Chapter 27: Everything Must Change
My body felt hot and I twisted and kicked at the sheets until I had pushed them away towards my feet. I felt cool fingers brushing up and down my arms and I turned towards them with a sigh as I embraced the cool body beside me, my hand moving to his stomach to work under the shirt that was in the way of the cool flesh I sought. The cool felt wonderful on my heated skin and I melted into it.
“Hmmm … you feel nice and cool,” I murmured as my hand worked further north under the garment and my cheek searched for the cool skin at the base of his neck.
“You don’t feel so bad either and you smell wonderful and you’re nice and warm,” a deep voice answered.
My eyes snapped open as I jerked awake. Lying on his side beside me with his hand trailing up and down my arm was a vampire I had not expected.
“What are you doing?” I barked as I snatched my wandering hand back and tried to scoot away. The vampire kept his hand on my arm and halted my retreat, keeping me on my side facing him. “Who are you?” I added.
“I was trying to cuddle,” the deep voice said with a slight accent. I recognized it as being a similar accent to one that came out in Eric’s voice when he was upset or agitated. He smirked at my glare and continued, “I am Jarl. Eric asked me to watch you.”
The vampire seemed intent on keeping me where I was and since he didn’t appear to have any intentions of hurting me, I took the opportunity to finally study the vampire I had assumed was Eric’s brother. His build and stature were so similar to Eric’s that he could have been related to Eric as a human as well. He was maybe a little shorter than Eric was but probably outweighed him with his slightly heavier build. As I looked at his hair, I could see that it was more of a sandy or strawberry blond in color as well. He looked like he had been younger than Eric had been when he was turned, maybe only in his early twenties. There was still a boyish look to his grin and the laugh lines around his mouth and eyes only added to the mischievous feelings I could sense from him.
“Did your maker teach both you and your brother to climb uninvited into a woman’s bed and just make yourself at home?” I grumbled, remembering a time when Eric had climbed into my bed as well to “snuggle” when I had been sleeping. At least Jarl had kept his shirt on.
“You know we are brothers?” he questioned with a raised brow.
“Yeah. You guys have the same maker, right? So that makes you brothers or something,” I replied. I knew from experience that since I could feel him so well that he had to be related to Eric somehow.
“It does, though I am surprised you knew this but not my name. Yes, we had the same maker. I doubt you would like to know what things our maker taught us however,” he countered.
I shivered slightly at the thought of what their maker might have taught them, but decided I didn’t want to think about it. “Seriously, what are you doing in my bed?” I pushed.
Jarl only grinned wider and continued lightly stroking my arm. “I told you. Eric asked me to watch you until he was through with his meeting. And I of course was happy to oblige.”
“And watching me included climbing in my bed while I’m sleeping?” I asked irritably.
“That was just a bonus,” he said with a grin.
“If you have to watch me you should be watching me from over there,” I said, pointing towards a chair across the bedroom.
“Yes, you should be,” Eric’s stern voice said from the doorway. I looked over Jarl’s shoulder to see Eric almost casually leaning against the doorjamb with his arms folded across his chest. Though his voice was stern, there was the hint of an indulgent grin and a light in his eyes. “This is not what I had in mind when I asked you to watch my wife, Jarl.”
“I was simply acquainting myself with your wife. Since we are brothers, that makes her my sister-in-law. I was just being brotherly,” he said with a wink, and then he pressed a quick kiss to my lips before leaping up and ducking Eric’s swinging fist. They both moved almost too quickly for me to see, but I could hear their laughter as they jumped around the room Eric trying to catch the evading Jarl. One thousand years and they apparently still don’t grow up, I thought to myself as I sat up and started easing myself from the bed.
I had showered and changed after Dermot and Pam brought me back to the room then drank several bottles of blood before climbed into bed, exhausted, but now my bladder was feeling like one of the kids were practicing for playing the drums on it. Eric quickly stopped their horsing around and came to my elbow to help me stand.
“What are you doing, lover?” he asked with concern.
“I need to use the bathroom. It’s only been a couple of hours and these days that’s about all the longer I can go without needing to pee.” I looked Eric over and saw that he was still wearing his torn and blood stained clothes from earlier in the night. My hands pulled his torn and dry-bloody clothes this way and that to search his body and satisfy myself that he was indeed healed. “You could use a change of clothes too and probably a shower as well,” I told him.
