Chapter 32 – The Princess and the Pea

Eric was humming his usual tuneless tune, and if I could have I would have joined him.  I had part of him back.  Even if he never recovered his memories, his feelings inside me were exactly the same they’d ever been.  I was happy.  It was a little light in the dark, a little hope.  I turned my head, unable to turn my whole body, pinned as it was by the very large love of my life.

In the dim light coming through the windows I could only see his glowing skin, but it was enough to read his expression.  I knew well the feeling inside me was his devotion.  We’d shared it countless times.  His face echoed the emotion.  The way we’d made love… he understood.  Our bond was intact even if his memories weren’t.

“Do you remember how to speak in Old Norse?” I asked, wondering exactly how much he had retained.

“I don’t know.  I know what Svanmeyja means, my darling swan maiden,” he said, running a finger over my cheek.

“And you know things about being a vampire,” I prompted.

He nodded, his finger tracing the line of my jaw.  “I know we blood bonded; I know I have to sleep during the day or burn in the sun; I know I made Pam a vampire; and I know that yours must be the sweetest blood I’ve ever tasted.”

If he knew all that, then why did he think I could be the mother of his children?  It must have been a delusion caused by his confusion during the first night.  He certainly hadn’t brought it up tonight.  If he didn’t bring it up again then neither would I.

I enjoyed the soft feel of his finger exploring me.  I felt a tiny bit of guilt about making love to him while he wasn’t completely himself, but it had settled his emotions, and it had certainly made me feel better.  I couldn’t feel any confusion from him, or any fear.  He felt peaceful, and loving towards me.  He brought himself up on one elbow, circling one of my nipples with that wandering finger.  I remained on my back, looking at him, happy.  My fear that he wouldn’t love me the same had been unfounded.  Now we just had to resolve the other hiccup, and all would be right as rain.

“Honey?  Do you want to check and see if it’s snowing yet?” I asked, knowing my Viking love would enjoy the snow immensely.

Sure enough, when he met my gaze his was full of childlike wonder.  “Snow?” he asked and I nodded.  He stood up and peeked outside my window.  “Everything is covered!”  He didn’t waste any time, got dressed quick as a vampire and called out to me from the kitchen to join him before I could even form the thought to get up.  I got up slowly, still dazed from… well, pretty much everything.  I dressed in not-quite-dirty-yet sweatshirt and sweatpants that had been hanging from a hook inside the closet, and bundled up, wondering what in the world he could possibly be doing outside.  There couldn’t be enough snow to keep him entertained for long.

I went out through the back porch, and saw him swinging from a tall branch of the tree closest to the house.  He seemed to be catching snowflakes in his mouth.  “What are you doing?” I called out, and couldn’t keep from smiling.  He flew around and around the tree.

“Sookie, I can fly!” he called.  I giggled.  It was like watching a little kid learning how to ride a bike.

“Yes, I know!” I yelled, because I’d lost sight of him behind the trees.  He zoomed up and down in a blur, looking more like a hummingbird than a large man who could fly.  Suddenly he landed right in front of me in a big whoosh of air and snow.  He was wearing nothing but his jeans and sweater.  No socks, no shoes, no coat.

Eric put his cold hands on my cheeks, smiling widely.  “Fly with me?”

I bit my lip.  I’d wanted to fly with him for so long, but I’d only done it twice: the night when the maenad’s snake attacked me – when I was nearly unconscious – and when we danced together during our wedding.  This would be an amazing, if cold, treat.  Eric took my smile as his answer, scooped me up and off we went.  Everything was covered in a fine dusting of white and looked ridiculously beautiful.  We hovered above my house, watching the security lights shine on the perimeter, the snow doubling their brightness.  I hugged Eric tighter.

The big fluffy flakes flew past us, as if God was shaking a box of corn flakes on the Earth.  I turned to look at Eric, to see what held his interest, and he was looking back at me.  He had snowflakes on his lashes, all over his windblown hair, on his shoulders.  He’d never looked more in his element.  Maybe we should go somewhere with lots more snow, let him run around the bunny slopes.  Actually, maybe he already knew how to ski.

