I do not own any characters from the series True Blood or the Sookie Stackhouse collection of books – everyone else are mine. Nor do I own the title of the story – it is from a song by The Vagrants. Also, I do not make any profit from this story – it is simply for my, and hopefully your, pleasure.
An extra, extra long chapter to apologise for the long delay between chapters. No excuses – sorry!
Mary winced as the kick found the spot where she already had a large bruise and she steeled herself not to react to the provocation. She'd suffered enough kicks, sly punches, and jabs in the two days she had been held in Shreveport County jail as she waited to go before the District Judge, who was to decide whether she would stand trial for the murder of the man she had shot while defending Eric. She knew that Eric, Pam, and several other vampires had given sworn statements in her favour, but, according to the police department, the only viable video evidence of the incident just showed her shooting an apparently unarmed man in the back. There was no sign of Eric in the video, nor the stake the man had been ready to use; just an image of her rolling across the floor and shooting him from behind.
"You devil's whore! Fornicatin' with them monsters! Y'should be ashamed o'yourself!"
'Oh, *dra åt helvete...' Mary thought darkly as she trudged, along with the other female inmates, to the prison canteen.
"Hey, chin up," a woman whispered from behind her. "I heard there's protests all over about you being locked up. The pro-vamps are doin' their nuts, sayin' yer wouldn't be locked up for defendin' a human, the anti-vamps are sayin' you should be strung up for valuin' a vampires life over a humans, an' they're all about at each others throats..."
"Thanks," Mary smiled. "I needed to hear that."
"There ain't much wrong with a vampyer, huh? Especially in bed..."
Mary smiled as she remembered her one time with Bill, and wondered what Eric would be like. 'Not sure I could handle Eric...' she mused, chuckling to herself.
"What're you laughin' at, bitch!"
Mary winced as another kick caught her ankle, and she struggled to keep on walking normally, even though it hurt like fuck. 'Toughen yourself up, girly. It'll be far worse than this in penitentiary, and that's where you're going.'
The Governor of Louisiana, Sonny Parnell, sighed blissfully as he sipped his Scotch, feeling at peace with the world. He had just pushed through a reform to help the most disadvantaged train for work, his wife was receiving much praise for her charity functions, and he had been ranked very highly in the approval ratings of all the governors of the US. Life, he reasoned, could not get much better than this.
"W-who are you?" Parnell spluttered, looking around in wild eyed shock as a tall, pale, blond man stood before him in the sanctuary of his office. "How did you get in?"
"I want you to release Mary Schneider."
"The woman who defended a vampire, me, against a human assailant."
"I... I can't do that! There is no evidence that she was defending anyone!" the Governor protested. "T-there was only the one videotape that showed anything."
"You will release her, Governor..." Eric pressed.
"I can't, dammit! There's no clear cut evidence, and besides, I can't be seen to be taking sides!" Sonny Parnell protested, loosening his collar as he sweated profusely.
"That's a shame," the vampire smiled coldly, his fangs protruding. "Your poor family will be devastated by the revelation..."
"W-what... what are you talking about?"
"Oh, you know what I'm talking about, Governor," Eric replied, leaning in so that his face was mere inches from the humans. "Bestiality is such a taboo subject, even in more enlightened States than this one..."
"B-best...? I-I d-don't know w-what you're talking a-about..."
"No? Would you like me to show you the video we have?"
"Video?" the Governor squeaked. "I-I..."
"Video," Eric confirmed. "I wonder how many people would get to see it on Youtube before it was pulled...?"
"B-but there is no evidence to support her innocence!"
"Only my testimony!" Eric snarled, "and that of other vampires! Or isn't our word good enough?"
"I-it is n-not concrete evidence..." he spluttered. "I can't just order her release without it looking strange!"
"Not my problem, Governor," Eric replied with an unconcerned shrug. "Get her released by tomorrow evening, or else..."
Sonny Parnell sat slumped in his captains chair, staring at the window the vampire had disappeared out of, his mind already racing around the names of people who owed him, and who he was going to have to lean on hard in order to get himself out of this situation with his reputation in tact.
"Schneider! Haul your ass to the governors office!"
"How the fuck do I know where the governors office is?" Mary spat, earning herself a slap across the face, adding to the several bruises already there.
"This way," the prison guard ordered, twisting her arm behind her back and frog marching her along the corridor, to jeers and catcalls from the other prisoners.
"Schneider, Sir," the guard announced when they arrived at the office, and he had knocked on the door and opened it.
"Schneider... come in," the prison governor of Shreveport County jail beckoned. "You have been called up before the judge this afternoon, last case."
