Chapter 20: Men Don’t Change
Eric opened the door to my bedroom and let me walk out first, placing a careful hand on my lower back to escort me into the room. Both Stan and Robert were standing at opposite ends of the living room glaring at each other, but turned towards Eric and me when we entered the room. For once, Stan was dressed in a very expensive dark blue suit and crisp white shirt. Robert was wearing dark, slate gray slacks, and a dark green, silk shirt. Both kings looked incredibly sharp and handsome.
“Well, I can see we’re all great friends out here,” I commented casually.
Robert huffed in Stan’s direction and gracefully sat on one of the couches, crossing his extraordinarily long legs. With a flourish of the hand in Stan’s direction, he said, “Stan was just upset that I did not ask permission to enter his territory, nor did I come to see him straight away.” Robert again huffed dramatically, as he leaned back against the couch, spreading both of his arms along the back. “I already explained that I was on my way to seek permission to enter his kingdom, when I felt I was needed here. As you are under my protection, I deemed it more pressing. Stan is simply being obstinate. Ignore him.”
Apparently, that was exactly what Stan’s plan was, because he paid no heed to Robert’s words, turning to me instead. “And just what was the problem that would require the attention of the California King?” he asked me a bit stiffly.
I waved it away as I sat on the couch that was at a ninety-degree angle from Robert’s. “Oh, it was nothing. Robert was just concerned with how quickly I left California and wanted to check on me,” I evaded. Eric helped me ease down onto the couch and sat beside me, his own arms spanning the back of the couch and his legs spread wide, claiming as much ground as he could.
Stan had carefully watched Eric helping me sit and as he lowered himself onto the couch to my left and across from Robert, he looked thoughtful. “Have you reconsidered you position, Eric. If you do not wish to do the deed yourself, I would offer to have the father of her children killed by one of my own. You would be free to fully claim her children as your own assets then,” Stan offered with a nod.
Eric sprang to his feet, growling, but I managed to grab his closest hand and hold on to him, keeping him from moving towards Stan. I knew if he wanted to, he could have easily shaken me off, but he remained in place. Still grasping Eric’s hand with both of my own, I leaned forward and said harshly, “Enough of that Stan! The business of my father’s children is between me and Eric alone.” I tugged on Eric’s hand, and after another short growl at Stan, he reluctantly sat back down. There was still no barrier between me and Eric’s emotions, so I could feel Eric’s anger and annoyance with Stan.
Shaking my head at all of the overbearing male posturing flowing in the room, I decided to try moving on to more important matters. “Stan, let’s get down to business. Tell me about Barry’s disappearance.”
Stan’s eyes flickered disdainfully over to Robert.
“I could care less about your missing telepath,” Robert answered with a snort. “My only concern is keeping Sookie safe.”
Stan glared at him for another minute before he turned back to me and answered. “Barry disappeared over a week ago, after spending the day with his companion.”
“That’s the Were, Danika, that he told me he was dating last month, right?” I clarified.
“Yes,” he answered with a nod. “The Were confirms that they had the evening meal together, and that he accompanied her to her place of employment for a drink before leaving when she started work shortly after first dark. Walking out of the bar is the last she says she saw of him.”
I thought for a moment. “And this Danika seems clean, right? You don’t suspect her of anything do you? What bar does she work at?”
Stan sighed. “Unfortunately, we must tread carefully where the Were is concerned. She is the eldest of the local packmaster. Their pack is very strong in Dallas, and we cannot risk making them our enemy. I have asked to be allowed to try glamoring the girl to see if she tells the truth, but the packmaster will not allow it. She tends bar at The Hunger,” Stan explained with frustration.
I nodded. I could remember Barry talking about the bar now. It had been run by Weres for generations and had been known to be pretty tough, but since the two-natured revealed themselves, was trying to look a little cleaner. “Is he being uncooperative, or is he just protecting his daughter?” I asked of the packmaster. I could certainly understand a father’s desire to keep his child out of any danger.
