Catalyst: Epilogue

Epilogue: Soulmates

February 2027

Eric’s POV:

Leif, Alexis, if you aren’t down here in five minutes to catch the bus, you’re going to school with Mr. Stackhouse and Mrs. Northman like a couple of geeks!” Sookie shouts up the stairs at our children. The mad scamper that results from her threats brings me deep amusement which earns a playful grin from my wife.

You are too good at finding just the right motivators for children,” I tell my wife as she goes back to the study and packs the last of her graded papers from the day before.

It’s a joy of motherhood; knowing how to simultaneously embarrass and motivate your child,” she tells me.

Before I can reply to this sage statement, my children practically fall down the stairs in an attempt to avoid being shuttled to school by, not only their mother and uncle, but also two of the school’s teachers.

Mom,” Alexis is struggling with her hair, “my braid is going sideways!”

Sookie steps behind my daughter to fix the errant plait of hair, and as she does, I look her twin brother over with a critical eye.

Leif,” I frown, “where is your belt?”

My son releases the softest of scoffs and looks sideways in his I’m-not-rolling-my-eyes-Dad way of his that pushes my temper. So, it is one of those days, is it? I think in exasperation. “The teacher confiscated my belt yesterday. He said wearing a belt made of bullets wasn’t school appropriate. I had to wear a stupid woven one all day.”

I told you when you got you that belt you weren’t allowed to wear it to school,” Sookie chimes at him as she ties off the end of Alexis’ braid. “You have two other belts you can wear. Go get one.”

But, Mom, they’re lame,” Leif protests.

Not as lame as your butt hanging out of your pants all day,” Sookie’s voice mimic’s Leif’s whine perfectly. “Now put on a belt!” She points up the stairs and Leif makes that sound in the back of his throat that makes me want to shake him.

Dad,” Alexis distracts me with her dazzling smile, “you don’t have to pick me up after cheer practice tonight, Bella is giving me a ride home.”

My eyes narrow, “Bella E. or Bella S.?”

Alexis frowns, “E. Why?”

Because Bella S. always smells like the entire football team came on her, I say to myself with distaste.

Bella S. seems too undisciplined to me. I do not like the idea of her driving you around if she is going to be distracted,” I shrug. It is one thing to not like one of my daughter’s friends. It is an entirely different thing to trash them. That will probably only make my daughter desire to spend more time with this young woman I cannot stand! Alexis narrows her eyes at me suspiciously, but I am saved from her explosion of defensive shouts when Leif returns. “Much better!” I praise when his pants are held in proper place.

Whatever,” Leif grumbles and I sigh. I think I would prefer Alexis being on the defensive over ‘whatever’. I hate that fucking word.

All right, all right, everyone out of here. I’ll see you two at school,” Sookie shoos them out the door. “Wait, Leif, do you have your lunch money this time, or does mommy need to drop it off in your homeroom again?” she taunts, making Leif’s ears go red. He pats down his pockets and pulls out a ten dollar bill.

With that, my children file out of the house and I let my head drop against the door frame. “When do they stop being teenagers?” I moan to my wife with something that feels suspiciously like exhaustion.

Sookie smiles and leans in to kiss me, “When they are paying their first mortgage.”

I groan a bit louder, “Shall we kick them out after graduation?”

My wife wraps her arms around me, “No, they have college to go to, and then we can talk about giving them the boot.”

Your son has me about ready to spit nails,” I comment.

Why is he my son when he’s difficult and your son when he places in track?” Sookie demands laughingly.

It is the same reason Alexis is my daughter when she punches a man in the face, and is your daughter when she wins the Spirit Award at cheer camp,” I reply.

Are you saying I’m the more difficult of the two of us?” Sookie raises her eyebrows.

Yes.”

She snorts on a laugh and pulls me in for a kiss just when Jason pulls up to our driveway honking. With a disappointed sigh, she pulls away and smiles before grabbing her bag, telling me she loves me, and leaving for school.

I watch the car pull away and look around the empty house. The past seventeen years have been a real adventure. Our home in Ohio has truly become a family home with scuffs on the banisters, dings in the walls, and marks on the ceilings that I still have not gotten a confession from either child on how they came to be there.

