Catalyst Ch. 56

Chapter Fifty-Six: Announcements

Sookie’s POV:

“Wow,” is what I manage to mumble once the doctor has left.

“Yes,” Eric agrees solemnly as I feel like someone who has just been rolled over by a tidal wave.

My eyes narrow as I look at him suspiciously, “You knew, didn’t you?”

Eric sighs and pauses a moment before replying, “I had my suspicions, but I did not want to say anything unless I could confirm it. It appears Cassandra anticipated my doubts.”

I sigh as I take in the past twenty-four hours. Not only did I discover I was pregnant, but I had my crisis of faith resolved once and for all, witnessed my husband returning home with his arm torn off, watched my friend reattach his arm, and then found out I am carrying the reincarnated spirit of a two-thousand-year-old vampire Seer. Yup, sounds like a normal day in the eternal life of a telepathic angel…

“What are you thinking?” My husband asks me in a rather soothing voice. No doubt he’s worried I’m about to be overcome with some type of hysteria.

“I’m thinking this has been a really long day, and I’m going to try and catch a nap before Godric gets back here with Victor,” I answer with a yawn.

“And Diedre?” Eric presses as he follows me out of the living room and up the stairs to our bedroom.

“What about her?” I ask, stripping out of my clothes for the millionth time that day.

“Are we going to tell her about Cassandra?” he asks anxiously.

“Of course we’re going to tell her,” I reply in exasperation. “We have the opportunity to ease some of her anguish. This might be the thing that keeps her from killing herself after she rips Victor apart!”

“What if she tries to interfere with how we wish to bring up our child?” Eric insists I consider the repercussions of the situation before moving forward with my nap. I’m reminded distantly of the night we were still deciding to Bond. Eric has always tried to make me aware of all the negatives. I’m constantly trying to remind him everything has negative aspects, and his arguments are only exhausting.

“Eric,” I sigh and press my forehead into the door frame of our room, “every single person who has ever brought a new life into this world had to put up with every Joe-schmoe out there telling them how to do it right. This won’t be any different than that. We ignore her and do it how we want. If she has a problem with that, that’s her problem. We’re the parents, and she’s got to be old enough to respect that.”

My husband looks at me in surprise before he laughs and nudges me the rest of the way into our bedroom, “You are far wiser than I give you credit.” He gives me a guilty smile as he pushes me into bed and curls around me.

“To be fair, the baby thing is not something you’ve had a thousand additional years of practice,” I reply as I snuggle into his side.

“Are you scared at all?” Eric asks me curiously.

“Sure,” I mumble. “I’m scared about the things we don’t know and how much it will hurt. Mostly I’m nervous the baby will have powers I can’t compete with,” I confess. “What if he can fly?”

Eric shakes his head doubtfully, “I think he will be more like you. He will be stronger than you once he’s grown to a man, but as a child, I think he will be relatively human. After all, vampirism is not genetic.” I can hear and feel his doubt. Apparently I have planted a seed of concern in him. “Sleep, Sookie. I am sure we have plenty of time to worry about these things.”

“All right, all right,” I close my eyes and hug him a bit tighter. “Love you.”

“As I love you,” he answers and kisses the top of my head.


When I wake up, Eric’s still in bed with me, raking his fingers through my hair. “Hey,” I greet him with a half-asleep smile. “What time is it?”

“Almost four in the morning,” he says. “Godric just got in, and they are storing Victor at Pam’s for the day. It is too close to dawn for Diedre to remain aware much longer with her injuries.”

I nod with another yawn and crawl out of bed. “Shoot!”

“What?” he looks at me worriedly.

“With everything that happened, I never got around to grading papers!”

“Oh, I did that for you,” Eric assures me. “I have watched you enough times to grade on your scale.”

“Eric,” I whine, “they’re my students.”

“And our child needed you to rest,” he answers my protest with little concern. “I can fill in the time you are going to lose. I do not want you working four times as hard to maintain your usual habits.”

I pout a bit, but go about getting ready for my day. By the time I drip my way out of the shower and dress for work, Eric’s gone, but I can smell yummy food being cooked in the kitchen. My nostrils guide me downstairs, and I’m soon sitting in front of a pile of eggs and sausage.

“Thanks, Darlin’,” I smile until I see my usual cup of coffee is now a mug of tea.

“Decaffeinated,” Eric announces when he catches where I’m looking. He holds out Ludwig’s list of “NO” foods, and I sigh in resignation. This part of pregnancy is going to suck. I want my coffee!

After breakfast, I finish my morning routine in time to hear Jason honking for me to come out. Eric gives me a kiss goodbye, hands me my lunch bag and then kneels down to kiss my belly. This new addition to our morning routine makes my face flush in exhilaration. Eric wraps his arms around my hips and nuzzles my stomach a little harder before rising back to his feet.

“Have a good day today,” Eric tells me with another kiss goodbye.

“I will,” I answer. “Love you.”

“Love you both,” he opens the door just as Jason lets loose another impatient honk. My brother throws his hands in the air with an exasperated look as I come skipping to the car.

“Jeez, did you sleep in or something?” Jason asks as I buckle my seat belt and he pulls away from the curb.

“Yeah, actually. After everything that happened yesterday, I decided to sleep a few hours last night,” I confess.

Jason throws a surprised glance at me. I’ve had far more physically taxing days without the need for a nap. However, instead of interrogating, he shrugs and heads for Cammie’s house. When she’s in the backseat, I finally ask about Vegas.

“So, what happened with you guys last night?” I ask.

Jason shrugs, “Got to Felipe’s estate, explained that we believed their king was in danger, and next thing I know; I’m getting an earful of suspicious murmurs.” Jason doesn’t need to tap his head to imply he means he heard someone thinking incriminating things. “I do my ‘threat gesture’ at Godric, and Godric manages to beat a confession out of Victor. The third in command gave us permission to take Victor, and Godric called the Council for further instruction. They said it was cool to put Victor to death and granted permission to take him over state lines so Diedre could do the deed,” Jason explains rather simply.

“It was that easy?” Cammie asks with a low, surprised whistle.

“Well, I’m not gonna go into all the boring shit,” Jason laughs. “After all, we didn’t get in till four in the morning, and that was because we had to wait for all the Council members to throw a verdict and then debate over letting us take Victor out of state. If we hadn’t had witnesses hear him confess to orchestrating the Pythoness’s death, we probably wouldn’t have been allowed to take him.”

Cammie nods, accepting the story. “I got to put Eric’s arm back on last night.”

“I heard about that!” Jason reaches back to offer Cammie a high-five, which she enthusiastically returns. “I’m proud of you!”

“Thanks,” Cammie glows pridefully at her accomplishment, “I was real nervous I’d screw it up. I’ve never reassembled something that was animated.”

“You did awesome,” I assure her.

Cammie grins at me, “Which, reminds me, that I finally finished my series of enchantments that I’ve been practicing the past few years!”

“Which is?” I ask politely.

“Well, I’ve enchanted my and Godric’s wedding bands,” Cammie begins slowly, holding up her hand to show off her stunning ring set. “They’re layered with a few different spells to do what I wanted, and Rose had to help me with a few of the more advanced enchantments that I can’t quite do myself yet, so it took a while…But it should be working.”

“What should be working?” Jason asks impatiently.

“It’s like a glamour, but a witch glamour, not a vampire one. It changes how we are perceived by mortal creatures. It works a little different on two-natured, but it does work. It will let us appear to age!”

“The fuck we want that for?” Jason asks in disgust.

“How about so we can stay in the same location longer,” I tell him pointedly. “We won’t have to move every ten years or less.”

“That’s right! We can live out entire lifetimes!” Cammie gushes happily.

“Oh, Cammie, this is the best news yet!” I praise, feeling relief and happiness at the realization that I can raise my child in a family home instead of having to tear him from his roots every few years. I won’t have to pretend he’s not mine when he gets old enough to be my brother instead of my son.

“Are you crying?” Jason demands and I wipe at my eyes in surprise.

“I’m just having a girly moment,” I reply lamely. Maybe I should just tell the whole family about the baby tonight. It seems mean to let Diedre in on the news and not my family…


I am the most distracted teacher the rest of the day. My students are even noticing that they can get away with just about anything today, and Mrs. Eyes-in-the-back-of-her-head-Northman is powerless to stop them.

It’s just impossible to concentrate when thoughts of babies are on your mind. Every time I look at my students, I wonder about the type of child my baby will be. Will he be bright and quiet like Joshua? Will he be boisterous, but deceptively brilliant like Christopher? Will he be withdrawn and struggling like Dustin? A class clown like Kevin? Maybe he’ll be an annoying little shit like Jimmy. Ugh, please God, not like Jimmy! Give him flight before he turns out like Jimmy!

At mid-day, my mind wanders from the personality of my child to the place I would like to raise him. Eric had insisted that we move out of Louisiana so we could return when we had our first child, but had promised to return there to raise him. Now I’m not so sure I want to do that. As a teacher, I don’t want my child to go to Bon Temps High School. It has so little to offer, and our son will have even less in common with the majority of his classmates than I did. At least I was able to bond with a lot of them with our lower middle class status.

School in Shreveport was a little better, but only because Jason and I nearly killed ourselves to afford to live in a good school district. Currently, we are all working at a good public school, and I’m pretty sure it will stay that way for quite a while.

Not to mention, if we stay here, we already all have jobs, I consider. I don’t want the whole family to be uprooted by this, after all, and I want us to all be near each other. Certainly it’s important for extended family to be part of a child’s life? Especially since we’ll all be with each other for a very, very long time.

By the end of the day, I don’t think I’ve taught a single student anything. I climb into my brother’s car later that afternoon, and fall asleep on the drive home, hugging my mail carrier bag.

“Hey, Sleepyhead,” my brother’s voice drags me back into awareness.

“Hey,” I mumble back.

“Are you okay?” Jason asks as I jerk awake. Camilla’s sitting in the backseat still, staring at me worriedly.

“Why are we at my place? Cammie gets dropped off first,” I answer confusedly.

“We were worried about you,” Cammie replies, and I can hear the concern in her voice.

“Sorry,” I sit up a bit straighter, “I should go in and go back to sleep.”

“Here, I’ll help you,” Jason jumps out of the car, and so does Camilla. My best friend grabs my bag, and Jason practically carries me into the house.

“Guys, I’m not that weak,” I chuckle tiredly. I don’t remember being so tired. Not even when I was still a mortal!

