Time was the world had been entirely too fucking slow for Eric Northman. Everything and everyone thought and moved at a snail’s pace. Interactions left him exhausted and wanting. Everyone he met made him feel alone, and lonely.
Acceptance of this caused an internal dichotomy that was unresolvable for Eric. He took pride in his prowess, his accomplishments, his victories, and yet they turned to sand in his mouth when he realized that there were no worthy foes, and therefore no worthy victories. The split came when he found himself unable to lower his internal expectations of himself and yet unable to accept the separation that these expectations and actions caused between him and everyone else.
He longed for a challenge. He longed for a world that was worthy of him. He longed to have those in his life that let him not only meet his boundaries but who challenged him to exceed them, to push beyond and venture into dark unexplored territory.
Or, at least his did until he got it.
What he had just witnessed granted his wish. Exceeding it by so much that he for once was running to catch up. It was disconcerting and painful to be less than the best, to be not in front, to not have a clue, to feel weak and unable to protect the people and things you loved.
He was choking on the irony that for the first time, ever, he had something that he truly wanted to protect, and he could do nothing. Nothing at all. He was struggling to come to grips with the fact that for the first time ever, he was out of his depth, in over his head and had no fucking idea what to do next.
If Northman is here, then the girl is, too. She was in the photos on the site. Maybe we could take them now? I bet there would be a reward in it if we brought them back!
The first vampire intruder called the others over to him and began to discuss what to do now that they had confirmed their location. As Eric listened he learned they had been found because of some photos on Facebook taken by the checkout girl at the Wal-Mart in Kalispell. Because she thought he was gorgeous and they had been discovered. Rage overtook Eric when this came to light. Not rage at Anjey the store clerk, who had been sharing with the world that she had seen what she thought was the most beautiful man in the world, but rather rage that simply because of how be looked their safety was at risk.
If you’re so fucking special, Northman, then why are you coming apart now? The internal voice was his own, but he noted the similarity to the CIB. You’ve been so fucking arrogant and sure of yourself for a millennia! Was it just because you hid behind your masks and ran from the truth that you are nothing more than a pretty face with nothing real or substantial to offer anyone?
The Master, Jones, all of it forced Eric to face himself. They had grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and forced him to see that he was not the force to be reckoned with here, and that pushed Eric over the edge. To know that in this situation, when he wanted to be Warrior, Champion, Protector, Savior, he was relegated to Pretty Face, and that pretty face had just led their enemy right to their door was overwhelming.
Not realizing that Eric was collapsing in on himself, Sookie, had started pulling on clothes the minute she recognized that they had been found. When she turned back to the bed to ask what he had heard Eric was gone. She reached out to him and felt his rage, and pain. Listening to his disjointed thoughts and self-recriminations she knew that he was going to kill the vampires outside. Not just because their safety was important, mainly he was doing it to feel like he was in control of something; to reassure himself that he was not powerless in these dark churning waters.
She followed close behind, even as he moved at vamp speed. She didn’t want to interfere. Instead, she went to watch his back and help in the unlikely event that he should need any.
It might have been smarter to re-direct them as they had the Were at the motel, but right now, they were the enemy, the enemy was here, and Eric was beyond reason. He needed this. She could feel it barrel through the bond to her, and it fired her own needs for violence and bloodshed but she held them in check. He needed this more.
She watched as he danced naked in the moonlight, barely touching the ground as he met their enemy and laid waste to them in mere seconds. She thought for a moment that if not for her enhanced vision that she would have missed the whole thing.
Eric took off the first vampires head with the side of his hand, the second one he threw at a tree, staking him through the heart on a protruding branch. The last one he grabbed, ripping off his arms at the shoulders, before taking out his heart and squeezing to a pulp. Eric decapitated the corpse as he started to liquefy.
The snow around Eric for twenty feet was red, and he was splashed in gore from head to toe. He was standing with his back to Sookie, his hands still claws, chest heaving as he looked around for something else to tear. She could feel that there had not been enough of this skirmish to provide the release and validation he needed. As she watched he took flight through the trees and from a distance she heard wood splinter and break as he ripped through the forest.
In the bond she felt his anger and frustration at being found, at being the cause of them being found, at being unable to protect her from their enemies. At being reduced to nothing more than the Pretty Face when faced with bigger larger enemies than he had ever confronted before.
How long Eric destroyed the forest behind Uppsala, Sookie didn’t know. She knew that it was a long time, but little by little she could feel him burn through his rage. As the rage lessened, the frustration, emptiness and fear grew. He felt so much responsibility for her, and for everything, and he felt completely ill-equipped to deal with any of it.
Forever later, still standing at the edge of the bloody snow she felt him coming toward her, moving at vamp speed. He was not there, and then he was, standing before her, gore spattered, hands healing, fangs out, and eyes burning with emotion. He towered over her, leaning in and looking down, snarling.
Sookie looked up at him, for a long moment, looking into him, looking through him.
