Author's Notes: Hello!
Big, big, BIG news, everyone! I have a beta! *cheer* This chapter I have for you today was looked over and heavily fixed by dear, sweet msbuffi. She contacted me a few days ago and offered her guidance and help. I jumped at the chance. As you know, I didn't have a beta, which made this story lack, in my opinion. Now I do. It's time for a celebration! *wink*
I want to let it be known through here that this story will be undergoing 'construction' very soon. A few chapters at a time, starting from the beginning, I will be tweaking with the help of msbuffi to make the story...more readable for some. I have no idea if I will update it all at once, or periodically. We'll have to wait and see.
Thank you everyone that reviewed! Especially the warm good lucks for quitting smoking! They definitely warmed my heart and made me smile! I'm still going strong! I didn't get to reply to your reviews, but this week, I promise to do just that!
A special thanks to msbuffi. Give her a round of applause, people! I probably owe her my soul now, eh? *giggle* I heart you, msbuffi! :P
I own nothing, nada, zip, zilch!
Chapter Thirty-Two - Internal Guilt
"We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets." - Marilyn Monroe
We all stood frozen for just a moment, maybe it was longer, I couldn't really tell. Surprisingly though, I was the first one to move. My eyes blinked, my lips mashed together, and my hands balled into fists. The numbness that engulfed me only seconds ago faded into a fear so great I wasn't sure if my body could take it.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Eric twitch where he stood. In the back of my mind, I just knew he had felt that rush of fear from me, though our bond had remained closed. It had been too strong not to break through that shield between us. Nevertheless, he made no other move. He looked like a statue. I didn't like that. He was too still, too quiet, and that frightened me even more.
I wanted him to comfort me, to tell me he'd find another way, but in reality, there wasn't any. We acted too slowly. No, we hadn't, I thought sadly. I was trying to pacify myself. We couldn't find another way to begin because this was our destiny; this was my destiny. Fate liked to bite you in the ass and play out the way it wanted, and no interference, no matter how badly you fought, would change it. I had figured that out the hard way.
There was no escape.
There was no way out.
I was going to die.
The fear was crippling, but why? I knew I had to die. Why hadn't I come to terms with it?
Maybe it was because it was even more real as it grew even closer. Death was knocking at my door and I was terrified to answer.
I gulped back the bile that had risen in my throat. Suddenly I felt as though the world was going to give way under my feet, but I stood firm. I couldn't just break down. To do so would ruin everything I needed to do, and wouldn't solve a thing. I still wanted to save Eric, right? I wanted to save his people, right?
The instinct to preserve my own life felt as if it was going into overdrive, pumping adrenaline into my system to the point where I felt as if I'd burst.
My fate was my own and I'd be damned if I let instincts control me any longer. Eric was more important than my own life. One life lost could save hundreds, if not thousands, of people who had been stuck here in this world for so long.
"We have to go," Mae whispered into Pam's ear but it had been loud enough that I heard her as well.
I watched as Pam finally blinked. She cast her eyes cast in my direction before they turned and surveyed Eric who still stood motionless. Carefully, slowly, and remaining cautious as if Eric would begin snapping and tearing the world apart himself, she glided next to his side gently placing her right hand on his forearm.
"Eric, we have to return to the castle," Pam said, in a tone I had never before heard her use. It was a loving and quiet tone. Right away, I realized she was trying to pacify him.
It was quiet for five minutes, five long minutes I counted in my head.
"I understand," he finally whispered.
Eric looked up at Pam, grabbed her hand gently, and let it go. It fell to her side. As he turned in my direction, I watched as Pam closed her eyes then frowned. I didn't quite understand, but I knew it had to do with their bond. Whatever Eric was feeling, he was letting her feel it as well.
For just a moment, I was jealous. I wanted to feel what it was that he was feeling. I wanted to share his pain, but then I thought better of it. It wouldn't do any good and it probably would only serve to make me feel worse.
Without another word, Eric marched over to me, grabbed my left wrist with his right hand, and turned us around. We began walking with Pam and Mae following closely behind. We continued back the same way as our original starting point.