Eric meets us at the front door and scoops me out of Jason’s arms and into his own. “Come in,” he tells our family. Jason and Cammie glance at each other nervously, but follow us to the sitting room.

“Sookie, if you are not even able to make it through an entire work day and stay conscious, perhaps keeping this news to ourselves is pointless,” Eric tells me.

I can only nod in agreement. Cammie and Jason are staring at us expectantly.

“So,” I say in as nonchalant a way as possible, “I’m pregnant!”

My best friend and my brother both yell in surprise and then they’re hugging me excitedly.

“This is amazing!” Cammie says. “Oh, I finished those enchantments right on time!”

“I’m gonna be an uncle!” Jason crows happily. “I’m gonna get this kid is so much trouble!” he declares.

I giggle at their reactions and accept another round of hugs. “There’s more-”

“Twins!?” Jason asks excitedly.

“Oh,” I frown, I hadn’t considered that yet, “I don’t know about that. I’m only a couple weeks along, and we only just found out yesterday.”

“Ouch, bad timing,” Jason flinches.

“What’s the other news?” Cammie tries to get me back on topic.

I take the last letter written by the Ancient Pythoness that I’ve been carrying all day and hand it to them. They read it silently and then look up at me for some sort of additional explanation.

“So, apparently my baby is the reincarnation of Cassandra,” I tell them.

“Shit,” Jason’s jaw slings open, “you guys are having a boy!” he laughs and I remember the vision Cassandra showed him.

“Eric! You were right!” I laugh as well now.

“Of course I was,” Eric teases.

“That or your daughter is freakishly tall with very masculine arms,” Jason pokes his tongue out at my husband.

“My daughters have always been lovely,” Eric assures us. “If I have one in this existence, she will be even lovelier because Sookie will be her mother.”

“You’ve had daughters before?” Jason asks in surprise. Of course I know about Eric’s human life, but Jason has always only been entertained by Eric’s historical accounts, not his personal ones.

“Yes, three daughters and two sons,” Eric nods and I watch with a twinge of sadness as Jason and Cammie lean in curiously. I hate hearing this story. “My youngest son died in infancy. The older son and second daughter were taken by disease. The youngest girl perished in a fire with her mother. My oldest daughter was killed while I was away.”

I watch the shock consume my brother and my friend, and their jaws slacken before their expressions turn somber.

“That sucks, Eric,” Jason finally comments.

Eric shrugs, having come to terms with it long ago. “Yes, but it is probably what lead me back into battle. It is more than likely what gave me the ferocity in battle that Godric admired. Quite possibly, the loss of my human family is what turned me into a vampire. Now I have the loveliest wife, and a family much stronger and closer than my human one ever was. So, I am thankful for their sacrifices because they have brought me here.”

I lean my head against Eric’s shoulder and take his hand in mine. Despite his speech, there is this deep undercurrent of something like sorrow. It is ancient like him, and perhaps he doesn’t feel it himself anymore. He is so used to that sorrow being there, it is merely a part of him now that he has accepted and no longer acknowledges.

Still, it is that sorrow which is still new to me that makes me love him even more every time I feel it swell like a gentle ripple of a pond. It makes me love him because even after a thousand years, he still loves and appreciates the family he lost. They will be written on his heart like an old tattoo for the rest of time, and I will happily write our own family alongside them. I will never try to cover their existences, merely create our own, permanent art to accompany what has always been there.

Eric’s POV:

Jason and Camilla stay at our home for the remainder of the afternoon. They work in companionable silence over their grading papers, breaking the quiet for an occasional comment or joke. Sookie seems to perk up with the company and activity, and I have to wonder if her exhaustion is merely the result of her abrupt loss of caffeine.

Soon, grading is finished, lesson plans are made, and the three teachers rise from the coffee table to head for the kitchen. Camilla is practically hanging from my wife’s waist, rubbing her belly and talking in a childish whistle of a voice. Jason is all smiles, and the glow of excitement shines in his eyes as he warms a bottle of blood in our microwave.

“So, what are you going to name him?” Jason asks curiously as Sookie and Camilla make their own snack.

“Leif,” my wife replies immediately and makes my heart swell with love. She is still willing to use the name!

Jason looks at me suspiciously, “Your choice, I take it?”

“I suggested it a long time ago,” I confess without guilt. “It was never set in stone.”

“I love the name,” Sookie injects. Her voice is an annoyed huff at her brother, and it makes me chuckle. “You know I’ve always liked family names.”

“Oh,” Jason glances, “who was Leif?”

“My brother,” I answer.

“That’s cool,” Jason loses some of the earlier distaste for the name. “Got any girl names picked out?”

I glance at Sookie curiously and she shrugs. “I don’t really know,” she replies. “I really like the names Alexis or Alexandria.”

“Those aren’t family names,” Jason teases.

“So?” She pouts. “I still like them. Besides, they sound like strong names. Pretty, but strong.”

“I think they’re perfect,” Camilla pipes in, and I have to admit that I like them too.

“I like the name Alexis,” I offer. “It is a beautiful name.”

“Good, it’s settled then. When we have a girl, we’re naming her Alexis,” Sookie says with finality on the topic.

I chuckle at her fake sternness and continue to discuss the day as everyone enjoys their midday snacks.

When the sun begins to set we all pile into Jason’s SUV to head over to Pam’s house. Rather than trying to move Victor around while he’s bound in silver, we decided to have everyone convene at the makeshift prison Pam fashioned out of her basement. I have the feeling she will be expanding on that prison now that we have finally had a need for one. Suburb Secrets, I think with great amusement. The idea of Tribunals taking place beneath the ground of our gated community in these modern times brings a rattle of laughter to my chest. Sookie glances at my sudden chuckle, but shakes her head as if she has thought better than to ask what is so funny.

When we arrive at my Child’s home, we file in and wait in the living room for Godric, Diedre and Quigley. The sun has only just set, and I know it will probably be another half hour, so we decide to let Pam in on our news while we wait.

“Pregnant?” my Child says in surprise. “I thought Ludwig would have been able to predict this before it happened. Everyone made it sound like it would be noticeable when you went into heat.”

Sookie snorts, “I’m not a dog. Could we not say ‘in heat’?”

Pam shrugs, “Whatever. So you were stealthily fertile?”

“Apparently,” Sookie laughs. “We both just felt like something had changed and we both called Ludwig only minutes apart to request some tests. She showed up, and we found out we were already pregnant!” she gushes.

“Well, congratulations,” Pam nods. “How far along are you, and when can we expect the little devil to make an appearance?”

Sookie shrugs, “Well, I’m only about two or three weeks. It’s super early in the pregnancy, and with all the unprecedented variables, Ludwig has to watch the development before she can begin guessing at a due date.”

Pam nods again, but does not ask any further questions. I can feel in our Link that she is too busy doing the math and arriving at the same curious conclusions I did yesterday.

Before Pam can begin asking further questions, I sense Godric on his way and assume that Diedre and Quigley are with him. When my Maker arrives, he is alone.

“Where’s Diedre and Quigley?” Jason asks, poking his head through the curtains to look out the window.

“She needed more time,” Godric sighs, “I fear that she is planning far more than how she desires to end Victor.”

I glance at my wife and know what she is thinking. The letter from Cassandra is still folded in her purse, and I have a feeling that it will be read several times this evening.

“Sookie,” I look to my wife, “let Godric and Pam read the letter. It is better we are all on the same page this evening.”

Sookie nods and pulls the paper from her bag. Godric and Pam press together to read it, and it only takes a second for them to look up in surprise.

“Is this real?” Pam asks in a soft daze.

“Yes. Ludwig brought it to us last night,” I assure them. “Apparently it was given to her several months ago with the order not to read it until yesterday. The same day we would discover the pregnancy.”

“Do you think Diedre will believe it?” Pam asks.

“She will believe in a letter from Cassandra. The envelope even had her seal,” I tell them.

“This is unbelievable,” Godric murmurs as he hands the letter back to Sookie. “We need to show this to Diedre before she kills Victor.”

“Agreed,” Sookie chimes in. “Part of me wants to believe she doesn’t need this to find a reason to keep living, but another part of me doesn’t want her to go on without hope when we can give it so easily.”

Though I do not like how freely we are speaking with Victor in earshot, I know his permanent death is a relatively short time away. Still, this openness with an enemy nearby is putting me on edge.

Thankfully, there is soon a knock on the door, and Pam opens it to reveal Diedre and Quigley standing on the doorstep.

“Where is Madden?” Diedre demands even as she is hopping into the house with Quigley’s assistance.

“Wait,” Sookie rises from the sofa, “there is something we need-”

“After,” Diedre snaps impatiently.

“Now,” Sookie responds in the commanding tone she uses mostly in the classroom. Diedre blinks several times as she is surprised that Sookie would use such a tone on her.

Quigley helps Diedre come sit in the living room, and Sookie wastes no time leaning over the coffee table to hand our most revered ancient the letter that has brought so much dispute in its short time in our lives.

Diedre takes the paper and looks at all of us curiously. I watch her eyebrows rise higher and higher on her forehead as she reads, and then finally looks up. “What is this?” she demands.

“It’s a letter Cassandra gave to Dr. Ludwig. It was given to her with the instruction not to read it until yesterday; the day we found out we’re pregnant,” Sookie explains calmly. The rest of the family remains in a spectators’ silence.

“Was there an envelope?” Diedre whispers.

Sookie reaches back into her purse to produce the envelope and all of us watch as Diedre examines the pouch with yesterday’s date. Diedre carefully pulls apart the seams of the envelope until it is a large paper and gazes at a single word that had been scripted in small, delicate letters: ‘Eshe’. Diedre’s name back in the days of ancient Egypt; a name I had forgotten until it was spelled out in front of me.

Diedre finally seems to accept the authenticity of the letter and begins to openly weep in front of us. Quigley pulls her against his chest as she sobs, and small wells of blood are collecting in his eyes also.

“We wanted you to know before you went ahead with executing Victor,” Sookie whispers to her gently. “We wanted you to know there will be someone worth living for in just a few months-”

“No,” Diedre sits up sharply, wiping at her eyes, “not months. Years,” she declares as she seems to hesitate to stand.

“What are you talking about?” Sookie asks in surprise as she instinctively cups her belly. I feel my own spine tingle as I angle my body between my wife and Diedre.