Stan flicked his wrist in a dismissive manner. “I do not know, nor does it matter to me. The end result is the impediment of the search for my telepath,” he said angrily.
It ruffled my feathers every time those vampires did the “my telepath” thing, like we were prize-winning dogs they had just purchased. I swallowed my snappish reply and instead moved on. “What about Barry’s car? Did he drive his car to the bar where Danika works?”
“Yes. And that is where we found it, in the parking lot, with no sign that Barry had returned to it,” Stan answered.
“I need to talk to Danika,” I told Stan, as I leaned back into the couch, my hands settling on my belly. Like most pregnant woman, I found that it did at least provide a nice resting place for my hands and for plates when I ate.
“That may prove difficult. We have asked the packmaster to bring her by for you to question, but he has refused. I have even made a formal request and still he has refused,” Stan explained.
“Well, she hasn’t gone into hiding has she, I mean, she’s still working at the bar, right?” I questioned.
Stan nodded in response, but Eric spoke before he could. “No. Sookie, I can see where you are headed with this. You will not be going into that bar to talk to the girl. I shall go there and persuade her to come and speak with you somewhere safer,” he said, turning towards me, as he looked me in the eye.
“Yeah, but she feels safer there. I’m sure she’s just scared of getting mixed up with whatever problems she thinks is going on with the vampires. If I go talk to her at the bar where she works, she’ll be more likely to talk to me and tell me what she knows,” I argued.
Looking down pointedly at my belly, Eric replied, “No. I forbid it. You are in no condition to go gallivanting around bars.”
“You forbid it?” I asked, my temper rising. “Well, good thing I don’t have to do what Eric Northman tells me to.” I could feel his temper rising and see his eyes narrow. “Look, I’ve got a lot better chance of getting anything useful—if there’s anything useful to get from her—if I go meet her in her comfort zone, and away from vampires. I’ll be plenty safe in a public place.”
“A public place where Barry disappeared from,” Eric reminded, trying to rein in his temper.
“But I’m not Barry,” I reminded back.
“I will go with you,” Eric said stiffly.
“No, you won’t—” I started to say.
“You are in no condition to protect yourself, I will accompany you into the bar to question this girl, there is no discussion,” Eric said with great finality.
I knew his intentions were mostly good, but it irked me to have him in my life again, trying to tell me what I was going to do. I got to my feet and looked down at Eric through narrowed eyes. “You’re right, there is no discussion. I’m going into that bar alone. I’ve been taking care of myself for the past five months, mister. I can continue doing so just fine, thank you. I haven’t been beaten, shot, staked, or tortured to within an inch of my life once since I left, so I think I’m doing just fine. You don’t get to pop back into my life and act like you can order me around.”
I saw Eric flinch at my unintended jab, but he clenched his teeth and said, “Be that as it may, you are in a dangerous situation now, and I will not allow harm to come to you.”
I could tell by the look in his eyes that Eric wasn’t backing down, but I wasn’t either, so I eased myself back down onto the couch beside him. Looking over at Stan, I could see him watching with rapt attention. Supes did love their drama and their gossip. Stan almost looked like he was enjoying the latest episode of his favorite daytime soap. I guess I could see the similarities. Although, if this were a soap, this would be about the time I’d be finding out I was pregnant with Eric’s evil twin brother’s babies and was dying of some rare jungle fever.
My face broke into a smile at the silly notion, and I almost started laughing. Both Robert and Eric were watching me with concerned expressions, and I’m sure I had convinced them that I was indeed a crazy woman. Not that Robert didn’t already have plenty of evidence of my crazy pregnancy hormones.
Fighting the smile on my face, I returned my attention to Stan and asked, “Is there anything else important or anything at all you can think of that would help with Barry’s disappearance?”
Stan shook his head. “No, we have searched much of the city, but no sign of him has been found. We have very little to go on, I know,” he admitted.