This face before you, Beloved has terrorized for centuries. Am I so pitiful I can’t even scare you now? Sookie heard him in her mind, his expression never changing, and hers didn’t either. She waited.
After long moments Eric retracted his fangs, and moved to kiss her. She didn’t move away, in fact she didn’t move at all. When his lips touched hers, she remained exactly where she was, eyes open looking at him, and not kissing him back.
Eric tried to pull her into his arms, and hold her close. She didn’t resist but again, she didn’t reciprocate. She simply stood there in his arms. When he realize she wasn’t hugging him back he stepped away and looked at her, disbelieving of her rejection at the time when he needed her most. I would never do that to her! He thought indignantly, sure that she heard him and still she said nothing.
Those moments of waiting were some of the hardest that Sookie had ever had to deal with. She wanted to hold him, she wanted to let herself be taken in by the Masks of Lover and Friend, she wanted him, but this wasn’t about her. This was about him, and the fact that if he didn’t get past accepting himself, he would fold before this had even begun and she would lose him, forever.
Eric looked at her standing there in the snow, where she had been standing for hours at this point, shivering cold, half dressed, and waiting. He realized that he was not being rejected. If he had been rejected she would have walked away by now. Should have walked away by now, his internal voice sneered. He had to warm her.
He moved so fast that Sookie, even with her enhanced senses, barely clocked him taking her inside, undressing her, and carrying her into the warm water of the underground spring. Her nerve endings hissed when they caught up to the temperature change and sent pains throughout her skin. She moaned as her muscles reacted. She still did not speak. Eric was holding her on his lap, his head down, forehead resting between her shoulder blades, his hands on her waist.
After she acclimated, she leaned back, forcing his head up to rest his chin on her right shoulder as she lay back on his left. She still didn’t speak and Eric, not able to stand it anymore, finally broke the silence.
“I’m sorry, Soo-,” he began.
“No!” she cut him off before he finished, but stopped there.
“What-?” he tried again.
“Your regret changes nothing. Be who you truly are so that you can be who you want to be. Take off the Masks.” He sat there, feeling her words. This time he accepted them.
He closed his eyes and pulled her into his mind. She stood before him again, when he had exited the forest. Blood soaked, naked, fangs reflecting moonlight, he stared down at her.
“The Monster,” she named him, reaching up and touching the edge of his jawline, and pulling away a glowing mask. She held it a moment and then dropped it on ground, it cracked and broke into several pieces. She looked up. He moved toward her and kissed her again as he done when he exited the forest.
“The Lover,” she named him, reaching up again and touching the edge of the jawline, taking away another glowing mask. He moved to pull her into his arms.
“The Friend,” she named him, reaching up and pulling away another mask. He picked her up and took her in, into the spring and seated her on his lap in the water.
“The Protector,” she named him, reaching back over her shoulder, and pulling away another mask, setting it free to float on the water around them.
“I’m sorry, Sook-,” again she cut him off.
“The Coward,” she named him, pulling this mask away and setting it afloat. The ritual established she continued to name him. “The Liar, The Leader, The King, The Maker, The Child, The Father, The Brother, The Son, The Teacher.” At each calling she removed mask after mask setting them in the water until they floated surrounded in a sea of them, the sounds of them clinking as they bumped together. Finally there as only one mask left.
Sookie turned in his lap, in his mind, embraced his hips with her thighs, and kissed his lips softly. Resting her forehead against his for a moment she looked into his eyes. This last one only you can do, my love.
No! She heard his anguished denial in her mind. She did speak again, there was no need. There was no coward left to hide behind, she had stripped him of that. He shuddered all over and reached up to pull the mask away.
Sookie looked at what the mask had covered. It was an empty black space carved in the shape of the mask he had just removed. She leaned in and peered into the Darkness. Before she could speak a hand reached out and grabbed her, pulling her down into the Dark; down into Eric.
She landed with a thud, in pitch black. Eric? She called out with her mind, not sure where she was or what it meant to be there. Across the way from her a candle lit up.
She moved toward the light, and saw there a short, wrinkly, old man, ugly as sin, and he was dressed as a jester.
“Hello?” Sookie said to the jester.
“So, now you know,” the wrinkly old little man answered in Eric’s voice. She moved closer and looked him in the eye. Yes, those are Eric’s eyes. This was in fact Eric Northman, or rather what he thought had to be covered up with mask upon mask.
“Know what, Beloved?” she asked him, moving closer and taking his hand. He was a foot shorter than her, easy, so she had to reach down to do it, but she didn’t mind.
“That this is my true face.” He sounded sad like he was worn down and expecting her to heap tears and recriminations on him any minute.
“Explain, please, Eric. Why do you see yourself like this?” Eric sighed.
