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.



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!

Catalyst Ch. 52

Chapter Fifty-Two: Foreseen Unforeseen

Eric’s POV:

This is new, I think in surprise as Lust flares in the Bond.

True, my Bonded was particularly frisky this morning and has been every morning since returning back from Dallas a few weeks ago. At first I thought the increase in her sexual appetite stemmed from the espionage, but then I thought it was the disguises. After all, my wife is young, and I believed that the thrill, make believe or not, of taking a different lover seemed exciting to her. This did not unnerve me at all because I can become a different lover for her, and she can become a different lover for me as well.

However, my assumptions proved inaccurate. She chose my name to call out in our fantasy. Despite the fact she knew she was free to pick any name she wished, she chose her husband’s name. I will not pretend my love for her did not swell in that moment.

That was not the only proof of my miscalculations.

After my hair had grown back in my Death Sleep, I had risen to her bouncing on me like a star rodeo rider. She had said her husband was back and could not wait to have him again. This enthusiasm alone was enough to dash my earlier assumptions relating to her Lust.

Finally, after I had cut my hair to the length she had suggested (much shorter than I ever thought she would want) she had purred and bounced on me some more. Ever since the chopping of my Viking hair and adaptation of a style which Pam finally approves, Sookie has been climbing atop me endlessly ever since.

It has been a wonderful nuisance, but a curious one too.

Every day since our return to Ohio, Sookie has distracted me from my efforts at uncovering the root of our most recent problems. However, she is no mere distraction. Sookie is the cure to my distress. She is the remedy to my saddened soul. Losing the Ancient Pythoness is a burden much easier to bear with Sookie held tightly against my side. She holds the weight of my heart on her shoulders so I might hold the weight of the vampire world upon my own.

Perhaps this is where the Lust stems from? Is it her way of helping me through these past weeks of work? I wonder as I reflect on her actions these past weeks. Every time I receive updates from Isabel, Sookie has been there to alleviate some of the distress. For every ounce of sickening news Isabel gives me, Sookie is there with a pound of medicine.

It is not just Isabel who brings me troublesome news. Since the murder of the Ancient Pythoness, it seems that the entirety of the vampire community has reached out to us for information; either to receive or give it.

So far Isabel has concluded, through use of heavy glamour and light torture, that Hugo’s orders came from the state of Nevada. Some of his correspondence’s envelopes were still in his office, stuck precariously to the underside of a drawer. Whether those envelopes had latched opportunistically to the underside of its neighboring drawer, or if Hugo had retained the envelopes as some sort of leverage is unknown and inconsequential. Hugo’s fate is sealed. After this matter is cleared up and all responsible parties are apprehended, Hugo will face a tribunal. Whether that means a local hearing with the Magister or a national hearing with the North American Council has yet to be seen. Either way, Hugo is unlikely to survive the situation.

From informants other than Isabel, I have been updated on many movements. Particularly the movements of ancients and council members that have left the country as of late. My pool of potential Big Marks is now merely the size of a single ocean rather than all Seven Seas… I need more information!

Before I can succumb to the turmoil of puzzling out this latest mystery, I let my mind reflect once more upon my wife. I fantasize about her actions before she left for school.

This morning she was playful, cuddlesome, and absolutely delicious; a real lightness to my heart. She spoke all sorts of words about her desire to call off work and stay all day in our bed together. However, being the responsible teacher that she is, Sookie pouted as she slid out of our bed and prepared for her day at work.

Now it is almost noon, and that earlier friskiness has evolved into an earnest need. Her yearnings are nearly stifling, and without really considering the fact that I have work to do, I find myself snapping my laptop shut. Grabbing up my car keys, I head to the school and arrive just as her lunch break is beginning. She must have felt me arriving because she comes running out of the building, jumps into my car and kisses me feverishly.

“What has gotten into you?” I laugh as I pull away from our kiss and push her hair from her face.

Hopefully you; right now,” She tells me urgently. “Go park down the street-”


Eric, I am so serious right now,” She bares her teeth at me aggressively, and as her Bonded I feel no compulsion to question further.

Instead, I shift into gear and tear out of the parking lot. Thankfully I had the foresight to bring the SUV. Now I can pull off the road behind some covering foliage. As I do just that, Sookie wastes no time crawling into my lap.

Thank God, you’re already hard!” Sookie moans as she starts opening my pants and pushing her panties to the side.

Of course I am hard. Do you feel what you have been sending to me all morning?” I chortle as she holds my cock in her impatient hand and quickly impales herself upon me. “Fuck, Sookie,” I snarl as I grab her hips.

Shut up, and just fuck me,” she pants into my ear as she grinds recklessly above me. Without another word, I grasp her sides that much harder and begin bucking my hips upward. “Yes, yes,” she mumbles against my ear as she snakes her arms around my neck. “Just like that!” she is already clenching around me in preparation for orgasm. “AH!” Her cry fills the car, and I am surprised by the abrupt intensity of her clenching walls. It is very much like the orgasms she experiences when I stimulate her ears. However, I have hardly been inside her very long and she is strangling my cock with her vice-like pussy.

Sookie,” I snarl as she drags my own orgasm from me without my realization. It is not until I feel my shaft pulsing and emptying inside her that I realize that she has turned me into a one-pump-chump. “The fuck you just do to me?” rumbles from my lips in both surprise and unbidden exhaustion.

“You’ve been hangin’ with Jason too much,” she mumbles tiredly, her dwindling backwater accent re-emerging with her own fatigue. “That’s his catch phrase.”

Sookie, even our quickies have never been that quick,” I tell her.

It’s for the best. I gotta get back to the school,” she tells me as she climbs shakily from my lap and back into her own seat.

Mm, but you smell too good to let go,” I reply, leaning toward her seat and inhaling the freshly fucked scent she is emitting.

Eric, I can’t go missing like this for very long. Please?” Sookie asks me sweetly and I sigh.

I pause only a moment to watch her clean herself up a bit. Then I throw the vehicle back into gear, I pull back onto the road and return my Bonded to the school.

Thanks for the quickie, Darlin’,” Sookie smiles at me a bit shyly. Though she often humors my enjoyment for “naughty public play,” as she calls it, she has never desired it to such a degree. I never believed before this moment that my Sookie would have ever needed it so intensely.

It is not until she is back at work and I am driving home that I realize the peculiarity of the situation. That was not a whim. It was entirely instinctual. It was need not mere desire. An instinct rises inside me. Her desire for me might be indicative of her body finally preparing for reproduction!

Taking out my phone, I dial Dr. Ludwig.

What?” the doctor snaps as she answers her phone.

This is Northman. I think you should do Sookie’s evaluation today,” I tell her without hesitation. Her last one had been the weekend before our trip to Dallas.

She is not due for another week. Do you have reason?” Ludwig asks with more curiosity than irritability this time.

It is more of a feeling than a reason,” I confess. “It is very strong, however. After years of being Bonded to this woman, I have never felt her like this. That is saying something because I have felt many a thing from my Sookie, and this was definitely different.”

Ludwig snorts, “I know your former reputation with the female populace, Northman. That does not mean you know a woman’s body better than she knows her-” The doctor pauses a moment. “Hold on, I have another call.” Ludwig puts me on hold as she accepts the other call. I am home by the time she picks up my line again. “That was your Bonded.”

Oh?” I can feel in the Bond that she is not unwell, in fact she feels rather giddy.

She just made the same request for an evaluation. Apparently your instincts are not far off the mark. I will meet you at your home when she has returned.” With that, Ludwig hangs up on me, and I find myself laughing.

A baby! I think with wild excitement and a little trepidation. For the first time in over a thousand years, I will have a child of my own flesh and blood!

It takes all of my willpower not to start researching pregnancy and infants. I decide that I should wait until conception is confirmed. After all, with our different… heritages, we might not manage to conceive the first time around. You should probably wait until ovulation is confirmed, I berate my impatience.

The excitement will not be contained, however, and I cannot help the whimsical musings of watching my wife growing round with our child. She will be lovely when she is heavily pregnant, but I feel a concern grow with my excitement. Many years ago we had discussed her career and motherhood. She loves her job, and I find myself worrying that she will not desire to give it up like we had discussed.

Then again, I think wildly, I am not all that busy during the day. I require absolutely no rest, and I am old enough that it hardly effects my feeding habits.

There are plenty of ways for me to continue running my businesses while raising our children. The only thing that I am adamant about is that our children are raised by their parents. That does not mean the one to stay home with them all day must be Sookie!

All the remaining work day, I accomplish little more than analyzing Sookie’s every mood and plotting ways to bring a baby with me to business meetings. How hard could that be?

I know that I should be hunting through all the information Isabel gave me regarding Hugo’s anonymous contact. I am well aware that I should be going through Compton’s emails about the vampires forced to meet the sun, and looking for clues coming out of Louisiana. I certainly should at least be checking to see if the mysterious Nevada number has made any calls since our trip to Dallas a few weeks ago!

However, Sookie is still greatly aroused, and I cannot wait to make love to her when she gets home. If she is actually fertile, I want to beg her to take off work the remainder of the week and pump her full of every drop of my seed that I can provide. Anything to ensure that my first born is in my arms before the end of the year!

My fantasies are interrupted by a POP, and I turn to look down at my left side to the little doctor who has arrived.

You are early,” I say, but with excitement rather than annoyance.

Ludwig shrugs, “It was one thing when a man thought himself more aware of his wife’s body than she was. It is a completely different matter when husband and wife both notice a change in a woman’s body. I am just as impatient and excited for this as the two of you,” She points out.

“I severely doubt that,” I shake my head, and despite my annoyance at her assumptions, I cannot stop myself from grinning.

The doctor stares at me an extra moment and then gives me a rare smile, “I suppose you are right,” she relents as she begins removing equipment from her enchanted doctor’s bag. It appears that she has brought along her entire lab to perform tests she normally does at her office.

By the time Sookie arrives home, she is bounding through the door excitedly and flinging her purse and tote onto the front entryway table as I have finally grown accustomed to over the years.

Ludwig holds out a specimen cup as my Bonded bounces toward her, but the doctor’s face has transformed into a frown.

What is it?” I ask of the doctor when my wife has banished herself to the powder room.

I,” Ludwig seems at a loss for words, and rather than reply beyond that, she begins rifling through her bag for a file.

Sookie returns, eagerly holding the cup of urine, but Ludwig is ignoring her and thumbing through pages within the file she has begun reviewing. She seems to finally notice Sookie, and quickly begins loading the applicators so she may return to her notes.

Sookie,” I take my wife’s hands as Ludwig goes about performing her tasks.

What is it, Eric?” Sookie is barely paying attention to me as Ludwig has not said a word to her yet.

Before any results come through, I want to tell you something,” I finally earn Sookie’s focus and she tilts her head curiously at me. “When we do become pregnant, I want you to know that I am aware that things have changed. I know that your mind may have changed over the years, and I want you to know that if you wish to return to work sooner than we originally decided; I am entirely committed to becoming a stay at home father.”

Sookie’s eyes widen at my declaration, and I do not miss Ludwig looking up from her work to gape a moment.

You’d do that so I could keep teaching?” she asks softly.

If it is what you want, then I will do so happily,” I assure her. “If you want to become a stay at home mother, then that is fine too. I just want you to know that I am not going to push an agreement we made ten years ago. We are husband and wife. We are Bonded. We will raise our family together.”

Sookie can only stare at me in surprise, but I can feel her love for me bubbling over inside the both of us. Suddenly she is distracted and peers around me.

Doctor, what is it?” Sookie asks, having must seen the doctor doing something behind my back. I turn to look at the tiny doctor and can see the astonishment on her face.

Ludwig says nothing but picks up the applicator and stares for a long moment.

She is fertile! She is fertile! I think with wild, uninhibited excitement.

You are-” despite everything, I hold my breath with my wife, “already pregnant.”

B-b-b-but-” Sookie starts to babble in confusion and all that I can think to do is keep my own mouth shut because I am just as flabbergasted. “When!?” Sookie finally manages to spit out.

I would guess some time between now and your last exam,” Ludwig replies, clearly concerned by the absence of any warning about the impending event. “My best guess, since you are showing positive on the pregnancy test is that you conceived either the week of or the week after your last check up,” Ludwig confesses.

There was no indicators in my blood or urine?” Sookie asks a bit shrilly.

Ludwig fumbles with her papers a moment, “There was a modest increase in your hormones, but nothing indicative of ovulation, let alone an increase I would have expected to see for a vampire pregnancy!”

But I am pregnant?” Sookie demands.

The doctor fumbles for a moment and I see her apply the remaining urine onto three more tests. She takes a needle to my wife’s arm and draws blood for other tests as well.

I haven’t felt nauseated or tired or anything,” Sookie tells me, and I can tell that she is confused and disoriented by the news. To be truthful, so am I! Never would I have expected to have been so blindsided by our first pregnancy!

Machines are whirring, and the mad scratch of Ludwig’s pen in her notes is filling the stunned silence between myself and my Bonded. Finally everything seems to occur at once and Ludwig is saying all sorts of words that, for the first time in a long time, I am unable to absorb through my whirlwind of thoughts. My wife is going to have my baby…

Northman?” Ludwig snaps at me.

“Yes, Doctor?” I jolt back to attention.

Did you hear what I just told you?” she demands shortly.

No,” I admit, still too overwhelmed.

Sookie is pregnant,” Ludwig confirms concretely.

All right,” I whisper, feeling like a lost boy adrift on the ocean.

That means a lot of changes going on between now and the birth,” Ludwig says slowly, as if she has realized that I am not as quick minded as usual.

Yes,” I agree automatically.

Sookie,” Ludwig tries her instead.

Huh?” is my wife’s eloquent reply. At least I am not the only one who has just had the rug pulled out from beneath them.

Ludwig claps her hands in front of our faces, and I finally rein in my bedraggled mind and focus. Now is Sookie’s time to be confused and uncertain. My entire existence must focus all of its will upon making sure she stays safe and healthy. Currently Ludwig is trying to tell me exactly how to do that.

She needs to begin sleeping regularly again. Growing an immortal child is not something someone does without plenty of sleep,” the doctor begins. “Also, there is no way she will be able to consume enough calories in a day to keep her body running twenty-four hours, six days a week and simultaneously giving enough of those calories to the baby.”

Yes,” I agree firmly.

Ludwig reaches into her bag and extracts a paper, “This is a list of foods that are considered unsafe for pregnant women to consume. I’ve added a few over the years that I would like Sookie to avoid because of her ancestry.” I see that lemons are on the list and am not surprised. “Weekly blood exchanges to keep you two calm and your connection strong. I have read in the other Ludwig’s notes that irregular blood exchanges lead to your other versions being temperamental with one another.”

Yes, Doctor,” I commit her suggestions to memory.

I will continue my monthly check-ins. In four weeks we will do your first ultrasound.”

I have never heard of you using ultrasound,” I frown. Ludwig has always been able to feel unborn children to know if they were in distress.

Ludwig scowls, “Apparently one of the children born to the other version of you was known as a Mirror Twin-”

I have heard of those-”

No,” Ludwig shakes her head. “Not just a run of the mill mirror twin. The child had the ability to mask their presence within their own twin. They could disappear from their own parents’ perception at will. Apparently that Ludwig could not even sense the child’s existence before or after it was born. However, I should be able to see the fetus or at least the amniotic sack in an ultrasound.”

I nod in mild understanding. It will be another thing to research. I have known for a while that the children Sookie will give me must be special, and this information on a Mirror Twin only cements that suspicion.

Are you certain nothing happened in the last two to three weeks?” Ludwig asks. “She has not been any different?”

I lift my shoulders in an uncertain shrug. Our sex life has always been very consistent, and with her living immortality, Sookie usually gives me sex twice a day. The only time she might skip a day is Sundays because she sleeps Saturday evenings.

Grasping for any explanation, I offer the single anomaly involving our sex life, “The only notable variation was the Sunday we were in Dallas. Sookie woke some time in the early morning despite having fallen asleep at sunrise and raised me from my Day Death for sex. She has never broken a sleep pattern herself for sex. I believe the last time she had sex after interrupted sleep was when you took her temperature by ear her first year of college.”

Ah, I remember that,” Ludwig chuckles. “Still, that is something. Once I can do an ultrasound, I will have a better idea of when the conception date was.”

Is there anything else we should know?” I ask as Sookie continues to sit in stunned silence.

I do not know when the fetus will receive its immortality,” Ludwig tells me. “For all I know, it is already invincible. However, for all I know, she is still capable of having a miscarriage. We will work under the assumption that you are two weeks pregnant until evidence says otherwise. That means your body might not be showing any symptoms. What clued you in that she might be fertile?”

Carefully I glance at Sookie who is still staring at the pregnancy test, and I can see her eyes growing into big orbs of emotion. “She was insistently aroused today. Her scent was practically irresistible, and she was urgent to be with me.”

Ludwig takes some quick notes, nodding her head. “It could be the extra blood flow to her reproductive organs that brought on the urgency. There’s a chance that may wane as other pregnancy symptoms come about. Nausea can kill arousal quite effortlessly.”

I slowly nod as I look between my wife and her doctor. What I would not give for Sookie to say something. Anything!

Well,” Ludwig begins packing away her portable lab in preparation to depart, “I will let you both know what I else I discover. Congratulations to both of you.”

Thank you, Doctor,” I tilt my head respectfully.

Sookie jolts then and stammers a quick word of thanks before staring once again at her positive pregnancy test.

When we are alone, I take one of Sookie’s hands in my own, “Are you all right, Dear One?”

My Bonded sighs and looks at me with mild bemusement. “I’m just… Stunned that we had no warning or precursors. I mean, I’m grateful in a way,” she confesses. “It feels more exciting this way, more real. I’ve been scared that there would be some huge sign that I’d be fertile, and Ludwig would tell us what day we’d get pregnant on before we even had sex… It’s just such a relief, you know?”

I smile at her words, “I was a bit disappointed to lose my excuse to fill your body over and over again.”

Sookie rolls her eyes at me, “Eric, that’s a bunch of bull. You fill me up every darn day, and you know it.”

I do,” I laugh in agreement. “So, you are happy?” I ask

Very,” she assures me and leans her head upon my shoulder. “When do we tell the family?” she asks.

Any time you like,” I say. “I am certain with our emotions shifting so drastically throughout the day, Godric probably suspects something.”

Sookie considers my words a moment before giving me one of her little smiles, “I guess that’s true.”

How are you feeling?” I ask with mild concern. Her body is still filled with confusion, and I need her to discern if there is anything below the surface of that confusion.

Confused,” she says with a laugh, “but excited and a little overwhelmed, too.”

This took me by surprise too,” I tell her comfortingly. Perhaps some of the anxiety will ebb if she knows she is not alone in this shock. This beautiful, wonderful shock.

Sookie’s smile transforms into a goofy grin as she giggles, “Eric, your baby is in me!”

Dragging her into my lap, I hold Sookie tightly and whisper, “Yes, he is.”

Sookie’s POV:

My hand flutters across my abdomen in startled disbelief. I think I’ve been stroking my belly over half an hour now, and it still feels like I’m in a dream. That point of half awake, half asleep. That uncertainty of what has really transpired. It reminds me of when Jason and I were poor and starving. I would have dreams of finding a winning scratch off ticket for twenty-thousand dollars or winning the lottery. Then I would start to wake, and my stomach would growl hungrily. I would cry because we were both so hungry, and no matter how hard we both worked, we would stay hungry forever.

Now I sit here stroking my and Eric’s child through the thick flesh of my stomach, and just praying that my eyes might stay closed, that this dream won’t end, and that this miracle I’ve longed for won’t be taken away.

He’s here, Sookie,” Eric tells me as he kneels between my legs and cups his large hands over mine. “He is right here, and he will not disappear.” The firm pressure his hands bring over our baby makes an unashamed sob tumble from my lips.

I was so scared I wouldn’t get this surprise,” I finally confess.

So was I,” Eric tells me, squeezing my hands and leaning over to kiss just above where our hands are joined. “Of course it would happen in the middle of this conspiracy. Why do all of our happy moments as husband and wife need to coincide with some supernatural event as well?”

I know!” I sob and laugh simultaneously. I can feel a strange impatience in my husband now that he has eased my worries that this was a dream. “What’s wrong?” I ask him softly.

Eric shakes his head and grins, “Nothing is wrong, Dear One. I am merely preening a bit.”

Suddenly I understand what he means. He wants to tell everyone that we’re pregnant. He wants to gloat! I realize amusedly. Then again, I suppose that as a vampire, impregnating someone is quite the achievement. Although, Ludwig was very clear all those years ago that conception would be all my body’s job.

Regardless of this, I know that the truth is Eric did do something. He fell in love with me, and stayed by my side through stubbornness, school, work, meltdowns, conspiracies, espionage, my still lingering crisis of faith, and now he’ll be with me through this.

On to Chapter Fifty-Three!

Catalyst Ch. 50

Chapter Fifty: Gathering the Players

Godric’s POV:

I’m worried about Sookie,” Camilla whispers as we sit in a Pittsburgh parking lot, waiting for our injured allies to arrive. Bringing her hand that I am holding to my lips, I give it a comforting kiss. “She’s never done anything like this before. What if she gets hurt? What if Jason gets hurt?”

I squeeze her hand as I bring it back to rest in my lap. “Sookie and Jason will be fine. They are stronger than you give them credit, and they have always risen to the occasion,” I tell her comfortingly.

Sometimes even I forget the hardships those siblings endured before Eric’s arrival in their lives. They have suffered losses Camilla cannot even fathom because she cannot remember what she has lost. That is not to say what my Bonded has overcome is miniscule; it is merely incomparable.

Camilla leans her head back and stares out the window. “Godric, is that who we’re waiting for?” she asks, pointing to a sedan that has pulled into the deserted area. “I feel vamp energy coming from it.”

A black BMW pulls up, sleek and silent. When it pulls alongside us, the aura of an ancient far older than me presses against my own spirit in warning. Much like the aura a Bonded couple wears, ancients have their own presence to exude our authority and status in the true hierarchy.

Yes,” I flick my lights twice, pause and then hold them for two counts. The car responds by turning off its engine. Camilla grows nervous beside me, her fingertips fiddling with the string of her hooded sweatshirt as she waits beside me. Eventually the string begins moving of its own accord like it is playing on a gentle breeze, but I know it is Camilla refocusing her nerves and practicing her energy manipulation. She has come so far so fast, I think admiringly.

I turn my engine back on and wait. Soon the driver’s side door of the other vehicle opens, and a familiar voice booms into my ears.

“Ay there, Godric!” A sturdy five foot, ten inch mass comes toward the car and opens the back door. “It’s been too long! Why don’t you ever come out my way?”

Quigley!” I greet welcomingly. He is an imposing figure of solid muscles, thicker than Eric, but easily a head shorter. Scraggly dark blond hair with accents of orange frames his face and he has allowed his beard to make a reappearance. “You have Diedre with you?” Of course I am well aware that Quigley is not giving off the foreboding aura that urges me to exit the car and take a respectful knee.

The vampire’s face grimaces, “Yeah, she isn’t in the most right of minds at the moment. You know how she felt about Cassie.”

I do,” I lower my head apologetically. “I know how you felt about her too.”