Diedre’s lips tilt in pained smile. “My love for Cassandra does not evaporate just because her soul is on the edge of rebirth. I am and will continue to be in mourning,” she explains. My body relaxes as I lean back and sit beside my wife. “Just yesterday a wise woman told me that I need to discover who I am without Cassandra, and that is still true. Your child will grow and become an adult. They will become their own person, they will not become Cassandra.

“I think it is important,” Diedre continues, “that I find out who I am as they become who they will be. That way, we can fall in love like we are meant to.”

Sookie’s lips tug into a soft smile, “That’s beautiful, Diedre. Oh, and we’re about ninety percent positive the baby is going to be a boy.”

That information seems to light up behind Diedre’s formerly vacant eyes, and I could swear that Camilla just snorted on a laugh.

“I look forward to knowing him in, oh…. Seventeen years?” Diedre requests aloud. I personally have no problem with my son courting his future Bonded at seventeen, but I look to Sookie curiously.

“That’s how old I was when I met my future Bonded,” Sookie gazes at me fondly. “I think it’s a lucky age.”

Diedre smiles, “Then Quigley and I will leave tonight after I have executed Victor. It is time for me to start my journey of self-discovery.”

With that statement, Diedre rises to her feet with Quigley and I follow them to the basement along with Godric. Diedre makes no protest as my Maker and I follow, and I am grateful. After all the information that has been explored within his range of hearing, I am quite in need of reassurance that he is dead and gone.

As we arrive in the basement, Victor jumps to his feet and snarls. The smell of his flesh searing against the silver shackles which was only a faint aroma upstairs is a pungent odor in the darkness.

Diedre hobbles forward in a strong stride that belies her injuries, and reaches out with her intact arm like a striking cobra. Victor stares in shock and only has a split second to see his own heart ripped from his chest before he turns into a waterfall of blood an tissue. Diedre drops the mush that was Victor’s heart on the ground and turns to incline her head ever-so-slightly at Godric and I.

“Thank you for your sanctuary, your kindness, and the hope you have brought me. I will see you in 2026,” Diedre teases.

“He will most likely be born in the beginning of next year,” I tell her with a laugh. “Ludwig has doubts it will be a quick pregnancy.”

“Then I will see you in 2027,” she smiles politely.

“Before April, please,” I request. “My biggest regret from when I first began courting Sookie is that I missed the opportunity to take her to Prom. Thankfully, she became a teacher and I chaperoned a few with her,” I joke and manage to steal a chuckle from Diedre’s lips.

“I will remember,” she promises.

After that exchange, Diedre and Quigley head back upstairs, and a moment later, I hear the front door open and shut. Godric and I look at one another and each let out a sigh of relief that everything is finally settling into place. The small, intimate world we have created is finally coming back to a time of peace; just in time for the arrival of my first child.

On to the Epilogue!


Catalyst Ch. 55

Chapter Fifty-Five: The Coincidence

Sookie’s POV:

Pam and Camilla keep looking at me like I’m supposed to know more than I do. The truth is, I barely comprehended much of what happened after Quigley left our house. I was just about to restart celebrating my and Eric’s first pregnancy, and then my world got turned on its ear. As he packed, all I could think was, Don’t leave me!

With Eric by my side, the pregnancy was a beautiful miracle that I was excited about. Now that I’m left to my own thoughts, it’s scary and unpredictable. Will this pregnancy be rougher than a human pregnancy? Will it go faster or slower? Will the baby have any gifts? If so, how am supposed to deal with that? What if he can fly!?

As far as the family goes, I’m definitely the least active contributor. Everything I offer is mostly in a passive sense. There’s no physical strain to what I do, and I don’t have to continue educating and training myself like Cammie does.

“Did Godric tell you anything, Camilla?” Pam finally stops giving me the suspicious looks and turns them now on Cammie.

Cammie shrugs, “I know he took Jason to Vegas to survey if the attack on the Big Mark was meant to take place there. I guess some vamp named Felipe was the main target.”

Pam frowns a moment, “That makes very little sense.”

“What do you mean?” I am glad to turn the interrogation tables on Pam.

“Well,” the vampiress pauses, “it makes sense if you look at the attacks on individual vampires. A few ancients freckled in with younger vampires.” Her eyes glance above us, silently mentioning the Ancient Pythoness. “But Rhodes is still the odd one. By targeting the.. big names,” she grimaces at almost slipping and saying Cassandra’s title with Diedre within earshot, “the Rhodes Summit was guaranteed to be canceled.”

Cammie and I both cross our arms over our chests as we think about this.

“It sounds,” a voice makes all three of us jump, “that the one who hatched the attack on Rhodes is not the same one who had Cassie killed,” Diedre appears at the top of the stairs and gracefully slides down the banister to the main floor rather than hop down one-legged. If I had tried that, I probably would have fallen backwards off the banister and broke my neck.

Cammie gapes at Diedre like she’s a painting that’s just come to life. I know from a few conversations at school that Diedre has not left her room since arriving. Quigley brings her bottles of blood regularly, but other than maintaining a diet that will help her heal faster, Diedre has shown no interest in returning to the world. Eric theorized grimly that Diedre’s intention of healing was only so she could overcome any attempt to stop her from killing herself.

“After all,” Diedre approaches us in an unnaturally fluid manner and comes to sit in a vacant recliner, “the Fellowship of the Sun was a marvelous scapegoat for anyone who needed another vampire assassinated. They needed no motivation to attack a vampire other than the fact it was a vampire they were attacking. With all of their contacts throughout the country, anyone could have come up with addresses and new marks. It would not have necessarily needed to be another vampire who sold out their own kind.”

“You think two different vampires were using the Fellowship of the Sun to follow through on their personal hit lists?” Pam asks slowly.

“I believe,” Diedre answers, “that Rhodes was one vampire’s target, and everyone else was a second vampire’s targets.”

“But-” I begin to protest.

“Rhodes was a tactical hit. No one specific was meant to be killed from what I have gleaned from your whispers,” All three of us try to look nonchalant at attempting to keep her in the dark. “However, Rhodes is attended by many Regents. I would guess the attack was meant to weaken a kingdom– perhaps any kingdom so that it could be taken over.”

“You are saying you believe Rhodes was a play for a coup?” Pam demands.

“Quite possibly,” Diedre nods. “However, Cassie and Felipe were part of a hit list. I believe Cassie was killed because she could have outed the one who contracted the murders, and Felipe is probably being marked for his Kingdom. Everyone else was more than likely a diversion; a smoke screen around the intended targets.”

We three all sit in quiet consideration to Diedre’s suspicions. After all, would it be that impossible that two vampires thought to use the same hate mongers to achieve their goals? How many times have similar books or movies come out at the same time? How many times have inventors needed to race to the patent office to be the first with their name on a design many worked on at the same time?

Great, we couldn’t even figure out who the conspirator was when we believed there was only one. Now there’s two?

Then again…

“So, looking at just Cassandra and Felipe as targets,” I begin slowly, “who would are prime suspects be?”

Pam and Cammie shoot a glare at me by mentioning the Ancient Pythoness by name, but Diedre seems relieved. I suppose everyone refusing to speak of Cassandra as deceased could be even more stressful than dealing with reality.

“Cassandra was simultaneously an enemy to none and an enemy to all,” Diedre answers my question. “Small transgressions would not bring her focus, but the murder of a Regent would. Rhodes would have brought an investigation too, though,” She points out.

“So either conspirator could be responsible for Cassandra’s murder?” I groan.

“Yes,” Diedre nods solemnly. “However, if you can find both of them, your brother could easily determine who will suffer my wrath.” A shudder runs down my spine at the gleam in Diedre’s eyes. It is the most life I’ve ever seen in them.

“Okay, who would want to kill Felipe?” I ask instead.

Pam takes out her phone and makes a call. I’m only able to hear her half of the conversation.

“Billy,” Pam greets in her usually bored tone, “any chance you might have a list of vamps wanting to end de Castro?” She pauses as he replies and snaps her fingers at me and Cammie before writing in the air for a pen and paper.

Bouncing to my feet, I retrieve a steno and pen from the kitchen to bring back to her. Cammie is on my heels, but I’m quicker.

“Good job, Billy Boy,” Pam hangs up and finishes jotting down the names Bill Compton had given her. “It’s a surprisingly short list, but amazingly, the ones who want you dead gets shorter and shorter the more ancient you become.”

“Why’s that?” Cammie asks curiously.

“Because they know if you survive, they will not,” Diedre answers as she snatches the paper from Pam’s fingers. “And this one is definitely highest on my list of most likely to come after Felipe indirectly.” She makes a big circle around the name and holds it out to us.

“Victor Madden?” I read aloud. “Why him?”

“He is Felipe’s second in command, and Victor does not want to be second,” Diedre replies. “Felipe had contacted Cassandra a few times these last couple decades asking specifically if she could see Victor betraying him.”

“Why would he keep him around if he didn’t trust him?” I ask dumbfounded.

“Because Victor is also very good at his job,” Pam replies. “He’s an expert at weeding out competitors and finding lucrative gains along the way. Some of his ventures are not always so profitable, but they accomplish shutting out others who do not have a capital to compete in a split market. Anytime a new outfit tries to put up real estate in Vegas that could hurt their annual tithe, Victor has pounced and bled them before they could even break ground.”

“He’s sickeningly ambitious, though, for one who has eternity to gain wealth and acclaim in the community,” Diedre explains. “Young enough to be impatient, but old enough to become a Regent. I suppose that is what his ultimate goal is to become a Regent, but with no open positions-”

I think we all realize something in that moment Diedre holds her tongue.

“You don’t think,” Cammie begins slowly, “that Victor put out a hit on Felipe so he could take over Vegas, and Felipe wanted to attack Rhodes to weaken a kingdom so he could take it over and give it to Victor as a peace offering; do you?”

“If so, that is the most bastardized Gift of the Magi scenario I have ever heard,” Pam utters.

Before I can reply with even the simplest of silent nods, I feel Eric explode with grief and anger. I know that he is feeling great emotional pain, but I also can tell that he’s been attacked physically as well.

My arms wrap around myself as I shake with an abrupt sob. As I try to pull myself together, Pam has already jumped from her seat and retrieved the television remote. She flicks through the channels until she finds a news report. We only need to wait a moment before the news anchor stops his story.

“We are receiving reports that a bomb has been detonated at JFK airport in New York City,” the anchor announces. Cammie comes up behind me and wraps her arms around me.

“It will be okay,” She whispers into my ear and squeezes me tightly.

“Bystander reports say that a group of terrorists arrived at several gates strapped with explosives-”

“How did they get past security?” Pam snarls angrily.