As I go to the study and begin my day’s work of conference calls and emails, I am delighted to see a message from Quigley. Apparently he is going to be joining Diedre in her visit this weekend.

Admittedly I am just as apprehensive as I am delighted. Diedre will be meeting my son for the first time, and I am curious how it will pan out. My children have had very little interactions with vampires that are not part of the Gaul line, and for good reason. They smell exceptionally good. Even Weres turn their heads when my children pass by.

Thankfully the vampire community is aware of my children and understand the ramifications of touching them. It was a lesson taught with extreme prejudice when a Youngling tried to snatch my daughter. Even though the vampire community protested and yowled at my swift murder of the young vampire, I silenced their shouts with my own roar. I made it clear that loss of impulse control is always a dangerous thing, and I would make sure it resulted in death one hundred percent of the time if that loss was experienced around my family.

Our children had only been a few years old at that time, and Sookie had been understandably protective of them for several years after the incident. Thankfully, the vampire in question had been young enough for Sookie to hold him at bay until I arrived, and Alexis had been left unharmed in the scuffle. That is probably why Sookie only shut us into the house for two years instead of twenty.

That evening had involved a very difficult conversation with our four year old twins about what daddy, Aunt Pam and Uncles Godric and Jason were. Somehow Sookie managed to explain in a way that our small children could understand, and even now, thirteen years later, they identify us as Daywalkers instead of Vampires.

Of course, they have learned more and more over the years, and so has the rest of the family. We have learned the curious attributes our children have acquired having been bred between an angel/fairy and a vampire/Daywalker. Both Leif and Alexis are considerably more athletically able than the average humans their age. They have also been able to function on less sleep than children their age since hitting puberty. Between the ages of eleven and thirteen they slept ungodly amounts of time, but then around fourteen and fifteen, they required as little as three hours sleep a night. It has been like that the past two years now.

Another curious trait they have gained is an affinity for drinking blood. This strange impulse only hits them when they sustain injuries (like when Leif broke his leg at a track meet), but it had also been quite strong when they went through their growth spurts. The consumption of blood seems to allow them to heal faster than their mother or Camilla, but still not at vampire speeds. Where Sookie’s broken nose her first year of college healed by the end of the night, Leif’s leg snapped back into place only an hour after drinking two bottles of blood.

Ludwig has had theories now and again, but her biggest curiosity is if our children could initiate a Bond of their own with non-vampires. Of course, I have already come up with my own solutions if any children Sookie and I have find a Mate that is not a vampire already. Jason or Pam could always turn them and the Youngling could perform the Bonding ritual. Hopefully that is a very distant problem!

I have already accepted that my son will be Diedre’s, and perhaps I am not as at peace with it as I thought I would be. Again and again, I try to remind myself that he is the same age Sookie was when I began courting her, but there is a strange weight on my heart. I can feel it on Sookie’s heart as well from time to time. It is the weight of parenthood. No matter how much you may like your child’s mate, there is a displeasure at seeing someone else care for them. The idea of Diedre straightening his tie instead of me, or smoothing his hair instead of his mother; it creates an ache in my chest.

It makes me confused why I never felt it in my human life with my human children, but I know the answer is simple. When I was human, life was stronger and more brittle simultaneously. You were strong and hard, but at the mercy of injury and disease. Now with eternity to live, I just want my children to stay babies that much longer. I want them to stay in my and Sookie’s care just a few more years.

Sookie’s POV:

A smile tugs at my lips as I read my work e-mail for the tenth time and gaze fondly at the link attached. It is a free electronic copy of Spirit Snare by none other than Jason’s ‘Snow White’, or as I knew him, Jeremy Lintner. He emailed me when he published his first short story with a word document copied so I could read his first official publication ten years ago. Though he’s written several short stories and three unheard of novels in these past eleven years, I’ve actually heard mention of his newest novel in popular online blogs and a few news broadcasts! Though it’s no New York Times Best Seller, it is a tremendous accomplishment for my former student!