Quigley had been a result of desperation. Diedre and Cassandra had been so frantic to connect more deeply than that of a nest. After over a millennium of existing side by side in the deepest of love, they finally began seeking a way to weave their existences truly into one. It was what is known as a Binding Union.

And along came Quigley.

Though many vampires of the age had scoffed at Quigley’s mere existence, they could not deny the genius of the Diedre and Cassandra’s plan. Each vampiress had fed from the young priest and then forced an even blend of their blood down his dying throat. Quigley became the only instance of a double sired vampire, and coined the term of Binding Ceremony. His participation in the ritual became known as ‘The Knot’ of the Binding. Through him, Cassandra and Diedre could feel each other at last, much like I can feel Pam through Eric when I desire to do so.

How are you handling her final death?” I ask courteously. I can only imagine the younger vampire is shaken to the core at the loss of one of his Makers. Despite the rough start he had accepting his fate as one of the undead, Quigley eventually adapted and became a rather interesting addition to our culture. He is one of the few truly religious vampires in existence, but when he had been changed, he had cursed Diedre and Cassandra both.

It was not until years later that he felt the genuine love they had for one another, and the regret they bore upon turning him into a vampire for their own wants and desires. That love and regret is what gave the former priest the heart to forgive them and finally accept what he had become. After all, if a creature could love so strongly and still feel regret at harming another for that love, was that creature really evil? Was he truly evil now that he was a vampire?

Quigley shrugs, “I’m pissed off is what I am, but I also know that the arseholes responsible piss you off too. Especially when you see Diedre!”

I frown at Quigley’s words, but give a gesture for my friend to make quick work of getting Diedre into our vehicle for the ride back to Ohio.

Quigley gives me one of his charming grins that contradicts the priest he used to be, and opens the back passenger door for Diedre. The ancient vampiress holds out one complete arm and one stump. I watch sadly as Quigley reaches into the vehicle and lifts what remains of his Maker from the vehicle.

Thank you for your harboring of an old fugitive,” Diedre gives a despondent thanks as she is placed carefully in the backseat. Her destroyed arm was something I was prepared for, but her other injuries were not known to me. There is hardly anything left of her. A torso and a left arm. That is all that remains of the strongest vampire in existence. One leg is completely gone and the other looks as though it could fall off any moment.

You thought we would leave you to fend for yourselves?” I ask as Quigley seats himself behind Camilla.

We knew you wished to be left out of human and vampire politics, but we hoped that you would help,” Diedre replies weakly.

As we speak, Eric, Jason and Sookie are preparing to find out how this happened,” I assure her.

I have information about the methods the extremists are intending to implement,” Diedre replies as Camilla fidgets quietly.

“Excuse me, M’am,” Camilla interrupts softly to get Diedre’s attention. “Is it all right if I record this? It’s going to get back to Eric, and this way nothing gets left out.”

It is fine,” Diedre flicks her wrist impatiently. “It is probably better if my words are saved in case I am unable to speak them again.”

My frown deepens at Diedre’s remark, “What are you talking about?” The recorder in Camilla’s hand clicks as it starts documenting our conversation.

Cassandra’s surviving handmaiden brought me to Quigley. If she had not survived the blast, I would be truly dead,” Diedre begins monotonously. “Someone even my Cassie could not see managed to take her existence and nearly extinguish my own. You of all people should know that Cassie and I are not easily attacked!”

Her progeny places a comforting hand on Diedre’s shoulder and continues for her, “What Diedre’s trying t’say is that she doesn’t believe she’s safe anywhere if Cassie couldn’t even keep her safe. I don’t know she’d want to…-”

Continue existing without her,” I finish for Quigley and the vampire nods as he starts smoothing his beard.

I know it might sound unbelievable to a Bonded vampire,” Quigley gestures to Camilla and myself, “but Cassie was Diedre’s soulmate. If they had met while Cassie was still alive, they would have been Bonded. I know they would have!”

Quigley,” I interrupt his demonstration on the impact the Ancient Pythoness’ demise has had on Diedre, “I have never seen two unrelated vampires maintain such a loving and deep relationship. I have never seen a monogamous, unBonded relationship between two vampires other than Diedre and Cassandra. Believe me when I say I hold their relationship in the highest regard; Bonded or not.”

Diedre lowers her head sadly and Camilla sits awkwardly silent beside me. I can feel that she is self conscious in flaunting her Bond in front of one who has just lost their lover.

Camilla,” I try to give her an escape. We can easily continue this conversation later, “do you need me to pull over for some food?”

No,” she whispers and takes my hand to squeeze it reassuringly.

After Cassandra and her second handmaiden were killed,” Diedre begins once Camilla has settled in, “our residence was burned to the ground. All security personnel perished,” she says bitterly. “There was no mercy for vampire nor mortal. The only ones to escape were myself and the other maiden. She passed shortly after getting me to safety.”

I’m so sorry, Diedre,” Camilla murmurs and reaches for the ancient’s remaining cool hand to squeeze it comfortingly. Diedre looks at my Bonded with surprise and a brief spark of amusement. For ancients like us to be comforted by beings so young, it is… warming.

Thank you, Camilla,” Diedre whispers. She shakes her head to dispel the moment and turns back to me, “From what Cassandra told me before her… final death… there is a hand being dealt. Cassandra told me that once the first spark to the plan is struck, I should bring Quigley, and ask for your protection. I would believe that this is the spark she mentioned.”

Diedre’s expression twists at the foreign request. Normally she is the one granting protection, not asking for it.

We happily offer our protection to you and Quigley,” I assure her.

The most ancient of vampires flops her head against her half-progeny’s shoulder as if she is relaxing for the first moment in years. “I am sorry to be a burden upon you, but I could not bear if something happened to Quigley as well.”

Don’t worry about me, Mum,” Quigley takes her hand and squeezes it affectionately. “You just concentrate on healing.”

All she offers him is a soft, empty smile. It is a smile one makes when no true feeling lives behind it. Vacancy resides in her flat, black eyes, and placation gleams off her bright, white teeth. She has very little interest in healing.

At this moment, I do not have the heart to push her for the information she had offered earlier. Seeing that despondent gaze has paralyzed me. Perhaps it is better to allow Eric and the others to discover more about our enemy and let Diedre rest. Maybe it is better to let her think of Cassandra with love rather than recall the Seer’s shared visions. For now, let her mourn. Information can wait a while longer…

Camilla’s POV:

When we arrive home it’s almost daylight and there’s barely enough time to get our guests tucked away for the day. Their luggage is left in the hallway as I show Quigley to the vampire guest room, and he slips Diedre’s damaged body into a protective cache.

Thanks again,” Quigley says to me as I show him his own reinforced hiding area. We light proofed a spare bedroom and added the fireproof, break-in resistant, insulated (for lack of a better word) caskets. The tiny chambers were anchored into the foundation of the house so they could not be washed away in a flood or carried out while no one was home. Of course, to even attempt walking away with our guest, you’d have to know the code to the hidden spare bedroom. I affectionately refer to our guest room as Fort Knox.

We never meant to tell any community we wouldn’t help when we were needed,” I tell him truthfully.

Then why the big ‘leave us alone’ announcement a couple years ago?” Quigley teases as he closes the lid on his hideaway.

Thanks to his age and vampire hearing, he’ll still be able to hear my reply, “Because we were nervous about how others would take it. Eric might have been feeling a little cocky and wanting for a fight, too.”

I hear an obvious laugh from inside the cache and smile myself. If he replies beyond that, I can’t hear it. Instead, I pat the door and say my farewell.

When I arrive in the kitchen, my Bonded is standing with his arms crossed over his chest and a thoughtful look on his face. I can feel a dose of anguish in the Bond, and I place my head against his chest as my arms wrap around him comfortingly.

What’s wrong?” I ask. What’s wrong? Have you been in a coma these past eight hours, Cammie?

The final death of the Ancient Pythoness is unsettling, Camilla,” Godric tells me. “If she could be taken, any vampire could.”

I nod in agreement, “It seems a little far fetched to believe that any human could get the drop on her, doesn’t it?”

Yes,” he agrees solemnly, a bit reluctant. I know that he doesn’t want to believe anyone in the community would do such a thing, but disregarding the possibility is foolish.

You think a vampire was involved,” I guess and he nods, still reluctant. “Did the Pythoness have any enemies?”

Godric sighs and puts his hands behind him to lean into the kitchen counter. My world tilts with him as I still have him wrapped in my arms. A small smile tugs at my lips. This small ounce of playfulness takes the weight of the evening from my shoulders.

My Bonded finally answers, and I hear a soft amusement in his tone, “That is a difficult question to answer. Being a Seer, she was an enemy of everyone and no one. Those who wished to change the world in an image she would not agree with would be her enemy. Basically, if you had to lie to her, she was in the way.”

I listen to his words and quickly understand his meaning. Cassandra could have been in anyone’s way at any given moment and even she might not have known why at the time of her True Death.

A tiny shiver runs down my spine at the idea. Perhaps Cassandra had seen her own death many times over. Maybe this was the death she chose. Is there ever a future so absolute that even those who could See were still doomed to accept it?

Jason’s POV:

I discretely take a peek at my phone while I wait for the cute-y at the receptionist’s desk to find me a tour guide. Too bad she’s a Fellowship of the Sun nut job, I think with disappointment, but still consider banging her in a nearby office. The little fantasy of giving this girl a few ‘love bites’ and watching the mayhem as she tries to explain them to her zealot friends entertains me for a moment. Then I think of the fact it would mean using my glamour on a girl to give her a dicking and my fantasy turns ugly. A shudder of disgust in myself runs into my center. It would only be funny if she wanted the fang herself.

Sookie: Security office, Matthew, has footage of vamp executions. “Brother Gabe” has target listings and potentially other information. I read the text message that’s just popped up on my phone and frown. I slip my phone back into my pocket and try to make up a plan all on my own. There’s no Eric, Godric, or even a Pam to spoon feed me an idea. The weight of my decisions is all on me for the first time in a long time. The last time I had to think on my own two feet was when Godric called the school to say Cammie had been attacked.

Finally, the start of a plan takes root in my head. After all, I’m really good at two things: glamour and reading vampire minds. Since there’s no vamps to read, that leaves me one option.

Hey, Hannah?” I lean into the receptionist’s personal space, “When’s my tour guide gonna get here?”

Hannah pulls the phone she’s been pressing into her ear away to whisper a reply,“It will only be a minute. I just need to find someone who’s free.” Her smile is amazingly big and white as she tells me in her own way to calm down and be patient. Damn, that’s a beautiful, fucking smile, I think in disappointment. A girl with that pretty a smile shouldn’t be following the FotS. She should be in a soup kitchen feeding the homeless if she wants to feel pious.

Any chance Brother Gabe might be available to give me the tour?” I ask while my eyes bore into hers and instill my glamour. Hannah leans forward dazedly.

Brother Gabe?” she mumbles. Her voice is almost drunken as she falls under my spell.

You will give him a call for me, right? Because he’s not doing anything right now,” I press and watch her hand reach obediently for the phone.

You have to be part of the Soldier program to speak with Brother Gabe,” Hannah replies like an automated message. I guess Gabe is very strict about whom he takes meetings with.

Would Matthew in Security be a good reference to join the Soldier Program?” I press gently.

I hate using my glamour for anything other than covering for my vampirism, but Sook’s text has kinda put me in a spot of necessity. There’s no way I’m getting close to the guys she suggested without the help of some glamour.

Yes, Matthew has brought several recruits through his online message boards,” Hannah tells me in that sweet, drunken haze I’ve put her in.

Then you go ahead and tell Gabe you’ve got a recruit for him that Matthew has convinced to come join,” I instruct her.

Obediently, Hannah picks up her phone and dials slowly. “Gabe, I need you to give a potential recruit a tour,” Hannah says into the phone casually. “He’s here in the reception area.”

How did he hear of the Soldier Program?” I hear from the other end of the phone.

Hannah answers with a rather natural pause, “Matthew from Security recommended him. They’ve been talking through a message board online.”

Ask him to let me meet Matthew too so I can shake his hand,” I tell Hannah in a soft, commanding whisper.

Any chance you can bring Matt along with you? The potential recruit would like to greet him in person,” Hannah adds.

There’s a long pause on Gabe’s end of the line after Hannah gives him my risky request. Suddenly, Gabe hangs up and Hannah smiles up at me.

What’s up?” I ask of Hannah.

She shrugs and starts filing her nails. My glamour has waned smoothly from her, and she goes about like everything that has transpired in the last few minutes was completely normal. I clear my throat reflexively as I wait quietly.

Soon the door from the hallway I was in a bit ago flings open and a big, crew cutted guy and a nerdy looking tech guy are standing in the receptionist’s area.

Hey there, nice to meet both of you,” I reach out to shake Gabe’s hand and as I do, I take his mind quietly into my control. “I was hoping you’d give me a tour of the Soldier Program. I’m very interested in it.” Matthew looks at me a bit aghast.

Of course,” Gabe replies quietly, subdued.

And I’d like copies of your vampire executions,” I enthrall Matthew next before he fully realizes why Gabe is following my commands so easily. The stench of his suspicion nearly broke my concentration, but now I have two well glamoured men following my orders while Hannah sits at her desk blissfully unaware of the lion she’s let into the hen house.

I’ll get right on that,” Matthew responds obediently.

Leave them with Hannah and tell her to give them to me when I return. Tell her they are recruitment discs,” I command quickly before putting Gabe into action.

Sure thing,” Matthew exits robotically as Gabe starts leading me out of the greeting area.

I want the lists of your marks, blueprints of the facility, and numbers for all your contacts that helped you get information on your targets,” I command Gabe as we walk briskly down the hall. In no time, I’m in his office with a pile information. I got notebooks, tape recordings, blueprints… How the fuck am I s’pose to walk out with all this shit without being suspicious to non-glamoured folks? It’s then that I remember I have the other set of keys to our car rental. Lord knows Eric wasn’t about to give the other set to Sookie! I give them to Gabe, “Go put this all in my car and lock it back up. Then come back here to me.”

Gabe takes the keys obediently and goes to perform his assigned tasks. Man, I feel like a dickweed, but this is a matter of life and death… and final death…

With that excuse becoming a mantra in my head, I start snooping around Gabe’s office. I read up on the Soldiers of the Sun and a bunch of other propaganda as I realize, partially, what’s going on. Even with a quick glimpse at some of the documents Gabe’s currently putting in the car, I have a sinking suspicion about everything.

There’s a vamp out there using the Fellowship as his scapegoat. No doubt there’s some kinda incriminating evidence at all the murdered vamps’ places linking them to the Fellowship. Shit, I wouldn’t be surprised if the FotS just started taking credit on their own!

I start wondering if the Ancient Pythoness knew when she was going to die. I know she’d seen it. She’d shown me she had several years ago when we first met. The thought makes my fangs throb, and not in the good way. It’s almost like when I’d get shivers down my spine as a human, only it’s in my mouth now. I feel that vibration all the way into my cheekbones, and my eyes shake a bit. Dang.

At least the Pythoness sees Thorn being whole again in the future, and I guess she meets someone. That must’ve torn the Pythoness up to see the love of her existence with someone else. I hope Thorn at least has a considerable grieving period.

My thoughts are interrupted then as Gabe returns and hands me my car keys back. He’s still obedient, and waits for further instruction. As I am about to break the glamour, I realize this guy’s gonna realize at some point that a bunch of his information is missing, and the security footage is going to show me as the last person he was with before it went missing.

Another idea comes to mind and I take in Gabe’s line of sight once more. I impress upon him that I am Steve Newlin giving him an order.

Your contact has been compromised, and is recalling all leaked information to be gone over with a fine toothed comb,” I tell Gabe. “You delivered that information to a courier while taking a meeting with a new recruit. Once the information has been authenticated, it will be returned with a new list of names.”

Gabe’s eyes blink once I tell him what he did this afternoon, and he nods gravely, “It’s a good thing our informant noticed the mistake before one of our people got caught. It’s too soon for our involvement to be known.”

I tilt my head curiously, “Why is that?”

Because our Big Mark isn’t back in the country yet,” Gabe replies with a shrug.

Oh, shit, I think in bewilderment. “Who’s the ‘Big Mark’?!”

Don’t know yet. I only know that I was told we can’t let the media know of our involvement until we take care of the ‘Big Mark’,” Gabe shrugs again and I want to beat my head against a wall.

“Do you know
anything about it? Where it will take place?” I try to press.

Gabe’s brow furrows. I feel him pushing against my glamour and realize that I’m overstepping what his mind is willing to accept. Steve Newlin trying to get information out of Gabe makes no sense to his mind. Steve tells him what is going on, not the other way around.

Instead of pushing further, I end the glamour marathon and head back to the reception area while Gabe recovers from my mind control. I wait for Sookie and Eric to return from their own tour.

Hopefully there will be clues in our notes… Hopefully Sookie has found out some things of her own.

On to Chapter Fifty-One

Catalyst Ch. 49

Chapter Forty-Nine: Playing Spies

March 2009

Eric’s POV:

Sookie,” I growl against my wife’s lips as she kisses me urgently, “you have to leave for work.”

Just one more time,” Sookie pleads as her stocking encased thighs squeeze my hip. She is dressed for work, minus her bottoms, and she has never looked so delicious.

I groan and pull her mouth back to mine while giving her bottom a soft smack with my hand. The playful attack makes her body tremble excitedly, “Go to work.”

My Sookie pouts as she rolls off of me and onto the floor. She huffs and shakes her bottom with its soft, pink glow.

Dear One,” I sigh as she pulls a thong from her panty drawer and slides it up her legs, “please stop trying to break my resolve.” She snaps the elastic against her hip and I purse my lips in response. “You are a devil.”

I’m an angel and you know it,” she teases as she grabs her slacks and slips them over her legs. Gods, I want to rip those off and take her against the chest of drawers!

As I watch my wife finish dressing for work and walk her to the garage for a departing kiss, I have a moment to reflect on the last couple years.

After the reuniting of the family, I felt Sookie’s spirits rise once more. Though the doubts returned occasionally, it was obvious that they did not consume her like before. It was a relief to me, but also quite bitter. The realization that my Bonded needed more than me was a disappointment, but I remained considerably calm about the epiphany. After all, with youth comes uncertainty and a mild level of discontentment.

Thankfully, her crisis of faith seemed to ease with the arrival of Camilla and Pam. I do not know what they said to her, but when everyone returned that evening, Sookie was in better spirits than I had seen since arriving in Ohio. She began getting to know the neighbors, and took on a job teaching summer classes. My wife began befriending other teachers, and she started dragging me out in the evening for gatherings.

It is with a happy smile that I spend my morning and early afternoon going through business emails and combing through Compton’s most recent information leaks. Another vampire nest was attacked? The news distracts me through the remainder of the day until I hear my wife return.

What are you up to, Dear One?” I ask, arriving in the study to find Sookie setting a stack of papers on her coffee table. She has continued to refuse using a real desk to do her work. She insists that working on the floor makes it feel more fun.

Grading some papers,” she answers. Sookie looks up at me with a soft smile as she turns on the TV to prattle on in the background.

I smile as I come sit on the couch behind her. She is on the floor, legs crossed lotus style and poised beautifully beside the coffee table. As she lowers her head to continue grading, I reach forward and begin rubbing her shoulders. Her pen quickly falls to the coffee table and she groans.

We remain like that for a while. I rub her shoulders, and she moans softly as I work out the knots from noisy children and overdo assignments.

~ “Soulless creatures have no rights!” screams Reverend Newlin who is being interviewed on the news. “My church is about the preservation of humanity, and encourages the true children of God to heed not the denizens of darkness!”~

My ears tune out the “reverend’s” words. He has been making quite a stir lately, and Nan Flannigan is becoming increasingly frustrated by his rantings. Twice now they have been put on the news together to debate vampire/human politics, and both times Newlin refused to speak directly to her. Instead he spoke to the prompter, and ignored every statement the vampire representative made.

This afternoon the bigot is being interviewed by himself, and he is further proving his extremist views. Just as his “sermon” is hitting a screaming stride, he is interrupted by the news anchor.

~ “Excuse me one moment Reverend, but we have breaking news,” Chad Spencer interjects. The camera pans to square him in the shot, and the anchor speaks into the camera. “According to overnight reports that have only just now been confirmed; no less than five vampires were slain in the Dallas area last night. Additionally, this station has been tracking vampire slayings for the past six months after a rash of murders occurred-”

Something dead and evil cannot be murdered!” Newlin admonishes the anchor’s statements.

Without breaking his professionalism, Chad continues as if an outburst had not just happened, “- that brings this years wrongful vampire deaths to eighteen nationwide!”

“Do God’s work, true followers of Jesus!”
Newlin cries.~

I quickly shut off the television and Sookie and I sit stock still in the study.

We are absorbed in silence a long time before Sookie finally whispers, “What’s going on?”

Leaning back into the sofa, I confess, “Compton has been telling me for a few weeks now that there has been an uncomfortable number of vampire slayings this year.”

How many?” she asks cautiously.

In addition to the eighteen you just heard reported, there have been five others,” I tell her.

Twenty-three murders in six months?” Sookie leans forward, pulling her knees up to her chest. I see as she rests her head against her knees that she is considering the magnitude of the number. “Is it hate crimes?”

That is what Compton and quite a few other vampires are thinking,” I answer. “Four nests were struck accounting for the eighteen True Deaths the reporter announced. The other five occurred among individuals who took home a meal from a bar.”

Drainers?” she guesses.

I nod, “I would guess so.”

She frowns a moment before stating, “Isn’t tracking down and killin’ a nest of vampires supposed to be difficult?”

It is, and the nests that were struck were not what we would consider ‘at risk’. Three of the four nests were mainstreaming and not putting themselves purposefully at odds with humans. The fourth nest was a pair of older vampires both over the age of five hundred. They should have known how to keep safe.”

You think it’s organized.”

I do.”

Do you know by whom?” she presses.

It is my own turn to frown now, and I point loosely to the television.

That crazy Newlin guy!?” Sookie gasps.

A figurehead. His son has been doing far worse in Dallas. Over half the destroyed nests happened in the Dallas/ Fort Worth Area,” I confess. “Theodore Newlin has accomplished most of his roaring from Utah as of late, and left Dallas to his son. Steve Newlin has stayed mostly in Texas.”

Wasn’t the Dallas/ Fort Worth area Godric’s Area before we were Bonded?” she wonders.

It was, but last I heard, it was under the control of Isabel. She has been in control of that Area since before vampires came out of the coffin. Actually,” I pause to reflect, “if I remember correctly, she still calls Godric from time to time for advice.”

Sookie watches intently as I reach for my phone and call my Maker.

Yes, Eric?” Godric’s voice answers politely after the first ring.

Master, have you heard from Isabel lately?” I ask.

There is a pause before he replies, “Not since last year when she told me she had taken a human lover.”

‘That information strikes me as peculiar,’ I think guardedly. “She called you to gush about her human?”

Godric chuckles, “No, she called to talk to me about the expansion of the Fellowship of the Sun facility. Hugo merely came up after we talked business.”

What was her concern about the FoTS?” I ask.

