By Terri Botta
Disclaimer: I don't own the Southern Vampires. Sole copyright belongs to Charlaine Harris. I'm poor so don't sue.
Timeframe: Post-From Dead to Worse
Summary: Sookie must live with the consequences of her choices. Eric POV.
A/N: Taking a break from my book to write this coz Eric won't leave me alone. This is a little what if story exploring what might happen if Sookie broke things off with Eric and renounced their bond. This is a one-shot. There will be no more chapters or sequels to it. It's not beta'd so all mistakes are mine. Enjoy.
It has been eight years since he has seen her. Nothing for him, but no doubt a lifetime for her. Or so she must think. And even now he is uncertain why he is being given the opportunity to visit her. He didn't ask for this boon, and he wonders what Felipe's game is in offering him this moment. (Everything is a game with the King of Nevada, Louisiana and Arkansas. A deadly game. But that is all right because he is a master chess player.) However, he is not stupid enough to refuse. Besides, he wants to see her, if only to lay eyes upon her again. He has not looked upon her face since the night she was taken from him, a consequence of her own stupidity and rash temper.
He is led by Jonathon to a plain white door, but he has no illusions that the room beyond is a cell no matter how gilded the cage may be, and he steels himself for what he will see once Felipe's henchman opens the door. He gives the Asian man a nod, ignoring Jonathon's smirk, and waits for the other vampire to put in the code to unlock the elaborate security system barring the entrance.
It is necessary because Felipe's pretty bird has tried to fly her coop a number of times. All with no avail, but it's left her without allies in Felipe's court. It is common knowledge that anyone caught trying to help her escape will be put to death, and not necessarily slowly. The tiger met that end two years ago. Felipe was so cruel even Eric was surprised. But Quinn's death served as an even further example to those who would try to take what belongs to the King.
The painted metal door slides silently open, and he is treated to his first glimpse of an opulent bedchamber. There is no way his former mate chose the décor for this room. The brightly colored silks and plush furniture calling back to a scene from 1001 Arabian Nights is all Felipe's taste for the opulent and luxurious. Had she been given the opportunity to decorate it herself, no doubt she would have chosen floral wallpaper and pine furniture with Southern accents, but maybe not allowing her to design her own cell was part of Felipe's dominance over her.
Or maybe she refused to decorate her room and the King just did it for her. It would be just like his stubborn once-bonded to do such a thing. Her pride goeth before her fall, and she fell. She fell hard.
He tries not to seem too eager as he steps into the room because he is acutely aware that he is being watched, and he gives the chamber a bored once over before setting his eyes on the caged bird sitting on an ottoman near the far side of the room. She is clothed in a flowing silk dressing gown of ice blue, and his dead heart twinges because it is the same color as the dress she wore to the Vampire Ball in Rhodes. Whether Felipe or she has chosen this color, he does not know, and the not knowing makes him angry. Either way, the selection is meant to be a jab at him, and he feels the slide of the knife going into his heart.
She looks up as he enters, and her face belies her surprise for a brief moment before she closes herself off again. The years have been kind to her, no doubt due to infusions of vampire blood arresting her aging, and she looks much the same as she did the last time he saw her, although there is a haunted pain in her eyes that had never been there when she was with him.
The faint remnants of the bond between them flutter weakly, and he feels her shame. She looks away, turning her gaze to the hand-carved vanity with its jewelry trays full of expensive baubles that she would never wear if given the choice.
It is ironic that all of this started with her insisting she be given a choice. Oh how little did she know that she never really had a choice. It was only his and Bill's benevolence and affection for her which caused them to give her the illusion of free will. Too much it seems, because she was naïve enough to try to exert it, only to find she never had it at all.
She is attended by a lady maid who rises to her feet as he enters. The woman gives him a wry smile as she breezes past him to exit the room, and he is surprised when the door closes behind her, leaving him alone with his former mate. This he had not expected.
There are a number of reasons why Felipe would allow him to be alone with Sookie, and none of them sit well with him. First, of course, is the gloating factor. Letting him be in the same room with his former lover, surrounded by her scent, all the while knowing he is forbidden to touch her. Second is more sinister. Allowing them a few moments of privacy for her to plead with him to help her escape again. Theoretically he is her only ally now, and if Felipe can get her pleas and his agreement on tape, it would give the King ample reason to kill him.
