His thoughts came through gruff and growly and she knew immediately he was a Were of some kind. Fuck, it’s locked! I was supposed to put the bug inside so I could hear them talking. If I try and get in, someone might see or the vamper might notice my smell on the car. I bet he’s in the hotel right now, fucking the whore who drove him around all day like he was he King of the World! Wait until he sees what I got for him. A big old fucking stake, or maybe better yet, a silver chain to a tree so he can watch the sunrise! Fuck, what do I do now?
Eric felt Sookie’s body tense, and then through the bond he felt…RAGE. BLACK RAGE. BERSERKER RAGE. Insanity washed over her face and he was looking at her in this world for the first time, The Cast Iron Bitch. She snarled, not at him, but at the figure outside, her body starting to glow and shove away from his, moving toward the door.
Eric was fighting not to be swept away in the rage that was pouring into him through the bond. His hands clenched into claws that wanted to rend and tear, his fangs dropping on instinct. He had no idea what was about to happen. Even if he had been told in advance and shown pictures he would not have believed it.
He saw the man outside tense up. Then he let out a strangled cry before it was cut off sharply.
“GET IN”, the CIB commanded, waving her hand at the front passenger door. The lock popped up, of its own accord. His body moved stiffly, shuffling over, opening the door and climbing in. Eric could smell his terror, and it smelled…good. The rage in him longed to taste that fear with his fangs.
“LOOK AT ME!” the man’s head turned and she drilled into his eyes, into his mind, sorting his brain like a card catalog. He opened his mouth to scream in pain. “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” his lips clamped shut. Blood was running from his eyes. Uncaring, she pressed him harder. His body was jerking, a seizure perhaps or just reaction to her violent intrusion, Eric had no idea, could barely care.
Eric had turned on his side and was inching out of his coffin, watching Sookie crouched between him and the man in the front passenger seat. He couldn’t see her face, but he heard her tone as she commanded the Were to do her bidding while she brain raped him. Eric was torn. His instincts pressed him to feed when he smelled the blood, the master in him commanded that the take charge of this situation, but he wanted to see where this went. He needed to measure the full extent of what she could do. There was also a tiny part of him that wanted to stop it before she did something she would regret.
That ship has probably sailed, he thought, looking at the hemorrhaging man. Since she would regret this anyway, the pragmatic side of his nature insisted he remain silent and observe, refusing to give in to his instinctive responses, and to push back on the rage still barreling through to him from the bond.
“SLEEP,” she commanded and the man immediately crumpled down in the front seat and the CIB turned back to look at him.
“THIS ONE WISHES TO HARM YOU, VAMPIRE. NOT THAT I GIVE A FUCK, BUT IT SEEMS TO MATTER TO THE PIXIE AND THE CHILD A GREAT DEAL.” So many questions ran through his mind. He wanted to talk to her about what she meant but he had to stick on topic and find out what this man’s intentions were.
“What does he plan? Does he know who blew up the plane? ”
“HE PLANS TO FOLLOW YOU, DISCOVER YOUR DESTINATION THEN REPORT YOUR WHEREABOUTS TO SOMEONE NAMED ROMAN. HE HAS BEEN FOLLOWING YOU SINCE YOU LEFT SHREVEPORT. HE WAS INSTRUCTED TO PLANT A LISTENGING DEVICE INSIDE THIS VEHICLE AND TRACKING DEVICE ON THE OUTSIDE AS BACKUP.”
“Does he know what Roman will do when he finds out where I am headed?”
“HE HOPES THAT ROMAN WILL TELL HIM TO KILL YOU, EITHER WITH A STAKE OR BY CHAINING YOU TO MEET THE SUN.” She growled as she spoke the words. Her eyes practically dripping crazy on the upholstery. The bond suddenly went so taught with the desire to murder and kill that it almost tripped his own darker urges, again. Using restraint that had taken him a thousand years to master he pulled himself back from the edge of that darkness. One of them being crazy right now was probably one too many as it was. They would really be fucked beyond all measure if the both surrendered to the darkness at the same time. How did she have the power to do this to him? He was the monster in this relationship…wasn’t he? “BUT HE DOESN’T KNOW FOR SURE WHAT ROMAN WILL DO.”