"Oh? I see," Mary replied, unsure as to what he expected her to do or say.
"There's a lot of interest in your case, Schneider, from all over the world. But don't you think for one minute that that will influence the judge either way. He will send you for trial, and you will be found guilty, mark my words."
"I'll consider them marked."
"Get her ready for court, and make sure she's cleaned up; we don't want people thinking we ill treat our prisoners," he ordered the guard.
'Perish the thought... wanker!' Mary winced as the guard shoved her out of the door and towards the shower block, and used a technique she learned while serving in war zones to function at full capacity while blocking everything from her mind.
"...It has come to our attention that there is more video footage of the night in question, Your Honour, that clearly shows the accused was indeed defending a vampire. If I may?"
Mary frowned as the words penetrated her mind, and she came out of her self-induced trance and looked at the small television screen set up in the court room, cocking her head to one side as she saw herself diving for the gun, and then rolling across the floor, firing just the once; her victim with the stake in his hand, and Eric lying incapacitated, both being clearly visible.
"As you can see, Your Honour, this collaborates the victims statement, along with the other sworn statements, and the law clearly states that vampires have equal rights to defend and be defended, as humans do," the defence lawyer intoned.
"I am well aware of the law," the judge snapped sharply, wondering just how deep a shit Governor Parnell had gotten himself into for him to all but order the release of the woman. "The defendant, Mary Schneider, was clearly defending another, has no previous convictions, and is therefore to be released immediately." 'Damned fangbanger!'
"Released?" Mary muttered out loud, glancing around as a police office approached her to undo her cuffs, the momentary shocked silence in the packed courtroom suddenly bursting into a cacophony of noise. "I can go?"
"Yes Ma'am, so the judge says," the black officer replied as he released her from her bonds. "Although I'd come with me for now, if I were you. There's a lot of people who ain't gonna be too pleased about this.
Mary, too shocked to speak, followed the burly officer across the floor in front of the bench, and through a door, breathing out loud as the noise dimmed to a dull roar. "Oh, God..." she gasped. "Why? How?"
"I have no idea, Ma'am," he replied, leading the way to a small ante room. "But I'd stay here until it all dies down a little."
"Why can't I go home?"
"Because there's protesters outside the building," he explained, "and riot police in attendance. I will see if I can arrange an escort for you."
"Thank you," Mary nodded, closing her eyes once the door was closed and she was alone. "Free? How the hell did that happen? Where did that other footage come from?" She got to her feet and walked to the door, opening a fraction and gulping with fright at the noise. "Oh fuck... how do I get out of here?"
Mary backed away as another police officer approached the door.
"It's all right," he smiled. "I'm a vampire; I work night shifts here at the courthouse. You have a call."
Mary took the cell phone off him, too bewildered to question, and held it hesitantly up to her ear. "Yes?"
"It's Eric; meet me on the roof in five minutes."
"The r... hello? Eric? Jesus! Of all the surreal days I've ever had in my life, and I've had some, this takes some beating..."
"I will take you up there," the vampire offered. "I'm Saul."
"Mary... do you know Eric?"
"He is our sheriff, but I do not know him personally."
"But he knows you, yes?"
"He knows of all the vampires in his area."
"Of course he does..." she breathed, following the pale skinned man along the corridor and up the stairs. "Just how powerful is he?"
"He is the oldest vampire, in Area five at least; his power is beyond measure. He should be king."
"Oh, Jesus! Don't stoke his ego any more, for fucks sake!"
Mary shivered violently as Saul opened the door to the rooftop, and the wind whipped her hair and through the thin, pale green dress she had been provided with. "Why the rooftop?" she wondered out loud, the wind catching her words and carrying them away. "Eric!" she gasped as she saw the tall blond vampire standing by the edge of the roof, looking at her. "What the hell is all this about?"
"The judge saw that you are innocent of murder," he shrugged. "You ready to go?"
"Go? Go where? How?"
"Hold tight," he grinned, picking her up easily and nodding his thanks to Saul before leaping into the air, rising quickly.
"Oh. My. Fucking God!" Mary screamed. "I hate heights! Put me down!"
"That wouldn't be a good idea," he mused dryly. "Now shut up and you'll soon be home."
"Oh, Christ!" she groaned, burying her face in his neck.
"Want to take a bite?" Eric chuckled, offering some more of his neck.
"I prefer it when you swear in Swedish..."
"Just shut up and get me back down on terra-firma!"
"At what?" Mary demanded, having sensed that they were no longer moving.
"Just look," Eric instructed, grinning at Mary's squeak of fright as she glanced up to see the city lights spread out before them.
