|Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters from The Southern Vampire series or True Blood. |
A/N Just a note about Appius: In this story, Appius is inspired by TB's Godric. Think of him as Godric before he got all depressed and suicidal. So, when you're reading, just think about the close relationship Eric/ Godric share on TB (ie- father, brother, son)
Just wanted to thank my incredible betas VampLover1 and S. Meads . I swear they are like champion iron chefs – expertly adding a pinch of this, and a dash of that:)
Chapter 1: The Proposal
If you ever want something badly, let it go. If it comes back to you, then it's yours forever. If it doesn't, then it was never yours to begin with.
~ Dianna, Indecent Proposal
Her soft gasp of pleasure was only audible to him because he was a 1,000 year old vampire.
Fuck she was beautiful. Her golden hair - the color of sunshine - spilled out around her, standing out starkly against the black silk sheets she was lying on. It tangled wildly through her arms, which were pulled up above her head. He growled with shock and want as his glance fell on the leather strap, tightly wound around those beautiful tanned arms, binding them in place. Delicious little beads of sweat formed and clung to her skin...they even seemed to form on the leather strap.
Was she burning so hot for him, that she was sweating through the binding? He noticed that the beads of sweat began to turn red...as if tinged with blood.
And then, her whole body was covered with tiny droplets of blood - or sweat? Or both? He didn't know, but couldn't at this moment stop to think about it. Her pleasure threatened to consume her, and her movements under him began to take on more urgency.
Her eyes flew open, meeting his, as she tumbled over the precipice.
He still couldn't believe it. Dreams. Vampires don't dream. As he sped down the highway, he couldn't stop thinking about the images he saw in his death rest just minutes before dusk. His lover was into bondage...and she was sweating blood. Was this an image of the future? Just a fantasy? Or was his unbeating heart just torturing him?
Pulling up to Fangtasia he slammed the gear into park violently - remembering her words from the night before:
“I don’t know if the—comfort—I feel with you is the blood exchange or a feeling I would’ve had naturally,”"I don’t know what’s real and what’s not."
Fuck. If there was one thing he hated most in the world, and had steered clear of for hundreds of years, it was feelings.
As his lover would say...ewww - with a capital E.
Damn. This is why he hated feelings...once you allow them; they were just so persistent and pathetically saccharine. Ewww, indeed.
He shut the door roughly, walking towards the employee entrance to Fangtasia. Not loud enough for nearby humans to notice, but certainly giving away more than he usually did of his well concealed emotions. She probably thought she was being kind, that she wasn't leading him on...probably even told herself she was being honest.
God, he hated what she could do to him. Most of the time he admired her, knowing her to be capable of so much more than a mere human; but other times, he found it irritating as hell to see that she could be as deficient of brain cells as a chronically-glamorized fangbanger. Was she really this stupid, or was she just too afraid to be honest with herself?
"It quite troubles you, my child." He felt the words spoken against his back as much as he heard them.
Eric turned around with vampire speed as he knelt onto his knee. "Master," he said, inclining his head slightly to the left and down - careful not to shift his glance upward until permitted. He felt the almost forgotten rush of excitement and happiness, mingled with apprehension and fear that he always did in the presence of his maker.
Vampires usually summoned a child to them, not the other way around. While Godric was an unusual maker, treating his child with more respect and affection than most, Eric had never before come to be in the company of his maker without first being summoned.
"Rise, we have much to discuss," he said, gently touching Eric's shoulder. He moved towards Fangtasia without waiting for his child to follow. Eric rose up swiftly, following him through the bar's back entrance.
As soon as Eric closed the office door behind them, Godric moved to his side. Stopping just inches from Eric's body, he slowly raised an eyebrow. "It really weights on you heavily my child, does it not?"
"What?" He asked, as he was swiftly searching his mind, trying to figure out just what Godric might be referring to. Godric never did like to spend any excess energy on explaining himself, but it was as if he was finishing a sentence that Eric had heard the beginning to, which he had not.
"The human of yours," Godric answered with disgusted impatience. "She is bothered by the ties of your bond...and you are, in turn, bothered by her bother."
If Eric had to guess, he would say that the questioning look in his master's eyes was mixed in with a good dose of worry and amusement. But why would a human be deemed important enough by this 2800 year old vampire to cause genuine worry? And if he was worried, how the hell could he find this entertaining? Eric searched his maker's face and their bond for some clue as to why this concerned him enough to prompt a visit, after centuries of staying away. He bowed his head in deference. "It is of no relevance, Master. She is mine."
When Eric looked up, he saw that Godric had seated himself on the leather couch across the room. Yet he could still hear his voice surrounding his entire body, as if coming from right next to him. "Ah... but you find yourself troubled by the idea, that she may not be entirely yours, but for the magic of the bond. And your human - as advanced for a human as you may think her to be - she is slowly being drained by the thought that her choices are no longer hers to freely make."
"Godric, we both know the bond only enhances what is already there. It is not me who doubts. The only thing the bond did was perhaps accelerate the course of events."
A knowing smile tugged at the corners of his maker's lips. "Yes, but you stacked the deck in your favor. And you won. But now you cannot help wonder...would the outcome have turned out as nicely if you didn't tip fortune in your favor?"
"What are you most afraid of," Godric said, inclining his head to the side. "That she can't admit her love for you? Or that she doesn't love you, at all?"
Their eyes locked for the briefest of moments, and Godric gracefully rose from the couch. He moved to stand beside Eric, laying his hands affectionately on his shoulders.
"I have a proposal for you, my child. I offer to help you find out if you would have won, after all. I will break your bond." After a long pause, Godric continued, "That is, If you really wish to know if she is truly yours."
Chapter 2: Darkness
O lover! O my lover,That this should come to me!I'd rather have the hope of you,Ah, Love, I'd rather grope for youWithin the great abyssThan claim another's kiss--Alone I'd rather go my wayThroughout eternity.~ Angela Morgan, Choice
************************************************************************************"Break it?" Eric's eyes narrowed with suspicion. "Explain."
Explain how you can break our bond, without breaking her. He knew, mostly from old legends, that if a vampire abandoned his bonded, it was a painful, if not lethal process. The outcome ultimately depended on the strength of the human. It wasn't a good vs. bad outcome -- it was a paralyzing misery with the possibility of death vs. an only agonizing sadness problem. Sure, some survived it, and Sookie was certainly one of the strongest-willed humans he had ever known, but it still wasn't a risk he was willing to take.
"Well, simply put -- she will no longer live in you," Appius said gently, letting this heartbreaking necessity settle for a few painful moments before going on. "You see, to understand how this really works, well, it's a bit technical.”
“Healthy humans replace their blood cells every few months. Their bodies are able to create new blood cells using their bone marrow. Although most of their race are scarcely aware of it, the magick of their life is quite magnificent; however, it comes at an inevitable price. You see, they are in essence rotting from the day they are born. Their bodies disintegrate outside in order to keep their life force flowing healthily through their veins inside.
“While vampires may look the same as humans, they are as different from us as day is from night. Our undead bodies work the opposite way-- we produce skeletal and muscular tissue from the blood that flows inside us. This is what allows us to heal. It's also why we need to continually replenish our supply of blood. If you stop to ponder it, it's quite poetic, this essential difference: they spend their days crumbling inwards, we eternally crumble outwards; they are slowly dying, we are eternally living."
Eric looked up, his eyes narrowing with impatience. "As much as I appreciate the science lesson, I fail to see what this has to do with breaking the bond."
"Well, in order to understand how to break the bond, you must first understand how it works. And to do that, it helps to understand how human and vampire blood differ. But I know you were never one for long lectures – you always preferred “learning by doing” as they say in these times. Just know that the strongest part of the bonding magick that ties you two is her living blood which flows through you. You can break this side of your bond by replacing it. All of it. "
Replacing it? Eric internally shuddered at what he could only imagine that would entail. When a vampire's blood was poisoned, the only solution was to replenish it with healthy vampire blood, preferably by a vampire who was older and more powerful. But it would take a lot of blood in order to replace all of the blood in a vampire as old as Eric. He doubted that even Appius could handle such a daunting task. "How would such a thing be accomplished?"
"Well, the way the ancient ceremony is traditionally done, your blood is first almost fully drained." Appius paused, holding up his hand, silently commanding his child to hold his questions until he could finish explaining. "The blood must be drained with the same ceremonial knife that was used for your bond, and then carefully measured to ensure your safety and to make certain you are properly purged. Then, you are replenished, preferably with the blood of a powerful vampire."
The implications of these last words hung heavily in the thick silence that filled the room. Appius looked down at his child with a concerned understanding in his eyes.
"My child, you know that you have nothing to fear from me. There are centuries of love and faith between us. I would never betray you."
Eric immediately rose from his chair, bowing at his sire's feet. He bent his head down, in deference to his master, but also so that his long blond locks could somewhat hide the red tears rimming his eyes as he began to understand the magnitude of this ritual.
"Of course. I would never doubt that. But what about her? Can she survive this? Without terrible pain?"
"I was just getting to that," Appius replied. "We can do this in a way that will spare the human much pain -- but it will, unfortunately, increase your own. We can do this ritual over the course of three nights, increasing the amount of blood drained each night. By the third night, even though we will drain most of your blood, her life force remaining will be much diluted already. That way, you avoid -- what do they call it, ‘going cold turkey'?"
An amused smile tugged at the corner of Eric's lips, as he thought of this ridiculous American slang being used by a 2800 year-old vampire, to describe a ritual that was even older than that.
They both walked over to the couch, and Appius let Eric have some time to follow all of his internal thoughts to their logical conclusions. Finally, Eric asked softly, "What will this feel like for her?"
"She may sense something is different, wrong, but she will never guess what it is. After all," Appius added, his voice dripping with sarcasm, "a formal bond is supposed to be permanent, by all accounts."
Eric gave in to a roaring fit of laughter, thinking about all the myths that vampires purposefully failed to debunk. But those were legends believed by the human population, like that a vampire had no reflection, or couldn't be hurt by crosses and holy water. This myth, about the permanence of the blood bond, appear to be an ancient secret that the majority of the vampire world believed in falsely.
Sobering up, Eric prodded a bit further. "She will not experience any physical symptoms, then?"
"No, there will be some physical discomfort, but like I said, it should be very subtle." As Eric's eyebrow rose in questioning, Appius added, "You may liken it to humans who decide to cut sugars out of their diet. At first, their bodies may revolt at the missing substance-- but soon enough, their brain is distracted by the mindless chatter of their everyday crises, and they don't notice it anymore. At most, she may experience lethargy, headaches, lightheadedness, or maybe even feel a little dizzy."