“One way or another, I’ll talk with Danika, and we’ll figure out what the next move from there is, but for now, I think you should head back, and I’ll discuss our plans with Robert and Eric,” I said.
Stan stood stiffly at my dismissal. “I do not care to have the affairs of Texas discussed with California.”
I really hated that whole vampire thing of calling the monarchs by their state name, rather than their own name, but Stan seemed to be trying very hard to remain curt where Robert was concerned.
Holding my hand up in Robert’s direction to silence him, I answered instead, “Robert has been gracious enough to give me sanctuary for the last five months. I can assure you, his only reason for being here is to help Eric ensure my safety. But if it makes you feel more at ease, I will swear to keep any privileged information strictly between you and me. Robert will only know as much as it takes to help keep me safe.”
Stan looked appeased. Vampires weren’t trusting by nature, but he had put his very life in my hands when he had allowed me to try healing him, with no more than my word that I would do so. I had earned his trust as far as he was concerned, and it had not been easy to earn. “Would you like me to leave some of my guards?” he asked as he made his way to the door.
I was just beginning to struggle to my feet, when Eric wrapped an arm around my lower back and hefted me to my feet. I shook my head at how easy it was for vampires to do that, and made my way to the door to see Stan out. “No, that’s alright, Stan. I’m sure Robert’s got his guards here too, and I’m wanting to stay under the radar, so-to-speak, and not draw attention to myself by having a bunch of vampires following me around.”
“Very well. I have had my vampires watching the Were from a discreet distance, and I am told she is working at the bar tonight. Please inform me as soon as you have talked with her. I would like to know what, if anything, you find out. Good evening, my dear,” Stan raised the back of my hand to his mouth and placed a gentle kiss on it before departing without a word to my two vampires, though they both hissed at Stan’s kiss.
After the door shut, I turned back around, “Oh, would you both knock it off. Stan’s just a friend.”
Robert wrinkled his nose from his place still sitting on the farthest couch. “You need better taste in friends, lígo mitéra.”
Eric remained silent as he watched me. I walked back into the living room, carefully stepping down the two steps into the sunken space. I slowly paced back and forth, my hands pressing into my aching back.
“The Norseman is true in his thinking,” Robert interrupted my thoughts, “you should not go to this bar alone. If you will not allow him to squire you about, then allow me to do so.”
“Not happening either,” I responded. “You’re a king, Robert. And while I do appreciate the gesture, you can’t go running around without your guards. I can’t show up to talk to Danika with a whole troop of vampires skulking around after me.” I paced some more as I thought.
“I will go with you,” Eric said with conviction.
I was irritated by his insistence, but finally relented. “Fine, you can wait for me in the parking lot. That way, you’ll be close by if something happens, but Danika won’t see you and get nervous.”
Eric wanted to argue, but I shot him a glare that said I wasn’t backing down.
“I will wait with the Norseman in the parking lot as well,” Robert said, coming to his feet. I started to reiterate that his guards would only cause problems, but he stopped me. “I will leave my guards at the hotel. I am more than capable of watching out for myself, and between myself and the Norseman, you should be well protected.”
Eric looked grim, but nodded his agreement.
“Fine. Then I should go get changed, it looks like I’m headed to the bar,” I said as I turned towards my bedroom, hoping that I could find something even slightly appropriate in the maternity wear I’d bought earlier. “Wow, so not something I thought I’d be saying when I was more than 7 months pregnant,” I muttered to myself.
A/N: I know, it was a bit of a break, and now only a short chapter, but it’s kind of needed to get jumped back into the action.
I spent the weekend researching and writing a story for the Age of Eric competition on fanfiction.net, so go check the story out, it’s listed with my other stories. It’s called, Soiled Dove of Deadwood. It’s an AU piece with Eric and Sookie in Deadwood in 1879. Check it out and all of the other entries in the Age of Eric community on fanfiction.net. There’s some good reads in there.
Anyway, let me know what you thought, hopefully I can get back into the swing of things now with this story.