"Oh. Wow...!" she gasped, braving a longer look at the whole panorama as he hovered high above the ground.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"Yes!" she breathed, awestruck. "I find it hard to believe you find anything beautiful, however!"
"Oh, I do," he assured her. "You ready?"
"Shit..." she muttered, thrusting her face back in his neck and screwing her eyes shut. "You're enjoying this, bastard!"
"Of course I am," he replied with a smile in his voice as he headed towards his headquarters, and home. "What else did Sven teach you?"
"Just swear words, no other Swedish."
"So you like tall, blond men, huh?"
"He is the only tall, blond man I have ever been with, or fancied!"
"You're still a terrible liar," Eric whispered softly in her ear as he began to descend, pausing several feet above the ground.
"*Dra åt helvete!" Mary rejoined, then frowned and pulled away, looking at Eric, wondering why he had stopped. "What are you waiting for?"
"Thank you," he said, simply.
"Hey, you'd just offered me a job with good pay and conditions... I wasn't about to let some bastard take that away from me," she joked, covering up her awkwardness.
"So, you're accepting my offer?"
"If it's still open, yes."
"It is," Eric confirmed as he landed gently on the ground outside the hotel.
"You can put me down now!" Mary retorted as she struggled to get out of the vampire's arms. "Wait... why have you brought me here and not Bills?"
Eric sighed as he complied with her demand and set her down on the ground. "Because there have been reporters hanging around outside Bill's house, and besides, it's too dangerous," he explained.
"What? What do you mean, dangerous?"
"The night of the attack? Some men went to Merlotte's bar and were asking after you, said they were friends you had met. Sookie told them that it was your night off and that you had come to Fangtasia."
"You mean...? They were going to... Sam's bar?"
"Yes, which is why you can't go back there."
"Jesus Christ!" she swore, running her hand through her unruly hair. "Why, Eric? What's so special about me?"
"Some people cannot handle the thought of humans and vampires. When your husband saw you with Bill, it obviously upset him greatly."
"To the point of massacring innocents?"
"To them, no vampire is innocent. Did he show any signs of fanatical behaviour before he left you?"
"No... but then I was generally too out of it to notice much. He had used to be out at all hours, but I thought that he was with her. No... it can't be Mark, it just can't!"
"For your own safety, you're going to have to assume that it can and it is, now come on, let's get inside."
"Yes, I'm frozen; this damned dress barely covers my embarrassment!"
"You should wear them more often," he mused as he followed her into the hotel lobby.
"Dream on, Norseman!"
"I shall," he replied with a wicked smile as his eyes travelled her long legs.
Mary shook her head at him, but didn't bite, her mind still reeling with the thought of all the people at Merlotte's who could have died had she been on duty that night instead of the day.
"I'll show you to your room," Eric offered, leading the way to the elevator.
"How long's this place been open?" she asked, wanting to switch her mind to other things; for now, at least.
"I opened just after Stuart took over at Oxten Falls, but because he was cheaper, he made better initial profits. I sank a lot into this place, taking ideas from other vampire hotels around, but on a much smaller scale; we only have fifteen rooms and five suites. But for some reason, it hasn't taken off that well. I need you to turn it around."
"You're putting a lot of faith in me, Eric, I hope it's justified," Mary worried as they entered the elevator. "Being the cheerful face at the front desk of a motel isn't like running somewhere like this."
"You ran the motel," he reminded her. "And you bridge a gap between humans and vampires, that is what this place needs. At the moment, I have mostly vampire staff, and that isn't working out, but humans are reluctant to work here as general staff."
"In what capacity do they work here?"
"Cleaners, bar staff, some donors..."
"Wait? Donors, as in blood?"
"Yes; it is common practise in vampire hotels, and they are very well paid."
"Of course they are," she sighed, wishing she had gone into the practises more carefully before agreeing to accept the job. "No prostitutes, I hope?"
"There are enough people willing to throw themselves at vampires for that not to be necessary. After all, you know how good sex with a vampire is..."
"I do?" she enquired, her face a mask of innocence, but her heart hammered as she caught his reflection in the elevator mirror, and felt his eyes boring into hers.
"Yes," he whispered, bending his head slightly so that his lips brushed her ear, his gaze never leaving hers. "Why else would your pulse have quickened and your eyes dilated...? Although, I am finding it difficult to think of Bill as a good lover..."
"Eric!" Mary protested, glaring at him crossly through the mirror. "Whether I know if he's a good lover or not, he certainly keeps Sookie satisfied enough not to look twice at you!"
