What’s happening? Oh dear God save me, what is HAPPENING?
The calm that I had so gently poured into Eric had evaporated. He glared down at me, his features so hard with fear that they looked like they might crack.
“He’s coming,” I repeated in horror. “And more.” I could feel the magical press of Fae as the divide between our worlds started to thin out. My experience came from Claudine, and her many visits to me over the last year. I would feel the soft burrowing of another brain coming through a wormhole, a telepathic brain like mine.
My belly clenched. Not with fear. It knocked me breathless with pain.
The burrowing heading for us now was not soft. Nor was it single. There were so many aggressive tunnels heading towards us that I knew we were fucked. Every direction was blocked. The air shimmered with malice.
“They waited,” I concluded, not even sure how I knew. “They waited until our vampires were gone and the doctor was taken out.”
I grabbed onto Eric’s arms and grit my teeth as the pain rippled in my womb. My nails broke his skin.
“Where?” His fangs snapped down. He looked around in all directions. “I smell them. I can’t see them. Where the fuck are they, Sookie?”
“Is there time to hide you? To run?”
“Fine.” He zipped away and back again, too fast to see, now decorated with handguns. “You’ve gone into labor, yes?”
I nodded, thick tears filling my eyes. I hated how afraid I’d become in a matter of seconds. I could not be Eric’s fearless fire angel with Adam knocking on the door. My chest was tight with pained breathing. I could already feel him positioning. Fine tuning for launch. This kid did nothing slow. I put my hands over him. I knew this wasn’t going to take long, and yet, he’d picked the worst possible time.
I took a shaky breath as Eric pressed me behind him and quickly began to back his way from the middle of the room to the computers on the far side. “Fire up,” he whispered. “Kill anyone who isn’t me.”
I nodded again. “Call Pam back. Now.”
He didn’t answer, but I felt his brain pulse with her beacon. He just pressed me up between the cold cement wall and his warm back. My hands Lit up with a vengeance, illuminating the shade behind his tall frame. He whispered again. “The energy you used against the sycamore, call it. The power you have to Still me and throw things across a room, use it. Whatever you thought about when Sophie Anne bit you, whatever kept you whole and made me Light up and destroy her, think it now.”
I shook my head. “Your Radia won’t kill fairies. And they’re not here for blood.”
“They’re here to hurt us. To kill our child. You are my Goddess, Sookie. The strongest creature ever made. I will kill for you, and for him, but I may fail. If I do, Smite these fucks and save my family.”
He held two handguns in either hand. I could smell the heavy, acrid scent of iron and the top notes of lemon. The ammo was laced with both. If not so encumbered, I know he would have reached back for my hand. I put a Lit palm square between his shoulders. “Don’t fai-,” I gasped as pain stopped me.
And then, to my horror, a huge spot of Light broke through the room.
The interdimensional doorway popped loudly at the far end. Light exploded around it like a flare. Then five to the right. Eleven to the left. No, thirteen. Five in the middle. I squeezed my eyes shut against the blinding white.
Above my head, Eric hissed wildly.
In the wake of each Light, there was a fairy.
In the arms of every fairy, a vampire hissed in return.
A final pop in the center of the room. A strange fairy woman stood in the wake of the Light. With her own passenger held tightly in her arms, her eyes slitted in pure hatred as she spied me behind my protector. But it was the man that stepped from her lavender embrace that made me moan softly in fear.
Massawa looked calmly around the room as he took in the sixty-odd vampire and fairy posse, before looking back at Eric and I pressed in shock against the wall. Eric aimed one of the guns straight at him. I knew this one had wooden bullets, not iron.
I searched all of their faces, praying to see salvation among them. But Mab wasn’t there. Neither was Claudine. My mind blanked with panic.
Massawa looked almost apologetic. He addressed the growling crowd without looking away from us.
“The Viking belongs to the vampires,” he told them. “Do not kill him. Do not think of killing him. Do not take him away from the girl. Subdue him any way you can. Now.”
Eric was in front of me. Then the room blurred as thirty fanged monsters exploded towards us. The air in front of me swirled. And Eric was gone.
