Sookie ran so hard her lungs burned. Sweat dripped from her forehead and the sound of her feet as they hit the pavement exploded in her ears. Still, she felt the sick certainty spread in her stomach that it wouldn't be enough... there was no way a human could out run a whole pack of were wolves. 'God, I am so dead', and not in a calm, peaceful way either. Crap, crap, crap! She didn't want to get torn apart by a pack of dogs. She didn't want to feel like a stupid bimbo because some stupid vampire dumped her, She didn't want to die knowing Bill Compton was the last man she ever slept with and now he was sleeping with someone else! She could feel them behind her and screamed with the effort as she gave it everything she had, convinced she was a heartbeat away from her spine being ripped, out when suddenly she was flying...
"Waah! What the," she saw bright yellow eyes and sharp, snapping teeth below her for only a second and then it seemed like they just fell away.
"Two fucking days, you can't be alone for two fucking days." Eric was above her. He held her securely around the waist and veered towards a nearby building. They landed none too gently on the roof, between two massive air-con units. "Two fucking days, Sookie, my world is falling apart around me and I'm flying to Jackson fast enough to pop my eardrums because you can't leave things the fuck alone!" He was paced and swore, and gesticulated wildly with his hands. "Damn it." He growled and took her by the shoulders. For a moment she was afraid he'd pitch her off the roof, but he patted her down for bite marks. "Are you hurt?"
"No... no, I... I'm fine." Her bottom lip trembled, it was all too much. It had been stupid to go to the werewolf bar, it had been stupid to think a vampire needed her to swoop in and save him. It was unbelievably stupid to stand on a roof with Eric Northman while he yelled at her and made her feel bad about everything. God damn it why was it always him that swooped in and saved her at the last minute?
"Do not cry." Eric grated between clenched teeth.
His order of course meant less than nothing and Sookie sat where she was and buried her face in her hands. Her shoulders heaved with massive, silent sobs. Eric huffed in irritation for a moment, then cursed under his breath and sat next to her. His arms snaked around her shoulders and he tugged her tight against his chest.
"Bill... called. He said... he said he didn' wanna be found. He said he was back with that... that woman and... an' at least he didn't have to worry about hurtin' her..." She sobbed helplessly against him.
Eric swore softly and stroked her hair. "Sookie... Please stop crying." He leaned forward and thunked his forehead against her temple gently. "I don't know what to do when you cry..." he confessed ruefully. "All I can think of is to kiss you, and that will just get me in more trouble."
Sookie managed a small laughed and shoved at his shoulder so pathetically that he didn't really believe she meant it, so he held on. "You're like a big walking boner," she grumbled, then sniffed and wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand.
"More like a big flying boner who just saved your life." He made a face and played with a lock of her hair, "what is this?"
"Oh... I got a make-over... so's I could fit in at the bar..."
"You look awful. You will wash this out, wont you?"
"Hey! What business is it of yours what I do with my hair?" She huffed and tried to struggle out of his arms, for real this time and Eric let her go.
"Well, consider how much time I spend looking at you, where as I imagine you look at yourself fairly little."
She opened her mouth to yell at him, holding up one pointy finger of doom, then closed it again and looked at him carefully. "What's wrong with you?" She asked.
"What do you mean?" He asked, taken aback by the sudden change in conversation.
"You look like shit, and you were nice to me for a full minute before you turned into an ass hole and you said before... somethin' about your world fallin' apart. What's goin' on?"
Eric sighed and flopped back, his head made a loud sound on the concrete roof. Sookie hurried to his side, afraid he'd cracked his skull, but he was just looking off into the night. "I've out smarted myself." He said softly, his eyes distant and sad. "Vampire politics are fraught at the best of times, and I thought I could keep the Queen under control." He sighed, "She's a child with a diminishing bank balance and an appetite for the truly expensive. Now, because of my own hubris... someone's going to die."
"Eric... talk to me, what does that mean?"
He smiled sarcastically, "Last fuck for a condemned man?"
