A/N: Here's the end of the takeover. From here on out I'm only going to be following the book to the slightest degree but, like I said last chapter, I thought the takeover needed to happen. If anyone is missing them, I'm thinking there will be another flashback either next chapter or the one after. Okay I'm rambling.
I'm just going to say thank you to my amazing beta, Northman Maille, and to everyone who's still with me. I'm very grateful!
Disclaimer: I own nothing….
"It's All Decided for Us"
As soon as Victor Madden's invitation had been issued, Eric gently but quickly maneuvered Sookie behind him once more and opened the door. Now safely accepted by the house wards, the Vegas Vampire stared inside, a smirk on his lips.
"Eric Northman…I haven't seen you in a few decades." Victor's voice was as jovial as it had been a few minutes before, when he'd introduced himself so grandiosely.
"You've been hard at work in the desert." Was Eric's neutral reply.
"Indeed, business is booming. It's what I've come to talk to you about, among other things. May I…" Victor said the last as he gestured towards the inside of the house. He'd already been invited in, but that hadn't removed the thousand year old roadblock still standing in his way.
"How many are with you?" Eric asked, instead of stepping aside.
"Ten, nine Vampires and Quinn." Still at his side, Sookie whispered low enough only Eric could hear.
"I have four companions with me." Victor lied, smooth as silk, while still smiling from ear to ear.
"I think the desert heat has impaired your ability to count Victor. There are ten with you, nine Vampires and a Were."
Instead of being upset or unnerved, Victor only chuckled gratingly as he nodded his head.
"I see there's no pulling the wool over your eyes, old sport. I assume the lovely Miss Stackhouse is to blame for the failure of my ruse?"
"Let them step out into the open so I can see them." Eric countered instead of giving Victor an answer.
Turning around Victor addressed the darkened woods surrounding the Stackhouse farmstead.
"Well…come, come, you heard the Sheriff, show yourselves. We have much to do tonight."
Victor's command brought the others out of the tree line and onto the graveled driveway one by one. Jonathan, the spy, was the first to emerge and Quinn the last. Though it was no surprise at this point, Sookie felt her heart clench a little as she took him in, standing by one of the cars in his animal form.
She'd come to terms with the fact she'd been using him to ease her pain at losing Eric and had never really had any genuine feelings for him, but it didn't make his actions any less hurtful. To see a man she'd shared parts of herself with, shared her body with, come forward as an accomplice to what might still be her murder, and the murder of those she loved, was like a sucker punch to the gut. Suddenly all she wanted to do was wrap herself around Eric and try to bury herself in the smell and feel of him in the hope it would make her feel clean again.
Sookie was still trying to get a hold of herself when Bob strutted in front of them, rubbing himself along Eric's legs.
"That's not just a cat." Victor stated, the question apparent in his voice.
"Neither is the one outside."
Quinn seemed to make a snuffling sound at Eric's words, which Sookie understood was meant as some sort of apology for betraying her, but she couldn't even look at him in acknowledgement. She understood the situation he'd been put in, but she was past being able to forgive him.
It would have been bad enough if he'd decided to sell her out because she'd left him for Eric. Instead it was even worse. He'd betrayed her even while she was leaving pathetic messages on his cell phone begging him to call her and let her know he was alright. Had he listened to her telling him how much she missed him, and wished they were together, before he turned around and told Nevada's King where she lived, and how he could use her as leverage against Eric? It made her want to vomit just remembering some of her more desperate voicemails.
Eric and Victor seemed to have come to an impasse. With no other options to stall him, Eric was forced to step aside and let the rival Vampire in. Victor crossed the threshold gingerly, smiling a little wider when he managed to make it into the house. Once he was through his eyes landed almost immediately on Sookie.
"Reports of your attractions were not exaggerated." Victor pronounced, his smile thinning a bit as it turned almost predatory.
