Eric remembered life without Sookie. He had a year of it, an eternity of it in that year. It was a horrible way to learn about love. To glimpse the heights in a kiss before being dashed on the rocks below when he lost her. If he were really honest with himself though, he suspected that he never would have been able to realize his love for her if she had not gone away.
Sookie right there at his side made it hard to think and reason. He reacted more than acted when he found out she was involved. Both of them running around reacting to sleights perceived and imagined would have made it impossible to see past his pride, his anger and his lust for her.
He could appreciate the benefits from the loss of that year, but it was not something that he ever wanted to repeat again.
When they had returned from Fangtasia last night they had gone to bed, tangled together in the blue room with the doors open and the sounds and smells of the ocean filling the room. He fell asleep with her spooned to the front of him. Yes, asleep he thought. Here in Paraspejl I sleep, as though I were a man. Night and day have no power over me here, he thought as he drifted off, and he began to dream.
He saw himself standing over Russell the night he buried him in concrete.
I can’t bear the thought of you finding any redemption…no escape from knowing I took what you love most and you will never get it back.
You make me bleed, my Child. So much hatred.
He was supposed to scream at Godric then, he knew what happened next, but instead he walked away from Russell’s graveside and stood beside Godric before pulling him into a tight embrace. I have missed you so much, Godric! His undead heart felt swollen with emotion to see his Maker again, and to feel him return the embrace.
You have learned much, my Child, since these events took place. Eric pulled back and looked at him, smiling and thinking of how happy he was now, compared to then.
Yes, I am learning that as usual, you were right. Love is all. Godric smiled at him now, reaching up to softly touch Eric’s face. I thought when I lost you in Dallas that I would never see you again, Godric.
I will never leave you, Eric. I told you that the night before I met the sun.
You told me many things that night that made no sense. You said that I would come to understand in time, that we didn’t belong here. Eric stopped, a look of wonder on his face. You didn’t mean Vampires, you meant you and I specifically, didn’t belong there, didn’t you? Godric smiled at him and waited patiently. Why didn’t you let me come with you then? Eric pleaded. It had been a hard decision, but if Godric had not commanded him he would have met the sun with him that morning.
Think, my Child. What has changed between then and now?
Everything. Godric nodded.
Yes, everything. You were not ready to come with me then. Suddenly Eric felt afraid.
Are you saying I have to come with you now?
No, I would never command you to follow me into Death, you have always loved Life, Eric. Now more than ever you have so much new and wonderful to explore. He smiled gently at his Child. Eric knelt on the ground at Godric’s feet.
Then what must I do, Master? How may I serve you?
You must prepare, Eric. I am here to show you things you must know. Change is coming. Godric turned back to the graveside of Russell Edgington. The garage was built now and there was a truck parked over Russell’s head. Godric knelt down closer to the cement pulling Eric down with him. Suddenly he could hear Russell’s thoughts from below.
Kill that fucking, Viking. When I get free I am going to string him up in silver netting for a hundred years and starve him. I am going to take his eyes over and over so that he can never see again…no I am going to kill his fairy bitch….I’ve got to get out of here, my Talbot, my beautiful Talbot, that fucker killed you, but I won’t be so merciful with him! I swear it! Oh, please, someone come and set me free so I can kill him over and over and over again….please….anyone…please!
I am here.
What? Who is there?
Someone who has come to help you. You want vengeance on the Viking?
Then I will help you. Do you want my help?
What will you give me for my help?
Anything you want!
I want you to be mine, Russell. I want you to bend to my every whim. I will help you kill the Viking and avenge your love, but in return, you will serve me. Agreed?
Russell, hesitated for just a minute. He hadn’t gotten to be three thousand by being a fool. He knew this was a raw deal and that something wasn’t quite right here, but what choice did he have? How else would he escape and make that bastard pay? What does it mean to be yours? Russell hedged, wanting to know who he was dealing with here.
Does it matter, if you get what you want? Your freedom, your vengeance. Does anything else really matter?
No, nothing else matters, Russell fumed.
Then you may call me The Master, Child, and I will make your every dream come true.
Eric’s eyes were large and disbelieving when he turned to Godric again. The Master has freed Russell? Godric smiled sadly at his Child and nodded slightly. Eric sat back on his heels thoughts flying a million miles per hour.
