Disclaimer: The Sookie Stackhouse Series is the creation of Charlaine Harris. Don't sue me Charlaine! I love your books.
A/N- This story is a companion piece to "Understanding". If you haven't read it, and the stories that precede it, this one won't make any sense. These stories are a departure from the Sookie Canon.
This story is told from Eric's point of view. If I can even attempt to write from a vampire's point of view, I'm indebted to Malanna's and Terri Botta's work for having prodded me to think with a bite.
Thanks to Kricket for spurring me (in a very nice way) to explore Chapter 12 of "Understanding" in greater depth.
Extremely bad language warning in Chapter 1, early on.
But, dear, cling close to me; since you were gone,
My barren thoughts have chilled me to the bone.
-William Butler Yeats, from Reconciliation
He climbed the stairs and strode across the mezzanine with his mind churning ceaselessly. Tonight was the night. Finally. He was steeling himself, preparing to see how bad it was, where he was going to be starting from.
I'll get her back. No matter how long it takes. Even if it's true that she's with some fucking fairy, she's mine. Who the hell even knows what she's thinking if she been with the fae. Look at what Niall did a year and a half ago. No. Until I hear from her that she wants someone else, I'm not going to believe it. And even then, she's still mine. I have fought for her like a fucking warrior, paid a fortune in fines for Clancy and I will make her see reason. He was a bastard anyway. He never respected her the way Pam or the others do. Even if she was upset, which I am more than willing to admit, that I made her read him and then I killed him, he was no big loss. He would have sold her to the highest bidder if he could have. She has to see that. I hurt her. I know I hurt her. In more ways than one. But he would have done worse. Fucking Irish Bastard. I never should have let him near her after what Niall had told us. I should have gotten rid of him as soon I found out about her heritage. What choice did I have but to kill him? Did she really not understand that? Maybe she really didn't see what could happen. She can be so naïve. For all her smarts, and she is so damn smart for a relatively inexperienced person, she sometimes just doesn't get the way the world works. My world, even her world. Or maybe it's just that she doesn't like how the world works. She's always trying to make nice with them at the club. She acted like she almost liked him just because he stopped being so fucking insulting. He didn't really respect her as my bonded partner. I could have fucking killed him for that alone but she just hates that attitude. Always trying to get me to make nice and not throw my weight around for her benefit. Always having to do it behind her back. But this time there was no way to keep her out of it. She was so upset, so angry. I wish I could stop seeing her face like that in my mind. When she slapped me. When I threw her back in the booth. When… when she got hurt because she fought me. She is always fighting me one way or another. What kind of woman that size and in her right mind would even try to fight with me? And I was trying to be careful. Damn table. I can still hear the sound. I wish I could forget it. I felt how it hurt her. But she kept on trying to fight me, even when I tried to scare her. So fucking stubborn and on important things, where she needs to just follow my lead. Fucking feisty creature. But this time, so angry. Angry and shocked. She looked like she hated me. She wouldn't look at me. If I could pick one time, one fucking time, where I could have glammed her that would have been it. She looked at me like she didn't know me. Like she didn't know what I was or what I do. She's seen me do stuff like that so many times, but this time, this time, she just… Alright, it's true that I forced her to give him up. But she has to see that I was right to force her because I already thought the fucking bastard was probably going to sell her out. She got all freaked out when she was in his head because that's obviously exactly what he was thinking. That's proof, right there Sookie, that once again, I'm right on these things. But I guess she thought I should reason with him or some shit like that. Always with the fucking questions and trying to do things her way. Her fucking scruples about not using her gift to get anybody killed unless she thinks they should be killed because she's seen in their head and they really deserve it. Well he fucking deserved it. I knew it from the moment he blurted it out in front of Thalia that the bastard was going to be a problem. Even Thalia knew he was a problem and she thinks humans are like blood bags. Maybe she'll remember Thalia telling her that what she did could cause her problems. Thalia gave me that look like she'd choose Sookie over Clancy any day. Fucking Thalia. Even Thalia likes Sookie and she doesn't like a damn thing. How bad would it have to be that Thalia would choose Sookie over a vampire? Thalia thought it was fine that I killed Clancy… But Pam and Sookie think Thalia is a little over the edge. Okay, forget Thalia. Pam can tell her what Thalia thought in a way that makes it sound reasonable. Pam with her attitude about taking things too far with Sookie or not waiting until I had Sookie out of the club to have her and Maxwell kill Clancy. Well, hindsight is fucking useless and I wanted him dead before he started speed dialing anyone. And Pam has such insight into 'her friend' and how I wasn't skillful enough to keep Sookie from knowing. The woman is a fucking mind reader, remember? What did Pam think we