“How they managed to get to the gates is undetermined,” The anchor continues as if he heard Pam and is trying to protect his reputation as a journalist.

“Is Eric injured?” Diedre asks from her seat. She is the only one that didn’t pop up as the mood in the room shifted.

“He doesn’t feel much worse for wear physically,” I answer. “He’s really upset, though.”

Eric’s POV:

“Which was it, Felipe? Rhodes or the Pythoness?” I snarl from my, presumably, safe distance.

“What are you talking about?” Felipe demands, still feigning injury. He is trying to lure me in closer. My only advantage against de Castro is that I can fly and he cannot. As long as there is enough distance for me to become airborne before he can lay his grasp on me, I am relatively safe.

“You as though you thought I had come here to detain you,” I accuse. “The only matter my family has been looking into is the Fellowship of the Sun conspiracy. If you felt the need to avoid me then you are one of the traitors responsible for leaking information. Either you had the Pythoness murdered, or you coordinated the attack on Rhodes, but not both. So, which is it? Rhodes? Or were you the one who had Cassandra assassinated?” I am growling by the end of my questioning.

There is a long silence between us, only interrupted by the sirens and screams still echoing amid the chaos of the explosions. Finally Felipe utters, “Rhodes.”

“Why?” I demand, and keep my body from closing in. Proximity will not make a vampire three times my age feel intimidated. The only thing I will have accomplished is reducing my chances of leaving this place intact. If only I had thought of Felipe as a suspect and not just another victim. I would have brought silver with me.

“The Pythoness had warned me that Victor was growing restless. She saw him attempting to overtake me,” he answers. “I knew the only way to placate him from his attempts was to give him his own state to govern, but I needed a Regent to be weakened enough for an overthrow.”

“Then you did not care which Regent it was, so long as you could take control,” I nod. Godric and I had deduced as much while we were still uncertain who was behind the leak.

Felipe does not reply to my accusation, but he does not need to. After all, he has already confessed. There is no need to be redundant in our confessions.

“The Council will strip you of your status as Regent,” I point out to him. “I am quite confident that you will never be recognized as a Regent again.”

The older vampire snorts on a laugh, “Aside from Diedre, I am the oldest vampire in North America. Do you think the Council would ever dream of banning me from holding an office?” He seems to accept that playing injured will not lure me in, and finally climbs back to his feet. Felipe wipes at his ash darkened face with the clean part of a handkerchief that had been folded in his breast pocket.

“Victor is your subordinate,” I point out, “and he is not only the most likely responsible for this mess,” I gesture to the ruin around us, “but also the murder of the Ancient Pythoness. You will be held accountable for that.”

Felipe actually laughs at my suggestion, “Victor tried to kill me too. The Council will lump me in with the victims. Besides, Rhodes never happened. What leg do they have to stand on?”

“Turncoat or not, Victor is still your responsibility. If you cannot rein in your own subordinate, how can you be trusted to maintain an entire State’s welfare?” I shake my head in disgust. “The fact that Rhodes did not happen speaks more of your incompetence than your innocence.”

Felipe sighs, folds his handkerchief, and stuffs it back into his breast pocket. My body tenses automatically, and I push off into the air. Unfortunately, Felipe anticipates me escape to higher ground, and catches my ankle. I am yanked from the air and slammed back into the ground.

FUCK! I snarl as my body leaves a fissure in the floor. I try to scramble to my feet when I am overtaken by Felipe. I feel my arm being pulled up and away from my back and try to resist the strain. Rather than my shoulder dislocating and being torn away, the humerus snaps and is ripped from the very top of my shoulder as a yell is stolen from my lips.

“Give that back!” I shout as images of me with only one arm to hold my son float behind my eyes. My body twists as Felipe stumbles back with my arm, and I kick back up to my feet. Blood is pouring out of the torn scraps of my shoulder, but Felipe is caught off guard by my immediate reaction.

As he takes a step back, my leg kicks forward and catches Felipe in the testicles. Even a vampire cannot help but double over at this sort of attack, and it gives me the opportunity to yank my dismembered arm from his grasp.

Felipe looks up at me in mesmerized disbelief. Though I am nowhere near his level of strength and speed, I am still far more advanced than he would have anticipated for my age. The acceleration of skill my continual awareness gives me is all the advantage I need. As he scrambles to determine my actual level of ability, I flip my dismembered arm in the air so that the jagged end of the bone is facing down. While Felipe remains paralyzed with calculations, that fragmented appendage swings out and manages to penetrate the king’s chest like a stake.

The remains of Felipe de Castro, King of Nevada, splash thickly around my feet. A flare of disappointment rises in me as I jam my broken arm back to its splintered home. If only Felipe had surrendered. He could have remained a figurehead of the vampire community. Instead, we are now missing two revered Ancients from our world.

I only allow my sorrow a few moments to fester before I am in the air and heading back to Ohio. We will have to write up a report for the Vampire Council, although I am certain Diedre can gloss over this whole indiscretion for us.

I can feel Sookie’s worry welling up inside me and the relief that washes it away as she feels me heading back for home. With any luck, my arm will be at least partially mended before I touch down on Godric’s lawn.

When I am finally coming back to earth, I see Sookie come running out of Godric and Camilla’s home. She waves her arms up at me frantically, and I land beside her just as she jumps into my arm. The injured appendage is still not listening to my commands all that well, and I pull to wiggle it, hoping to realign the break so that it will heal faster.

Sookie steps away as I make my adjustments, and I see the curious expression on her face turn ashen as she realizes what she is seeing.

“Huagh,” she makes a rather guttural sound before she shivers and makes it again. My good arm sweeps out to gather her hair from her face just as she doubles over and vomits all over the grass.

“…symptom?” I ask softly, trying not to use any phrase that would send Pam, Diedre or Quigley too much information.

Sookie shakes her head ever-so-slightly, but remains bent over. “No,” she finally utters, “just the sight…” She pauses, and I see her back lurch again as if to vomit some more. “I’ll be fine, just don’t do that again while I’m looking.”

I smile softly at her request, “I am sorry that I upset your stomach.”

Sookie laughs and finally straightens up. She wipes her mouth shyly with the back of her arm. “You should see if Camilla has a spell for that,” she points to my arm, “while I go rinse out my mouth.”

With a nod of agreement, I take step ahead of Sookie and open the door for her. She smiles up at me as she passes by and heads for the bathroom. When I arrive in the sitting room, Pam, Camilla, Quigley and Diedre are waiting there for news.

“Felipe is dead,” I announce. “Camilla, can you fix this?” I ask of the witch while simultaneously wiggling my severed arm. Camilla cringes at my dismemberment, but does not react in such a projectile manner as my wife.

“Uh, yeah, I should be able to do a small reassembly spell,” Camilla nods as she runs off to get her own personal book of spells. She has been assembling her own Book of Shadows over the past five years, and I admit that her advancements in her witch training are rather impressive for someone who did not even know who they were eight years ago.

The vampires in the room remain silent as my wife and my Maker’s wife scurry about the house. When Sookie returns and immediately climbs into my lap, I wrap an arm around her waist and try to discretely place my hand over her belly. Her emotions explode with happiness inside me, and I pull her that much closer.

Camilla returns a moment later, flipping through her book as she walks into the room. She finds the page she needs and then bustles back out of the room for the tools or ingredients she will need. It is another five minutes before she comes back and lays out her items. Camilla takes a bottle of tequila and slugs down half of it.

Quigley whistles as the bottle drains, “Now, if you were human, I’d say you had a drinking problem, Lady.”

The witch shudders slightly, puts the bottle down and focuses on me, “Sook, get out of the way. This is my first reassembly on something animated.”

My wife jumps from my lap and takes cover behind Pam, no doubt being extra cautious because of the baby growing in her belly.

Camilla trains her gaze on me, raises her arms and begins speaking a single word over and over until her voice grows distant and monotone. I am surprised that I do not recognize it.

“Sutider, sutider, sutider,” Camilla calls over and over, and with each repetition, I feel my arm tug. I can feel the splinters of bone migrating back to their homes, and after the fifteenth or sixteenth rep, the shaft of the humerus snaps back into place with an audible crack. It sounds like a thick limb of a tree being broken into firewood.

Camilla closes her book once more and puts the bottle of tequila away.

“Was tequila part of the spell?” Sookie asks as Camilla returns.

“No, but I was nervous doing magic on Eric,” our resident witch replies.

“Why could you do magic on Eric?” Sookie frowns. “We’re supposed to be immune to each others’ magics.”

Camilla frowns as well, “Maybe witch magic is different? Technically, it’s something that can be learned, it doesn’t have to be something that comes naturally…”

Sookie considers her friend’s theory and shrugs, “I guess I shouldn’t question it since it worked. I should just be thankful that it did work.” She comes back to my side and slides back onto my lap. Once more, my arms wrap around her tightly. “Now, do you want to explain what’s happened?” she asks of me.

“Felipe is dead,” I begin. “He was one of the leaks to the Fellowship. Felipe is the one that gave the Summit time and location.”

“How did you manage to kill an ancient three times your age?” Quigley asks in surprise. “I know you were always capable for your age, but that is ridiculous.”

I pause a moment before confessing, “The vampires in our bloodline seem to advance faster because of our continual awareness. Although I was still nowhere near Felipe’s strength and speed, he assumed he knew what mine was. I caught him off guard with my reaction time and strength. I staked him with my broken arm.”

“Metal,” Quigley replies and shakes his head bemusedly.

A chuckle forms in my throat at his disbelief, and I let it fill the room with my amusement. As the last of my merriment fades, my phone begins to ring.

Taking my phone from my pocket, I see it is my Maker and quickly answer. “Yes, Master?”

“We have caught the one responsible for the attack on Felipe as well as the assassination of the Ancient Pythoness,” Godric announces.

“Let me guess,” I sigh. “Victor Madden?”

Godric pauses a moment before stating, “If you already knew, was there a reason you kept it to yourself?”

“I only just put the pieces together over the last few hours. Felipe was responsible for the Summit leak. He is dead now,” I reply.

“We will be bringing Victor to Ohio in a few hours. I have already informed the Council of Victor’s transgressions, and they agree that Diedre should be the one to bring justice.”

I can feel in the link I share with my Maker that he is concerned about giving Diedre this closure. After all, once the individual responsible for her lover’s death is brought to justice by her own hands, will Diedre have any strength left to continue existing?