Mary took grim satisfaction in the anger that flashed in Eric's eyes as she stepped out of the elevator when the doors opened on the third floor, and waited patiently for him to lead the way to her room, having to stretch her long legs to keep up with him, and trying to keep the smile that was playing at the corners of her lips, from breaking out.
"Here is your room," he snapped as he opened a door. "My nest is next door."
"How reassuring..." Mary murmured. "I don't suppose you have a cell handy, do you?"
"I want to call Bill, let him know I'm okay."
"I'm sure he has seen the news!"
"Eric, please?" Mary deftly caught the cell phone that Eric threw, and punched in Bill's home number. "Bill! It's me; I've been released."
"I know, I saw. Where are you?"
"At the hotel; Eric provided transport."
"Are you all right? I did not think your case was due to be heard for a few more days?"
"No, me neither, but it all rushed through and the next thing I know, I'm a free woman and pandemonium breaks out! Listen, can you get Jess or Sookie to pack my clothes and bring them over, please? I'm in a ridiculously short, thin dress."
"Why can't you come back here?"
"Because of what might happen, Bill. I've already lost too many people I care about, and too many people have died because of all this. I am not going to risk yours, Jessica's, or Sookie's lives because of Mark. Besides... I'm working here, now."
"What?" Bill exploded. "You're working for him?"
"I'll explain when you bring my stuff over, Bill. Please don't be mad."
"I'm not mad; I just don't want any woman I care about anywhere near that..."
"I love you too, Bill," Eric said into the phone, winking at Mary, who tried and failed to keep a straight face.
"I will be along shortly," Bill growled. "And we will talk then; alone!"
"He really does hate you, doesn't he?" Mary mused as she handed the phone back. "Why? Just because you want Sookie, or have you done something else to upset him?"
"We have never seen eye to eye, but things have got worse recently," he admitted with an unconcerned air.
"No better than human men," she remarked dryly. "Do you have a cafeteria or restaurant? I'm ravenous!"
"I will arrange for something to be sent up; do you have a preference?"
"So long as it's hot and filling, no!"
"Blood, then?" he queried, quirking an eyebrow.
"Very funny, Eric. Now scoot so I can get myself cleaned up."
"I can scrub your back for you; it's something I'm very good at apparently..."
"I'll take your word for it, now out!"
Oh, dammit,' Mary thought as she closed the door on Eric and leaned against it. 'I can't cope with everything that's happening today!'
"Mary! Oh my God! I'm so sorry!" Jessica wailed as she flung herself into the human woman's arms, when she and Bill arrived some time later. "It's all my fault!"
"Jess... hey!" Mary soothed, stroking her hair. "It is not your fault; it's the fault of the bastards who did it, okay?"
"I-I know, but..."
"No!" Mary interrupted firmly, pulling away from the embrace and cupping the young vampire's face in her hands. "The thought of blaming you has never entered my mind for even a nano-second, young lady, so stop right there!"
"Thank you!" Bill breathed, having spent the last few days trying to get the very same message through to his charge. "Are you all right? You have bruises..."
"I'm fine, now come here," Mary replied, holding out an arm and wrapping it around Bill, holding her friends close to her. "God, I've missed you both."
"Oh, what a sweet scene..." Eric remarked as he walked in the room, an amused glint in his eyes.
"Do you knock?"
"Rarely," he shrugged, the glint turning from amusement to interest as he realised that all Mary was dressed in was a short bathrobe, her mousy brown hair hanging in damp tendrils down her back.
"Then I'm saving every cent I can for a home of my own!" she retorted.
"Come back to mine; it will be safe."
"No way, Bill," Mary replied. "I would never forgive myself if anything happened. I'm safe enough here; from Mark, anyway..."
"If you will excuse us, we have private matters which we need to discuss," Bill requested, barely looking at the elder vampire as he addressed him.
"Private?" Eric queried. "You don't want Mary working for me, you don't want Mary staying here, you don't want Mary wanting anyone but yourself, but you don't want Mary... close enough?"
"How dare you!" Bill exploded, taking a step towards Eric.
"Stop! Both of you, right now!" Mary shouted. "Eric, kindly leave, and please learn how to knock next time. Bill sit down and calm down. Come on, Jess, you can help untangle this bloody mane of mine." She took the youngsters hand and lead her to the bathroom, sighing deeply as she shut the door. "Men! Doesn't matter what bloody species they are!"
"Bill is really mad that you're gonna be working for Eric," Jessica whispered as she began working on Mary's damp hair. "I think Sookie's kinda relieved though..."