"We need a car," Pam said from behind, her voice floating to my ears through some sort of hazy way. I wasn't really paying attention because of the nonstop buzzing repetitions in my own head. "We will never make it back before daylight if we go on foot."
I turned to look up at Eric and saw his silent nod in response. I was trying desperately to catch his eyes, but he was avoiding my gaze. I hated this. How much more time did I have, really, to be able to look into his eyes, to remember his face before my time ended?
Another ghostly shiver ran up my spine. Then before I knew it, I slipped on some ice and jerked forward, but Eric was there to catch me. His grip on my wrist tightened as he pulled me back against his chest.
"Careful," he gruffly warned.
Unbeknownst at the time, that one word was the last he would speak to me the entire trip back to the castle.
We eventually found a car parked in the driveway of an old farmhouse after having walked for at least two hours.
"Maybe there are people inside," I pondered, jerking my head in the direction of the house. There was a single light on inside.
We trudged up the stairs together and I marched over to peek through the window. At the same time, Pam kicked in the door and walked through the threshold. That alone should have given off warning signs, but I remained looking through the window. What met my sight was something I had never expected.
There was a younger looking couple, a human couple, sitting together on a loveseat. Their hands were interlocked tightly. Everything would have seemed normal if it wasn't for the gaping holes in the back of both of their heads.
My hand not being held flew up to my mouth as I looked on in horror. This was something you didn't ever want to see, but simply couldn't look away from.
"They took their own lives," Mae said gently, pointing to the two guns in the laps of their owners. "They must have wanted an easy way out of this mess. I don't blame them." She tugged on my arm, moving me away from the window and into the house.
I could. I would have saved them. They didn't have to kill themselves.
Yet, I was not exactly angry. I felt sorry for them. I felt like I somehow betrayed them.
"They won't be in need of their car," Pam replied, and I found myself hissing in her direction. Even for a vampire, her comment was uncalled for, and callous.
Being Pam, she simply shrugged her shoulders and turned to locate the keys.
It took ten minutes to find the single key on a small keychain hanging by a nail on the wall. Pam made sure it was the right one before we left.
The car ride was silent and painful.
Eric still hadn't spoken and that worried me even more, as if I didn't have enough on my plate already. I tried to get him to talk a few times until I figured it was futile, so I curled up in the back seat next to the window. He didn't speak though his hand continued to grip my wrist so tightly I was sure it cut off the circulation a few times. Finally, he loosened his grip. His fingers glided down until his hand wrapped in my own and his fingers interlaced with mine. I turned my head slowly, leaning back against the seat just staring at him, but he wouldn't look in my direction. He wouldn't let me in.
Moreover, I found that his silence hurt so very much.
He gazed out the window as I did moments ago, lost in his own thoughts. These were thoughts that may have everything to do with me and how he could save me somehow.
It's over. I found myself thinking, as if willing him to hear my own thoughts as I do others. We lost, but I promise you…I will save you.
Of course, he was no mind reader. I'm glad he wasn't. If he knew what I planned on doing, though I wasn't sure exactly how I would be doing it yet, he would end up doing something incredibly stupid by trying to preserve my life instead of his own.
However, in the back of my mind my guilt decreased. I told him—not directly—what I was going to do. I was going to save him. I would lose my life and though I was terrified, I was going to do it.
The drive seemed to be taking forever. With each turn of the wheel, I knew we were getting closer to our destination, yet no matter how quickly Pam was driving, and she was driving fast, it did nothing to make time speed up. This had to have been the longest journey I had ever taken. Time was moving too slowly. I didn't want that, I didn't want it to drag on, and yet, I also didn't want it to go too fast. I couldn't decide which I wanted more.
As we continued, Pam rolled down her window, and the cold air hit my face. I sighed in relief. It had been so stifling in the car that I felt as if I wasn't able to breathe anymore. I closed my eyes as the chilly air splashed against my face, cradling me in its cool breath.