Jones had warned him, “One last thing, Eric. Where you are now, The Master will have chosen a champion for his cause. Beware.”
Russell Edgington was The Masters Champion, and it was all Eric’s fault. If he had listened to Godric, and killed him…but no, there was no point in self-recrimination. This hand was dealt out long ago when Russell had murdered his parents. For just a moment Eric saw the size of the pattern that had led to this place, all the things that had to align to get here, all the work that had gone into Eric sharpening the spear himself that would pierce his side.
And people say that the Universe has no sense of humor.
What do I do? Eric pleaded to Godric for guidance. Can he come to Paraspejl? Is he lose back in the world? What will he do?
Shhh, Child. When the time comes to face him, remember what has changed from then until now.
Sookie? My love for Sookie?
Yes, and the gifts that love has opened from within and without for the two of you. Hold onto those gifts, and hold onto your love. You must believe in each other, even if no one else does. Nothing can stop the two of your together, so the first battle will be to take you apart. Godric started to fade now, and Eric felt the dream slipping away as he awoke. He wanted to stay with Godric. Even though the dream had been a nightmare he missed his Maker so. Remember, Child, love is all.
“Eric,” her voice was soft, still full of sleep. Her touch was soft and it telegraphed her caring for him. He opened his eyes and found her close to him, staring intently at him. “You were moaning in your sleep, Eric. The sound was breaking my heart. I am sorry to wake you, but I couldn’t bear to hear you making that sound.” She kissed him softly on the cheek as she cupped his face in her hand. He buried his face in her neck holding her close. Her hand went to the back of his head, her head turned to him, and she kissed his neck softly inhaling the scent of him into her lungs. She loved the smell of him, especially when he smelled of her. “What were you dreaming, my love?” He pulled back from her and looked in eyes.
“Russell is free and The Master has named him Champion.” Sookie’s eyes grew wide.
“Russell is dead! It is not possible for him to be Champion!” Eric dropped his eyes.
“I didn’t kill him,” he told her softly. Needing her to understand as soon as possible how they had arrived here, he pulled her into his mind and showed her what had transpired after she had left Fangtasia after ‘babysitting the psycho.’
When she listened to The Master seduce Russell, her whole body shook. Instinctively, Eric pulled her closer, soothing her, and she calmed eventually, but through the bond he felt her pain and her rage before she managed to quell it.
After she had seen Russell cemented she watched Bill silver Eric and throw him into a pit beside of Russell’s. She felt his fear as the cement poured down on him, but it wasn’t fear for himself it was fear for her. What could have been Eric’s last thoughts were of me and how if he didn’t get free I would never know what Bill had done. I would never know that I had been betrayed.
Eric pulled back from her and looked down at his hands waiting for her wrath.
She pulled him close and kissed him on the cheek. “What now?” was all she said. He closed his eyes in relief that she understood, that she wasn’t angry. Unable to just accept it he had to know.
“Why are you not angry?”
“You are not who you were then, Eric, and the past can’t be undone. I know that now you would never do something like that and not tell me. That fact that you did then, doesn’t matter, other than the consequences. So, what now?”
“Could it have been just a dream, Sookie? Could it be that Russell is still in the concrete and there is nothing to worry about?” She smirked at him.
“Sure, it could be. But really, knowing how things go for us, I suspect that not only is Russell free, he’s probably super charged and shitting fire bolts.” Eric smiled and then remembered to tell her what Godric had said about their powers and their love. She nodded and took his hand.
“You saw, Godric?” he nodded. “Didja tell him that I wanted to talk to him, too?”
“I can’t explain it, Sookie, but my gut tells me that when the time is right Godric will find us again. I believe you will get your chance.”
“Ok,” she said, accepting his words. “You know what I believe in, Eric?” he waited. “I believe in us. Nothing else matters.” She put her arms around his middle and looked up into his eyes as she lay beside him, tangled in the blue sheets. “I have to show you something now, Eric. It’s not going to be easy, in fact, I think it will be harder for you than it will be for me. I need you to remember that it’s over, I am here with you, and it doesn’t matter anymore. I have to tell you, though, because…well, you will see. Ok?”
In the bond he could feel her, her emotions were churning and she was nauseous.
“What is it, dearest?” He searched her eyes, sending calm and strength to her through the bond. She settled a little then and took a deep breath.
