Sookie had to admit they looked good together. She was staring up at Eric with an adoring gaze mirrored by the impressive features of her lover. She wished longingly that she could have a better copy of the photo to keep, but she was grateful for what she had.
Beneath the photo was the caption, “ERIC NORTHMAN AND DETECTIVE SOOKIE STACKHOUSE.”
Directly below the caption was the article,
‘Shreveport’s wealthiest vampire stunned our fair city by attending the Shreveport Policemen Charity Fundraiser with none other than our local P.D.’s star detective, Sookie Stackhouse.
Detective Stackhouse made the news last month when she was placed on administrative leave after her “justified shooting” of nineteen-year-old Nina Sanchez. She was also in the news last year for her involvement in the roundup of Michael Grosse, the vampire convicted of human trafficking.
Stackhouse has not caused much stir as of late, but reliable sources report that she is being primed for yet another promotion to Sergeant in the near future.
The question we all want answered though is what the Department’s reaction might be to one of their own girls in blue ‘shacking up’ with a set of fangs!
Stackhouse’s commanding officer, Captain Emmet Kleinman, gave this statement, “Stackhouse has given us years of dedicated, hard work and her moral compass has always pointed due North. No one in our Department wants anything more than her happiness.”
Fellow officers and several politicians who also attended last night’s fundraiser echoed Captain Kleinman’s statements.
Continued on Page 12A
Sookie did not turn to Page 12A. She had read enough for one morning, and she neatly folded the paper as not to damage the front-page picture.
Pulling out her phone, Sookie fired a text off to Trent,
Looks like I may have struck a few nerves, too.
Her co-worker responded quickly,
Trent: Fuck ’em. The Captain said it all just right.
Sookie: Well, regardless, I had a blast last night.
Trent: Glad to hear it! See you Monday.
Sookie: See you then.
Once inside again, Sookie showered, dressed, and left the paper in the living room to later on cut out the picture from the front page. Afterward she packed up the dogs and went to visit her Gran.
Arriving in Bon Temps, Sookie let Mags and Junes run around the acreage while she went to Gran’s bedroom and checked in with her nurse.
“How is she today?” Sookie asked quietly, noting her grandmother was asleep.
Patty smiled sadly, “She’s about as good as we can expect at this point.” Nodding in understanding, Sookie sat in the chair they had placed beside Gran’s bed for her visits. “It does her good, having you stop by every day.”
“I didn’t make it yesterday,” Sookie mumbled guiltily.
“She understood why and when she saw your picture in the paper this morning? Oh! Child, she was more spry than I’ve ever seen her! I think that’s what has her all tuckered out. Besides, she pretends to feel guilty for you taking time away from your work having you visit every day,” Patty teased mildly.
With a distant smile, Sookie took Gran’s cool hand in her own and rubbed it softly. “I’ve been thinking about that a lot every time I see her,” she whispered.
“About her hating your job?” Patty asked.
“A calling is a calling,” Patty encouraged. “Don’t go changing your life because you think it will help. You cannot change what is happening to her by granting a selfish request.”
“She raised me. I think I owe her this,” Sookie murmured.
“She raised you, and the girl she raised became a police officer,” Patty insisted. “Whether she can accept that or not, she raised a woman to be a decorated and honored officer of the law.”
“Besides, I read in the paper you’re being rallied for Sergeant. Isn’t that a lot less time on the street?” she asked.
“Yes, with as small a department as we have, I would spend much less time in action,” she admitted reluctantly.
“So, take your time. Don’t rush into things,” Patty encouraged. “Right now is not the time to be making life changing decisions.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Sookie agreed.
“I’ll leave you alone with Adele for now. I’ll be back before you leave-”
“Has my brother been by recently?” Sookie interrupted.
Patty frowned before confessing, “No. I haven’t seen him in over a week.”
“I see,” Sookie whispered, holding Gran’s hand a bit tighter. “I hope he comes around in time.”
“Me too, Child, me too.” With that, Patty left the bedroom, and Sookie remained, silently sitting and holding Gran’s withering hand.