After a moment of consideration, Eric chuckled. "Hmm. The conditions you described... I believe these may lead a woman to think she is with child."
********************************************************************************“So, am I to assume that our favorite little telepath is to be kept in the dark?” Pam asked, keeping her eyes cast downward. She was seated on the couch, her hands neatly folded in her lap.
Eric had just finished briefing her on his plans. Appius would be performing this ritual over the next three nights. He planned on getting it out of the way as soon as he arrived at Fangtasia each evening, and he would have to depend on his child to guard his safety while the ritual was taking place. He answered her questions with growing impatience, knowing the longer he waited to start the ritual tonight, the more likely his attentions would be needed elsewhere. With Felipe's new regime just barely in place, there seemed to always be some sort of phone call or visit that demanded his audience.
He glanced down at his child, his eyes narrowing into little blue slits. He evaluated whether she was trying to ascertain what protocol to follow, or if she was actually daring to try to convince him how to deal with his lover. While she may have struck up an oddly close friendship with Sookie, and she thought she was well informed of the psychology of today's humans because of her bizarre preoccupation with that Dear Abby column, he still couldn't quite believe that Pam could forget her place so easily. He knew his silence on the matter would remind her.
"You will stay in here to guard the door, and position Clancy and Thalia right outside the office," he instructed her as he spun around and walked towards his desk.
As soon as he had accepted Appius's offer moments earlier, he knew that he had to move forward immediately. The sooner he could eliminate the bond, the sooner his plans could be set in motion to have his lover come to the inevitable conclusion that her insatiable hunger for her Viking warrior had always been her own. She would have no excuses, no walls to hide behind. Of course, he smiled to himself with satisfaction as he sat down behind his desk, it could work in his favor to be temporarily free of the distraction of the bond. It would allow him to deal with the immediate challenges ahead – the power struggles surrounding Felipe and Victor, and the escalating troubles of the Fae. He could handle these before he restored their bond. And, he reasoned to himself, since she still had his powerful blood flowing through her veins, he would still be able to sense her and track her to some extent.
He opened the bottom drawer, taking out the black velvet package with reverence. He untied the golden ribbon and opened it, just to check that the ceremonial knife was still there. He re-wrapped the soft fabric around it, and grasped it carefully as he made his way over to the door which led to the room below. After twisting the knob, he took one last glance over his shoulder, exchanging a quick nod of silent agreement with his child before making his way down the stairs, where Appius was waiting for him.
Appius was standing right next to the large plush arm chair. Eric noticed that he had moved one of the nightstands next to the chair. On it, he had placed what looked like a giant version of the goblet that was used in vampire marriage ceremonies. Eric walked over to stand next to him and laid down the velvet package next to the enormous goblet. He then sat down on the chair, letting his arms relax at his sides. He looked up at Appius for a brief moment, then leaned back and closed his eyes.
“Let us begin then,” Appius said as he reached for the knife and goblet. He grabbed Eric's forearm, turning it at the wrist. Eric hissedwhen he felt Appius make three quick, deep slices in his wrist. As he shut his eyes against the physical sensation of the blood flowing out of his body, he could feel the five cool spots of his maker's fingers where he held on to his arm around the cuts, squeezing the area to force the blood out while he turned the wrist to position it over the goblet.
Eric settled into himself, trying to feel out the bond, much like a person might grope for the walls in a darkened room, feeling for that which he knows is there, but cannot see. He wanted to be aware when he started losing the connection to her.
As he sunk deeper within himself, he thought back to the first night he saw her, her white dress standing out against the darkness and stench all around her. A canary in a coal mine. A white luminous shadow in the land of the the shadowless night. He was pulled out of his eternal boredom as he recognized the sight of something he had always dearly loved but had almost forgotten: the bright light of Life.
That was the beginning. He remembered how it felt when he started feeling her, after she had swallowed the very first drops of his blood. Is that all that he would have of her, until they renewed their bond?
A sudden dread overcame him. What if he lost even that?
He wondered if that's what Sookie experienced when faced with the silence of a vampire mind, after years of knowing exactly what everyone was thinking. When you're so used to actually reading between the lines, how do you learn to guess what's between the lines?But no, he had to admit, it wasn't just being able to see into her heart. It was having her in his that he dreaded losing.
Eric was distantly aware that Appius had reopened his wounds several times before he was able to extract a third of his blood. He was immersed within himself, all of his inner senses heightened, just waiting to feel the absence of her. He wondered, how long did it take a blind man to realize that he could no longer see?
When he felt the ancient wrist at his mouth, sticky wet with blood, Eric opened his mouth and started drinking mechanically. He sat there with eyes closed, drinking the cool blood until Appius tugged his wrist free of Eric's mouth.
After they secured the ritual items in the locked cabinet that was set against the wall, they both walked up the stairs. As they were reaching the door, he could hear the most unexpected sound coming from his office. Was that a piano?
As he walked through the door, Eric curiously glanced from Pam, sitting at his desk with the remote in her hand, desire clouding her eyes, to the flat screen television he had installed on the opposite wall just a few months earlier.
The white-blond woman lying on the bed was sexy, though not really pretty. Her nose took up entirely too much space for that. But she exuded confidence and pleasure, and her bed mate was certainly enjoying her.
“Master,” Pam purred, looking up at him. “Are you quite positive all of your line has died out?”
Eric returned his attention to the action on the screen.
By their blond hair and pale features, they certainly looked like they could be of Viking descent. He watched the handsome man suckle hungrily on the woman's bottom lip and neck, while grabbing her round white ass roughly. He watched, almost with a sense of familiarity, as the man let his fingers trail down her legs, then helped her wind them around his waist while he buried himself in her ample breasts as they spilled over her white strapless top. He had to grudgingly admit, the man's skills were more advanced than most humans of this age. Sure, he was better looking than most, with a fairly toned, tall frame that seemed to be very well kept. His fair skinned face with uncommonly deep blue eyes was almost as attractive as his own.
But his Viking heritage must be highly diluted, either by time or simply by other races.
How else would you explain his hair? Really, he knew that women of this time had the unattractive preference of getting rid of as much hair as possible, but for a man to cut his hair so short, particularly a man with the same perfect shade of blond hair as his own? What a fucking waste. How could he not be aware of how ugly that was?
He snorted with derision. He wouldn't be surprised if he went so far as to shave his armpits.
As he turned around, he could hear the song blare behind him.
I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me. Papa, paparazzi
A smirk played along his lips. He could smell the desire in both of them, his child and his maker. The feel of it through their bond was quite overpowering. He suddenly recalled that they both had a thing for big tall blonds.
"Pamela, your new-found sentimentality is quite alarming. I wonder if you are touched by the family resemblance, or simply... touched." He looked down at her with a knowing smirk, and she quickly switched off the TV.
“Now, if you're quite done, you will see to Appius' needs." He continued, "I am not to be disturbed tonight unless absolutely necessary.”
Pam rose and gave her master a quick nod, before exiting the office with Appius.
Eric remained where he stood for a moment, pausing to consider what the next few days might bring. All of a sudden, he noticed that the room around him seemed to darken slightly around the edges, almost, he imagined, like when a cloud obstructs the sun. It wasn't total darkness, but enough of a difference to be noticeable. He shut his eyes for a fraction of a second, trying to shake off the strange sensation. When that seemed to fail, he decided to step outside for a few moments.
He walked out of his office into the empty employee hallway, and out the back entrance. After closing the door behind him silently, he leaned back against it. Shutting his eyes, he shivered from the inside out. He tried to block his senses, but the icy cold feeling seemed to penetrate every tissue of his undead body. It couldn't possibly be the wimpy Louisiana winter that made the Viking warrior chilly to his very bones. He swiftly took to the air, instinctively opting for the safety of the night sky while he allowed himself to contemplate these strange new sensations.
What had Appius said? She will no longer live in you. He had practically interrogated him about what it would feel like for her, but had never asked what he would experience.
It was cold, dark, silent...not dead, but the absence of life. It was like she was nearby, he could smell her deliciously sweet sun-kissed skin, but he couldn't get close enough to touch it.
He didn't fully realize where he was heading until he landed on the roof of Merlotte's. He leaned against the back of the neon sign, as he reached out, groping for the feel of her presence. He was close. He could almost touch her.
He thought back again to that first night he saw her in that delicious red and white flowered dress. Oh, how she surprised him when she denied her sweetness, but he could smell it on her from the other side of the crowded room.
He was jerked back to the present by the flickering humming sound of the neon light behind him.
He came here, he realized, for her and for himself. Now that the bond was being weakened, he wanted to make sure that he could still feel her. He could tell himself that he was doing this to ensure her safety – making sure he could still keep track of her for her protection. He could even tell himself that he was there to check on her well being. But as her familiar presence washed over him he smiled bitterly. He had also come here to find her. Feel her. He felt her presence slowly fading away from him, and he couldn't yet tolerate walking in the silent darkness all by himself.
Yes, even though the connection was diminished, he could still feel her.
At least he could still bathe in this little bit of comfort. She couldn't. Well, fuck it. It's what she said she wanted.
He walked over towards the edge of the roof, concentrating on her consciousness, as he reminded himself of the other reason for his visit. He had to check how this evening's ritual was affecting her, whether she would survive this physically. He was also curious as to whether she had any suspicion of what was going on. He cocked his head slightly to the right.
Stress. Uneasiness. Anger? No... something else.
He had to focus much more than he had gotten used to, as if she was 50 miles away, not just immediately under his feet. It was like someone had turned the volume down, but he could still hear her if he was really quiet.
He eased himself down to the ground silently, catching a glimpse of her through the window. He growled deeply in his throat, and quickly turned around so that his golden face and hair couldn't be spotted by her or any other patrons, allowing the darkness of his clothes to help the night disguise him.He was relieved but also remorseful for the pain he was putting her through.
The uneasiness he felt in her was from physical discomfort. He was glad to know that it was not from yet another impending crisis that caused her emotional stress or fear, but he could tell by the pallor of her features that she must be feeling the exact physical symptoms that Appius had predicted.
Well, at least it would only be temporary.
It would be done in two more nights, and then he would be able to focus on the conquest.As he took to flight again, heading back to Shreveport, he could feel his excitement build for the hunt. Yes, it would be sweet indeed, sweeter even than the taste of her, when he cornered her, and she wouldn't be able to deny to herself or to him, that she was his. He licked his lips, thinking just how delicious it would be when she would be lying in his arms, forced to admit the futility of her resistance to him, and he would reveal to her that she could no longer hide behind her ridiculously silly notions about the blood bond.