From what she was able to glean, there was no order for the expansion. She believed Steve Newlin was preparing to do more than merely denounce the vampire community, but also work toward destroying it,” he tells me.

Have you read or heard about the number of destroyed nests?” I press, trying to keep the anger from my voice.

I have, but have yet to determine a course of action,” he confesses.

Sookie, who has had her ear pressed against the phone, chimes in, “What if Eric and I went to Dallas and did some snooping?”

Excuse me?” Godric replies with surprise.

The Fellowship considers themselves a church, right? We can go there under the guise of being new to the area, and scoping out a new church for after the move,” she explains.

Eric?” I can hear the hesitant hopefulness in my Maker’s voice.

He likes this plan, but I have my concerns over bringing Sookie into such a place. My wife is fiery. Some of the things she could hear might make it difficult for her to maintain her poise. But, I look at her appraisingly and remember that she hears unsavory things all day. Our short nine years together have proven time and again that I underestimate her abilities far too often. My wife is fiery, but she is also strong, resilient and smart.

If Sookie is willing to do this, I am too,” I reply to my Maker at last. Godric releases a slow breath. “I would like to take Jason as well. If he can sense a vampire mind nearby, it might imply there is a traitor to our kind.”

This will be Sookie and Jason’s first reconnaissance mission,” Godric points out.

I am aware. It is better for him to train among humans rather than vampires,” I remind and Godric chuckles an agreement. “We will leave this weekend.”

Sookie’s POV:

Godric called ahead to warn Isabel that we’d be doing some snooping in Area 9, but as the plane begins its descent, I can’t help but feel anxious and a bit excited. Isabel’s human is supposed to be meeting us at the airport, and as far as he knows, we’re humans who are vampire sympathizers. Our story is that we are part of an organization trying to prevent vampire hate crimes. Eric explained that the vampire community created a law stating the nature of our existence was not to be known by any humans. I guess it’s for moments like these…

As my family lands in Dallas, and we find ourselves at the gate, I can already see a man holding up a sign that says ‘Northman’. He’s good looking. Dark brown hair, professional looking. Godric told us he’s a lawyer.

‘Shit, the burner cell is still in my office… I’ll drop them at their hotel and slip back later-‘ I hear from our escort during a precursory scan of his mind.

Taking Eric’s hand I tug him away from Hugo like we never even saw him. Jason looks at us confusedly, but follows without a word. When we’re on our way to the car rental area, my brother finally says, “Leak?”

Yup,” I respond. “Stay away from him.”

You are certain?” Eric asks me.

Pretty darn,” I reply, “but I want to meet him on my terms, not his. Somewhere without all this white noise.”

I will have Isabel arrange a meeting with him later,” Eric replies and kisses the top of my head. “We will have to make other room reservations as well. If he had any part in the process, our room could be compromised.”

Agreed,” I nod.

All right,” Jason adds, “I’ll grab our bags and meet ya around front.”

Thank you,” Eric nods at him.

As we stand patiently in line for a rental, Eric takes out his cell phone and calls around for a hotel room. By the time we’re at the front of the line, we have a new reservation, and Jason is standing with us, holding all our bags.

Finally we get our rental car, and as we leave to retrieve it, Hugo passes us. I watch him intently as he throws the cardboard sign with our last name into the trash.

‘Did they miss the flight? Maybe Isabel died for the day when they called… At least I got time to clean up some more of this mess!’

Eric,” I whisper, “tail him. He’s gonna dispose of information. Jason and I will meet you back at the hotel.”

Look at you,” Jason snickers, “commanding this badass like some sorta Head of the CIA!”

Watch out for your sister,” Eric tells my brother before disappearing into the throng of people.

I don’t know how you lose a 6’5” vampire in a crowd of humans during the day, but my husband is a master of his art. That’s for sure.

When Jason and I are in the car, he wastes no time grilling me.

So, what happened?” Jason whispers as we hit the road.

Unfolding the map I grabbed at the car rental, I look for our destination, “Head North on the Parkway and then take it to the One-Fourteen East. Looks like a drive to the hotel.”

Sook,” Jason stops me, “what’s goin’ on?”

Hugo is part of the problem,” I sigh. “I don’t know how much of it, but definitely enough not to trust. We made a new reservation at the Hyatt, and are going to meet with Hugo under our terms tomorrow. Eric’s gonna track him for now, see if he tries to dispose of any more information. We don’t want to accuse Isabel of anything without evidence. For now, she’s as much a victim as anyone else.”

Jason nods slowly as he weaves in and out of traffic. “So we may have already found the mole?”

Maybe,” I frown thoughtfully. “I don’t want to assume anything. There have been nests that were hit outside of Dallas. That’s information Isabel wouldn’t necessarily know. If Hugo is behind this, he can’t be working on just the information that was available to Isabel.”

Jason runs his hand through his hair in a frustrated tell, and I pat his thigh soothingly. “You think the FotS got other informants?”

They must,” I shrug. “If Isabel were the only common link between the destroyed nests, someone would have put it together a lot faster than you or me.”

I guess that’s true enough. Heck, if the only link anyone’s seen so far is the Fellowship, anyone could be informing to them. They got a bunch of followers nationwide. They even condone draining, although not the consumption of blood.”

You’ve been doing your homework,” I laugh.

Ever since I became a vamp I’ve been trying to catch up. Although, I don’t really like it when Eric takes me out back into the woods and shoots me. Bullets hurt,” he whines.

Just so long as he doesn’t stab you at random around the house. Your blood took me an hour to get outta the carpet,” I complain.

Jason snorts, but nods in agreement, “I told him he can stab, shoot and maim me all he likes outside or at my house, but he said he wants me on guard at all times.”

I knew I should have gotten hardwood floors throughout the entire house,” I pout.

A smirk tugs at my brother’s lips and he just shakes his head. With the mood moderately lightened, we make the remaining journey in thoughtful silence. I know that we’re both wondering what we’ll learn when Eric returns.


It’s almost five in the afternoon when my husband knocks on the hotel room door, and I let him in. Jason sits up on the sofa when Eric enters with a trash bag tucked under his arm.

He went to his office, was there for about twenty minutes, and then emerged with this. He drove to a nearby strip mall and threw it into a dumpster behind a set of shops,” Eric explains as he tears open the bag and dumps the contents on the table. “I retrieved it and then followed him to Isabel’s residence. He appeared to be in until sunset.”

There’s a bunch of shredded paper on the coffee table and a smashed cellphone. I pick up the phone and examine it. “The SIM card is intact!” I quickly pop out the chip and hand it to my brother. He’d suggested purchasing a SIM card reader, and now I’m grateful that he did. At first I just thought he wanted one so he could feel like a real spy.

Soon we have a list of contacts, retrieved text messages, and a voicemail that is still processing retrieval.

While this is happenings, Eric and I work together to put the confetti of the shredded documents back together. It only takes a few successfully reconstructed pieces to determine what information they had told, but it’s tedious obtaining even that small bit of information.

Wait, this looks like a name and house address,” I chime in.

Eric stops what he’s doing to look at my project. “That is the leader of the last nest that was destroyed,” he informs me.

So, he’s definitely the leak,” I say, still looking for more pieces to put together.

Yes, but the last nest was not in Isabel’s Area,” Eric leans back thoughtfully. “It is a printout. That implies it was sent to him, not told or stolen; not by Hugo at least.”

Someone has been giving locations to Hugo to spill to the Fellowship?” I ask.

Jason interrupts us, “Hey, I just checked one of these contacts. None got names, but there’s three total. Two got area codes for Dallas, but this one is from Nevada.”

Eric glances over Jason’s shoulder to look at the number. “The Nevada number is only incoming, and the two Dallas numbers are only outgoing. That means Hugo called whomever owns these number.”

While Eric and Jason talk about the mysterious Nevada number, I’m still piecing together hopeless shreds of documents. Finally, I come across another shred that appears to be part of the ‘hit list’ document.

Eric, I think I found another victim’s address,” I call to my husband as I’ve managed to piece together more of the paper.

Eric barely glances over my shoulder when I feel surprise and fear flash through the Bond. Next thing I know, Eric has his phone out, and he’s dialing like his life depends on it.

What is it?” Jason asks as Eric begins pacing. He pulls the phone from his ear and dials again. “Eric?”

I’m sitting quietly, waiting, as Eric keeps trying to call someone over and over again. After the third redial, he pauses and runs his hand through his hair. He seems to think for a moment before trying his phone again. This time, someone answers.

Quigley!” Eric barks into the phone, making me and Jason both jump. The quiet had been so tense that the abrupt interruption startles us. “I need you to check on Cassandra and Diedre.” I really wish I had vampire hearing. “My family is investigating some wrongful, final deaths. We have evidence that suggests the two of them could be in danger.”

Jason tenses beside me, but I don’t ask what this Quigley vampire is saying. Eric will tell me what’s going on as soon as the situation is brought back under control.

What do you mean?” Eric demands. He pauses as Quigley gives some sort of story, and when he replies again, his voice is subdued, “You are certain?” Jason’s body is shaking like a leaf, and I put out a hand to run over his back soothingly. “I will call Godric to meet you in Pittsburgh… He will bring you two to safety.”

Two, I think. Someone is dead. Either Diedre or this Cassandra. I pause as I remember who rarely goes by the name ‘Cassandra’.

The Ancient Pythoness is dead,” I whisper knowingly. All Jason can manage is a nod as Eric hangs up with Quigley and presumably calls Godric. My suspicion is confirmed as I hear Eric coordinating the safety measures for Quigley and Diedre.

When Eric hangs up for the final time, he turns to me and my brother. “Yes, the Ancient Pythoness has been ended. Diedre is in terrible condition. According to Quigley, her left arm has been blown off, and she is in complete despair over Cassandra’s death. One of Cassandra’s handmaidens managed to pull Diedre from the explosion and keep her protected from the sun. Diedre was brought to Quigley, and they are waiting until nightfall to flee.”

Who’s Quigley?” Jason asks.

He is about my age, and the only surviving progeny of Diedre,” Eric explains shortly, but something in the Bond and my husband’s eyes tells me it is far more complicated than that. “You will meet him when we return home.”

So, what do we do?” I finally ask.

Eric considers my question a moment before answering, “We have until nine tomorrow morning to put as much of this information back together as possible. I will call Isabel and tell her we will not be arriving until tomorrow at four in the afternoon. That will give us six hours to infiltrate the Fellowship, retrieve as much information as possible, and meet with Isabel and Hugo tomorrow evening.”

We’re going to fly behind their backs,” Jason nods in understanding.

Yes,” Eric confirms. “Jason, I will need you to find out if Isabel had any part in this. You know your signals.”

Yeah, I got ya,” Jason assures.

Sookie,” my husband turns to me, “we need anything and everything you can glean at the church tomorrow. We have to find out if any other vampires are targets. Especially ancients. The loss of the Ancient Pythoness will be spread world wide in a few hours, and if a Seer and ancient can be destroyed, then no vampire is safe.”

I’ll get back to this puzzle,” I promise him.

For the next several hours, the three of us are putting together the shredded documents. Jason has to break to feed, and I’m working with a piece of pizza hanging out of my mouth.

Around 4 AM, Eric’s on his phone, and giving a shopping list to someone. I hear things like: colored contacts, hair dye, hand warmers, self-tanning lotion, and a wig. At 5AM there’s a knock at the door, and when Eric answers, there’s no one there but a big bag.

I watch in dismay as my husband starts chopping off all his beautiful hair while on the phone with Isabel. Then he’s dying it, and I’m just praying he has no intention of doing the same to me!

Thankfully, my disguise comes in the form of a wig and some colored contacts. They make my eyes into a muddy brown color, and I’ll be grateful to have my own blue eyes back at the end of the day. Jason gets his hair dyed next, and some dull brown contacts like mine.

Around seven in the morning, the three of us look like completely different people. I find my ‘Sunday Best’ to wear to this meeting, and get used to my 6’5”, black haired, green eyed husband. This is too freaky!

You’ll grow it back out, right?” I ask hopefully.

Tomorrow,” he promises and gives me a kiss. A strange little thrill knots up my stomach. It’s like being kissed by a stranger; a stranger whose mouth feels comfortingly familiar. “Or I could wait?” he looks at me amusedly, having felt my little, excited swoon.

You can wait until I leave for work on Monday,” I whisper to my husband and he just laughs at my suggestion.

Aw, ew!” Jason makes a face, but I can see the teasing in his eyes.

At nine, I take a deep breath as my husband takes my hand. It’s finally time to go on my first mission. It’s scary and thrilling at the same time, but with my brother and my husband on either side of me, I’m ready!

Eric’s POV:

It is moments like these that I wish there were a way for Jason or Sookie to be able to communicate telepathically with the family.

Oh, you must be Mr. and Mrs. Daniels! My name is Hannah!” A bubbling receptionist greets me and Sookie. “And this is your brother, Jacob, right?” She bats her eyelashes at my brother-in-law.

I chose for us to use fake names that at least began with the same letter or sound of our original names. Hopefully if our newest spies have a slip up, they will have time to catch themselves seamlessly. Or maybe it will only be more confusing for them? I wonder a bit nervously. Pam was over one hundred by the time I felt she was ready for something like this.

Yes,” I reply as warmly as I can muster, which is surprisingly toasty. After all, I would not have survived as long as I have if I could not keep my enemies close.

Hey there.” Jason gives the woman a playful wink and I laugh internally at her rosy blush.

Reverend Newlin is planning to meet with you in just a moment. If you’d like to wait in his office, I am sure he will be by in just a few minutes.”

A moment later we are shut into the den of the lion, and I look to my wife for indication of our next move.

Oh, what a lovely office,” she comments. “Aren’t those paintings beautiful, Elijah,” She points to a rather underwhelming portrait of Jesus. This is her way of informing me and her brother that we are being observed. Jason and I put our hands in our pockets, using disposable hand warmers to increase the temperature of our skin. It would be concerning to the humans if we avoided skin contact as simple as a handshake.

Yes, very inspiring,” I agree, gazing emptily at the artists rendition of the Messiah.

I dunno,” Jason frowns. “Where’s the big ol’ crucifix? Remember Reverend Jones had that giant one in his office?”

You cannot judge a man by the size of his artifacts, Jacob,” I smirk at Jason amusedly.

Jason chuckles and shakes his head, “I guess I was hopin’ for a little flavor of home.”

Thankfully our forced nonchalance is ended with the opening of the double doors to the office. With a well worn in smile, Steve Newlin enters and greets all of us kindly.

Hi there, folks,” Newlin shakes my and Jason’s hands. When he bends to kiss Sookie’s hand she giggles and pulls away before his lips can touch her skin. “A chaste wife. What a catch, Mr. Daniels.”

Yes, she is,” I agree easily, but can feel Sookie’s unease after touching Newlin’s hand. I am proud that her internal recoil was so beautifully masked as chasteness.

Newlin gestures to the seats in the office, and my family sits casually before our enemy.

I hear you folks are moving to Dallas and are scoping out the local churches?” Newlin asks.

That’s right,” I reply. “Sandra and I are hoping to be starting a family soon, and it is very important to her that our children grow up with a strong religious upbringing.”

Newlin appears to fall into our story, gleefully expressing his agreement with my wife. The pair talk animatedly about their views, Sookie maintaining her charming exterior as I feel our Bond sloshing with an overflow of annoyance and disgust.

After a few moments, Jason injects himself into Newlin’s focus to give his sister time and concentration to scan the rest of the area mentally. After a few minutes, I note her fingers tapping rhythmically against her knee. She has discovered something.

Do you think we might be granted a tour?” I interrupt Jason’s conversation abruptly. “I would like to see what sort of events and organizations we will be able to join.”

Does the church provide any daycare?” Sookie presses.

Yes and yes,” Newlin replies jovially. “Follow me.” He rises from his desk chair and leads us from the office. “If you come this way, I will show you the chapel, and then we can tour the outer buildings of the compound.”

Compound?” Jason frowns. “You got housing here?”

For some of our more devout parishioners,” Newlin answers easily. “Our presence of faith is very strong, and many of my flock choose to donate their worldly goods and live humble lives within the church grounds.”

That is quite impressive, Reverend,” Sookie tells him.

Y’all don’t have any singles’ events, do you?” Jason jokes.

“As a matter of fact, we do. We understand that it is difficult for our flock to encounter like minded people, and that many have been put in very dangerous situations in their pursuits of finding a companion,” Newlin clucks his tongue sympathetically.

You think you could find me my own tour of the church? Honestly, Sandra and I are lookin’ for very different things,” Jason remarks.

Of course,” Newlin gestures back to the receptionist area. “Go ahead and ask Hannah if she can find someone to give you a tour of your own.”

Thanks very much,” Jason grins at him and waves goodbye to us.

Reverend, would you mind very much if I use the ladies’ room before we begin our tour?” Sookie asks politely, gesturing to the facility. I know she is trying to break away long enough to text Jason whatever information she has gleaned and instruct him on what he should be doing while away from Newlin.

My wife returns quickly, and smiles apologetically before we begin our tour. It is boring and tedious to be in Newlin’s company, but I must let Sookie concentrate on finding out as much as possible.

Every so often I feel her hand flutter against mine. This is not one of our silent signals, but a physical tell of what is happening in the Bond. She is sad, a little distressed by what she is hearing, and not for the first time, I wish I could do this for her. I wish I was able to listen to the entire world; human, two-natured or vampire. If it meant that my wife and her brother were not forced to hear the unsavory worlds of mortals and supernaturals, I would take the burden for them a hundred fold.

Instead I am forced to play the decoy as my wife and brother perform reconnaissance. Admittedly, Jason blends in far easier than I do. His glamouring skills have also come along nicely. I think it is the fairy in him that makes the magic flow so smoothly. Perhaps his months of being unable to glamour was the time it took his magics to align and cooperate with one another.

This is, of course, only speculation; one that I consider to distract my mind from the conversation I must engage in with Steve Newlin.

Oh!” Steve grins wide as a perky blonde approaches us. “Here is my wife! Sarah, this is Elijah and Sandra Daniels.”

So nice to meet you!” Sarah shakes Sookie’s hand and then mine. I purposefully brush my fingertips against the inside of her wrist and laugh internally at the response such a little flirt brings. There are few things more entertaining than making the “righteous” consider lustful musings. However, my entertainment is quickly ended when I feel my wife’s anger in the Bond. It is the quickest, tiniest flare of jealousy, but very new to me. I do not believe I have drawn jealousy from her ever before.

As quickly as it came, Sookie’s mood settles, and she takes my hand once more. We continue our tour with the Newlins, and I do believe we have seen a fair majority of the grounds. Finally, we are back in the receptionist’s area, and Jason is waiting patiently for us. I thank my stars that he has completed his mission and we do not need to dwell here any longer.

On to Chapter Fifty!

Catalyst Ch. 48

Chapter Forty-Eight: Faith

Sookie’s POV:

Eric!” I whoop excitedly once my husband arrives in the driveway. I can’t even wait for him to pull into the garage before I’m running out the door and bouncing like a toddler for him to scoop me into his arms.

He seems just as impatient because he throws the car into park, gets out of it and wraps me up into a tight hug. His lips find mine quickly and soon I find myself twisting my arms and legs around him. “I missed you,” he murmurs against my mouth.

I missed you, too,” I assure him. “Three days felt like forever!”

How is Camilla doing?” he asks me next as we just stand hugging in the driveway, the car still running and its driver side door hanging open.

She’s just fine. A little weak from being still for so long and not eating, but she’ll be right as rain by the end of the week,” I reassure him. “Godric’s good, too. Where’s Pam?”

Pam took a flight to New York to gather her things and make her way back to Shreveport. She is going to stay with Godric and Camilla until the end of the school year. All three of them will come North after graduation,” he tells me.

I pout a bit. I miss Pam. Heck, I miss having another girl around. Hanging with my brother and husband all the time is great, but sometimes a girl just wants her girlfriends. Even though I’ve only been without the two of them for a month now, it already feels a bit lonely.

Any ideas what’s been going on?” I ask worriedly.

Eric frowns as he nods, “I have some theories. This attempt on Camilla was more than likely meant to have us tip our hand. Although Lorena seemed to have been acting of her own accord, it does not mean it will not have inspired others to try and neutralize us.”

I don’t like the sound of that, but Camilla’s mind can’t be erased. She can’t even be put into that coma thing again. The rest of us can only be hurt, not killed, so I guess I gotta amp up my pain tolerance…

Sookie, everything will work out,” Eric tells me comfortingly.

I know,” I whisper. “What makes you so positive, though?”

Because we have time and experience on our sides. We know a threat is looming and that is all I need to know to protect you.” Though every part of me has faith in Eric, I’m still feeling something like disappointment. “What is it, Sookie?”

I’m not sure,” I confess slowly.

Eric sighs and presses his forehead against mine, “Go inside and let me park the car, Sookie. Then we will talk.”

Instead of pushing for answers, I do as he suggested and go to the kitchen to make myself some tea. Tea is good. Even if I’d prefer coffee…

When my Bonded arrives in the kitchen, I look up from my steaming mug and wait for him to deliver whatever bad news it is he’s keeping to himself.

As we discussed before my departure, I am noticing shifts in policies and political positions that are… Telling,” Eric announces as he sits at the counter and pauses. At first I think it’s because he’s trying to emphasize the issue, maybe even increase the drama, but I realize it is because he could hear the family moving to join us. Soon Godric, Camilla, and Jason are all there, so Eric continues, “The vampire community knows our stance. They are aware if they want to take arms against humans, they will be fighting our bloodline and our allies. The attack on Camilla was probably meant to force our hand. If we had any sort of vulnerability, it would have been exploited to allow Camilla to be restored or even to allow Godric to end his and Camilla’s lives.”

Godric gives his Bonded a sheepish, apologetic look. None of us miss the exasperated eye roll she gives him in return.

Instead, we proved the attack was inconsequential,” Jason points out. “So, wouldn’t that mean they’re gonna have to alter their plans?”

Eric shakes his head, “Alter, yes. Scrap, no. I have taken William Compton on as an informant. We will see if his new loyalty to us is genuine, and take action from there. His current job is tracking Grissom down so we can give him a long overdue staking. With any luck, the attack upon Camilla is separate from whatever plan the rest of the vampire community is forming.”

Theories?” Godric asks, taking a seat and pulling Cammie into his side a bit tighter. He seems unmoved by Grissom’s death sentence.

My husband frowns and crosses his arms over his chest, “I am not prepared with many, but I am hoping that these political shifts are just advantageous maneuvering. Perhaps the intention is to push laws that would protect the vampire community into the human justice system. I only considered nefarious action because of the attack upon Camilla. Now that I know Lorena is the one who initiated it, I am less certain that it was a purposeful move toward some world changing goal. The fact that Lorena is the one who took the action of glamouring the human who attacked Camilla only assures me that it was not some conspiracy. If multiple vampires had been involved, Lorena would have suggested someone unconnected to Compton initiate the attack. She did not know with whom she could align against us.”

That makes much more sense to me,” Godric agrees. “After all, if some sort of plan for our destruction were intended, it would have been much more difficult to find an unwavering group to take on the task. The second we announced our immunities to the vampire world, they knew any failure would be their death sentence. If this had been an organized attack, we would have been pelted with bombs and fire the second I sought out my progeny.”

