*Second Place winner of the HNA Public Vote*
Thank you to everyone who voted, And especially to those who voted for this fic. I really appreciate everyone's support! ~Sassy
This one-shot was written as a contest entry to the Happily (N)ever After Contest. As such, it is full of angst and sadness, will not have an HEA (in fact, there is no chance of one what-so-ever), and contains a Major Character Death! I understand if you choose not to read, but please, if you do- do not send me hate mail. I warned you.
Many thanks to my dear friends, Miral and SVMfan1 for their support while writing this (-they know why). Also, Miral, you ARE an awesome Beta! Thanks for all the love you put into editing this.
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters nor the song; Charlaine Harris and Bruno Mars have those privileges.
I awaken with a groan, my hand flailing to find and shut the offending alarm; the quicker the better. As soon as they know I'm awake, any semblance of privacy will be gone. What I wouldn't give for one night, just one, where I could simply sit and remember my life as it once was.
I long to remember all of the good things Louisiana held; my Gran's cozy little farm house, my friends, and my brother. But I can't. I can, however, remember him every night after the sun goes down.
Even now, the mere thought of my beautiful vampire causes my heart to ache, my breath to catch, and my eyes to fill with tears.
I am allowed a few minutes each night to gather myself, but then I must play my part. It's a part that I have perfected over the years; I get dressed, I eat, I meet my master at his door, he eats (sometimes from me, other times it's another 'lucky' pet that gets the honor). Together we walk to his Royal Hall and then I perform my tricks. I am little more than a glorified lap dog.
Weary, though my day has yet to begin, I gather my legs from under the covers and slide out of bed. My feet hit the floor with a quiet thud and I push them into my fuzzy slippers. Though some of us are affected by the cold, it doesn't seem to matter. The wooden floors between my bed, my bathroom and my window seat are usually cold. Dragging myself into the bathroom, I ignore the shower. Instead, I walk to the window and settle on the window seat. Pulling my feet up, I wrap my arms around my knees and lean my face against the windowpane. Focusing my gaze upward, I search for the moon.
"Hello my friend," I whisper when I spot it. "It's me again. I know we do this every night, but would you please take a message to him for me? You're the only one who can do it. But could you, just this once, bring a message back for me?"
The others think I'm crazy. They just don't understand that I can't give myself to him; I don't want him. Even though I'm his favorite, still I refuse him. He knows he can't force me or I'll refuse to read minds for him. He needs my services too much to ever push me too far. I know it irks him. I know he wants me to want him; that will never happen. I could never do it—not after what he did to me. Not after what he did to Eric.
Sitting back, I close my eyes and relive it.
"Eric, did you get a summons from the King this week?" I ask him as he dresses for an evening at Fangtasia.
"No, why do you ask Lover?"
"There was one in my mailbox this afternoon and I thought the King was supposed to contact you if he needed my services. But if you didn't get one… well, that just seems kinda strange, doesn't it?"
"A bit, but it might just be that they were both delivered today, or that mine was delivered to Fangtasia instead. If there is not one there, then I will call the king to find out why he has chosen to bypass protocol and contact you directly. I wouldn't worry about it though, my love." He says this as he bends to drop a light kiss on my lips. "Are you coming to Shreveport with me tonight? Or shall I meet you back here after closing?"
"I called Sam after I got the summons and he gave me next week off. So I'll pack my suitcase and meet you at the bar. The summons says we need to be there by tomorrow afternoon, so I figured it would be easier if we stay at your house tonight. That way you can be ready for Anubis to pick you up tomorrow. Don't you think so?"
"I swear Eric, sometimes I see you out of the corner of my eye, and when I turn and you're not there, it hurts all over again. I know you're somewhere out there, somewhere far away, watching out for me still. I'm trying to get to you. I've tried so many times, but they never leave me alone. I miss you so much. Please, help me. Help me find my way to you. I need to feel your arms again; I need you to hold me." I whisper, hoping that my words will make their way to him, hoping that he'll find a way to respond.
My chest, pounding in a staccato rhythm, echoes the raggedness of my uneven breaths. My heart beats, but I don't really care about the mechanics of living these days. Without the shared bond between Eric and I, life holds no meaning for me; nothing does. The bond that has replaced ours is like a scab covering a festering wound; it is brittle and painful. I won't even say I hate it, because that would require energy. I refuse to even give him that much of my being. He took my world from me, why should I give him what little of me is left?