After another half hour, Gran began to stir and Sookie straightened up in her chair.
“Oh, Sookie,” Adele rasped. “I saw your picture this morning. You looked so beautiful.”
“Tell me all about it,” she requested, and Sookie began an edited tale of her evening. She told Adele about Eric picking her up at her apartment and giving her the hair comb with magnolias and juniper berries. She described riding in a limo for the first time and having reporters up in her face, snapping pictures. Then she talked about the dancing and the delicious food, followed by more dancing. Finally, she told Gran that she had confessed her love for Eric, and he had declared his own love.
“Sookie, I’m so happy now,” Adele’s voice whistled from her dry throat, and Sookie quickly brought the straw of the bedside water glass to her grandmother’s lips. “I’m so happy you have someone to share your life with.”
“I think he wants to marry me, Gran,” Sookie whispered nervously.
“He does,” Gran agreed. “The first night you brought him to the house, he asked me for your hand. He wanted to have my blessing before it was too late.”
“Really?” Sookie squeaked.
“Yes, Darlin’,” Gran chuckled choppily.
“Eric’s said that if we married, I wouldn’t want to be a police officer anymore,” Sookie told her sadly.
“I’ll call the Reverend!” Adele joked.
“Gran,” Sookie admonished gently. “Patty mentioned a good point, though. If I make Sergeant, I won’t really be out of the department as much. I could very easily be a paper pusher after that… Especially if I made a formal request. They might transfer me to IA if I do.”
“You hate IA,” Gran made a face.
“You hate my entire job,” Sookie pointed out.
“I don’t hate your job; I hate you doing your job.”
Sookie rolled her eyes playfully, “Because that’s a huge difference.”
The two women poked fun at one another a while longer before Adele began to tire once more. When Patty returned, Sookie said her goodbyes, collected her dogs, and drove back to Eric’s house. She too felt drained from the afternoon over the emotional ping-pong of happily spending time with Gran warring with the sorrow of knowing these playful conversations would soon end. Forever.
Going into Eric’s room, Sookie stripped down to her underwear and curled up against Eric’s side. She promptly fell back into a fitful rest.
Arising to the late afternoon, Eric looked down at the small woman nestled into his side. He could smell Adele on her skin, and knew that the numbered visits with her grandmother had once again taken their toll on Sookie. It was not difficult for Eric to recognize how trying this past month had been on his lover.
Rather than waking Sookie with kisses, Eric played unobtrusively with the ends of her hair. He did not know how long he lay beside her, contemplating her worried expression, but the moment was interrupted by the deep thrumming sound of his cell phone; the only ringtone that would not jerk Sookie awake.
Reaching for the phone, Eric was surprised to see who was calling.
“Your Majesty,” Eric answered quickly.
“Northman, I’ve just seen your picture in the paper!” Sophie-Anne’s voice sang happily at him.
Eric frowned. He did not know he was in the newspaper, but quickly deduced that it was the photograph of himself and Sookie. Why this picture would have Sophie-Anne practically bubbling with excitement was beyond him.
“Yes, I attended my city’s law enforcement fundraiser,” Eric replied slowly.
“So you know that little detective, then? She seemed quite captivated with you. Do you know her well?”
“Quite,” Eric was more confused.
“Such a smart Sheriff, getting your ear directly in the need-to-know,” the queen praised. “Have you found her useful?”
Eric was frowning now, finally confirming that Sophie-Anne was the one pulling Compton’s strings. Sophie-Anne wanted something and it obviously had to do with his Sookie. Deciding to wheedle some information, he passively said, “Mildly.”
“Oh, so you are looking for something particular from her? I figured as much,” Sophie-Anne replied quickly. “Do you think you can hurry your little venture along?”
“I doubt it,” Eric whispered, looking at the sleeping woman on his bed.
“That’s too bad; I’d hate to inconvenience you.”
“How could my queen inconvenience me?” Eric tried to sound affronted.
“I need you to either expedite your intentions with Stackhouse, or forgo your plans entirely. I need you to kill her for me before she causes any more backlash to our community.”
