Dead Quiet by Trisha
Spoilers for Dead and Gone. Please do not read this if you do not want to be spoiled. Reviews are more than welcome, negative or positive. This is an Eric/Sookie story. I doubt it will get racy but it might get somewhat dark. The Sookieverse and everything relating belongs to Charlaine Harris, of course.
In the dark of my bedroom, the green display on my alarm clock glowed 2:00 am so brightly, it seemed to be rubbing in the fact that I was still awake. As if I wasn't hyper aware of that fact. Which I was. Watching the time change minute-by-minute. Not sleeping. Not doing anything else one might do in a bed at two in the morning. I'd been this way for the last week.
The plain fact of it was that I couldn't sleep because I was worried about Eric. As ridiculous as it might seem to worry about the well-being of a vampire as old and powerful as he, I couldn't seem to help it. And it's not like I didn't have worries enough of my own. My wounds from my time in the care of Things One and Two were mostly healed but I still flinched whenever my fingers ran over those places, feeling hurts that ached only in memory.
And they ached hard.
I saw Eric several times- several nights- in the weeks following the end of the Fairy War. He shared as much of his blood with me as he could. It helped. And then he told me he couldn't come to see me for a while. Or rather, he told my answering machine. He said I needed to rest. He said he was taking a trip to Nevada at the invitation of the king, something about an official ceremony to designate his new standing with Felipe at Felipe's home court.
This rang true but it also set off some warning bells. I'd thought Eric's position with the new regime was already being settled right over in Shreveport, what with Victor hanging around and Sandy there too. But vampires are big into their ceremonies and formalities so the bells were pretty low-key. I'd admit to a little hurt than Eric hadn't invited me but that hurt ended the minute I considered the way Felipe and Victor had tried to co-opt me to use my disability to their own advantage. In Nevada. Away from my home and my job and my life.
Every time I considered what could have happened if Eric hadn't used the marriage knife the way he had, I shivered. Not that he was entirely in the right there! Far from it. Maybe if he'd reached me when he tried to call, he would have tried to explain, to prepare me. Maybe. Or maybe not. But with Eric, the idea of lesser evils is always popping up. I hadn't seen or heard from him since he'd left, weeks ago. Or from Pam either, which didn't help with the worrying.
2:03. I groaned and sat up. I needed to sleep. Eric wasn't wrong there. The pain might have disappeared but I still got a bit dizzy from time to time. I stood slowly, letting my flannel night gown fall around my legs. There was cocoa in the kitchen. It seemed like a night for a nice, hot cup.
I shot a glance at the ceiling as I walked into the kitchen. Amelia had left for New Orleans, for a visit I thought might end up becoming permanent. I missed her more than I'd thought I might, though she'd taken Tray's death so hard, I couldn't do anything but be glad she was gone. She said she needed time away from the places where they'd spent time together. I'd once felt the same about my shower, in a less tragic sense.
The cocoa did its trick, putting comfort into my body with its sweet warmth. I wrapped both hands around the mug and walked to the living room, just wandering. The dark was nice. I could see very well and that didn't startle me. The effects from Eric's blood would last longer this time, he had said. I had to be okay with that when the alternative was to be scarred for life.
I went to the window and realized I was looking for Eric's pale face to reflect back at me. It didn't. Glancing toward the cemetery, I wondered where Bill had gotten to. I assumed he'd gone to ground like he had before, getting himself healed. The weirdness of weeks without seeing a single vampire was starting to itch at me.
I could call Pam. I'd called a few weeks ago and left a message asking about Dr. Ludwig's bill, which had been paid in full. She never called back and I figured Eric had told her to give me some time. I found my phone beside the couch and punched the number for Fangtasia. It rang. And rang. And rang. No one answered and it didn't go to the answering machine like usual.
Hum. Now that was not right. Fangtasia was always open when the sun was down. Eric wouldn't have it any other way. Either someone was dropping the ball with their master out of town (and I seriously doubted that, knowing Pam) or something was wrong in a serious way.
I hemmed and hawed for a bit as I got dressed. I had to work the night shift and so I really couldn't go anywhere… except that I was hardly sleeping anyway. But if Eric and the vampire contingent needed me, they would call, right? And did I really want to get myself put in the middle of their vampire shit again? I was barely healed from my last supernatural adventure. I winced from remembered pain as I pulled my hair back into its customary ponytail and reached for my shoes, each pair placed neatly on the closet floor. I chose sneakers. It was not a night to worry about looking cute. After lacing them up, I hesitated, looking down at my car keys in my hand.
I was scared to go. I didn't want to get hurt again. But I couldn't spend another day pretending I wasn't worrying about Eric. My feelings for him might not be entirely clear but they weren't entirely not clear either. And I had acknowledged that he was my guy. I had to go because I cared about Eric and even if nothing was wrong, the whole "giving me time to heal" card was about played out.