So the war is on us? The war the Ancient Pythoness saw?” Jason asks in confusion. “That doesn’t make any sense. That’s not what I saw at all!”

What did you see, Jason?” Godric asks patiently.

Vamps killin’ humans,” Jason frowns thoughtfully, and I see this look on his face that makes my heart ache. Something in the Pythoness’ vision has stirred him deeply. “A lot. In churches, on the streets and just all over. A bunch of ancient vamps were killed too.”

It is difficult for a Seer to interpret what and when they See, Jason,” Godric tells him gently. “The reflective glimpse you stole from one is not very telling.”

My brother makes a displeased face at his Maker’s point, “I guess that’s true, but why would Diedre and the Pythoness get all worked up and try to force our hand like that if it wasn’t meant to stint a war?”

Because we wanted to keep hiding…

Because,” I whisper, “we were scared to show off our power. You said yourselves, Endymion was there confirming all these powers. We were just going to keep hiding in the shadows, not really letting anyone know that you guys had your immunities. Endymion, Diedre and the Pythoness want us to be a deterrent. Maybe we are already stopping a war. Maybe our very existence is what really matters, and that others know we exist.”

That would explain the desperation Diedre was experiencing, as well as her momentary displeasure at the wedding,” Eric considers my point. “She knew that we had every intention of maintaining our secret for the time being.”

Godric interrupts our musings with his own theory, “Perhaps we should make another announcement to the vampire community.”

Such as?” Eric asks.

The Master of the Bloodline smiles, “With the existence of V addicts and drainers, perhaps we should assure the community that we will protect them from human threats as we would protect humans from vampire threats.”

What do you foresee that entailing?” Eric raises his eyebrows skeptically.

Godric shrugs, “Stopping a drainer if we happen upon one. Keeping our homes stocked with blood in the event that a weakened vampire finds himself upon our doorstep, and maintaining light proofed chambers if they need shelter.”

My lips tilt into a smile, “I like the sound of that.”

You do?” Eric asks me in surprise.

Of course,” I laugh. “I don’t want anyone to be hurt; not vampires, humans, Weres… Anyone.”

Speaking of two-natured folk,” Jason raises his hand slowly. “We got an unpopped shifter at the school, and he’s adopted without any two-natured support system. We tried calling the Pack Master around here, but he said in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t want anything to do with this kid. I guess his parents got themselves ostracized from the local pack, and now he’s on his own with adoptive, human parents.”

I see.” Eric frowns and leans back into his seat thoughtfully. “I will have to make a call in the morning.”

I smile gratefully at my Bonded and lean my head against his shoulder. Suddenly the future doesn’t feel so daunting. Even though I’ll have to wait longer than I’d like to have my girlfriends back by my side, it’s not so scary or sad now that a war isn’t about to break out. Cammie is well, and Eric’s taken care of part of the problem. I’m sure Godric will take care of the other part of the problem posthaste.

For the first time I can remember, the “vampire stuff” is a lot less frightening. In a way, it feels justified.

But why is my stomach shrinking at the idea of it? Why is my heart pounding in objection?

Eric’s POV:

After our meeting has adjourned, I look around the room with a bit of annoyance. With so many additional vampires in the house, I know it will be a chore convincing my Bonded to make love, and after so many days apart, I am anxious to do so.

Eric,” My wife takes my hand and tugs me toward the door. “Will you take me out for some dinner? I’m feeling cooped up.”

I nod as I reach once more for my car keys. “Where would you like to go?”

I follow Sookie out the front door, and she takes the keys from my hand to climb into the driver’s seat. This turn of events makes my body coil worriedly. She has the keys to my Corvette. Gods, please protect my poor mechanical child!

C’mon, I know a great place,” Sookie smiles and slips behind the wheel. She pulls the adjuster on the seat and I find myself saying another silent prayer. This is happening. This is actually happening.

As I sit in the passenger seat, I stare at my wife with fear and anxiety. The first thing she does upon turning over the ignition is stall the engine. Before I can demand to drive, she gets the car in reverse and takes off down the driveway… Where she stalls again trying to put it into first gear. As I am about to make a demand to change seats, she bolts down the street like she has been suddenly possessed by the spirit of Dale Earhhardt… I love my wife, I love my wife… I think helplessly as images of my car wrecked into a tree spring to mind.

We drive easily for a few miles before I note that she is already slowing down. We eventually end up sitting in a parking lot near the bike trails.

There is food here?” I ask in surprise.

No,” Sookie replies, “there’s just no vampire family members to eavesdrop on my husband making me cum like a freight train.” I look at her in surprise as she slips from behind the wheel and crawls into my lap.

Gods, I love you,” I growl as I pull her hips tightly against my own. I grind up against her, and Sookie moans as my hardness quickly grows. Reaching up, I let her perfect breasts rest into my palms. She sighs into my mouth as her hips begin to rock teasingly against my own. Her heat is already warming me, her desire is already flooding me.

Eric,” Sookie mumbles against my mouth as she takes a breath from our kiss. My fingers give a tightening nipple a hard tug and she squeezes her thighs in response. “Let me feel you, Darlin’.” She kisses along my jaw and down my throat as I reach between us to undo my belt and fly. Soon enough of me is exposed to meet our goal, and the only task remaining is to tear her panties from her hips.

Without warning, I reach beneath my wife’s skirt and destroy the scrap of fabric that keeps me from her true warmth. She gasps against my throat and I feel her approving lust flare in the Bond. My wife loves a little ‘caveman’ primitiveness in our lovemaking.

No longer with a barrier between us, Sookie begins to lower herself upon me. I feel the head of my cock slip between her welcoming folds, and thrust up to meet her. However, she recognizes my intent and quickly raises herself away so I am left unsatisfied. Instead of letting me deep into her pussy, Sookie rocks so that only my head enjoys the sweet suction and squeeze of her heat.

Sookie,” I grip her hips, but refuse to force her all the way down. She will want it soon herself, and it will be that much sweeter when she gives in. Her resistance is admirable as her full, thick ass jiggles with the quick staccato of her movements. If only I had a mirror to watch her bottom as she rides my tip with such fervor.

Eric,” she moans loudly as her will power can hold back no more. Her weight shifts and finally I am buried inside of her completely. “Oh!” She arches back and twists her hips frantically. Finally I am able to thrust up to meet her, and she releases a rising cry as I pound beneath her furiously.

Her hand reaches back to plant against my knee, and I know this is her way of telling me to be still. My wife’s eyes lock upon mine, glazed and focused as she finds a new rhythm. She undulates with great intent until her jaw slackens and she seems to go into a trance. At last she cries out, and her internal muscles tighten upon me. Her body bows as those muscles squeeze and release me over and over until the contractions slow. When I feel Sookie’s body begin to relax, I begin my own movements once again.

Grabbing Sookie’s hips, I start pounding upward again, and she braces her hands upon my shoulders. “Yeah,” she mumbles as her second wind has not arrived yet, “yeah, Darlin’, like that!” she says more eagerly.

I reach between us to stroke her clit, but she seems more content to grind against my pelvis when our hips meet.

Oh, Eric,” she groans as her muscles start flexing again.

As her orgasm causes her body to tighten around me once more, I find my own release. While her body grips at the final shreds of my control, I give her all that I am. All of my lust and love. Every ounce of my essence and being. Finally, to be with her once again.


The following morning after Sookie leaves for school, I break out my black book of Supernaturals.

Scott here,” The Ohio Pack Master’s voice comes over the phone.

Hello, Scott. This is Eric Northman-”

Like I told your woman, I got no interest in-”

Keeping your position as the local Pack Master?” I finish for him in my most bored tone. Scott remains silent, so I continue, “My wife may not know any better quite yet, but I certainly do. You cannot knowingly ostracize an orphaned two-natured like this. Your kind is not prepared to come out to the public yet, and with vampires in the open, no one is going to overlook a fifteen year old boy spontaneously turning into a house cat or a golden retriever.”

Scott snarls in the back of his throat and I resist rolling my eyes at the ‘big bad wolf’ trying to intimidate me. I am the biggest bad he will ever meet!

If you are through posturing, I suggest you begin making calls among your pack and see who is willing to volunteer services. I highly suggest the parents of Rick Chandler. The child goes to school with this young shifter, and it would be much easier for his family to spend time with Taylor than others from your pack.”

Scott snarls some more under his breath and I change my tone to reflect that I am absolutely through with his bullshit, “Or I will be contacting every last one of your pack that I can find and inform them that their leader is risking their exposure.”

I’ll talk to the Chandlers and get back to you,” Scott finally utters and then hangs up.

I put my cell phone down, a bit of smugness tugging at my ego before I mentally check off my first task of the morning. Next, I pull my keyboard closer and begin drafting the mass e-mail that will assure the vampire community that they still have allies in the Gaul Line. When the message is complete, I send it to Godric for notes and revisions. We send it back and forth several times before we both seem content with the letter.

Mostly it is a statement about our bloodline’s intention to protect the vampire community from human attacks. We offer our assistance toward investigating any human related grievances, taking care to address the infantile organization known as the Fellowship of the Sun. It is a relatively new group, but they have ‘zealots in the making’ exuding all from their demeanor.

Finally, I open a fresh composition and address it to Russel Edgington of Mississippi, Caroline Greer of New York, Joan Scooner of Minnesota and finally Diedre Thorn and the Ancient Pythoness. In my letter to them I explain the blatant, yet futile, attack on the Gaul Line, and its concerning possibilities. I ask my allies to please keep their informants aware of any news regarding future attempts on my family to prevent any future hinderances.

Hopefully none read too much into my request. The last thing I need is for them to believe we have vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Russel can be quite a Wild Card when he gets bored.


Sookie has been very distracted these past weeks and every time I bring it up, she merely shrugs. At one point, she brought up the unpopped shifter again and I assured her that a member of Scott Smilie’s pack had already agreed to come assess the boy as well as speak to his human guardians about the situation.

However, even after a mentor of sorts was found for this lost shifter, Sookie did not brighten or appear any less distracted. At first I thought it was the new job, learning to balance the closeness of her new colleagues as well as her career, but the level of this distraction never fluctuated. She was never more uncomfortable at school than home.

If only she would let me in on these concerns. After she continually brushed off my worry and questions, I asked her brother, Camilla, and Pam if she had mentioned anything. Nothing.

Everything feels as though it is making her sad or unhappy and it has felt that way for nearly two months now since I returned from Louisiana and Camilla had regained consciousness.

A creeping, terrifying realization hits me. What if she felt my gloating and amusement while Pam tortured Compton? What if she felt my vindication while I gave Lorena her True Death?

That thought nearly paralyzes me and my mind tries to think of a way to coax understanding from her. Yet, I cannot fathom how I could make her understand, nor a reason why I would want her to. Instead, I try to think of how to earn her forgiveness and I get to work preparing my groveling.

If only I knew what this mood was about! I think desperately as I flip through her family cookbook for her favorite food. When I find her ‘comfort food,’ I make a quick run to the grocery store before I get to work cooking. I know it will not be as good as when she makes it for herself, but hopefully it will be good enough to open her up.

When Sookie arrives home from school and sees me in the kitchen, she smiles and comes to lean into my side.

What’s the occasion?” she asks when she sees me frying chicken for her.

Kissing the top of her head, I reply, “You have been melancholy lately. I thought this might help?”

Really? I’ve been so down you’re fryin’ me some chicken and you bought a chocolate cake?” Sookie looks at me guiltily.

I wanted to make you smile,” I whisper.

You do. All the time,” she tells me as I take the chicken off the pan and let it set on a plate of paper towels as I have seen her do so many times in the last four years.

It has been a smile of consolation these past weeks. I feel you hiding from me, Sookie,” I tell her in as gentle a tone as I can manage. I do not want her to feel attacked. “At first, I thought it was the new job. Then I thought it was the shifter boy. Now, I am worried that it is me.”

me,” Sookie confesses as she turns her back against the kitchen counter and leans against it. “I keep trying so hard not to worry so much about the future, but-” she takes a nervous breath, unable to finish her statement.

Tell me?” I plead gently. “I ache knowing you feel this way and I am unable to make it better.”

Sookie looks at her feet and I hear her murmuring her confessions, “I felt like it was fair that you killed Lorena. I feel like it’s right that you beat it out of Compton.”

And that upsets you,” I note.

It makes me confused about the sort of person that I am,” she whispers.

How do you mean?” I frown and take her hands.

Sookie shrugs weakly as she looks at our joined hands. “Four years ago, I could never fathom condoning a murder. Now every action we take seems gray and foggy. If I can’t feel the difference between right and wrong anymore, how am I supposed to teach it? In four more years, what more of my moral compass will point away from North?”

Four years is a short time, Dear One. I am certain that life will slow down shortly, and you will not find yourself needing to make such compromising decisions.”

In four years, I’ll be the same age that version of me who could have your babies was when she first got pregnant,” Sookie rambles out quickly.

Babies! I think bewilderedly. Why do I keep forgetting about the babies!? I am going to be just as terrible a father in the twenty-first century as I was in the eleventh!

So, these past weeks you have been worrying about becoming pregnant and that you will be too morally compromised to raise them right?” I ask, tugging her toward the kitchen table to talk more comfortably.

Sookie nods as she sits meekly in her seat.

It could never happen,” I tell her truthfully. She takes another shuttering breath and I take her hands to squeeze comfortingly. “Sookie, the fact that such a thought occurred to you and you are responding like this is testament to the fact you are not compromised.”

But I’m so confused,” she whispers and looks at our joined hands like they can ease her concerns. I know that children have been a point of conflict with her for a few years now, but every day I can feel a mild impatience brewing more and more inside of her. As much as she fears being a bad mother, she also anticipates the day she finally becomes pregnant.

What do you mean?” I plead for these answers that seem to evade me.

I want my certainty back,” she explains in a voice that squeezes my heart like a vice. “I want our family to be safe! I feel so lost, Eric. My spirit feels weak, and I don’t know how to fix it.”

I wrap Sookie into my arms and let her cry against my shoulder. Sometimes, having a love like Sookie’s keeping me bathed in light, I forget that I am a callous bastard. I forget she gives me more than her love, more than her body, and that more than anything, she gives me a long-lost conscience. She is my moral compass long-lost, drifted into my hands, and where she points, I must follow her direction.

You are at a spiritual conflict,” I tell her. “I am sorry that I did not recognize it sooner.” I should have recognized it sooner.

Sookie leans away and looks at me in surprise, “Eric-”

I forget often what a good, Christian woman you are,” I smile as I pull away and play with the strands of hair framing her face. “Perhaps we should be spending some time searching for a new church. Will going back to services help you?” I ask gently.

I don’t know,” she confesses and squeezes my hands. “That’s where all this is coming from, I think. I’ve met the Voice of God, Eric. Everything I’ve ever believed in, everything I held close to my heart is chipping away and crumbling. The more I learn, the less I know, and I just feel so… lost…

Suddenly I realize something very saddening. Every year more and more of her beliefs have become more impossible than the last to reconcile. All of us forced mountains of information into her without context. Now my wife is adrift in this sea of fairy tale and magic, and she cannot find where her own beliefs remain.

Sookie, the Voice of the Pantheon does not negate the existence of your beliefs. I wish I knew more to say to help you, but my own existence has never relied on my beliefs. Even as a human, belief was found more in myself than stories of the Divine.”

My wife takes her hands from mine and gazes at her upturned palms. I can feel some objection in her, but her lips refuse to move. She resists the urge to voice her worries or concerns.

I try once more to ease some of the burden on her heart, “Do not think of Lorena as a retribution. Her True Death was one that was necessary for the safety of our family. That is all, Sookie. There is a threat against our family, and Godric and I are merely protecting our family. Our child will know that your true heart is family. He will feel loved and safe.”

So, it’s gonna be a boy?” she teases as she pushes away the last of her drying tears.

The first will,” I tell her with certainty. “I do not know about any after that, but I know our firstborn will be a son.”

And how do you know that?” she laughs.

My shoulders lift as I rise from the table and go to the stove to retrieve her cooled chicken. It is still warm, but no longer scalding. Setting the plate in front of her, I confess, “It is just a feeling I have.”

What are we going to name him?” she is still teasing, but there is a name on the tip of my tongue. I think she can read the hesitation on my face, or perhaps in the Bond. “Eric, do you have a name picked out?” Her voice is so earnest and patient.

On one hand, I am hesitant to let her change the topic while it is unresolved, but on the other, I do not think we can go any further today. The Bond is telling me that she feels emotionally drained by the topic. All I am able to do now is hope that having her talk about her crisis of faith is enough to let her begin healing.

Leif,” I whisper and I feel bashful? “It was my brother’s name.”

Her lips split into a smile, “I like it.”

Sookie’s POV:

With my twenty-third birthday comes the day I’ve anticipated the most in months.

Pam, Camilla, and Godric are moving up north to the same subdivision as Eric, Jason, and me. Pam’s moving in with Jason while Cammie and Godric are getting their own place. I can’t contain myself as I bounce around the airport, waiting for my best friends to come home!

Though I just saw Cammie last month for her college graduation, it feels like forever! When her wavy brown hair springs into view, I hop, skip, and jump into her arms. We hug and squeal and jump like schoolgirls as our vampires just watch us. Pam looks a little put out that I’m not squealing all over her, too, but I know she’s a little relieved as well. She still has trouble accepting that she’s one of the girls and doesn’t have to be so solemn and cold.

Jason greets Pam with one of their usual cheek kisses, but Cammie and I are clinging to each other like we’ve been apart for decades.

I can’t understand how all vampires don’t live in larger nests! As much as I love my husband and brother, I miss having my girlfriends around and I miss having the one man who can make Eric express any form of humility. I missed Pam’s teasing remarks and quipping abilities. I missed Godric absorbing some of the heavier conversations.

As I look at the three members of my family who have been missing, I realize I’ve missed the outlets they provide. Eric and I are always so serious lately. Our conversations, our silence, even our sex life, I miss the teasing and the playfulness!

Are we splitting ways?” Eric looks at me with raised eyebrows as I still haven’t let Cammie go.

Yeah,” I laugh with a bit of embarrassment. “I want to catch up with my girls!” I finally tug Pam into the group hug she’s been holding out on and watch as Eric smiles and nods. The guys just laugh and go to the luggage carousels to start bringing all the bags home while Pam takes the keys to Jason’s truck from him. We three ladies are soon piled into the pickup and tearing through Columbus instead of heading back to the suburbs.

So,” Pam looks at me sideways and smirks, “I take it you missed us?”

Soooo much,” I confess with exasperation. “Everything has felt way too huge without you guys.”

How do you mean?” Cammie asks, leaning in between us from the small seat behind us in the truck cab.

I go into an epic tale of the past eight and a half months. Soon they know all about my baby fears, the stress of the Were community and our family, the fact Eric’s been tracking down these political shifts, Jason’s fang throbbing obsession with some student he knows better than to actually go after, and the fact I feel ready to explode at any moment.

Who is this girl?” Pam asks curiously and I roll my eyes. Of course, Pam would focus on a delicious female.

She’s a Freshman and Jason’s been complaining that her scent is making his fangs want to pop. Eric told him its perfectly normal. Sometimes a human smells tastier than others and they can be harder to resist. Jason’s resisting and everything, but he looks really agitated at lunch. I think this girl might be in his third or fourth period class,” I explain.

Pam grins and I see her hands flex a bit on the steering wheel, “I might need to do a little drive-by on Monday,” she declares.

I laugh at her statement as she pulls into the mall parking lot and we all spill out of the truck we packed into. Pam leads the way toward the main doors and starts scouting out the wears of her new home. I know by the end of the week she’ll have found us a new spa and salon, but right now she needs to know what sort of shoes and clothes are at her disposal.

Your hair looks like a rat’s nest,” Pam comments as she examines the ends of my hair. “When is the last time you had it cut?”

I blanch apologetically, “Umm, whenever it was you dragged me to get it done last?” I confess.

Pam rolls her eyes, “We will find a place to get this cleaned up. This is what you could be looking like, Sookie,” She gestures gloriously to Camilla and my friend does a little spin.

I smile, “It wasn’t the same going without you guys.”

You’ve started shaving instead of keeping up on your waxing, too,” Pam accuses when she looks at my legs.

I groan, “I’m sorry.”

There are no women in Ohio with whom you could become friends and at least have a monthly spa trip?” Pam keeps nagging at me.

It’s hard,” I mumble. “Everyone is so… Un-relatable,” I finally admit. It’s a hard truth to confess, but it is a truth nonetheless. Officially, I have very little in common with humans. In six short years, I have forgotten what exhaustion feels like. I have forgotten what it feels like to “have no time.” I have never worried about aging or missing out… Only, now I feel like I am missing something. I feel like I am missing connections. I am missing the opportunity of knowing others, and it only brings back the unforgettable burdens of my crumbling beliefs.

Sookie?” Camilla takes my hand and I feel her take a sharp breath.

Don’t use that empathy touch on me,” I ask her, wrenching my hand away. At first, the magical exercise was a sweet, beautiful thing, but now I feel like it betrays my inner turmoil that I have no right to feel.

What’s wrong?” Pam seems to finally realize that something is just not right with me and she stops to stare.

Cammie, how did you feel when Compton called Godric with Grissom’s location?” I ask Camilla desperately.

Well,” Cammie frowns as she considers my question, “I was a little worried people would realize we were connected to Grissom…”

It didn’t bother you that Godric,” I pause quickly. I know better than to insinuate a murder in public.

Nope,” Cammie shrugs easily.

And you didn’t feel guilty for not feeling guilty?” I press.

Pam’s shoulders finally relax as she guesses one of my many problems, “Sookie,” she places her hands on my arms, “these things effect everyone differently.”

What’s wrong with me?” I demand sadly.

For the first time in my life, Pam pulls me into an unasked-for hug and holds me tight, “We all know, Sookie.”

Know what?” I whisper into her chest.

We know you have been having a crisis of faith,” Pam replies, pulling away to look me in the eyes.

I don’t,” I confess. “I don’t know why it’s effecting me like this!”

Pam pulls me back against her chest and I feel Cammie wrap herself around me from behind. We must look like the strangest group of women ever to shop these parts.

We can’t tell you how to feel, Sookie,” Cammie mumbles against my ear.

Or how to act,” Pam continues for her. “But you cannot shut yourself away to find your answers. Ever since the incident with Lorena, you have been hiding away with Jason and Eric this whole time instead of exploring the world. Find yourself, Sookie. You have all the time in the world to do so.”

Eric’s been tellin’ me that from the beginning,” I mumble into Pam’s chest. “Why does it only seem wise when you guys say it?”

Because he’s your husband,” Camilla laughs. “They’re meant to sound placating, not wise.”

He’s over a thousand,” I laugh as well and our little group hug breaks apart at last. “And yours is over two. Shouldn’t we take them at their word?”

Camilla’s nose scrunches, “Where’s the fun in that? That’s like playing poker with all the cards facing up.”

I let out a laughing sob as I begin wiping my eyes free of tears.

You don’t have to hide from your humanity or beliefs, Sookie. There is nothing wrong about not being callous,” Pam tells me. “However, you do not have to hide from making connections with mortals. In a way, the more people you know and remember, the more they become immortals as well. Isn’t that a little amazing? Isn’t that a wonderful gift to give?”