~Thanks for always believing in me, Mrs. Northman. Thanks for seeing something in me when no one else did.~

It was a short letter, but it still tugs at my heartstrings. Who would have believed a kid I taught almost twenty years ago still thinks about his sophomore English teacher? I open my drawer and look at the hardback cover of Spirit Snare. Jeremy has no idea I’ve bought a copy of every one of his publications to show my support. I’ve written praises to the magazines that published his short stories and comments on websites that have featured his work. Maybe one day I’ll send him a copy of this book to have signed.

The bell rings, announcing that my students will start trickling in, and I bound to my feet with Jeremy’s book clutched in my hand. When the bell signaling the start of class shrieks throughout the room, I hold up the novel with the biggest grin I’ve worn this year.

Good morning, class!” I greet excitedly, “I have a special announcement!”

You’re retiring?” Jacob Keaton calls from his back corner.

Haha,” I sigh. “I’m nowhere near old enough to retire. I’d just be given the boot. You need to learn more about the joys of becoming a teacher.” A few students snort laugh, but since I have everyone’s attention now, I hold up the book I want to gush about once again. “Now, the special announcement is a student I used to teach at this very school, who learned in this very room just had his first hardback publication!” I brandish Spirit Snare through the air like a banner.

Uh, good for him,” Bella N. says politely. All these damn Bellas! How did a book grossly misrepresenting vampires become so freaking popular!? Of course I know the answer to that. The vampire community had actually plugged the book themselves because it encouraged vampire/human relationships among a very susceptible group- i.e. teenagers. Tons of ‘Bellas’ went searching for their ‘Edwards’, and vampire/human marriages quickly became legalized all throughout this country and several others. Eric said some good came from it, and several of his Ancient friends found their Bondeds, including the Vampire King of Sweden to whom Eric is particularly close.

Do you guys not realize this could be any of you down the road?” I ask of them. “Any one of you could be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King! A-den, A-why-den, A-eye-den,” I point to the three boys who share the same name with different spellings that we joke about constantly, “you could write the next big comedic screenplay. Bella, you could become the Jane Austin of the twenty-first century. Jacob,” I look at my number one antagonist of the year, “you could send an entire generation to the stars with the right words!” My class is suddenly very quiet, and I flip open my book to a passage that I love.

~Luke knew he would never have the powers that were wielded by his new friends. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that his body was fragile and incompetent by comparison. However, he also knew that in this moment he could save them despite his short-comings. As Finley tried desperately to keep his soul from being torn from its borrowed vessel, Luke stepped between Finley and his corrupted lover.

Evelyn,” Luke opened his arms wide, “not Fin. Don’t hurt him!”

Luke!” Finley called in horror as he watched the young boy’s life force glow and flutter around his physical body. “Get out of there!”

The boy closed his eyes as he accepted his fate. If Evelyn needed a soul to appease her inner demon, then she could have his. After all, what more could a human offer to the Guardians of the Gates of Hell?~

A-why-den snorted, “The hero’s name is ‘Luke’? What is this? Star Wars?”

Shut up!” Bella G. snapped at her classmate, “It’s supposed to be an everyday name! It’s the writer’s way of showing that anyone can be a hero!”

I smile as the class argues over the passage without the context of the rest of the book. By the end of the period, everyone writes the name and author to borrow or buy their own copies.

As my day goes on, I ignore the impending weekend, and what it might bring. Ever since Eric told me Diedre would be coming by, I’ve done a pretty good job through most of the week not thinking about what her visit might lead to.

That is until lunch and my stupid brother.

So,” Jason nudges me, “it’s gonna be a pretty big weekend, huh?”

Cammie sighs and rolls her eyes for me, “Come on, Jason, don’t make her think about it!”

I will remind you that I didn’t even know if I could stand Eric when I first met him,” I point out to my brother.

Jason snorts and nearly throws his head back with his laughter, “You’re joking, right? You had ‘fuck me’ written all over your face. It just so happened to be underlined with ‘fuck off’.”

One of the older teachers glares at Jason’s language, and I can’t say I blame them. Jason’s voice has a habit of carrying, and with teachers coming and going out of the lounge, a wandering student could easily overhear such a crude statement.

Regardless of all that, it doesn’t mean there will be some instantaneous occurrence,” I press.

