A/N Still feeling my way through this a little at a time. Check out the song first so that you can really get the feel of what comes next. To me, it sets the mood just right for this part.
I felt it building in him like a tidal wave. It was like standing in the wake of crushing ocean waves that were coming in so fast they took you off your feet and dashed you hard on the sand. I was struggling not to gasp for air from the pressure. There was no time to question what was happening, I just reached for him offering the ease and distraction of my kiss.
When he leaned into me his face was blank, but his eyes held the waves I could feel battering at me inside. His hand came to my thigh squeezing in a quiet plea for mercy. He needed me to help him hold his feet even as I lost my own.
I’m here, I thought to him, wishing I was free to say the words, but our audience left us only with small gestures to spare. He crashed into me. As we kissed the echoes of his need rang through me. He was my protection, and I had sworn to be his.
I pressed into the waves of him buffeting me, my lips refusing to let his go as I let my now constant need for him come to the surface. “I need you,” I told him, knowing that every word was heard, filed away and summarily judged by our audience. “Can you take me away from here?”
“Of course,” he told me, taking my hand in his before turning to Russell. He had composed himself, the mask of indifference slipping back into place as he faced them all. “Your Majesty, my pet requires attention.” I kept my eyes on him, but I heard Lorena snicker and sensed Bill trying to find some way to keep us here. I could also feel Russell’s intense stare crawling over my bare arms, making me shiver. Eric’s hold on my hand tightened.
“Yes, I can see that she does,” Russell said sounding less than pleased at this turn of events. “Are you staying in town?”
“Only for the night. We are returning to Louisiana when I rise tomorrow night.” Russell paused then leaned back, and threw his arms over the back of the booth. “Perhaps we will see you there soon.”
“One can only hope, Majesty.” I started to rise, Eric following close behind. When I turned I saw that Talbot was on his feet as well.
“I had so hoped you would stay with us,” he said, pouting a bit, I thought.
“Another time,” Eric said in a tone that set something aflame inside me. I smothered it before the flame caught air. Not the time or the place, I told myself.
*Gonna kill me some fucking deaders like in Dallas.*
My head snapped around looking for whoever had just thought that, my eyes landing on a man by the door, dressed in a large over coat with something in his hand. When he shifted and started moving toward us I saw it was a wooden stake, but there was something else in his other hand, something small and black.
*It’ll be worth it if to take these dead fucks with me!*
He was terrified by whatever he had planned. Luke had felt that way when he had come to Godric’s wrapped in a blanket of murderous intent. I felt my insides go tight when he started to move toward Talbot, who had his back to the door while he flirted with my man.
“STAKE!” I screamed, pulling Eric out of the way and stepping between him and the man who had come to kill vampires. I had blocked out the music once we sat down, but oddly, now it came through to me like someone had turned the volume up even as they had turned time down. Everything was in slow motion, giving me a clear image of what was going to happen with an eerie melodic soundtrack.
Oh look at you
oh my God, your dream came true
everyone loves you
I had been fooled into forgetting Talbot’s true nature by his flirtatious manner. The speed with which he changed from simpering flirt into a killer was breathtaking. He turned toward the man in the coat, his hand coming up to break the wrist holding the stake. The sound echoed between the bones of my skull, amplified but the screams that followed.
Oh look at you
you freeze so soon
I might up and move to the sun
and outlive you
Eric was pulling me back, even as Lorena moved into the fray, grabbing the screaming man by the back of the neck, shaking him like a dog with a toy. “How dare you, filthy human!” She screamed, her fangs down making her appear even crazier than normal, which was a tall order even on good day.
It seems like a lifetime ago now
since you had your heels on the ground
The man in the coat tried to fight her, using his good hand to scratch her face. His nails caught and ripped several long marks down her face, covering her in blood. “You’re gonna burn, bitch,” he snarled at her. “You’re all gonna fucking-“ she snapped his neck in her thin pale hand, her face glowing as she reveled in the murder.
Even as Eric pulled me back behind him I saw what had been in the dead man’s hand. A detonator. As Eric spun me I pulled him into me, my eyes flying up to his. “Bomb”, my lips said to him. I saw it register and I felt their air stir around me as he moved us at top speed away from there. His arm so tight around my waist it felt like he had cracked a rib. His eyes never left mine even when the explosion erupted behind him pushing us faster toward the back wall of the bar.