My mind seemed to calm to the point of almost blankness, yet nothing was forgotten. I still knew my duty to both myself and to Eric, however; the fear in my chest started to loosen its thorny grip on my heart.
I thought about the better times I've had here: the masquerade when Eric asked me to become his pet, going for a walk with him, working at Merlotte's with Tara and Sam, meeting Nancy, and buying the most beautiful dress I had ever seen. I thought about the moments when Alcide, my overprotective bodyguard, stood by my side, the morning I had spent with Chef Michael when he told me his sad story with a happy ending with his wife Rose, and many more moments with…my friends.
I had friends here. I never really had friends before I came here.
All at once, the blankness and the calm that swept over me just a little while ago faded away, only to be replaced by sadness. I had never quite felt sadness before of this magnitude. I couldn't quite explain it, but it felt like homesickness. I missed them, and I would miss them still once I was no longer here. Would they miss me?
The answer "yes" replayed in my mind. They would miss me, but they'd live on. They would mourn me and then move on. That's what I wanted from everyone because I was willing to die to save the only friends I have ever had, even if I only knew them for a short while. I wanted them to be happy so I could give them this gift, and they'd accept it.
I looked over Eric slowly. My eyes traveled up his long, strong shoulders to his beautiful blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, to his ridged jaw line, and then rested my gaze simply on his magnificent profile. My eyes tightened.
He would mourn me, but I don't know if he'd ever move on. He would never accept my gift.
The thorny grip tightened again around my heart so tightly that I'm sure there were puncture wounds. Tears stung my eyes, but I wouldn't let them fall.
I felt as though I couldn't breathe all over again. I made a noise close to a soft whine as I turned my gaze back to the window. Eric's hand gripped mine tighter once more. As I struggled with myself to remain quiet and not cry, my mind betrayed me. Instead of consoling me, it tortured me with ideas of Eric hating me for choosing death to save his life instead of dying together.
I didn't want to die together, because I knew of a way to save him. I wanted—I needed him to live on for me. Yet, I would be forcing this upon him, throwing it into his lap, and shoving him off to Earth alone.
No, he wouldn't be alone, I thought.
My eyes peeked over the headrest of the front seat to look at the back of Pam's head. Pam would be with him. I knew at that moment that I would have to talk with her at some point. I couldn't tell her exactly what I had planned, but I needed to let her know. If I couldn't be there for him, she needed to be. She would need to help fill the void I was obviously going to leave.
Am I selfish? I pondered suddenly. No, I don't think I am. I want to save him; save everyone.
So then…why do I feel like I'm being selfish?
At some point, I must have fallen asleep, because I had to have been dreaming. He would never act this way toward me in reality so it had to be a dream.
Please, let this be a dream. Just let this be a nightmare.
Eric towered over me, breathing heavily against my neck, the neck he had bitten and left an open gaping wound. He tore my skin in anger, growling in a deep, guttural, savage way that made me tremble to my very bones. Blood was gushing from my wound. I stumbled back, trying desperately to get out of his grasp, but failing as his nails dug into my arms breaking the skin. I bit back a strangled cry.
I felt the blood slipping down the side of my neck warm and fast as it drenched my shoulder and the side of my shirt in blood. Still the blood coursed on, sliding down my arm to my fingertips where it dripped to the ground and began staining the grass and mud with crimson.
His eyes, I could never forget how they looked! Crazed, like a lunatic; like a predator who had caught his prey and was about to devour it, but his eyes held more intelligence than a normal animal. The blue hues and those dark pupils that were dilated so large showed me his hurt and anguish.
"You don't get to decide," he said, with his voice harsh as he snapped at me with his teeth.
"You do not make that decision for me."
"Eric, let me go! Let me go!" I cried, trying to pull away from him with all my might, but to no avail. He was simply too strong for me.
The screams of terror around us were so loud I was sure my ears would start to bleed. The wind whistled, blowing Eric's hair behind him, blowing mine in my eyes as I trembled.