“When I was little, seven, maybe eight, my Uncle Bartlett started to take a special interest in me.” She paused there, breathing erratically as she tried to keep her voice from breaking, and her tears from falling. Eric didn’t understand, but rather than make this harder for her he waited for her to go at her own pace. “He was my Gran’s brother, and well, he had kind of always just been around, family reunions, Sunday dinners, you know, there.”
She paused again, and Eric could feel her nausea spike, and then begin to recede as Sookie forced it back. No! He heard her in his mind. I will be strong enough to do this! I have to be! Letting out a shaky breath, her resolve hardened and so did her voice.
Shut your whiny ass up and step aside. Lemme do this! Eric heard the CIB offer to handle this, whatever this was. It was the first time he had heard her voice since just before the trip to The Library. He was surprised to know she was still in there, somewhere. Sookie had said that she no longer believed him to be a threat perhaps that was why she allowed her other sides to be dominant with him?
No! We will do this together, not just you. We must be together! Sookie hugged him tighter and went on. He sent her more strength via the bond and she sighed as she felt him wash over her, holding her in this strange and perfect way. It felt like he had her safe in the palm of his hand, and she loved it when he did that. She loved him. She dived for that love and held it like a shield against her fear. She could do anything when she was with him!
“He was always around, he was family. No one thought anything of it when he suddenly wanted to help out with babysitting me. My Dad would be away at work, and Mom would need to run errands or pay bills or whatever and he would come and stay with me and Jason.” Suddenly, Eric tensed beside her. He could see where this was going and as it played out in his mind, he turned to stone there beside her. She could feel his rage, rolling in waves.
“He touched you? He dared to touch you?” Eric’s voice was sharp and unrelenting. His rage was for her slack ass parents, her pedophile uncle, but none of them were there. There was only Sookie to absorb his rage, and he was so lost in his emotions he forgot that as he demanded to know what happened. His hands had grabbed her shoulders and he was shaking her, demanding to know what had transpired all those long years ago.
I told you! I told you about that fucking fanger and how he don’t give a fuck about you…
The increasingly loud voice of the Cast Iron Bitch was probably the only thing that could have returned Eric’s sanity to him. He looked at her, terrified of him and he realized that he was making a horrible mistake here. Immediately, his face and grip on her softened. “Please,” his voice broke, “Forgive me, Sookie. I can’t bear the thought of anyone hurting you. Please forgive me.” She let out a shaky breath and pulled him to her, seeking comfort in his arms.
Keeping her face tucked in his neck, he heard her speak in his mind. I told you that, so you would understand what I am going to show you now. I will filter as much emotion as I can from the memory, I want to spare you as much as I can.
What the hell? She was turning herself inside out and she was worried about sparing him? There really was no one like his, Sookie, he thought in wonder. When she pulled him into the memory he was grateful for the filtering. She had closed down the bond on her end entirely, sparing him her humiliation and shame, and she had filtered out her fear and her Uncle’s pleasure at what Eric was witnessing. Eric felt numbness flow over him. He was frozen as he realized that he couldn’t help her.
Again, there was nothing he could do to save her from this. It had happened so long ago. It was happening again, and this time Eric was there with her.
Before him, Tea Cup Sookie sat on the lap of an older man, he was rocking her on his lap in a chair, and his hands were under her little dress. Sookie’s face was scrunched up, red and tears were slipping down her face. The look of pure joy on the old man’s face made Eric sick to his stomach now.
He fought to hold it together, but it was killing him to see a girl a few years older than his precious Tea Cup Sookie subjected to this. In one of those random weird moments of clarity that sometimes occur in a completely overwhelming emotional situation, he wondered if there was some reason he had, had to spend so much time learning how to accept his powerlessness lately. He was Vampire! He was a thousand years old! He was strong, and smart and he…felt his heart breaking as he watched her suffer before him. Then it got worse, Sookie let him hear her Uncle’s thoughts.
Oh! Oh, God! It feels just as good as he said it would to touch her like this! I wanted to for so long. I could see her growing into the beautiful girl that she is now and I knew, I just knew that she would want me to touch her like this. Bartlett lost himself for a moment in his pleasure. Oh, thank you, thank you, Master, for giving me this! Thank you for giving Sookie to me! He heard The Master’s voice in his head then.
“Bartlett, you are mine, now. You are my Horse to ride whenever I please! Say it!”