I watched him cover me, feeling him shudder from the impact of shrapnel and debris. We crashed into the wall next to one of the speakers that was still churning out the haunting song that was laying the track for this recurring nightmare. It crackled and faded to a tinny small sound as the world went dark for me.
What are you gonna do
when gravity gets to you
I tried to shield her from the wall and from the blast. I knew I had failed when I felt her consciousness leave our bond at the same moment I felt my back break from the impact of something hard and heavy. A table I thought pointlessly, as my legs went numb and more debris rained down on us.
One of these days I would be too slow and she would prove too fragile, but as I heard her heartbeat strong and sure I knew that day would not be today. As I waited for my spine to knit itself back together I kept my head down, using this time to process the realization that Russell was the vampire I had been seeking for a thousand years.
I could still hear him taunting me to come out as he took my father’s crown from the wolf. I had spent a dozen lifetimes convincing myself that I was not the coward I felt myself to be that night when I had failed to follow him into the night to reclaim my birthright.
Sookie stirred beneath me, calling me back to the present and the precious life I would be jeopardizing if I continued to pursue my vengeance. “Eric?” she coughed, sucking in a lung of dust and smoke making her cough again. “Are you all right?” I didn’t answer her. I would never be all right again. I felt her twinge from pain even as her breath caught.
“Are you hurt?” She frowned, moving her arms slowly. She glanced down to see me laying across her. “I think so. My ribs hurt” She grunted, trying to move. “You still weigh a ton.” She pushed at my chest frowning again when I did not move away.
“I need a moment. I was damaged in the explosion.” Her frown was replaced with worry.
“Do you need some blood?” she whispered to me, her breath catching from her own injuries. I tore my wrist placing it against her lips. I saw her raise her arm from the corner of my eye and before I realized what she was doing she placed it at my lips, letting the blood from her wound speed my healing.
My eyes locked with hers. She nodded that she was sure, and so there in what in had been Club Dead, we bonded a second time. Almost immediately, I felt my spine healing, the fire of tingles and sharp pains coming from wounds on my legs that were now also healing, thanks to her. I felt her breathing ease as her ribs repaired themselves.
As we made each other whole again, I was lost to the sensation and the wonder of how very different this time was compared to the first. For the first time I regretted tricking her, for in doing so I had tricked myself out of having her accept me willingly. It was not a mistake I would make again.
“William! Oh, my darling William!” Lorena’s voice rang out behind us. I tensed, expecting her to push me off and rush to Compton, or whatever remained of him. She surprised me by letting her eyes go shut slowly as she savored her contact with me for a brief moment.
Her free hand came up to my hair, soothing me with her fingers as she kissed my healed wound, cooing at me softly as if I were really her darling. The sensation was better than blood. A few moments later I stood, and after assisting her to rise, we surveyed what was left of Club Dead.
Russell was leaning over the bloody puddle that had been Talbot, running his hands through the viscous remains keening. Lorena was hovering over another bloody patch in the booth where we had all been sitting just a few minutes before. Compton had met his death in the explosion.
I felt it register with Sookie. There was a moment of sharp pain, and then a small sadness that fell through her completely from head to toe before passing on to some place our twice bond could not follow. I did not chase it or question her. I might be glad he was dead, but respected her enough to leave her to mourn.
There were puddles, bodies and parts strewn haphazardly through the shell of the club. The bomber had managed to kill at least half a dozen vampires and twice as many humans. Before we could move Russell’s security contingent that had been outside came rushing in to his side, halting in the face of his terrible grief. Only Lorena made any sound at all as we stood frozen.
“My love, oh my love,” she repeated as she rocked herself back and forth next to Bill’s remains. “William!”
I could kill him now, while he was lost in his grief of Talbot. I must have taken a step because Sookie pulled on my hand that she had kept in hers when she stood. She could not possibly know what I was intending, but somehow she did.
“Get me something!” Russell screamed at his security team.
“Sir?” they questioned him, unsure as to his meaning.
“Get me something to put him in! I will not leave him here like this!” They shuffled off digging behind the bar, returning with a tall ornate glass container. I watched, somewhat sickened as he scooped his dead lover off the floor with his hands, placing them in the glass. “They will pay, my love,” he cried, tears of blood on his face.