“My entire existence, even before I was made Vampire, everyone that I have ever met has wanted to be near me, wanted to touch me, wanted to be touched by me, because of how I look. But how I look is not who I am, it has nothing to do with me at all really. It sounds pathetic to complain about being thought to be beautiful, but in my mind it is no different than those who feel the loss of attention for not being attractive enough. It is just as much an impactive force to the path of my life.
“Either way, you are being singled out, separated because of how you look. People might seem to be kinder to me based on my attractiveness, but they don’t know me anymore than the unattractive people who are overlooked. I am surrounded by people and no less alone.
“Enough time alone in a crowd and what you look like ceases to matter. It becomes a burden, and barrier and you are just as alone and lonely as you can be, and reminded of it every time someone tells you how beautiful you are. Reminded that they want something from you, something that you don’t even have to give them, but it doesn’t matter because they want it anyway. And since you are so fucking beautiful surely it will not be a burden to grant their wish!
“I was away fucking some shepherdess who thought I was beautiful when my family was killed. I was made Vampire because Godric found me beautiful. Night after night, women and men offer themselves to me as food, for pleasure, not because of who I am but because of what I am. There is no connection in this experience. No meaning. I am made ugly by the empty people who touch me, who take from me, as if they were entitled.
“I am old, truly, and no magic can erase that thousand years that I bear on my back each day.
“More than that, though,” gesturing to his clothing, “I am a fool.”
Sookie listening and processing as fast as she could to understand hit a wall on that last one. “What do you mean, ‘a fool’?”
He sighed now, rubbing his wrinkly forehead, a tear slipping down his face. “I used to think that I was too good for this world, that I was made for bigger and better things and after meeting you, and facing Jones and The Master, I realize that not only am I not good enough, I don’t have any chance of winning this thing with them. I don’t even have a chance to understand it.
“I am a fool because I came all this way, for nothing. I can’t save you, I can’t teach you anything, and I am not good enough to love you. All I can do is die for you and I will do that gladly.” Sookie stood there looking at Eric, or at least how he saw himself and felt his emptiness, his self-pity through the bond. She remembered seeing him give up like this before.
Why does it sound like you’re saying good-bye to me?
Because I am…
Sookie moved closer to the specter before her. What he thought he was didn’t matter to her at all. She had seen him, she told him that the night they arrived in Kalispell. How she saw him had nothing to do with how he looked, she loved the man he was.
“Here’s the truth,” she said, forcing him to meet her gaze, pushing her words until they echoed through his mind, folding over themselves, caressing him, reminding him what he meant to her. “If I were to meet the True Death without having seen your True Face, Eric Northman, that would be my biggest regret.” Never breaking her gaze, sounding almost hypnotized by her words he responded.
“Why doesn’t it sound like you are saying to good-bye to me, Miss Stackhouse?”
“Because I am not,” she said, pulling him to her, and kissing him with all the passion and demand that he plundered her with in his office. Somewhere it registered that this time, he was straining up to meet her lips, instead of the other way around, and then she forgot to think and just kissed him.
She kissed him for trusting her enough to show her this.
She kissed him for loving her enough to bring her to Uppsala.
She kissed him for learning to cook for her.
She kissed him for teaching her to sword fight.
She kissed him for living a thousand years, so that he could be here now to hold her right now in this moment.
She kissed him for all the kisses that she had missed in those thousand years.
She kissed him, because she loved him, like she had known she would from the first moment she had be told that Eric the Viking existed.
She kissed him because she could feel how much he loved her.
As she kissed him, in the mind and in the flesh she told him again what she had said before. She wrapped the words in a silent prayer that this time he would hear her, that this time he would believe her.
It’s not what you look like that makes you so fucking fabulous. It’s the man inside. I barely know him yet myself, but every time I see him he takes my breath away…
The way he fights for what he wants, and then to hold onto it with every ounce of his soul. He isn’t afraid to get dirty to get what he wants or to keep it.
He inspires me to want to be better than I am just so I can impress him.
Him, he’s the one that melts my panties, the rest is just beautiful window dressing.
She heard him sob, inside and outside and when she left his mind and opened her eyes she saw his face covered in blood tears. She licked them away, pulling herself up to slide his hard length into her, feeling at peace for the first time that night, once he rested deep inside her.
I don’t care what happens now, Eric. I will not lose you. You are mine! We will figure this out together! Eric thrust into her deep and hard, still crying. So much had happened tonight, and the only thing real to Eric right in this moment the tight heat around his throbbing cock and his love for the woman in his arms.
I will die for you, Sookie, if that is all I can do, I can at least do that! He sent that to her never breaking their frantic kisses and rhythms. Her answer was to squeeze him tightly inside her, making him moan.
Where ever you go, Viking, I go. All that matters to me is that you are there. I will follow you into Death if there is no other way, but, Eric?
Let’s try and live a little before we just throw in the towel, ok?
Yes, he answered her, as he bit into her neck, tasting life, tasting her. She came around him, and forced him to surrender as well.
Mine, he sent to her.
Always, she sent back.
In that moment, nothing else mattered.