“My love,” he said, bringing me closer and touching my cold nose with his, rubbing it lightly.  “Do you like to fly with me?”  I nodded furiously in response.  “Do we do it often?”  I shook my head.  “We’ll have to remedy that, but for now I need to get you inside.  You’re shivering.”

I’d only noticed my shivering because he brought it up.  “No!  Wait!  Fly me around one more time?” I asked him.  He smiled and made a slow circuit around the house, before touching down on the back porch.  He didn’t let go of me, carrying me all the way inside the house.  He didn’t even let go of me when he turned so I could lock the door.  He was moving with purpose, setting me back on my feet in the middle of the bedroom.

Eric began to take my clothes off, layer by layer, dropping everything right there on the floor.  “No!” I shouted when he was about to drop my brand new cranberry wool coat on the floor along with my gloves, scarf and hat.  “You got me that for Christmas.  It’s special,” I explained.  He took it to the slipper chair and set it down draped over the back.

“Sookie,” he said my name inside a breath as he walked back to me.  “I want to make love again.”  He stood in front of me without touching me, but still so close all I had to do was take a deep breath to touch him with my breasts.  “Say yes, Sookie.”

I took that deep breath, feeling my nipples harden as his coolness seeped into my skin through my clothes.  I was trying to sift through both our feelings, when I decided to give up.  After all, I lusted after Eric and loved him all at the same time.  Wouldn’t he feel the same way about me?  At that moment I didn’t care which feeling was strongest within him.  “Yes,” I answered, and immediately set to helping him with his clothes.

Even if Eric couldn’t remember, he still made love to me as if he did.  Everything was familiar to me, even if it was new to him.  He wanted me to be on top this time, because he wanted to look at me, rebuilding the map of my body in his mind.  I taught him how to caress me, with only his fingertips, and I showed him how much he liked it when I raked my fingernails over his chest.  I bent backwards, putting my feet on the bed and holding myself up with my arms behind me.  He sat up and watched as our bodies met over and over.  This too was new to him, and he was mesmerized.  He kept running his eyes up and down my body, and I couldn’t help but do the same to him.

“Come here, my wife,” Eric said in a soft voice, pulling me to him.  I wrapped my arms around his neck while he cupped my bottom to help me move.  I couldn’t stop looking at his beautiful face, with his fangs completely extended and his pupils completely dilated.  “What do you see, Sookie?”

Wow!  I wasn’t expecting that question.  I blinked, momentarily forgetting the physical pleasure he was giving me.  I tried to recover and answer him honestly.  “I see my husband, the man who loves me.  You’re so beautiful, Eric,” I said in a whisper, feeling shy suddenly.

“But I am vampire,” he countered, snarling a little as he sometimes did.  It wasn’t something he seemed able to control.

Eric and I had spoken about our differences before, he just didn’t remember.  I willed him to remember by simply planting soft kisses all over his face.  It’s not that I didn’t care that he was a vampire.  I knew well what I’d given up to be with him.  But I also knew what I’d gained by being with him, and that was not something I was going to explain while in the throes of ecstasy.

“I love you, Eric,” I whispered in his ear, and then kissed my way down his neck.  “Let that be enough,” I said and grazed my teeth over the sensitive part where his neck met his shoulders.

He bucked under me at the sensation my teeth caused.  I nipped him again and he lost it, moving me on him faster and faster; vampire fast.  At the very second I was about to leave Earth he bit my neck, and in my frenzy I bit him too, drawing the tiniest drop of blood but it was enough.  As my body rode out the waves of euphoria, my mind was enveloped in his thoughts.  There were children playing in the snow with him.  Blond, blue eyed children, tackling him to the ground, and he imagined me looking on, my belly swollen with another child.

I didn’t say anything aloud, but I was beyond surprised.  More than that, I was heartbroken.  Having children was not something I’d imagined or wished for myself, so marrying Eric hadn’t taken away that particular dream.  But right now he was wishing for children, and I didn’t have the heart to dash his dreams.  Had he wished for this when he was okay?  Somehow I doubted it.  This wish had to be part of the curse.  I decided not to tell him I’d read his thoughts as he tucked me into him and laid us down.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I woke up late.  The light coming in from the window was bright, and I wondered if it was really sunny, or just the effect of the snow on the ground.  I looked outside the window on my way to the bathroom, and it was actually sunny.  The snow was melting.  This was a good thing, because I really needed to go to the grocery store.  I was not looking forward to going to Brookshire’s in the Corvette, but whatever.  Any port in a storm… or, in this case, any car that could take me the fifteen miles there and back.