Eric looked down at himself and chuckled. “Right you are dear one. Come, you can help me scrub my back,” he said with a wink. He nodded to Jarl and said something to him in that ancient language and Jarl spoke back before leaving the room with a laugh.
After I had tended to business, Eric managed to talk me into taking another shower, even though I had taken one after returning to the room earlier. My hair was still in a damp braid down my back, so I clipped the tail of the braid to the top of my head to keep it from getting wet again.
I was helping Eric to soap his body and marveling to myself that not a scratch remained from any injuries. “Do you need to feed?” I asked quietly but knowing the answer from his still slightly pink skin.
“I have fed already,” he answered in a steady voice.
“How was she?” I questioned.
“He was merely sustenance and not at all my type,” Eric replied as he turned around to face me. He gently lifted my chin to look up into his eyes. I wasn’t sure why the thought unsettled me, but I couldn’t help but feel insecure, even after everything we’d been through, especially in one night. “You need all of your blood right now for the babes, you can ill afford to spare what I needed to heal,” he said unapologetically, though not without a certain gentleness in his eyes.
I nodded and reached up with the washcloth to wash some blood from his cheek. “I know, I just hate that I can’t provide everything you need,” I said. I took some shampoo and stood on my toes trying to wash the blood streaks from his hair. It was still a reach, so Eric knelt down, making it easier on me.
“I can get blood for sustenance from any human. Only you sustain the needs of my heart, lover. You provide all the needs of my heart, my wife,” he said and he pressed a kiss to my belly.
As I massaged his hair, Eric pressed the side of his face to my belly and began speaking softly in that old language. “What language is that you’re speaking?” I asked as I paused for Eric to lean back under the spray and wash the suds out. His hair was still slightly pink so I began shampooing it one more time when he leaned back towards me.
“It’s Old Norse,” he said, and then went back to speaking Norse to my belly.
When I was finally done washing Eric’s hair, I shut the water off and started to move away from Eric to step out of the shower stall, but his arms wrapped around me, holding me in place. His head tipped back to look up at me. “Thank you,” he said quietly.
“You’re not mad at me for keeping my plans from you?” I asked, lacing my fingers through his hair.
He sighed. “I wish you would have told me, though I understand why you kept this plan from me, and ultimately it worked in our favor. But I would ask that there be no more secrets between us. If only so I can better protect you and the children.”
I nodded. “I think I’m about fresh out of secrets now. At least that I’m aware of,” I said with a smile.
He stood and lightly kissed my lips, his hands lingering on my hips. “I shall never forget the sight of you standing with the head of my enemy in your grasp. You are a warrior born,” he said before his head dipped down to grasp my lips again. This time lingering.
I was always amazed at the strength of vampires, and I was no less surprised when he lifted me and balanced me even with my large belly. My belly did mean we had to be a little creative and I leaned back, bracing my hands on his shoulders to help steady myself as Eric slowly entered me.
I had expected our coupling to be fast and hard after the night we had, but Eric surprised me by taking it slow and entering me deeply with every thrust. After going so many months without any sex at all, I was surprised at how heightened my libido had become in a few days, but then again, sex with Eric was always good, and pregnant or not, I suspected I would always want it.
“What time is it now?” I asked as we exited the bathroom a while later, wrapped in towels.
“An hour from dawn, but I need to speak with Jarl before I retire for the day,” Eric answered.
After we had both changed, I followed Eric out of the bedroom to see Jarl sprawled out on one of the couches waiting. He grinned when we entered, and I was reminded of how good vampire hearing was and the fact that I hadn’t been exactly quiet while we were in the bathroom. He said something to Eric in Norse and Eric threw a pillow from one of the other couches at him saying, “No, I will not share her. She is my wife.” He was still smiling so I got the feeling that he was used to comments like this from Jarl and didn’t take him seriously, though I knew my face was probably still bright pink.
I looked around the room and didn’t see Dermot, but that wasn’t surprising with all the vampires around. “Where’s Pam?” I asked.