Eric froze. Sophie-Anne was enlisting him to assassinate his own lover?
“I cannot do that,” Eric whispered.
“Of course you can! You have made public appearances with her. Your scent will already be all over her, and the Were cops won’t even think twice about your scent being there once they find her body. Just make it look like a mugging or something droll. Even a fall down the stairs will be plenty. I had Compton up there trying to seduce her and do the same thing, but can you blame a girl for only having eyes for the Viking?”
“Your Majesty, I cannot kill Sookie Stackhouse,” Eric looked once more at the dozing beauty in his bed before he uttered, “She is my Bonded.”
Silence came over the phone now. After what felt like several minutes, Sophie-Anne hissed, “When did this happen?”
“Last night, after we returned home from the fundraiser. It was not premeditated, but we completed our third mutual exchange. We are Bonded now, and any fronts you forge against her are-”
“I know our laws!” Sophie-Anne shrieked and hung up on him.
Eric set his phone on the nightstand once more and sat heavily on the end of the bed. He chanced a glance back at Sookie, finding her still asleep, and finally set his forehead in his palms.
‘What have I done?’
He had just lied to his Queen to avoid exacting a command. If any vampire saw him or Sookie before an actual Bond was completed, he would be found guilty of treason, and then suffer his final death.
Never, not once in his thousand years, had Eric Northman put his existence in such a perilous situation. His continued existence on this Earth now rested in the hands of his sleeping lover. Of course he could force the third exchange, but he was well aware of the repercussions of such a thing. A forced exchange did not hold the same influence as a consented Bond. The malice behind such a thing created blood slaves or spiteful little harpies that with whom he would be better off left alone.
“What’s wrong, Darlin’?” Sookie’s voice broke his thoughts, and he flinched reflexively at being caught off guard. “Eric?” she pressed worriedly, crawling to the end of the bed beside him. “What happened?”
“Sookie,” Eric whispered, his heart filled with dread, “I have done something you will not like.”
The woman laughed, “What grievous act have you committed in the confines of this room?” Eric turned his helpless eyes upon her and it astounded Sookie. Crooning soothingly to him, she pulled Eric’s head to her chest and stroked his hair. “Darlin’, what’s wrong? What did you do?”
“My Queen called not a half an hour ago… She commanded me to kill you,” Sookie flinched, but he was surprised she did not run screaming out of the room. Somehow, she must have sensed that he did not intend to fulfill the order. “I only had one option to keep you safe,” he whispered.
Sookie responded immediately, “You told her we were Bonded.”
“How long will that give us to actually complete the Bond?” Sookie asked quickly.
Eric pulled his head from her chest and looked her over with alarm. “You are not… Running away?”
“I might not know much about vampire politics, but I can guess enough that lying to your queen is bad,” Sookie snapped.
“In this case it is treason.”
“Which means?” Sookie asked with far less snarkiness, and much more concern.
“Then we have to Bond,” she told him frantically. “Right now!”
“I’ll hold off as long as I can. I’ll transfer to IA if I have to and I’ll tell the Captain as much as I can to see if he can’t direct most of my time around the precinct. We’ll figure that out later. This is what’s happening now. Just…” Sookie took a deep, long breath. “Just let me save your life now and we’ll save my career next, OK?”
“But I will want to turn you someday-”
“I’ve already accepted that. It doesn’t have to be now. I’ll come to complete terms with it later, but I have already decided that I want you above anything else. There are many things I want other than you, Eric, but you are what I want the most. I love you. You are the only man I’ve ever loved, and that’s not going to change,” After her uncharacteristic declaration, Sookie eyed her lover slyly, “Why? Do you not want me that much?”
Eric snorted, “Absurd! I just put the remainder of my existence in the hands of a twenty-six-year-old. Do you really believe I do not want you with every fiber of my being after doing something that goes against my very nature?”
“Just checking,” she teased.
“Oh, Sookie, my sweet Love,” Eric leaned in and kissed her forehead.