“ERIC!” I screamed after him, but I couldn’t even see him in the vortex of super speed. Gunshots rang out and he roared in fury, and suddenly three huge bursts of blood rained down as his targets met their True Death.
Massawa had not moved. The fairies gathered behind him, their menacing snarls aimed at me. I clutched my belly and gnashed my teeth as pain tore through me again.
“Kill her,” the dark monster whispered. “The Coming is nigh. Kill her now and save both our peoples.”
I put out both hands and shot directly into their circle. “Fuck you!” I screamed. “Stay away from me!” The energy balls flew fast and true. Massawa dodged them easily, but the fairies scattered at a much slower speed. One was too slow. My Light drove into his stomach and he screamed as it tore him open. Falling to his knees, his flesh dried rapidly around the wound, spreading quickly. His eyes retreated into his sockets, his lusty yell turned to a scratchy gust of wind. Within seconds, he was a husk. And then he was nothing but grey soot settling softly on the floor.
Nothing prepared me for such an instant, violent death from my own hands. The other fairies gasped in fear. I shrieked in triumph. I shot four more without even thinking. My would-be killers moved with more motivation this time to avoid them.
Pam and Jessica zipped into the entrance. They stared in shock at the scene before them before Pam and I hissed in the shared pain of Eric receiving an injury.
“Kill them!” I screamed at the only two friends in the room. “They want Adam! Help Eric!”
With that, they joined the barely-visible fray. Watching the swirl, I gave a strangled cry of rage. Why wasn’t our Radia protecting us? So what if these assholes weren’t trying to separate us or feed on me? They were going to rip Adam out of me! I would die! Adam would die! Surely the rules weren’t that fucking literal!
But nothing happened. My silent commands for the Radia in my love’s chest went unanswered. Eric continued to battle, an amazing warrior but badly outnumbered. He roared again as our bond tried to pull me to him, but his brain pushed me firmly away from danger.
I had no time to watch.
Massawa hung back. He didn’t engage with Eric, which I was grateful for. He seemed for too interested in me to care what happened to the Viking. But he didn’t come for me directly, either. No doubt my Light scared the nocturnal shit out of him, and rightly so. I aimed and shot another volley at him as I tried to take cover behind the computer server. He disappeared and reappeared in its path effortlessly.
The fairies charged again, this time half-running, half-popping until the distance between us became nothing.
I shot again. “Don’t you fuckin’ touch me!” I screamed at them. I killed two more. They mummified and exploded like their dusty buddy. The lavender chick made it to me first. She punched me square in the face. I heard my nose crack. As my head snapped to one side, she took the upper hand and grabbed me by the wrist.
“Mongrel,” she hissed low and hatefully. “Everything you are is malignant. A hybrid, a vampire Chosen, a cancer in your belly. Poisonous little freak!”
With my other hand, I laid a single finger against her cheek as she leaned in to spew her hatred.
I may as well have shot her with a canon.
Her head snapped back and she flew backwards, clear across the room. I heard her skull smack into the cement wall and she fell, falling ten feet into a bloody heap.
My nose reset with ease. I spat blood from a cut in my mouth that was already gone. My wrist registered no pain at all.
The others backed off, looking nervously as Massawa as he in turn looked at her unconscious body. Yanking my tiny blade from my beautiful necklace, I lunged forward and gouged it deep into one of their throats. It wasn’t enough to kill them, but it was certainly enough to make four of the enemy vampires stop in midair. Their faces froze with hunger. They sniffed, I could hear the incredulous drag of air into their lungs. And that was all they needed. As one, they flew at the bewildered girl as she pressed her hands into the seeping wound.
“No!” she screamed as they zipped around her like a pack of dogs and descended. They had her by the arms and legs, sinking their fangs into any flesh they could reach. I laughed again, flipping Massawa the finger and I grabbed my belly and bore through another round of agony.
Jessica screamed in the swarm.
I wanted to shoot and kill her attacker, but I couldn’t see any of them clearly. I couldn’t risk killing one of my three.