“Is Roman Vampire?”
“UNKNOWN. HE MIGHT BE, BUT IF SO THIS FUCK DOESN’T KNOW IT. HE HATES ALL VAMPIRES, AND WOULD AS SOON KILL ONE AS ANOTHER.” She stopped there, and seemed to be waiting.
“Are there others or is he the only one?”
“Does he suspect where we are going?”
Eric paused here, then asked what we really on his mind. “What is your recommendation?”
“LET ME KILL HIM. SLOWLY.” When he did not speak right away she dropped her gaze and then added. “I WILL DO AS YOU SAY, TEACHER.” That last word cost her, he saw it on her face. She resented acknowledging him in this way. He could feel it in the bond. He wasn’t surprised, it was what he had expected to feel when he had first imagining encountering the CIB in the bond.
Considering his options, he asked, “Can you make him think that he placed the bug on our car and put it on another to follow instead? Can you make him forget he was caught and that we spoke to him?” She considered.
“YES.” His eyes narrowed, he sensed deception in the bond.
“I mean it, we need him to believe he is following us and keep reporting that back. If you kill him or debilitate him in any way the odds are good that another will be sent. I feel your rage, Warrior, I long to drink deeply of it and join you in killing those who wish us harm, but in this instance the better choice is subterfuge.”
She was not capable of reasoning thought. Her rage increased, and he wouldn’t have believed that to even be possible. Her body literally convulsed in front of him and for a moment he thought she might seize herself. Then she regained control, the rage going back down a notch. She turned to the man in front.
“UP!” she commanded. “CLEAN OFF YOUR FACE.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. When he was done wiping the blood off, he sat up and opened the door, closing it again behind him. He moved to the car next to theirs, a similar make and build. Eric watched as the man planted the tracking device under that car, try the door and then walk away toward what was presumably his car, a white Corolla, take out a bag and then walk into the hotel. He checked in, and then disappeared into the elevator, presumably off to his room for the night.
Beside him Sookie had been stiff and silent as she piloted him around. She remained that way for several minutes after he was out of sight and then she turned to face him again. He had been tracking her through the bond and had felt her energy waning and her rage receding as she walked her puppet around.
Then her frame relaxed and she turned to him. The CIB was gone, and in her place was Sookie, with tears in her eyes remorse and shame poured through the bond. He immediately regretted not stopping her from hurting the man. He knew this would be too much for her. He swore at himself as he moved toward her to pull her closer and soothe her. She pulled away from him.
Eric was shocked and hurt. She had not pulled away from him since they had bonded. He felt loathing and shame in the bond and immediately started to apologize for allowing her to do what she had done.
“I’m sorry, Sookie, I-“she held up a hand for silence, cutting him off.
“No, you don’t owe me an apology, Eric.” His eyes widened in surprise. “I owe you one.” He sat back, now feeling like someone had kicked him in the chest.
“Wha-?” She cut him off again, bowing her head, tears flowing freely now down her cheeks.
“You trusted me to keep you safe. You asked me to find us someplace safe to renew our bond and I failed you on both counts. I am ashamed.” She hung her head now, kneeling before him, bordering on sobs.
WHAT THE FUCK??? She pulled away from his touch, so he couldn’t console her that way. He could feel her shame and sorrow through the bond, as well as her exhaustion. He had no idea what she had just done, but it had saved them both and she was cowering in front of him. He soothed her through the bond, sending her strength and support, and making sure that she could feel his love and how proud he was of her for what she had done.
“You feel proud?” she asked disbelievingly. Her self-loathing so overwhelming it overtook his own feelings completely in the bond. “I can’t do a fucking thing right, not even a simple thing when you ask it of me, and you feel proud?” Her tone indicated that she thought he might be mentally defective in some way.