Taking a calming breath, Sookie pulled his face to her own, finding his lips with her mouth. She kissed him slowly before urging that mouth towards her throat, “Do it.”
Eric chuckled, “As much as your resolve comforts me, we must wait for sunset. Another hour or so.”
“Oh, right,” Sookie muttered. “I forgot it doesn’t count between sunsets.”
“Perhaps we should take this time so that I may prepare you, to the best of my knowledge, for what is to come,” he suggested.
Sookie nodded mutely, pulling away to play with the ends of her hair.
“Vampires feel things more strongly than humans, Sookie. You may find those emotions overwhelming at times. During the day, you will be able to track my presence, but I suppose it would feel much like the void your telepathy senses. You will know where I am, but not what I am feeling until I rise,” Sookie bobbed her head in understanding. “As I feel your emotions, mine will be equally available to you; however, once the Bond is complete, we will be able to influence those emotions. We can encourage each other to calm down without words or physical actions; we can fan the passion for one another without even being in the same room.”
Sookie finally spoke, curiosity urging a question, “What does all of this mean when you turn me?”
Eric took a deep, unneeded breath, “With our species, it means a great deal. Not only because Bonded Mates are our most treasured gifts, but because of the benefits of obtaining such a wonderful companion. Of course the Bonded Child receives a great deal more benefits than the Bonded Master, or at least that is how non-Bonded vampires see it…”
“How so?” Sookie tilted her head with intrigue.
“Well, a Bonded Child is held to the same regard as the Bonded Master. In this case, I hold the title of Sheriff. When you become vampire, you will also wield my title. You will have the same authority as I do upon your first rising. Of course I would discourage you to use that authority at such a young age…”
Sookie nodded in agreement.
“Also, you will be able to resist the sun much sooner to the same degree that I can. I can remain aware several hours after dawn as well as rise several hours before dusk. Ultimately, I am only left unaware for about eight to ten hours now-a-days, about the same amount of time some humans spend sleeping.”
“Wow, that’s cool!” Sookie beamed. “Mags and Junes won’t have to be ignored for so long then!”
Eric chuckled before continuing, “You will also be slightly stronger than a regular newborn, only by a small degree your first few decades. Once you start sprinting into your centuries though, you will begin noticing a much larger gap between your strength and the strength of those turned around the same time as you. You will overwhelm Pam’s strength by your tercentennial.”
“What about you? What do you get out of this?” Sookie asked.
With a soft, joyful smile, Eric told her, “I get an eternity with the most precious individual I have ever known.”
Sookie frowned. “Sounds like you get the short end of the stick,” she grumbled.
Eric laughed, “We speculate that the reasons Bonded Children receive so many advantages is so that they are better able to protect themselves and preserve their existences for the sake of their Bonded Master. After all, weak and impulsive newborn mates would be a huge liability for the Master.”
Sookie made a strange face, “That reminds me… Am I going to have to call you ‘Master’ like Pam does?”
Eric scowled, “Absolutely not. Bonded couples are equals. After your first few centuries, my control over you will wane, and eventually I will be unable to command you at all.”
“You’ll be able to control me?” Sookie demanded.
“Yes, but only for your safety. That is the other benefit for a Bonded Child. They are only under the Bonded Master’s direct control for the first few centuries. It is speculated that it is for the safety of the Child while they are still learning to control their abilities, emotions, and compulsions. Some feel the effectiveness fade earlier than others do, some take longer to grow out of it. Emily is still under Godric’s control, but she has only just hit her century mark… I should warn you; however, as I am Godric’s Child, you will be beholden to him as I am. His command is law in our bloodline.”
“What about his Maker?” Sookie asked worriedly.
“He met his true death several hundred years before Godric made me,” Eric grumbled darkly.
“How did that happen?” Sookie pressed.
Eric rolled his eyes, leaning back on the bed, and snuggling Sookie into his side before beginning, “He committed our greatest taboo. He killed another vampire’s Bonded.”
“Why would he do that?”
“He was a Seer. Guyr did not fancy another vampire wielding such power, so Guyr killed the man.”