He can't risk that. No, the only way he can save her is to kill the King and claim her as spoils, and while plans to do just that are in the works, they are still years away from being ready to execute. So he steels himself to resist her should she choose to try to coerce him into another doomed escape attempt.
The door clicks closed, and she realizes that they are alone. She raises her gaze to him again, and he can see the pleading behind her eyes. He sighs mentally. This will be very, very hard.
"Eric," she says softly.
"Sookie," he replies. "You look well."
He knows that she is. One of the conditions of his unconditional surrender of her to Felipe without bloodshed was that she be well cared for. Of course, Felipe's idea of "well cared for" is no doubt vastly different from what he (or Sookie) would consider acceptable.
She nods slowly and deliberately extends one delicate ankle, revealing the glided bracelet that serves as both tracking device and shackle. He has heard of this device. Apparently it gives off quite a shock when triggered, and it will do so immediately if the wearer leaves a certain defined area. The very sight of it enrages him, but he swallows his fury. Now is not the time for rash actions. Now is the time for patience and cunning.
"I admit that I am surprised to see you," she admits.
"I was in Las Vegas on business, and my King was gracious enough to offer me an audience," he replies, keeping his voice neutral and cold.
She hears his tone and frowns with disappointment, sliding her foot back under the long folds of her robe.
The feeling across the muted bond is deep despair, and he must muster up all of his buried anger and sense of betrayal to keep himself from grabbing her and trying to fly away with her. It amazes him how much he still loves her, even though she rejected him and almost got him killed.
"I read your latest book. Your Arkansas based ghostwriter is a woman of some considerable talent. Although I am confused as to why Felipe allows you to continue to dictate them," he says in a conversational tone.
"They make him money," she replies simply. "And I… owe him for… loss of income," she adds.
He bites the inside of his cheek so his fangs will not descend. She is speaking of Compton. Bill died in a futile attempt to protect Sookie on the night Nevada took her, and Felipe is obviously charging her with the loss of Bill's revenue. It is the King's right, and something he would do himself, but to know that it is happening to Sookie is a reality he finds hard to swallow. He digs deep down into his memories of their last days together to gather the courage to endure.
He recalls her betrayal, and her blithe rejection of their bond, even after he had acquiesced to all of her demands, and had done everything he could to prove to her that he could be a good mate for her. She had shamed him, humiliated him and almost made him lose everything, and it still had not been enough to satisfy her ridiculous sense of human pride.
The anger is almost as fresh now as it was then, and he uses it as a shield around his heart.
"I must admit the latest one surprised me though," he comments with a cruel leer. "You painted me in such a… flattering light. And of course, you revealed several fairy secrets. If the fey had not cut themselves off from the human world, you would be in very big trouble, my former lover."
He pauses and waits for her reaction before he continues.
"But I am eager for the next book. You are so close to getting to the best part: the part where you publicly renounce me and denounce our bond in front of Felipe. Where you told him before witnesses that I had lied to you, tricked you, and forced you into a blood bond against your will. I think your throngs of avid readers will be very interested in what happens between us. Our relationship has many fans. Do you think they will be disappointed that we don't have a happy ending?"
He knows his barb hit home because he can feel the lance of pain through what is left of their bond.
"You know I never meant for any of that to happen," she whispers regretfully.
"How could you not? I tried to warn you. I tried to tell you many, many times that my protection was the only thing keeping you safe; that without me to intercede, Felipe would take you and make you work for him. Did you think I was lying to you, my former lover? You know I swore to never lie to you."
He leers again, fighting the tide of agony that rips through him whenever he recalls the tribunal and Felipe's judgment. The night after she denounced their bond, the King seized her and took her to Vegas with him. All too soon, his headstrong, willful, former bonded found out that certain laws regarding humans and consent do not apply to Kings, least of all treacherous bastards like Felipe.
Her own anger joins his in the bond. She may be subdued, but she is far from broken, and he hopes her inner strength will keep her sane in the intervening years before he can take over.