But as dawn approached, and he was lying alone in his day chamber, his body shuddered as he felt that familiar cold darkness wrap itself tightly around him. He had but briefly forgotten it while he stood in the warm white shadow of his lover. Now he remembered the sensation that had been his silent companion over the infinity of his undead nights. He'd just never heard it before, because he didn't know what anything else sounded like.As the sun was rising and death claimed him, a nagging thought pricked at his drowning consciousness.
While he had full confidence in his hunting prowess, he lay there cursing the one quality his lover had way too much of: fight. Yes, he admitted, her fiery feistiness was part of her attraction, but only to a point. The longer she kept up her fight, the longer it would be until they could be bonded again. Of course, inevitably, she had no choice in the matter – she would succumb to his irresistible charm and legendary talents, as well as her own heart – but how long would it take, and what would happen between now and then?
He would have to find a way to hurry things along.
But in those last few moments, as he descended into the stillness of his death, he remembered with a sudden jolt that she had recently taken to worrying about things coming back to “bite her in the ass,” as she so succinctly put it. And as he died for the day, he couldn't help but wonder just how this would all come back to bite their collective asses.
*******************************************************************************A/N: If you want to see the video Pam was so enthralled with - it's Lady Gaga - Paparazzi. Oh, if you don't know what Eric is talking about when he wonders about shaved armpits, check this out :)
It has been called many names in the millennia of nights I've walked this earth.Heart. Fight. Will. Strength of character.Choice.It was the gods' greatest gift to humanity.But modern civilization is all rules of what's right or wrong. Today, the majority of the human race believes that responsibility means giving up your greatest freedom: the choice to make up your own mind. These mindless sleepwalkers are but mere shells of what humans were meant to be.These sad specimens like to have their decisions made - what's right and wrong, what to wear, what to believe.They are so easily frightened. Yet, it is very easy to calm them, as long as you give them something else to believe in. You have to be careful though – their minds are so easy to toy with, you can easily move things around in their heads. They don't always recover from that.They are so bland – they can become quite boring after a few hundred years.But there are those rare few among them who are different. They know that which separates them from the rest of the vermin crawling the earth – whether human or other species. Free will.They are easy to spot. They shine like the silver light of the moon in the dark, starless sky.By their fellow humans, they are referred to as steadfast, opinionated, unshakeable, intractable, yet also derided as headstrong, inflexible and ornery.Those that cause the most “trouble” are even called insubordinate, unbending, unreasonable, uncompromising.They truly love life – you can see it glistening in their eyes. And their greatest fear, whether they consciously know it or not, is the loss of choice. Because it would be like losing the very essence of their life force.Oh, but that life force is delicious. It's a delicacy.To exercise your free will is to touch the divine within you. That's why I've always been attracted to the fiercest warriors - and that is why, when I found Eirikr over a thousand years ago, I gave him the choice.Even though I was physically far away from my child, I could feel his pleasure and sorrow through the bond. I traveled to his dreams, into his heart, attempting to soothe him. He had let someone into his heart, but she did not yet know her own.I had to help my child. I had to remind him of those truths I thought he learned years ago - that no one, not even the divine, liked to look into someone's eye, just see themselves reflected back.The joy of capturing that great wild creature was not to break their will, but to ensnare their very soul.Appius stood next to Pam, surveying the dark room filled to the brim with the insipid sleep-walkers. What an uninspiring smell – the sour yeasty odor of too much alcohol mixed with stale smoke, drenched in cheap perfume too liberally applied.“So who would you like for dinner tonight?” Pam purred, barely able to conceal the boredom in her voice as she glanced around the room at the dismal possibilities.Did it really make a difference?“You pick,” he replied, a mischievous grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I think I am in the mood for a three-course meal tonight.”Just a few moments after he sat down on the curved black leather couch, Pam approached to deliver his unspectacular yet adequate evening meal. It was a good thing he was hungry, otherwise, he wasn't sure if he could have worked up an appetite for this most necessary distraction. After all, he would be much less conspicuous watching the room with his face buried in someone's neck.Appius absentmindedly tapped the seat to his right, motioning the young goth couple to sit besides him. They seemed to be in their 20s, with dyed blue-black hair, unmemorable brown eyes, and pale skin that probably saw the sun rarely. How could they reject the god-given right to enjoy the glorious warmth of the sun? Appius forced himself to not shake his head in disgust; unless they were the type to burn easily, he just could not understand humans' hostility towards the sun.As they passed by him to sit on his right side, he noticed the most deliciously adorable woman-child that Pam had brought for his third course.Oh no, he thought, this little one would most definitely have to be his first meal of the night. He always did have a sweet tooth. There was no reason to save the best for last.She was tiny yet curvy, with dark almost-black hair that sparkled with glints of red when the light hit it. He found himself cursing the almost non-existent lighting in his child's bar. Her hair was cut short – almost as short as his. It was tucked on one side of her head, but the longer strands fell over her face on the other side, almost reaching her ear, flipping up rebelliously at the ends. He really didn't care for this boy style that seemed to be so popular these days, but it strangely suited her – it accentuated her impossibly young, child-like features – fat, pink lips, extra plump cheeks and impossibly large almond-shaped eyes. They twinkled brightly behind brown-red thick-rimmed glasses, stylishly accented with a rose engraved on one side.How had he missed this treat when he looked over the room earlier? He narrowed his eyes suspiciously, wondering if she was old enough to be in the bar. As delicious as she seemed to be, he did not wish to do anything that would jeopardize his child's standing with the humans in the community. But no, Pam ensured that all patrons were carded, so this one just must have the irresistible beauty of youth clinging to her.He licked his lips with anticipation, just then noticing that she had stood frozen in place , alarmed at the look of suspicion he had directed her way.He warmly smiled at her with his eyes, patting the empty spot on the left side of him, inviting her to sit. She straightened up awkwardly, as if snapping lazily out of the blank stare of a daydream, and moved slowly towards him. Sitting beside him, Appius gasped softly as she turned to gaze into his eyes.Her eyes!They were an enchanting deep blue-green, but had a multitude of little brown specks spreading from the center. The brown bits reminded him of tiny flames of fire, barely drowning in a sea of water, but still struggling defiantly to the surface. They shone with the fire of her fierce strength burning deep within her.Appius placed his hand on her stomach, in that curvy spot where the waist goes in, resting his caressing thumb just below here breasts. He chuckled with satisfaction when her body responded with a sharp gulp of air, her lips parting with want. He leaned forward, bringing his lips close to hers, so that they almost touched. “Your eyes have the most unusual coloring” he whispered over her lips seductively, looking into them with curiosity and desire.She closed her eyes tightly, trying to hide them in her embarrassment, while she inclined her head downward, unconsciously exposing her neck more, and bending it at such an angle that her collarbone protruded. The vein in her neck pulsed irresistibly.“Yes, my parents always liked to argue,” she admitted sheepishly. “They couldn't even agree on what eye color to give me.” Her voice died down to a barely audible mumble, as her eyes became distracted by his lips languidly parting with hunger.He grazed his lips along hers and her hot nervous pants of breath exquisitely caressed his mouth.She arched her back towards him, wordlessly asking for more. He happily obliged by biting down savagely on her lower lip, immediately taking it into his mouth,sucking at it greedily. He raised his hand to nestle the back of her head, bringing her closer to him.Her response was immediate, moaning hungrily, her greedy hands stroking the hard muscles of his stomach through the thin fabric of his shirt. As their kiss deepened, he moved his other hand up her waist, and moved her to straddle his lap, while he continued rubbing her skin softly, matching the seductive rhythm of his sucking.He could feel the other humans stir uneasilyon his other side. Oh, no, he would not allow them to disturb his enjoyment of this rare treat. He turned his head towards them, wrenching it away from the girl grudgingly, even if just for the briefest of moments.Appius quickly dismissed the couple with a swift movement of his head and arm. The pathetically disappointed look in their eyes was easy to ignore as he eagerly returned his full attention to the girl.Her skin was deliciously flushed and her lips were parted, impatiently awaiting his return. He briefly thought about the fact that public feeding was not the wisest choice. Feeding off humans was illegal, but only if they weren't willing donors. As much as he would have preferred to enjoy this girl somewhere more private, in many, many ways, he knew he had to be out here in case his child encountered any trouble.Appius’s eyes clouded over with desire when she opened her eyes to look up at him. The brown specks in her eyes had multiplied and grown. The fire within her was breaking through the surface, her eyes glowing with the heat of it.He crashed his lips onto hers violently and teased the soft flesh of her breast, playfully squeezing her hardened nipple. Her whole body shuddered violently, pushing him over the edge. Groaning into her mouth, he dug his fingers deeper into her hair, pulling her head back and lowering his head down to that deliciously exposed neck.She slid her hands around his waist, grinding against him. He allowed her to move herself closer to him, sinking his fangs hungrily into her pulsing neck, closing his eyes with the pleasure of her sweet taste pouring down his throat.Magnificence! The radiant, delicious sweetness of her consumed him. Oh, how he'd missed this rare delicacy of the life and love-filled human heart. He was so overcome by the bliss of the nearly-forgotten flavor that he almost missed his child's voice, faintly floating from across the room.“What can I do for you, Victor?” Eric asked, polite respect shielding his annoyance at the uninvited visitor.Appius opened his eyes cautiously, locating his child at his booth. A rather small man with curly dark hair sat elegantly across from Eric.“I am here to follow up on the tiger's unauthorized visit,” Victor answered in a silky-smooth tone. “The king wanted to give you a say in his punishment.”Appius grunted in frustration. Ah, so this would be Felipe's second. Appius instantly recognized him from the description Pam had given him the night before, when they had reviewed the possible challenges that might arise over the next two nights.Appius closed his eyes again, returning most of his attention to his meal. He tenderly massaged her scalp, while his other hand caressed her thigh. She writhed under his talented touch, moving in even closer, allowing him to focus his hearing on the conversation at Eric's booth without anyone realizing he was doing so.“I have dealt with the tiger, and we have come to an understanding,” Eric answered. “I will be satisfied with whatever punishment the King sees fit.”“I will be sure to pass that along, then. The outcome will depend, of course, on Felipe's assessment of your betrothal.”At Victor's predatory accusation, Appius seethed with fury, closing his hand tightly around her hair, pulling her head back roughly. He opened and raised his eyes to see Eric's reaction, withdrawing his fangs from the girl's neck with an angry hiss.Eric questioned Victor with his raised eyebrow, holding back his anger and words wisely so that the King's representative could explain himself.Appius loosened his grip on the woman's hair, his tongue lapping at the wound lazily as he watched the exchange closely.“My master finds it quite perplexing that I had to explain to Miss Stackhouse that she had just officially married you. He is concerned that she is being forced into something she does not want.”Appius moved across the room with blinding speed. He was standing in front of Victor before Eric could even respond.Things were about to get complicated.