“I see,” is all I can manage in reply. “We will see you in a few hours then.”

Godric and I hang up, and I turn to Sookie. “Dear One, would you mind returning home with me. I need a shower and change of clothes,” I gesture to my disheveled state.

“Sure,” she answers, and I can both see and feel her exhaustion.

Taking my wife’s hand in mine and scooping up her overnight bag on the way to the door, we steal Pam’s car to take back home. My body feels too depleted to fly the both of us back to the house. It took a great deal of my reserves to make it to Godric’s home.

As we come into the house from the garage, a scent in the air makes me moan in annoyance, “Whatever it is, it has to wait until I have some blood!” I call into the darkness and head for the kitchen.

Sookie snaps on the light and gasps when she must see Ludwig standing ominously in the previously dark living room. I know I should be concerned about the doctor’s arrival in our home, especially with the newness of our pregnancy, but I feel too weak to focus on more than warming a half gallon of blood and gorging myself.

When the microwave dings and I take four bottles from it, I carry them to the living room and place them on the coffee table. I give one a quick shake and then crack it open.

“Go ahead, Doctor,” I wave for her to go on with her discussion. Sookie is fiddling nervously beside me, and I take her hand in my free one. She glares at me momentarily. “Sookie,” I smile reassuringly, “if it were something bad, Ludwig would have told me to get my ass in here rather than grab a blood or two. Everything is fine with the baby.”

Sookie relaxes slightly, and I drain the bottle of blood into my mouth before reaching out and grabbing a fresh one.

“To be honest, I appreciated the extra moments you gave me,” Ludwig whispers, and I raise my eyebrows. I have never heard her so uncomfortable. “Earlier today when I was doing your evaluation, you might have noticed I was a bit distracted.”

Sookie shakes her head, “I figured you were just as stunned as us that there were so few precursors to the conception.” She smiles at Ludwig politely, absolving her of any preconceived failings on her part.

“The truth is, when I saw you,” Ludwig continues after giving Sookie an appreciative nod, “I could already tell you were with child. It is true that I was caught off guard by the abruptness, but my real distraction came from the date.”

“Why? What’s today?” Sookie asks.

Ludwig takes a deep breath, “It is the date marked on an envelope I was given several months ago. I was told not to open it until today no matter what. Honestly, with work, I had completely forgotten about it until I saw you and your condition.”

The doctor takes a crisp envelop from her bag and holds it up. A wax seal that I am quite familiar with is cracked open, and I suddenly know who gave Ludwig the envelope. I am also quite certain I know what the letter inside says.

“Cassandra’s last vision?” I guess with certainty.

Ludwig looks at me worriedly and nods, “Yes. She gave me this letter four months ago. Three months before she was killed.” She hands the letter to my wife, who is looking between the two of us in confusion. Sookie is pale and reaches for the page with a shaking hand.

As Sookie’s hands fumble to take the letter form the envelope, I place my hand on her back to try and sooth her with my love and reassurance.

“Patricia,” Sookie reads aloud like she is in the classroom, “if you have followed my instruction and kept this letter unread until the date it stated, then you are probably already aware of what it has to say.

“Sookie Northman has just discovered that she is with child, and I want you to know with certainty that the spirit of her first born is my spirit. Please, let the Northmans know that they have brought about my reincarnation, and plead with them that they will share this news with my Diedre.

“I know it is a lot to ask, but please give her hope of being with me again. I have seen us together in this new existence, but the thought of her hurting without any hope of finding her soulmate again is more than my current being can bear.

“Sookie and Eric, if you are reading this, I beg that you bring my Diedre the only comfort that can heal her. Let her have hope again.

Forever in your debt,
Cassandra of Troy”

Sookie’s hands slowly lower the letter and she stares at Ludwig. There is a long silence before my Bonded asks, “The Ancient Pythoness is inside me?”

Ludwig shakes her head, “Do not think of it like that. True it is the same spirit that is being reborn, but it is not the same person. It will have all its own memories-

“He,” Sookie interrupts. “The baby is a boy.”

“Is it?” Ludwig raises her eyebrows.

“Eric said our first born will be a boy, and I believe him,” Sookie responds in that dazed tone.

The doctor looks at me and rolls her eyes. Perhaps she thinks I have wishful thinking, but she says nothing to contradict my beliefs.

“Well, he,” Ludwig begins again, “will have all his own memories. He will be his own person. There is even a very high chance he will not have the gift of visions.”

“Why is that?” I ask curiously.

“Magic is linked to the spirit, yes,” Ludwig says, “but certain gifts are not. Gifts are usually linked more to blood, but need a special spirit to wield them. Your child will be magical, but how that magic will manifest has yet to be seen.”

Ludwig hops from where she had been sitting in the plump chair that keeps her toes from brushing the ground. “Well, I have done my final service to the Ancient Pythoness. Now it is up to you how to proceed. You may keep the letter. If you do choose to inform Diedre of her soulmate’s reincarnation, that is your decision. I am done playing messenger.”

With that, the doctor POPs out of the house and leaves Sookie and I in contemplative silence. Now we have one of the biggest decisions of our marriage to make, and I have no idea how Sookie will handle this situation.

On to Chapter Fifty-Six!

Catalyst Ch. 54

Chapter Fifty-Four: Mend and Tear

Sookie’s POV:

I groan as Eric’s phone begins to ring, and he stops suckling my nipple to answer it. “Yes, Master,” he mumbles into the phone and tears a giggle from my lips as he nuzzles against my throat. “Oh? Is that right?” He pulls away again and I frown at being ignored. We’re supposed to be celebrating! I remind him of this by grabbing his cock with my hand and stroking it rather pointedly. He looks down at me with his devilish smile. “Yes, she is,” he laughs as he reaches for my hand that’s stroking him and makes me let him go. “Yes, she is,” he laughs harder and kisses my fingertips. “When will he be here?” he asks and then drops my hand. “Fine,” he sounds and feels a bit put out.

“What’s up?” I ask when Eric sets down his phone and crawls off the bed.

“Quigley is on his way over to have a talk,” Eric replies as he starts throwing clothing at me.

“Why do I have to get dressed?” I groan, but still start pulling my clothes on.

“Because you are the one he is coming over to talk to,” Eric answers in exasperation; not with me, but at being interrupted. I can sympathize.

“What do I have to talk to him about?” I frown as I start smoothing out my sex tousled hair.

Eric begins pulling on his own clothes, “What do you know about Quigley?”

I shrug as I shimmy back into my pants. Oh, how long will these fit me!? There’s a bit of dread and excitement that jolts through me at the thought.

“I know he was the Knot in Diedre and Cassandra’s Binding Ceremony,” I answer as I realize I forgot to put my bra on and strip my shirt back off. “So, losing Cassandra was a real big deal for him too.” There you are! I snatch my bra from the dresser and latch it behind my back.

“Quigley was a priest before he was turned,” Eric tells me and I pause a moment before pulling my shirt back on.

“They turned a priest? Dang, that must have been hard for him to reconcile at first,” I frown thoughtfully. A part of me begins to recognize what Eric is trying to tell me.

“It was,” Eric agrees. “We were made around the same time, and Quigley took quite a beating from the vampires of the era, as well as from myself.”

“You beat up Quigley?” I ask in surprise.

Eric laughs and shakes his head, “Only a little. It is normal for vampires of similar age groups to fight each other. It helps Makers to determine the inherent speed, strength and abilities of their progeny. Quigley had very little of any of that despite his overall appearance. He did, however, have something the vampire community looked down on him for, and that was empathy.”

“Doesn’t everyone have some form of empathy?” I tease as we head to the sitting room.

“Quigley was an empath,” Eric stresses. “It was what made him an ideal candidate as the Knot in the Binding Ceremony. When he became vampire, the empathic ability became much stronger. He became known as a bit of a lie detector, which many people were unhappy about. They felt that Diedre was arming herself with too many advantages and abilities. She had Cassandra and Quigley, and she was a revered Ancient.”

“I thought she was straight up the oldest vampire existing?” I frown.

“Not at that time. A thousand years ago, she was the third oldest vampire in existence,” he tells me. “Her superiors met the sun over several hundred years ago. She has been the oldest vampire since I was still a fledgling.”

“Oh,” I frown as I take my spot on the sofa. Eric pulls my legs onto his lap and starts playing with my toes. I wiggle them at him in a little wave that makes him smile. “What is Quigley coming to talk to me about?”

My husband pauses a moment before replying, “Reconciling.”

I frown as well when Eric confirms what I already suspected. “I’ve been a lot better…” I point out. Ever since the family reunited, I’ve definitely felt much less lost.

“You have,” he agrees and plants a kiss on the top of my foot, “but maybe there are ways that he can help you feel more than just better?”

Eric’s words echo in me as my hand goes to my belly. I really want to find some spiritual foothold before I become a mother. When we infiltrated the Fellowship of the sun last month, that hadn’t been a lie. I want to raise my child with some sort of faith…

My thoughts are interrupted when there’s a knock at the door. Eric rises quickly and goes to let Quigley inside. He really doesn’t look like a priest. He’s broad and trim, like a woodsman who chops lumber all day. He’s got the big, bushy beard to match, too!

“Hello there,” Quigley greets me as he comes to the sitting room. “Hope I’m not interrupting too much.”

“Not at all,” I reply politely even if I feel that he is interrupting. “Would you like a blood? It’s Genuine,” I offer while simultaneously beginning to rise. We keep blood for Jason because he still needs to feed more regularly than the rest of the family.

“No, thank you,” Quigley smiles and sits down across from me. “According to Godric, I am interrupting, and want to keep this short for tonight.” My face burns a little bit, but only because I get a little annoyed when Godric noses in on my sex life. “Godric felt it was important that you and I have a sit down, though. I hear you’ve been having a tough time adapting your beliefs with all the new information you’ve been given over the years.”

I can’t help but bristle a little bit, but it eases when Eric comes over, places a hand on my shoulder and kisses the side of my head. “I will be in my office if you need me,” he says, politely excusing himself even though privacy from ancients in a single building is only a courteous illusion. It took me our entire first year of being Bonded to stop running the water whenever I used the bathroom.

“So,” I turn to Quigley, unable to hide how uncomfortable I am, “how does this work?”

“How does what work?” Quigley leans back, making himself comfortable. He fiddles with an unlit cigarette, but I’m glad to see he doesn’t light it.

I stare at him a moment before asking, “Aren’t you going to go into some story or explanation?”