I knew that behind me there would be salvation, not my own, but his. If I could just get away, I could save him. I could save him and die, but he wouldn't let me go.
"You do not get to leave me!" His scream echoed above the others. "We go together. We die together."
His right hand left my shoulder as his nails extracted themselves from biting deeper into my skin. I looked down as he offered his hand, and placed upright in his palm was a stake; the same stake that had fallen from Gran's letter.
"Take it, kill me," he whispered, roughly pushing the stake into my hand. "We could die like this before they get us."
I couldn't stop staring at it.
Just do it. Just take the stake, ram it through his chest, and then you can die together. You don't have to fear death alone. My mind whimpered like a small, lost, desperate child. He doesn't want to live without you. You can't force him to do this on his own, live on his own without you. This is what he wants. He wants to die with you. He wants to die by your hand.
"No!" I cried out. "NO!"
The wound in my neck was severe. My heart was already starting to slow and flutter like a bird with a broken wing. He condemned me to die by his own hands, the way he wanted me to die. He didn't want me to save him, or his people even though he knew I could. In addition, he wanted me to kill him, to condemn him, just as he had done to me.
"Don't do this to me. Don't force this on me." His voice was a broken plea. "Don't make me live without you, Sookie."
Eric bent, falling to his knees and bringing me with him for I no longer could hold my own weight. We sat there in the grass, in my pool of crimson blood, and gazed at each other.
"You can't die. You have to live on for me. I promise…," I stopped myself.
What could I possibly promise him? What did I know? There was something in my mind, something just out of reach; something my subconscious knew, but I could not obtain it in my conscious state.
Before I could continue, Eric smiled very sadly like a broken man. My brows furrowed.
"Too late," he murmured. "We go together this way then."
Then I saw it. A Black Hole had descended upon us, picked us up in its powerful wind, pulling us away from each other in the process, and began to tear us apart - into nothing.
I woke with a start, jumping ever so slightly in my seat. I brought my hand up, wiping the sweat from my forehead and the loose tears that must have, at some point, sprang forth from my eyes. I cursed under my breath, shifting in my seat so I wouldn't be caught wiping my tears away.
My stupid dreams that torment me to no end might very well be the death of me. Couldn't I just go about my destiny without my own mind, body, and soul betraying me in the worst way possible? Why would they make me see all different possibilities and different scenarios that could possibly play out when the time comes that I will, in fact, die?
Why must I fear or even begin to regret my decisions? Why feel guilty for wanting and needing him to stay alive? Why about that is so bad? What is it that is so bad to have him live on for me? Why does my mind want me to believe it's selfish? I'm giving up my own life, for God's sake! I'm sacrificing my own existence for someone else, for someone who needs to live on! He's spent thousands of years living, but I could not, and I would not allow him to die because of those witches!
Maybe he will view his life as nothing, not worth living if you no longer are. My subconscious was snapping at me.
Stop it! Stop betraying me! Stop making me fear not only my future, but also the future of the one I love! I screamed vehemently back at the voice of my subconscious.
He had to live on; there was nothing else at the end.
I could not explain it to myself, but he had to live, and his people had to live. The world we both called home at one point or another needed a being like Eric Northman to walk across its plains. It was the way nature intended it. He and his people were never meant to be sent here.
"We're almost there."
Pam's voice made me jump out of my own turmoil. I breathed deeply, trying to settle my pounding heart. I was sure I was going to have a panic attack soon.
I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to gather my strength, when I felt cool fingers against my chin and my head being turned. I opened my eyes to see Eric's blue hues looking at me solemnly. He said not a word, of course. He hadn't said a word the whole time, but his eyes held mine pulling me into their depths, making my heart slow it's racing, and making the anxiety slowly fade.
"Holy sh…" Pam's voice rang out once more.
The car came to a halt. Pam and Mae got out of the car quickly, while Eric and I moved at a more sluggish pace following their motion and hopping out of the car.
