I shut my father and all the others out as I tucked Mira into her bed. He might understand me if he could remember what it was like to shoulder the responsibilities that had always been a part of my life. Right now his whole world was focused on one woman, and that was not something I could let happen.
I smiled at my own bullshit, and reached out a hand to tuck a strand of Mira’s hair behind her ear. Eric had thought she looked like Sookie, and maybe there was a resemblance in her coloring, but he did not know her well enough to draw any kind of real comparison between the woman who haunted my dreams and the one that fulfilled all of his.
I had first seen Mira almost two hundred years ago, a tiny fairy girl running through the halls of castle Alloria. Distracted by her own internal visions she had collided with my leg, falling back from the impact to the floor at my feet. I had stood there frozen in surprise from our abrupt meeting as much as she was. I saw the top of her golden head, and then a tiny pink bottom lip came out,in what could only be described as a perfect pout; a prelude to tears. Then her eyes met mine.
She pulled a smile from me, a smile that I knew no one had ever seen before on my face. She blinked her tears away, and smiled back at me. From that moment, even with the exchange of no light, I was hers. Before that moment, many had claimed me, my mother, my family, to all the Fae I was their golden son. The bar was set so high for me I couldn’t even see the fucker. I couldn’t see any of them either, even as they crowded around me, pulling at everything I was, demanding I be something they wanted instead.
I was at Alloria for another lecture from Claudine, who was tired of my rebellion against her plan to have me be king someday. Her patience for my wild ways was waning. My mind had been away from here, in the process of forging walls that would protect me from her anger at my lack of responsibility when Mira had crashed into me, and made them all real.
In her tiny face I could see that faces of all my people. I could feel the weight of caring for them as I never had before. It was a fierce burning need to protect her, and them even with my very life, if that was what it took. I had reached down, and picked her up. Her small body seemed to weigh so much more than it should in my arms, because it wasn’t just her I was accepting. It was my destiny in my arms, and it terrified me.
For a long time I had confused that fear of my fate, with a fear of the girl herself. They were twined together irreparably in my mind, even as I watched over her from the shadows, avoiding her whenever I could.
Somehow though, with the beginning of Warlow’s war, I had slipped into the mantle that had been made just for me, and found that while it was tight, it was not suffocating as I had expected it to be. I found solace in battle, and in time I came to see Mira not as something to be afraid of, but rather something to accept, if not embrace because I was not worthy of her.
“You can’t hide from me forever, Cantos,” she had told me a century ago when she found me on the wall of Alloria, looking out over my dying land.
“I’m not hiding,” I told her, as the smile that was just for her came to my face unbidden.
“No, you’re hiding from yourself.”
“When did you become so insightful, little Mira?” She had shrugged then, her own smile, with that same bottom lip that had stolen my soul, sticking out just a little.
“Don’t tease me, Cantos.”
“No, you’re right. I’m sorry.” I had opened my arms to her then, and sighed as she stepped into them. The top of her head barely came to the middle of my chest. She was growing so fast. It seemed like just yesterday that she had barely topped my knee. She would be a woman soon, too soon for me, even if it was at least another hundred years away. What could I make of myself in that time that would make me worthy of what she carried only for me?
“The others tease me, I don’t like it when they do,” she said to my chest, her words muffled, “But it hurts when you do it.” I closed my eyes, another thing to be sorry for between us, though we had spoken only a handful of times since our first meeting.
“I’m sorry,” I told her again, meaning it more than I had ever meant an apology before.
“I know,” she sniffed, holding me tighter with her arms around my waist. “It’s hard to believe when you fight me so hard, Cantos.” A razor ripped my heart. “The only thing I know for sure is that you are supposed to be mine, and I am supposed to be yours. Don’t tease me about it, it’s too important to me.”
“Mira,” I started to say that she was wrong about me. I started to pull out of her arms and walk away. It would kill a part of me to do that, to hurt her that way, but this wasn’t going to work between us. It seemed more cruel to let her live in the illusion of the future we didn’t have.
“Stop, please stop, Cantos.” I knew all the right things to do, but I lacked the strength to do them. Instead of pushing her away, I held her tighter, and kissed the top of her head.
I had seen her once after that, before tonight in Claude’s party house. I had been pinned down, running low on supplies, deep in Warlow’s territory. I was wounded, and most of men had been lost in our last attack. Everything seemed hopeless. I had been thinking of her, I was always thinking of her it seemed. In my quiet moments I replayed every word, every interaction, and used those precious memories to bolster my confidence, and remind me that if I fell so did she.
I had been walking the camp, checking on my men when I saw her, kneeling over one of them. I was sure at first it was in my mind, then I heard her laugh at something my man said to her, and it became all too real. “Mira!” I called as loudly as I dared, and moved to her side, pressing back the pain from the wound in my leg as I ran. “What the fuck are you doing here?” I sounded angry, and I should have been angry, but I was more relieved to see her than anything else.