I raise my hand to sweep away a traitorous tear, wishing I could give in to the depression that's been circling for the past seven years. I would love to end my life, but it's not that easy when vampires and Weres surround you day and night. They watch my every move and stop my every attempt. I've lost count of the number of times I've tried to free myself. I make it so far and I think now's the time, but they're always there to stop me and heal me. I learned quickly that just a drop of vampire blood will close a vein if applied directly to the wound. I don't even have the scars to commemorate all the times I've tried (and failed).
My mind travels back again…
I'm sitting in a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce meeting, wondering why DeCastro thought it important for me to be here when I am hit by a blinding shot of pain. It takes my breath away. After a few minutes, I realize it came from my bond with Eric. Glancing out the window, I can still see daylight. My watch says its 5:48pm, so there's still about a half hour until sunset. I don't understand why I would've gotten a short burst of pain followed by panic during Eric's daytime sleep.
Judging by its brevity, I think maybe it's just a dream. It doesn't happen often, but Eric has been known to do it once in a while. I gently probe my side of the bond and find the familiar low buzz I normally get during the day. Shrugging it off as an anomaly, I return my attention to the meeting. 'Oh goody, we're talking about sprinklers… in the freaking desert…during a drought. That's smart,' I think to myself.
Finally the meeting is over and I can head back to the palace. I miss Eric. I check the bond again, noting that the sun is setting as I settle into the backseat of DeCastro's hired car. Twenty minutes later, still in the car, I start to become anxious noting that the sun has set and I have yet to feel Eric rise. It isn't normal; a little voice warns me something is wrong. I try to probe the bond only to slam into nothing. He's shut me down. This can't be good.
"Driver, could you please pull over?" I ask politely, my breath starting to come in shorter and shorter pulls.
Nothing. Since he doesn't respond, I reach forward and tap him on the shoulder. Still nothing. If it weren't for the red haze I see in his mind, his stillness would have me thinking him to be a vampire. He continues to ignore me as he drives onward. Something has happened -and he knows what it is- but I can only catch fuzzy images from his head.
As we pass through the palace gates, my senses immediately note the lack of movement. Usually a flurry of activity, I have yet to see a single person either inside or out. The driver pulls up to the front door but before I can reach for the door handle, large cool hands pull me out of the car. Without a word, I am pushed through the massive front doors and propelled into my own personal nightmare.
As I sit on my window seat, staring at my reflection in the glass, I notice the light of the stars and the moon shining off the tears that are blazing a silent path down my cheeks. Like a distant bystander I observe this. I don't do anything to remove the evidence of my heartache. I don't want to.
"Every night I sit here, Eric, by myself, and I talk to the Moon. I know you're on the other side, and sometimes I swear I hear you talking back to me. But other times, I just feel like a fool who sits alone in her room, talking to the moon."
"Ms. Stackhouse, so nice of you to join us tonight, I trust that you had a pleasant afternoon."
"Victor." I nod at him, acknowledging his presence. "The flight was fine, though I don't understand why the king sent me to an urban planning meeting. It's not like anything related to vamps was brought up."
"Not that it is your place to question the king's requirements or desires, but it was imperative that you not be in the palace this afternoon. Speaking of which, there are a few issues that I need to address with you."
"What is it Victor? What's going on?" Worried, my tone is sharp.
"There have been a few changes here today. DeCastro is no longer king, I am. As such, your contract for services is no longer valid. So Ms. Stackhouse, tonight we will renegotiate our terms."
"I will not 'renegotiate' anything without Eric, Victor. If you want to discuss renewing my contract, my husband must be present. He is the one who deals with any Supe who wishes to use my services, as you are well aware." By my words, I purposely remind him of my and Eric's pledging.
"Well then, let's go join your husband, shall we?" he sneers. I have a very bad feeling about this.
"Fine, let's." I say tersely as I follow him out the door and down the hall. Several vamps fall instep beside us as we exit. Our party's trek ends at a massive double door bookended by two of the most imposing vampires I'd ever seen. Other guards stand in a formation on either side of them. I shiver as I wonder what would merit such a standing guard. As Victor pushes open one of the doors, I am completely unprepared for the sight that unfolds before me.
Silver chains are coiled around Eric. The stench of burning flesh hangs in the air. I find myself taking shallow breaths as I lunge towards him. Several vamps immediately seize me. As they hold me in their vice-like grips, I search Eric's swollen face. 'What happened?' I wonder. 'Why?' I ask myself. The pain in his eyes stuns me. I try to reach him through our bond, but he has his end closed to me, I can only assume it is to shield me from the pain. But he can do nothing to protect me from the pain of seeing him like that; I feel tears cascade down my cheeks.
