Chapter 20- One Red Tear

(Finding out Claudine has gone missing)

"We need to get to Osiris, now."

***

I clenched my eyes to the wind as Eric threw me on his back and we launched off the hotel balcony. His voice buzzed in front of me and I realized he was speaking. I did my best to focus on the words despite the speed of our flight.

His voice was strained, and I could feel his internal battle raging within. "Sookie, there are some things you must know about the Were and supe communities in Miami. The lines…. They are blurred. The availability of money, and traffic, and water weres has produced some strange alliances. Griffith is Sheriff of Area, well of Greater Dade County and he may seem like a pawn, but he is really playing the game like a king, or a queen as it were. He has never mainstreamed, and is a very dangerous enemy to have. We have to play this with finesse."

I tried to blow out a hair that was stuck in my mouth without using my hands, which were tightly grasping Eric's chest but was not successful. So, with a mouthful of hair, I asked, "What does he look like?"

"Skinny, tall, a redhead. Freckles."

So Opie was Griffith. If that wasn't the summation of my luck, I didn't know what was. I swallowed back a mouthful of bile and muttered, "Ah, um, I may have some bad news in the whole enemy department, Eric." I squinted my eyes to chance a look at his reaction. Not a good idea. We were going mighty fast.

"Tell me, Sookie," he growled.

I clamped my eyes shut again. "Amelia, Claudine, and I had a run-in with him and some of his friends that first night. They wanted Claudine. We made sure they didn't eat her. That's why I think they took her. I mean, they really wanted her."

I felt the winds stilling against my face as we lowered stealthily onto the hard sidewalk, much to the amazement of the pedestrians who pointed and waved, some making Superman jokes.

"It's a bird, it's a plane…"

"Sookie." Eric shook me out of my observations and had my shoulders in his grip, staring intensely into my eyes. "This is important. I didn't realize Griffith's real end game until tonight. I should have known." He cursed and then re-asserted his focus. "Griffith doesn't want to eat Claudine. At least not entirely. What do you know about blood trafficking?"

I felt my eyes widen of their own volition and my breathing sped. "What, you mean like human trafficking?"

"Where fairy blood is concerned it's a lot like that. You don't hear about it a lot these days since the Fae population has dwindled, and they're so hard to catch. But I should have known when I came in the other night."

"Oh, my God. Claudine! I guess that explains the weird juju I couldn't put my finger on the other night. And why Claudine couldn't just pop out of the club when we were being attacked."

"If we are lucky, they will be doing their best to keep her alive. Though you can probably guess how difficult that would be for a group of vampires." He was ushering me toward the building that I hoped housed my friend, and definitely held my fears.

I could feel the anxiety creeping in, and even though I had always been one to keep my emotions under control, my heart was racing and lightheadedness was beginning to filter into the rest of my body. Eric must have felt my distress through the bond, because before I knew it, he had me gently pressed against the cold stone of a deserted alley right before the club's entrance. Tears pricked my eyes, and I struggled to even my breathing.

"You are having a panic attack, lover," he whispered lightly in my ear, his honey breath tickling the hairs on my neck. I felt him plucking the strings of our bond like a guitar; each vibration sending warmth and reassurance.

"Nothing can happen to her, Eric. You don't understand. I cannot lose her. If they hurt her… After all she has done for me…" The offending tears curved their own path over the apples of my cheeks, and I sniffed audibly.

"Sookie, I will do my best to end this peacefully. I need you to understand that this will not be easy for me, as it is not in my nature to abstain."

I peered up at him through salty lashes.

He sighed as the sight of me, lifting his sleeve to wipe my nose. "I will do my best, Sookie. We will find her."

I nodded and attempted to put myself to rights, wiping my eyes and rolling the hair tie off of my wrist and wrapping it around a ponytail at the base of my neck. "Ok, so what's the plan?" I asked after putting my game face back on.

"Blood," he stated simply, eyes ignited with purpose.

"Wait, what? Eric, you'll go nuts if you drink her blood. Damn it, I thought we were on the same page here!"

"No, Sookie. My blood. You must drink. Our bond is almost silent and just several sips will reignite that which is nearly severed. I need you to have extra strength in there. I'm not sure what we will be dealing with." He cupped my face with his enormous hand and pressed closer against me, firmly trapping me against the alley wall.

I shivered at his touch and the searing expression in his eyes. I felt no deception. No pretense. Only the desire to protect me from unknown threats.

"Shit, Eric," I muttered, still not convinced.

"Look at me! This is as muted as I will ever allow the bond to become between us. And you said it yourself: you wanted to know if you would still want me without the effect of the bond. So there you have it. I am yours. Bond or no bond. Haven't you seen it by now?" The desperation in his eyes was palpable. "How can you deny me?"

I reached up and ran my hand against the hard plane of his back, tucking my face into the nook of his arm. I whispered, knowing he would hear my muffled words, "You're right. It is you. It will always be you. Con la sangre de la muerte o con la sangre de la vida, I don't want to be without you."