Eric wanted to say and do about a million things in that moment. He wanted to reassure her and list all the ways and reasons he was proud. He wanted to ask her what she had implanted in the Were’s head. He wanted to kiss her until her stupid self-loathing lips could do nothing but sigh under his kisses. He wanted to drink from her deeply while he was buried inside her slick heat, showing her exactly how much he loved and needed her. He did and said none of those things.
He was the teacher. She had asked and he had accepted. He had to live up to his end of the deal. He found another more relevant truth to give her instead, and in doing so donned an old Mask that he had not worn since Pam was turned.
“Sookie, sometimes survival, is about gaining time, even a minute can make the difference. Time to think, to plot to plan to prepare and to know your enemy. Tonight, we have met ours and we both live. To ask for more would be unreasonable at this juncture.” She said nothing to that, but at least didn’t argue back. He moved around her, still not touching her, and took his place in the driver’s seat. He noted with pleasure that the tank was full. They could move now and try and sort this out later.
“Come, Sookie. We need to be away from this place as soon as possible.”
“Eric, wait.” He turned to see what was going to happen next and saw her sitting there with her face showing strain and concentration. In the bond he could feel her reaching out, looking for other minds and followers she might have missed before. Again he felt proud, but rather than start another argument he stuffed it back down not letting it across the bond. Instead he sent her strength to bolster her efforts and was gratified to see her expression ease as she accepted his gift to her. She opened her eyes after several minutes and said, “Seems clear. I will listen while you drive to be sure.” He nodded and turned to pull out of the space and get back on the interstate, regretting his loss of time with her tonight. Again he pressed it down, not wanting to spark another self-flagellation session in his Beloved over something neither of them could change.
As he slipped out of the road she sat beside him again buckled in and concentrating on the cars around them with a fierce expression on her face. Her hands were carefully tucked between her knees, locked together and twisting occasionally as she heard whatever she was hearing from those around them.
As Sookie listened to the outside she also listened to the inside. Outside…
Fuck I forgot the salt. Marge is gonna kill me..
I wonder if he will be there tonight? I want to see him so bad…
If this asshole in front of me taps his breaks one more time I am gonna roll outta this car and shoot him in his fucking face…
Oh, gawd, last time we fucked she wore those…
He’s going to fire me, I know he is…
You have disappointed me again, Sookie. Why are you always disappointing me? You know what happens now don’t you? We sit down and go through it all step by step until you see where you went wrong, and then I punish you…so that it will never happen again.
NO! Not yet, she mentally shouted back. I need to do this first, I need to listen and protect Eric now. I will do this later. Later, I will come to you and accept what must be done.
Ah, there you go disappointing me again, Sweetheart. Yes, let’s do this later. I want you to have time to make it worse.
She focused back outside and resumed listening to the cars around her. The guy in the car next to her was singing Johnny Cash’s When the Man Comes Around. She smiled a wise and sad smile and thought how appropriate, moving on to the next car.
She asked Eric to slow down and speed up at different times, letting the cars shift around them. He watched the mirrors and looked for any suspicious lane changing, and even left the interstate a couple of times looking for followers while she listened.
After several hours he was convinced that they were no longer being followed. He kept his foot down though determined to distance them from the man they had left at the Holiday Inn. He told her to get some rest, as she would be back behind the wheel tomorrow and she needed to be alert. She didn’t fight him. She just turned toward the window and closed her eyes. After several minutes her breathing evened out and he knew she was sleeping.
Eric immediately started analyzing the evening’s events. Sookie’s power to move things with her mind, her ability to alter memories. Not to mention her complete lack of caring and compassion for her victim. Definitely not the Sookie he thought he knew. When had it changed? Had it changed? He had seen signs of the CIB before when she dealt with Talbot’s remains, and maybe too when she had shot the Were in her living room? She had not been remorseful then, either. He had not seen her after she killed Lenier but somehow, he didn’t think she would have been too upset about avenging her grandmother’s death either. At its heart was that not also what she was showing him when she stood up to him and even dared to strike him? Was it all the same part of her at varying intensity?