"ERIC!" She kicked him, hard, in the side and he coughed but laughed at the same time. "Stop bein' an incredible tool and let me help you damn it!"
"As you wish... The Queen has been dealing in Vampire blood to make ends meet in a non-taxable fashion. I own the local vampire bar and there was no way to disobey her order so guess where this crap is coming from? Someone, probably Bill, has tipped the Magister who, as we speak, is holding Pam as collateral. I can't turn in the Queen, I'll be killed. If I confess myself, I'll be killed. If I run, Pam will die..."
"But..." Sookie felt her stomach sink hard.
"Pam..." Eric continued, "under torture, indicated to the Magister that Compton was responsible... I have two days to bring him evidence of such." He closed his eyes and hit his head back against the ground. "I could do that... God knows it'd be easy to make it stick, the Queen would back me if nothing else..." He opened his eyes and looked at Sookie, who stood over him, "but in doing so, I would lose you. Even now, after everything he's done to you..."
"You've gone a thousand years without a pet telepath Eric, why are you so convinced you need one now?" She backed away, step by step, but he was in front of her in a heartbeat, his steady hands on her shoulders.
"I don't," he looked down at her, confused and irritated with himself. "I can't stop thinking about you," he confessed quietly, almost ashamedly. "And now, right as Compton finally proves he's not worthy... I'm hoisted by my own petard. No matter what fucking happens you'll never,"
"Be yours?" She coughed, though the idea wasn't as repulsive as maybe she'd once thought it was, and the look of hurt on his face made her flinch.
"I was going to say 'chose me'." He let her go and dropped his arms. "If I wanted to own someone, that would be easy. I don't want you to belong to me Sookie," she tried to close herself off, willing him not to say something that'd make her melt, "At least, no more than I belong to you."
She believed him too. She was sure if she could just not be looking at his face, then she'd think clearly. She'd remember all those manipulative, creepy, evil things he'd ever said or done and she'd be able to see that he was lying... Unfortunately none of that could happen while she was looking at his face. He hadn't moved, which made her itchy and uncomfortable. He just stood there, looking at her, like everything that'd gone wrong in his life was her fault somehow and yet he still couldn't hate her.
"I'm fucked," he said softly, then chuckled cynically to himself. "Godric would never have been caught like this..."
Sookie didn't know what to say, or think, or do. She was acutely aware of the fact that she was standing on a rooftop skanked up to the nines with stupid dark hair and fake tattoo's. She remembered when Godric stepped down as Sheriff, how fired up Eric had been then. Fight this, he'd demanded, don't let the bureaucrats treat you like this. Somehow, between then and now, he'd stopped being fired up, he didn't believe himself to be unconquerable any more.
"I can fly you back to Bon Temps, you shouldn't stay in Jackson, not now." He turned around and offered him her back to climb on.
"I can't just climb on your back, not after... not... God Damn it Eric you're such a shit!" She stomped her foot, the tears welled up in her eyes again as Eric turned to look at her. "Of course I'm gonna help you. You know I was always gonna help you so don't even pretend you thought I'd let you hang." She wiped angrily at her eyes, "You're just... You come over all sweet and fragile and then, just when I start thinkin' you might not be a complete bastard, you blind-side me with somethin' dirty or nasty or you do somethin' underhanded and just... crap. You think I don't WANT to be able to trust you? You think it wouldn't be nice for me to have someone around I could actually count on. You always turn up, right when I need you, you save the day hoooraa and then you're all 'oh lets fuck now' or 'here's proof I'm a big dick head'."
"You don't survive a thousand years by being a 'S.N.A.G' Sookie... I can't change what I am. Every underhanded thing I've done, I did to protect you. Compton is a child, having him on your arm was the illusion of protection. I am hardly the oldest of my kind, and every Vampire with half a brain would want a telepath they could control. I am sorry I hurt you, but you're to valuable and to much of a danger magnet to be allowed to run around on your own!" Eric stopped, inches from her face, the growl in his voice truly dis-quietening and Sookie took a step back. "You can't help me Sookie, you wont give Compton up, and I wont give up Pam."