Quigley shakes his head, “No, I want to know what about your faith doesn’t make any sense to you now.”

A frown tugs my lips downward as I think about this, “Seeing my faith put down my relationship with my husband. Being told that my brother, my husband and my friends are evil, but knowing that they are good and full of love and compassion-”

“Sookie,” Quigley takes my hand comfortingly, “it is not your faith that you are questioning. It is your religion. They are not one in the same thing. You can have faith without religion, you can draw strength from God without a church.”

“How did you find a way of doing that?” I ask him. After all, it must have been more difficult for a priest turned vampire than someone like me.

Quigley gives one of those tilted smiles that, again, makes him look more like a lumberjack than a priest. “Let’s see,” Quigley brings his cigarette to his lips and begins stroking his beard, “first I was very angry. I hated Cassandra and Diedre for turning me into a monster. Cassandra had told me quite pointedly that they had turned me into a vampire, and it was my decision whether or not to become a monster.

“Then, after a while,” he continued, “as they used me as the conduit they intended me to be, I could feel the desperation of their love for one another. It made me wonder why Satan would make creatures capable of such love. Then I began to wonder if vampires weren’t actually creatures of God, and if they were, then maybe they were more like man than I realized. Perhaps, like man, vampires could become good or evil.”

“So,” I begin slowly, “how did you resolve your beliefs around all of that?”

“Well,” Quigley replies, rolling the unlit cigarette between his teeth, “first, I went a little wild. I never had, y’know. I fucked around, I committed sins I’d abhorred as a human, but I maintained my commitment that I would never kill unless my own existence was in jeopardy. I promised that I would keep the Ten Commandments in highest regard, and to this day I have. A thousand years is a long time not to take the Lord’s name in vain, especially with what I’ve seen. Keeping the Sabbath Day holy is difficult too,” he says thoughtfully. “All the others, killing, coveting… They were easy to obey because they meant something to me.”

“But your beliefs,” I stress.

Quigley smiles, “Reach for Him for strength when no worldly source will do. Show Him respect at all times and show that same respect to His creations. It’s that simple Sookie. The words of man that surround His message are what are confusing you. Don’t focus so hard on the words of man. Only have ears for the words of God.”

“What about when the ones I love don’t follow the word of God?” I ask meekly. This has been my greatest problem.

The former priest grins at me like my question is not all that difficult, “Judge not lest thee be judged.”

My jaw slackens at the most simple explanation in the world is given to me. Quigley is right. It is not my responsibility, let alone my right to pass judgment on others. God only asks that I extend my love and compassion toward them.

“Northman does right by his beliefs,” Quigley goes on. “You aren’t trying to save his soul, are you?”

“No,” I reply slowly, and this boulder of guilt begins rolling off my chest. Pam, Camilla and Eric had managed to chip away some of the boulder’s weight over the years, but it isn’t until this moment as Quigley’s words strike me to my core that the boulder crumbles and rolls away entirely. I am free of my fears and worries. I know the type of person I am, and the type of mother I want to be. I know how I want to raise my children in faith and not necessarily religion.

There is only one last thing I need Quigley to help me reconcile.

“And what about the fact that I felt the murders Eric and Godric have committed were justified?” I finally utter when I find my words.

Another tender, sympathetic smile tugs at the vampire’s mouth, “If we could help how we felt about everything, we wouldn’t need religion and law to keep us in line, now would we? It is not a sin to think bad things; it is only a sin to act upon them. The church condemned dangerous thoughts because dangerous thoughts were believed to lead to dangerous action. I can promise you that even as a human priest, I experienced my fair share of sinful thoughts. They were flashes in a pan, as they came they went, and that is what you should try to do. Don’t dwell on dark thoughts. Don’t worry over what having those thoughts mean. Simply let them run through your mind and be gone.”

“Is it really that simple?” I ask breathlessly.

“God’s message has always been simple, Lass. It’s man that went and complicated everything,” Quigley laughs and pats my hand. He leans back to play with his unlit cigarette some more, and leaves me to my thoughts a moment.

I don’t even notice when silent tears roll down my cheeks

“You all right?” Quigley asks knowingly as he hands me a a tissue from the box on the coffee table.

I take the tissue and blot at the little rivers winding down my cheeks. “Yes,” I tell him simply.

With one last smile, Quigley stands up and smooths out his shirt, “Well, I’m glad I could be of service. If you ever need anything, I’m always happy to be of help. I’ll let you get back to your evening,” He gives me a playful wink and shows himself out.

As I watch him go, it’s like the last of my worries are swept out the door with him.

Eric’s POV:

As Sookie has her meeting with Quigley, I can feel her heart lightening. Despite her continued protests, I can feel Quigley’s words penetrating her doubts. Finally, her fears and concerns are being resolved.

Unfortunately, as she unravels the complicated knots of her soul, I am unraveling the uncomplicated theory of our conception date. It does not take a fool to notice a rather coincidental parallelism between the Ancient Pythoness’s Final Death and the week that Sookie and I most likely conceived our first child.

The ancient part of me finds this to be a nicely wrapped gift to Diedre. She is being given the opportunity to not only reunite with her soulmate and be given the Bond she has longed for over the past two thousand and a half years, but also the opportunity to become part of our bloodline. I do not see why she would not receive the same gifts as the rest of us if she were to Bond to my child.

However, the father in me is aghast at the idea. Not because I wish for anything less than a Bond for my child, but because of the age. If we find some way to confirm Sookie is indeed carrying the reincarnation of Cassandra, what sort of boundary could that cause in raising our baby? I could not care less about the future sex or age difference that I am certain will bring Sookie unease, but the idea of Diedre looming behind us brings me dread. If she tries to insert herself in the raising of our child; that is not something I could be enthusiastic about.

If only there were a way to confirm it, I think in annoyance. Even if I could summon Endymion and ask, he would not tell me. He would wear his usual blank, professional face and tell me that the matter of souls and their futures was no concern of mine. Destiny has its own consort, and it is not meant to be tampered with by the likes of me. If only I knew of another Seer, I think with annoyance. Even if Camilla’s divining skills were more prominent, she would still have a difficult time determining the origin of my child’s soul. However, Camilla has currently focused most of her magical studies on enchantments rather than divination.

“Eric?” My wife’s voice floats into the office and I look up to see her smiling at me.

“Yes, Sookie?” I push away from my desk as she approaches me and smile as she bends down to kiss my lips. “You are feeling better.”

“I am,” she agrees as she crawls onto my lap and twists her fingers against the short hairs at the nape of my neck. “I feel at peace.”

“I am glad,” I kiss her temple as my arms wrap around her.

“You were thinking awful hard about something when I came in here,” she states quietly against my throat.

I pause a moment. There is no point in bringing up my suspicions. They are merely that. Suspicions. “There is much to think about with a baby on the way.”

“Yeah,” she agrees with a sigh. “Quigley’s gone.”

“I know.”

Sookie pulls away to smile at me. It is a smile I have not seen in a while. Her smile is almost shy. “Want to keep celebrating?”

My reply is to grin at her and dive in for another kiss. As her mouth molds to mine, my computer dings with a new email. Reflexively, my eyes glance over Sookie’s shoulder at the letter’s summary.



Fuck! Sookie pulls away at my abrupt shift in mood and looks over her shoulder as the email leaves the corner of the screen.

“What happened?” my wife asks.

“I have to go,” I tell her quickly as I simultaneously lift Sookie from my lap and head for our bedroom. My cell phone is out, and I am calling Godric.

“What is it Eric?” My Maker sounds just as confused as my wife.

“De Castro was the Big Mark,” I tell him quickly as I throw together a bag of necessities. “De Castro will be arriving in New York in two hours, and I have to meet him in case an assassination attempt is still in the works.”

“What are you talking about?” Godric demands.

“Compton just sent me an email verifying that de Castro is arriving in New York tonight from out of the country,” I tell him as I shoulder my bag.

My Maker is silent, and so is my wife as I pass her outside our bedroom door. She has heard enough to know what is happening.

“I will go to Vegas with Jason and-”

“Not Sookie,” I interrupt. There is no chance in hell I am letting my pregnant wife do reconnaissance. If the trap for Felipe is in Vegas, I do not want her caught in the middle of it.

“Not Sookie,” Godric agrees, and by the tone, I can easily guess that he is aware that my wife is now carrying our child. “I was going to suggest Sookie and Pam come stay here with Camilla, Diedre and Quigley.”

I would rather Sookie stay home, but then she would feel obligated to play hostess. Silently I send for Pam in our Link, and Sookie looks at me in confusion. I pull the phone from my lips and turn to Sookie. “Pack an overnight bag to take to Camilla’s. Pam will be by shortly to take you there-”

“Eric,” she whispers and I can feel her frustration and concern. She wants me to stop and talk to her. She wants me to explain what exactly is happening, but there is no time because Pam is already pulling onto our street.

“I am leaving now,” I tell Godric and end the call.

“Eric, please, just give me thirty seconds,” Sookie pleads as she grabs my arm.

Stopping in my tracks, I turn and cup Sookie’s chin in my palm. I lean in and kiss her. “After this, Sookie, it is just you, me and the baby. No more intrigue, no more espionage, and no more vampire politics. At least until he starts school,” I end with teasing.

“Be safe,” Sookie tells me and hugs me tight. “I don’t want to go through more of this than I have to without you. I want to share it all with you, Eric. Don’t make me do any of this alone.”

“I will be back soon,” I promise. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she tells me and lunges in for one last kiss before Pam comes through the door.

Without another word, I walk past Pam, go out the door and take off into the sky. Sookie knows enough to bring Pam up to speed.


I cannot remember the last time I flew like this. With our identities concealed from the humans, there is little room to risk performing supernatural feats. Vampires being out of the coffin gives less room for us to hide behind the word, “absurd!” when we are caught doing impossible things.

I wonder if Sookie will be able to contain the news of our pregnancy until I return? I really wish to be present when she tells the family, but that dream might not come true. With her staying at Camilla’s home, it might be an unavoidable conversation. Especially if she develops more symptoms before I return. The women have not had any sort of illness since the bloodline was formed and joined. Will Sookie experience pregnancy symptoms the same way as human women? Fairy women?

All of these questions are pondered as I fly east, toward New York. It kills time, and also gives me the chance to create a mental list of questions for Ludwig. Then again, I remember, this pregnancy is already varying from the one the alternate version of us experienced. When that Sookie became fertile, the whole supernatural community knew about it. I chuckle at the memory of Ludwig telling the story from the notes. The look on my Sookie’s face had been priceless when Ludwig had explained the circumstances to us. She had looked scandalized by the idea of every supernatural within a five mile radius being able to smell her, and the fact that her presence alone during that time could ignite an orgy.