*****************************************************************************Appius glanced down at the two seated vampires, his face not betraying a single ounce of the thoughts and feelings that were violently swirling inside of him.Eric's eyes briefly darted up to look at Appius in warning, his mouth tensed with determination, as he prepared to meet Victor's challenge on his own. It was clear to him, by the subtle yet determined set of his child's jaw, that he wanted to deal with this himself. But Appius knew that Eric would just play right into whatever maneuver Victor was trying to make.Appius glanced down at Victor, instantly commanding his full attention. “Whatever it is that you believe you witnessed-- I assure you, the bond they share is one of the strongest I have ever felt. It would be unwise to challenge it.”Appius noticed Victor's eyes widen slightly, just before deeply bowing his head in respect. Appius resisted the smirk that tried to inch its way into his eyes and onto his lips. Even though Appius didn't currently hold a high position in the modern political hierarchy of the vampire world, his uncommonly old age commanded him respect anywhere he went. The power that he possessed flowed in and out of him effortlessly, creating a magnetic vacuum of energy around him. Humans found him irresistible. Vampires couldn't ignore his power.Appius very much enjoyed the advantage that his appearance had on younger vampires. His cherubic, almost child-like appearance contrasted with the massive strength and speed that came with his multitude of years on this earth. He nibbled seductively on his lower lip, sucking it into his mouth to collect the small amount of blood that remained, before slowly releasing it.Victor's fangs extended slightly. Appius chuckled softly at Victor's response, watching his mouth open ever so slightly, giving way to his fangs. He stood there silently, luxuriously enjoying the moments that stretched by before Victor was able to regain control of himself.After a respectable pause, Victor looked up again. “Of course I do not question their bond. Their little exchange was quite entertaining, but it was clear that the poor girl was not happy at being tricked,” Victor leered, a knowing smirk playing on his lips.Appius's eyes narrowed, assessing the younger vampire. Victor seemed to have difficulty keeping his thoughts to himself. Even worse, the king's assistant actually thought himself quite witty.It was really very sad when a human thought more of himself than was warranted. For a vampire, though, it could be a dangerous quality, especially when he could not filter his annoying behavior in front of his elders. Appius felt his irritation growing. Glancing briefly at his child, he saw that Eric was aware of his maker's growing distaste for Victor by the faint lop-sided smile that formed along one side of his mouth.As much as Eric may have wanted to handle this by himself, he trusted his master to do what was needed and relished the visions of what might happen to Victor, should Appius become too unhappy. Besides, even if he wanted to, he couldn't publicly disagree with his maker. That would make the situation worse for both of them.Appius slid into the booth next to Eric, tamping down any uncertainty still felt by his child with his calm energy. He slowly turned his gaze to Victor, directing his disarming smile towards the younger vampire. On a child, this smile would melt the heart of any mother; on Appius, it helplessly mesmerized its subject. “If you do not question their bond," he said, ever so softly, his big round eyes ruthlessly trapping Victor's, "then there is no need to question their marriage. The betrothal ritual is, after all, just a formality.” He dismissed this mere "formality" with an impatient wave of his hand.Victor's smirk quickly faded at the unassuming yet lethal power behind the older vampire's voice. Appius sat back, meeting Victor's gaze with a calm assurance from across the table. He could feel Eric's apprehension building from across the bond, yet resisted turning towards him. He had complete trust that his child would know where to step, and how lightly.Eric hid his clenched fists under the table. “Felipe knows of the strength of this bond.“ He glared at Victor, sapphire blue eyes turning to ice as he attempted to keep his anger tightly concealed. “He owes his life to it.”Victor looked at Eric, his head tilting to the side, trying to balance the equation of the indisputable facts with the outcome he desired.Appius rose to his feet again, addressing Victor more formally. “It appears that you are still unsure. Perhaps it is because you have only seen it. But I have felt this new connection through the bond I share with my child. It is strong and unbreakable. I give you and your king my word,” Appius warned.It was so strong, because their connection went beyond the purely physical blood bond, Appius thought.Eric's fists tightened again beside him. Appius could understand his child's apprehension. He was not at all sure if this revelation would be more advantageous to him or to Victor and Felipe. Sure, it would now be political suicide to try to break their bond, but it would also put Sookie in danger. She could be seen as a way to "convince" the sheriff of Area five, to twist his arm. Felipe might also be less likely to protect her if he knew there was no way in hell to ever claim her as his own.Eric suddenly felt his fears subside as Appius sent a wave of calm through their bond. He looked back at Victor.Victor nodded his head, sliding towards the edge of the booth. “Well, then. It is settled. I will report this back to my master.”Appius flinched internally in suspicion. It was apparent Victor still had his doubts, but at least he seemed to be smart enough to know when to pick fights with his superiors.Eric gave Victor a swift nod, in agreement that the conversation was over, for now. He looked up, with an amused glint in his piercing blue eyes, watching Victor rise to his feet. “I do hope you enjoy yourself while you’re here,” Eric said, motioning over to the bar.Victor headed in the general direction the sheriff had gestured, just as Eric's phone started ringing.“Yes,” he said, as he put it to his ear. His eyes defensively scanned the room, making sure his conversation was not being noticed too closely by anyone.He placed his elbow on the table, resting his face against the phone, allowing his long blond locks to cover it.“Eric.” Appius could hear the fear and uncertainty in the caller's voice. “The king said he owed me. I’m in real danger. I wonder what he could do about that.”“The threat involving your older kin?” Eric inquired carefully, his voice softening in an effort to calm the woman and keep her on track.Appius leaned back, listening attentively.“Yes. The, ah, enemy has been trying to get Amelia and Tray to introduce him to me,” the woman continued, beginning to ramble as she attempted to explain the situation discreetly. “He doesn’t seem to realize I would recognize him, or maybe he’s very good at pretending. He’s supposed to be on the anti-human side, but he’s half human. I don’t understand his behavior.”“I see,” Eric paused shortly, flexing his jaw tightly. Turning his head, he fixed his gaze on Victor's back. “So protection is necessary.”“Yes,” she replied.After a moment, Eric glanced down at the table, physically returning his attention to the caller. “And you ask this as . . . ?” he questioned, waiting for the answer, unwilling to take a further step alone.The caller paused for what seemed like an eternally long moment.Appius felt a tumble of emotions rushing at him through the bond with his child. Fear tore holes in an almost overwhelming sense of excitement and hope.“I ask this as someone who saved Felipe de Castro’s life,” she finally said.Appius could feel his muscles tighten in anger at the torturous agony that now pierced savagely through his child's seething torrent of emotions.“I’ll present this petition to Victor, since he’s here at the bar,” Eric said as he pulled himself together, a smooth curtain of calm stretched tightly over the hurt and anger. “I'll get back to you this night.”
God damned it. This is hell,
but I planned it I sawed it
I nailed it and I
will live in it until it kills me.
I can nail my left palm
to the left-hand cross-piece but
I can't do everything myself.
I need a hand to nail the right,
a help, a love, a you, a wife.