I left a note on my kitchen table, just in case, saying where I'd gone. If I'd learned nothing else since inviting Bill into my life, it was that back-up measures never hurt.
The drive to Shreveport was long. My sweaty hands slid over the steering wheel. I remembered making the drive in the passenger seat of Eric's Corvette, of how quickly he'd sped around each curve. He drives like he makes love, I thought, then wondered at the "love" part. Well, something like that. I really hoped that I wouldn't find anyone bleeding at Fangtasia- at least, anyone bleeding who didn't want to be. And I really, really hoped I'd make it home again without bleeding myself.
The parking lot at Fangtasia isn't large and it was undeniably empty. I drove past it once, looking hard at the building. Nothing seemed unusual other than the dark sign. I thought about whether I should park my car there or not. If someone was watching, it would be a dead give-away that I was inside. But there was really no way to leave it down the street without having to walk, unprotected, through the dark. I pulled around to the employee entrance and parked square in front of the door, as close to the building as I could get.
I paused before opening my car door, sending out my extra sense to search for people inside. Nothing. The door was unlocked, which sent a spiral of ice down my spine. I made my way in the dark to Eric's office. I didn't know what I was looking for. Something inside my brain shouted at me to leave. I felt like that dumb girl in the movies who walks alone in the woods when the audience knows the monster is waiting behind the next tree. If I had an audience, I thought they would be kicking my ass right about now. But I had to know. What was I supposed to do, just go home and wait some more? It occurred to me that sometimes, "stupid" and "gutsy" are two different words for the same thing.
Eric always kept his office neat as a pin. Even when I'd been sick unto death, lying on his couch, I'd noticed the tidiness. A sign of an orderly mind, my teacher used to say, was a tidy desk. And Eric's desk was completely bare.
I went around to the far side of the desk and sat in his chair, half-wishing I were psychic. It occurred to me that I should maybe phone Alcide and see if he could send over someone to smell the place. What good was it to be owed a favor if I never called it in? But with Tray's ghost hanging over my head (not literally), I didn't feel quite right about calling before I was sure I needed help. Tray may have been something of a lone wolf but that didn't make him any less one of the pack.
I ran my hands over the smooth wood of Eric's desk. I didn't know what kind of wood it was but it was rich and smooth. And cool as Eric's own skin. A pang went through me, so strong that I pressed my fist into my chest. Taking a deep breath, I got control of myself. Eric's tough and old and canny as hell, I reminded myself sternly.
"It would sure be nice if there were a note called 'What to do if I disappear' in here somewhere," I muttered, opening the side drawers and peering inside. It was too dark to make out much so I pulled the chain on the desk lamp. The bottom drawer held files, mostly on accounting and supplies. The other two were your basic desk drawers, holding pens and sticky pads and white-out and other office stuff. My lip quirked up at the sight of the sticky pads. It was hard to picture Eric, Mr. Ancient Viking Stud-Man, posting himself little reminders.
The long drawer over the leg area looked normal but when I tugged on it, it opened. Uh-oh, I thought, as I knew for a fact that Eric kept this one locked. I didn't think it ever held anything super important because, well, Eric's no dummy and it's a pretty obvious hiding place. But all the same, it had held something important enough to lock up.
Had held, because it was empty. Bad sign, I thought. If my stomach sank any lower, it would be in my pretty, pink toenails. Sure, it was possible that Eric had decided to close the bar while he was out of town. And not tell me. And leave his doors unlocked. And clean out his drawer. And spirit Pam and Bill away. Possible, but not likely. The way my life went, I had to figure on the worst possibility being the truth of any situation. This had trouble written all over it.
I stood to leave but paused as my extra sense picked up someone headed in from the bar area. A Were, I thought. Could be really good, could be really bad. I ducked under the desk even knowing that any Were worth his fur would smell me in a hot second.
I recognized the feel of his mind before I heard his voice. "It's Quinn," he said and sat on the couch. I think he was trying to make himself non-threatening after our last encounter. In Eric's dead-empty bar, it did not help, but I crawled out anyway.
I was too shaken up to dissemble. "What the hell is going on?" I demanded, standing in front of him with my arms wrapped around my middle.
Quinn's face was somber in the half-light. "Felipe sent me."
I figure he thought I wouldn't want to hear anything more. Maybe that was his way of not helping Eric 'cause I was pretty sure that helping the man he thought stole me away was last on his list of priorities.
"Okay," I said, trying not to give anything away with my voice. "Sent you for what?"
Something moved across Quinn's face, something that looked an awful lot like pity. He opened his mouth, shut it again, and shook his head. "Sookie… Eric has been sentenced to death. They're executing him tomorrow night."