I saw myself in him then. Me on the floor with my father, him on the floor with his lover. In that moment I knew exactly what he was feeling. I expected to be triumphant, instead I felt only emptiness.
What was death but the ultimate equalizer? He would always be older and more powerful than me, but he had been felled by the same thing that had murdered a part of me a thousand years ago when I was only human.
I was more than that now, and less than that at the same time. I looked down at Sookie who was waiting to see what I would do. Sighing, I pulled her into my arms and kissed the top of her head, closing my eyes, and closing the door on that chapter of my life at long last.
I knew that there was nothing I could have done that would have hurt Russell more deeply than the loss of his love. We had been made equals at long last this night, and I had lived to see the other side because of the woman in my arms.
I released her when I heard Russell stand. “We must go. Lorena, Northman, come with me.” I started to protest that I needed to return to my area, but the look of madness in his face quieted me. It would be too dangerous to oppose him now.
“You will not bring that fucking human with us!” Lorena screeched, coming to stand beside him. “This is because of another of her kind.” I snarled at her, fangs coming down so fast they cut my lip that was too slow to move. I would kill her in less than a fucking heartbeat if she thought she was going to punish Sookie for someone else’s mistake.
“Silence!” Russell roared, backhanding her halfway across the bar. “Take her,” he snarled to his guards. “Put her in the shed.” I didn’t know what the shed was but it sounded ominous. When Lorena started begging a moment later I was sure of it.
“Please! No, please!” Russell remained impassive watching them drag her out before he turned to me. He was holding the remains of Talbot in the crook of one arm, his hand cradling it lovingly. He motioned for us to come closer.
“You will accompany me home this evening.” It was not a question.
“Of course, Majesty.” I acquiesced with a grave nod of my head. Sookie remained silent with her eyes on the floor.
“And you as well Miss Stackhouse.” Her eyes came up to me first. Again, I was surprised at how well she did this and wondered at why she had always behaved so differently with Compton. It was like she had always known the best way to be safe but had refused to use it, instead playing in the rows of self destruction and danger carelessly like child. Shoving my wonderment aside, I nodded to her.
“Thank you, your Majesty,” she said, looking at him a moment before bowing gracefully at my side. Russell stared at the top of her head for a long moment before sweeping out of the destroyed nightclub, expecting us to follow.
Russell’s mansion reminded me of an antebellum gingerbread house, over done with sticky sweetness. Of course, that cast us as Hansel and Gretel. Hiding my ill-timed humor I still managed to look about for an oven in case we needed to shove Lorena in before we made our timely escape.
“Will you show Miss Stackhouse upstairs,” he said to one his guards who stepped forward immediately. Before I could protest he turned to me. “I’d like a word before you go up.” I gritted my teeth and smiled complacently.
“Of course.” I turned to Sookie, my eyes full of warning and not a little concern. She smiled, so brightly it was like the sun had come out in his saccharine foyer. I felt her trying to be calm and reassuring even as she turned to walk away from me, deeper into the monster’s den. Making my mind up to give him whatever he wanted as long as it would get me back to her side quickly I followed him into his library.
I watched as he put Talbot’s remains on the edge of his desk, leaning down to place a tender kiss on the glass container before he turned back to me. The pain in his eyes reminded me again of our first meeting. It was a look I had carried for centuries.
He fell more than sat down on his fancy gilded sofa. Sighing, he crossed his legs and looked at me. “This has been a trying night so let us speak plainly, Sheriff.” I waited at his pleasure to see what he was really after. “I find myself in a complicated position. I dislike complication.” He plucked at his trousers, which were ruined from the explosion, and then he looked up at me again.
“Why did you come to Jackson?”
“To find Compton.” He growled.
“Yes, but that is not why you cared enough to come looking for the former lover of your pet. Be quick now before I lose patience with complications, and end you now as I should have a thousand years ago!”
I stepped back. He knew who I was! My mind was racing. I could pick a fight I could not win, that would knowingly be the end of myself and Sookie, or I could find a way to turn this to my advantage. I hesitated just a moment, the habit of old hate holding me still even as it commanded that I move to end his miserable life. In the end it was the desire to see Sookie again that stopped me, squashing the hate that had held me as its slave for so very long.