I took a shower, got dressed, making sure to reattach Gran’s brooch to my underwear, ate the last frozen waffle and headed to Brookshire’s, completely forgetting my coupons.  I only remembered when I was already there.  It was Sunday, and it was only one in the afternoon.  In a town like Bon Temps, most people would still be having lunch at home after their church service, so the store was still relatively empty.  I still parked far, far away from other cars, wishing I could have my Prius if only so I could park close and not have to spend the extra time walking outside in the cold.

I ran up and down the aisles, encountering the same people a couple of times as they followed their own paths within the store.  One woman in particular struck me as odd.  She was pretty, with curly brown hair and big eyes.  But she definitely did not belong in Bon Temps, dressed in a long flowing skirt under her thick quilted parka.  We were more of a jeans and plaid shirts people.  I had heavily shielded myself so I could follow my own mental grocery list and not everybody else’s.  I let my shields down to read her as I approached her.  She was reading the label on a bottle of barbecue sauce, and I pretended to look at a box of cake mix.  There was one thought above all others, flashing like a neon sign.

Now, people don’t normally think words, unless they’re reading or writing.  Most of us think images, the odd word here and there, and emotions.  This woman was thinking two words in particular along with several indecipherable images.  They were “Hallow” and “proud.”  Before I had a chance to react she touched my shoulder, and before she had a chance to do anything she was instantly shocked still and crumpled to the floor.

It happened so fast I didn’t know what had happened.  All I knew was that I had started to turn towards her, she had barely grazed my shoulder with her fingertips, and something from the middle of my body uncoiled and shot out, like a lightning bolt.  She was staring up at the ceiling, and I bent to her to check her pulse, but as I touched her I shocked her again.  Jesus Christ Shepherd of Judea!  I’ve done killed her!

I ran to the front of the store and told the first clerk I saw that there was a woman lying in the middle of the aisle, unconscious.  There hadn’t been anybody to witness what had happened, so I simply paid for my things and left.  I was shaking while I put the car into gear, and I drove slower than my usual, taking deep breaths to calm down.

They had found me.  Hallow and her people knew who I was and had found me.  They hadn’t come to the house because it was invisible to them, but I’d gone outside of it… without my amulet!  The night before, I hadn’t worn it when I played in the snow with Eric.

“Sookie, you’re an idiot,” I told myself soberly, willing myself to tell myself I was wrong… which I wasn’t.  I was an idiot.  I drove a few miles past my house and turned around at Merlotte’s, making sure nobody was following me.  I got home and inside the house as quickly as I could.  I felt like someone was watching me, and as soon as I got in my kitchen I saw why.

Claudine was there.

Claudine was there and she was mad.

“Where have you been?” she asked, crossing her arms over her blood red long sweater.

“I just got back from Brookshire’s,” I said, wondering why she was there, but having a pretty good idea.

“So the amulet went off and brought me here, and you’re not here, and you won’t call me to tell me what happened.  Do you really not know why I’m upset?” she asked.

I took a deep breath.  I hadn’t even thought to call her.  How was I supposed to know?  Everything happened so fast, and I’d been scared and mad at myself.  Her expression softened to one of concern.

“Please tell me you know you’re not alone in this world,” she pleaded and moved closer, grabbed a bag of groceries and started putting things away.

I was thinking about her statement.  Did I know I wasn’t alone?  No.  During the daytime it was pretty much a given that I was alone.  Other than my brother, I had nobody else.  “I’m sorry?” I said as a question.

“It’s okay, Sookie.  At least the amulet did what it was supposed to do, I guess.  What happened?” she asked, eyeing the True Blood curiously.

“Some woman at the grocery store touched me and I shocked her.  I was so scared that I just…” my mind drifted.  Had I killed her?

“You didn’t kill her.  She was only shocked.  She must have been a witch and about to put a spell on you of some kind.  And, by the way, that wasn’t Hallow.  Hallow’s hair is longer and she’s taller,” Claudine said, comparing my recollections to that of her sister Claudette.