"Well we'll give up someone else then," she said defiantly, her chin raised in a desperate attempt to hide how scared she was, how rattled. "You said yourself it wouldn't be that hard to frame someone, we just have to find someone who's a bigger ass than you."
"Are you actually suggesting you would help me set up an innocent person, to be executed in my place?" Eric's eyebrow nearly disappeared into his hair, surely not, he thought. He knew her better than that... surely?
"Course not!" Sookie exclaimed, "I'm suggestin' we frame a guilty someone."
"Who exactly did you have in mind?"
"Well... There are a couple of candidates I can think of off the top of my head." She checked off on her fingers, "There's the Fellowship of the Sun. I like the idea of them getting' in the shit, but at the same time I dunno if that'd backfire into more trouble. Then there's that werewolf pack down there. There was a vampire in there tonight handin' out his blood! They all drank it and... well they kinda went crazy, actually. Then there's whoever Bill's run off to work for... I mean, if Bill is the one who got you into trouble in the first place. I gotta tell you if that Vampire woman is behind all this, I might be able to find something to occupy myself with while you rip her arms off."
Eric laughed and scratched his forehead lightly, his eyes perplexed and impressed. "Do you contemplate this kind of thing often?"
"Course not! I'm a nice girl, I just... I don't..." She bit her bottom lip and twisted this way and that on her feet, desperate not to look at him and in the end she caved, stomped once more and put her hands on her hips, "I don't want you to die, alright! There, are you happy?"
"Hopeful..." He made to step towards her but she raised her hands.
"Don't. Just, don't. I am not swoonin' into your arms, I am not fallin' under your spell and I am not agreein' to sleep with you! I just... might not hate you. Completely. All the time." She stood firm.
"You're beautiful when you're denying me," Eric grinned, deeply relieved, more so than he might ever admit, that she was willing to help him. "Alright, first I'll need you to look at some pictures for me," he grinned at her shocked look, "not that kind. Although... later. We need to identify the vampire who's been supplying the wolves. This is not a new pack, you remember what I told you before?"
"About the NAZIS?"
"That's right. Same pack, so we can safely assume same vampire, or at the very least, same line of vampires. That means conspiracy, that means a big enough storm of shit that whatever the Magister might believe I've done, he'll be too busy to follow up on it. At least not until after I've had plenty of time to deal with whatever evidence might still be laying around." He smiled at her and held out his hand, "You really are an impressive woman."
Sookie glowed, she'd never been called that before. "You usually call me a 'human', is 'woman' better, or worse?" She asked archly.
"'Woman' is better than just about anything... except me, of course. Now, two day's is not long. How would you prefer to fly? I can put you on my back, carry you superman style, or you could wrap your arms and legs around me and..."
"Ok, Ok I get the picture... Umm... how fast do you go?" She looked a little worried.
"Fast. Much as I'd like your first time to be gentle, we don't have time. It will be fast, your hair will get messed."
Sookie took a deep breath and then put on her brave face, "Don't take this the wrong way but I'm gonna say 'front pack', so I can keep my face out of the wind. And I'm kinda scared of swallowin' a bug... or fifty."
Eric said nothing, though he did smirk as he opened his arms for her to step into him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and jumped a little, her legs wrapped around his hips. She ducked her head down so her cheek was against his chest and her face shielded by her body. "Ready?"
"You're smilin' aren't ya?" She said without bothering to look up.
"You find me a man who wouldn't smile in this situation..."
"Are you suggestin' you're normal?"
"Of course not, but lechery comes standard. You're a mind reader, you know that." He wrapped his arms around her more gently that she'd thought he would and gave her a little squeeze, "Look down."
Sookie popped her head out and saw that they were hovering over the building about three meter's up. "Oh my gosh..." she breathed.