A plump drop of red tinged the corner of his eye, and then rolled down to perch on the dark circle below. I did the first thing I thought of without considering, and raised my index finger up to capture the precious liquid. His gaze widened as I inspected the tear and placed it carefully on my tongue. As it rolled down my throat, my body burst into beautiful flames. Bright and light and cold and ice melded my insides and I knew we were joined in a way we had never been. Sparks floated into my organs and I felt his joy. Carbonated solids reshaped my cells. Precipitation dried the wettest places of my soul. He was in me, and I could tell by the look in his eyes, that there was now a burned in image of myself living within him.

I struggled for words, but nothing of consequence came out. If anything was going to eventually find its way off of my tongue, it was silenced by his mouth on my own.

His fervent, frantic kisses sealed whatever it was that had just happened between the two of us.

"Mine," he managed finally.

"Mine," I muttered softly against his neck.

He kissed me again, softly, reverently.

When he looked up again, there was a slight hint of laughter echoing in his gaze. "I would offer you more blood for strength, but it appears that you are at maximum capacity."

**Adrian POV**

"Tell me again why you are wearing that ridiculous get-up?" I asked when I was finally able to pull my head up high enough to get a good look at Perry. Ethan was long gone back to Texas to try to pick up the pieces of Austin's broken life and his nearly as broken, never to be wife. I snorted at my internal rhyming and attempted to focus my drunken stupor on my house manager-come-only source of support in the world.

Tonight he was dressed as what can only be described as a cowboy pirate. Complete with Jack Sparrow hat and wig up top and boots with spurs down below, Perry was quite the sight to see. If he was trying to blend in, he was failing miserably. Yesterday was worse though. He had done a sort of gothic/preppie mash up with guyliner, black lips, and an Abercrombie crewneck sweater vest. The dude really needed to do his homework on being incognito.

Where had I been these past few years? How had I never seen Perry outside of our home?

"Mr. Fernandez-"

"It is Adrian now, Perry. I am not my father. And you better fucking believe I am not my brother."

"You are still a Fernandez," he reprimanded me gently. "There is much to be proud of in that name."

I scoffed, shot-gunning what was left of my Three Kings concoction and attempted not to throw up in the process. That was one of the most horrid creations I had ever heard of, but I welcomed it- invited that shit in tonight, because tomorrow I was going down.

I raised my arm for another round for Perry and me, though I don't think he was actually drinking, and I took in the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed girl who raced off to fill my order. For all I knew, on the equinox that chick probably turned into a toaster. I sighed audibly and I could feel Perry's eyes on my head. How that guy stayed so calm and collected was beyond me.

I hadn't done such a hot job of that earlier. After my eventful meeting with that God-awful vampire, Lord Whatthefuckeverhisnameis, I had to hurry off to my appointment with the detectives working the case. I walked in confident that we had tied this case up in a perfect little Martha Stewart bow, and that we were going to get away with everything completely unscathed. And we would have. That is, until the divers.

Ugh. The divers.

Those divers had shown up at the request of some higher up and had gone sniffing where they shouldn't have. And they didn't find anything. The bodies were burned beyond all recognition; they couldn't even find a single tooth for dental records. The divers were leaving, until a rogue flashlight hit gleaming silver.

They found the cache of weapons. Fire has to get incredibly hot to destroy solid artillery. And in our haste to be rid of the bodies, we had forgotten all about that which lay in the deepest cargo holds of my father's yacht. Now there were many, many questions. Questions that orbited like moons around the boat in my possession and the circumstances that didn't quite line up.

The cocktail waitress returned with our drinks, and even she gave me a speculative look. The cuts and scratches surely didn't help my case.

I was crumbling. Everything was imploding. I felt like a lone soul handcuffed to a chair, waiting in a building set for demolition. And time was running out.

Ten,

Nine,

Eight…

It was then that I saw her. Striding through the door like a woman on fire. Determination and purpose blazed in her eyes.

Surely she was here for me.

I sat a little straighter, trying to fix myself for when she saw me here, needing her. Lost to all, save her.

Perry saw him before I did. I crumpled under the weight of my reality. Deteriorated further.

He flanked her from behind, whispered something in her ear. Left.

No! My mind shouted, recoiling at their….. At their everything... Together.

That was supposed to be me beside her. Whispering in her ear. Lighting her up from the inside.

I must have lurched out of my seat, because suddenly I felt Perry's hand clamp down on mine. "No!" I cried, knocking my glass to the ground in my haste to get to her. "Not him! Not him for her!"

With an authority I had never before heard in Perry's voice, he commanded, "You stay here. Do not move to her. Something…. Something is happening. I will see then I will be back. You will stay."

I had no choice. I had to obey him. I slammed my body back on the chair, pounding my fist on the table. I needed a drink. Where is my? Where is the…? I looked around for my glass. I found it spinning lazily on the floor. Its contents drifted longingly out onto the hard oak floor. I started shaking when I saw it, fury and loss and ache and sorrow and more than anything else helplessness filled me to the hilt.

The glass wasn't even broken.


A/N: I have no words save one. Sorry.