Have you told Leif anything?” Cammie asks even though she knows Eric and I have kept our mouths shut about the whole thing. I only bother to shake my head negatively.

Obviously both of our children know what Bonding is, and we have expressed that we want nothing less for either of them. To be honest, I think I’m more worried about Alexis than Leif. I can only hope she’s as supportive of her brother as Jason was of me when I met my Bonded.

Alexis’s POV:

Great lifts today, Lexi!” Bella E., or Belly as we call her, gives me a grin as we head to the locker room to change. “Hey, I need to give the other Bella a ride home tonight too,” she adds as she reaches for the zipper on her skirt.

Oh, okay,” I shrug. I hang with the Bellas all the time, so I’m not particularly surprised by this turn of events.

You knoooow,” Bella S. leans in as I take my top off and change from my uniform to my street clothes, “my brother is back from his trip to Germany.” My face goes suddenly hot. Ethan Sims is the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever seen! He was a Senior when I was a Freshmen, and I won’t even pretend I didn’t have the biggest crush on him in the world. It would be a lie if I did because every girl in the entire school crushed on him at some point.

Ethan graduated midterm that year and headed straight off to college that January. He’s already graduated with his Bachelor’s in Engineering and took time off to travel abroad before continuing on with getting his Master’s degree!

And did I mention he’s gorgeous!? He’s got dark blond hair and just has this self-assured way about him that reminds me of my dad. His confidence is just so… I don’t even know a word for the attraction it spurs in me!

Lexi?” Belly gives me a tiny shove and then giggles. “Y’know, we could always hang at Sims’ house for a bit. Maybe you could flirt a little, ask him about his trip?” she suggests with a little wink.

Images of Ethan disemboweled in our living room pop into my head with my father standing over his body with a bloody sword. “Uh,” I pause, “I kinda promised to be home right after practice.”

Bella S. rolls her eyes, “Come on, where’s your inner rebel? Why can’t you be more like your brother? He sticks it to your parents all the time!”

That’s a crock of shit, I think in frustration. Every single time he’s ‘stayed out past curfew’, he texted Dad and asked if it was okay. Since Leif and I need very little sleep, our parents are lenient as hell about us staying out. Leif just likes to look like a badass. I mean, he can be moody, but so can I!

Dad will ground you for forever if you go to Bella Sims’ house, I remind myself of this morning’s exchange, and how disapproving Dad had looked when the Bellas came up.

Okay,” I sigh, “but only an hour tops. Okay?” I finally consent and take out my phone to text my dad and let him know I’ll be hanging with Bella E. for a bit after practice. He promptly responds back to be safe and call if I need a ride home.

Belly squeals and claps her hands as we leave the locker room. Out in the parking lot I take a deep breath and climb into the backseat of Belly’s car. I just lied to my dad! I think nervously. Well, it wasn’t a full blown lie, I try to reason with myself as my throat tightens up. That won’t matter if he finds out! He’s gonna ground me for forever!

While I sit having a panic attack in the backseat, the Bellas gossip in front of me.

Oh em gee,” Belly shrieks, “did you hear Sophia Blanc cheated on Ayden!?”

With who?” Bella asks excitedly.

Aden!”

Which one?” Bella demands impatiently.

Just an A- Aden,” Belly answers.

I tune out the chatter and return to the problem I’ve created for myself. Just stay for a half hour, run home and confess to everything, I haggle with myself. Tell him you realized he wouldn’t like it if you hung out with Bella S. and you came straight home.

Great, and now you’re just neurotic, I sigh.

Everything okay back there, Alexis?” Belly calls from the driver’s seat. “You’re being super quiet?” Her voice hikes at the end, questioning my silence.

Yeah, just thinking about the back tuck at the end of the routine. I feel like I could get it tighter,” I reply automatically. Get out of your head for five seconds, Alexis, I tell myself firmly.

Before I can wimp out completely and ask to just be taken home, we arrive at Bella’s house, and I follow them in with fake enthusiasm. Oh, God, what if they think about this tomorrow and Mom hears? I feel faint at the disappointed look on her face.