"Seeing you like that was the second hardest thing I've ever had to endure my love. I wanted to stake Victor then and there for the pain he caused you. I tried to get to you, you know I did, but he was determined. I only wish I had known what he had planned for me. It would seem that I was more 'famous', than either of us ever thought. I guess there were more than a few people who were jealous of what they thought you possessed. Yeah well. Victor may now claim ownership to my talent, but he will never have my heart Eric. That still belongs to you; it always will."
I watched as an errant cloud passed in front of the moon, briefly taking it away from me. Even though I know it isn't really Eric, I can't help but equate its steely appearance with him. The moon may seem cold and inhospitable, yet every night a whole new world comes to life the moment its beams embrace the earth. That's what Eric did for me; he brought a whole new side of me to life. Not to mention that the night was his time to live, and man, did he live when he had the chance.
"What the hell have you done to him, you… you… you MONSTER? Why is he wrapped in silver? Let him go!" I demand angrily. Ignoring my rising panic, I give myself over to the rage pulsing through my body. I struggle against my captors, I long to go to Eric, but my guards stand firm.
"Now, now, Sookie, that is no way to speak to your king." Victor says, his voice filled with contempt.
"You're not my king. You have no say over humans. You have no say over me. The only vampire who has any kind of say over my actions is right there." I say, pointing to Eric.
"If you keep this up, I fear I will have to punish you. And trust me when I say that you will not find a punishment from me pleasurable."
I gasp at his words. Since I was human, I didn't owe fealty to Victor even if he was the King. By law he couldn't punish me despite what he said. I don't think it mattered to him though. Not when he had Eric chained in silver.
"Victor, please!" I implore him with my eyes, as I attempt to keep my voice steady. "Tell me what's going on. Why are you holding Eric?"
"I would suggest that you listen to my offer. I simply have him here as a tool to help me negotiate a… how would you put it… a more favorable contract, one that entitles me to your services above all others."
"You're using Eric? Do you really think that I'll give you anything when you have Eric bound and in pain before me? Can you really be that stupid?"
"Oh, I wouldn't call it stupidity, I'd call it insurance." He let that sink in for a moment before continuing. "Shall we begin our negotiations now, or would you like to prolong his suffering? I am more than willing to sit here and watch his flesh burn and blister all night Sookie. Are you? I can tell you from experience that it is the most painful thing a vampire can endure."
"Fine Victor, what is it that you want exactly?" I ask him warily, pushing my anger to the side as I cannot help but recognize how unwise it would be to continue to provoke him, considering I needed him to release Eric.
"That's a much better question. Simply stated, I want you."
"What?" I exclaim. "You know that's impossible. I am not only pledged to Eric, but as you also know, I am bonded to him too. Even if I wanted to be with you, I couldn't leave him." I look at Eric as I say this, hoping to let him know I love him. Because it's still shut down, I can't send him anything through our bond.
"That's where you're wrong, Sookie. It is not difficult to end a bond. Of course, I'm sure your illustrious Viking failed to explain this to you? I can't say I blame him though; it would be hard to lose an asset such as yourself. Actually, breaking the bond is a simple as stating that you no longer wish to belong to the vampire you are bonded to, or for the vampire to release you. And yes, it will hurt when the bond breaks, but it will not kill either participant."
"I won't do it, Victor. I'll never be yours." I could hear the rage in my voice. I jerk my arms trying to break free; my effort is futile.
"Wrong again, Ms. Stackhouse. You will be mine, hence the 'negotiation tool'. You see, if you don't give me exactly what I want, I will stake him right here in front of you."
Startled, I gasp at his words. "What? What if I agree? What if I do what you want? What happens then?"
"I will let him go."
I glance at Eric, silently pleading for him to forgive me for what I was about to do. I know that as long as he is free and knows I didn't do this willingly, we'd find a way to be together again. As for doing what Victor demanded, I know I must do it; I must give Eric and I a chance. I cannot let Victor kill him.
"What do I have to do?"
Victor claps his hands gleefully. He seems like a child, an utterly evil child, in that moment.
"You will renounce him and your bond. Then to ensure your loyalty to me, we will bond immediately."
"I thought you needed to exchange blood three times to form a bond?" I ask. "And I'm not gonna have sex with you, no matter what. If you force me, or even try to, you'll never know if anything I tell you is true or not. I'll be useless to you."
"I have a witch ready to perform a bonding ceremony, one that will not require three blood exchanges. It will also add certain restrictions to our bond. It'll ensure that you will never be able to be too far away from me. As for sex, we shall see. I'm sure you're aware of how our blood affects healthy humans." His tone was salacious; I just felt sick.