The sight of the castle off in the distance was both a blessing and a curse. I could hear loud talking, a commotion, as if there were a gathering of a crowd of people somewhere. We were still too far away to pinpoint exactly where the voices were coming from, but I knew. They were at the castle itself. We were standing in the small town, Småstad, and the car had come to a halt just a few yards away from Merlotte's. I called this town home for a short while.
Nevertheless, the feeling of being "home" had not come, for there was something looming in the sky, off in the distance, something not welcome around these parts. It was dark as it was still nighttime, but the near planet in the sky that I had come to love gazing upon was partially covered by very dark, black clouds. The luminescence of the close planet was nearly completely obscured by the blackness of the clouds in front of it. It looked as though the clouds were stealing away its light.
The black puffy mass was rolling in off in the distance and it was so dark I couldn't really see where it began, or where it ended; if there was an end. I was starting to doubt there was one. It blended too well in the night sky, however; if you looked closely, there was light within the dark mass itself. There were fractions of purple light that burst suddenly, making the dark mass light up, changing the shade of the black only slightly before returning to the darkest of dark.
We all stood there watching as it seemed to just be hovering off in the distance, still far away from the castle and still far away from us, but it was coming nonetheless.
"Mae, look into the future. See how long we have exactly." His voice was low, much lower than I had ever heard it.
"Eric, you know that I can't—" Mae began to protest, but was cut off effectively.
"Find out." His command held no room for argument.
I watched as Mae closed her eyes tightly and began to whisper. I couldn't say that there were words to her murmurs. She was simply going too fast for my mind to decipher. She began to rock back and forth, slowly at first, before her actions became violent jerks. I walked around to the front of her, feeling fear for what this woman was being put through. I knew there had to be pain involved. She was hissing; her murmurs were jagged and jumpy. As I came around to her face, I noticed there was blood seeping from the corners of her eyes, her nostrils, the corners of her mouth, and even her ears. Still she pressed on, even when she fell to her knees, which she did not do alone. In one quick movement out of instinct maybe, my hands flew out and caught her as we both went crashing to the ground. I held her tightly in my arms, my eyes wide, trying to protect her from the obvious pain. Her body twitched violently with her arms grasping my own tightly.
"I-Is she alright?" I whispered as she moaned.
"She is trying to see something she shouldn't be able to determine. There is much working against her at the moment," Pam said gravely. "We shouldn't know when our own ends will come, but she's trying."
"It's going to kill her!" I growled out. "Mae! Mae, stop it! It's okay, you don't have to…"
Before I could finish, Eric's hand came down to my back as he grabbed my shirt and pulled. He yanked me to my feet. I yelped loudly as I spun around before crashing against his chest. Pam took my place before Mae could fall flat on her face.
"She has to see how long we have. It was my order," Eric said. His voice was harsher than I think he meant it to be. "Don't go against my command."
I gulped, casting my eyes down to my feet and stood there pitifully. The first words he spoke to me this whole time, and he makes me fear the future once again. "Don't go against me!" is what he meant. I would be going against him shortly, wouldn't I? I shook my head. It was something I couldn't think about.
Instead, I just turned and gazed down at pitiful Mae who struggled, twitched, and writhed in pain for what seemed like hours. I couldn't determine how much time passed as I watched her whimper and cry out, her murmuring only stopping after a particular painful jerk made her lose her focus.
It was like watching someone having a seizure for far too long.
When it finally ended, her body limply fell against Pam. She laid there for a long time, not moving, nor breathing. The only indication she was not dead, though she already was in a way, was because I witnessed her twitching a few times.
Pam was busy wiping the blood away with a part of her shirt. Eric hadn't moved, and hadn't let go of me the entire time. I held my breath, afraid of what I just witnessed, but more afraid to find out the answer of what was coming and how long we had before the looming clouds reached the castle. How much time did we have before Dooms Day was upon us?
"Not long," Mae barely whispered. As she spoke, there was a gurgling sound in the back of her throat. I wondered why it was like that until she rolled over and spit out a good amount of blood. I winced. "I can't be for sure, but no more than a day, a full day."
That's really all we had left?