The look on my face must've been one big, shocked question, because Quinn went right on to say, "For failure to adhere to the King's ruling that placed you under the vampire's protection."
I'd dropped to my knees before I realized I'd hit the ground. "Quinn, that doesn't make any sense at all. I called for help and Eric sent Bubba. And that's the only time, ever, when I asked for official protection."
"That may be true but Felipe is calling on the spirit of the agreement, not just the letter." Quinn sighed, rubbing his hands over his bald head. He leaned back on the couch and leveled a straight gaze my way. "I'm the last damn person who should be here talking about this, Sookie. But they thought you'd believe me over one of them."
You are one of them, I thought, somewhat unfairly, before I could stop myself. I reminded myself to step cautiously. "I don't understand you. They think Eric didn't protect me?"
Quinn's lips tightened into a straight, thin line. "Felipe wants you. And Victor wants to bring you to Felipe because it will raise him up in the eyes of his King, even more so than he is already. But Eric…" Quinn's fists clenched. "Eric made sure they couldn't touch you. You know how."
He made that last part sound so dirty, I clenched my own fists, to keep myself under control. "And?" I asked carefully.
"You've gotta understand, Sookie, these vampires, they can't let Eric put a single toe across the line of obedience. They let him live because they thought he was useful but there were plenty of vamps in Felipe's court who thought that was a mistake. Maybe they wanted Eric's area or maybe they just don't like him. Not everyone thinks he walks on water, you know."
I let that remark go. "And they think he was disobedient over me?"
"What they think and what they claim to think are probably two different things. Felipe has been convinced that leaving Eric in charge of Area 5 was a mistake. Eric's claim on you should have been something Felipe could maneuver around but Eric blocked him when he tried. He knows now that Eric is not ever going to be the King's animal. And he still wants you, for your skills, for your… for whatever."
Bad. Really bad. I wiped my hands on my knees. "Is all this true? I mean, is Eric really still alive or are you just telling me that? I don't know why they wouldn't just kill him on the spot, if they think that he's so much trouble."
Quinn leaned toward me. "I swear he is still alive. Or at least, he was when I left Nevada. Vampires don't kill each other lightly, you know that. Since they didn't kill him during the take-over, they need to process this whole thing in an official way. Felipe told Victor to stick close to Eric and arrest him at the first legit opportunity. So, Victor waited. And when Bill phoned and told Eric that you'd been… that there was trouble, Victor was present and heard everything."
Thanks, Bill, I thought. Yeah, more of me being unfair but I figured some unfairness was allowed tonight. "And then what happened?" I said, the ache in my stomach growing hotter. "I knew there was a reason Eric couldn't come for me but I didn't know what it was."
"Victor arrested him the minute that call ended. Bill didn't know. Victor claimed that Eric had been asked to protect you when he sent Bubba and that he should have maintained that protection until the danger had passed. Bill was with you but not by Eric's doing. At least not directly."
"How did Victor arrest Eric? I saw him after that and he didn't tell me any of this. And besides, Victor may be strong and all but Eric's not exactly a pussy cat."
Quinn snorted. "Every vampire in Fangtasia would have been at Victor's command. His word supersedes Eric's. And after Eric was under control, Victor made a deal with him. Eric agreed to attend a tribunal in Nevada under the condition that he would be allowed to remain free- under watch, but free- in his area until you were rescued and healed."
No wonder Eric had been so choked up about not being able to come for me. Things in my brain began to click into place. "So once I was healed up enough to go back to work, they arranged the date and Eric had to go. Why didn't he just run away?"
"He had to go," Quinn said, almost grudgingly. "If he hadn't, he would have been declared rogue and killed on sight, anywhere he went."
And that was why Pam had said Eric lived on in me. They all knew he was a dead man. They all knew but me. I had to think but my mind was racing. "Pam? Bill?"
"Pam's with Eric," Quinn said. "But she's not in trouble. They know Eric's child has to do his bidding. She's staying near his… his cell. I don't know where Bill's gotten to."
An image popped into my mind of vibrant, active Eric locked in a cage like a beast. At least Pam was there. "What…" My words cracked and I stop and shook my head. Standing carefully, I made my way back to Eric's desk. On the wall behind the desk, I noticed a shallow dent in the plaster. It was ringed with dried blood that held a single blond hair. Eric's or possibly Pam's, I guessed. Beside the dent was Eric's Fangtasia calendar. I opened it to January and stood in front of it but closed my eyes. I didn't need a photograph. I could see him far more clearly in my mind. And in my mind, he was looking back at me, his eyes glacial and unrelenting.
"What am I supposed to do now?" I whispered without turning around.
Quinn cleared his throat. "Felipe sent me to tell you that as Eric's spouse, you will be sent his ashes and personal affects."
I turned slowly. "Tell Felipe I will come and get them myself."