I’m about to turn out the door when Ethan strolls down the stairs. He’s walking around without a shirt on, and his jeans are hanging low on his hips without a belt to keep them up. His feet are bare, and I swallow hard at the teen heart throb in front of me. It’s February, isn’t he cold? Some shrewd part of my brain chimes in and my mouth blurts, “I’d be a popsicle walking around like that this time of year.”

Ethan looks at me with that throat tightening grin. Why is he so gorgeous!?

Cold doesn’t bother me,” he says while closing the distance between us. As he gets closer, the Bellas scamper off to the kitchen.

H-how was Germany?” I ask as Ethan puts a hand on my shoulder and pushes me toward the living room. I stumble a bit since I can’t seem to take my eyes off him, but I find the couch in my peripheral vision and sit down.

A lot of fun, but the downside is the beer over here tastes like piss in comparison now,” he laughs, and my heart hits my ribs in time with his chuckle. “I don’t know how I’ll be able to handle another kegger with Bud or Miller.” I laugh a bit too high and his smile softens. He almost seems to take pity on me. “How’s school? Almost ready to graduate?”

Oh, uh, yeah,” I mumble. “Leif and I are going to have a really easy last semester. Only two classes on our schedule are requirements for graduation. Everything else is either electives o-or, um, um,” Oh, brain, come up with the word! You can do it! Spit it out!

College credits?” Ethan finishes for me.


“Yeah,” I squeak.

I knew you were smart,” Ethan nudges me playfully. My arm feels warm where his elbow pressed against it. That warmth spreads all the way up to my shoulder. “Any idea what you want to go to school for?”

I want to be a doctor,” I reply. “A surgeon.”

Woah!” Ethan laughs in surprise. “That’s pretty ambitious!”

My brow furrows at that, “What do you mean?”

Ethan snorts, “Well, wouldn’t you rather be a nurse?”

Now my face tilts into a frown, “What year do you think this is? 1960? A woman can be a surgeon!”

Yeah, but you’re a cheerleader!” Ethan laughs a bit harder and instead of making my heart race, it makes my ears burn.

I also have the highest GPA of my graduating class, which is higher than yours ever was,” I tell him angrily as I rise to my feet.

Hey, hey,” Ethan tugs at my hand, “I’m sorry. Sometimes I find it hard to remember not all cheerleaders are as stupid as my sister.”

I HEARD THAT, ASSHOLE!” Bella S. yells from the kitchen.

I really am sorry,” Ethan says again like he didn’t even hear his sister’s shout, but I find it hard to forgive him.

It’s fine,” I say, but I don’t mean it. Not really. I won’t hold a grudge or be rude to him about it, but something’s gone. Suddenly his smile doesn’t seem so beautiful, and his physique doesn’t look so perfect. Is this what disillusionment is?

You don’t seem like you forgive me,” Ethan pouts playfully, but it doesn’t make me laugh.

I do,” I assure him, “but I need to be going. I sorta lied to my dad about coming here, and I don’t want to push my luck,” I explain as I take back my hand.

Aw, come on, Alexis, I said I was sorry,” Ethan scowls. “Why are high school girls so fucking sensitive?”

My face scowls once more, “Probably because college boys are so fucking insensitive!”

With that I rise up to my feet, grab my bag and storm out of the Sims house. No one comes after me, no one freaking texts me, and I’ve walked nearly a block when I realize that bothers me more than my argument with Ethan. The Bellas don’t even care that I walked out…

Setting down my bag, I sit on the retaining wall of one of the Hill Houses and stare at the ground. My throat feels like there’s a rock in it, and my eyes itch like I’m going to cry, but I refuse to let that happen. Instead I tilt my head back indignantly and stare across the street.

It gets cold quickly sitting on the wall, and some snow is melting into the seat of my jeans. When I finally stand up to finish walking home, a car pulls up to the stop sign in front of me. I wouldn’t think much of it, but the driver looks at me, tilts his head and then rolls down the window.

Oi, are you Northman’s kid?” An Irish accent croons at me, and I hate that it makes my heart flutter. Apparently I am a fickle teenager, I think bemusedly.

I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I tell the stranger and begin making a beeline for my home.

Haha, I guess your father was wrong. He was so sure his first born would be a boy!” The man’s car lulls lazily down the road alongside me, and it takes all my effort not to reply that technically my dad was right because Leif popped out before me. Instead I keep my shoulders squared and continue walking briskly down the road.