Jarl tossed the pillow Eric had thrown at him up and down saying with a scowl, “She is spending the day with Caras. I don’t know why she would prefer him to me.”
Eric laughed. “She turned you down again?” Jarl’s scowl deepened and Eric continued to me, “Jarl has been trying to seduce Pam since I first turned her but she has always denied him.”
“Obviously none of your women have any taste,” Jarl grumbled.
I smiled in spite of myself, happy to feel the simple enjoyment coming from Eric. But I wanted to know what the results of the rest of the evening had been. “How’d the meeting go? Were you guys able to reach an agreement?”
Jarl sat up and turned towards us as Eric helped lower me onto a couch. “Yes, what was the outcome of the meeting?”
Eric saw the puzzled look on my face and answered me first, “I sent Jarl to follow Pam and the Fairy to help watch you shortly after you left, so he wasn’t part of our discussions.” He turned back towards Jarl as he stretched an arm out over the couch behind me and continued, “A treaty was reached for now, and though I am loath to truly trust de Castro, with the backing of the Ancient Pythoness on this treaty he will likely adhere to it for at least a time. I will be sure to keep my eyes on him however. He has returned with his men to Nevada to shore up his kingdom there. I think he fears that more might rebel and he might lose all of his kingdom. The Pythoness also informed me that she would be coming by after first dark tomorrow to see you before she leaves Louisiana.”
I nodded in silence, not all together surprised. I knew there would likely be some kind of consequences for forcing her to come like I had. Sensing that I wasn’t ready to talk about the subject, Eric turned to Jarl again. “I know you had planned to return to Switzerland, Jarl, but I would ask that you stay. I will need your help now more than ever. I would make you one of my lieutenants along with Pamela.”
Jarl sat up and the seemingly perpetual glint in his eyes fell as he said to Eric seriously, “You would have me stay and hold such a position, my brother? I am honored.” The gleam returned to his eyes as he added, “Of course with her for a wife I can see where you will indeed need plenty of help protecting her.”
“Oh, ha ha, very funny. Sookie’s a huge danger-magnet,” I growled, but it turned into a yawn. Then I asked a question I had been wanting to know for a while. “So were you a Viking too? I mean you look an awful lot like Eric.”
Jarl’s smile looked a little forced but he answered. “I suppose I was a Viking. I was turned in what is now Norway only fifty or so years after Eric was turned. Our maker was fond of warriors,” he said grimly.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories,” I apologized.
The grin returned as Jarl stood. “Have no fears. They are long in the past. I make it a point not to dwell on the unpleasant. Always save your energy for the more pleasant aspects in life.” He pressed a quick kiss to my hand then looked up and winked as he pressed another kiss to my lips before jumping back from Eric’s reach. Eric jumped up and launched himself after Jarl and once again, the two wrestled around on the ground laughing just like any human brothers might do.
Standing up I told the “boys” as I was coming to think of them as, “Good night. I’m heading back to bed.”
I had barely gotten into the bedroom and was starting to pull off my t-shirt when I felt Eric’s hands behind me helping me to remove it. After my strange wakeup earlier, I cheated by checking the bond to make sure it was really Eric behind me this time.
“Is Jarl ever serious?” I questioned.
Eric laughed. “Rarely. But he is extremely loyal and quite ferocious as a warrior. And his humor helped to see us both through many dark times with our maker. I hope his behavior has not upset you?” he questioned, gently turning me to face him. I was surprised to see that he had already shed his clothes, but his face was serious. “He is loyal to me and I know he would never inappropriately touch my woman, but he does dance on the line of inappropriate sometimes. I hope he has not offended you.”
I laughed at that. “Says the vampire that took off his clothes and climbed in my bed to “snuggle” with me even though I still was with another vampire. I’m starting to see some parallels between you two. Should I expect him to lay me across the hood of his car and tell me to “yield” to him as well?” I asked with a grin.
Eric playfully growled and gently pushed me back against the bed. “I would like to see him make you yield. I know from experience that you yield to no one, and I think after tonight all will be quite aware of that.”
Speaking of what had happened reminded me that I still had many questions about the night. “How many did we lose?” I asked, wanting to get the most important things out of the way first. “What about the Weres, Alcide and Calvin’s packs, and Sam too? What about them?”