“The Magister is holding my progeny and will kill her if I do not return with Compton in less than twenty four hours.”
“And why does the Magister care about your progeny?”
“He believes that we have been selling V. I explained that it was not me but rather Compton who had committed this crime and came here to bring him to justice.”
“I see. Compton had told me Sophie Anne was the one responsible for the V.”
“That would not be for me to say, Majesty.”
“Of course, treason is but another sure way to death for you and your progeny.” He was quiet for a long time, making me anxious to get to Sookie. Was he stalling to keep me from her? I could feel her frustration, and imagined her to be pacing the room they had placed her in, but she seemed well.
“I owe you and your pet a debt, Sheriff.” My eyebrow came up sharply in surprise. “She warned Talbot of the human holding the stake.” He stopped his voice cracking. “If Lorena had not interfered he might still be here.” I said nothing. “I believe I may be able to help you, and solve the problem of Ms. Krisiki.” I was thunderstruck. He was offering Lorena in place of Bill to take the fall for Sophie Anne.
“Of course,” he went on, “I would also be helping myself. I want Louisiana. I will force Sophie Anne to marry me in return for keeping her secret. Will you abandon the past and live here with me now as your King?”
When I did not answer right away, he pinned me with his eyes. “I know that what I ask is not small, but what I offer in return in not small either. Surely, you were young once and have done things that make no sense under the microscope of time and experience?”
That was as close to an apology as I was going to get. Was it enough? I saw my family, laughing and loving together, happy before Russell had found us. My heart clenched and the old hate seeped into me with all its force, but a moment later I saw Sookie smile at me as she had just now in foyer. Was it an even trade? I could not bring them back, but maybe I had a small chance to experience that laughter and love for myself again?
“Yes.” I finally said, feeling an old weight slip off my shoulders, even as an uncertain future faced me now. If he kept his word though, it might be a future with both of the women who held my heart now. Women that I was responsible for protecting and could save, instead of feeding the ghosts that had roamed beside me for so long, making me hollow and empty even in the best of times.
Russell stood and moved to his bookshelf, opening a glass case. When he turned, I felt like I had been through another explosion. He held my father’s crown in his hands. “I believe this is yours,” he said, holding it out to me. I took it reverently, holding it as I felt the tears come to my eyes. “You were a King long ago, and you still behave as one today. Let us begin again, Northman.”
The room they had put me in was as overdone as the rest of the house. Some might think it splendid, but my tastes ran more to sunflower curtains and furniture scarred with the markings of my ancestors. This was not my world, and I didn’t want it to be. What would that mean to the tall Viking who had saved my life yet again? Would he find my tastes banal and uninteresting?
I started pacing, wringing my hands as I worried what Russell wanted with him, and what was taking so long for him to come to me. I walked to the curtains, pulling them back hoping for a breath of fresh air to calm me, but found only a brick wall there. Everything here was for show. Again, I thought how much I didn’t want this world.
But I did want Eric. I had known before, but it had clicked irrevocably into place when I realized that Bill was dead. I was sorry for so much, so many mistakes that I had made with him. However, knowing him had led to me finding Eric, so in the end, I owed him a debt of gratitude.
I plopped on the bed and thought of all the foolhardy recklessness I had been sucked into since Bill had strolled into Merlotte’s and ordered a True Blood. It was a miracle I had survived it all. At the time it had all seemed like the right thing to do, but if Bill and his queen had really been working together in some plot against me, had any of it even been real?
I felt despair sucking at my ankles, making it hard to breathe. I shoved it back in my mind, even as my body curled around itself. I had made some terrible mistakes, but each one of them had been the best decision I could make at the time. I had always tried to do the right thing. The fact that it had ended so badly was not on me. I had been a person I could be proud of, even if I was being manipulated and couldn’t see it.
There was a sharp knock and the door opened. A vampire brought in our bags from Eric’s car, placing them on the floor and turning to go without a word. I had a million questions but I held them in. The weight of wondering what was happening was suddenly too much for me. Before I gave into tears I forced myself up and got some nightclothes I had purchased with Eric’s card and took a quick shower. I was combing my hair thinking of how the last time I had showered after an explosion Bill had been waiting for me, as I bemoaned Eric tricking me into taking his blood.