“I took off the amulet last night,” I cringed because I knew she could see in my mind why I’d taken it off.  “Then I went outside for a little bit to play in the snow.”

Claudine turned to me, looking a lot like a mother hen.  “You, young lady, are going to tell Eric about the amulet the minute he wakes, and keep it on your person at all times.  If you have to wear socks to bed, then so be it.  Put it on a sock.  Next time something bad happens to you, no matter how stupid you think it is, you will call me.  I’m pretty sure we’ll have permission to engage the witches, but we don’t have it yet.  Until then you’re not to leave this house, and Eric is not to leave this house.  Understood?”

I nodded, though I felt like rolling my eyes.  She would know I was feeling peeved at her tone.  No need to show it.

“I’m only making sure you’re safe.  You and Jason are all that Fintan has left.  He can’t see your cousin anymore because of what she is and the company she keeps.  Besides, like it or not I’m your older cousin, so you have to mind what I say,” Claudine took a deep breath, reading my mind.  “Very well,” she said, “listening” to my unspoken request.  She opened her mind and showed me Fintan up close, as she knew him.  He looked like a slightly older version of my dad, or what I remembered of my dad.  My grandfather had given Jason and me his eyes and nose.  “That’s nothing, you should see your great uncle Dermot,” Claudine said, showing me… Jason?  No, that was my great uncle who bore a striking resemblance to Jason, if Jason had been a few years older.

Talk of great uncles was not something that brought pleasant memories, and I tried to cut them off but was unable to do it quickly enough.  That hadn’t been something I’d shown Claudine before.  I turned around quickly and continued putting groceries away.

“What was that, Sookie?” she asked.  I could hear pity in her voice.

I didn’t need her pity.  “That was nothing compared to what happened to my cousin Hadley.  So you better forget it.  It’s all in the past anyway and I don’t want to talk about it.”

Claudine didn’t say anything, and I wasn’t looking at her.  I figured the subject was dropped.  I was wrong.  She turned me around and hugged me tightly.  I hugged her back, and felt incredibly peaceful, like nothing bad had ever happened in my life.  Wow!

I was speechless when she pulled away.  Actually, not speechless, but what came out of my mouth was the stupidest thing I’d been thinking.  “You smell like chocolate.”

Claudine giggled.  “I guess that’s the vampire blood in you.  I probably smell scrumptious, huh?”

“Not exactly.  I don’t want to eat you, but now I wish I’d bought chocolate,” I said, looking inside the next grocery bag, willing a Milky Way bar to appear inside it.  Nothing happened, of course.  What use was it being part fairy if I couldn’t make chocolate appear at will?  Eric could fly and do all sorts of super vampire stuff, Claudine could do all kinds of cool stuff too, like appear out of thin air in the middle of my kitchen, and I could… read minds.  Big whoop-de-do.  It was highly unfair.

I looked up to find Claudine giggling at my mental chatter.  She kept me company for a couple of hours, though she’d taken it upon herself to teach me how to reinforce my mental shields.

“I need to go back to Fairy tonight, and see if a decision has been made about the witches.  Claude is itching for a fight.  We haven’t had a good one in about… sixty years,” she said doing math in her head.

I was surprised.  “How old are you?”

“Older than you, younger than your Viking,” she winked.

Talk of Eric brought something else to mind.  Claudine’s talk about us being mated, and his wish for children, had me thinking around in circles.  I was trying to form a theory, but it wasn’t coming to me.  Claudine waited patiently while I explained what I’d found out the night before.

“Could he be wishing for children by virtue of us being ‘mated’?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Sookie.  It could just be something he’s always wanted and now that he lost his memories, he thinks that the wish is totally normal… which, of course, it would be, if you were both alive.  I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that you are mated, or you’d be feeling the same way.  Are you feeling the same way?”

“Nope.  Never crossed my mind.  Well, not never, but I don’t want to pass my quirk to a child.  I don’t think it would be fair.  It’s like a genetic disease,” I said with disdain.  I would never want a child, any child – mine or otherwise – to go through what I’d gone through growing up.

Well, there went that theory.  I guessed I’d have to ask Eric when he regained his memories.  I didn’t want to be the one to break his heart, not now that he was already broken in a different way.