The poisonous feeling inside of me begins to slowly recede. I can finally feel the excitement of my gifts again. Here, I’ve been paralyzed by my lack of empathy for an enemy and terrified of the losses I’ll experience. During all that, I forgot that life is experiences, the good and the bad. Enemies are not always meant to be mourned, and I can remember the friends I’ve made and lost, the family I’ve had and the new one I’ve made. There’s been fear and sadness, but it doesn’t make me cherish those connections any less. I loved Tara like a sister, even though our friendship ended in an unhappy fashion, I’ll always remember the good times fondly.

Immortality is really confusing,” I tell my friends.

It is even more confusing when you experience several new awarenesses simultaneously. Still, you get used to it,” Pam shrugs.

Or you spend more time as an immortal than you did as a mortal and it just becomes natural,” Camilla teases. “I just cheated a little.”

The three of us laugh and finally fall into our shopping groove. Pam finds a suitable salon and I get my hair cleaned up. Cammie finds a New Age store that she walks into and immediately back out of with wide, disbelieving eyes.

Is that what they think witches are like?” Camilla asks worriedly as she looks back to the shop in disappointment. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocator for essential oils, but damn! The way they talk, you’d think they could cure cancer!”

We all chuckle and continue wandering around, letting Pam persuade us about what we need in our closets. At one point, we stop into a restaurant and Pam surreptitiously glamours a server to bring her a True Blood with a stalk of celery to make it look like a Bloody Mary.

Can you believe a Bloody Mary costs less than a bottle of that synthetic crap?” Pam grumbles as we leave the restaurant.

I can’t believe you actually drank it,” Camilla replies with a laugh.

As my two best friends laugh and lead me through the mall, I feel a weight finally leaving my shoulders. For the first time, I think I finally realize the truth about marriage and family. I love my husband and I love my brother, but sometimes a girl just needs her friends.

On to Chapter Forty-Nine!

Catalyst Ch. 47

Chapter Forty-Seven: Compton Reborn

Eric’s POV:

Pamela,” I greet my Child as I come to the bottom of the stairs and meet the cold, concrete floors.

Master,” she pouts slightly as I have interrupted her tethering Compton to a set of shackles suspended from the ceiling of my old warehouse basement.

You went all the way to New Orleans and brought him back here?” I ask, trying to keep my prideful admiration of her foresight out of my voice. It is always heartwarming to know your progeny has taken your teachings seriously. I have to wonder if she knows that I hesitated in my pursuit of her. After all, she cannot learn how to protect herself or the bloodline if I do not give her the chance when a younger offender presents an opportunity for a lesson!

Pam shrugs, “It felt safer to bring him here than to stay in New Orleans.”

Good girl,” I praise with a smile and find a folding chair to seat myself upon. “Proceed.”

You are not going to stop me?” she asks in surprise as I relax into my chair.

I cross my legs at the ankle, stretching them far out in front of me before resting my arms over my chest and leaning back, “No. I will supervise. I need this matter resolved just as badly as you and Godric.”

My Child nods and smiles excitedly before turning back to Compton and yanking off his gag, “Now, I gave you a lot to think about on the drive up here, Billy. Have you decided to be cooperative?” The young vampire says nothing and Pam grins, “I guess not!” Her arm swings back and delivers a rather nasty sucker punch that forces a mouthful of blood to splatter from Compton’s lips.

Pamela,” I frown as I speak her name. “Did you just rupture his stomach?”

I did,” Pam takes a surprised step back and looks to me for instruction. She is very much the picture of a student attempting to apply a lesson to real life for the first time, finding herself floundering when it is not going by the textbook.

There is not a large enough age gap between you two for his body to burst like that,” My frown deepens as I rise from my chair and make my way over to our captive. Unless a vampire applies no resisting strength, it usually takes at least a fifty-year gap between vampires for such a thing to occur. “Billy, did you even try to resist that strike or are you intent on letting her kill you by accident?”

Compton’s eyes are spilling over with bloody tears, “A painful True Death has a better result than betrayal,” he confesses, his arms flexing intermittently as the pain ripples through him in lulling and upsurging waves.

Hmm,” I frown again and return to my chair. After Pam takes her stance once more, I call her down, “Pam, no. He needs to heal first and maybe give him a True Blood. Stomach ruptures are not the way to start off an interrogation. There is little room to move from there with his healing ability stunted. Let him heal and start over smaller. Use tools, not force. Even if he did not tense up for the blow, your age gap should not have allowed you to do that much damage so easily. Our continual awareness may be causing our strengths to expand faster.”

That is moderately terrifying,” Pam replies stoically, belying her words and the feelings within her. “I will go get a True Blood.”

Pamela leaves the basement to find some synthetic blood and I rise from my chair once again to observe Compton more closely. “She could very well kill you by accident.” I see acceptance brim within the younger vampire’s eyes and it does not surprise me, “Have you ever considered your True Death negatively? I remember your upbringing with Lorena. Never releasing you, calling in favors, hurting you at her leisure whenever possible. I remember you as a fledgling. You were only just coming upon your decade marker when we first met.”

Compton’s eyes cast downward as he remembers our first encounter. It is still vivid in my mind as well.

Lorena had begged me to lend over my Child. Do you remember?” Compton nods tightly. “I knew her reputation and declined. She offered you in temporary exchange-”

And you said, ‘What would I need with that little fuck boy?’!” Compton barks in my face.

I did,” I agree calmly.

Then she proceeded to show you in front of all your subordinates what you could need from a little fucker like me,” Compton snarls angrily.

She did,” I nod.

Making me angry will not get you any information-”

How many times had she humiliated and abused you in front of your peers and superiors during your first ten years of existence, Compton?” I ask, and he startles at my seemingly new topic.

Countless,” he admits after his surprise has waned. “I do not even think I could recall how many.”

And how many times after she did that to you in front of me?” I continue and Compton stares.

Before my peers… Never again,” he admits. “But privately-”

I could not control what she did to you privately. I warned her what happens to abusive Makers,” I shake my head. “I told her that vampires who become ancient do not do so by being vicious Makers. You treat your Child as an extension of yourself, not a whipping boy. Publicly she displayed a caring exterior. Privately… She did not heed my advice.”

Why are you telling me this?” Compton asks me.

Because you have made a terrible mistake, Billy, and this is your one and only chance to rectify it,” I tell him.

Compton snorts, “I made no mistake, I was made to tell.” His eyes are all the evidence I need. Lorena forced the code out from him.

And did she sell that code, or did she use it herself?” I ask. His body goes limp and his eyes glaze over slightly. That would be a Maker’s Command binding him from speaking. “She used it herself,” I finish for him and his body returns to normal. Sometimes a command is more telling than the witnesses themselves. “It would seem I am about to do you one favor.”

Compton’s eyes look at me with surprise, perhaps even hope, “What is this favor?”

I will be killing Lorena,” I offer and see him hold his breath. “However, in return, you must tell me how Lorena came to know of your little secret?”

Bill sighs, “She commands an information dump from me every few years. This was the first year she commanded one since I obtained Godric’s Mate’s reset code. I tried to hold it back. There’s only two vampires who know it and Grissom isn’t stupid enough to sell it. He’d know it could be traced right back to him. Even if you all found a way to kill yourselves, you’d have killed him first.”

Why did you not tell my bloodline of Camilla’s code when you restored her?” I ask next.

He pauses, “I wanted to wait and see if I could use it as a bargaining chip to get rid of Lorena. Sophie-Anne’s progeny are too young to go against Lorena and the Queen herself would never go on her own. Not for someone like me…”

I am not too young to destroy Lorena,” I tell him.

When you seceded from the community, I figured Godric’s Mate became immune to the code along with our glamour. I figured I’d lost my bargaining chip,” he confesses.

I see,” I nod thoughtfully. “I take it that it was recently that Lorena obtained the code from you?” His body zones out momentarily before he stops fighting the command. Did Lorena believe this Child would not betray her? “Well, Billy, it looks like you have been as forthcoming as can be expected this evening.” The vampire lets out a huff of air. I still do not trust him, but I am more than capable of giving him a chance. “I will kill Lorena for you, but there is something you must understand if you are to be given this freedom. Pam will teach it to you this evening. Consider it earning your freedom.”

What must I learn?” Compton asks me quickly, desperately.

That you reveled in the hurt you brought others,” I tell him darkly.

Wh-what?” His lips tremble and if his body could, a fine sheen of sweat would have broken out upon his brow.

If there is something I cannot abide, it is a vampire who cannot be honest with his darkness. We have all come from a dark place, William, but it cannot be worn as a veil of an excuse for all of eternity.”

I know what I’ve done-”

It is not about knowing, it is about understanding,” I emphasize. “As I understand that on a certain level, I am going to enjoy feeling what Pamela does to you, as Pam understands that she will enjoy what she does to you. When you realize that to some degree, you enjoyed what you have done, then you are past knowing and in the realm of understanding.”

You think because you are these… Indestructible beings… You can torture your sick ideologies-”

No, it has little to do with ideologies, even less to do with my indestructible existence,” I cannot help the grin spreading across my lips. “It has to do with the fact that you must earn your right to continue existing. In exchange for never having to answer or submit to Lorena again, I will become the one to whom you answer. In exchange for Godric’s forgiveness regarding the infraction against his Mate, you will be subjected to his ideologies… Under mine and Pamela’s tutelage, that is.”

Lord,” he says quickly, “forgive me all the times I break Your heart-”

Oh, hell, he is praying!?

The burden of knowing Your disappointment is overwhelming-”

Pam arrives with the blood, apparently having had to drive a distance to acquire it and she stares confusedly with the fresh bottle in her hand.

Lord,” Compton continues, “I need Your strength right now. “For I do not do what I want, but do the very thing I hate.”

Pam rolls her eyes at the vampire’s prayer, cracks open the bottle, and shoves it down Compton’s throat. His ramblings cease as he chugs the liquid and soon another bottle is open and forcefully drained down into his healed stomach.

I am so sorry!” Compton cries when the second bottle is drained and his lips are dribbled with synthetic crimson fluid. “Lord, I ask for Your Forgiveness right now. My existence has come to a point where most sins don’t affect me at all.”

Pam looks at me for permission to interrupt as our captive continues to beseech his God, but I have enough respect for my own deities not to interrupt another while they speak to theirs, especially when they are trying to make peace before their True Death.

Lord, I have some hard layers on my heart that need peeling-”

Oh, he is accepting my offer, I realize.

Please give me a heart of flesh. The hardness is a barrier between us that I can’t stand! I love You and I am so regrettably sorry for my selfish actions.”

‘Is he done yet?’ Pam mouths at me and I give my head a brief shake. I am almost certain Christians end their prayers with an ‘amen.’

Thank You for Your Forgiveness, Lord. Without Forgiveness, I am nothing.”

Damn right you are. I suppose without it you are a pile of flesh, but that seems like splitting hairs.

With your Forgiveness, I am whole again. I praise Your Name! Amen!”

I knew it!

With that ending of the prayer, I raise my fist and check my strength before belting Compton in the face. Several of his teeth fly out of his mouth, clattering across the concrete floor and I let out a contented sigh.

Pamela, Compton has repented and sworn his allegiance to the Gaul line. Now, I need you to work him over nice and proper, and then explain the conditions of Godric’s ‘Empathy Bootcamp,’ patent pending,” I tell her.

My Child makes a displeased face, “I do not get to kill him?”

No,” I shake my head. “We need our own informants in the vampire community and Billy is about to be indebted to us up to his ears.”

Hmm, his ears,” Pam frowns, grabs the cartilage of Compton’s left ear, and easily rips it from his face. I actually need to repress a flinch. Something about harming ears unsettles me as of late. Probably because you worship your wife’s ears, I think bemusedly. I would probably roast someone and feed them to the dogs if they damaged my Sookie’s beautiful, sexy ears!

I must fulfill other obligations now. Use my teachings well, Pam…and remember, do not kill him,” I remind her.

Yes, Master,” Pam sighs and goes back to her methodology.

I will take my own wrath out on Lorena, but first…

As I exit the warehouse, I take out my cell phone and hold down “2.”



Sookie’s POV:

Jason and I are hanging out around the house, grading our first batches of homework while Godric and Cammie get reacquainted. I’m so relieved my friend doesn’t seem to be too worse for wear. She seemed pretty put together and calm, like she’d just woken up from a bit of a longer sleep than usual.

Suddenly Jason perks up from his papers and I see his eyes glaze a little bit.

“Y’know what they say about eavesdroppers,” I prod at him annoyedly. Since getting the vamp telepathy and hearing, he’s turned into such a busybody!

Eric’s called Godric,” Jason tells me softly.

What’s he saying!?” I whisper excitedly. I haven’t seen my Bonded in almost two days! That feels forever in Bonded time. I don’t know how Godric held up like he did. He couldn’t even feel Cammie like I’ve at least been feeling Eric this whole time he’s been absent.

Somethin’ somethin’, is it okay to kill Lorena? Whoever she is. Call Ludwig to check out Ja- Me. Possible acceleration in advancements and I’d be the easiest to get a baseline from,” Jason frowns and tries to fathom Eric’s request.

What does that mean?” I ask my brother curiously.

I don’t know,” he confesses. “I guess maybe we’re getting stronger faster than we should?”

You did stop needing more blood than they thought you should pretty early on,” I tell him. “Remember those two months they kept checkin’ up on you? ‘When is the last time you drank? You are certain you are not thirsty?’ Blah, blah, blah,” I remind him.

How could I forget? Even Pam was gettin’ all mother-hen on me!” Jason chuckles. “You’re gettin’ real good at impersonating Eric, if you don’t mind me sayin’. If ya could get your voice down about three octaves, you’d have it perfect.”

I laugh and roll my eyes at my brother, but our moment of joking is interrupted by a familiar *POP* that we were both waiting for on some level.

I have been told to examine you?” Ludwig asks my brother curiously.

Jason sighs and rises to his feet, towering over the squat, steely doctor.

From what I overheard, there’s a chance the bloodline is strengthening or maturing faster than normal?” I offer.

Ludwig nods and becomes thoughtful, “That would imply that vampire strengths and maturities are ruled by experience rather than merely time. What an interesting concept!”

What do you mean?” I ask curiously.

The doctor begins digging through her stained and odorous bag until she comes up with several different colored bands.

Pull this apart,” she tells my brother before looking at me. “It could mean that since the bloodline remains aware indefinitely, or at least almost indefinitely, because they do choose to die for the day from time to time, they are receiving twice the experience in a single day,” Jason tugs at the band she’s given him and it stretches the full span of his arms. Ludwig hands him another band and looks back to me, “If advancements in power are contributed by experience and not just time, then that means they have more time to have those experiences. Also, they benefit from additional factors. Love, family, and joy…those are very important experiences, too, young lady. Happiness for one is happiness for all in a bloodline.”

Jason pulls the new band as far as his arms can reach and looks down at the doctor, “So, we are maturing faster because…?”

Because you are mature. Eric and Godric offer the maturity only centuries can bring, you offer the maturity of the spirit, and Sookie… Teaches the joy of a loving family,” Ludwig tells us as she hands Jason a new band. “We do not take strength from knowledge alone. We take strength from compassion, from love, and from family. Strength is not merely one of brute force, but of the mind and spirit. I do believe that the true source of most of this strength comes from Godric. Finally, that boy’s childish heart is healed and it is the heart of a man with a mind holding the wisdom of the ages. Having a heart that old, strong, and finally capable of love at the base of your bloodline’s roots is what I think is helping the rest of the line flourish.”

Jason is on his fourth band now and he’s finally showing some difficulty stretching them. His arms shake violently and he barely extends his arms fully before he drops the band to the floor. Ludwig hands him a fifth and he can barely do more than remove the slack.

Taking the band from him and collecting the others, Ludwig takes out one of her zillions of charts and starts writing in it. “I might as well do your fertility test while I am here,” she points at me with her pen and I groan.

So, I guess it’s a real good thing Godric met Cammie, huh?” Jason remarks.

Camilla is not the lone variable of Godric’s mending heart. Of course, she is the main component, but everyone within the bloodline has helped. Even you, Baby Vampire,” she points at my brother as she reaches into her bag and supplies me with a sample cup. I banish myself to the powder room and return quickly as not to miss any more of the conversation.

Watching Ludwig go through her usual motions of analyzing my urine and drawing my blood, I wait for her news on the vampires in my life. Jason is standing, waiting silently as well.

Still not preheating that oven yet, eh?” Ludwig teases me. “Well, you obviously have plenty of time to start a family.”

What about me?” Jason asks impatiently.

You will never start a family, Stackhouse,” Ludwig rolls her eyes.

That’s not what I meant!” my brother whines.

Ludwig cackles at her joke and finally starts giving the assessment. “I averaged your strength to that of an eighty-year-old vampire. As it has almost been five years, that would be a twenty-year strength increase for a single year.”

Whoa, so in another six years I’d be equivalent to a two-hundred-year-old!?” Jason asks excitedly.

I must evaluate all vampires of the bloodline. I am sure that by a certain age the gap lessens, but yours and Pamela’s youth is allowing you to expand faster,” Ludwig explains.

Question?” I interrupt as curiosity and a little hope tugs at my heart.

Potential answer,” Ludwig offers impatiently.

Isn’t Bonding related to maturity and age?” I ask.

It is,” Ludwig agrees.

So, if they’re aging at a faster rate, doesn’t that mean that they’d be equivalent to an ancient’s age in just fifty years or so? Would that mean that they could find their Bondeds in less than a century?”

Jason looks at me in surprise and Ludwig’s face has tightened thoughtfully, “I suppose it is possible… An interesting theory even, but,” Ludwig looks at me with a super serious gaze, “Bonding is a compatibility with the spirit. The reason Bonding is a compulsion and not merely a wish is because a Bonded is the equivalent of a soulmate. There is only one spirit that could spark such a response from a vampire. If you were to look at existing vampires who have remained with a single lover for centuries, chances are it is because they found their soulmate, but cannot Bond.”

I frown, “I don’t know any-”

Diedre and Cassandra, or as you know her, the Ancient Pythoness,” Ludwig smiles. “That is the oldest love I have ever known and it is nearly older than me!” The doctor pauses a moment, waiting for any sort of response before finally speaking, “Well, that is all I will do for now. When this current situation has settled, I will return and do an evaluation on the entire bloodline and see where all of you stand within your power.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” I murmur a bit distractedly as I take all this in.

When Ludwig leaves and it is just Jason and me standing around the living room, we look at each other at a loss for what to say. Instead, we settle back into grading papers and sit in silence.

Hey, you got ‘Snow White’ in any of your classes?” Jason asks me suddenly.

Which one is that?” I ask, hating his nicknaming method for his students.

Uh, Jeremy Lintner,” he tells me. “He’s that… What they call ’em? Not Goth… Emo! He’s that Emo kid.”

I have a Jeremy Lintner in my third period Freshman English class,” I tell him. “Why?”

Check this out,” He hands me a paper. “I asked the class to write three paragraphs about Venice. Check out Snow White’s.”

I read the paragraphs and nod approvingly, “Technical mistakes in his grammar, but very good imagery. Is the historical aspect accurate?”

Hammer meet head of the nail,” Jason tells me.

I’ll talk to him about taking a creative writing class next year-”

Sook, have you noticed anything about him? I know we’ve only been teaching here a couple days, but… He seems…withdrawn, don’t he?”

Honestly, I’ve been following Taylor Charleston around since I met him. Haven’t even noticed much about Jeremy.”

Taylor, that’s the shifter boy, right?” Jason asks.

I nod and worry my lip between my teeth a bit, “Jason, I don’t think he knows what he is.”

Jason frowns at this news, “We should contact the local Pack Master and make sure they know about Taylor.”

That’s not a bad idea,” I murmur thoughtfully.

There’s at least one Were kid at the school. Wouldn’t he know?” Jason asks.

I shake my head, “Not until Taylor’s first transformation. He’s too young himself to sense an unpopped shifter.”

Jason nods, rakes his hand through his hair, and goes to my husband’s office to find his little black book of Supernatural contacts.

You think this would be him?” Jason asks as he returns with the open book and points at a name.

~OH:PM:2001-CURRENT~ is written in Eric’s elegant script and highlighted in green. The abbreviations seem right.

I think so… Scott… Smiley?” I giggle a bit at the name, but know not to get my hopes up on an amicable conversation. “Here, let me call. Maybe if one of the living members of the family makes the call, it’ll be more civil?” I say hopefully, taking the phonebook from him.

Picking up the phone, I quickly call and wait nervously as the receiver rings. Finally, the line picks up and I hold my breath as, “Scott here,” comes to me over the phone.

Is this Pack Master, Scott Smiley? Of the Ohio pack?” I ask a bit unsteadily.

Who’s asking?” his voice growls at me over the phone.

H-hi, Sir,” I swallow hard. “This is Sookie Northman, I-I teach at Stone Water High School-”

I know who you are, Northman,” I’m a bit taken aback. Only my husband gets called just plain ‘Northman,’ and I’m definitely not used to it! “What are you bugging me for?”

Well, I’m new to the area and I know this is none of my business, but one of my students is a shifter who hasn’t made his first transfor-”

Taylor Charleston. Yeah. I know him. And you’re right. He’s none of your business,” Smiley snarls at me and I feel my shoulders tremble a bit. How I can be an immortal and still feel weak in the knees when someone’s mean to me is beyond me, but I just can’t stand when someone doesn’t like me when we’ve never even met!

You’re right, he’s your pack’s business. I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t alone in-”

He is alone. His parents got themselves shunned by the local pack before he was even born. Then the same crap that got them banned is what got them killed. Little shit is on his own-”

But he’s just a kid!” I protest. “He wasn’t even born and you’re just gonna make him figure out-”

You went and stuck your nose in his business. You can take care of him for all I care,” Smiley tells me just as he hangs up on me.

Putting the phone down, I look at Jason for help. What am I going to do?

Any idea when he might pop?” Jason asks after I’ve been frozen into silence for too long.

I raise my hands helplessly in an effort to explain that I have no idea. “It could be any full moon this year.”

Jason nods pityingly before asking, “Got any idea how we could handle it?”

I ponder this a moment before deciding, “The next full moon isn’t for another week and a half. Eric will be back well before then. We can talk to him and see what he has to say.”

My brother nods again and looks back at his ungraded papers, “I guess that’s all we can do for now.”

Yeah,” I reply sadly.

Eric’s POV:

In all honesty, Lorena should be much more difficult to find than she actually is. A call to Pamela and Compton informed me that his link to his Maker was open, that she was on her way to him. I must give the bitch credit, I did not expect her to come to her progeny’s aid so quickly.

As a matter of fact, I stop into a nearby store for a gallon of vinegar to dump over my head to mask my scent. Thankfully vampires do not shed skin cells like humans and all we must accomplish in hiding our signature scent from Weres or shifters is to overwhelm our scent. Of course, the potent stench of vinegar will almost always convince them a Supernatural was involved, but there is no way for them to identify that scent’s owner in the future. Garlic and coffee grounds also work, but garlic lingers too long and coffee is too time consuming to apply. Therefore, vinegar is a Supernatural’s go-to scent disrupter.

