A/N: This is a sequel to Home Sweet Dead. I won't say that it makes no sense if you haven't read Home Sweet Dead, but it will make a lot more sense if you read Home Sweet Dead.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything and don't claim to.
Prologue – Bill's Tale…
It was the hottest night we'd had so far this year, but that wasn't surprising considering it was March and spring had arrived in the South. I parked in the visitors' parking lot and sat for a moment wondering why I was doing this, beyond the obvious reason that it was what one must do, whether you subscribed to vampire or human etiquette – and even by human etiquette I was falling just under the grace period. They'd been married in early April after all, so it had taken me eleven months to bring myself to this point. I glanced again at the large crate in the back seat of my car and felt pleased and idiotic all at the same time. Pleased because I knew it was the perfect gift for Sookie and idiotic because I knew that my thoughtfulness was, as she might say, locking the barn door after the cows have got out, a day late and a dollar short or any of the other charming human expressions that meant meaningless, too late gesture. But my thinking was that if I must by a wedding present for my Sheriff and the woman that he stole from me, and whom I still considered rightfully mine, well, I wanted it to be one that would make her stop and think about what might have been.
I do not believe that I have much – or any – hope of winning back Sookie, but it would please me to no end if she would perhaps feel a moment of regret. And if not that, then perhaps she would feel a twinge of guilt that she did not think to invite me to the wedding or even tell me herself that she and Eric planned to marry or that they had married once it happened.
In fact, I had heard the news as they were heading toward Vermont. I had come to Fangtasia one night after I had heard of Eric and Sookie's safe return, planning to offer my services in their future efforts against Madden or the Fellowship of the Sun, but instead I had found the bar relatively empty and being run by Fitzgerald, who had returned to the area. Thalia had laughed when I asked where everyone was and commented that I must really be on the outside now. Then she filled me in on recent events and the upcoming nuptials. It had been one of the more humiliating experiences of my existence.
At first I had felt enraged. Who was this mortal chit to make me feel this way? I was vampire. I was eternal. I was the night and the darkness. And apparently I was also jilted by a human so disinterested in our previous romance that it didn't even occur to her to call me and let me know she was getting married. I had once believed myself to be better than Sookie. Interesting how beliefs can shift. She, clearly, had not agreed with that assessment for quite some time.
I sat in my car in the lot at Fangtasia wondering what to do next. I could sense her vaguely, coming closer. She was not inside yet. I wanted her to be there when I brought the gift in. I turned my head and looked down the street to see her car entering the parking lot. So different. No more beat-up clunkers for Sookie. She pulled her shiny, new BMW into the lot and parked. She exited the car and stretched her back looking around the lot for a moment as if she sensed something and then removing her suit jacket, to reveal a silky lavender camisole underneath, and pining her hair up to expose her neck, shoulders and so much lovely skin. She must be coming from work. The camisole might look sexy, but the plain black skirt suit was all FBI.
The car and the clothes were only a bi-product of Sookie's transformation; it was her confidence that made her glow. She had always been lovely, sometimes even beautiful, but these days it seemed, she was always beautiful and sometimes radiant and always, always sexy. Eric certainly seemed to have awakened something in her and I didn't care to examine that too closely.
She turned her head, gazed out in to the parking lot, looking almost directly at my car, but she didn't see me at all. What a testament that was to our current relationship! And then she smiled and it looked like someone had turned on the sun.
She started moving toward my car, but I could tell by her gaze she had not seen me. I swung my head around and saw Eric appear at the edge of the parking lot holding a bag that I could smell from here - take-out, maybe Thai. I felt vaguely ill. They reached each other, almost in front of me not that they noticed. I watched as he snaked a large arm around her waist and pulled her in for a deep kiss. When they finally broke apart, she looked heavy-lidded and I could practically smell her desire from here, probably it would have been clearer if not for the pungent odor of the Thai food.
I'd heard that Sookie had been away on business for several days. Eric held up the bag and said something about dinner. I had to assume that he was talking about Sookie's dinner – Eric's was obviously standing in front of him practically quivering in anticipation, it disgusted me or possibly that was jealousy. She peeked into the bag and smiled, lacing her fingers through his, they headed into the club.