I had found it hilarious.

Now that I am thinking about both my wife and New York, I cannot prevent the smothering sense of dread enclosing around my heart. My mind flutters from scenario to scenario. What once prepared me for any outcome in battle is now nearly paralyzing me with possibilities.

What if I am captured? What if I am injured or disfigured like Diedre? Will the first time I hold my child be with one arm?

I shake off the concerns. The remaining FotS who stayed undiscovered during the raid on the Dallas Headquarters could not hope to delay me, let alone hold me captive. Their small, hate filled minds could not even comprehend a creature like me.

Then again, if they intend to use bombs, I could be slowed down or even halted. Being blown apart will not kill me, but it will certainly stop me in my tracks!

Suddenly I feel Sookie’s love welling up inside of me like a blanket that could banish any cold. She can feel my unease, I suppose, and is trying to bring me comfort before I fulfill my mission. A part of me feels ashamed to need that love and encouragement, but another part that Sookie has nurtured over the years feels relief. The relief of not having to go anywhere alone ever again. Even as I keep miles safely between us, Sookie is with me, whispering to me about her love and devotion. She is a cradle for my heart, keeping it safe and comfortable as my body goes forth to do what it must.

I land in New York City, several miles from the airport so as not to raise suspicion. There are few places to come back to earth unseen in the cities, which is why I have always tried to live on the outskirts rather than directly within them.

I hale a cab to take me the rest of the way and use my phone to once again check the information Compton had forwarded me. 10:45PM EST; GATE 42; ANUBIS AIRLINES.

“Picking up?” The cabby asks.

“Yes,” I reply distractedly as I punch a text out to Sookie to tell her of my arrival in the city.

“Friend, wife, girlfriend?” he tries to wheedle conversation out of me.

“Associate,” I answer. “The asshole could die and I would not care, but it would be bad for business.”

The cab driver laughs at my honest reply. It is honest. I have no interest in Felipe de Castro’s welfare, but if another ancient is killed by the humans a full out war could be sparked. Forget that the ones leading the attacks are extremists, and forget that they are the fragments of an organization my family has already brought down. No, if another ancient is lost to human hands, there will be outrage, and even more horrific acts of violence bestowed upon the humans.

When we arrive at the airport, I pay the driver with a fifty and do not bother with my change. Instead, I storm into the building as his gratitude is shouted across the busy drop off area.

I spare several glances at my watch as I maintain my well trained human speed toward Gate 42. My brisk walk makes a few people glance at me, and I suppose my grim expression does not ease their curiosity. It is a canter that clips the very edge of normal and murmurs suspiciously about the unnatural. There is still a glimmer of doubt, a possibility that I am a man who has trained myself to walk at such speeds. Whatever an onlooker’s concern may be, they say nothing and return to preparing for their own departures.

At 10:30, I arrive at Gate 42, and I force myself to take a seat until the plane’s arrival is announced on the board. It is currently listed as ‘On Time’. I take these moments to analyze the points of attack.

Whatever the plan is, it could be coordinated anywhere between here and Nevada. If I were those Zealots, I would plan my attack for New York. Felipe will not have a home court advantage, and have less safe havens to retreat to.

But how are they going to blitz a three thousand year old vampire? I wonder as my precious preparation time ticks away.

I glance at the arrivals board and then at the clock. 10:37 is what it is telling me, but the board is saying Felipe’s flight is arriving presently. Shit, I am already out of time!

Rising to my feet, I head towards the gate and glance about. No one is within five feet of the gate. The attendant opens the door and many vampires file out. Why was Felipe on a commercial Anubis flight? He is a Regent, and a lavish one at that.

Several vampires glance at me, but continue on to their connecting gates. Some pause to get their bearings, as Anubis is still a relatively new airline. Finally, Felipe comes to my field of vision. Like the other vampires he rode with, Felipe stares at me, but it is different. I am being sized up. He is looking at me like an obstacle or an enemy. He is waiting to see what I do. He thinks I am here to detain him? I wonder as I take a step toward him.

Felipe leans away as if to bolt the opposite direction. As he does, a smell hits me. It seems to hit all of us supernaturals at the same time. It is a sickeningly sweet scent, and I see a Were security guard several gates down tilt back his head and suddenly snap his gaze to a rather stiff looking human. The Were is running toward the human when that familiar sweetness is finally recognized.

They are bombing the damned gate! I think in alarm as I race toward the human.

In that moment, my eyes take in many things. There is not one lone human with the resigned look of death in their eyes. There is one at the gates of several Anubis lines. Stopping one will do nothing. I cannot stop what is about to happen.

If I can only spare half the casualties, I think with determination as I lunge toward the human and reveal my vampire speed and flight. I scoop them up by the collar of the vest.

With only moments to spare, I am a torpedo down the aisle. One, two, three, three of the bombers in my grasp. That is how many I manage to get a hold of before their watches begin to beep. I hope that it is their signal to be in position.

Five more seconds, I bargain with myself or maybe even some God as I stop for nothing and burst upward through the ceiling. Four, three… Like a guided missile, I soar into the night sky. Up, up, and awaaaay, I say in my mind as I clear the tower and fling the bombers even higher over my head.

Two, one, I finish counting down, and as if my instincts were right or a Higher Power heard me, the bombs explode. Unfortunately, the blast manages to knock me back, and I feel my body being propelled once more to the earth.

I miss the hole I created in the ceiling and make another one upon my descent. If I had any wind to be knocked out of me it would have taken a decade to get it back.

Climbing back to my feet, I survey the damages. Apparently I had missed two of the bombers. Two gates on opposite ends of the airport are in smoldering ruins, but are quickly dying from the emergency sprinkler system. Calmly I walk toward the ruined area that had been behind me. At least I had chosen wisely and launched ahead instead of behind. I would have only prevented one enclosed explosion instead of three.

As I approach the charred remains of gate 40, another Anubis gate, I think with grim understanding, I see Felipe de Castro in a state similar to the gate. He is scorched, but has sustained nowhere near the damage he would have if I had not intercepted the bomber closest to us.

“This is why you came here,” Felipe says as I approach him. He is talking low, barely audible above the wails and cries that are filling the airport like a tragic opera.

“Why did you think I came here?” I ask as I crouch down beside him, assessing the damage. I scuttle a few yards back when I realize that he is not as injured as he is acting. He wants you within striking distance, I warn myself.

Felipe does not reply to my question. Instead he stares up at the holes I made in the ceiling.

“You saved my existence,” he finally says. “I owe you for that.”

“I tried to save as many as possible,” I reply darkly. Strange connections are firing in my mind. Things that did not add up before are starting to create two different sums. Because there were two different conspirators trying to hide their intentions in the same place, I determine.

Phones begin to ring all throughout the airport. Inside and out, I hear phones. Apparently the bombing has already reached the media. Loved ones are calling from all across the country, all across the world to make sure their brother, their sister, their mother or father are well. Spouses are being called by their wives and husbands. Sons and daughters and calling their mommies and daddies.

I close my eyes and listen for a moment, catching reassuring sobs, but aching at the phones that ring and ring without answer. For all of my strength and speed, for all of my efforts; I could not stop those phones from ringing. I suppose for the ones who called those numbers, these phones will ring forever.

Opening my eyes, I look at one of the creatures that caused these phones to begin ringing.

On to Chapter Fifty-Five!

Catalyst Ch. 53

A/N: I don’t normally do this, but I wanted to give everyone a heads up– my HD containing all of my stories, notes, timelines and everything else has been corrupted. Recovering it may not be possible. However, there is good news. I DID have my writing backed up, including what was prepared for Catalyst, and it will hopefully continue as scheduled. Unfortunately, I only have my laptop at my disposal, and let’s just say it is not as cooperative a writing medium to my muse. We will see what happens, and I will keep everyone informed about chapter delays in the comments sections from here on out. Thank you for your patience!


Chapter Fifty-Three: The Other Side of the Situation

Camilla’s POV:

I’m not going to pretend that having two vampire roommates doesn’t come with its challenges. A few days after they had come to stay with us, Quigley came out of his light safe compartment after dusk and gave me a high five for my after school sex special. He said I was one ‘wild lass’, and I’d spent the rest of the night blushing. Since I’ve never hung out with vampires that died for the day, I forgot that older ones rose earlier than sunset!

Diedre is mostly quiet and withdrawn. She hardly leaves her room past the light tight compartment. Since she’s so flipping old she doesn’t need blood much more than once a month when she was in peak condition. Godric said that injuries or great feats of strength would deplete blood reservoirs, but with never leaving her room, Diedre could probably go two whole weeks without blood despite her injuries!

I am definitely learning a lot about vampires these past few weeks.

I’m also learning that my best friend is hiding something. She’s very distracted as of late, and I’m starting to worry. Not to mention, she even spent her lunch hour with Eric today! I hope it doesn’t become a new trend. I’d miss having lunch with my friend, and I know Godric’s noticed me sulking about it.

I know he’s noticed because as he comes into the kitchen while I make my dinner, he raises his eyebrows and asks, “Is something bothering you?”

My lips pout at the question, but I answer honestly, “Sookie met up with Eric for lunch and ditched me and Jason. She spends so much time with him, and now she’s starting to let whatever distraction she’s got cut into our time at school together.”

Distracted how?” he asks me patiently. His eyes look patient, but there’s this undercurrent of amusement in the Bond that I find frustrating. He probably knows exactly what’s going on, I think a bit petulantly.

I lift my shoulders in a shrug. “She’s just quiet and every time I want to hang out, she says she’s grading papers! We all three used to do that together, but now she wants to do it by herself? It’s like she’s avoiding me!”

Godric’s lips quirk. “I am certain she is not being distant on purpose.”

I know, and I’m trying not to take it personally,” I tell him earnestly. “I just feel…”

Excluded?” He hazards a guess and I nod. “Sometimes when we are distant with others, it is because we want closeness with someone specific. Perhaps right now you could focus on befriending Diedre? She is very alone and saddened. I am sure she would desire some empathy.”

I flinch a bit. Diedre makes me nervous. She’s so old beneath that youthful exterior, and what could someone as young as me say to comfort her? I mean, technically, I only have eight and a half years worth of experiences! What does that compare to four thousand years? What could I possibly empathize with her?