Stepping out into the late evening, I find a safe spot to ascend into the night sky.

With my trained eyes, I oversee the incoming traffic to the city, looking for a frantically driven vehicle. When I spot my mark, I dump the bottle of vinegar over my body and dive down toward my victim. I have just enough time to glimpse the vampiress through the windshield as I clutch the front end of the car and fling it heavenward. Cars nearby swerve and honk, reacting to, though not understanding what exactly their eyes have witnessed.

With no regard for the confused humans, I follow the vehicle’s impromptu journey into the skies and catch it upon its descent before flinging it outward into the nearby lake. When it lands, Lorena forces her way from the wreckage as it sinks and flinches as I grab her by her neck.

Stealing my family’s secrets, Lorena?” I cluck my tongue at her disapprovingly as I hold us above the water.

Enjoy your impervious immortality while you can,” Lorena seethes between her teeth. “It won’t be long before your Master orders you to remove your Mate’s wings so that he may perish!”

His Mate will recover,” I smirk. “You miscalculated and now you will be the one who meets their Final Death. Did you honestly believe we would not track down the one who attacked our family?”

Mine will be far from the last attack,” Lorena assures, “and, eventually, someone will tear your nest asunder!”

I cannot help the smile that tugs at my lips, “Do you think threatening a Viking with battle is anything more than an invitation for fun?”

Then why am I still talking?” my prey demands angrily, but her eyes speak the truth. I can read their fear and frantic scramblings for an escape.

I want you to meet your True Death knowing you lost your existence for absolutely nothing. You slowed my bloodline down for a few days and you left a trail of breadcrumbs all the way back to yourself. If you say my bloodline has aligned more enemies, then now I know to start gathering our comrades.” With that, I grasp her chin and the top of her head. Her weight acts against her as I spin with cyclonic speeds until that weight severs her neck and her head detaches. Next, a wave of blood arcs across the lake and splashes into the water to disperse and leave no memory of Lorena, other than the sinking wreckage of her vehicle.

I allow my body to be pushed by the gentle winds coming across the lake. My body pushes closer and closer to the coast where I dive into the not yet chilling waters and let any residual blood and vinegar disperse among the soft ripples. As I float, fully clothed, in the water, my hair undulating along with the ripples, I stare up at the sky and nervously ask of the barely visible stars, “What is about to become of my world?”


Catalyst Ch. 46

Chapter Forty-Six: With or Without You

Godric’s POV:

I hate the creature I am acting like right now, I think in agony. I do not like the accusations I have thrown at my Child, nor the fact I am being comforted by my newest progeny. I am two-thousand-years-old and should not be taking comfort from a fledgling. It is I who should be the calm in this storm. I should be their rock, but I cannot feel my Camilla and the pain is paralyzing, making me act irrationally.

Godric,” Sookie whispers gently like she is trying to coax a frightened animal from beneath a piece of furniture. “Why don’t you take Cammie to rest in one of the bedrooms upstairs?” She offers to lead the way, gesturing toward the staircase.

All I can offer is a nod as I rise from the sofa and allow Sookie to lead me down the hall. She glances over her shoulder from time to time, giving me reassuring, beautiful smiles.

Do you really believe Camilla will be all right?” I ask of Sookie when we arrive on the upstairs landing.

I do,” she nods and opens a nearby door. She turns on the light, revealing the soft blue walls and brown and cream bedding. “I have the same faith as Jason.”

What if she does overcome this…whatever it is, but she is not my Camilla any longer?” I voice my fears, hoping to receive better reassurances than Pam gave me. All Pam could offer was an insistence that I get to Eric… Or maybe she was telling me to get to Sookie. Run to the person who brings strength and comfort to our bloodline.

Sookie sits on the edge of the bed, stroking Camilla’s foot as she gazes thoughtfully at her best friend. It is difficult to fathom that my Bonded’s condition is hurting anyone other than myself, but I am reminded in this moment that Camilla is Sookie’s best friend, the one person who understands her life as first hand as possible.

If that’s the case,” Sookie smiles sadly, “then we’ll have to fall in love with her all over again. There are some traits that inherently belong to Cammie, y’know? You cared about her that first night, right? I know I liked her immediately, in her first life and this one. I’ll love her in the third one if that comes to be. I don’t want that, but I know I’ll still love her and make new memories with h-her,” Sookie clears her throat, trying to dispel the emotion that is building. It makes me admire her strength and I offer her a consoling smile.

Before I can say anything, Eric leans into the doorway and grimaces apologetically, “Sookie-”

You’re goin’ after Pam?” Sookie guesses my Child’s intentions.

Yes,” Eric nods. “I have to be certain no war erupts prematurely and if Compton is not the culprit, I am the one who can confront Grissom.”

Sookie rises from the foot of the bed and goes to Eric. I see her hesitate to kiss him in front of me, so I cast my eyes to my own Bonded.

Be safe.”

You, too,” Eric tells her and I hear their lips meet briefly. “Please, stay with your brother at all times while I am away? Yes, that means letting him drive the two of you to work. Carpooling makes more sense anyway.” I am not unaware that Sookie is still a horrendous driver, which usually brings me amusement. “Please, stay home with Godric and Camilla when you are not at work?” he requests in that voice that tells me it is not really a request, but he knows better than to make commands on Sookie outside the bedroom. That is a conversation we have had in length, I think with the first burst of amusement I have felt since this afternoon.

I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else while my friends are like this,” Sookie replies softly and it makes my heart swell that such a young woman wishes to be the anchor to this ancient vampire’s drifting spirits.

I will call you once I arrive in New Orleans,” Eric tells her and I hear their lips touch again. “It should only be about five hours,” he whispers softer and another brief meeting of their lips punctuates his promise.

I’ll miss you,” Sookie murmurs.

As I will miss you,” Eric chuckles before the sound of a long embrace.

After Eric departs, I look over my shoulder at Sookie who is leaning out of the doorway, staring down the hall longingly.

Are you all right?” I ask as she finally comes to sit back on the bed and stroke Camilla’s feet absentmindedly.

It’s silly,” Sookie blushes.

I could use silly,” I encourage.

It wouldn’t be silly to you,” she admits.

I am waiting.”

Eric and I haven’t been more than fifty miles apart since before we were married,” she mumbles, tilting her head down. “I can feel him flying away and I already miss him.”

My lips tilt into a small smile, “He has died for the day on many occasions. When that occurs, he is far more absent from you than he is now.”

Sookie frowns, “I really don’t have any right to be complainin’ right now, especially not to you of all people.”

As I am about to reply, Jason arrives in the room and goes to flop on the opposite side of Camilla on the bed. Before he can, I am up and snarling involuntarily.

Fine. You flop on the bed and gimme your chair then,” Jason grumbles. “I may be a vamp, but it don’t mean I wanna stand around lookin’ like a statue or gargoyle, y’know?”

My eyes roll toward the heavens. How did I land such a Child?

Slipping into the bed beside my Bonded, I wrap her in my cool embrace. Her body immediately begins to warm me as I pull her closer. Jason takes my seat and one of Camilla’s hands while he looks her over.

You called Ludwig?” Jason asks curiously.

Ludwig can treat only the body,” I tell him in exasperation. “This is purely an affliction of the mind.”

I meant so we can feed her while she’s down for the count,” Jason tells me and I flinch. “Maybe a feedin’ tube or somethin’?”

Would you-”

I got it,” Sookie assures, reaching for her phone and calling the doctor.

What is it?” I hear Ludwig’s voice answer Sookie’s call.

Dr. Ludwig, it’s Sookie Northman,” Sookie answers the phone formally. “We have a situation here and I was hopin’ you could lend us some expertise?”

I can arrive in two hours. I am with a patient. Will it wait?”

It will wait,” Sookie replies sadly and I know it is not because of the doctor’s delay, but because she wishes the situation would not continue another two hours.

I will see you around eleven,” Ludwig tells her and hangs up.

She’ll be here at eleven,” Sookie announces.

I know,” Jason and I say in unison and Sookie smiles.

We are sitting in companionable silence for an hour or so when I hear Jason chuckle.

What is it?” I ask, surprised he can muster so much amusement under the circumstances.

Cammie’s gonna be so pissed at you when she wakes up,” Jason laughs a bit harder. “She’ll say somethin’ like, ‘you flew us to fuckin’ Ohio just ’cause I took a nap‘!?”

Sookie giggles, “And then when I tell her how you came all the way up here to beg me to chop my wings off, she’s gonna say ‘over react much’!?”

Both Jason and Sookie are laughing at my expense and while part of me wants to reprimand them and say they do not know what this feels like, another part of me is laughing right with them. Those are words my Bonded would definitely say.

Camilla’s POV:

You flew us to fucking Ohio!?

I am going to throttle my Bonded when I can move again! I swear on my eternal life I will!

For now, I get to hang out and reflect on what the hell went wrong today.

One-Twenty-Niner, Echo, Romeo, Alpha, Sierra, Echo,” I think bitterly. I may not be completely up to date on codes and crap, but the words that stranger shouted at me are obvious. One-Twenty-Niner is probably the serial number Grissom gave me and the rest of it is some sort of code that sends me into this state?

What is this state? I start to wonder.

Every once and a while I catch a glimmer of what’s going on around me, but, for the most part, my ears and eyes aren’t filtering me any information. All I know is I’ve definitely heard a word or two from both Sookie and Jason. So, either they came down to Louisiana or Godric brought me up North. I get the feeling he brought us up North. Sookie and Jason just started their new jobs today or what I assume is still today, so he wouldn’t make them come down South.

It’s scary, but my heart won’t race, despite the fact I feel terrified. My skin’s not feedin’ me any information, either. I don’t know if I am sitting or lying down. It’s like my brain is in a glass jar, still firing all these thoughts, but unable to do anything.

Oh, my God, if I could have an actual panic attack right now, it’d be one for the books!

Instead, I’m just existing in this dark, little, place in my mind, wondering if Godric can feel me or if that’s disconnected, too? I can’t feel him, so it must go both ways. My poor Bonded!

I really hope he only brought us to Ohio for support during this confusing time and that he’s not about to do anything brash. After all, I still have all my memories as far as I can tell, which means I’m still conscious of who I am. I can’t be glamoured anymore and vampire commands can only last three days. If I’m lucky, this is a one and done experience. Maybe it’s some sort of short-cut Grissom planted in my brain if I needed to be “reprogrammed” for my buyer?

I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about this long before now. Not to Godric, of course. He’d get overprotective and make me walk around in some sensory deprivation tank so no one could hit the reset button. I’ve talked about it with my magic tutor, Rose, though. Not specifically about me, but hypotheticals. I told her about a story I heard involving old human trafficking instances with vampires. I asked if she had any insight about the types of Dolls Grissom used to create.

Rose taught me a lot about vampire glamour and spoke about the terrifying genius of Grissom’s methods. Afterward she asked me if it was real and if so, she would need to be wary. I told her to be wary.

You flop on the bed and gimme your chair then,” Jason’s voice rings through and I want to laugh. My big brother makes me laugh. He’s way more of a brother to me than Eric. Eric, weirdly enough, feels more like a dad to me, but that’s a whole can of what does that make Godric that I don’t like to think about opening!

So, I’m guessing I got three days of this nonsense if Godric doesn’t do anything brash and stupid. I haven’t felt so alone in my entire life, but I take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone. My Bonded and best friends are beside me. I’m safe and all I need to do is focus on not losing my mind while I’m stuck like this and fighting like hell to get my senses back! I. Can. Do. This!

Godric’s POV:

So,” Jason murmurs thoughtfully, “I know I’m just a fledglin’, but Cammie don’t feel blanked out to me.”

I look up from where I have been staring at mine and Camilla’s joined hands and give him a glance that tells him to elaborate.

It’s just… A feelin’,” Jason tells me a bit louder. “I mean, I can feel she ain’t right, but I can feel her mind. Like… When I do glamours, I can feel a person’s consciousness. It’s like their mind wants to fill me up and move in mine. With Sook, I get that same full feelin’, but I can’t will it either way. That’s how Cammie feels-”

You have been trying to glamour Camilla?” I ask, trying to temper my frustration.

No, I’ve just been tryin’ to see if she feels any different,” He assures me quickly. “And she does, but not in an unfamiliar way. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being optimistic,” Jason mumbles self-consciously.

Sighing, I bring Camilla’s hand to my lips for the millionth time in twelve hours before encouraging Jason, “Please, speak your mind.”

Jason looks at me nervously, “Okay, so from what you and Eric have told me about glamour… Y’know, what I can and can’t do and why, it’s not something easy to erase someone’s mind.”

Correct,” I tell him. “You remember what we told you was done to Camilla to achieve this state-”

But she’s not in the state Eric found her,” Jason insists. “That Camilla was conscious. She was awake, but only had the sense to blink. She didn’t have the sense to eat, even though she was awake. Even with food right in front of her! She didn’t have the sense not to piss all over herself. Cammie isn’t awake. She’s unconscious. Isn’t this more like a coma?”

He is right, I realize in surprise. Camilla is not conscious. She had been after Eric retrieved her from Grissom’s. That would mean that whatever state my Bonded is in currently, it is not necessarily as dire as I had feared.

You are right,” I tell him softly, as I am still awed by the realization. “That would mean-”

She’s under an imbedded command!” Jason whoops. “That means she’s gonna snap outta it in three days ’cause that’s how long a vampire command can hold! Boo-yah!” He raises his hands in victory as he rises to his feet.

I would join in his celebration if I were not stunned into silence. How did none of us realize this? How did I fly several hundred miles with my unconscious Bonded in my arms to beg my family to give up all their gifts so that I might kill my beloved and die myself?

Godric?” Jason’s voice calls calmly and I feel his firm grasp of my shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay. You were worried about Cammie. It’s figured out now,” he tries to sooth me as I feel this terrible urge to sob like some human child.

What did I nearly lose? What did I nearly take from my family!?

Love makes you stupid, y’know?” Jason tells me, still attempting to ease the burden of my betrayal and weaknesses. “Look at me and Sook. We’re just brother and sister and we ’bout killed ourselves for one another. I nearly lost my arm and Sookie ’bout starved to death. Okay, some exaggerating, but the truth is love makes you dumb. Whether it’s family or your true love, you’re gonna miss some of the answers. That’s why you got family, to solve shit for you while you’re bein’ stupid,” He tells me and laughs. “It’s okay. When it’s my turn to fall in love and Bond, you’ll have my back. Right?”

Yes,” I agree, nodding weakly. I almost killed myself and Camilla!

Now, no more Romeo and Juliet thoughts. Okay?”

Yes,” I tell him firmly in agreement as I try harder to shake off the shock of what I had come here to do.

Cool. Now, you wanna tell me what’s goin’ on with Eric and Pam? I can’t feel them,” Jason demands.

Pam is in New Orleans. Eric is just flying along the Arkansas/Tennessee border. He should arrive in New Orleans in two hours,” I inform him. “Pam’s frustrated, so I would assume she has not yet tracked down Compton.”

What do you think will happen if she finds him before Eric finds her?” Jason asks me with genuine curiosity.

Shrugging my shoulders, I confess, “I do not know either way. I have no idea what Eric’s intentions are any more than I know Pamela’s. For as long as I have known those two, they still surprise me regularly by their decisions. Pamela because she is spontaneous when not ordered by myself or Eric. Eric…he has a certain predictability about him, except when he decides to be unpredictable. He takes just enough risks to keep me guessing while not bringing me any concern. As long as Eric arrives before Pamela finds Compton, I have no worries.”

Jason nods at my explanation and sits back in his chair, having completed his victory lap after figuring out Camilla’s ailment.

We sit in silence until a sudden POP fills the air. The abrupt arrival of Dr. Ludwig causes Jason’s fangs to snap into place and he snarls in disappointment.

“Damn it, Doc! I ain’t popped these things unintentionally in almost two years and you gone and ruined my streak!” Jason complains as his lips curl and his fangs ascend back to their human façade.

Quit your complaining and…” Ludwig pauses when she sees Camilla, “and explain why your Bonded is in a coma.”

I sigh, “We believe it is an imbedded command from when Grissom was erasing her memory. A glamoured human spoke strange words to her, and then Camilla collapsed and disappeared from the Bond.”

Ludwig frowns, “I see.” She comes to Camilla’s side and begins evaluating her, but thankfully does not command me to move. Instead, she considerately works around me. That takes me by surprise. “I have seen this before,” Ludwig tells us softly. “It is an imbedded command. A short cut, if you will.”

Short cut?” Jason asks.

The doctor nods as she explains, “I had the displeasure of mending one of Grissom’s Dolls once. The poor thing had been so physically and emotionally traumatized that Grissom had to come and erase her memories all over again. I was setting a dislocation when he arrived. He spoke a code to the girl and she fell into a sleep just like this one,” She gestures to my Camilla. “It was a brief sleep, but when she awoke, she could not recognize her face… What Grissom said to her, I could practically see her mind breaking. When he tried to strike her, I stopped him. I told him I would report him and his techniques to the International Council of Supernaturals.”

And they did nothing,” I whisper.

And they did nothing,” she agrees gruffly. “Because she was a human. I told them I may be a supernatural doctor, but it is my creed to harm none, not to look the other way while harm is done to others. That was when I petitioned Endymion and the Pantheon to grant me neutrality. I am one of very few supernatural creatures not governed by most magical laws.”

As I listen to the doctor her words ring in me anxiously, “Does that mean Camilla will not know herself when she wakes?”

Ludwig frowns, “She will have all of her memories, but there is a possibility she will not recognize her face. If you handle that situation calmly, it will be far from the most traumatizing thing she has experienced.”

I suppose if I warned her before she sees her reflection, it might help?” I wonder aloud.

That would definitely be a good idea. How long has she been out?” Ludwig asks.

About twelve hours,” I tell her.

I will hook her up to an IV and put in a catheter. When she wakes up, keep her in bed for the first day with a few walks around the room every few hours, then straight back into bed. Sex as soon as she is willing after waking, but gently. She will be weak. Sex will help reaffirm your Bond,” She explains. “Light foods the first two days after she rises. Broths, fluids, and those protein drinks I have them on… Stuff like that.”

Is that all?” Jason asks in surprise.

Yes, because you have told me she cannot be glamoured. That means her mental state is in no danger and she has living immortality, so even if you don’t feed her, she can’t die. Still, there is no reason to let her come back from this in poorer conditions than she must,” Ludwig shrugs. “I will swing by in four days to check her over. I suggest you two remain here for the rest of the week.”

Jason leaves the room as Ludwig begins rolling up the bedding to insert Camilla’s catheter, and I hold my Bonded’s hand as she is given the most basic of treatments.

Do you know… Could this be done to her again?” I ask of the doctor.

I’m not sure. From what I could tell the code had to be re-imbedded, but that was because the subject’s memory was wiped. Camilla’s cannot be. However, depending on her current mental state, whatever is going on in that head of hers right now? Who knows? Her magic is growing stronger every day now. She may be able to erase the command herself.”

Camilla’s POV:

… may be able to erase the command herself…”



I can erase the command myself!? I think with excitement and surprise. Does that mean somewhere in all this darkness, I’m actually just existing in my mind?

Whoa, that’s way too paranormal, even for someone married to a vampire!

That’s also the first voice I’ve heard in forever and it was Ludwig’s. It’s also the only time I’ve heard Ludwig’s voice, which makes me think I haven’t been out for very long. After all, Godric would have called Ludwig pretty quick, right? Then again, he did fly all the way to Ohio before he did… Ugh, I have no idea what’s going on and it’s annoying the heck out of me!

However, that is a thought for another time. Right now, I know I’m trapped in my own head and while I’m here, I got an imbedded command to erase! This task seems way out of my league. Maybe if I was studying to be a psychology teacher or brain surgeon I’d have a better idea of what to do, but I’m a freakin’ math teacher. What do I know about brain mapping?

Mindfulness. Being aware of thoughts as they pass, but allow them to pass. Do not cling, merely be aware,” Rose’s words ring into my brain and I groan. Meditation isn’t really my thing, but my magic tutor has been rigorous about guided meditations. She has told me countless times that the natural ability to manipulate energy is useless if you cannot make it do what you want.

That’s why I’m still sitting in the dark, trying to figure out how to meditate when I can’t focus on my breathing or heartbeat. I’m not good enough at this yet!

Don’t make excuses for somethin’ you know how to do. So, it doesn’t come naturally. That’s not an excuse to do it poorly,” Sookie’s voice rings in my mind, her words from back when I was first trying to understand my biology lessons. It was my worst subject by far and I hated it. Sookie’s solution was studying with me. Every time I got frustrated and shoved her notecards or books away, she would push them right back and say it would become easier if I worked harder. Everything couldn’t come easily. Some things had to be worked for.

Okay, Cammie. You had your entire memory stripped from you and you managed to get your GED within a year. You’ve had four years training with Rose. You. Can. Do. This! I chant my new favorite mantra several times before slowly stripping away thought after thought.

Unbidden by me, my memories swell with words my Bonded spoke several hours ago. They fill my thoughts and his voice becomes the breath, the heartbeat that brings my mind to focus.

It is amazing, Mila meum,” Godric whispered in my ear early yesterday morning before my classes began, “despite the same predictability the day shares with the night, there is also a newness to every day. A new openness, a new beginning. These past five years that I have been an Impervious Immortal, I experience every day with wonder. There are so many things to be found in the daylight. Trust, love, happiness. Since being gifted with the day I have seen more of those beautiful things in the past five years than the last five hundred wandering only in the night. Those months in the sun before you were brought into my existence… I think they gave me the hope and faith I needed to let myself accept your love.”

Really? I thought Eric still had to smack that sense into you,” I teased him.

Godric looked at me with that level of annoyance he only enjoys when I bring him to it, “Whatever the case, I am here now because I finally witnessed that those things still existed. That a woman like you could still exist in this world. I love you, Mila meum.”

I love you, too, Godric.”

Suddenly this corner of mind doesn’t seem as dark or isolated. I feel free to wander and chase that memory deeper. Thankfully the darkness doesn’t return as I explore. Listening to memory after memory, conversation after conversation, like traveling back through time, through my five year past until I hit the edge.

No more whispers, I think as I have gone as far back as my memory exists and old conversations can no longer murmur to me. It is like hitting a wall.

One-Two-Niner,” a vaguely unfamiliar, but most unwelcome voice snarls in my ear. “Echo, Romeo, Alpha, Sierra, Echo. When you hear these words, you will allow yourself to be rewritten. Your mind will not cling to its memories. They will be disposable to you. Obey.”

No, I think indignantly, they’re not disposable. They’re invaluable.

Then again, this memory is disposable. I do not want or need it.

Echo,” I try to say out loud, “Romeo,” I hope speaking it myself works just the same, “Alpha, Sierra,” I’m going for it! “Echo.”

Godric’s POV:

Are Cammie’s lips moving?” Sookie asks with a frown as she stares at my Bonded’s face.

I look at Camilla’s plump lips and see them tremble ever so slightly. It is the first sign of movement she has given me in just over fifty hours. As I feel my emotions swell at this tiny sign of awareness, I hear a soft, “’Ko’,” sound in the back of her throat.