I took a moment to relax, slowly loosening my grip on the steering wheel one finger at a time. How had I ever let it get to this point? Why hadn't I followed when Eric had taken her away after the fairy attacks? She had felt tenderly toward me then; I had felt it. She wondered about Eric's feelings toward her, but then he had proven them, running with her, leaving his position of power for her. Of course, it had all worked out for him so I could hardly cry for him.
After they had returned, I thought perhaps there was a chance, but I had been wrong. Pam had come to visit me shortly after their return. I had thought that her visit implied that perhaps Eric was insecure in Sookie's affections. If he was, he should not have been. Pam had come by to tell me that I needed to let Sookie go or I needed to leave Area 5. I had taken a moment before responding with as much condescension as I had been able to muster, "Eric threatens me?"
She had simply shrugged and replied, "She's not yours."
My reply had been filled with smugness so certain that they were falling into my trap; I was and am an idiot. "She is Eric's now?" I thought of how Sookie would react to that statement and wished she could hear it.
Pam had looked at me as disinterested as she could possibly look and said coolly, "She is her own. And Eric said I am to tell you that he will defend her belief that she is her own by any means necessary."
I had stared at her not knowing what to say to this most peculiar statement. Pam had stared right back, looking bored, but there was something behind the boredom, she would love for me to make it an issue. There were moments when I wondered who loved Sookie more Pam or Eric, but of course whenever I thought that I had to quickly remind myself that neither loved her, they were using her. It just looked like love.
We finished our staring contest when I realized that I might need to re-think my tactics with Sookie. Straight contest would not work. The oddest part of the conversation may have been when Pam looked back at me and said, "You think you know her Bill, but you don't know all of her."
Watching the events unfold after their return to Shreveport, I am forced to admit it was not a bad point, the Sookie that I knew did not run off for three years with a man toward whom she was uncertain of her feelings. She did not run from her responsibilities and her friends. She did not make lewd comments or shout at people. She did not impulsively make the decision to wed. And yet, here was this woman. The one I thought of as my Sookie.
I might believe that he was manipulating her; using her to cement his own power. I might detest his arrogance and flash, but Sookie did not. She had chosen Eric. More than once if I was truly honest about it. Maybe she was on the road to choosing him from the beginning and her relationship with me was merely a false start. And as I thought back to what I had seen I realized that Eric seemed to know Sookie on a level that I had never even seen.
But there was at least one part of her that he did not understand, her Southernism. Perhaps it was not much, but it was what I had. We had roots and to Sookie that mattered. Or it had, I didn't know if it would still. And in many ways, I had the easier road, I was nothing anymore, no one of importance other than a good earner, whereas Eric had forces stacking against him that he would need to defeat or at least hold at bay in order to keep Sookie alive and believing that she belonged to no one. It was quite a balancing act for him – if I had not hated him so completely I might have been impressed by what he was willing to undertake and how very much he must love her to engage in such insanity – all I had to do was position myself and wait for him to slip. I just needed to be there when he got himself killed. And have her feeling warmly toward me again like she had before.
I flicked my eyes to the crate in my car and felt extremely satisfied with my plan. I exited the car, removed the crate and headed into the club. Pam was standing just inside the door when I arrived carrying my oversized wedding gift. She was flipping through paperwork, but looked up when I arrived. She paused and said, "Nice box, Bill, but we usually leave the trash in the alley."
I was looking around the club. It was crowded, but I was not interested in the fangbangers, well, I suppose I was interested in one of them. They were there. In a booth at the back. Sookie was eating her dinner, which she appeared to be enjoying and talking animatedly. Although she was facing me, she didn't notice me. Eric's back was to me and I could not see his face, but it appeared that he was laughing at the story Sookie was telling.
I turned to Pam, "I've come with tribute or a wedding gift, however you want to look at it." I raised the box slightly to make my point.
Pam arched an eyebrow at me and replied, "I guess that would depend on who you were talking to."