Instead, I rounded on the hesitating fairies who were obviously starting to reconsider their alliance with a bunch of fairy eaters and shot another two rounds at them. “You stupid bastards,” I swore at them, grinning as another one bit the dust.
“You made this bed, now you goddamn lie in it.” I lunged again with my tiny blade. They evaded my slow waddle with ease, eyes huge with fear at the prospect of a single prick.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Massawa make the very human gesture of a sigh coupled with an eye roll.
Even in the distance, I could see him making a decision. Then I blinked, and my hands were crushed above my head, my belly sandwiched painfully between concrete and an expensive suit. His angular, beautiful face was an inch from my own. He gathered my hands in one of his.
“I was so afraid,” he whispered in a dead, African language that I understood perfectly, “So afraid… that Claudine would hide you forever. Keep you in her secret place until the Scion was born.”
He reached between us and clamped his ebony hand over my purple stomach. I cried out in pain as his fingers dug into my swollen flesh.
“But it’s not too late,” he said, his black eyes wide with pure hope. He nodded to me, as though I would agree. “All is not lost. The world… this shitty, stupid, blood-soaked world… will live. The Scion cannot take it from us, Miss Stackhouse. You may not survive this. No, you surely will not. But you must understand, we choose life. This stupid world is our world. I can’t let it die. No scale would tip for two instead of billions. Forgive me.”
His fingers drove into my belly. Across the room Eric bellowed in rage as his foes managed to keep him from helping me. It didn’t matter. My life was over. I was losing my baby. My own life was meaningless if he was torn from my womb while his father watched. I wailed silently at the unfairness of it all. Fate and fairytales and true love conquering all were supposed to be on our side. Instead, I was going to die of blood loss as this monster stole my baby and brandished him like a trophy to this hoard.
My hands were buckling under the pain. Massawa lowered his eyes to my stomach as he concentrated on his impromptu abortion.
I jutted my chin, bringing my lips to his ear. “No.”
The pain eased from my stomach, like his fingers were softening their assault. “No,” I repeated in his stupid mother tongue.
He looked at me in surprise, backing away a bit to take me in. “No,” I assured him.
His fingers lifted away. “No!”
His grip loosened. “No!”
“Sookie!” Eric screamed.
Light engulfed the room. I barely noticed. I stared at the glorified butcher in front of me and screamed again. “NOOOOOOOOOO!”
Suddenly our underground bunker disappeared. A sparkly, cookie-scented forest took its place. A small gathering of Fae inhabitants looked up in shock as a miniature war invaded their peaceful gazebo. Mab was sitting at a stone table with several others, including Claudine. Her mouth fell open in a gasp at the sight of us. All of us. Massawa wrapped around me. The frenzy of vampires who’d gone stone still at their sudden transportation. Five had Eric pinned while he struggled against them. Pam and Jessica had been wrestling a pair of twins, all of whom stared in wonder at their magical, sunlit surroundings. The group of fairies who’d set on me, even the lavender bloody heap had made the leap.
I looked calmly at Mab. “Kill them, please. Kill them all.”
Mab rose from her seat and thrust her hands into the air. “They threaten the Scion! Destroy them!”
Suddenly the posse of sixty, made forty by us, was now surrounded and attacked as hundreds of fairies obeyed their queen and leapt to our defense.
The traitor fairies immediately lost their bravado under the murderous gaze of Mab. They cowered, throwing Light and popping to and fro, but reacting purely out of fear. The vampires destabilized entirely. The smell of the land, the warmth of the sun, the blood that boiled in the enemies’ blood… they lost their minds. Turning deftly on their heels, they abandoned Eric, Jess and Pam, and dove at the fairies around them. Mab’s fairies. Massawa’s fairies. They didn’t care. Bloodlust overrode their loyalties.
Eric wasted no time and zipped to me, throwing an amazed Massawa into the pack. His expression was pained as he tried valiantly to keep his attention on me and not the drugging affect of Faery. He was losing. One female fairy ventured too close, too distracted by her attack on two vampires, and he snatched her. He snarled at us before he tore into her throat, sucking wildly as bliss overtook him.