"Yeah, it hasn't been easy my staying under the same roof, huh, especially with the wedding coming up. And I bet she'll be glad of Eric turning his attentions elsewhere..."
"You think Eric's forgotten about her?"
"I dunno, Jess. He seems to be taking an awful lot of interest in me, but why, I don't know."
"You saved his life! I think I'd be interested in you if you did that for me."
"No... it's more than that. I wonder if he's trying to make Bill so jealous that he... no, maybe you're right; maybe it is just because I saved his life."
"If he is interested in you, are you gonna... you know?"
"What? No, I bloody well am not! For one thing, he's now my employer! For another... he's not my type. I'd rather peel off my skin and bathe my weeping raw flesh in a bath of vinegar than sleep with him!"
"You fancy the pants off of him, admit it!"
"I'd say over my dead body, but being as I'm in a vamp hotel, I think I'll pass."
"Or rather you don't want to tell a lie!" Jessica teased, throwing her head back and laughing. "Mary and Eric sittin' in a tree..."
"Oi! That's enough of that, thank you!" Mary warned, but without malice. "Can you bring me a bra and knickers, and a tee and jeans in, please? I wish that food would hurry up and arrive."
"Eric's still here!" Jessica hissed gleefully when she returned with the clothes. "He and Bill are looking daggers at each other!"
"Oh, sweet baby Jesus..." Mary groaned, throwing her hands up in despair. "What am I going to do with them?" she shook her head and untied the bathrobe, letting it drop to the floor.
"Your food's arrived," came Eric's voice from the other side of the door, and Mary looked at it with narrowed eyes, almost swearing that he knew she was naked.
"I'll be right there," she replied, snatching up her underwear and hastily pulling them on, ignoring Jessica's giggles. "One of us is going to wind up dead, or deader as the case may be," she hissed, before breaking into giggles herself as she caught the look in the red haired girls eyes. "It's sure going to be interesting..."
"I'll give it a month before you end up in bed," Jessica grinned, yelping and laughing as Mary threatened her with a hairbrush.
"A month before he ends up with a stake in his heart more like. Come on," Mary urged as she finished dressing. "I'm starving!"
"What for?" the young vampire whispered as they exited the bathroom.
Mary shot her a warning look, then plastered a smile on her face while musing what to do about the atmosphere in the room, which you could cut with a very blunt knife. "What did you order?" she asked Eric.
"Italian; you need fattening up."
"Yeah. If you hadn't tried to ruin the motel, I wouldn't have had to take a pay cut and actually have been able to feed myself!" she retorted. "So, how's Sookie?" she enquired, smiling sweetly at Bill.
"Sookie is fine; she sends her love," he smiled, relieved to see Mary standing up to his nemesis. "She was as surprised as me when she heard you were going to be working here now."
"I couldn't stay with you forever, Bill; there was always going to come a time when I got a better job and moved away. But you know how grateful I am for all that you've done for me."
"Call it a repayment for when you looked after me."
"How well?" Eric murmured quietly, smirking as both Bill and Mary shot him a look.
"Look, if you guys don't mind, I'm going to head to bed once I've finished this," Mary apologised, not trusting the glint of devilment in Eric's eyes, and wanting him and Bill away from each other as soon as she could. "Thanks for bringing my stuff around, and good luck with the wedding, not that you'll need it."
"Thank you," Bill smiled, kissing her on the cheek and taking a fraction of a second longer than was necessary as he glanced triumphantly up at Eric. "You're still coming to the reception, I hope?"
"Try and keep me away!"
"Night, Mare," Jessica grinned, hugging her friend. "Don't do anything I wouldn't..."
Mary sighed as her friends left the room, then looked at Eric, still standing by her bed. "Did you have anything to do with my release?"
"What makes you think that?" he replied non-committally.
"You owed me one?"
"No, you actually owed me one; we are now even."
"I thought I'd paid that debt when I told you where I thought Mark would be?"
"That wasn't much of a repayment for trying to kill me," he pointed out with a shrug. "Saving my life, however? Now that's a fitting repayment."
"So I don't owe you anything now?" she pressed.
"Not yet... you will."
"Don't be too sure about that, Eric!" Mary snapped. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like some time alone."
"Of course," he replied, a smile playing at the corners of his lips. "Oh, I forgot to say," he added, hesitating as he reached the door. "All the suites were built with an annex room to house any servants the guests may bring with them; this room is the annex to my suite, so should you need... anything... I'm just through this door," Eric smiled, indicating a second door, with a keypad, at the side of the en suite. "The code is..."
"I won't be needing the code," she interrupted quickly, hardly daring to breathe. 'Fuck, I'm going to barricade that thing!'