I’m in such a hurry to get away from this stranger who’s following me that I run through the next intersection.

STOP!” I hear yelled at me, but I’m in a blur of headlights and honking. I brace for the impact, and wonder just how many bottles of blood I’ll have to chug to heal from this accident.

Instead of the collision I was preparing for, I find myself lifted and moved through space like a rocket. The last time I felt like that was when my dad caught me as I was falling out of a tree in our yard.

You silly girl!” the stranger yells in my ear. “Didn’t your dad teach you to flee properly?”

I stare up, stunned at the vampire holding me in his arms. He has a broad jaw covered with a full beard and a barrel chest dusted with similar blondish red curl. Everything about him is thick and sturdy. Even his voice has a strength to it that commands respect. It’s that command that made me scared. It was that strength that made me run.

H-hi,” I whisper up at the stranger.

His scowl breaks into a rueful smile, “Hey there.”

I’m Alexis,” I tell him.

Quigley,” He laughs again.

Suddenly I’m back on my own feet, “Your dad still live on Rose Acre?”

Y-yes,” I answer as I’m tugged along.

We’re almost there. I’ll take you the rest of the way,” he tells me.

Thank you,” I pause as he opens my door for me. Before I get in, I try to think of some security question. Something only friends of the bloodline would know. Quigley stares at me as I remain frozen in front of the passenger’s seat. He seems to understand my hesitation.

I’m going to whisper something only me and one other person know about your family,” Quigley leans in right against my ear and says in a voice so soft, I doubt another vampire could hear from two feet away, “Your mum and your uncle…” He taps his temple with an intense look in his eyes, and I know what he’s implying that he knows.

I jerk away at that and gape. No one is supposed to know that! Hell, mom and dad haven’t ever said it out loud before! It’s an unspoken family secret, and if this vampire knows it, then he must be a friend of the family!

Finally I take a seat in the car, and I’m surprised when Quigley shuts my door for me like a gentleman. My dad always does that for my mom, and Godric does it for Cammie all the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else do it. It makes that swooney feeling happen in my heart again, and I chastise the traitorous organ because I know Quigley will be able to hear it.

So, why were you sitting on a wall all by yourself?” Quigley asks as he settles back behind the wheel.

My face reddens a bit, but I answer, “A boy I liked turned out to be a jerk. I left, and no one seemed to care that I did.”

Quigley glances at me and smiles, “Most people your age are jerks, Alexis. Don’t let it bother you none. With your upbringing, maybe you’re looking for more maturity than boys your age can handle.”

Oh my God, is he flirting with me?! I wonder in shock and awe.

What’d your crush say to hurt your feelings?” he asks while I flounder with the notion that this vampire might be interested in me.

Oh,” I let my eyes wander out to the street, “I told Ethan I planned on going to medical school to become a surgeon. He laughed and said cheerleaders aren’t smart enough to be surgeons.”

Quigley suddenly roars with laughter and I glance at him in surprise and maybe a little hurt. Does my dream really seem that impossible?

Your father. Eric the Fucking Viking Northman… He let’s his teenage daughter jump around in those little skirts?” Quigley laughs even harder.

Mom made him let me,” I reply dumbly and he just howls even harder.

I knew that woman had him by the dangly bits, but this is just too good!” Quigley chuckles, but seems to sober from his laughing fit.

As we get closer to my house, I turn to my, now quiet, driver and ask softly, “When you talk to my dad, can you not mention the thing with Ethan and me being upset?”

Quigley looks at me in surprise, “Why’s that, Storeen?” The way that foreign world rolls off his tongue brings some of my earlier clumsiness back.

Uh,” I fumble for my words, “well, dad will probably get upset with them for…” Calm down, Lexi, and find your thoughts! “not bringing me home like they promised. I don’t want him to be mad at them. It’s my fault. Not theirs,” I explain lamely.

Just a little ways up the street from my house, Quigley pulls up to the curb and smiles, “You’re a lot more like your mother than I would have thought. I only got to talk with her a little bit while we were working together, but I thought you would grow up to be more like your dad.”