Eric scooped me up. I groaned in pain. “Come on,” he whispered.
He carried me fifty feet to Mab’s white stone table and gently laid me on top of it. He looked back at the battlefield of super speed and Light balls exploding, before looking back at me. With shaking, determined hands, he pulled my pajama bottoms down my legs and whipped them off my feet. Bare from the waist down, I mewled in fright and disapproval. He shook his head. “We have a little time. There’s no other way. You need to push, Sookie. Please,” he looked at me with a rare expression of absolute terror. “Please. Push.”
“I… I don’t know if it’s time to push,” I stuttered miserably. “I need Ludwig.”
“You have me,” he answered, setting my feet at the edge and parting my knees. “We don’t have time to wait and wonder if we’re doing this correctly. Adam must come now. Push. Give me the beautiful son you’ve made me.”
Tears dripped down my cheeks. “I’m scared. It hurts.”
“Me too. But you have to. Massawa will fight his pleasure and kill you. Push!”
I gritted my teeth and shrieked as I bore down. Pain like I’d never known ripped me in half. I screamed. Eric roared with me as blood gushed between my thighs.
“Yes!” he answered my scream. “That’s it! Push, lover! Show me my child, Sookie! You can do this!”
I panted several times, the bore down again.
Sweat broke out all over my body. My muscles strained to the point of tearing. Minutes passed that felt like hours. I vaguely wondered how the hell human women did this for days when I was ready to throw in the towel right the hell now.
Eric’s eyes darted between my legs and the fight. No one seemed to notice us. My screams blended with everyone else’s.
I felt the crown of his tiny head pass in a blinding moment of agony. Eric’s eyes rounded in wonder as he stared between my legs.
“He’s coming,” he whispered. “Oh, Sookie. Beautiful Sookie. Keep going. He’s so close.” He took each of my hands in his and repositioned my feet on his chest, giving me leverage.
“Once more,” he encouraged over my moans. “Just one more.”
Taking a deep breath, I pushed all of my flagging energy into one last final push. Pain made my sight go black. His little head peaked, then passed through. Glorious relief flooded my body as the biggest part of his body left me. Eric reached out to cup him. As gentle as any midwife I could have hoped for, he guided the tiny body out the rest of the way.
I collapsed backward, my head hitting the hard surface. I didn’t care.
Trembling with exhaustion, I looked up at my Chosen. He held a bloody little doll in his arms. The doll spasmed softly, his miniature hands opening and closing. A lusty little cry broke from his lungs.
Eric tipped his head backward, his eyes closed. He opened his mouth to the sky and bellowed with joy. Adam yelled louder, startled by the sound.
“My son,” he said brokenly. He picked up my purple pants and laid them out flat next to me before carefully setting the doll on top and wrapping him up in the legs. Once swaddled, Eric sat on the table and pulled me into the V of his legs, holding us both against him. I fell into him.
“Our son,” he said again, placing him in my arms. “Fuck, you make perfect children, lover.”
My shuttered eyes gazed at the cherubic face peeking out of the purple wrap, so soft and sweet that my heart broke. His dark blue eyes gazed back at me, the shock of blonde hair still wet and matted on his head.
“Adam,” I whispered, kissing his forehead. “Hello, baby.”
His little face pinched quizzically. My tear fell on his forehead. Gently, my mind reached out for his. Hello, I said again. You made a grand entrance, little man.
His mouth puckered in response.
I clutched him tighter, huddling half-naked in Eric’s arms. The battle had quieted. Most dead, I imagined. I peeked around my champion, expecting to find this lovely place splattered with blood, the remaining vampires hunched over their glittery lunch like zombies as the remaining fairies shot them in their oblivious heads.
But the scene before me was not one of total death, like I’d half-hoped. Most of both groups still lived. They all stood, mingled together, their Lit hands and dropped fangs forgotten as all of them stared in wonder at the three of us. Blood soaked their clothing and ran down their faces. Their soft awe reminded me of the time all of Bon Temps came out to the park to watch a solar eclipse. Even Pam stood among them, her hand pressed against her lips.
