Welcome, one and all, to the revised version of "Return to Me"! Basically I decided to do this because I went back and re-read the story and was absolutely appalled by how slap-dash it was. And I've always had a soft spot for this story, so I decided to go back and fix it! As far as sequels go, I'll admit that I'm considering it...but I haven't decided for sure whether I want to actually go through with it or not. I guess it just depends.
Anyway, that's enough from me. So without further ado, I present the new and improved Return to Me! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to True Blood.
As Paige Collins stood in the bar of the popular vampire hotel Carmilla, the only thought that seemed to be circulating around her head was this: How in the world had this happened?
She sighed and took another sip of her drink. Who was she trying to kid here? She knew exactly how this had happened. Paige should have known there would be a possibility that they would bump into one another someday – he had been her reason for joining this damned organization in the first place. And she definitely should have known that being assigned this case – or rather, should have known when she literally demanded this mission – that he would be here in the very same hotel looking for the very same vampire that she was. This was, after all, a case that he would be very invested in for his own personal reasons.
What was this "organization" that she was a part of, you might be asking yourself? It's called the C.A.V.D – or Citizens Against Vampire Discrimination – and their sole mission was to help protect the vampires from close-minded idiots that sought to do them harm. Of course, not many vampires knew about them or their efforts since so many of them were adamant that they needed absolutely no help from humans, but the majority of the higher ranking vampires were well aware of their contribution. Paige herself had joined a little over a year ago and had quickly moved up in rank, already becoming one of the top agents in the Houston division despite being only twenty-six years old.
It was that job that lead her to where she was now. When her division had heard that the Sheriff of Dallas, Godric, had disappeared, she hadn't thought twice about demanding that she and her partner be put on the case, knowing it was a top priority to make sure the powerful vampire was rescued before harm came to him. And up until the previous night everything had been going according to plan – she and her partner, Gary, had made it to Dallas a few days previous and arranged a meeting with Isabel and Stan, the two vampires currently working under the missing Sheriff. While waiting for the big day to approach the two of them remained staked out in the hotel and mingled with the crowds, keeping their eyes and ears open for anything that might be useful. She had thought – or at least hoped – everything would go as planned, that it would go off without a hitch.
But then he had showed up, he being her ex-boyfriend. And when she had seen him from across the room for the first time in nearly a year and half, looking so stern and serious and still so devastatingly handsome as he and his two companions stalked towards the elevators, it had nearly done her in.
Of course he would be there – how could she have ever thought that he wouldn't? She knew of his bond with the missing Sheriff and knew how important Godric was to him; she was probably one of the very few people in the world who did. So the question wasn't 'how in the world had this happened', it was 'how in the hell had she not been able to see this coming'. She should have expected this, should have prepared for it.
Paige ran a hand through her red hair and sighed, leaning her head back against the only slightly tacky, red velvet wall behind her. She was rather used to seeing vampire-friendly places with this type of decoration, but it still made her smirk to think of how cliché it seemed – crushed red velvet at a vampire hot-spot? Who'da thunk it? She let her eyes wander around the room, studying the inhabitants curiously as she shoved her hands into the pockets of her jacket. The bar was full of both humans and vampires alike, but what caught her attention was the male vampire currently sauntering his way towards her with a confident smirk on his lips. Paige quirked an eyebrow when her eyes landed on him, but the move only seemed to interest him further; his demeanor instantly reminded Paige of the very vampire plaguing her current thoughts and she stiffened in response, not having it in her to deal with this new vampire at that particular moment.
"I do believe it's too nice of a night for a young beauty like yourself to be spending it alone." The vampire drawled once he had reached her, removing his cowboy hat in greeting with a grace that almost made her jealous – the vampires around her could make even the most mundane activities look awe-inspiring.
"Nah, I don't think so." Paige countered with a nonchalant shrug of her shoulder. "I don't mind being alone." She added firmly but without trying to sound too harsh. She knew all too well that vampires didn't handle rejection well and that she needed to choose her words carefully, especially since she didn't feel particularly up to being on the receiving end of a vampire's wrath tonight.