could have done about that? And then talking to Claudine about how upset Sookie is that I killed Clancy and the other four and that it was so traumatizing. She's lucky I didn't do more to punish her. I did what I had to do to keep Sookie safe. And she was safe. She just had to run to Claudine and that asshole brother of hers, and to Niall. The fucking fae family from hell. Well, at least Niall knows I'm right. At least he got it and told me I did the right thing, as if I need his fucking approval for taking care of my bonded partner. But he agreed with me. So help me if she is with that fairy, who ever the fuck he is, if Niall knew about it and didn't tell me… and fucking not responding to our calls since they saw her on her birthday. Only that message that she was coming back at the end of July and going to stay somewhere else until the summit. Who the hell knows what she was doing over there, wherever the hell they had her in Ireland. Well, her little Irish vacation is over, obviously, and she'll come home after the summit. Even if it's to Bon Temps not Shreveport, I'll still be able to get her back. If she's with that fairy, I'll be very careful how I kill him, so that she won't know. She's grown so clever that it's hard to keep things in the dark. Maybe Pam could do it. But they said he was huge. No, I'll have to do it, and find a way to keep it from her. If it's really true. Bill seems so sure it's not true. The shifter says it's not true. But when Pam talked to the witch and her teacher, it seems less certain. Fucking Alcide with his attitude last week. I could have killed him, ripped his fucking throat out right there when he told me he heard she was with someone else. I was so close to killing him. Pam shouldn't have pulled him away. "Your woman". My fucking wife and bonded partner! I will find a way to totally screw him over if it's the last thing I do for mentioning her in that way in my presence or even at all. The shifter has known her the longest and he said it isn't true. Bill said that he thought if she wanted to break with me that she'd tell me to my face because that's what she did with him and what he believes she did with that tiger cocksucker who almost got us all fucking killed. I can't believe he actually touched her. I will never forget that day on her porch where I was so close to killing him. Another one of the many times I held back so she wouldn't be upset. I hope she fucking cut his heart out when she broke with him. He did help Pam. She would want me to remember how he took good care of Pam. Fine. Forget him. He's not the problem. Bill says he is sure she is not with the fairy and says that she is faithful. She was faithful to him. But then she broke with him. What Bill did to her was wrong. But I was just protecting her, which she can't possibly think of as being like what Bill did to her. She can't hate me for that. She's had time to get over it. Plenty. I'll get her back. Even if she hates me right now. I'll change her mind. She's mine. She knows that she's mine and she had even gotten to the point where she liked it. She will like it again. She will forgive me and realize that I was just doing what I needed to do to keep us safe. I'll get her back.
He entered the ballroom and could see her sitting on a low chair near the Pythoness, up on the stage. It was true then, that the Pythoness was making her some sort of judge. Felipe had told him earlier that evening that he had heard a rumor about it. How embarrassing was it to have his King telling him what was going on with his bonded partner? Felipe had told him in private. One of his lawyers knew the Pythoness's judicial attorney, Nikolaidis or whatever his name was. Felipe had never asked what was going on, as if to spare him the embarrassment. It was still unbearable. What he had to take for this woman. But he'd take it, to get her back. He drew closer to get a better view.
He drew up sharp. She was… the same, but different. It was true, what the witch had told Pam. She did look taller, and so much thinner. But she was luminous. She looked otherworldly, overlaid upon her human form. And he could feel…. Nothing. Nothing from her, still. She was so beautiful. She still looked sad. She must have seen him come into the room, but she didn't even look at him.
Fuck. If this is where I'm starting from, it's not… Fine. This is where I'm starting from. Fine.
The Pythoness made it official. She's really going to be a judge. What did she learn when she was in Ireland to make her a judge, he wondered. A judge over vampires and other supes and humans. She has ties to so many. It makes sense. It is much needed.
Sookie would be a good judge. She is a very fair person. She will be fair with me, when I explain it again. She will listen. What is wrong with the moron asking questions of the Pythoness? You almost have to cheer her for hitting him. They are leaving. I could go to her room. But she has guards at the door according to the bellhop. I could still try to see her. Is that guard coming toward me? Her guard? She wants to see me at 11 pm in her room. He isn't going to Pam or to Bill. Shit. She wants to talk to me alone. Perhaps that is good, because then I can try to persuade her again to see my side. Unless she's asking me to come alone because she's really breaking with me. But she can't. We are too bonded. She's had too much of my blood to ever get me out of her. I made sure that bond was as tight as it could be short of turning her. If she tries to break with me, I just won't fucking let her. I will resist. I will tell her I will wait for her no matter how long it takes. I will ask her about the fucking fairy ….