Suddenly her emotions burst forth within me. Fatigue, relief, love, and gratitude as her eyes flutter rapidly open.

Godric,” Her weak hands reach for my face and I cup them with my own as I lean down to kiss her.

I see Sookie and Jason quickly withdraw from the bedroom and I deepen the kiss. “I missed you,” I say against her mouth.

“I missed you, too,” she tells me, sliding her hands behind my neck and pulling me tighter to her mouth.

Camilla,” I try to speak against her lips, “there is something you should know-”

What? Did you get over me already?” she teases in that way I have missed the past two days.

Do not even joke about such an impossible thing,” I kiss her again.

What is it, Godric?” Camilla asks calmly.

“There is a possibility that you may have forgotten what you look like, so when you look in the mirror, the face you see could be a stranger’s face,” I whisper guardedly.

Camilla pauses as she absorbs this information, “As long as it’s still the face you love, I’ll get used to it.” I smile and kiss her once more before she pulls away suddenly. “I’m sorry, I just gotta pee so bad-”

You have a catheter in,” I tell her. “It is probably giving you a sensation of urgency to urinate.”

Her face scrunches unpleasantly and she whispers, “Can you take it out?”

Chuckling, I nod, “I do, in fact, know how to do that.”

I can feel her embarrassment as I slide down the length of the bed and push the blankets up. Despite all the things I have done to her body, none of them have been as clinical as this particular act. I suppose a part of her feels I should not witness her nether regions in such a state, but I do not dwell on her strange insecurities. Instead, I focus on my task and break the shackles of her comatose state with the removal of the catheter.

Do you still need to pee?” I ask jokingly when she is free.

She pauses before answering, almost as if she is considering her body very carefully. “Yes!” she announces suddenly, flings away the bedding, and hobbles toward the door.

Other door,” I tell her amusedly and go to assist her. She has not moved a muscle in over forty-eight hours, and I can see she is hurting from it. Soon I have her sitting on the toilet and she holds her head in her hands as she urinates.

Go away,” she mumbles tiredly.

I laugh and shake my head. “You probably will not be able to stand up again.”

She finishes quickly and, sure enough, cannot lift herself off the toilet.

Okay, help,” she admits defeat when she cannot find a surface to hold onto and haul herself back to her feet.

I smile and take her into my arms. She has me stop to let her wash her hands and I oblige. When she reaches for the towel to dry her hands, she pauses and stares at the mirror. I can feel her surprise and I look at Camilla worriedly.

“That’s my face,” she murmurs.

Yes,” I agree gently.

“No! I mean, I recognize it! That’s my face!” She laughs and smiles and I hold her even tighter. “I must not have had that command!” She grins back at me from the mirror and I kiss her cheek before returning to the bedroom.

What command did you have?” I ask of her and her face frowns.

I don’t know… I don’t remember,” she confesses.

What do you remember?” I ask gently as I set her back on to the bed.

I remember being in darkness. I remember hearing you guys from time to time,” she thinks back. “I heard Ludwig once. She said something about overcoming the command myself and all I could think was, ‘I can do that?’ So, I worked on doing that,” Camilla tells me thoughtfully. “I don’t know. Maybe I succeeded? How long was I out?” she asks.

About fifty hours,” I tell her softly.

Camilla nods, accepting that fifty hours of her life have vanished, “I should have been out for seventy-two. It was an imbedded glamour. It should have held me for three days. If I woke in just over two, then I probably erased the glamour successfully,” she states confidently.

Why would you not know?” I ask.

She shrugs and offers, “I probably erased the memory of the imbedded command. If I did that, I probably wouldn’t remember erasing it either. That’s my best guess, anyway.”

All I can do is nod at her assessment, but my anxiety will not be quelled until her safety has been assured.

You want to see if I’ll go back under, don’t you?” she guesses accurately.

I do,” I confess.

Go on, then,” she waves her hand with her consent. She quickly snuggles back into bed and looks at me expectantly. “Well?” she prods when I have yet to speak.

What if you go back under? I will be without you again,” I whisper sadly.

It will be fine, Godric,” she tells me confidently. “I know it will be.”

I let out a sigh and finally utter, “One-two-niner, echo, romeo, alpha, sierra, echo.”

My words barely hiss past my teeth at the last word and I stare at Mila expectantly. She blinks at me with her cocky, little smirk, then leans in and kisses my tight lips.

See?” she teases. “I can take care of myself, too.”

My lips relax and I lean in to kiss her slowly, “I have missed you so much.”

I’ve missed you too, Godric,” she says quietly as she wraps her arms around my neck and pulls me atop her. “Now make love to me.”

On to Chapter Forty-Seven!

Catalyst Ch. 45

Chapter Forty-Five: Relapse

August 2005

Jason’s POV:

I feel like the new kids in school again, I think nervously as Sooks and I make our way through the hallways of Stone Water High School.

As I guessed he might, Eric managed to get me and Sookie jobs at the same school and now, we’re the new kids, in a new town, in a new state. After Sookie graduated from Endene, Eric moved the three of us to Ohio to start a new life. I know it’s ’cause Sook wants to raise her kids in our family home and since none of us know exactly when that will happen, Eric thought it might be best to leave Louisiana behind until she gets knocked up.

It’s cool, though, Yankee girls got a thing for my accent, but I gotta make sure I throw some knowledge down pretty quick, otherwise I’m looked at like a stupid redneck and not an educated, southern gent. I’ve barely been in Ohio a month and I’ve already banged half the eligible women in my subdivision. Pam’s gonna be so jealous when she gets here this weekend!

Pam decided to go to New York before meetin’ us here and Godric’s stayin’ in Louisiana until Camilla finishes school. She’s got one year of college left, and then they’ll be on their way up here. Cammie surprised all of us when she said she’d like to teach math. When I asked what made her want to become a teacher, she’d told me nice and simple that the bloodline had shown her the importance of patient, knowledgeable people offering their abilities. If it hadn’t been for all of us, it might have taken Cammie a lot longer to get her GED and get enrolled in college. Eric’s already workin’ on glamouring one of the older math teachers into puttin’ in for retirement so Cammie can take his place next year.

Sookie’s spot opened when the former English teacher’s husband got a terrific job in Michigan, but it meant they would have to move. His new job just so happened to be for a company Eric owned. My job actually came about naturally. I swear Eric did not give that poor old guy a heart attack!

Are you nervous?” My sister asks as we make our way to our respective classrooms.

Super nervous,” I confess. “Do I look all right?” I got on a pair of dark khaki pants and a deep blue polo shirt. Pam says duller colors won’t make my skin look so pale. Although, I got a pretty good color palette to work with ’cause Pam insisted I tan really good before comin’ over. She hung out with me on the old condo roof, soakin’ in the rays all summer those three years ago.

You look great,” she tells me confidently. “Don’t go makin’ any young girls fall in love with you!”

I roll my eyes, “Yeah, don’t go makin’ no little boys fall for you. Eric will kill ’em.”

Sookie flinches, but nods. I didn’t expect her to agree so easily that her husband is one possessive, homicidal dude. It ain’t jealousy. Eric knows better than anyone that Sookie ain’t goin’ nowhere, but that doesn’t mean he wants to see some yahoo gettin’ handsy with his wife. It doesn’t mean he’ll let someone walk away afterward.

I’ll see you at lunch. Did you remember your thermos?” Sookie, the mother hen, asks.

Yeah, Ma! I remembered it. See you at lunch,” I laugh and kiss her cheek as I open her classroom door and let her in. She waves goodbye to me as I head to my own classroom.

When I arrive at my desk, I make quick work of organizing myself and getting the chalkboard written up for the beginnin’ of my first class. Soon, my first student arrives and sits in the back of the room. He’s a quiet lookin’ kid with long, floppy black hair and downcast eyes. He sits in the far back corner, crosses his arms over his chest, and tucks his chin against his sternum. His brown eyes close and it looks like he’s already fallen asleep. Any thoughts I had about him being a quiet kid are shot to hell as he starts to snore. Whatever, it’s early. Let the kid sleep till class actually starts.

I go back to preparin’ the chalkboard and leave Snow White to his shuteye. Soon my class trickles to full. Some kids are noisy, others are still half asleep. Eventually the bell rings, signaling it’s time for me to start lessons. I begin by grabbin’ a copy of my thickest book and slammin’ it down on my desk. The noisy kids fall silent and look at me in surprise. The unconscious kids jerk awake and look around in confusion until their eyes are on me.

Good mornin’, Class,” I address my new students. “My name is Mr. Stackhouse. I’m the new history teacher and this is World History. Before we dive into it, let’s do roll call.” I pick up my first period class registration and quickly get through it, checkin’ off people’s names. “I’m gonna pass out this seatin’ chart. Write your name in the corresponding box, and congratulations! You are now married to your seat for the remainder of the semester.”

My mornin’ goes the same for each class. Same preparation, same announcement from class to class. World History, Ancient/Medieval History, Geography, and Government. Those are my classes this year and I’m stoked about the first two, a lot less stoked about the other two. Whatever, I think as I grab my thermos and head to the Teacher’s Lounge for lunch. My sister waves to me from a round table and I sit next to her.

How was the first half of your first day?” She asks, bubbly as ever.

Good. Only a quarter fell asleep so far. I think that’s good for a history teacher on the first day. To be fair, that entire quarter was my Geography class. It’s just so hard to make country borders and topographical maps interesting,” I tell her as I open my thermos and take a swig.

Is that all you’re eating, Jason?” A nosey P.E. teacher asks of my thermos. “You need more than that to maintain that muscle mass.”

It’s a protein drink,” I tell him. When he seems to have gone back to mindin’ his own business, I turn back to Sook, “How were your first classes?”

“Okay,” she smiles. “A lot of groaning when we went over the assigned readin’. My American Lit. Class wasn’t so happy about some of the novels, but they’ll get over it.”

I laugh and nod as Sookie dives into her three-course lunch. The gym teacher looks surprised at how much my little sister can pack away, but wisely keeps his mouth shut this time. He obviously knows that you don’t comment on a woman’s eating habits.

While she eats and I sip at my drink, I write her a quick note.

~ Had a Were in my second hour class. Don’t think he stopped staring at me for a second. His notes are going to suck. ~

She continues munchin’ on her sandwich as she takes my pen and replies.

~ Had a shifter just before lunch. He seemed very confused by me. I think he’s too young to understand what I am in the culture. His name’s Taylor Charleston. Check to see if you have him. I didn’t get a chance to get a good read on him, but he’s a freshman and I don’t know if his magic has popped yet. ~

I nod in understanding and sip at the last of my blood. I can feel my fangs pulsin’ in my gums, wonderin’ why they’re still sheathed when blood is on my tongue, but I ignore them. The past few years have given me plenty of time to hide the telltale signs of what I am. My fangs don’t pop unless I’m really caught off guard and no human has managed that in almost two years now. Also, it took a few months, but I finally managed to pull off a glamour. Apparently, I’m pretty good at it ’cause Sook said the human’s mind accepted it seamlessly. She said it was almost difficult for her to tell the memory I left her with was a fake one.

That sorta makes me nervous. I can manipulate humans way too easy for my likin’. I hope I don’t abuse that ability…

You’re thinkin’ awful hard,” Sookie comments as she dabs at the corners of her mouth with a napkin.

A shrug lifts my shoulders, “I guess I’m still distracted by some of the things we’ve learned over the past few years.”

Sook folds her hands under her chin and gives me a thoughtful look, “I have faith in what Endy has told us. Even if there are things he could not foresee or determine the origins or weaknesses, he’s seen us far, far beyond now. That’s all the reassurance I need.”

My sister’s words ease my nerves and I gotta confess she’s becoming the woman Endymion knew she would be, cool, considerate, and still absolutely lovely. I think Faith is her greatest strength. She has faith in me to keep it together. She has faith in Eric to love and protect her. She has faith in everything Endymion has seen for us. Most of all, she has faith in herself and that she will reach all those expectations the universe has set for us.

Earth to Jason,” Sookie laughs as I’ve spaced out again.

Sorry,” I laugh. “I just keep gettin’ caught up in all that’s happened over the past few years. I wonder when it’ll all settle for me, y’know?”

Sookie nods in understanding, “I do know.”

We finish our lunches, and then go back to our classrooms. It’s sometime halfway through fifth period when I feel the most unearthly rattle in my connection to Godric. All my willpower goes to keepin’ my face straight as Agony unlike any I’ve ever known tears through me like a knife, worse than the shredded muscles and tendons my shoulder had, more gut-wrenchin’ than losin’ my parents and Gran, and more destructive to my soul than seein’ my sister’s body disappearin’ from starvation I was failin’ to prevent. I feel blood in my eyes and need to turn away from the class.

Whatever’s happenin’, Godric’s tore up and it’s significant enough that he can’t even close his end of our connection. Ah, God, make it stop! I think desperately as bloody tears threaten to spill and divulge my true self.

Mr. Stackhouse, are you all right?” One of my students asks nervously.

Thinkin’ quick, I clutch my side, “Y-yeah, sorry, guys. I got a cracked rib and I must’ve strained it.”

There’s a real brief murmur as my excuse is digested. Before anyone can ask questions, my classroom phone rings and I reach to answer it.

Yeah,” I rumble into the phone.

Jason, your brother called. He said there’s an emergency?” The school’s receptionist, Tammy, tells me.

Which brother?” I ask.

Godric,” Tammy replies. “He left a message saying he’ll be arriving tonight and to keep an eye on your sister.”

Something happened to Cammie! Fuck! Somethin’ happened to Cammie! I think wildly, “Okay. Thanks, Mrs. Parker. I’ll be right there.”


I hang up the phone and turn to my class. “I want notes on the first two pages of the first chapter by the time I get back from the office,” I command before leavin’ to glamour the hell outta Tammy. That was too weird a phone call and message to let a human remember.

I’m in the office in a few short minutes and Tammy looks at me in confusion. “Your brother isn’t on the line anymore,” she tells me.

I know,” I catch her gaze and she slumps slightly in her chair. “You answered a crank call and I just wanted to tell you that.”

I’m sorry,” she says slowly. “That must have frightened you.”

It’s all right, Tammy,” I assure her frazzled mind. “No harm, no foul.” It’s a lot easier to change a human’s interpretation of a situation than to change the memory entirely.

Slowly I drift Tammy out of my glamour and she blinks rapidly several times before shakin’ her head. “I can’t believe I scared you like that! I’m so sorry!” she apologizes again.

Like I said, no harm done,” I pat the counter before wavin’ goodbye. Next, I swing by Sookie’s classroom and pull her out.

What happened?” Sookie demands as her door snaps shut behind her. “Eric actually panicked a bit before he brought himself under control.”

I think somethin’ happened to Cammie,” I tell her quick and quiet.

What? How?” Sookie frowns.

I don’t know,” I confess, “but Godric’s on his way up here. Should be in by tonight.” Sooks nods and pulls her lips between her teeth thoughtfully. “I’m only tellin’ you this because I know you’re worried and I also know Eric’s not gonna call, too. They wouldn’t want to draw too much attention.” Sookie nods again and I pull her into a quick, comfortin’ hug outta view of her class. “It’ll be all right. No matter what it is that happened, it’ll be all right.”

Pullin’ away, Sookie wipes at her eyes and nods silently again before turnin’ back to her classroom. She doesn’t have any words of assurance or comfort, but the set of her jaw as she opens the door tells me her faith in the future remains intact.

Pam’s POV:

It is almost five in the early evening when I arrive in Shreveport. A rather concerning phone call from Godric has brought me here and I waste no time finding a taxi to take me to his home. So abrupt was my summoning, I did not even pack. I merely grabbed my purse and caught a flight.

Pamela,” Godric flings open the door as I walk up the steps to his front door.

Godric,” I reply worriedly at the look in his eyes as he opens the door further to usher me in.

I stare confusedly at the scene before me. Camilla is resting upon the sofa in an unsettling stillness that is like no sleep I have ever seen, but more like a vampire’s day death. If my body still could, it’s hair would stand on end as goosebumps broke out along my flesh. Instead, all I experience is a strange pain as if my heart has been staked and cannot mend.

Her cognition has been switched off. This must be the same condition Eric discovered her in nearly five years ago.

How?” I turn to Godric desperately.

My Maker’s Master points to the human I have barely even registered as present. He is a young man, probably Sookie’s age or a little younger. He is entirely human and his ability to bring Camilla to this Purgatory once more is confusing.

Godric goes to kneel in front of Camilla and takes her hands in his own. I see that those ancient, strong hands tremble with fear and agony I cannot begin to comprehend.

I was walking her to classes as I usually do,” Godric tells me. “That young man approached and I could tell he was not right. I could see the glamour. He stopped several yards away and shouted out to us. I thought perhaps it was a prank or perhaps not a glamour, but a man having a mental breakdown…until Camilla went unresponsive beside me. Her emotions vanished within me. It was like someone purged my entire body from the inside out with freezing water. She was gone from me,” Streams of blood wind rivers down Godric’s face as he finishes his tale and I feel my own crimson tears drip down my chin.

What were the words?” I ask softly. “Maybe if they turn off her cognition, repeating them will turn it back on?” I suggest hopefully.

Godric shakes his head. “I have tried that!” he barks in frustration and I regret making such an obvious suggestion. Of course, Godric will have tried countless options already. “I called you here for two reasons. One is to try to determine what vampire sent the human to recite those words and the other is to attend Camilla’s classes until we have figured out…”

It will be all right, Godric,” I try to comfort the eldest of our bloodline.

What if it was an imbedded memory reset?” Godric whispers. “What if Grissom left a code in her mind to wipe her memories?” He brings Camilla’s hands to his lips and kisses them frantically as if praying to his Bonded to rise from this nightmare. “I will never have my Camilla back. She will start from scratch all over again. What if I do not love that Camilla? What if she does not love me?”

Godric, get her to Ohio,” I tell him. “Jason has the best glamouring skills of our bloodline, shockingly enough. Maybe in her state he can try-”

He is not experienced enough. He could do more harm than good!” Godric snaps and kisses Camilla’s hands once more, rubbing his thumbs repeatedly into her palms.

What is it you suggest then?” I frown.

I am going to beg Sookie to cut off her wings,” Godric announces as he lifts Camilla into his arms.

But then-”

I know,” Godric whispers, cutting me off. “I am sorry, Pamela, but I will not live without Camilla.”

Though every fiber of my being wants to shriek and beg him not to even consider robbing the entire bloodline of our freedoms and futures, a newer, less selfish, part of me cannot bear to think of him existing another day after such a loss.

I will see what I can find out from this one,” I tell him without protesting his intentions.

Thank you, Pamela, and I am truly sorry,” he tells me sadly before leaving the house and taking off into the night sky with his vacant Bonded.

Turning to the captive who has brought this turmoil upon our bloodline, however unwillingly, I begin to dig for my answers.

Around one in the morning, I end my delving after concluding that this young man has what Sookie would call, “A hole in the head.” The memory of his encounter with whatever vampire has not been replaced, but blatantly ripped out, a very dangerous method that can inadvertently ruin the way a human’s brain forms future memories. If we all went around pulling this sort of crap, most of the human populace would be incapable of forming new memories!

I hate sloppy work and I am not all that gifted at glamouring. Whomever did this is not only gifted, but brutal. Initially, I would have thought Grissom or Compton because of the knowledge of some sort of mental self-destruct button in Camilla’s head. However, this car wreck of a glamour tells me it was neither. They both have too much respect for their skills to leave something this slovenly.

Still, that does not mean Grissom did not sell the code to some other vampire. It does not mean Compton did not discover or plant the code as insurance, either. Either way, it still comes back to those two. They are the only vampires Camilla has encountered since before becoming immune to glamour. They are also the only two vampires with the means and abilities to do this.

Even with my immunities, I can’t hope to detain or interrogate Grissom. However, I can easily make Compton spill his guts literally and figuratively.

Glamouring the young man to sleep until I return, I grab my purse, head out the door, and find my quickest route to New Orleans.

Jason’s POV:

I’m sittin’ as quiet and still as I ever have in my entire life. I can feel Godric approachin’ and I look to Eric nervously. All I can really feel is his presence. I can’t tell how he feels, just that he’s on his way.

There’s little else to do. Eric’s already told me that Godric rushin’ up North can mean only one thing. He’s comin’ to ask Sookie to chop off her wings and take away our immunities. Only problem is, Sook’s wings aren’t the source of our immunities, nor how they’re shared. That’s the work of the Blood Lettin’ Blade and Sookie’s own heritage. Hell, even if Eric turned Sookie, there’s no guarantee it would reverse Camilla’s immunity to glamour.

Godric will arrive in a few moments,” Eric tells me as he sits, holdin’ my sister’s hand, and pattin’ it calmly. I don’t know how he keeps so much in. Even though I can keep my body still, I know my face is tellin’ the entire room how nervous and uncertain I’m feelin’.

Like Eric predicted, the front door flings open and we all rise to greet Godric almost like a funeral procession. When I see Godric’s face, I realize somethin’ very dark and scary. Godric ain’t here to ask Sook to chop off her wings so we can reverse the damage done to Cammie. He’s here to ask Sook to chop off her wings so he can kill the both of them. If my heart could beat, it would break my chest right now!

Master,” Eric greets Godric all solemn and I can’t do nothin’ but keep my mouth shut. I don’t trust myself not to sob like a little bitch. A girl I’ve been comin’ to love like a sister is bein’ held limp and unresponsive in my brother’s arms. My new family is breakin’ and I don’t know any kinda glue that could put it back together.

While I stare sadly at Cammie, I feel somethin’. It’s a familiar sorta pull that tugs at some pure instinct in me. It has a taste, texture, and whispering voice. It brings me a calm relief that’s totally welcome right now.

Godric,” I start, but get cut off by a snarlin’ Eric. “What?” I ask him, more than a bit exasperated. Drama King much!?

Where the fuck is Pamela going!?” Eric roars as he takes out his cell phone and speed dials my friend.

I see Godric shut his eyes and frown, “She is heading South of my residence.”

She’s headin’ to New Orleans,” I announce with a shrug.

What?” Sookie frowns. “Why?”

She is going after Compton,” Eric groans as he snaps his phone shut when Pam’s goes to voicemail.

I nod in agreement. That’s really the only way she would head. There’s no way she could handle Grissom, even if she knew where he was, but Compton’s easy to find. He’s also a bit younger than her, so she can hold her own against him by herself.

She ain’t about to start a war, is she?” I ask with a groan.

Eric’s jaw clenches, so I take that as confirmation.

Sookie,” Eric turns to my sister and sighs, “could you grab the green portfolio in my desk? Master, please, put Camilla down,” He gestures to the livin’ room and the comfy sofas.

Godric nods slowly and lets himself be lead further into the house so we can all sit around comfortably. Sookie returns with the paperwork Eric asked for and sets it on the coffee table.

I have been keeping tabs on vampire movements since we disbanded from the community,” Eric tells us. Godric is sittin’ with Cammie’s head in his lap, strokin’ her hair all sad and slow. What is this feelin’ in me? I wonder. “Tracing donations and glamouring a few representatives along the way, I have discovered many “bought” politicians and officials. At first, I only focused on Louisiana, but have since expanded to include other vampire population dense states. Pam was supposed to bring me more information on New York, but was diverted. Nevertheless, I do have California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas under enough scrutiny to conclude a very intense political shift is occurring.”