~ Alan Dugan, “Love Song: I and Thou”
She was always such fucking trouble, his Sookie. It was the reason he had fallen for her, so hard and so fast; he hardly even realized it before it was too late.But it was also what irritated him the most about her, because given the choice, she often chose the most dangerous option. She was so astute in some ways, but she had no sense of self-preservation, especially when it came to politics.When she called him, the fear in her voice tumbled over the phone. It was deafening. He placed his elbow on the table, leaning his face against the phone, trying to somehow get closer to her, as if by flattening his phone into his very skin he could somehow reach through it and comfort her.Fucking fairies, he thought, as she began to ramble on about the details. And in particular, fuck a certain Fairy prince who didn't keep his promises to keep his lover out of their shit.She really sounded scared. He could practically see the nervous smile pasted on her lips. It ached. He wished he could be there to hold her, or to tease her, so she could call him an ass and stop thinking about the trouble that her ass was in. He wished he could send her calm and strength through the bond – but that was an option he had given up on, at least for the immediate future. He considered, for a fraction of a second, if this was the best time to have taken this chance on breaking the bond. After all, he knew this fairy shit was going down. But, no, he had considered all of that when he accepted Appius's offer. He knew he could protect her just as well -- hell, maybe even better -- without the bond. It actually left his mind clearer and made him less vulnerable. Besides, it was a moot point. He had already made this decision, weighing the possible dangers. Now there was nothing left to do, or think about, except his lover's safety. Until that was secured, at least.He thought back to a time, not so long ago, when she had first begun to trust him. God, he almost grimaced at the thought, he even had to wrestle with her for that. By the time he found her, she'd already built her walls so high that he'd had to fight for every little inch of her yield. But yield she did, eventually.She had wondered just how far he would go to protect her. And he had told her, "I am your friend, and that will last as long as I can be your friend without jeopardizing my own life." He always thought she would eventually understand him – but now he was not so sure. He hadn’t said it to be a cold, pragmatic bastard. On the other hand, he wasn't a pussy-ass “gentleman” like Bill fancied himself to be. What's the point of sacrificing your life for the one you've sworn to protect? Who will protect them once you’re gone?He'd hoped that, eventually, she would come to understand this point. Not only for him, but also for herself. She could certainly use a little dose of self-preservation.But no, she had never made any of this easy. Not on him, and not on herself.Even when she finally and gloriously yielded to him a few nights ago, she still kept up the walls around her heart. She said she didn't want him to tell her how he felt. And like a fucking idiot, he let her retreat behind her walls again. She didn't want him to say it because she didn't want to be disappointed with what she heard. Why the fuck didn't he tell her, right then and there, what she wanted to hear?Because she was so damn difficult, that's why. Didn't she hear how he felt in his invitation to share his home? And wouldn't that have made it so much easier to keep her safe?So he asks her to take his hand, to be his wife, and he stands there, peering over the precipice, holding the phone to his ear, holding his unbeating heart in his hands, as he waits for her. But he knows that it's a stupid move -- he can feel her hesitation. She knows that he's expecting something from her, but she's so clueless when it comes to vampire shit, even more so than fairy shit. And, she's scared for her life.But, fuck, he'll guard her life no matter what she says. But what she says will still hold up or tear down his heart.Yes, it hurts like hell when she pulls away, deciding that she has more to gain from the favor of the king than the devotion of her lover. Does it make a difference that she's not aware of the damage she's causing? He decides that it doesn't really matter -- he already cares about her too damn much.But then he feels that fear consuming her again, and he aches to be able to send calm and strength to her. He knows that it's already entirely too late to pretend that he doesn't care or to be upset at the seemingly endless amount that he does care.So, he takes care to hide every last trace of anger and hurt from his voice and to fill it with everything he thinks would hold her up, as he assures her that he will get her help, tonight.“Pam, bring Victor to my office,” Eric commanded, then hung up the phone before waiting for the reply he didn't need. He leaned back in his chair, his hands resting on the desk in front of him, collecting his thoughts briefly.Appius met his eyes for a moment, attempting to silently assure his child before Victor joined them. He sat down on the leather couch, watching their conversation from the other side of the room.“What is it you wish to discuss, Viking?” Victor asked scornfully,as he walked towards Eric and settled into a chair positioned in front of his desk."I have just received a call from my wife," Eric answered, watching Victor's reaction closely. "She is concerned about her safety and has asked for the protection the King has pledged.""And what makes her concerned for her safety?" Victor asked."Well, it seems that there has been an attempt on her life by a fairy. With the escalating conflict in the Fae realm--""But why would the Fae concern themselves with Miss Stackhouse?" Victor interrupted Eric impatiently."Well, she has a very close relationship with the Crane twins – Prince Niall's relations." Eric paused for a moment, letting Victor connect the dots before continuing his abridged version of the crisis. "It would appear that Prince Niall's enemies are going after anything and anyone that he and his family hold near and dear, as the saying goes."Eric met Victor's questioning gaze head on, knowing that the king would be bound by his oath of protection."Of course, the king holds her in the highest regard and has pledged to protect her," Victor answered. "He intends to keep his word. I trust that you, as well, will do everything in your power to protect your wife," he said with an undisguised sneer."Of course," Eric responded, watching Victor for possible clues to the plans that must be forming in his head."Does this threat concern the vampire community?" Victor inquired, after a quiet moment of thought."Not as of yet," the sheriff replied. "I will, of course, inform you if that should change.""We will provide one of our own to guard her,” Victor promised, as he rose to his feet. He nodded briskly to Eric and Appius before turning on his heels and walking out the door.Eric practically jumped out of his seat as soon as Victor closed the door behind him. He leaned against the door, listening to make sure that the hallway was empty, stealing a glance at his maker.Appius was still sitting on the sofa in that perfectly still manner of his that, impossibly and blissfully, always stilled any uncertainty Eric felt. That posture seemed a contradiction, just thinking about it. But looking at it – it just seemed like the most natural thing in the room. His back was rigidly straight, yet he seemed to be perfectly relaxed, at once both deep within himself and connected to everything and everyone around him. His maker's presence both small and large, his power both quiet and strong, contracting and expanding at the same time, breathed calm into Eric.Eric walked back towards his desk and sat down more heavily than usual, the developments of this evening weighing on him. It was getting late. Fangtasia would be closing in a couple of hours, and there wasn't much else he could do about the situation tonight.At least she would be closely guarded, and tomorrow night he would have to get in touch with Niall to see how severe this conflict had become, and to figure out how to best keep his lover out of harm's way.Tomorrow would also be the night the bond would be completely severed, he thought with a shudder.He closed his eyes tightly, pulling his consciousness into himself. He could still sense her, but she was already fading within him, the brightness of her life's pulse getting quieter with every passing moment. He strained to hear it, wanting to enjoy every last beat of it.It was hell...but it was a hell he had willingly jumped into.He pulled his phone out, determination and confidence smoothing out the darkness of what he knew would only be temporary pain and loss.He hit the keys with vampire speed, sending strength and calm to his lover the only way he could, for now.The message disappeared from the screen a moment after he hit SEND."protection coming"
And War, which for a moment was no more,Did glut himself again: a meal was boughtWith blood, and each sate sullenly apartGorging himself in gloom: no love was left;All earth was but one thought--and that was death--Lord Byron, “Darkness”
It felt like standing at the very edge for an everlasting moment.It was perfectly dark yet thick in its emptiness, much like that pause at the bottom of the breath -- perfectly balanced stillness that seems to stretch around you infinitely just before the next inhale slowly rises up to meet the world.Yet, he was vampire -- he had not experienced the physical need for breath in over a thousand years. So when the moment of stillness gave way to his former existence, the silence was all the more jarring.She was gone.Eric looked up into the kind eyes of his maker and grabbed on, pulling himself into his newly altered world. Or rather, the world he had forgotten. Cold, dark and utterly predictable.They had completed the ritual over an hour ago, yet he still sat in his own world, albeit he was seated in his office now, behind his desk. He should be distracting himself by catching up on the ever-growing pile of paperwork, but because he had his privacy, he indulged in poking painfully at the edges of his new reality.He could still feel her, though very faintly. Well, at least there was that. He was trying to convince himself that it would have to be enough, for now, when the ring of his phone broke through the haze of his grief.“She is gone,” Bill's pained drawl whispered into the phone. “The torture twins have her.”Once again, Eric found himself furiously cursing Sookie's relatives.Yet, somewhere deep in the recesses of his madly racing mind, he admitted with resignation that her great-grandfather could only do so much to keep Sookie safe. Being loved by the Fae prince put her in much danger. Yet, was it any more peril than he, as Vampire Sheriff, cast on her by virtue of their association?Still, he thought as he called Niall, just a few damn ounces of self-preservation would have helped her stay out of half the messes she'd gotten herself into.“Lochlan and Naeve have her,” Eric informed Niall as soon as he answered, wasting no time.“What do we know?” Niall asked after a brief pause."Bill has just informed me that they took her right in front of her house," Eric answered..“I see...”“Do you see? Because I do not. I do not see how Sookie got dragged into your fairy -- ”Eric stopped himself, frustrated with the futility of his anger, knowing that every moment he spent on giving into it was another moment his lover would have to suffer pain."Listen, carefully, Vampire. We must act swiftly and cohesively," the fairy prince quietly commanded into the phone with a calm, understated authority. "I realize it is not your custom to take orders from others, particularly from those not of your kind. But, this is a fairy matter-- within my kingdom-- so you must follow my instruction if you choose to help."Eric leaned back in his chair, attempting to reserve judgment.The fairy prince paused, accepting Eric's silence as a confirmation that the vampire might agree, if he could be convinced of the plan's efficacy."I will take Bill with me," Niall explained. "We will track down Sookie tonight, and get her to safety. In the meantime, you will feed, and prepare your people for tomorrow's battles.""I can feed when I return," Eric protested."Vampire, I truly thought you smarter than this," Niall hissed, his voice becoming even more quiet, a sure sign of his displeasure. "Was I wrong?" Every word was punctuated with its own appalled and accusatory silence."Niall, we do not have time for your riddle-speak," Eric growled. "She is my woman. I will ensure that she is safe and protected.""Yes, well, you can not help her if you're no longer... of this world, can you?"No longer of this world? Eric pursed his lips, pushing back his frustration at the prince's merry-go-round manner of speaking, as if he had to make lyrics of his words to match the musicality of his fairy voice. No doubt he thought it was fucking regal, but really, couldn't he cut this shit out when his great-granddaughter's life was on the line?The prince had meant finally dead, gone, dust.But in that one sentence, as roundabout as his description of final death was, Niall had actually cut to the heart of what Eric had whispered to Sookie, so long ago: "...as long as I can be your friend without jeopardizing my own life." Not because he wouldn't put his life on the line, but because doing so would jeopardize her own.Eric shook his head, forcing himself out of his thoughts. He refused to acknowledge that Niall could see into his heart more clearly than his lover, even if it meant ignoring every pragmatic instinct that was coursing through him."If it is such a dangerous task that it would put my life in danger," Eric argued, "then you will most certainly need my help.""You would do well to ask yourself how you can help her best," Niall answered coolly, giving Eric the space to ponder this before continuing.Eric remained silent, listening to the prince, weighing how he could best play a part in ensuring the safety of his lover.Eric had always been right by her side whenever her life was in danger, protecting her instead of giving in to his warrior instincts of revenge and blood-lust. Now, the Viking wondered, was he insisting on being there for her own well-being? After all, Niall Brigant was a strong and powerful Fae and had been in power for a long time. There must be good reason for that."Rescuing Sookie from Naeve and Lochlan will be the easy part-- but that does not mean that it could not result in grave injury," Niall explained. "You are the strongest of your kind. She will need you at your strongest. You must be well-prepared. Not only will you need to give her strength with your blood, you will most likely have to then wage battle against my most powerful enemies. And I may not be able to reach you in time to help."Eric pondered the merits of Niall's plan. If the aftermath of Sookie's rescue were to unfold as the prince predicted, then he would indeed need to feed well tonight to have the strength for a major battle, even after healing Sookie with his blood.If another vampire was to accompany Niall on this rescue, he supposed that choosing Bill would make the most sense. After all, he was the one with her last, and he had been at the scene of the abduction. He would have Sookie's scent as well as that of her captors.Furthermore, if she lost a lot of blood, his remaining connection to her would be gone, and he wouldn't be that much more useful to Niall. Of course, Niall didn't know about the breaking of the bond, and yet he had still opted for this plan. His brain screamed at him that Niall was keeping his personal feelings out of this. This was Niall's war, after all, and he was dealing with it accordingly.But the pain of losing the bond stabbed jagged holes in this perfect though Eric could understand the wisdom behind this strategy -- saving the best players for when they were most needed -- he couldn't help but wonder if there was another, more personal reason for this choice."Why is it that you are so set on keeping me away from her rescue?" Eric challenged.Niall sighed impatiently. After a brief and pregnant silence, he spoke."Do you seek the glory of being her hero, or do you wish to be the man that saves her life?"A searing pain ripped through the very center of his undead body, reaching far deeper than he was even aware. He clutched the phone closer to his ear, so as not to drop it, while gripping the chair so firmly with his other hand that his bones protruded, breaking through the flesh in a bloody mess. He bent over, his long, golden hair forming a curtain around him, as he resorted to a very human reaction, one almost long-forgotten – he struggled for breath, as if he had been punched in the stomach.His skin sprung to life with a web of shallow but painful stings, burning with the warmth of dying living-blood. Sookie. He shut his eyes, but he could still see the ugly cuts being cruelly painted on her body behind his lids, all the while seething at the fact that he could do nothing but observe, through his ever-weakening connection to her heart.Niall's challenge only made the pain cut sharper and deeper."Fine," Eric conceded. "But I expect to hear from you before the sun rises, fairy.""Of course. I will contact you directly," Niall agreed. After a brief pause, he added in a soft whisper, almost as if musing to himself, "You really do love her, Vampire."He sits back, watching his child work, with a satisfied smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. The scent of blood still clings to every particle of air around him. He brushes the blood-soaked hair out of his face, using his long fingers to rake it back. He licks each finger, making a popping sound that echoes in the quiet room, pausing inbetween for added effect.Pam swivels on her feet, staring at him. Her eyebrow slowly raises in dissaproval, as if she's had to pick up toys after a toddler's tantrum, until she can no longer hold back her laughter. He joins her, and their laughter slides off the walls, now slick with blood and human insides. It rolls over the drained bodies, but it doesn't fill the room. It is flat, harsh and gleeful, a laugh meant to distract the vampires from the crisis, but it only reminds them of it more, sticking to their insides, weighing them down.It seems cold and heartless to laugh at a time such as this. But they are cold...and they have no beating heart. Even so, their laughter doesn't reach their eyes.The laughter dies from his lips, and his child takes the cue to return to the the work of cleaning up.Tonight he had allowed himself to sink into his nature, the side of himself that his lover didn't want to look upon. He hoped she wouldn't have to, evenwhile he wanted her to understand it.He had begun to feed in order to shore up his strength in preparation for her rescue, but he had to drink while he felt her life being tortured out of her. He binged on the thin, bland blood, filling his veins and tissues, without filling his mouth. The beating of her heart was being drained from him, leaving a hole that grew faster than he could fill it up.He tore at their necks savagely, attempting to fill up faster, throwing their used-up bodies in frustration. The crack of their bones sounded dull and distant as they hit the wall with such force that they imprinted it with their broken shapes. They didn't penetrate his cloak of anger and pain, however.He is engorged, heavy from his blood binge. He has fed more than enough to be ready for tomorrow's fight, but not enough to ease the pain.But now, the pain is swallowing him up. He clutches at the desk, reaching out to his child with his tortured gaze. She looks at him across the room, filling the distance between them with her eternal love for her maker. Yet, she knows that she can't close this physical distance. He needs it.The pain increases until even he -- the ancient, fearless Viking warrior -- can barely stand it. His skin is burning up with the pain until a deeper, duller torture replaces it.Her suffering, along with her life, drains away almost completely. It is barely there. All that is left behind is the too-smooth, silent darkness, stretching out through his infinity.