What could someone who literally had to relearn everything about themselves have to offer someone who’s reinvented their life a hundred times over? What could I tell her that she hasn’t experienced a thousand times? I can’t even remember my greatest loss, and now I want totry to coach someone through their worst experience in four thousand years?

Despite all the good things in my life, and how much I love where I am and whom I’m with; it doesn’t always feel like enough. Sometimes I find myself staring in the mirror and wondering what my previous life was like. How much of who I am was changed by what was done to me, and how much of who I was remained who I am? What have a kept from my previous life and don’t even know it?

Suddenly I realize something I can relate to this ancient creature…

Leaving my food preparation half completed on the counter, I dash upstairs and knock briskly on the guest room door. Diedre opens the door and looks at me with a touch of suspicion. No doubt, she knows I take great pains to avoid her. She has also heard my conversation with my husband and is probably apprehensive about what dubious thoughts I might have on her tragedy.

“Yes?” Diedre greets a bit cautiously but still polite.

With an encouraging smile I ask, “Would you mind a bit of company?”

Diedre opens the door a bit wider, staring at me with a dash more curiosity and far less caution. I don’t ask to sit, but flop myself down on the bed like Sookie did when we first met. I smile up at Diedre and say, “I don’t know the pain of losing a loved one. Everyone I loved before my life with the Gaul line isn’t even a memory to me. Grissom took away that entire life, so I can’t really sympathize with you on your loss.” Diedre stares at me, standing like a statue on that one formerly charred leg Ludwig didn’t see fit to amputate. That leg is already mostly healed, which surprises me a lot. Her good arm cradles what is left of the other in a surprisingly natural way, and her eyes look a little crisp. “But I can totally sympathize with the lost, hopeless feeling you’re having right now.”

I do not-”

You don’t even know where to begin starting over. You feel like you should be trying to reconstruct your entire world around what it used to be instead of starting a brand new one,” I interrupt. “Because it’s easier to try and make the world like it was, it’s terrifying to experience it all over again and rediscover what really matters to you.”

After four thousand years, I know who I am,” Diedre tells me sternly. Somehow she makes her movements fluid on one leg, and she goes to sit at the vanity. Even though her missing arm and leg are still regrowing, the scorching around her face has already healed, and her beautiful, big eyes are no longer obscured by the crisped, melted flesh of her cheek.

I know,” I agree with a nod, “but now, after two and a half thousand years; you have to know who you are without Cassandra.”

Diedre deflates heavily at the vanity at my words. I sit up, take her cool hand and squeeze it gently. “I’ve heard it a few times now… That Bonding is like finding your soul mate. What if Cassandra’s spirit returns to this world, and you get to meet her again? What if you get to fall in love all over again, and this time, you get to finally have that connection the two of you always wanted? What if that is what Cassandra saw in the future? Not her final death, but finally being with you the way you two have wanted for so long?”

The vampiress takes a sharp breath, “To find her again? What if it takes a thousand years of hurting like this? Child, you cannot understand this pain,” she insists, her little stump of a left arm pressing against where her heart beat so many lifetimes ago.

Well, maybe if you got out of your room, the pain wouldn’t be on the forefront of your mind. Maybe it will always hurt a little, but it doesn’t have to hurt this bad. Not all the time?” I try to suggest, but I know it is too soon to go gallivanting. Especially in her current condition.

Diedre nods slowly, “It has only been a few weeks, though.”

You can continue to grieve and live, Diedre,” I assure. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not saying you have to leave your room this second, but if you want to; do it. Don’t stay hidden away in here forever just because you think that’s what you are obligated to do. You won’t find Cassandra again in this room. Maybe go out with Pam and pick up some chicks when you’re up to it again?” I suggest with a smidge of humor. Maybe Ludwig can make some temporary prosthetic for her? The way she moves on one leg is disturbing.

something out of nightmares…

Diedre frowns, “If Cassandra were reborn, I pray that she come back as a man for me.”

I look at the vampire with surprise, “You’re straight!?”

She looks at me and the first actual smirk I have ever seen alights her face, “Vampires are never straight nor gay, we merely lean one way more than another. I prefer making love to males, but I was in love with Cassandra. If I find love again, I would hope that the vessel of that spirit is male.”

No wonder you’re so uptight. I’d be too if I’d been waiting over two thousand years for a good dicking!” I say aloud and hear Quigley roaring with laughter downstairs. “Damn it!” I can feel Godric’s own amusement as well, double damn it!

Godric’s POV:

Got yourself a lil’ spitfire,” Quigley chuckles as he leans back into the sofa and reaches for his cigarettes.

I do,” I agree with my own laugh. “And could you not smoke in the house?” I request for the hundredth time since he and Diedre took refuge with us. The former priest grins at me momentarily. I know that he only reaches for the cigarettes to poke fun at the vampire who forbids smoking in his home despite the fact it cannot harm anyone in said home. That does not mean I need my house to reek for days.

Thick chords of muscle flex as my guest puts his hands behind his head and closes his eyes rather than plucking the pack of cigarettes from the end table. “She’s good for Diedre,” he comments. “She needs a friend right now, and at four thousand years old, friends aren’t easy to come by.”

I understand entirely,” Is my reply. “That was why I felt Camilla might be a good, sympathetic ear. Though their losses are not the same, as you heard, the road to healing is quite similar.” And I needed her to stop focusing so much on Sookie’s distance. After all, what more would you expect from a couple bringing a new life into the world? That last thought fills me with a bit of smugness. However, I will not let my insider knowledge ruin the reveal for my Child and his Bonded.

She’s a sweet girl,” Quigley tells me with a soft, genuine smile. “That stuff she said about Cassie… That’s an interesting thought.”

How do you mean?” I ask him.

Quigley shrugs, “Cassandra had been on edge the past few months before she got killed, but she never let me know why. I thought maybe she’d confided in Diedre, but now I’m not so sure. In a way, I think she didn’t mind what was coming. In a way, I think your Bonded may have been right. Maybe Cassie saw her reincarnation. Maybe she saw this death as a gift. I know she didn’t want to be a Seer. You think she could have spun the wheel and hoped she’d be reborn without that gift?”

I suppose it is possible,” I frown. “After all, such a gift requires a lot of elements to align. Perhaps the one who chooses her next destiny will take pity.”

Quigley nods slowly, almost like he is casting out a prayer on the Ancient Pythoness’s behalf. When that moment of prayer has ended, the former priest looks at me and asks, “Has Northman come across any new information about what’s happened?”

Not really. Isabel had all documents forwarded to her after the Fellowship of the Sun was infiltrated by police. She sent everything to Eric, but he still has not found any information linking to the true informant that may, or may not, have anything to do with Nevada. The only real information we recovered is the scheduled assassination date of the Big Mark. Not a whole lot of good that gives us since we still have no idea who it is, and the assassination is scheduled for the end of this week.

One of our informants insists there is nothing linked to Louisiana,” I continue, “and I am inclined to believe him. Sophie-Anne is not experienced enough to pull off such a thing, and Grissom is not stupid enough, nor ambitious enough. He would have rather waited until next year to see if the Trafficking Ban is lifted than make his move now,” I answer.

You don’t think a youngling could be responsible?” Quigley presses.

I suppose if they were well organized,” I respond begrudgingly. “They often forget their limitations.” The vampire gives me a disbelieving look and I smile, “But I have serious doubts that there is any connection between the Fellowship and a vampire younger than an ancient. Only an ancient could gamble at executing Cassandra and have any hope of continuing to exist afterward.”

I s’pose that’s true,” Quigley agrees. “And what about the Nevada number? Isn’t that run by de Castro?”

It is,” I confirm. “However, de Castro has always been opportunistic, not usually one who creates his own opportunities. This does not eliminate him from my suspect list, because he would not be as old as he is if he did not make a little opportunity for himself every so often. Unfortunately, I have at least four other suspects, and they are just as difficult to accuse or clear on the matter.”

My hands clasp in front of me briefly as I consider our conversation. I do not like talking about these things within earshot of Diedre, but I can only guess that Diedre is the one who insisted that Quigley pump me for information. Instead of giving away any more of my suspicions, I change the subject.

There is something I was hoping you could help our family with while you are staying,” I tell my guest slowly, and Quigley leans in. I do believe he thinks I have a mission for him.

What’s that now?” Quigley’s eyes shine a bit. For a former priest, vampirism has certainly come to agree with him despite his rough entry into the community.

It is about Sookie,” I reply softly.

Northman’s woman?” Quigley leans back, a looming disappointment in his eyes. “What about her?”

I think Eric and Sookie could use your expertise,” I answer, thinking of Sookie’s crisis of faith. With the birth of their first child now on the horizon, I am certain this is a matter both of them would prefer to resolve.

They wanna Devil’s Threesome?” He guesses with a wiggle of his eyebrows and I snort on a laugh.

I doubt they would ever let someone else into their bed,” I tell him with more amused chortling.

Then what do the need from me?” Quigley leans back with a soft, playful smile. He is certainly a master of lightening up a mood. In a way, he reminds me of Jason.

Sookie has been suffering a crisis of faith these past years, and I was hoping you might be able to speak with her about it. Other than Jason, no one in my bloodline has ever been spiritually motivated. Jason, however, does not seem to be suffering from the same uncertainties as his sister,” I explain delicately.

Quigley shrugs, “Jason doesn’t seem as hung up on details as his sister. He’s a smart kid, but he doesn’t get so hung up on things making sense.” I want to protest that assessment, having witnessed Jason’s ability to think out a situation and plan ahead. Quigley must see the objection on my face because he smiles and answers my unasked question, “He can have faith because he feels that faith and fact don’t need to hold hands. His sister is probably taking the teachings of the church too literal, and that’s where her crisis is coming from.”

My guest seems intrigued by the situation and moves to stand. “Are you going to speak with her?” I ask, rising as well.

Quigley nods and reaches for his pack of cigarettes, “Yes. You got the priest in me raring to help a lost sheep.”

Perhaps you should call ahead,” I suggest, feeling that Eric is in an entertaining mood. Quigley raises his eyebrows questioningly. “Sookie has been quite affectionate these past few days.”

The vampire chuckles as he plucks a cigarette from the pack with his teeth. The tube of tobacco shifts between his teeth as Quigley heads for the front door.

Once he has gone, I take out my phone to warn Eric of the impending arrival. Much like Endymion, Quigley has a habit of popping in on intimate moments unannounced.

On to Chapter Fifty-Four!