I nudged Eric with my cheek. “They’re all staring at us, Eric. They’re staring at Adam.”
Eric didn’t look away from his son’s face. He didn’t seem to hear me. “Our son,” he said again, amazed by the words. “My son. Look how fine he is. How beautiful.”
“Eric,” I rasped, swallowing around my tired fear. “I’m glad he’s here, too, and I really hope he’s as invincible as Claudine says, but right now, all I see is a helpless baby in front of a killing mob.”
That brought him back. His head swivelled, boring holes into everyone looking back at us. “Is this not what you’d hoped?” he roared at them. “My son is born, and the world is still here, you zealot bastards! He’s a child, not a monster!” He spat the last word in hatred.
Most jumped at his bark. Others didn’t respond at all, the only kept their eyes nailed to the tiny bundle in my arms. I moved to stand. Eric grunted and held me back. I pushed at his hands and slowly got to my feet. Mercifully, my pyjama top fell to my upper thigh. I was a bloody mess, but at least I could walk without everyone seeing my lady business. Even now, the pain was receding, my newly-found super healing making quick work of Adam’s wake.
With my feet on the grass, I wobbled slightly. Eric caught my arm, helping me cradle our baby.
I looked into the crowd and found Mab. Her face was actually quite beautiful when she looked so hopeful. I gave her a meaningful nod. “Thank you,” I said. “For believing in us.”
She simply nodded back, much shakier than mine.
I spotted Claudine. I gave her a teary smile. “I should have listened to you. I’m sorry.”
She pressed her hands to her eyes, wiping away her own. “It doesn’t matter, cousin. He’s here now. Maybe,” she paused, contrite and uncertain, “maybe one day you’ll let me hold him.”
Eric vibrated with a growl. I patted his hand, and just kept smiling. Some day in the near future, but sure as fuck not today, we might let someone touch our son after all of these people just tried to murder him.
I searched the crowd again, not seeing him immediately because he was on his knees. His was a mixture of misery and relief. I looked down into his face and spoke. “You Jim Jones wannabe fuck. What do you have to say now? Huh? WHAT?”
“I’ve failed,” he whispered, only audible because of the complete silence. “He cannot die. Instead he will grow. He will consume. And then he will rule us all. Kill us all. We are doomed.”
I felt Eric tense, a signal that he was going to bolt to this idiot and end him before he could regain his senses. Though our joined hands, I Stilled him. No one else was dying today. There was no point.
I simply snorted in disgust. “Go back to your books, Custos. It’s where you belong. Write about the world, but stay the fuck out of it.”
The lavender swaddle undulated as Adam moved slightly. I caught his gaze again and smiled helplessly at the person I loved just as much as Eric. His thin arm escaped the cloth and reached out to me. Without thinking, I gave him my finger. He grabbed it and I gasped.
Awareness pulsed through my skin. Eric gasped as well, his hand still cupping my elbow. The current of Adam filled us both.
I stuttered and stared at him. He blinked back, the universal language of a mute newborn registering in my unlimited knowledge of words. Are you ready?
“Ready for what?” I asked in a dry squeak.
Eric’s grip tightened. “He’s speaking to you?” he asked in my ear.
It’s time, my Scion answered, cooing out loud.
The Coming. The time has Come.
“I don’t understand, baby.”
His miniature fingers pulled impatiently on my knuckle. Deep, cold fear rose up in me, the same fear I’d felt when Mab had pronounced him a danger to all living things.
I didn’t want to ask. My mouth ruled against me. “What’s coming, honey?”
The words left me, and the perpetual sunlight of Faery dimmed, as if clouds were running over the sky. Then it darkened to night within seconds.
“Honey? Baby, what’s coming?”
Eric had both of us locked tightly against him. “What?” he asked again. “Sookie, what is happening?”
The vampires and fairies murmured in fear as the world around us fell into black. And then… suddenly… it was just gone.
We were back somewhere in our world. The night sky was still above us, but an ordinary forest surrounded us. Crickets chirped and alligators rumbled. I could smell moss and wet earth. Good old Louisiana. She never seemed far away, no matter where you went.