Sookie frowned, “If he was a Seer, why didn’t he ‘see’ Guyr killing him?”
Eric smirked, “He could not ‘see’ vampires. Apparently, that was one of his reasons for falling in love with the vampiress. He was no longer plagued with visions of his future when his destiny was so entwined with a vampire.”
“Huh, like I can’t hear vampires,” Sookie murmured thoughtfully. “I wonder if what made him ‘see’ is similar to what makes me ‘hear?’”
Erick shrugged, “It is possible, but it was very long ago. There are no real answers left to find.”
“I suppose you’re right. Besides, what does it matter where something comes from? If you have it, and it’s not going anywhere, what’s the point of digging? Although that makes me a bit nervous now…”
“What makes you nervous, Dear One?” Eric asked quietly.
“What will happen to my gift when you turn me?”
“Ah,” Eric frowned, “I do not know. Nor do I know what it could do to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“To turn you into a vampire, I must drain you of all of your blood. This is the reason that newborns are so ravenous, all they have is the small amount of blood their Maker gave them to make the change, and they are depleted of blood when they first rise.” At her confused look, he elaborated, “In essence, I am absorbing the magic of your body, the magic of life. In return, I give you the magic of immortality and all of its repercussions. However, if there are other magics within your body, I could potentially absorb them to some extent.”
“So you could steal my telepathy?” Sookie asked aghast.
“I do not believe I would acquire the actual ability, but it is possible you could lose your telepathy once you are turned. It is something for which you need to prepare,” Eric warned.
Sookie’s heart sunk. Despite the amount of pain and isolation her gift may have caused, the idea of losing it terrified her. To her it was akin to suddenly becoming blind.
“I am sure someone that had special gifts must have been turned at some point. If you like, I will consult with a supernatural physician and have her look into the possibilities?” Sookie nodded silently. “Would you like me to do that before we complete the Bond?” Eric offered. Sookie shook her head. “You are certain?”
“It won’t change my mind, Darlin’. We’re Bonding regardless, but I want to have some time to prepare if your doctor says I’ll lose my telepathy.”
“I do not want you to have regrets,” Eric whispered.
Taking his face into her hands, Sookie brought his lips to hers in a soft kiss. “Worst case scenario, I have had twenty-six years of being a telepath. I will have an eternity without it. I will adapt, and I will have you. There is nothing I couldn’t live without as long as I have you.”
“It feels as though you are sacrificing so much to save me. I cannot bear-”
“Eric, baby steps, OK?” Sookie encouraged. “You don’t know that I’ll have to quit my job. You don’t know if I’ll lose my telepathy. Let’s just do all this in order, OK? We’ll complete the Bond. You’ll call this Supe Doc, and I’ll keep working until I can’t anymore. OK?” Eric sighed, but nodded his assent. “Thank you.”
“It still unsettles me knowing that you are placing so many critical facets of your personality at stake. I am not unfamiliar of who you are, Sookie. I understand what being a police detective means to you. I will admit that, for a time, I believed you were unaware toward what your calling does to you. Now, I realize that you understand your strengths better than I. You were not a blind Bullet of Destiny. You are resilient, strong, and selfless.”
Sookie snickered, “I’m anything but selfless, Eric. If I were, I wouldn’t have held so many people at arm’s length. If I were selfless, I wouldn’t have allowed you in the way I did. That’s OK though, I’m not trying to be the martyr as much as it may seem that way some days. I was selfish in keeping people out because allowing them to know me, or my knowing them too personally would make future abandonment or rejection too painful. I let you in because I selfishly wanted you so badly. You were so easy to allow in, so easy to talk with and fantasize about,” she said with a playful leer. “Just maybe, you know, I am a Bullet of Destiny… Maybe you were the mark I was supposed to hit? My gift gave me a sure fire path straight to you, and you will be the one to strip away the remaining fragments of my current life and help me to see the purpose of my future.”
Eric contemplated her words for a moment. They seemed perfectly reasonable to him.
“Perhaps you are right, Dear One. Perhaps you are right.”