He had expected her to be upset because she hurt someone. She was devastated because she felt she almost allowed HIM to be hurt. He filed that for now and moved on the next pressing item.
Someone was after them, well him. Roman? Roman Zimojic? The Authority wanted him dead? Why? Maybe that stunt he pulled with Russell Edgington? How would they have found out? King Bill? He and Pam were the only other ones who knew that he had not sent Russell to his Final Death. He thought back, to his last conversation with Bill, the night before he had gone to see Sookie, the night before they had left together. What had he been prattling on about? Witches, something about witches? Bill might be King now but that certainly did nothing to make him more tolerable, or less pompous and dramatic. Asshole, Eric thought, curling his lip in disgust. I wouldn’t be surprise if he turned me in for not killing Russell, but Nora would have contacted me, she would have warned me if she knew the Authority was after me, he reassured himself.
Besides, if the head of the fucking Authority were after him there would be a fucking army of soldiers on their asses, not some raggedy Were that had all the stealth of a fangbanger hitting Fangtasia for the first time. Too lacking in order for it to be coming from the top.
Someone posing as Roman? Who would be that fucking crazy? To bring that kind of thunder down, posing as the leader of the Authority? His mind took him back to Russell. But Russell was not able to make a play like this? Right?
And what of Nora? What if she was in danger, too? He filed this away for now, not having enough information to make a decision at this point. In time, if he was patient more would be discovered and he would better be able to choose a course of action then. At this point he could well be endangering anyone he reached out to, like he was endangering Sookie right now.
When she had asked to go away with him and leave all this behind, he had pretended to have no idea it would follow them. He had let himself for just a minute think that he could take her away and just BE. Just let himself be happy. It had been a ridiculous fantasy and he should never have indulged himself.
It would have been worse if she had stayed in Bon Temps, if they were not a moving target someone one would have tried to kill her or steal her by now and no matter how much he wanted to there was no way he could be there every time to save her. He had learned that the hard way when she was taken by the Fae, right under his fucking nose practically. He sighed. So much had happened in the short time they had been together and there was never enough time to think it through, to talk about it, to figure out what any of it meant.
Why did things move so fucking fast when you had all of eternity to make any decision? Because someone is always trying to take eternity from you, the answer came back to him.
His thoughts drifting back to Sookie again he considered her new powers and how to find out what else she was capable of. There was also the physical manifestation of the CIB, and this self-loathing at what she thought had been her mistake. It was so strong that it was making him uncomfortable now through the bond even though she was asleep.
Wait…he was feeling that through the bond…thinking back over the turn of his thoughts he was definitely being influenced by it. What the fuck was happening in there? He looked at her head, still facing the window, away from him and started to look for some place to stop. He needed to look for himself. Seeing a rest stop a few miles ahead, he sped up and raced toward the pull off. Feeling pressed that every minute counted here.
Pulling into the first space available and turning the truck off her steadied himself and closed his eyes, reaching out for her via the bond. As always that moment of shivery delight in his body and then he was in.
For the second time that night, even if he had been told what to expect he would never have believed it, not with pictures, not with songs, not with some yokel swearing on a stack of King James editions.
Before him, Sookie kneeled on the floor of her chamber, naked. Her back was raw and bleeding. She was sobbing quietly, hunched over so that her head almost touched the floor. Looking around Eric saw the door labeled Bill was open.
He turned and found himself face to face with Bill Compton. Bill sneered at him, somehow managing to look down his nose at someone who was over a foot taller than himself in that annoying way of his.
“Welcome, Eric. Perhaps you would care to join us?” Bill cracked the whip he obviously had been using on Sookie’s back and looked at him like he was sure Eric was going to say, yes and take a turn with the whip himself. How could he not after all?