“Oh, I am yours, Master!” Bartlett said this out loud but he knew that Tea Cup Sookie had been forced to hear everything that had been said in his mind as well, with him touching her she couldn’t block him out, being her Uncle he knew about her secret as only family could.
Eric, growing more nauseous, could tell that Bartlett was right on the edge of his pleasure when he cried out for The Master to ride him. Eric, through Sookie, felt The Master slide into him and take possession of Bartlett’s body at the moment he achieved orgasm from touching the child.
So, that is what it meant to ‘ride a Horse’, Eric thought, working to distance himself from the realization that his precious Sookie had not only just been violated but that now sat in the lap of The Master himself.
Tears were still slipping from her eyes, and she was trying very hard not to move, not to speak, in fact, she was trying hard not to be there at all. It was in that moment that Eric saw the doors appear in her mind and he felt her break. She shattered into three pieces and in the lap of The Master sat a tiny version of the Cast Iron Bitch. She was detached, cold and not present for what was happening at all. The Master could have set her on fire and the tiny CIB would not have so much as flinched.
Jones told me how to do it, he heard his Sookie think in the here and now. He told me how to save myself when this happened.
The Master, realizing what had happened, howled his rage. Sookie pulled Eric away from the memory at that point. She wanted to protect him from as much as possible.
Coming back to himself after that was difficult. He didn’t want to see what happened next, but his relief at not having to watch made him feel like a coward. She had endured and survived to be the woman he held in his arms today, could he not be strong enough to bear witness the birth of her whom he loved above all else?
Hearing him, Sookie kissed his cheek. Beloved, you bore your own trials in the thousand years it took you to find me. If I were to witness them, and I may on this journey we take together, I would feel exactly as you do now.
It is the past, and the past has molded it but it cannot hold us to those molds, we do that.
I chose a different path when I chose you. When I did as you said, and put my pride aside, because some things are more important. When I looked at the man before me with open eyes and heart and heard him ask for everything.
This, this I have just shown you is a huge part of everything. If, after seeing this, knowing this, you realize that you no longer want everything from me, I will understand. I ask only that you tell me now. I don’t know what is going to happen next, but if you are not where you want to be, you should leave while you still can. She moved back from him in the bed and looked at him, waiting to see what he would decide to do.
“I thought you believed in us, Sookie? You said you did.”
“I do, Eric. I am asking if you do, too. If you don’t feel the way I do, especially now that you know, tell me now.”
She was right. In the thousand year journey to get to her, he had been subjected to his own versions of what he had just witnessed. He had not always been a thousand, and when he was younger, other vampires had forced him to do many things that he had not wanted to do. Godric had always been a good Maker, and Protector, but there were times when Godric was away and Eric had been alone and only a couple of hundred years old. That was little more than a baby to some of the ancients in Europe and Africa, and of course, he was so fucking beautiful. The conclusion was fait accompli.
While they had traversed the distance from there to here in her mind, the sun had risen in Paraspejl. The morning light seemed drawn to her, making her hair seem brighter. It was tousled from her sleeping, and despite the look of worry on her face as to what he might say next, he was captivated by her innocent beauty. Moving his body closer to her, forcing her to roll from her side to her back and look up at him as he hovered over her, his face just an inch or two from hers he spoke.
“You, Sookie Stackhouse, are mine,” and then he kissed her. It was, as always the perfect thing to say and do. In one sentence, he told her I still want you, I accept you, I understand you, and most important of all, nothing had changed from before he knew about Bartlett.
He was still the same claiming arrogant ass he had always been, exactly when she needed it most. If he had gone all soft right now, she couldn’t have taken it. She needed to know that nothing had changed between them, and he had given her that.
He didn’t see a broken child or a victim, he saw a woman, his woman, who needed claiming, who needed his love. As he deepened the kiss and moved over her completely, sliding his hips between her open legs, he moved his kisses to her neck. She felt his love in the bond between them.
She had seen down to the core of this man, and what he was, was not always beautiful, was not always perfect, but he was honest about what he thought and what he believed.
When he claimed her, when he loved her, he meant it. She rejoiced in that, and in him and welcomed him to her. She sent her love back to him and opened herself and the bond to him.
She needed all of him, just as he was, just like she had told him over breakfast at Uppsala. He had listened then, and she loved him for it.