A body-wracking sob tears through me, followed by uncontrollable shivers. I begin to sense the voids waking up throughout the palace and I know it will not be long before I am summoned. My life is no longer my own; I belong to Victor. It reminds me how bitter I was when I thought Eric would control me through our bond. But he had done nothing of the sort.
Eric had given me the room I needed to make my own choices, even the ones he didn't agree with. Eventually I came to realize he loved me. I know he could have turned me into his puppet, if he had wanted to. I know that because that's exactly what Victor did.
"Tell me what to do. But first, I want you to promise me you'll let him go after I do it."
"I will release him, of that you can be sure Sookie." He grins as he says this; it chills me to the bone.
"Let me talk to Eric for a minute first, please."
"I'm afraid that is not possible. I have had silver tubing placed inside his mouth and down his throat, so he cannot speak. You may speak to him, but he will not be able to answer you."
"You really are a monster, aren't you Victor? What were you afraid of? That he'd insult you to death? Why would you be so cruel?"
"You have two minutes, then we must hurry this along. I have important matters to attend to tonight, now that I am king." His tone is smug as he speaks, once again channeling his inner bully.
"Eric, please know that I love you. I know that we'll find a way to fix this. I know we will. I'm so so sorry, but I have to do this Eric." I beg him to understand.
Without warning my captors begin to pull me towards Eric's smoldering body. Thinking they are going to allow me to hold him, or touch him, I stop resisting. But we stop just short of reaching him.
"Alright Sookie, this is what we are going to do. I will tell you what to say and then you will repeat it. As soon as your bond to Northman is severed, the witch will recite the spell that will bind you to me through our own blood bond. Once you belong to me, I will free him from his pain."
I take a deep breath and look into Eric's eyes. I cringe at the pain I see there, floored by the intensity burning in them. If it weren't for the vamps holding me up, I would've fallen to the floor.
"Repeat after me: I, Sookie Stackhouse, no longer wish to be bonded to you, Eric Northman. I rescind your hold over me, breaking our ties."
As I repeat the words, I feel the bond open fully for the first time all evening. For a second I feel every ounce of Eric's staggering pain, only to have it replaced almost immediately with a different pain, one that is equally as excruciating. It feels as though the threads of our bond are being yanked from my body, and with it, parts of my soul. I cry out at the same time Eric garbles out a mangled sound. My body goes slack and my mind blacks out. For a few blissful minutes, I'm gone.
As I come to, I see Eric's body, a limp mass lying on the floor. Turning my head, I see Victor: the gleam in his eye chills me. From somewhere behind me I hear a woman's voice chanting as the smell of burning herbs begins to fill the air around us. I feel ill as the scent of the potion merges with the smell of Eric's charred flesh.
Closing the space between us, Victor roughly grabs me by my hair and yanks my neck to the side, baring it. "I wish that we had more time to do this, Sookie, but we do not. This may hurt a bit…"
I cringe as I feel his fangs plunge into me. I will myself to hold still and not give in to the urge to fight him. From experience, I know my resisting him would only excite him more; it would be much much worse for me. I feel myself becoming weak as Victor continues to drink from me. He is taking too much. I begin to feel faint.
"Victor," I gasp. "Victor, stop."
Slowly he pulls away, casually wiping his mouth with a handkerchief. I see his eyes are slightly glazed over, and I know it's my fairy lineage that has affected him. He knows now that I'm not entirely human; this was something Eric and I had attempted to keep quiet.
"Apparently you have kept a secret from us, hmmm, Sookie? You are not what you seem, though I must say that it is a pleasant surprise. I always knew you smelled sweeter than most, now I understand why." As he speaks, another frightening grin appears on his face. "Now it is your turn."
He bites his wrist and holds it to my mouth. At my initial refusal to drink, he grabs my chin and squeezes until my jaw pops open. His thick blood runs into my mouth; I gag. I could only surmise that his evilness had tainted his blood, turning it sour. Just as I think of spitting it back in his face, he reminds me of Eric's precarious position.
"Ah-ah, Sookie, think about your Eric before you do anything rash. Swallow it now, or I will force you to."
I cast my eyes to Eric once more, only this time I see he is looking away from me. My heart shatters in that moment, fearing that he cannot even bear to look at me. Sobbing, I swallow Victor's blood.
I feel my body convulsing as it tries to resist the magic that is now weaving its way into my cells. Between the blood and the spell, I feel a new thread form. Unlike my bond with Eric, this bond oppresses me. I no longer feel in control of my body; suddenly, I am a marionette moved by strings. Though I know little about magic, I recognize that there are more complex components at work in this bond, things that were never present before. Stricken, I realize the true horror of my situation. Victor had spoken the truth; as long as he lives, I won't be able to leave him.