The vampire before her tilted his head, studying her silently in a way that probably would have irked any other human girl in her situation. "You don't get…lonely?" He asked in a low voice. She knew the look that was taking over his expression and felt her stomach flip over for a moment – she knew he was contemplating trying to glamour her.
Paige shuffled on her feet some, trying to keep her cool and maintain an air of aloofness. "I'm a pretty busy girl, actually. Don't really have time to feel lonely. In fact…" Paige was flooded with relief when she spotted her partner making his way through the crowd. He couldn't have come at a better time. "I've got business to attend to right now, so it was a pleasure to meet you and I hope you have a wonderful night." Paige then smiled a sickly sweet smile. "And remember – humans are friends, not food. Ask your local grocer about TruBlood."
With that being said Paige went to move past him, but the vampire seemed to have other ideas – he reached out and locked a hand around her arm in a vice grip, stopping her from going any further. She wasn't the least bit surprised when she looked up and saw that he was exposing his fangs to her threateningly. "I'm not finished talking with you yet." He growled.
"Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I have a very important meeting to go to with some very important vampires." Paige informed him calmly. "So I suggest releasing me."
The vampire let out a low, warning growl. Paige was about to ask him to let her go for the second time when Gary finally made an appearance. "Excuse me, but is there a problem here?" He asked, an authoritative tone ringing clearly in his voice. His interference was actually a rather ballsy move – Gary was larger than the vampire and so much taller that he towered over him, but Paige knew he still wouldn't last very long if it actually came down to a physical fight.
The vampire turned a look on Gary before seemingly realizing that they'd attracted a bit of attention. The vampire's eyes swept over the crowd as they murmured behind their hands before he let out another growl and released his hold on Paige's arm. He didn't say another word before stalking off, leaving Paige and Gary behind.
Her partner immediately smirked down at her. "Man, you are a magnet for trouble, Collins." He commented with raised eyebrows. After she shot him an unamused look in return, he jerked his head in the direction of the elevators. "C'mon, they're ready for us."
Paige nodded and let him lead her through the crowd with a hand on her shoulder. She ignored the eyes still trained on them and kept her gaze forward until the reached the elevators. "Do they know why we're here yet?" She asked once they had stepped inside the metal box.
"I'm sure they've figured it out by now." Gary answered as he pressed the button for floor number four. "They definitely want to know what prompted a couple of humans to request a meeting with them, though." He continued, leaning back against the wall and crossing his arms over his broad chest as the elevator started travelling upward. "They're having a meeting with a few other vampires right now, if the information I wormed out of the bellboy is legit." Gary fell silent for a moment, watching as the digital numbers above the doors counted up to their destination floor, before looking down at her with furrowed brows. "Do you think it's with –?" He started to ask.
"I don't know." Paige quickly interrupted, having expected he might ask such a question. Her cheeks immediately flushed bright red when his eyebrows shot upward and she quickly turned her eyes away, looking at anything but her partner.
Gary was one of the only people that knew the true extent of her relationship with him. Sure, some of her friends from back home were aware that she'd been involved with a vampire for a while, but her partner was the only one that she had ever felt she could trust with the whole truth. Gary was, of course, all too aware of the fact that he was in town – Gary had been the one to listen to her vent after she'd seen her ex-lover in the lobby, and he had also been the one to calm her down when she'd nearly had a damned panic attack because of it.
Gary decided not to say anything in response, simply held a hand up in surrender before directing his attention back to the digital numbers overhead. Paige sighed and leaned her head against the cool metal of the wall, feeling a little guilty for snapping at Gary but also suddenly feeling nervous as hell – she didn't know if he was the one in that meeting with Isabel and Stan, the vampires working under Godric, but unfortunately for her it only made sense if he was. There was no doubt that he would have caught wind of the Sherriff's disappearance by now and would have wanted to come and see what was going on for himself, maybe even take charge of the whole operation. Paige knew him too well to discard that obvious fact.