Not that this is not fascinating,” Godric rumbles under his breath and I can tell he feels like he’s bein’ stalled, “but what are you getting at?”

The ruling vampires of the United States are trying to influence the next presidential election. My guess is a human is already being groomed for the position and is deeply funded by vampires,” Eric explains.

What makes you think that?” Sookie asks, but it’s me who answers.

“Those states you mentioned all have the biggest swing in the electoral college,” I realize.

Yes,” Eric nods. “This past year’s election went as normal, but now the vampires of those states I mentioned have four years to imbed the fondness for their chosen campaign hero in 2008.”

I thought a command only lasted three days,” I frown.

A command, yes,” Godric sighs, “but an alteration to memories is forever. Otherwise, we would have to track down and glamour every meal we had every three days to keep our existences secret.” He turns back to Eric and sighs, “You think war is coming.”

I believe something is coming,” Eric replies, “and without enough information, I cannot begin to presume what it means. Depending on those responsible for these actions, it could be something rather benign. Regardless, if they are trying to plant the next leader of the the United States, it is not a good thing.”

What could they be after?” Sookie asks with a frown.

It could be something as simple as having a vampire sympathizer in office, Sook,” I tell her. “They could just be trying to push some vampire friendly bills through office, or it could be more nefarious. Without really knowin’ who’s pulling the strings, it’s a mighty big gamble to let it follow through.”

Sookie looks at me skeptically, “You really think vampires could accomplish that in four years?”

Eric shakes his head, “I have seen vampires accomplish political shifts in a fortnight. Given a decade or two, they could change the world if they had half a mind. They changed the world overnight merely by exposing their existence. Do you really believe vampires did not already have several politicians packed neatly away prior to the Great Revelation? After all, many laws and restrictions to the vampire community cropped up a mere week after their existence was known, well thought out, but intentionally vague laws they could manipulate as needed. I should know, I was helping to write many of them prior to meeting you,” he tells my sister.

Godric has been silent up until now, but his voice finally comes out angrily, “This is your way of trying to dissuade me from ending mine and Camilla’s existences, correct? You think I would suffer for this cause a hundred-fold?”

Master, our bloodline is the only one who can stand in the way of another vampire’s motivation,” Eric tells him gently. “Do you not believe that Camilla might possibly be the first flame to this future war?”

You believe you are the only one who has seen this on the horizon? Perhaps you are the only one who has spent time trying to prove rather than speculate, but you are not the only creature who sees this coming,” Godric tells him, his voice a combination of growls and snarls. “You sit there in front of me with your healthy, safe Bonded and pretend to worry over the world, but I know the truth. You want your eternity with your Mate and eternal damnation to me in exchange-”

Stop!” I snap. “You two aren’t like this! Stop bein’ like this!” I demand. “Godric, Cammie’s gonna be just fine. Even if we do absolutely nothin’, she’s gonna be just fine.”

Godric looks at me in surprise before finally demanding, “How could you possibly know such a thing?”

Clenchin’ my fists, I say the thing that’s been ringin’ in my ears all day, “’I have faith in what Endymion’s told us. Even if there are things he couldn’t foresee or determine the origins or weaknesses, he’s seen us way beyond now. That’s all the reassurance I need,’” Sookie looks at me, surprised I’m quotin’ her, but gives a soft smile. “Endymion saw Cammie in the future,” I tell Godric soothingly. “He saw all of us as Impervious Immortals well down the line. She’s gonna be okay, Godric. It’ll hurt for a little while, but it’ll right itself. I promise.”

Godric pulls Cammie tightly into his arms and holds her there. It’s somethin’ I wish I could unsee. That kinda love and pain is just somethin’ I’m too young to understand. I hope I never feel that kinda pain.

On to Chapter Forty-Six!

Catalyst Ch. 43

Chapter Forty-Three: Love Trap

(Part Four of the Wedding Arc)

Eric’s POV:

Stop wiggling,” I snarl as Jason fidgets against my working hands.

Stop talkin’ against my ear then,” he grumbles back as I fold his tie accordingly. Godric is watching us in his usual amused way while I show Jason how to tie a bowtie. I am standing behind him, showing him how it is done in the mirror and apparently, this extended proximity to me is making him uncomfortable.

Your sister likes when I talk in her ear,” I chuckle at him and do not miss the fledgling clench his fists. “Oh, he still becomes flustered when I refer to his sister’s sexual preferences,” I laugh harder.

You’re pushin’ some buttons, y’know,” he growls at me, and I begin to hope that Godric will leave this young one’s physical training to me. After all, impervious immortality or not, my Fellow Child will need to learn how to fight!

I merely was curious if your metamorphosis cued more family traits to appear,” I finish his tie and step away.

What does that even mean?” Jason asks as we put on our tuxedo jackets and make our way for the hallway. The women will be meeting us at the estate, giving Jason enough time to scan the vampires for any hints of a threat before the nuptials. This way we can redirect Pam before they arrive and make our own escape. After all, Godric or I could remove Jason in the blink of an eye, but removing Sookie, Camilla, Pam, and Jason would not be as easy a task among so many vampires, even at our advanced ages. Only Russell or Joan’s intervention would give us the hint of a chance.

Believe me when I say you do not want to know,” I grin at Jason, but my mind is actively focused on the upcoming events. Not the wedding. Sookie is already my wife as far as I am concerned. This entire gathering is merely an excuse to allow her the opportunity to be wed in her heirloom dress and obtain photographs of the occasion.

Regardless of my love for her, if there is the vaguest hint of an attack, we are evacuating. I should have never announced this marriage to the vampire community, I regret for the millionth time since agreeing to Sookie’s suggestion.

Had we kept this a small, intimate wedding with just her human connections, we could have left this cloak and dagger shit behind us for the day. Instead, Sookie had tried to share what was only supposed to be for her. She had pressed that it was as much my wedding as it was hers and now it is neither my wedding nor hers because it has been taken over by my Child and my Queen.

My Maker takes the spot behind the wheel of the car and I sit beside him in the passenger seat as Jason makes himself silent in the back. Both are acutely aware I am distracted with all the possibilities of tonight.

Your signals?” Godric asks of Jason as he accelerates away from the valet.

Two finger tap on my lips for ‘enemy,’ hand over mouth for ‘imminent threat,’” Jason sighs as he closes his eyes and leans back into his seat. “I still say there should be a signal for ‘get the fuck outta dodge!’” Jason declares.

If you were to discover something that dire, I am certain Eric or I would recognize it in our link or your face,” Godric points out and I am inclined to agree. Anything Jason could hear that would force us to evacuate would be quite recognizable within the Maker/Child link.

I am only vaguely aware of the conversation occurring beside me, but even ‘vaguely’ means ‘entirely aware.’ There is a continual throbbing in my throat as though words wish to burst forth. This uncomfortable sensation spurs those words to form in my mind. Admit everything – be free!

I have considered that, too,” Godric sighs beside me.

Master?” I look at him in surprise.

I can feel your impatience, Eric,” Godric laughs. “I must confess that I feel much the same. I have agonized over what decision is best. On one hand, admitting our gifts might spur a spontaneous attack out of blind disbelief, fear, and anger. On the other hand, holding back some of our gifts might create a retaliation from those trying to exploit preconceived vulnerabilities.”

Well, if no matter what choice we make the outcome could still be a fight, why not get it all out of the way at once?” Jason asks from the backseat. “Rip it off like a Band-Aid and accept it, y’know? We’ll send the ladies off early, give the announcement, and dash.”

Are you prepared to be staked and torn limb from limb already, young one?” Godric asks him in exasperation.

Ain’t sayin’ it won’t hurt. But I’d rather get it over and done with instead of gettin’ drawn and quartered every few decades for the next century or two while everyone figures nothin’ works,” Jason replies with a laugh.

A fair point,” Godric admits with a sigh. “Let us follow the path of a mostly full disclosure. Nothing about the origins of these gifts, only the extent of them. Jason, you remember departure codes?”

Yeah, yeah. I know my ABC’s,” Jason grumbles with a sigh. He greatly dislikes being treated like the child he is, but newborns are flighty at best. They are easily distracted and commonly do not absorb all they are told. I must confess; however, Jason retains what he is told extremely well. Apart from his occasional whining and inability thus far to glamour, he is quite a promising progeny. More so than I gave him credit prior to his change.

When we arrive at the estate, Jason dutifully falls behind Godric and I. He follows like an obedient shadow and is just as silent. Much better than I gave him credit, I think amusedly. We tour the ballroom, greeting the vampires, politicians, and local celebrities who have convened. I introduce Jason to a few guests I know once he has cleared every vampire present of violent intentions.

This is my brother-in-law, Jason Stackhouse,” I introduce him to Joy Mayweather, Channel 12’s meteorologist.

Oh, my God, you’re Joy Mayweather,” Jason stares open-mouthed at the beautiful woman. “I watched you all the time!”

Past tense?” Joy pouts at him in faux sadness.

Well, I, uh, switched jobs, so I’m asleep when you’re on now,” Jason tells her smoothly. “Of course, if you wanted to drop by and give me a private forecast, I’m up around seven.” He gives her a salacious wink that I swear he picked up from Pam. I know Stackhouse was no virgin before he met Pam, but it surprises me how well he flirts with such little practice in his past. It must be the fairy in him.

I do not miss the telltale sounds of my Bonded arriving and being lead upstairs to finish preparing. Of course, I would not need to hear a thing since I already feel her presence within the compound.

We will be starting shortly,” I murmur to Jason. “You should go to your sister.”

Oh,” Jason frowns and looks down at Joy, “save me a dance later?” He gives her a swift kiss on the cheek before heading toward the stairs.

Your future brother-in-law is a real cutey,” Joy laughs and touches her cheek where Jason had kissed her.

His sister is far cuter,” I laugh. “Enjoy yourself, Ms. Mayweather.”

Joy pouts again, “So formal. You knew me rather informally before you got all domesticated.”

Only Sookie could have domesticated me so entirely,” I tell her and she crosses her arms over her chest.

Lucky girl,” Joy laughs and steps away. “I better go and try to snag a good seat! I can’t wait to see a Lothario like you tie the knot!”

I am anything but a Lothario, I think in annoyance. A satyriasis, yes. Lothario, no.

With a sigh, I go to wait at the “altar” with Godric. Sookie only has Pam and Camilla acting as her bridesmaids, so they opted to walk down the aisle together. That way, Godric could stay by my side and Jason could escort his sister down the aisle.

This decision had annoyed Sophie-Anne’s Child, Grace, because she felt with the grandness of their ballroom, Sookie and I should have six or seven bridal party members each. Sookie could have easily scrounged up that many close acquaintances, but I doubt I would have felt the urge to bother. Aside from Jason, Godric, and possibly Russell Edgington, there are not that many males I find particularly close enough to stand up at my wedding.

Russell would have gladly donated his Bonded to my cause, a rather plain man named Talbot whose beauty is in the fact he reins in Russel’s eccentricities. Simultaneously, Talbot has been known to exacerbate that same madness.

Russell had been collecting humans for some time, trying to “perfect the bouquet of their blood” by force feeding them very specific diets. Talbot was one such collectable until Russell fell into some sort of love with him and Bonded just shy of five hundred years ago. It took the vampire world by complete surprise because if there was a vampire we never thought would “fall” so far as to Bond, it was Russell.

Of course, they thought the same thing of me, I think happily. Now look where I stand!

An uncharacteristic grin widens across my lips when I hear the queue for my Bonded’s entourage to make their entrance.

Sookie’s POV:

There’s so many people out there!” I whisper nervously to my brother.

Don’t worry ’bout it, Sook,” Jason squeezes my hand very softly. I know his extra strength makes him worry about accidentally hurting me, but he treats me like I’m made of glass sometimes.

I look all right?” I ask again.

Stop fidgeting!” Pam snaps and straightens the collar of my dress. “Do you know how many calls I had to make to find enough fabric from the same era to fill out this dress?” she asks for the tenth or maybe hundredth time today.

I must admit, she did do an amazing job. She took a farmer’s daughter’s wedding dress from 1952 and turned it into a dress made for a princess. Or at least that’s how I feel, I think as my fingers gently trace the lace of the high neckline. A plain, white slip of a dress with lace overlay. That’s all this dress was, but two women were happily married in this dress and I will be, too. Maybe I’ll have a daughter who will be married in it someday…

My cheeks flush at the thought and a huge grin spreads across my lips. I really wish Ludwig could give me an expected time frame to become pregnant!

I want babies something awful! I can’t even pretend that I don’t know that I know it’s a possibility!

Sook,” Jason gives my hand a little tug, “you comin’ or goin’?”

Oh!” I blush, realizin’ that I’d almost forgotten about the wedding when I started thinking about kids.

I don’t exactly know what I had expected my wedding to be like, but it wasn’t as magical as I thought it would be. Probably because we’re already Bonded, or maybe because this whole wedding got blown out of proportion by Pam and Grace. It will make gorgeous photographs to look back on, but that’s all.

This beautiful vampire is already mine forever. His love will always be mine and I don’t need a wedding to know or prove that. Wish I’d figured that out a year ago, I think bemusedly as I reach the end of the aisle and Jason lifts my veil, gives me a kiss, and puts my hand in Eric’s.

I wish I could tell him right now I was sorry for makin’ such a big deal about this whole thing and I wish I could thank him for puttin’ up with it. When the Pastor says his words, and asks us to recite our vows, I realize that I can tell him.

Eric,” I begin with a small laugh, “thank you for going through these things for and with me. I can’t wait to go through even more with you by my side as my husband,” I send him all of my Love, and I feel his hand squeeze mine as he returns it. “I promise to love you. I promise to fight with you and make up every time. I promise to listen to you, even if I choose to do the opposite of what you suggest. And I promise to acknowledge every time you’re right. Like right now. You were right,” I feel his amusement and that knowing sensation. He knows exactly what he was right about. “I love you.”

Eric leans in like he’s goin’ to kiss me, but he stops and just grins instead. I feel his finger tracin’ the back of my hand as he begins his own vows.

Sookie,” he starts, “I promise to love you all our remaining time. I promise to protect you when you need to be protected and listen to you when you need a consoling ear. I promise not to be too smug when I am right. I promise not to say I told you so when you do the opposite of what I suggest,” I roll my eyes a little at that one. Brat, I think lovingly. “And, most of all, I promise to be understanding when you must find your own way and not have me draw out a map. I love watching you explore and discover the world around us and I am grateful for that sense of adventure inside of you. So, I promise to love the fight inside of you, even if it means fighting me from time to time.”

I melt on the inside at that last promise. Eric and I rarely fight, but we’ve definitely had our arguments. Sometimes they’re silly, like him askin’ all the time when the last time I ate was and me snappin’ and tellin’ him I’m not a child who needs to be told when to eat!

In no time, the rest of the ceremony is over and Eric’s lips are pressed against mine. I wrap my arms around him and confess, “I really hope this doesn’t go all night.”

He snorts and wraps his arms around my waist, “Do not worry. It will be over by midnight. Humans leave at eleven, and then only an hour of vampire hobnobbing.”

I’d rather be hobbing your nob-”

Sookie!” he hisses and I realize from his tone I’d just forgotten that every supernatural including my brother heard that comment.

Oops,” I grimace with a slight blush. “Well, harm’s already done. Wanna go do me in the closet?”

Eric sighs and presses his forehead against mine. “You will be the final death of me.”

That’s the dream,” I reply easily as he takes my hand, shakes his head, and leads me to the table of honor. Our family spends the hour or so pretending to eat while shoveling their food onto mine or Camilla’s plates. It’s cool, we need the calories, but I’m surprised none of the vamps in the audience are curious how two small girls like me and Cammie can pack away so much food!

Then again, I realize, most of them have probably forgotten how much humans actually eat…

After dinner, Eric’s a good sport and lets me shove cake down his throat for the humans. I see several vamps make uncomfortable faces and I feel bad that Eric will have to choke the little bit back up later. I had told him I would have happily just mashed it against his face, but he said that wouldn’t have been appropriate at this kind of wedding.

Now we have our first dance together as husband and wife. Surprisingly enough, it’s the first time we’ve ever danced together in front of people! He’s been teachin’ me to waltz because I wanted our first dance to be to “Time in a Bottle.” There’s some little flares thrown in with some dips and spins but, for the most part, we just sway in time to the song and enjoy the dance itself.

All through our dance, the weirdest sensation creeps in my brain. I want this night to end and escape back to the strange, amazing world the bloodline I share has created. Yet, I want to keep dancin’ and bein’ wrapped in Eric’s arms. Eventually, I remind myself that I don’t need to bottle my time because I have infinite amounts of it. There’s only two things that could prevent me from having endless nights and days with our bloodline: the end of the world or our own demented screw up. The latter seems very unlikely, but the former is inevitable.

Then again, I don’t know how immortality will fair for me. I might get bored before the end of the world.

Sookie,” Eric laughs, “stay in this moment with me. You are thinking too far ahead!” He’s laughin’ harder and presses his forehead to mine.

Sorry,” I whisper. “It’s weird, knowin’ I’ll have an infinite amount of something. Time, you, my brother, and the family you’ve given us. I guess now with Jason’s turnin’ and our wedding… It just feels more overwhelming.”

There is nothing to be overwhelmed by,” Eric tells me softly. “Nothing has changed, only your last name.”

I grin up at him and hold him tightly as the song ends and those around us clap. Since our wedding party is so small for such a big wedding, we opted out of a bridal party dance, and go straight into the father/daughter. Only, it’s a brother/sister dance instead.

This is another man I’ve never danced in public with. Aside from a few little hug and sways, I don’t think Jason and I ever danced together other than to practice for this moment. Neither of us had any idea how to move together and we’d had the toughest of times picking a song. We’d agonized for several weeks, flipping through song after song. Honestly, there’s just nothin’ for brothers and sisters to dance to! Everything is just so sappy! Jason and I swore we were done with all the water works after Eric threw us a lifeline and we crawled out of the hell we’d been thrown in. We wanted our dance to signify what we’ve become, not dwell on what we had to overcome to get here.

Thankfully, my best (living) friend had the solution. Camilla had flung a CD at us and that had included the song ”We’re Going to Be Friends” by the White Stripes. It was a song that focused on childhood friendships and had a much more lighthearted approach to our relationship. It let us recall a lot of what we experienced before we lost our Gran, even some good memories from before we lost our parents, and it reminded us that we were that lighthearted connection once more. Fun, sweet, and happy.

That’s the song we bounce and swing to now, and I can see that the number has taken many people by surprise, particularly our old CPS agent. I can hear her thinking how she would have thought Celine Dion’s voice would be making an appearance, but I’m glad to disappoint her. Who knows, maybe if I was marrying a different man, my brother and I would be dancing to a different song. I’m just grateful that I’m married to Eric, and this is the song I feel is right to dance to with my brother.

Even though I doubt after a thousand years I’ll ever forget the rough times Jason and I had to endure, I don’t think I’ll ever look back at them negatively. So many good things came from those tough days that it almost felt like we were earning our happily ever after.

In a way, we did earn these blessings and deep down, I know we’ll have to continue to prove that we deserve them. The good thing is, seeing the grinning vampire that swings me around the large ballroom to a way too poppy song for such an event, watchin’ another vampire smile with impatience and love from the sideline, and all my family winking, rollin’ their eyes and nodding in amusement; I know we will continue to deserve our happiness. No matter what the world throws at us from here on out.

As the song comes to an end, so does the moment. Even with my mostly human senses, I can hear the door to the ballroom open over the chatter, and I can feel Jason stiffen in my arms.

What’s wrong?” I ask nervously.

Jason shakes his head and murmurs through his teeth, “Ancients. Like, super old. Oldest I’ve felt.”

My brow furrows. Jason met Russell Edgington last night and I had been told he was the oldest vampire in attendance.

As we stand in the center of the dance floor, the bloodline circles as the human guests flood the dancing area durin’ the music change. Everyone is dancing around us as the bloodline circles me and Camilla and two vampires approach.

One of them looks old. She’s got almost white hair, but her olive skin is smoother than I would have thought for such a frail lookin’ body. She wears a pair of sunglasses and clutches the arm of the most exotic woman I have ever seen.

The second vampire has jet black hair. Her eyes are big and dark and she probably has the darkest tan I ever saw on a vamp. Her lips are pouty and a perfect shade of reddish brown. She looks like an Egyptian queen! I think of Anck Su Namun from ”The Mummy,” and the resemblance is striking.

Thorn,” Godric nods his head much lower than he usually does to the two new vamps. “Pythoness.” I have to resist lettin’ my jaw drop. Diedre Thorn is literally the oldest vampire in existence. She’s roughly four-thousand-years-old and the Ancient Pythoness is somethin’ like two-thousand and five-hundred. It’s crazy to think that in a ten-foot diameter exists nine-thousand-years’ worth of experiences.

If I might be introduced to your new progeny, Godric of Gaul,” The Pythoness requests, but it sounds more like a command.

Eric pushes Jason forward and I watch worriedly as the older lookin’ vamp takes Jason’s hand. She places one against his face and brings his hand to her heart. I watch Jason swallow nervously, a human habit he hasn’t even begun to break.

Do you know me, Young One?” The Pythoness asks and for some reason, my brain tickles. Somethin’ about how she says it, like she’s askin’ somethin’ else.

Yes, Ma’am,” Jason nods, even though I’ve realized that the Pythoness is wearin’ sunglasses ’cause she’s blind. His tone says way more than the answer to her question. It’s like a language within a language. A code I’ve heard before, but haven’t heard for a while.

OH! I realize quickly that the reason this “language” sounds so familiar is because it’s the language I’ve spoken with Jason and Camilla up until recently. Up until they were immune to my telepathy. The Ancient Pythoness knows what Jason can do!

Thank you, Ma’am,” Jason whispers softly and I can see his body tensin’.

And this must be your bride,” Diedre Thorn looks at me with more interest than any vampire has given me so far. “What a little angel.”

Aw heck, they totally know! I give her my big, nervous smile, that has my Bonded becoming worried. I take Eric’s hand and try to squeeze it reassuringly while he tries to sooth me through our connection. It’s almost like he’s tryin’ to say, it will be all right. I take comfort in that.

Nice to meet you, Ma’am,” I nod to Diedre and glance at Eric cautiously. Meetin’ all these vamps is new to me, Jason, and Camilla. All three of us are more than a little confused about all the customs and expectations.

Eric places his arms around my waist, pullin’ me against his side. When I glance up at his eyes, they are speakin’ silently to Diedre. The pair stare for what feels like forever and the older vamp finally lets her lips tilt into the smallest of smiles. Eric relaxes beside me and it’s like a treaty has been formed.

Everyone sorta just nods at each other and the two ancients walk away.

What was all that about?” I whisper to Eric.

Later, Dear One,” he replies.

A terrible tightness forms in my stomach as his fingers stroke my back comfortingly. Fear is chokin’ at my throat, and my wedding day is feeling more and more like a war meetin’. The remainder of the reception, I maintain a big, terrified smile and can only pray that I don’t look completely crazed in the photos.

On to Chapter Forty-Four!