The world was void,The populous and the powerful was a lump,Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless--A lump of death--a chaos of hard clay.The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'dThey slept on the abyss without a surge--The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no needOf aid from them--She was the Universe.~ Lord Byron, “Darkness”
Her body was soft and warm underneath him, his hands tangled in her silky hair. He gazed down at her beautiful form only to be startled, once again, to see the leather strap wrapped around her golden arms. But her whimpers and moans brought his attention back to her face, more specifically to those plump red lips, now parting with her desire, while her back arched, reaching for him in the only way her bound arms would allow.She began to move underneath him in rhythm to her breathless panting, and bit down on her lower lip in an attempt to slow herself down. When she drew blood, the sight and smell of it proved to be too much for him. He hissed deeply, a wave of want overwhelming him, before bending down to trace her swollen, bloody lips with his cool tongue. He pulled her lower lip into his mouth as he reached his hands above her head to untie her bindings.He pressed his lips on to hers, seeking entrance. She eagerly obliged and reached up to cup his shoulders with her tiny hands. He pulled away for a brief moment to look at his beautiful wife, his bonded, his heart. Her hair spread like a golden halo around her, as her gaze settled into him, just like she knew he loved. He stiffened at the sight, and bent down to trace a path of kisses and nibbles down her glorious body, his hands roaming with as much hunger as his mouth.She was so close – he could feel it, in the way her body's writhing picked up urgency underneath him; he could hear it in the way each moan that escaped her lips was concealed with less control; and he could smell it, the heady scent of her desire surrounding him. But then, she was just gone.His face was suddenly buried in the cool folds of the black silk sheets, instead of her warm, smooth skin. He groped around, trying to find her, but all he felt was the cool emptiness all around him. Even her sweet scent had disappeared without the faintest trace.His eyes flew open. He focused on the familiar bumpy white pattern of his bedroom ceiling as he oriented himself.His skin still felt uncomfortably stretched from last night's gluttonous binge, but he reveled in the feeling, because he knew it meant he had that much more to give to his lover – strength, healing, power. Life.Damn fucking fairies.Eric crashed through the doors of the make-shift hospital, moving towards her faint presence. He could barely sense her, but even that tiny trickle of her was enough to soothe him. She was still there.But as soon as the relief washed over him, it was overrun with irritation and anger, as he thought back to the events and misguided decisions that brought them here. She had whined that he was 'high handed' as she so eloquently put it. But was that so wrong, if he was right?He rushed through another set of doors, sinking deeper into his mental assault.She had practically begged for it, and, he had to admit, he was looking forward to the sweet moment when she would realize that it was not the bond that held them so closely together and could admit that he was right all along. But was all the collateral damage worth it? And why did she have to be so damn blind and obstinate, sometimes? How could she read minds so clearly, yet not be able to see what was in her own heart? And how could he forgo all of his better instincts and put them all in so much fucking danger, just to give her her heart's desire?This is exactly why he hated feelings, he thought, as his strides grew longer and faster, the hum of her presence growing louder as he closed the distance between them.He stopped in front of her room, standing next to the closed door. Gently feeling around the edges of their remaining tie, he tested out the feeble borders of their connection, a pale shadow of the former bond they once shared. Really, it was just like the faint imprint left on a carpet by a piece of heavy furniture.He took as much time as he could afford before opening the door, bracing himself for the ugly sight that would greet him, the physical evidence of the brutal pain he had felt her suffer through the night before. But of course, it wasn't enough time. Really, would there ever be enough time? He shook his head, attempting to shake off the vivid memories of the agonizing pain, and turned the handle.He hardened with arousal as he was hit hard by the intoxicating scent of fairy, one who was now leaving the room as quickly and discreetly as possible. But he grew limp at the sight of Sookie's damaged form, imploding into a numb, impotent paralysis.He waited in the doorway, keeping at a respectful distance until the fairy made her exit. As soon as they were alone, he moved to his lover's side with vampire speed.He could only see her face and arms, but that was more than enough to push him over the edge. Her beautiful golden skin was covered in a blanket of bruises, cuts and bites, and her face was swollen and unbearably mutilated by the brutality of those inhumane creatures.He clenched his fists at his sides, his fingernails digging into his palms and drawing blood.“Fucking fairies.” The words and his anger spilled out of him violently, before he could conceal them.“Dead now,” she croaked.“Yes. A fast death was too good for them,” came his carefully measured response through clenched teeth.She attempted a nod, and the pain that prevented her from making much of a noticeable movement was almost unbearable for the Viking Warrior who had never faced an enemy he could not slay.He swallowed hard against his rage, not wishing to add any more stress or pain to her ordeal.“I’m going to look at your wounds,” he warned her in a quiet voice, carefully devoid of any emotion. He sacrificed the soothing healing of comforting tones so that he could be sure to hide his seething anger.She whispered her assent as she glanced at a non-existent spot in the distance, not willing or able to meet his eyes. Her shame made the anger boil inside of him.Eric moved the blanket off of her with the gentlest touch in an attempt to cause her as little pain as possible. He closed his eyes for a moment, torn between the overwhelming need to see the damage inflicted on her body, with the desire to postpone that sight as long as possible.He opened his eyes and stood beside her in perfect, silent stillness, attempting to tamp down his anger at the sight that filled his vision, before speaking again. The only external clue to the storm raging inside of him was the clenching of his jaw.In for a penny, in for a pound, as his lover always said. After what seemed like an eternal moment, he requested in a soft tone, “Pull up the gown.”When she fixed a helpless stare at him, he realized that she did not have the strength in her arms to do as he had asked. Pulling up the gown, he did his best to detach his lover's suffering from the damaged body in front of him, instead assessing the wounds as he would for any other injured soldier. But he felt her shame-filled eyes follow his along the war path that was her shredded body. Seconds later, a strangled gasp escaped her lips as she shut her eyes against the horrendous sight, and it tore a ragged hole right through his undead heart.He pulled the gown back down and rearranged the sheet around her to cover up her mangled form as he rose to his full height. For once, he was grateful that their bond didn't connect them, so that she could be spared the burden of the furious waves of anguish and anger that were crashing against his soul. Yet, even while he was thankful for this, he wished that he could comfort her as only her bonded could, from the inside out.“I'll be back in a minute,” he whispered as he swiftly turned and hurried out of the room.Eric walked across the hall, placing the flat of his palm and his forehead on the cool wall. He rested there for a moment, before tearing through the wall with the clenched fist of his other hand. Shit. This is what Niall considered rescuing his great-granddaughter? Why on earth had he agreed to trust a goddamn fairy? He should have realized his error in judgment as soon as the Fae asked to have Compton accompany him. Fucking Compton. He could not even keep her safe from those homicidal creatures for a few hours. Why did he trust Compton to rescue his most treasured possession?He retracted his hand and dusted off the debris, walking further down the hallway to the cooler, grabbing two bottles of True Blood. As he walked back towards her room, he grasped for his pragmatic reasoning. Niall and Bill may not have gotten to her as fast as he would have liked, but the Fae prince was correct about one thing: Eric was the strongest, oldest vampire in the area, and he would be the man to save her... even if it ultimately meant his final death.He took an unnecessary breath, pulling himself together before re-entering her room.“Move over,” he said as soon as he reached her side, but his request was only met with two very blank, uncomprehending blue eyes.Fuck. He knew such an experience could put a fragile human into a state of shock, but he'd really hoped that she would be stronger than that. Especially now, with a fierce battle only moments away. He repeated his request, now with more urgency, when he realized that she couldn't move. Son of a fucking bitch. They had hurt her so much that she couldn't even nudge over a mere few inches? And he was too much of an ass to even consider that, he thought to himself with regretful bitterness.He set the bottles of TrueBlood down as he lowered himself next to her on the bed. He tried his best to find a spot on her body that would cause the least pain, but those damn evil creatures didn't leave any part of her body unmarred. He settled on placing his hands behind her lower back and knees, and moved her over as quickly and gently as possible.He could heal her outer injuries, but what he truly feared were those soft internal wounds that were, even now, ripping deep scars into her heart. There was not much he could do about those. As he stretched down next to her, he wished that he didn't have to rush her through this, but there was simply no time for patience and hand-holding.He ached to hold her in his arms, but realized that it would only cause her more pain, so he stretched his arm on the pillow above her head. “I’m going to feed you,” he told her, and he brushed the matted golden locks away from her face.“What?”He sighed internally. They didn't have time to have this discussion, he thought with impatient irritation. The sooner his blood was in her, the sooner she would start to heal, and they may have just barely enough time. Of course, it would also mean that he'd be able to feel her, once again, not an unwelcome side-effect.“I’m going to give you blood,” he explained in a cool, even tone. “You’ll take weeks to heal otherwise. We don’t have that kind of time.”He didn't wait for her to protest or concur. He could see her resigned agreement in the slight relaxation of her tense body. He punctured his wrist and put it to her mouth, relieved that her pragmatic side was, once again, taking the driver's seat when the crisis required it. He nestled her head in the crook of his arm as she wrapped her lips around the wound and began to suck greedily.When his wound closed, he raised it to his mouth to reopen it.“Are you sure you should do this?” her worried words floated up to him.“Yes, I know how much is too much,” he assured her. “And I fed well before I came here. You need to be able to move.”“Move?” she croaked, as she put her lips to his wrist once again.