The elevator reached floor number four with a loud, taunting DING, making Paige's stomach flip uneasily. She'd never planned on seeing him again, not after what had happened between them, and there was now a very real possibility that she was on the verge of being face to face with him again. Paige felt frozen to the spot, unable to will her feet to move forward until Gary placed a firm hand on her shoulder and literally shoved her out of the elevator. For a brief second Paige considered wimping out and making a run for it, but Gary knew her too well and predicted she might do this – he kept his hand locked on her shoulder and forced her ahead of him, leaving her with no other option but to go where he directed her. First the first time since meeting him, Paige thought she might actually hate Gary a little bit.
"We're going to be in and out. It's not a big deal, Paige." He reminded her as they walked a bit too quickly for her taste towards the looming double doors at the end of the hallway. She gulped and nodded, trying to believe his words, but knew when it came to him that nothing was that easy. If he was in there, then it was very possible that all hell would break loose.
Gary didn't hesitate to knock when they finally reached the double doors, making Paige jump a little in her anxious state. She was just barely able to catch her breath, internally willing herself to calm the hell down, when the door jerked open. A male vampire dressed in standard cowboy attire was the one who had come to greet them – he glanced between Paige and Gary a few times, one of his eyebrows slowly inching upward.
"You must be from the C.A.V.D." He said slowly, clearly still sizing them up. Gary nodded in confirmation, causing the vampire to smirk. "I am Stan." He introduced himself, not bothering to shake Gary's hand when he politely extended it towards the vampire. "Follow me." He said bluntly before turning on his heel to walk away.
Gary's hand hovered in the air for a moment before he closed into a fist and let it drop awkwardly back down to his side. He then shot Paige a look – her response was to shrug at him uncertainly – before stepping into the room. Paige gnawed at her lip before following Gary inside and quietly shutting the door behind her.
She could already hear a conversation taking place in the room that she and Gary were being led to, making her heart pound so hard against her ribs that she was afraid one might actually break. She strained to try and distinguish the different voices, hoping she could determine if he was in the room or not, but was unable to. Paige sucked in a steadying breath before finally tuning into what Stan was saying.
"Isabel and I were quite surprised by your request." He said with a thick, southern drawl, not bothering to spare them a look as he led them through the hotel suite. "Surprised but intrigued." He then admitted. "We don't have audiences with humans often…you should feel privileged."
Stan finally cast a look back at her, the expression on his face clearly stating that he was waiting for her to say something in response. "And we thank you for taking the time to see us." She told him graciously, knowing very well that vampires didn't trust easily and that she needed to be positively angelic right now. "It was very important that we meet with you. Even a matter of life and death, I'd say."
Stan looked very interested now and paused outside the room that Paige assumed contained Isabel and whoever she was currently meeting with. The door was currently shut and she couldn't help but stare at it warily, as though it might come to life at any moment and gobble her up. "Is that so?" Stan asked before giving her a long, appraising look. "Alright, you have my attention." He conceded before opening the door. "Ladies first." He said with a fake-looking smile and grand wave of his arm.
Paige found herself unable to step into the room for a long moment – she wasn't sure how, but she just knew he was going to be in there. After nearly a year and a half of suffering from guilt and anger and regret, she was about to come face to face with the vampire that she had loved and then lost. What would he think when he saw her? Did he still hate her? Did he even remember her? All of these thoughts and questions ran rampant through her mind for a few chaotic seconds until the pressure of a hand on her back finally registered with her senses. Paige was just about turn a wide-eyed, pleading look on Gary when he firmly shoved her forward, forcing her into the room.
Immediately, as though drawn by some magnetic force, her eyes bypassed every other individual standing in the room and landed on a tall, well-built, blonde-haired vampire standing not ten feet away from her. Her gaze dropped down to his shoes first and then slowly trailed upward, taking in every inch of his large form as her mind worked to try and understand that yes, Eric Northman was standing directly in front of her, and no, this was not a hallucination – those were the same broad shoulders she'd rested her head on countless times and that was the same sturdy frame that had once been an unparalleled source of comfort for her. The only physical difference she could see now was that his once long hair had been cut into a shorter, more polished style.
She gave his long body one more once over before finally pulling herself together and lifting her eyes up to his, using every ounce of courage that she had to meet his gaze for the first time in nearly a year and a half – not to her surprise, he was looking back at her in stunned disbelief.