Claudine left and I quickly went to take a shower.  I only had half an hour before Eric woke up, and it would be bad enough that he would smell fairy inside the house again, he didn’t need to smell it on me too.  I was clean and dressed by the time Eric came out of his cubby hole.  He found me drying my hair with the blow dryer.

“Hi, honey,” I said as he hugged my waist from behind and kissed my cheek.  I turned off the dryer so I could hear him.

“I had a dream you were in trouble.  I’m so happy it was just a dream,” he said, holding me tighter and inhaling at my neck.

I turned around to look at him.  I studied his eyes.  He was frowning, and I didn’t want the upset him anymore, but I knew I would have to.  Eric wasn’t safe unless I told him everything I knew.

We sat at the kitchen table for a while, and I told him everything I knew about my fae ancestry, and what had happened today at the grocery store, and everything Claudine had said.  I watched as his face expressed all the emotions he was feeling, but he remained silent while I spoke.  I finished my account and he remained silent for a very long time, moving his gaze from me to his hands on the table.

“Please say something,” I asked of him.

He looked up, frowning.  I couldn’t read his feelings.  It was as if he was trying to contain them.  “You should have told me about the amulet,” he said, sounding very much like himself.

“You’re right,” I conceded, feeling a lot like a little kid for the second time that day.

“I don’t want you to get hurt.  I love you.  I don’t remember anything, but I understand everything.  I know I brought this on myself and on you.  I know what it’s done to you.  I feel very guilty about this situation, and if your family is helping us then you need to do as they say.  I will be indebted to them for keeping you safe, no matter the outcome.”  He leaned towards me, looking into my eyes because he wanted me to understand too.

I nodded and was startled by a knock on the back door.  I closed my eyes as I scanned the mind behind the door.  Vampire.

“It’s Pam,” Eric said, getting up.

“Great, another one to whom I owe an explanation,” I said, sounding a lot like Eric too.

Eric and Pam sat at the table sipping True Bloods while I talked and cooked my dinner.  Eric had already heard everything, so sometimes he filled Pam in if I skipped some little nugget of information.  I sat with them when my pork chops, mashed potatoes and fresh peas were ready.  I was hungry!  Belatedly I remembered that all I’d had to eat that day was a waffle.

“Sookie, there’s something I don’t understand.  This Claudine Crane person seems to be able to ask for help from the powers that be in Fairy.  She must be higher up than we assume,” Pam said, the wheels in her head turning.

I shrugged.  How was I supposed to know?  All I knew is that we shared a close male relative.  I told Pam.

“What’s his name?” she asked.

“Niall,” I said, though I wasn’t sure.  I’d only heard his name once.  I knew Fintan better.

If Pam could have, I’d have said she blanched.  “Niall Brigant?” she asked.

“Yes!  That’s it.  That’s supposed to be my family name,” I said excited.  I hadn’t been sure of the name because Claudine had given me so much information to remember.

“Sookie…” Pam said my name reverently, and Eric and I both looked at her curiously.  She had just done something very un-Pam-like.

She waved us off with her hand.  “You don’t understand.  Niall Brigant is a prince in Fairy.  You’re a princess Sookie.  You have royal blood.  That is why they’re protecting you.”

I cast a disbelieving look and arched an eyebrow at Pam.  Eric looked at her wide eyed before he looked at me the same way.  “A fairy princess?”

“I dunno!  Claudine didn’t say,” I said rather shrilly, throwing my hands up in the air.  “Now, do you mind if I finish my food before you give me any more new information?”

The vampires looked on silently as I stuffed my face.  I had been ready to enjoy my food, but now I was eating out of necessity, and not really tasting anything.  I was thinking what was next.  My life was a bizarre mix of legends and fantastical creatures, and I was one of them.  Add princess to my list of titles… Oh, please!  Don’t I wish?  Princess Sookie Brigant Stackhouse Northman, ruler of all she surveys, which at that moment was my kitchen.  My husband was the sheriff of the largest vampire community in Louisiana, outside of New Orleans.  And now he was being chased by witches.  I guessed we would have to go on our own witch hunt.  Didn’t they used to be burned at the stake?

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