The fairies went rigid at their exposure. They instantly formed a tight pack against the rest of us, their backs pressed together as they surveyed an enemy landscape.
“I can’t feel it!” one of them shrieked. “Where is it?”
“I can’t move,” another one echoed dully. He looked down at his body in detached horror. “I can’t teleport. Not anywhere.”
“It’s not there!” The lavender heap staggered to her feet, touching her bleeding head gingerly as she pointed at me and screamed. “You see?! He is Death! Our world is gone! I cannot feel it anymore! The doors have closed!”
Several began wailing while others tried to teleport in vain. The vampires backed away, not in unison, but prepared for flight nonetheless. This was not their problem, and the loss of Faery had brought back some of their brains. A quick exit was looking like a smart option.
I glared at the woman. “Death’s comin’ for somebody, that’s for damn sure. Shut the fuck up or I’ll kill you myself.”
She twisted her mouth, no doubt for another volley of hateful trash, but she was cut short. The fairies, still in varying stages of panic at the sudden loss of their land, all cried out together as their spines propelled them forward, their chests Lighting up from within. Their Radias shimmered under their skins. Eric and I gasped at the sight. Each fairy watched in terror as their Lights moved slowly from their hearts, through their shoulders, down their biceps and into their wrists. The Lights settled briefly in their palms, then exploded outward in a simultaneous release of Light.
The vampires howled and braced for an attack.
The Lights completely ignored them. Like missiles, each ball of energy tore off into the night in every direction, some hurtling wildly to and fro, some straight into the horizon, disappearing in a blink.
Only one Light stayed.
A fairy girl, just on the brink of looking like a woman, watched with saucer eyes as her greenish Light lingered while all others departed. It hesitated for a moment, then launched straight into the pack of vampires. They scattered. But the Light only wanted one.
Despite his retreat, a young, sandy-haired vampire male took the hit square in the back. He screamed as the blast absorbed into his clothes and knocked him into the dirt. The fairy girl looked lost as she watched her torpedo take down a man she’d never set eyes on before tonight.
I squeezed my eyes, not wanting to see his end. Strangely, Eric snorted in amusement.
“Why are you laughing?” I hissed, burying my eyes into his shirt. No more were supposed to die tonight. All of this was supposed to end with the birth, dammit.
But Eric only guided my face out of his chest and pointed it towards the poor, young-looking vampire.
“I’d know that Light anywhere,” he chuckled, kissing my hair. “That man is well and truly fucked now.”
How could he laugh now, when the Coming might mean more dead bodies? I nearly yelled at him, but my eyes were on the “poor” vampire now, and as he pulled himself off the ground and pivoted on his heel to glare at his attacker, his expression was anything but angry.
Eric barked with mirth as the two stared incredulously at each other… and then they attacked. The girl was much slower, especially without her popping, but the man closed the space in no time. And then they were on each other. Clawing. Biting. Kissing.
The girl cupped his square face in her palms and devoured his mouth. He turned his head, planting reverent kisses into her hand before continuing trying to swallow her face.
“Orla!” Mab shouted the girl’s name. Orla ignored her. The vampire fisted her fine black hair, pulling her back to watch as he put his wrist to his mouth and ripped it open. She leapt on it, grabbing his arm with two hands and latching her pouty mouth to the wound, drinking deeply.
“ORLA!” It was like her queen wasn’t even there.
I watched as the blood and kissing turn into something far more embarrassing, then looked back at my baby as their moans filled the ears of dozens of witnesses.
I knew that newborn babies couldn’t smile, and yet Adam had the Zen-like quirk of Buddha. “Honey,” I repeated to him, “What’s happening?”
He didn’t answer.
In fact, the answer didn’t come all at once.
It took several days for us to work out what had happened immediately, and to this day we’re not really sure what it meant for the world at large. But what we did know, as each fairy began to feel a pull in the direction their Radia deserted them, and as the sun slowly rose over that meadow, banishing all but two vampires to the ground, was that Orla and Dan (his name turned out to be) were still going at it like animals in the grass.
And Dan saw the sun for the first time in 53 years.