"Are you doing okay?" Bill was looking up at him with narrowed eyes. "You look like you're getting on one of those jags where you start getting really negative. You need to stay sharp. Stay positive."
"I'm fine." I'm not telling him. I don't need any advice from Bill or from Pam on how to talk to her. I know her better than they do. She's my bonded partner, my wife. She has to listen to me. She will listen. If she's really with the fairy, I'm going to fucking drain him dry. I don't care how big the bastard is, or what Niall will say, I'll kill him. But I'll have to be careful so she doesn't find out. If she found out, it would be another disaster. She's my bonded partner, my wife. I should have the right to kill him but she won't understand that. Fucking fae. The whole fucking damned race. They better have taken fucking perfect care of her if she was with them in Ireland. What is with letting her get so damn thin? She was already getting thinner before she left. I was continually on her about not skipping meals. Was she with the fae or was she with some Tuatha Dé person? Niall wouldn't tell me a damn thing about what she was doing. "Getting well. Growing stronger." How fucking strong is she if she's this damn thin? Even if she's doing magic like Niall, they should still force her to eat. Who knows what those damn fairies eat on their own, anyway…
"Eric, you really need to snap out of it. Remember that Felipe said that he needs you to cover for him at midnight with Louisiana revenues." Bill looked at him as if he knew he was immersed in the same swirling mental cesspool he'd been in for the past ten months.
"I'm fine." I had better snap out of it because if I go near her thinking this shit she is going to know it in no time. "I'll be back by midnight. I have to go do something upstairs."
The demon knocked on the door as an inside door could be heard closing.
"Come" he could hear from inside. Her voice sounded mostly the same but had a different timbre in a way. The demon swung open the door.
I can do this. I can.
She was standing but motioned to him to sit.
"Thank you for coming."
She looked nervous.
She's too thin but she's even more beautiful. Maybe it's just missing her so much. She was always so beautiful. I just want to drink her in. Literally. She smells so good. It's even as if I can smell her blood. She would be a good enough reason to still breathe… just to have her scent inside me. I could look at her all night. Devour her with my eyes.
"Are you… alright, Eric? You're so ashen. If you prefer to talk later, I understand."
Time to begin. I will let her know of my sacrifice for her. That I will not have another in any way in her place. I wouldn't even let Pam drain someone into a glass. I only want her.
"Ten months of synthetic blood does not do a body good."
Now I have her attention. She probably thinks that it is impossible for me. But I am determined. And I'm not afraid to let her know that.
"I am back for a few weeks before I return to Ireland. I am still not completely well. But I suppose more to the point is that I realize…"
I love this woman but I hate it when she rambles on like this. What is she saying? Get to the point. She looks so nervous… why is she nervous talking to me? Did I really make her afraid of me? The only time I've hurt her and that's what she remembers?
"I realize that I am changed from when we made our bond. I would understand if you wanted to diminish the bond so that you could be… happier."
Diminish our bond? Making me happier by further damaging our bond? What the fuck is she talking about? What is she up to? If this has to do with trying to get rid of me for that fucking fairy, so help me….
"I mean it as a genuine offer Eric. It is not a strategy."
I can't take this shit. What kind of fucking game is this? Do not tell me that you are with someone else. Do Not. "Who's the fairy?"
"I beg your pardon?"
She looks confused. Is she confused or is it that she's surprised I know about the fairy? "I have heard that you are now with someone else. Who is he?"
She looks troubled. But she doesn't look guilty. She is blushing. She looks… upset.
"Eric, Ciarán is basically Claude's boyfriend. I don't know who told you I am with someone else but it's not true. I've been celibate. As I said, this isn't a strategy or a ploy. I want you to be happy."
I knew it! Fucking Alcide piece of shit. I am going to screw you over like you have never been screwed. I am going to ruin you. I'll destroy your life and then I'll kill you. Slandering my bonded partner, my wife, you fucking piece of… Stop. I have to stop. Stay focused. She's been celibate. She didn't want to be with another. She is still mine. I have to figure out a way to make her see that she is mine, without making her feel like I am trapping her into it. She hates feeling trapped by me. She likes to feel she is graciously letting me have her. And what the fuck could she possibly think that she could do with our bond? Our bond is as good as gold. How could she possibly think that I don't want to be bonded to her? Is that what she is saying? Getting rid of our bond would make me happy? "You propose eliminating the blood bond we made not once but twice, as part of our marriage, and with all of the exchanges that we have had, to make me happy?" She has got to be kidding.