Why’s that?” I wonder.


There’s a bit of hesitation in his reply, but he recovers and says, “Your dad reminds me a lot of my Maker is all. Calculating risks, prioritizing those risks based on how they’d benefit him or his family. I suppose I just expected you to be more like that,” He pulls away form the curb. “I won’t say anything,” he promises as we drive the rest of the way down the street.

Why does he look so disappointed?

Leif’s POV:

Jeeeesus, Leif,” Liam whines as he hops up and down, rubbing his arms briskly, “how aren’t you freezing! Let’s go inside!” he pleads.

You’re such a wimp,” I grumble as I stub out my cigarette in the ashtray and shove at my friend while we walk into the convenience store.

Mom can’t stand that I smoke, and she can’t stand even more that there’s no health related excuse for me to stop. Pam finds it hysterical and occasionally bums a smoke off me when we hang out. Dad… Well, he just shrugs and says if I want to waste my allowance on cigarettes, then I’m not as financially responsible as he thought. He then proceeded to tell me not to expect a raise in allowance as long as I’m a smoker.

Alexis makes ten dollars more a week than I do now, but she gives me five of it because she feels guilty. She doesn’t know that I keep the five dollars every week to spend on her. It’s always little stuff so she doesn’t realize I’m not spending her money on myself. A couple dollars on a pack of gum, or an extra cookie for her at lunch. Shit like that.

Liam holds his hands near the hot dog turner, trying to warm them up, and I wander over to the ICEE machine to pour some blue slushy into a cup.

How can you drink that shit in the winter?” Liam calls at me and I just shrug. The truth is, doing stuff that’s out of the norm is just something to do. Like egging my dad on, or annoying my mom. It’s not that I don’t like them or think they’re lame, I’m just bored. I want to do something. Anything. Everything.

Instead, I’m here, trying to act like some sort of badass, but it’s really just to relieve the tedium until I’m eighteen. That’s the agreement between me, Alexis, and our parents. If we can make it to eighteen without any incidents that could alert the humans to our otherness, we’re allowed to jet off on a summer adventure by ourselves before going anywhere we want for college. All we have to do is get into that college on our own merits and not our parents’ check book. I’ve already been scouted by Yale for track and field, and Alexis is looking to be our Valedictorian so she’s going to have her pick of colleges too.

I guess that, aside from being bored, I’m also scared. Alexis seems to know there’s some path out there for her, and everything in front of me feels so empty and dark. I don’t know why I feel so blind to my future when she seems able to see it so clearly.

If there’s a word for what I’m feeling, I can’t find it. Mom probably could, I think with an internal snort of a laugh. Too bad I can’t ask her, I grab a bag of Doritos on my way to the counter with my ICEE. Mom would tell me I’m a kid and an immortal; there’s no rush to find myself. “Life moves too fast as it is. You don’t have to run through it,” she’d say.

Dad would be even less help. He’d tell me to go wandering or something. I don’t want to wander, I want excitement!

I want to sleep under the stars, in the wilderness; maybe fight a bear! I want to go out on a shitty little boat on the ocean and deep sea fish. I want to… My thoughts freeze, and my ICEE drips a bit from the small opening on top of the globe-like lid. I barely even hear the clerk shout about what a dumb ass I am for dripping all over the floor.

All I can see is this girl walking from the gas pump to the station to pay for some gas or buy something to eat.

Her hair’s black as the night around her and as flat and glossy as glass. She’s got a tan, but it lacks the right luster. It’s then that I realize she’s a vampire, and I finally seem to bring myself back under control.

Woah,” Liam is suddenly beside me, watching the female vamp come into the store and gaping like he’s found the newest deposit for his spank bank. We both watch, unashamed, as she walks toward the cooler, and I wonder if she’s going to buy a blood for the road?

Before she can open the door to the fridge, she suddenly pauses and turns to look at me. She’s young looking, but I know that doesn’t mean anything because Godric looks younger than dad, but he’s way older. She looks my age, actually, maybe a year or two older?

The vampire turns from the fridge and approaches me and Liam.