I could only pray that Eric find a way to kill Victor. And forgive me my betrayal of him, free me, and love me once more. I glance over at Eric and our eyes meet, and I feel my heart begin to mend. He is showing me that he understands and forgives me, but there are other emotions too. Saddened, I note the pity and regret in his gaze. I know the pain he feels at my situation is more than the pain wrought by Victor's sadistic silver intubation.
Regretful over the words I'd failed to say to him, I cry. Silently I hope I'll still have a chance to say those words to him; I pray it's sooner rather than later.
With my eyes locked onto Eric's, I notice his gaze shift to my right. Turning to see what it is he's looking at, I see Victor taking a step towards him. Still believing that Victor is going to release Eric, I ask him if I can remove the bonds from Eric's body. It is only as I say these words that my eyes recognize the object Victor holds in his hand.
I watch on in horror as Victor brings the stake down swiftly into Eric's chest. As time ceases, I watch the stake disappear between the chains, quickly becoming entombed in Eric's flesh. My vision blurs as Eric's body becomes gray before turning completely to ash. I stare as this once glorious being begins to cave in and flake away under the weight of the silver chains.
It is only then that the vampires at my side let me go. I fall to the floor and crawl to Eric's remains. I run my hands through his ashes, hoping to find something –anything at all- that proves this isn't real. Noticing that the ashes below me were somehow turning into a paste, I realize I'm crying again. Unabated, the tears stream down my face, mixing with Eric's ashes. I scoop up what I can and bring them to my chest.
Thinking only that I must kill Victor, my fingers wrap around the stake that ended Eric. I grab it, and lunge at Victor, only to be blocked mere millimeters from the flesh covering his heart. I bring my hand back again, willing it to work this time, only to see it fail again. Over and over I try to pierce Victor; over and over I fail to even make contact. It's not until I hear his laughter that I realize the failure had truly been my own; no one had restrained my hand. No one needed to.
"Oh poor Sookie, trying to avenge her love," Victor sneers. "Did I forget to mention that part of the witch's spell was to ensure that you will never be able to harm me? It is physically impossible for you to kill me." Done gloating, he goes back to his laughter.
"Why did you kill him?" I scream. "You promised me you'd let him live if I did what you wanted." Unused to humans screaming at him, Victor sobers up.
He grabs my wet-ash-smeared forearm and yanks me towards him. He twists my arm enough to hurt me, but not enough to break any bones. "I promised nothing of the sort. I told you that I would let him go and that I would free him from his pain, and I have done both." He says this in a deadly tone.
"You killed him. How the hell is that letting him go?" I cry.
"Honestly Sookie, did you really think I would release him only to have him kill me seconds later? I am not an idiot. He wouldn't let me have you. I needed him alive to force you to bend to my will, but after that, he was nothing more than a liability. Trust me my dear; you were the prize I was after. And I won."
"What about Pam?" I hiss at him.
"Pam was disposed of this afternoon, long before your 'meeting' wrapped up."
I feel a new chill crawl up my spine as I recall the pain followed by panic during the drive back from the meeting. Pam is gone too.
My mind turns to my brother, to Bill, to the Shreveport Weres…Surely, someone will realize something is wrong when they realize Eric and Pam are both gone. Someone will come after me. As if he stole my telepathy along with everything else, Victor's next words address my very thoughts.
"As we speak, word is being spread of the tragic Anubis plane crash that took place this afternoon just outside of Nevada. Such a sad story… it was a total loss, no survivors, and Eric's partially burned open coffin filled with ashes… So you see Sookie, no one will know the truth of what happened. There is no one left to avenge your dead Viking. No one will come to save you either. You're mine now."
Sensing the Weres outside my door, I hastily wipe away my tears. Knowing I need to clean myself up, I say goodbye to Eric and blow a kiss to the moon as I jump off the window seat. I run for the bathroom as I hear someone slide a key into the deadbolt. I take off my clothes and turn on the showerhead, sliding under the water just as my bathroom door opens.
"You need to hurry Ms. Stackhouse. He wants you tonight, and he does not wish to wait."
"Yes Michael, I'll be out in a second," I reply.
I take a deep breath, readying myself for yet another night. This night will most likely prove to be the same as the last, and the one before that. My puppeteer will pull my strings, and like the good little marionette I have to be, I will dance for him once more.
A/N: I promise each and every one of you that I cried when got to the part where Victor kills Eric and didn't want to do it at all, but it was the only way to ensure that there would not be any chance of him rescuing Sookie. Again, this was a contest entry for the H(N)A contest. ~Sassy