She looked up into my face, reminding me so much of our first meeting that I felt my heart ache for that long ago time when I had been the court fool, and she had been a simple child at my feet.
*I was never a simple child, but I have always been at your feet, my beautiful Cantos.*
*You should not be here!*
There were battle generals who wouldn’t dare come this far inside Warlow’s territory. What the fuck was a little girl doing here? Rather than argue with me, she had simply stood, and placed my arm on her shoulder and started walking me back to my tent.
“Mira,” I tried again, only to be hushed.
“Fae magic can summon the appearance of a thing. You can summon things that look like food, and taste like food, but they do not fill the belly. You need supplies and medicine, I have brought them.”
“I know how Fae magic works,” I growled as I fell to my pallet in the tent, the shooting pains from my leg only angering me further. I could not be weak, not in front of my men, and definitely not in front of this young girl who was demonstrating a bravery most Fae never find.
“Good, that will save us some time then.” She had dressed my wound with plants that grew far from where we were, and left me with food as she slipped out to do the same for my remaining men. By the time she returned I was much recovered, needing only a few hours more to be fully healed from her attentions.
She had knelt beside my pallet and checked my wound, breathing out a sigh of relief to see me healing so well. “Why did you come, Mira?”
“Because you needed me. Here, eat some more.”
“Save it for the men.” I pushed her hand away.
“They have enough. I brought this for you.” In the distance I heard thunder, telling me that soon Warlow’s men would return, and probably finish wiping us out. I would have welcomed it, but for Mira. If she was here when we fell, she would go, too.
“You should leave now, before Warlow finds out you are here to aid us, and traps you from being able to port away!”
“You should be back at the palace, soaking in a hot bath, being waited on hand and foot as befits the future king. Guess neither of us is where we are supposed to be.” There was that lip again. That fucking lip that would be the death of me, and of her if I couldn’t find the strength to do what I should have done centuries ago.
I has kissed her that night, even as my mind told me to send her away, to protect her, my heart demanded I soothe the ache her lip told me I had caused in her young gentle heart. It was brief, soft and filled with all the words I had never let myself say to her. I feel it, too. I have always felt it, Mira. Don’t you know what you mean to me? I fight for them all to save you!
And then I did the stupid, foolish thing that had brought her here with Claude.
*I’m where I am supposed to be, as long as I am with you, Mira.*
“That’s my fondest memory,” she sighed on the bed before me, her eyes still heavy with drink. “When you told me that, I knew that my faith in us had been true.” I sighed, defeated by a magic more powerful than any I could summon. Love, even as it damns us, is the most powerful magic in every world.
I stayed beside her until she was asleep, unable to leave her until I knew she was safe in dreams that my wretched soul hoped were about me, even as I knew I should be stronger than that. A better man, a man worthy of a love like hers would wish something better for her than myself.
Eric’s deep peace that I could feel in our bonds shifted to melancholy, calling me to his side, and into his arms. Something wasn’t right, but on the other hand something was as it always has been. If I was high and spinning out of control, he was low and anchoring me. We swapped places in this as easily as we had our fantasy role play of the farmer’s daughter and the stranger.
As I sank into him, in spirit and body, I was surer than ever before that this was the man that I had been made for. Niall may have had his own plans, but there was a larger plan in place here with me and Eric. We were some greater design that I could sense and feel.
Warlow might fill the spaces in me, but maybe I needed those spaces to breathe, to be who I was, and not who just one more person wanted me to be. For the first time in my life I was exactly who I wanted to be, and I knew that I owed that sense of peace and acceptance to the man in my arms who had given me my first lesson in grace.
I ported us away from the frenzy of the others, back out into the night, and onto a large tree I had seen when we arrived. Our feet were swinging on either side of the large limb when we materialized, still in each other’s arms. My hands reached up to rest on his neck as I opened up everything between us in full throttle pounding love as I kissed him.
When his hands fisted in my hair to hold me to him, I let myself open to him, wanting to feed him. It was close to the feeling I had in Fae when I saw him chained by Claudine. He could drink me dry right now, and I would not fight him, if that was what he needed.
I was surprised when I felt him open up to me in that same way, taking me from the cell in Fae to our ride in the night sky on the way to New Orleans when were just energy that danced together, sparking to the tune of existence itself. When he undid his jeans and slid me down his hard length I sighed into his mouth, feeling whole again as his hands started to move me on him slowly.
My hands found their marks on his back, as he sank his fangs into my neck, joyous in all the ways our flesh could join that paid tribute to the joining of our souls. His soft growls as he sucked me told me how much he loved me better than words ever could. When I bit him on his long graceful neck, he bucked up into me with his hard cock, the feeling was amazing as I tasted him again.
I felt myself lighting up again, and burning as I had in my yard the night that we tied ourselves together. There were no real thoughts, the feeling was too intense, but there were sensations. Safety, trust, and oh, so much love between us as we came together again, in bond and body. No love is ever the same as another, but I knew that if I could not share this with Eric, I never wanted anything else.