“Yes. At any moment, Breandan’s followers may—will—find this place,” he explained. “They’ll be tracking you by scent now. You smell of the fairies who hurt you, and they know now Niall loves you enough to kill his own kind for you. Hunting you down would make them very, very happy.”She pulled away from his wrist, but her fingers dug into him, almost breaking through his skin, one hand wrapped around his wrist, the other resting on his thigh. A moment later, he could feel the wetness of her tears against his shirt, and the fear and anxiety coursing through her blood as it mingled with his own healing elixir.“Stop that now, you must be strong,” he whispered, placing his hand under her chin and raising her face to his. Their eyes locked just as another tear wound its way down her cheek.And that's when he saw it, deep in her eyes. She was hurt and weak and beaten... but she was still his Sookie, the embers of her fiery will still burning deep within. He leaned in, nuzzling his nose against her wet cheek, and allowed her sweet scent to surround him before licking the remainder of her tears away with his cool tongue.He pulled back, brushing her hair out of her face. “I’m very proud of you, you hear me?”“Why?” she asked, resting her head against his chest.“You are still together; you are still a person. Lochlan and Neave have left vampires and fairies in rags— literally, rags… but you survived and your personality and soul are intact.”“I got rescued,” she croaked in protest. As always, never willing to credit herself with her own successes, always finding external entities to be grateful to. Did she truly not understand her own strength, he wondered, or was it just her warped Christian upbringing?“You would have survived much more,” he assured her, as he reached for a bottle of TrueBlood and downed the disgusting excuse for sustenance.“I wouldn’t have wanted to,” she replied. “I hardly wanted to live after…”He pressed her closer to his body, touching his lips to her forehead. “But you did live. And they died. And you are mine, and you will be mine. They will not get you.” I will not lose you again, he thought, you will be my bonded again.“You really think they’re coming?” she asked.Right on cue, he thought, asking questions to which she already knew the answers. But he humored her, since they had to wait, anyway, while she healed.“Yes. Breandan’s remaining forces will find this place sooner or later, if not Breandan himself. He has nothing to lose, and his pride to retain. I’m afraid they’ll find us shortly. Ludwig has removed almost all the other patients.”“Who else is here?”“Bill is in the next room,” Eric replied. “He’s been getting blood from Clancy.”“Were you not going to give him any?” she asked in an appalled tone.“If you were irreparable . . . no, I would have let him rot.”“Why?” she demanded, seething with rage and hurt. “He actually came to rescue me.” She pulled back from him, laying her hand on his chest for support as she leveled her angry gaze on him. “Why get mad at him? Where were you?”Eric winced and looked away, unable to withstand her words, and the agony that he now felt coursing through her veins.She looked down and laid her head back on his chest, hurt and shame bubbling up through her voice and her blood. “It’s not like you were obliged to come find me,” she whispered, “but I hoped the whole time—I hoped you would come, I prayed you would come, I thought over and over you might hear me...”“You’re killing me,” he whispered, the pain of her misinterpretations and misguided conclusions tearing through him. “You’re killing me. I’ll explain. I will. You will understand,” he assured her.But even as he ached to find the words and the time to soothe her, he knew what he must do, what role was his to play. Maybe he could not be there to save her from the pain and trauma of her terrible ordeal, but at least he could protect her now – the way he always had, he thought, as he wrapped his arms tight around his heart.
In my sky at twilight you are like a cloud
and your form and colour are the way I love them.You are mine, mine, woman with sweet lipsand in your life my infinite dreams live.“In My Sky At Twilight,” Pablo Neruda
The silver gleam of the ax splintering through the door was like the achingly anticipated crash of a wave finally breaking against the shore. His body coiled in preparation for battle as the Fae inched closer. Their scent was growing stronger as they neared for the past couple of hours. About an hour ago, he was able to hear their approach, eventually able to distinguish four pairs of steps.At the sound of the hospital doors opening, Eric had dismissed the incessant whining of his subject, Clancy, and pulled out his weapon of choice, an extra long iron sword. He raised it in midair, turning it over to admire, before settling into a low squat, legs planted and low to the ground, ready to uncoil his power and speed at any approaching threat.He glanced at his lover when he sensed her anxiety growing. “Iron,” he explained, without even attempting to wipe the gleeful blood-lust from his grin.The other vampires mirrored the murderous excitement with their own smiles, practically drooling at the impending violence. The blood-lust seethed and boiled, as it bounced from one to the other.“Kill as many as you can,” Compton said. His voice grew steady and strong with the nearing opportunity for swift vengeance, requesting Clancy's help without even the faintest hint of embarrassment over how little help Bill might actually be in the upcoming fight.Sookie's protests irritated all in the room, but even more irritating was Compton's saccharine response.“Sweetheart,” he replied, sounding like he was curtseying with a fawning formality, even if he couldn't physically do so. “I have always loved you, and I will be proud to die in your service. When I’m gone, say a prayer for me in a real church.”Eric's disgusted snort stuck in his throat as he cocked his head to the side, listening for their intruders. He couldn't fault Compton for trying, even though he did go about it in the most unappetizing manner. Besides, now was not the time to devote any attention to Compton's pathetic, hopeless flailing.Eric kept his eyes trained on the door and his ears trained on their enemy's approach as Clancy helped Bill to his feet.When Bill asked for a weapon, Eric produced an iron dagger and handed it to him without moving another muscle in his body. He stayed frozen in his vigil until his cell phone rang. The news he received did not surprise him. As he closed the phone and tucked it away, he pondered the merits of sharing the information with his small and feeble troop of soldiers. Well, people always work less hard if they can rely on someone else being there to take care of them, Eric thought. Perhaps they will fight that much harder if they know there is no one else coming to save the day.“Niall and his Fae are on the way,” he informed them. “Breandan’s blocked all the other portals to the Fae land. There is only one opening now. Whether they’ll come in time, I don’t know.”Clancy's stomach turned with disgust, causing such violent sickness that Clancy forgot his head and was emboldened to step out of line. Where before he teetered on the precipice, now he smashed right through.“If I live through this,” Clancy whined, “I’ll ask you to release me from my vow, Eric, and I’ll seek another master. I find the idea of dying in the defense of a human woman to be disgusting, no matter what her connection to you is.”When your master tells you to jump, you don't ask why. You ask how high, and that only if you've been given permission to open your damn mouth, Eric thought, but kept his response short and to the point. “If you die, you’ll die because I, your sheriff, ordered you into battle. The reason is not pertinent.”This was no time for fucking games, and Eric had no interest in playing daddy to this imbecile. He was angered equally by Clancy's public insubordination, as he was by his piss-poor timing, and didn't even acknowledge his childish outburst with so much as a glance.If only Clancy had made his request in the appropriate manner, Eric mused, he would have easily acquiesced. He did not have to agree with Clancy's reasons; he could respect that they were his own. The sheriff would never keep anyone in his ranks who didn't want to be there of their own free will. But on the other hand, he would never accept any insubordinate challenges to his own decisions.Clancy's quiet words of obedience broke the strained silence. “Yes, my lord.”Eric softened at Clancy's dignified response, enough to grant him his request... as long as he made it through the fight ahead. It would motivate him to fight that much harder, if nothing else.Clancy's humble gratitude was expected, but appreciated nonetheless.Eric gripped his sword tighter, sensing that the fairies were almost upon them.When the ax finally punctured the door, Eric's excitement grew to a fevered pitch, not only from the long anticipated arrival, but also from the courage and determination now coursing through his lover, as she found the strength to raise herself off the bed. She always pleasantly surprised him at the times he most needed it.Within seconds, the fairy's hacking finally made a large enough opening to allow one of them to step through. The tall, thin, blond foot-soldier immediately went for Eric, his green eyes flashing with the same eagerness for violent vengeance that sparked Eric's own ice-blue orbs. The Viking warrior avoided the fairy's easily-anticipated move, jumping to the side as he slashed at his opponent. Eric managed a fairly deep slash, not fatal; but coupled with the excruciating pain of the iron, it was enough to slow the fairy down enough for Clancy to finish the job. Clancy's blade severed the fairy's head with a clean efficiency.Eric was stepping over the enemy’s crumbling form when Bill's knife sailed through the air and hit the next approaching fairy square in the neck Another one bites the dust, as they say nowadays, Eric mused, wondering if whoever came up with that one was aware of the gruesome body process of a fairy death.Eric's laughter was cut short by the figure of Braendan, the would-be prince, moving towards him with a raised blood-stained sword. Eric's snarl deepened into a growl when he felt his lover's cresting wave of fury swirl and foam around him. He moved towards Braendan, striking at him with savage force, but his assault on the fairy was cut short. A woman, a rather tall one at that, stepped in front of Braendan to take his place. The Viking's eyes narrowed with anger as he ducked to avoid the mace she was wielding in his direction. Eric heard the sickening crunch above him as it continued on its path, connecting with the next object in its way, which happened to be Clancy’s head. The vampire’s body crumpled to the ground next to Eric's crouched form, cool blood spraying softly on the sheriff before he pounced back up to fight.Eric advanced on the woman with his sword and his growing frustration. She was attempting to occupy him, even while her prince was advancing on his lover. He resisted the urge to glance at the scene beyond her, just wishing that the two men who had thus far proven so utterly incapable of protecting Sookie, would finally be able to meet the challenge. He doubted they could finish off Braendan, especially with Dawson being all but dead and Compton barely able to stand, but he hoped that at least they could slow him down just a bit longer. Just long enough.Eric grew tired of the pointless clashing of their blades, and increased the tempo of his assault on the Fae female warrior. Just when he thought he'd gained the advantage, the woman got a lucky break and managed a deep slash into his arm. He jumped back instinctively, but in that fraction of a moment, her attentions were suddenly diverted. One moment she was standing in front of