She started moving toward the back booth. She made no indication that I should follow, but I did anyway. For a moment, I considered dropping the crate on the floor, kicking it across the room and moving to Europe, but I did not. Then I thought about simply challenging Eric for Sookie. I could win. Luck is always a factor, it happens. And perhaps she would hate me forever, but at least she would no longer be his. But instead, I found myself arriving at the booth with the large crate and setting it down in front of Sookie.
She scooted in to make room for me, "Hey Bill, what's all this?"
Eric just looked at me, curious, dangerous.
"It is a wedding gift," I explained succinctly.
Sookie's mouth formed into a little round oh and I thought for a moment she was suddenly going to realize that she had not invited me to her wedding or even told me of her plan to wed, but she did not. Instead, she popped up and started inspecting the box all the while fussing that I hadn't needed to get them anything. She went on about how they hadn't needed any of the things they had gotten. And how it was so kind of me. Her fingers worked the top of the box for a while and finally she looked at Pam and said, "Is there a hammer or something in the back? I can't get this off and I don't want to cut myself trying."
Eric and Pam laughed at that as Eric reached up and without rising from his seat, flipped the lid off the box. The nails gave way with a soft pop, revealing the packing materials inside. She thanked him a little too breathlessly for my taste and his eyes took on a look I didn't much care for at all.
He watched her with that lusty look as she reached into the crate to pull out a china plate with a butter yellow border and blue flowers and birds adorning it. A look of distaste shot across Eric's face before he carefully masked his features into polite interest as Sookie ohhed and ahhed over the china, as I had known she would.
Unfortunately, she'd been so absorbed in the gift; she had missed his initial reaction. She handed him a plate reverently and reached back in to pull out a delicate teacup, so small that I doubted Eric would even be able to get more than a finger through the handle. I briefly enjoyed a picture of how ridiculous and oafish he would look trying to drink from one of those cups, but of course, why would he ever need to drink from one?
"Eric," she breathed sounding as if she was in church. "It's the Hale china. Gran had to sell all hers to pay for Jason to play football – pads and stuff, its real expensive, plus since he was all-state and everything – there were a lot of Hale's with money that wanted a more complete set. She was so sad about it, but we thought Jason might get a scholarship…" Eric mostly looked amused at the idea of Jason in college and not terribly interested in the china.
"Bill," she continued. "Where did you find it?"
I was the hero of the moment, as I'd known I would be. "I found five place settings, which I know –"
Pam broke in, "Five? What the hell is she going to do with five place settings? And it doesn't even match the dining room! We're going to have to have it re-painted and then the chairs will need to be re-upholstered. And now, I'm going to have to fill out the set."
"Pam," Eric said softly. And her mouth snapped shut. Pam shrugged and wandered off muttering about auction houses and Internet research and re-booking the painter.
"Bill," Sookie whispered, her eyes shining. "Thank you." And then she looked at Eric, "Pam's right, it doesn't match, I…" Her voice was raised in an unasked question.
"If you wish to redecorate around the china, its fine, Sookie. I don't care what color the dining room is."
She smiled so brightly, looking at him as if he'd just hung the moon in the sky, and I felt my own smile slip a little. Somehow I felt my gift had been trumped by his magnanimousness at redecorating to suit my thoughtlessness. And even I had to admit it he was willing to indulge her, I would have been annoyed by the idea of redecorating around china I didn't even like.
Sookie thanked me again and dropped a kiss on my cheek and excused herself to the ladies room. Eric sat watching me closely, just as I started to feel a little nervous that I was about to be expelled from the area he smiled. "Very nicely done, Compton. If you had thought of things like that four years ago you might have been more of a threat."
"I am a threat," I ground out fangs popping.
He leaned in to the table and grinned broadly finding my display of temper amusing. "No, you are not. But I admire your spirit, truly." Then after a pause he said, "You know there are real threats to Sookie. I understand that you'd be just as happy to see me meet my final death, but you don't want anything happening to her, do you? Work with me, will you." He didn't state it as a request, but more like he was talking to a very dim-witted child.
He leaned back and waved Sookie over to his side of the booth as she returned. She sat down next to him and snuggled into his side. We sat for a few moments making polite chitchat and then she looked at Eric, "I'm real tired." She turned to me and explained that she had been traveling for work that week. "Do you have to stay tonight?" she asked turning back to Eric.