Eric sighed but stretched himself out beside me on the bed with his head braced on his bent arm as he looked down at me. “We did not lose too many to final death. Of those you would know that met their final deaths would be Maxwell Lee and Indira. Robert lost one of his children that you probably know, but I know not the name. Bill’s woman, Judith, lost an arm, but it will regrow. The Weres only suffered minor losses, none of whom I was familiar with.”
“What about Stan and his men?” I wondered.
“Stan is well and thanks you for helping to retrieve his telepath. He suffered a few more losses than either Caras or I did, those Texans are not nearly the fighters they think they are. I know he had somewhat hoped to lose Joseph as well, but I gave him Arkansas as repayment for his part in the battle and he has in turn given it to Joseph in hopes of satisfying his ambition. There are no vampires but squatters and renegades in the state right now so Joseph will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to truly make himself a regent, but it will be good for occupying him,” Eric answered as his hands reached down and began pulling my nightgown up. I was surprised when he stopped at my belly and seemed to content himself with simply touching and massaging my stomach, though it did feel wonderful.
“I know I should go talk to everybody. To Stan, Robert, Bill, Sam, Alcide, Calvin, Jason, everybody who was so wonderful to come tonight, but right now I just want to lay here with you,” I said quietly as I laid my cheek on Eric’s cool chest and wrapped my arms around him. Before I could stop myself, I could feel tears spill over and start trailing down my face and onto Eric’s chest.
Eric immediately started wiping the tears from my face and urging me to stop. “What’s wrong Sookie? Everything worked tonight. Our plans worked. We suffered very few losses and almost everyone you know came through the night. It worked. You’re much safer now. I will work every night of my existence to ensure your safety and our children’s safety,” he said, speaking in a rush, trying to stem my tears.
“I know. I know it worked. I just can’t believe it all actually worked. It worked and you’re alive, I’m alive, our friends are alive and most importantly our children are alive. I should feel guilty about those who did die and had to die, like Maxwell Lee, Indira and even that Victor had to die, but …” I trailed off, not sure how to articulate what I was feeling.
“But you are simply happy that you and those you loved lived. This is nothing to feel guilty about,” Eric said in understanding. “It is understandable to be grateful that we lived when things could have gone so much worse. It would be disrespectful to those who met their final death if we were not grateful that we survive. You need not worry about speaking to your Weres. They are staying on this floor of the hotel to serve as day-guards. Your brother in particular is anxious to see you when you are ready. I told them you might not be up to speaking with them tomorrow, but if you wish to see a few of them during the day, you may bring a few at a time into the main part of the suite to speak with them. That is so long as your Uncle Dermot is present.”
“So you trust my Fairy Uncle Dermot now?” I said looking up at him.
“The Fairy stood by your side during a war among vampires. He has proven his trust to me, at least so far as your welfare goes,” Eric answered with a grin.
“Ever practical,” I laughed. Then I thought for a moment. “I still can’t get over the fact that you’re the King now. King Eric, how weird is that?” I snickered.
Eric nuzzled into my crook of my neck and whispered, “Yes, and you are Queen Sookie. Long live the Queen.”
I chuckled even more at “Queen Sookie”. “Who’d have ever thought a positive pregnancy test would lead to all of this?”
Eric laughed. “Who would have ever thought the innocent girl who once walked into my bar would one day become a queen among vampires and the mother to the first vampire young?”
“All because of one simple wish.”
Eric grinned and kissed my forehead. “Yes, one simple wish that so happily complicated our lives.”
“And changed everything.”
A/N: Well, I had initially started this chapter with the intention of going a little further, but this just feels like the right place to end the story. I might come back and do a few additional one-shots added on to the story, like maybe when the babies are born, etc. but this feels like were the story should end for now. I kind of like that some things are left open for your guys’ imagination. If I get really inspired I might do a sequel, but I don’t have plans for one right now. We’ll see.
Also, thanks to the judges and the hosts for the Age of Eric contest, my story The Soiled Dove of Deadwood won second place in the Judge’s pick, so go check it out if you haven’t already and please read the other entries, there were some great stories entered.
And thanks to everyone for their reviews and following the story. Hopefully there will be a few more pieces to the story over time.