him, and the next, she was rushing across the room. She leaped onto the body of her fallen, beloved leader, her horrendous shrieks ricocheting off the mangled corpses strewn about the room.When the Viking heard the tones of sorrow give way to vengeful fury, he rushed to reach her before she could act on her murderous rage. Fucking Compton lay crumpled on the ground, useless as usual. There was nothing and no one to shield his lover from the sharp blade that the fairy was now swinging in her direction.But suddenly, the bitch stopped dead in her tracks.Her screams now turned to the decibel of physical pain, as she raised her free hand to her face. Smoke began to roll off of her in hazy wisps just as Eric reached her. He severed her sword-wielding arm, the force of his blow spinning her around towards him, providing him with the perfect leverage to sink his sword deep into her heart. He withdrew the blade quickly, and used the tip of it to shove her body to the ground.His eyes were drawn to the sound of his lover sinking to the floor, her back sliding against the wall, a plastic water pistol still clutched in her grip. Labored breaths were weighing her down, her tiny form filled to the brim with more than one lifetime's worth of carnage and gore. Their eyes met for a moment that was all too brief, even while it stretched in a silent endlessness around them as they fell into each other's new reality. There they were, with all those feelings and sentiments that would never have to be spoken to be made real -- love and rage, regret and gratitude, elation and pain -- all boiling and rushing at each other with no neat lines of demarcation.Then, her eyes darted to a spot just above and beyond him and glazed over in a physical response to the brightly shining figure that had attracted her attention.Eric was once again reminded all too well of her humanity, and its inherent mortality. The immortal beings in the room – Niall, her Fae great-grandfather, glowing with his ethereal power; and Eric, her pledged lover, with his own beyond-human strength, – only accentuated the fragility of her human life. Her eyes shot around, bouncing around the casualties that filled the room, grieving for their loss without so much as a drop of relief for her own survival. Oh, it wasn't that she was ungrateful, but rather, that it was easier for her to run away from her own problems to focus on those around her.Eric knew Niall was standing there without needing to look back. The Fae prince was no longer his concern, anyway. In fact, the only reason that damned race had ever been his concern had been in relation to Sookie's safety. Now that her life had been secured, there was no one else in the room, breathing or not, who existed for him. He reached her side in one smooth motion, falling to his knees as he took her in his arms.Her cuts had reopened with her courageous fighting, and one slash against her cheek particularly caught his attention. The blood trickled out as he moved in closer, allowing the sweet scent to envelop him. He licked at the wound, her warm skin scalding his cool tongue as he cleaned her face. He had always wondered why her blood tasted so damn good. She had been convinced that it was the miniscule amount of fairy in her genealogy that made her so irresistible. He knew that it couldn't be just that, although he wouldn't deny that it could be part of it. But now, savoring her as her blood seeped into every pore of his tongue, he realized that it wasn't just her blood, as sweet as it was.He heard Niall's rude demand in the distance, as if from worlds away. “Off her, vampire,” came the familiar musical voice of her great-grandfather.Eric raised his head, orienting himself by pinpointing where Niall's words were spoken from, but refusing to return to the mess of reality quite yet. He shut his eyes against it, leaning back against her shoulder, his whole body convulsing from the pleasure of his new epiphany. It was their blood, entwined together, that he craved so ravenously. It was his healing, undead life force, wrapped around her own mortal blood, that created the irresistible elixir. Aside from the tainted Maenad blood he had drained from her, his blood had always been a part of her, in varying degrees, when he tasted her. It had grown in her so gradually, he'd barely noticed it. But now, even with only one blood exchange, he could already smell that familiar fragrance, even as the taste of it lingered on his tongue.Eric finally opened his eyes as he heard Niall's footsteps draw closer. He focused on the mangled bodies that lay across the room, making an abrupt stop at Clancy's mutilated head, half of it smashed to unrecognizable bits. A single tear left a red path in its wake as it rolled down Eric’s cheek. He mourned for a soldier who, although unwilling at first, died in the most noble of ways, fighting under his liege.But even more, he mourned for the wounds that would now cut even deeper into his lover's heart. While she survived the physical toll of her brutal torture, he knew she could not look at the deaths surrounding her without blaming herself. Would she be able to fully heal, to fight off those demons lurking deep inside her? Would his blood give her enough physical strength to heal her heart's wounds?“Is Bill alive?” she asked, awakening him from his reflections.“I don’t know,” Eric answered, as he watched Niall lower himself to sit next to her. Eric rested against the wall, giving the Fae prince the space to assure himself of his great-granddaughter's safety.“Niall,” she whispered in pain, as her emotions tumbled around her. “Niall, I didn’t think you would come in time.”Eric died all over again, once again forced to sit with his hands bound, watching her suffer through the pain that was her worst nightmare: being abandoned by her loved ones when she needed them most. Could any explanation ever heal those cuts, he wondered, as he stroked her wrist in soothing circles.“You are safe now,” her great-grandfather was saying. “I am the only living prince. No one can take that away from me. Almost all of my enemies are dead.”Eric met Niall’s eyes over her head, his anger and frustration burning into the Fae prince, even as he heard his lover voice the pain he feared.“Look around, Niall, look at all that’s been taken.”Silent tears streamed down her face, cutting into Eric with more pain than any physical torture he had ever endured.“You need to go home,” Niall soothed, stroking her hair with affection and concern.It was already so much for her to bear, more than she ever had to endure.The tears drying on her face whispered that she did not want any more bad news, yet she couldn't help but look for it, like picking at a scab that should be left alone to heal.“Claudine...” she croaked, without even the optimism of inflection to turn the name into a question. She already knew the answer, but it didn't take away any of the pain.Eric scooped her into his arms, Sookie burying her head into his chest as he rose to his full height. They had all sacrificed much to stand among the wreckage that surrounded them. The two men looked upon each other wordlessly, begrudging gratitude and understanding shining in their eyes: they were united by unconditional, eternal love for this woman.The Viking wrapped his arms even tighter around her, Sookie nestling her head into his neck as he turned around to leave. “Fairy, I leave cleaning this place to you,” he said with one last glance back. “Your great-granddaughter is my woman, mine and mine alone. I’ll take her to her home.”He held her in his arms as they waited for his child to arrive. Compton was slumped against the wall where the Fae soldier had deposited him moments ago. As annoyed as Eric was that Compton would still be around, at least he hadn't been successful in playing the damn martyr card, he thought. He pulled her closer to his body, feeling her heart beat, slow and steady, against his chest. He tried to sink into the deep rhythm, feeling her life force pulse around him as his undead blood bound more tightly to hers with every thump.She bobbed in and out of consciousness, but did not object to being wrapped in her lover's arms. The smirk spread to his eyes as he felt the comfort and relief that overwhelmed her when she realized she was in the safety of his embrace. He couldn't yet send her comfort, but he could revel in the comfort that his presence gave her.Pam arrived shortly, and Maxwell Lee helped her load Bill and Sookie into the van, arranging them with extra gentle care on the mattress set up in the back. The affectionate way in which his child hovered over Sookie, thinking better of giving her still-bruised cheek a peck, did not escape Eric. He could have deluded himself, and attributed it to her bloodlust at the fairy scent that still clung to all of them, but he knew better.Eric sat across from Bill and Sookie, enjoying the growing hum of her around him again, as the van pulled away from the curb and headed towards Bon Temps. He felt her floating just below the surface of consciousness, but her life force was strong and steady. She would survive. Her body was merely resting now, gathering strength as she healed.As Eric watched and felt her body grow stronger, he couldn't help but wonder, would she ever be able to fully live her life now, knowing she could no longer share it with so many of her loved ones? Would she be able to eventually stand and walk again, without being buried by andw the weight of the sacrifices of those willing and unwilling? Would she ever really know, or care, or admit to herself how close he had come to losing her? Or the gut-wrenching decisions that had to be made to make that possible?Pam's and Maxwell's excited chatter penetrated Eric's thoughts. They were practically babbling like gossipy school girls about the fairies and their war.He allowed the incessant background noise until his child's too-exuberant “Yum” intruded his concentration on his lover.“Be quiet,” he commanded, and he returned to feeling out his new connection to his lover. A smile tugged at the corners of his lips at Sookie's reaction to his child's description of the taste of fairies, an amusement to match his own.The smile quickly disappeared at the sight of Compton's fingers tightening possessively around his lover's hand, but Sookie's flooding wave of relief smoothed down the force of his ire. He had the comfort of feeling her again. Their life forces were binding together once again, as his blood grew stronger within hers. The least he could give her was the space to enjoy her relief, especially since it apparently came from the warm affection towards a close friend, without even a drop of lust.Perhaps Bill's survival would be the beginning of her healing, a final, unexpected gift from Clancy.“Clancy lives on in Bill,” he announced, his tension relaxing away as he leaned back and closed his eyes. He thought back to Appius's explanation of the biology of the the bond, the words that had echoed through his mind and drained his heart perpetually over the past few days. She will no longer live in you. Indeed, this was the simple explanation. It was the skeleton of the matter, but left out the soft flesh and sinewy muscles.Feeling the soothing caress of his child's eyes upon him, his own eyes flutter open.Their gazes lock, and he is laid bare, luxuriating in the exposure. She sees his shattered bones and smells the rotting flesh and decomposing muscles on which his starved body is feeding. She knows she must stop the bleeding, and soon, if they are all to survive. She leans in, but whispers loud enough for the words to reach both lovers. “As you live on in Sookie.”Her words spill into him and he laps them up with ravenous lust and greed. The Viking's satisfied smile warms into a grin, as he closes his eyes once again.And soon, very soon, she will live in me again.