"You may have never lied, but you never explained anything to me either. You never told me anything. You just said we were pledged, that the knife meant we were married under vampire law, and that anyone who wanted my services would have to go through you. You never told me what would happen if… we stopped seeing each other," she accuses.
"Did you ever give me the chance?" he counters. "No. You were too busy telling me you wanted to be your own woman and shoving your choice in my face." He looks at the gilded cell with bemusement. "I see that is… working well for you."
Her eyes brim with tears for a moment before he sees her set her jaw. He knows that stubborn clench far too well.
"You're a rat bastard, Eric Northman," she seethes.
He doesn't let how much her words hurt him show on his face.
"I have been told that before, yes."
"Did it ever mean anything to you? Our bond? Did you ever love me?"
He lets his rage show as he clenches his fists and drops his fangs down. "Did I… love you? I gave you everything I could. I protected you with every ounce of my power. I forsook all other lovers to be faithful to you. I gave you your freedom when you asked for it instead of bending you to my will. I let you turn away from me and deny me sexual pleasures while you "worked things out in your head." I let you stay friends with Compton instead of sending him away for good. I tolerated every naïve tirade you threw at me, accusing the bond as the only basis of our feelings for each other. I let you lie to yourself and to me. I watched, silent, while you stood before Felipe and denied our bond. I risked everything for you. My darling, if I had not loved you, I would have killed you long ago."
"Then help me now," she begs in a harsh whisper, sliding her ankle out again. "Please."
It is everything he can do to shake his head. "You belong to Felipe now. I am forbidden to touch you. To do so would mean my final death. But I suppose that would be proof positive of my love for you. Isn't that what you wrote about Bill in your little memoir? That you knew he loved you because he was willing to die for you on the night of Nevada's take over?"
She glares at him, the tears falling down her cheeks even as he feels her rage. "Don't you dare mention Bill's name."
"Why not? He was willing to become a martyr for you just like your tiger. He obviously must have loved you. Unlike me who chose to stay alive… or undead as the case may be. I, obviously, did not love you because here I am, still standing."
"Shut up and get out," she hisses, her face contorted with hate and fury. The look cuts him right down to his dead heart.
"Of course, my former lover. I only wished to see that you are well and adequately cared for."
"Oh yes. As you can see, I am very well cared for," she sneers, waving an arm about the room and plucking at her silk robe.
"That color has always become you," he replies, bowing to her. "Good-bye, my former lover."
He reaches behind him to touch a panel next to the door and his fingers press a button. He hopes it will give him exit from this prison that smells of his once beloved and is full of the desperate woman trapped inside.
"Yes?" a disembodied voice comes over the intercom.
"This is Eric Northman. I am ready to leave," he announces.
"Someone will be there momentarily to open the door, Mr. Northman," the voice answers.
He feels Sookie's sudden panic and remorse as she realizes that he really is going to leave her there. It would seem that she has learned something about her willful pride in the last eight years.
"Eric…" she breathes. "Eric, please. Please help me. I would be yours again. I would renew our bond and never forsake it."
He grits his teeth and calls up every fiber of his years of keeping himself and his people alive. He refusal now will keep her alive until he can save her. He only hopes she can forgive him for leaving her now.
"It doesn't work that way. You are Felipe's bonded now," he reminds, keeping his voice gentle.
"But I'm unwilling. I don't choose him," she argues, her voice rising in her desperation.
"He is King, my former lover. He has the authority to keep you."
He says it even though the words gall in his throat, but there is a tingle at the back of his neck, a finely honed survival instinct that tells him that he is being watched, and somehow he knows that it is Felipe himself who is doing the observing. He must tread very, very carefully.
"But what will happen to me? What about my life?" she murmurs plaintively, her eyes pleading.
He can answer that he will save her, but that she must be patient. He can tell her that he still loves her and will risk his life for her, but to do so would be suicide. He prays she will understand the only message he can give her.
The door slides silently open behind him, and the cooler air from the hallway blows against his back.
"Frankly, Sookie, I don't give a damn," he quips, stepping out of the room.
He watches her face as the door begins to slides closed and risks a single wink. The last thing he feels across the vestiges of their bond is a tiny glimmer of hope.