He kissed the top of her head, "Of course not lover, you've been away all week. I simply came in until you returned."
She slid out of the booth and said she was just going to say goodbye to Pam. She slid out and made it about half way across the floor when a burly vampire I didn't recognize stopped her. I wouldn't have noticed it at all except that I saw Eric's eyebrows rise up into his hair and he slid toward the edge of the booth. Seeing his heightened awareness, I turned as well and saw the male grab Sookie's arm and ask her where she was going. She yanked her arm away with what must have been a great deal of force because she was able to break his grasp. He didn't like that. He twisted her other arm around behind her back, spinning her so her back was against him and his fangs popped out. I thought Sookie would call for help and was already rising to my feet, as was Eric, when she dropped to one knee and dipped her shoulder causing him to flip over her head. This would have worked nicely, if he had been a human, but he was not. He landed on his feet and faced her again before she could even right herself. I began moving toward the altercation to discover that somehow Eric was already in between them. I had never seen him move that fast. It was the speed of a vampire considerably older than even Eric's millennium.
"This is my wife," he hissed at the vampire. Pam was pulling Sookie away from the fight toward the bar.
The vampire, a visitor to our city, glared at Eric asking, "And who the fuck are you?"
Eric had been crouched defensively in front of Sookie, but he now straightened to his full height. "I am the Sheriff of this Area."
The vampire shrugged. "Listen friend, I didn't know she belonged to someone. I didn't mean to take your snack for tonight." He extended his hand. Eric glared down at the offending appendage looking as though he'd rather eat the foulest of human food than touch it.
"My wife," he repeated coolly and quietly, local vampires were backing away disliking his tone.
Sookie chimed in from the bar, where Pam was applying ice to her wrist, "Let it go, Eric. He's just a tourist with no manners. Just like a lot of other jackasses that come through here."
Eric did not remove his eyes from the visitor. The burly vampire look offended and cleared his throat, "Your pet just called me a jackass." Human pets did not insult vampires. Eric looked at him with a smirk, "This is a problem because…"
The new vampire began to look visibly angry. "She's a human," he snapped. "Are you placing a human before a vampire?"
Eric said nothing in response. He simply continued to stare the vampire down. Taking a step back, the newcomer stated, "She smells tasty. I can't believe you've never been asked to share. It must happen all the time."
Pam rolled her eyes from her position in front of Sookie, "How stupid are you? And how young? You smell like you're practically a baby." And then after a pause, she continued, "Just a baby, Eric."
It was silent in the club with the exception of the techno-beat that continued to blare through the DJs speakers.
The visitor squared his shoulders, "Prohibition." He sounded rather proud. It made sense; humans had been a bloodthirsty lot at that time in history.
"I'm not interested in teaching manners to a wayward child. Get the fuck out of my club," Eric ground out. "In fact, get the fuck out of my Area."
The vampire snorted. "She can't be worth it. Just another worthless fangbanger. At your age, you shouldn't be so dumb. Or are you like one of those old rich guys that really believes the blonde bimbo from Vegas loves you."
I did not see Eric move, but the vampire crashed through the doors of the club with the force of a rocket. "I said get out," Eric stated watching him go. I was certain Eric had done it, although as I said I had not seen him move. Pam was standing next to Sookie now. Supporting her. She looked pale. And Eric was moving quickly toward her, 'Ready dear one?" His words were casual, but his look was intense. He cradled her face with his palm, eyes searching.
She nodded, but said nothing. She put her hand to the bridge of her nose as though it ached and Eric kissed the tip of her nose and forehead. As the noises of the club returned to normal, he swept her off her feet and carried her out the now broken club doors. I caught Pam's eye as the crowd moved between us, but only for a moment before her eyes trailed after her master and his mate. She looked as concerned as I have ever seen Pam. I crossed the room toward her and whispered urgently, "Eric did throw him, yes?"
She stared at me in shock, "Of course, how else would he have gotten thrown?" And muttered something about order forms. She was gone before I had a chance to ask when Eric had gotten so fast that even a vampire couldn't track his movements.