Hello,” she greets, and I watch her eyes turn completely black as she smells me. Dad’s warned me about hanging with unfamiliar vampires. One tried to snatch my sister once because we allegedly smell good to vamps. Even though Alexis and I both drink blood from time to time, we don’t think either one of us smells good at all. We’ve only exchanged blood once, and that was when we were doing survival training with Godric in the woods. Alexis had missed a branch on a treetop leap and fallen about seventy feet to the ground. She drank my blood to heal up faster.

H-hi,” Oh, shit, my voice broke! My voice hasn’t broke since I was fifteen! Why did it have to squeak the second the hottest female I’ve ever met speaks to me!?

Are you Eric Northman’s son?” she asks, seeming to forgive my throat for its sudden loss of control.

Yeah,” I reply, but I’m not all that surprised. Dad made quick work of explaining my and Alexis’s parentage, and also assuring everyone that if a supe so much as rustles a hair on our head, they’ll be dead before they can hand us a comb.

I am Diedre,” she holds out her hand to shake mine, and the wonderful coolness of her skin calms the heat and perspiration of my own.

Leif,” I whisper my own name as her dark lips tilt in a small smile. There’s this strange urge to reach up and touch her lips. They’re thick, dark and shining with this brownish, red gloss on them. Her bronze skin glows with her vampirism, and makes that gloss seem all the more ethereal…

Oh my God, stop thinking about her lips! I realize in a panic that my musings are rushing blood places I don’t need them to right now.

A-are you, uh, looking for my dad?” I ask. I wonder how old she actually is?

Diedre shakes her head, and her straight, black hair fans slightly in sharp wisps. Don’t look at her hair either! I think wildly as another pulse throbs through my groin. I focus on her eyes instead, but they’re reflecting the light from the LEDS above us. That shimmer just about makes me lose my mind.

No,” Diedre tells me with that small smile that real teenagers don’t wear, “I know where he lives. He is an old friend of the family,” she explains discretely because my friend next to me is looking between the two of us in complete disbelief.

Will I see you again then?” I ask with more than a little too much hope bubbling into my voice.

Diedre stares at me a moment before that small smile of hers splits into a big, bright one. “I am certain this is not the last we will see of each other.”

As she spins away, and that flurry of flat, black hair slices through the air, all I can think is:

That’s the adventure I’ve been longing for.

The End… For Now

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Catalyst Ch. 56

Chapter Fifty-Six: Announcements

Sookie’s POV:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{T}

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

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

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

“What?” he looks at me worriedly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will,” I answer. “Love you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You did awesome,” I assure her.

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

“Which is?” I ask politely.

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

“What should be working?” Jason asks impatiently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{T}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey,” I mumble back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Twins!?” Jason asks excitedly.

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

“Ouch, bad timing,” Jason flinches.

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course I was,” Eric teases.

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

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

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

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

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

“That sucks, Eric,” Jason finally comments.

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

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

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

Eric’s POV:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh,” Jason glances, “who was Leif?”

“My brother,” I answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“After,” Diedre snaps impatiently.

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

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

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

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

“Was there an envelope?” Diedre whispers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will remember,” she promises.

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

On to the Epilogue!

Catalyst Ch. 55

Chapter Fifty-Five: The Coincidence

Sookie’s POV:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But-” I begin to protest.

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

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

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

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

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

Then again…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why’s that?” Cammie asks curiously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric’s POV:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why? What’s today?” Sookie asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever in your debt,
Cassandra of Troy”

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

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

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

“Is it?” Ludwig raises her eyebrows.

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

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

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

“Why is that?” I ask curiously.

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

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

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

On to Chapter Fifty-Six!

Catalyst Ch. 54

Chapter Fifty-Four: Mend and Tear

Sookie’s POV:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But your beliefs,” I stress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric’s POV:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know.”

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

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

ATTN: NORTHMAN

DETAIL: FELIPE DE CASTRO RE-ENTERING USA. NY. 10:45PM EST 4/7/09…

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.

{T}

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

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

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

I had found it hilarious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Picking up?” The cabby asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to Chapter Fifty-Five!

Catalyst Ch. 53

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

-Andi

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-”

Sookie-”

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.”


“It’s
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.”

Eric.”

Master.”

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?”

TBC