"I'm asking if it would make you happier, yes."
"Even if it would, how could you possibly diminish our bond? You'd be hard pressed to find a stronger bond than ours, Sookie." I will just leave out the part that she is like drops away from being turned if I chose to disrespect her wishes, which I won't. If this is some magical trick she proposes, I'll just remind her of Niall's little backfire and say that she could really end up hurting herself or me. That should make her think twice.
"I could become bonded to Pythia. She's 2,362 years old. I think that her blood would supersede yours in a bond, even with all the exchanges."
What The Fuck? Is she serious? Is she fucking serious? With the Ancient Pythoness? She has to be kidding... Unless this is some magical psychic thing. What the …? "Do you want to be bound to her?"
She won't even look me in the eye. She does NOT want to be bound to her, or to anyone else. But that doesn't tell me that she still wants to be bound to me. What is her agenda with this whole thing? Is she trying to break with me, then?
"I'm not talking about what I want. I'm asking what you want. I know you have been very unhappy. I don't want you to be unhappy."
I've been unhappy because you've been gone for ten months. Because the last time I saw you, you acted like you hated me, were never going to forgive me, were sorry you married me, bonded to me, probably ever met me, and I've had no real blood or any sex for the entire time you've been gone without contacting me other than our anniversary where I saw only your eyes and you still looked like you weren't too sure of me and you didn't even speak. Fucking don't want me unhappy. What would you think I would be? I really wonder if this is what Bill was talking about. She's moving toward breaking with me. She says she makes me unhappy so then she dumps me to spare me further unhappiness… some kind of bullshit. "If you want to dump me, why can't you just tell me straight out?"
"I'm not trying to dump you. I'm telling you that I realize I am not the person you married, the person you bound yourself to. I'm offering you an easy out. A way to move on."
She has got to be kidding. Move on? Like HELL I'll move on. With the amount of work and blood in this relationship, move on? You're MINE. This is pissing me off. How could she actually think that I want to be out of this relationship, this bond? After everything I went through to get this relationship to work? It would make me happy? Torrid makeup sex with a generous serving of femoral blood would make me happy. Waking up with you riding on top of me in my bed would make me happy. Feeling you run your fingers through my hair when you think I'm still asleep would make me happy. There are many things I can think of that would make me happy that do not involve you severing the only thing that I have of you right now. Even you forcing me to apologize would make me happy, because it would be a start.
He stood up abruptly. "If you want to make me happy, come home. Make me grovel and ask your forgiveness. Make me feel bad for having hurt you in order to keep you safe. For forcing you to do something you had always fought to avoid doing. That would make me happy. But don't ask me if I want to get rid of the only thing I have left of you."
This is just crap. She's mine and she still loves me. She wouldn't have spent all this time coming up with all this crap if she didn't think she had to protect herself against me because she still loves me. Look at her. She doesn't even know what to say. It's like she rehearsed it all in her head and it didn't go the way she planned it. This is just pissing me off. I know her every move. She hasn't changed so much that I don't know how to read her. I don't need the damn bond to know what she's thinking or feeling. I studied her every move and thought for long enough to know better.
He moved toward the door. No. I'll tell her I know. I KNOW she still loves me and she is just going to have to get over it. We are wasting time. Unless these fucking fae or tribespeople have found some way to extend her brief mortal life, we are wasting too much valuable time on issue of Clancy's fucking head. Ten months. Ten fucking months!
"Whether you let me feel you or not, I know you still love me, Sookie. I don't need a blood bond to know it. I know you do. You're wasting valuable time. We don't have hundreds of years to work it out, unless more has changed than just what I can see."
There was a knock at the door.
Fucking Pam. Go away. Now. Leave. I've still got 30 minutes before I have to be downstairs. And I need more time here.
She moved past him and touched his arm. Her scent just drew him. He couldn't resist pouncing on her. Her lips were soft and yielding. Just as he thought he could really hold her, have her, and she swayed as if she was weak in his arms… she pushed him away.
Feisty woman. Just like two years ago after Rhodes, pushing me off her. How many women have ever pushed me away? She could not be more opposite to a fangbanger if she tried. When you've won her you know you've really won something. After Rhodes she had to fight herself to resist me. But now she seems…truly ambivalent. This is going to take deft handling. She can get so damn skittish.
"That's Pam outside."
Well you may be the telepath, but I knew that well before you did. And she is ignoring my every thought to go away "Am I dismissed?" he asked.
"No, if you want to stay, you can stay. I just meant…"
You are so mine, Sookie Northman, and I will stoop to any means to get you back.