Eric refrained from commenting. "We'll be going fast, hide your face again. Shouldn't take more than twenty minutes."
"Where are we goin'?"
"A safe house near Shreveport. Godric left it to me."
Sookie squeezed his neck gently. Strangely, though she'd only known him a day or two, Godric had made a huge impression on her. She often found herself remembering him sadly, and she felt robbed that she hadn't gotten the chance to know him better. Eric was both grateful for and irritated by her concern. She never looked down as the wind rushed past her ears. This whole flying business was totally unnatural and she was trembling violently by the time they landed.
In Eric's defence the landing was so light she didn't notice, she just clung on to his neck and pressed her face into his chest.
"Sookie, we're here." He said gently and smiled down when she looked up at him.
"Where is here?"
"One of Godric's houses. He's... he liked to travel, to watch people. If I looked into it I'd probably find he had a house almost everywhere."
"I'm really sorry Eric..." She let her legs drop and stepped back to look at the small, unassuming cottage. "It's lovely."
"I should have known he wasn't happy," Eric admitted softly, "the last five hundred years, he'd been getting less and less gregarious, less passionate. If I'd found you earlier, trusted you... I think you could have convinced him to stay..."
"Me? He hardly knew me at all!"
Eric laughed softly, "He thought you were sweet and courageous. There just wasn't enough time,"
Sookie reached out and gently took his hand. "We've got work to do. Come on." Eric nodded and led her to the front door.
"Everything we need should be here. With a small amount of computer fraud I should be able to access the images of every prominent vampire in North America. Let us hope he's one of them, it might take a very long time to identify him otherwise." Eric closed and locked the door behind them for all the good it'd do if any vampires showed up.
"Eric... does this all seem, well, kinda coincidental to you?" Sookie asked as she sat on a massive overstuffed couch which was covered in fur (which made it seem at any moment that it might get up and waddle away).
"What do you mean?"
"Well, just that you said the Queen was in financial trouble and then Bill gets kidnapped by werewolves that are bein' controlled by another vampire and at the same time you're bein' ratted out to the vampire cops... I dunno. It just all seems so convenient. Or, you know, such a pain in the ass to all be happening at once." She looked up at him, "Am I makin' any sense?"
"You're trying to suggest this may be some sort of plot?" He sat next to her and huffed out a breath. "Maybe. Besides the Queen I am the oldest vampire in this area, therefore the biggest threat seeing as she's... unstable. But why take Bill?" Eric stopped and looked at her carefully, "Unless they count you among my assets and hoped to remove you from the picture as well."
"But I can't read vampire minds, you all know that." She protested, "How could I be a threat to them?"
"It may be that they don't realise you can't read us." Eric said carefully, "Or it may simply be that like most vampire business these days, half of it is done during the day and that means by humans. We are most vulnerable when we sleep, and our business is most vulnerable while we're not the one's carrying it out."
"OK, that makes sense. Eric, with Bill gone... exactly how screwed am I?" Eric opened his mouth and his eyes twinkled but Sookie gave him a flat stare, "I mean it! This is my life too and if Bill's gone and dumped me flat I need to know how much shit I'm in!"
Eric sighed and lent back, his arms flopped over the back of the couch, "A lot." He said shortly. "But the truth of it is that Compton's protection was... traditional. Politeness among our kind would prevent random harassment but the reality is all someone would have to do to take you from him, is kill him. At two hundred years old, he is not what you'd call a great challenge for a power player."
"Could you have killed him?" She asked softly.
"Easily. But that wouldn't have gotten me anywhere... I told you. I don't want to control you, not like that."
"Well like what then?" She shifted away from him on the couch.
"I want you to scream in pleasure so loud that the neighbours stay up at night imagining what I'm doing to you. I want to watch you come apart in my hands until you can't move, can't think, can't argue with me." He leaned in closer and closer as he spoke, and Sookie's blood pressure went higher and higher the closer he got. "I suppose that's a kind of control... in fairness to me though, it's a kind of control I can only have by doing exactly what you want."