How could I be so stupid? I had ranted that morning, angry at Eric for manipulating me while Bill sat there telling me what Eric’s blood would do to me. I had been so distracted by my shame at being tricked I had failed to ask what made Eric’s blood so special. If vampire blood made a human desire the vampire, why had I never wondered about the gallons that Bill had fed me?
I stopped brushing my hair and stared into the mirror, seeing not my reflection, but Bill’s face the night I had been attacked. Had he let me be attacked so that I would have to take his blood or die? “No,” I said to no one as I felt more sure with each passing second that he had played me. “You can have that,” he had told me about the bag of blood that had been stolen from him that first night.
“Mutherfucker!” I growled, squeezing my brush as if he were his throat. The anger passed, replaced by shame at my own foolishness. I had met him openly and honestly, offering friendship and he had…what? Tricked me? Humiliated me? Manipulated me into falling in love with him?
I felt sick, grabbing onto the sink as the room and my life swam around me in mocking reminders of things that I saw now in a different light.
“But I’m not special,” I said to my reflection, seeing my damp hair and the look of disgust on my face. “What was the point, Bill? What was the fucking point?”
When Eric came in I was sitting on the bed, staring at the wall, ready to grab my shoes and run or curl up and sleep away the thoughts that kept swirling in my brain. I didn’t realize I was shaking until he pulled me into his arms, wrapping me in a blanket.
“You’re in shock, Sookie.” Is that what this numbness was? Is that why my whole being felt shredded and too tired to even sleep? He picked me up, pulling back the covers before placing me in bed and tucking me in. He stretched out beside me. “What’s wrong?”
I wanted to tell him, but the very thought of trying made me sick to my stomach. What could I say? I could ask about Russell, but I couldn’t take any more bad news tonight. I remained quiet, knowing that the sun would come soon, and I would either rest or be left to my own dark churning thoughts.
She was awake and packed when I rose for the night, sitting on chair in the corner, lost in her own thoughts as she had been last night. She remained that way all the way back to Bon Temps, staring out the window as the night flew by.
I was sure she was mourning Bill. I was afraid that she was regretting everything that had transpired between us since I had come to protect her. I wanted to get into it, but I had no time. Russell had agreed to let me drop Sookie off and then I had to meet him at Fangtasia where we would hand over Lorena to the Magister before going on to New Orleans so he could claim Sophie Anne as his bride.
The steering wheel creaked under my grip. It was the only place I could vent my frustration without starting something that I might not have time to finish. When we pulled into her drive way, I shut off the car, planning to fly to Shreveport because it was faster. I turned to her, looking for what I could say that would express my gratitude to her and my hopes for a future that was seeming more and more unlikely with each passing moment.
“Sookie, I have to go save Pam, but I want us to talk when this is all over.”
“All right,” she said, not looking at me.
“There is much to be said between us,” I tried again, looking for some shred of hope that this was not the end of us.
“All right,” she said again, still not looking at me. She sighed then and reached for my hand. I felt a knot in the middle of me let lose when her fingers tangled with mine. “I’ll be here.”
“Will you?” The words escaped me without my consent, my soul needing more reassurance than my pride was comfortable with needing. She looked at me for the first time all night, almost smiling.
“Yes.” She kissed my hand and got out of the car, grabbing her bag as she climbed out. I vamped around to her side, and pulled her into a kiss that demanded more than her simple agreement. It was fast and hard and filled with questions, one of which insisted I voice it out loud.
“Are you sorry, Sookie?” I asked her, my forehead pressed to hers, my cowardly eyes shut, bracing for what seemed inevitable. My eyes opened when her hand came up to rest of my face. Her own were filled with unshed tears, and the pain she felt was so overwhelming to me that I sucked in a breath of air in surprise.
“For many, many things, but never for you, Eric.” She kissed my forehead then, lingering there for a long moment with her soft lips against my skin as though she were memorizing the feel and taste of me. “Never you,” she said again, before she turned and walked slowly up the steps to her door. I waited until I saw the lights come on and heard the lock click into place on her front door before I took off to do the things I needed to do, even if, in that moment, they were not the things I wanted to do.