Sookie opened the door, nodding to the guard.
Pam broke into a smile and hugged her. Then she took in the fact that he was in the room and seemed to hesitate.
"I can come back if it's bad timing. This was just the first I could get away."
Bad timing? Go away and leave me alone with her.
"No, it's fine Pam, don't be silly." Sookie took her hand and led her into the room and avoided looking at him.
Pam looked uncomfortable and seemed to get the idea she was really intruding.
You're intruding and ignoring every thought I'm beaming you to leave.
But Sookie coolly ignored him and sat down with Pam. Was she listening to him, he wondered? She gave no sign if she was. He was calmer now, in Sookie's presence, than he had been in days, maybe months. It was as if the volume of the ceaseless rant that had seized him was finally turned down low. He just stood there looking at them. Looking at her. Glaring at Pam.
Damn her! And I can't do anything to her because if I do Sookie will get mad at me for punishing her friend.
They began to chat in all that girl chatter, which would have been charming if not for his thinking of how he wished he could punish Pam for not leaving. But, in the end, Pam was at least making herself useful by asking all the questions he should have asked but didn't.
County Meath, that vampire free zone of Ireland. So she has been with that tribeswoman Eithne then. The Tuatha Dé woman descended from Brigit twice over. What is she? 300 years old? Probably one of the most powerful descendants of the tribe still living, other than Declan. I've heard legends and stories of her. She's a healer but she possesses many powers. What was the name of the place where she lived? The Sanctuary in Irish, the Cúl Dín. If Sookie was with her… perhaps she is more powerful than I realized. That makes sense because the Pythoness has put her in charge of something quite difficult. Has she really already learned to control the magic she had? That night when she started to go after those two other Fellowship guys she had seemed as if she could have tapped into something very strong. But it was so dark. Not Sookie-like. If she could really control it well, she would be much safer than with me protecting her alone. And if she was very powerful? As powerful as Niall? More? Well, it doesn't matter. She loves me. She is still mine. The more powerful she is, the more she will need someone who loves her for who she is inside. That, as I know well, is hard to find. That's part of how I'll get her back. Why does she need to go back to Ireland? For how fucking long? I won't think about that now. I have to focus on getting her back to me before she tries to go back to Ireland.
What is she doing with Pam? Pam looks upset. Pam is still messed up from Memphis. Sookie is right. What is she doing? She glows like she did that night, but she looks peaceful. Look at her. She's luminous. She's so beautiful. She is even more beautiful. It's like she's pulling it out of Pam, but painlessly. And Pam is letting her. She could never resist Sookie, ever since Rhodes. Sookie has her completely loyalty. Pam was so angry at me for how the situation with Clancy was handled even if she won't say so anymore. Talking to Claudine after I forbade it. She's lucky I didn't kill her. But she did find out where Sookie was. And she agrees that Clancy had to go. Let's hope she tells Sookie how right I was.
Now what is she doing? She's got that look she gets when she talks to Hunter or that Barry. Is she talking to the Pythoness? She's definitely talking to someone in her head. I know that look well with her. Pam is looking at her wrist. What is that? What is that cut? It looks like it's over a vein...
"I'm sorry. I was distracted for a moment." She looked flustered.
"What did you do to your wrist?" Pam asked looking askance at the cut.
"It's nothing." She rose and went to the dresser, opening a drawer and withdrew a cuff bracelet, which she put over the cut.
If she's giving blood to someone I want to know about it. As it is, she's so thin, when I get her back, I'll need to be very careful. Who would do that to her, with her beautiful skin? Who would take blood from her and leave a mark on her like that, so that she might scar. There's only one scar that should be on her wrist and that's the one from our bond. She wanted that one. She will never forget me now that it is there. Even if she tried.
He came up behind her and slid the bracelet off her arm and looked at the cut. He held her wrist with his other hand and traced the fine scar from their marriage bond with his thumb. He felt her shiver.
Still mine. You offered to make this bond. You knew what I was. Maybe I was wrong to have covered up so much of my life. Maybe then the shock would have been less if I hadn't. Damn cut. That's going to scar if she doesn't get it healed. "You gave blood to someone. Why? And why did they not heal you?"
"It is none of your business. It doesn't matter." She turned and retrieved the bracelet from him then placed it back on her arm. "I'm afraid I must go next door. I have to prepare."
It is my business. You're mine and I don't want anyone touching you, let alone leaving marks on you. "I could heal it for you," he said looking down at her. He still held her wrist gently in his left hand. He didn't want to let her go.
"That won't be necessary," she said brusquely, withdrawing her arm from his hand.
She left the room.