She was trembling in my arms, so open and raw that she should be bleeding out. What had just happened between us was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It shamed me that she gave me so much, and I could return so little of it to her. I could not give her light, only dark. I could not give her life, only death. I held her tighter to keep that truth from coming between us.
“What’s wrong?” she asked me in a drugged voice that tugged at the corners of my mouth. I loved the sound of a well fucked Sookie. She was pure soft warm contentment in my arms. It boggled my mind to think that one such as I could do that for her. When she leaned back, her face frowning a little I hated myself for breaking her peace. “Tell me, Eric, please.”
“I regret that I cannot give you light and life, Sookie.” Hateful words, but I had vowed no more quiet lies to her. She sat back further from me, her hands coming up to rest on my cheeks.
“You are my light and my life, Eric.” Before I could deny her words I saw her light up inside, a soft light, like a candle left in a window to guide me home at night. “This is you,” she told me, and then I saw the same glow coming from my chest. I glanced down, to verify before looking back into her eyes that were wide in the dark night as the crickets and night birds sang their mysterious songs. “And this is me,” she finished softly.
I felt a gentle tug in my chest and saw a ray of the light inside me come out between us, and meet one that came from inside her. When the two dim lights touched, coiling around each other, they sparked, so brightly that they lit up the night around us. “This is us,” she said, still looking into my eyes when they came up to hers again.
“I didn’t know who I was before I loved you, Eric Northman. That first night we were together, it was the first time I had ever done anything I wanted to, just because I wanted to do it. Do you remember?”
“Yes,” I was hanging on her every word as our lights pulsed together, softer now, between us.
“When you kissed me on the porch I was so scared.”
“No, of me! I had been lost my whole life, Eric. I had been alone, with people who wanted to remake me into what they thought I should be. I was never enough. Never good enough, never smart enough, never normal enough. Never enough, and then you kissed me.” I remembered that kiss. I had been so reckless to show her so much of my heart that night. “With just a kiss you told me that you saw me, that you liked me, that you accepted me just as I was, Eric. It is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. There is nothing I could ever do that would repay that one kiss.”
“I thought you knew then. I thought I had shown you too much of how I felt for you already. I took that kiss to have something that made the risk worth it.”
“You took nothing, Eric. You only gave that night, and every night since. You have unlocked me. You have made me free.” The light between us sparked again then, before it broke apart and returned to first my chest and then to hers. I gasped to feel it snuggled into me again, making me feel warm and alive.
I took her down to the ground then, and loved her in the soft dewy grass to show her that she had freed me as well. I told her of how I loved her again and again as we rolled around on the ground lost in each other. We ended with her resting on top of me as I looked up into the night above us.
“What happened with Cantos?” she finally asked me in the still night.
“I fucked up, Sookie.” She kissed my chest softly, resting her chin on me so she could see my face. “I insulted the woman he’s in love with.” She raised her head slightly, her eyes wide.
“Cantos is in love?”
“Yes. The young Fae girl I went out to meet in the crowd. I made light of her very evident feelings for him, and he defended her. He told me I shouldn’t think I knew him just because he looks like me.”
“Wow, what’s she like?”
“She reminds me of you.” She laughed.
“Puts some holes in his case, don’t you think?”
“How do you mean?” She sighed and kissed me again.
“Well, from a completely external perspective, he’s in love with someone who reminds you of me, while he chains Russell to his bed, and fucks his way through his kingdom. Doesn’t sound like you at all, does it?” I growled softly at her and placed a swift kiss on her forehead, not caring over much for her astute observations.
“I regret some of my behavior before we bonded.”
“If he is as sensitive about her as you say, perhaps he does, too.” I stared out into the night sky as I thought over her words.
“I told him not to be afraid to take a chance on love.” She hugged me close, and settled down again.
“That’s a good start. You two will get the hang of being father and son in no time.”
“I don’t want to make the same mistakes my human father made with me. If I do get the chance to be a father after all this time I hope to be more like Godric.”
“What’s the difference?” she was sounding very sleepy now. I needed to get her home soon.
“Similar to what you said before. My father wanted me to be like him, and do the things he wanted me to do, and Godric wanted me to embrace myself and just be who I was. I was always good enough for Godric.”
“And for me.”
“Even when I was chaining people up, and fucking my way through a kingdom?”
“I never said you were perfect.” I laughed, and rolled us over, pinning her under me. I had meant to tease her some more, but something in the way she looked at me pulled at the light inside me again. I was about to kiss her when I noticed the grass beneath her head shrivel and die.
“Eric?” she asked, sensing that something was not right. We were on the far edge of the field that held the secret fairy club. I looked around and saw that whatever was happening was happening to the entire field. Then I saw a man walking across the grass, headed right toward the invisible entry.
Sookie had followed my gaze turning her head. She saw him a second after I did, and growled his name.