Sookie tried to hold back the shiver his words caused. On any other man a statement like that would have sounded flirtatious but, after Victor's little lie about how many people were with him, she was almost sure he was alluding to her telepathy and not her physical appearance. It made his words more unnerving and not less, especially when it was followed by an itchy pressure on her brain.
Madden was attempting to glamour her.
If she had to guess she'd bet he wanted her to invite the others into the house. It took everything she had not to growl as she batted his influence away.
All told it was less than a minute before their 'guest' realized his whammy had no effect on her and she watched as he smoothly passed off his pause by taking in the others in the room. He quickly greeted the other Vampires first, Pam before Bill, and then turned his attention to the witches, complimenting Amelia and Octavia on their excellent wards, before settling narrowed eyes on Frannie.
Sookie felt a passing pang of guilt that she hadn't thought to hide her, and wondered if the Vegas Vampires wouldn't turn around and punish Quinn for sending his sister to warn them. Angry and hurt as she was by what Quinn had done, she had no desire to be a factor in his death, or an excuse for anyone to hurt his family.
Trying to distract their leader, Sookie gestured to the only open chair, which stood next to the fireplace.
"Would you like to sit Mr. Madden?" She asked.
Victor nodded, his expression again cheerful, as though he were merely visiting with old friends. Before he was fully settled, Amelia and Octavia had given up their positions on the couch, moving behind Bill and Pam so Sookie and Eric could sit.
Without wasting any more time Victor pinned Eric with a slightly less blithe expression.
"Your Queen is dead." His words carried no emotion this time, pretended or otherwise.
"And the other Sheriffs?" Eric asked, his face and tone matching Victor's neutrality.
"They are also dead. Cleo and her crew fought bravely, but were killed nonetheless. Arla and Gervaise tried to hide from us, but they were ferreted out quickly. My spies did their jobs admirably. There were no hiding places we weren't already aware of." Victor's expression this time was sinister and fangy, and Sookie was sure this was closer to his true personality than the affability he'd feigned before.
"Why am I still alive?"
"Because you're the most efficient, the most productive, and the most practical." Gesturing to Bill behind them, Victor elaborated. "Between Bill and Maxwell Lee you have two of the biggest earners in the state under your fealty and, of course, it doesn't hurt that you have a telepath renowned for her talents in your employ."
Before Victor could say more Eric interrupted him.
"She is not in my employ. Sookie is mine!" Eric informed, his tone firm.
Far from challenging an assertion she'd found grating and demeaning in the past, Sookie sat closer to Eric and put her hand over one of his, demonstrating the truth of his statement. It got another fangy smile and a chuckle from Madden.
"Really?" He said, cocking his head to the side. "There are those outside who will no doubt be shocked to hear that." Taking a sampling of the air surrounding him he made an appreciative noise. "I however see no evidence to discount your statement. As it stands, it's more cause for my King to wish to keep you in your current position. King DeCastro bade me to tell you, as long as you will swear fealty to him, he would be pleased to keep you on as Sheriff of Area Five."
"I suppose there's no point in asking what will happen if I refuse." Eric voice was bland.
"None whatsoever. However, if you were to ask, I would inform you my men are prepared to firebomb the house and pick you off as you flee."
There was a single moment when Sookie could almost feel the wheels in Eric's head turning. If he'd been a less honorable or loyal man she knew he would have told Madden to go fuck himself, grabbed her and Pam each around the waist, and simply taken to the air with them securely in his grip. Instead he acknowledged the fact that they were left with little in the way of options and what choice there was rested entirely on his shoulders. If he refused, he refused for all of them, and they were all as good as dead.
"I accept the sovereignty of you King." Eric said, after little more than a moment.
"Ms. Ravenscroft?" Victor asked, turning next to Pam.
"Were my Maker leads I follow. I accept DeCastro as my King." Pam said without hesitation.
"Bill Compton?" Victor turned last to Bill who nodded his head and made a slight bow.
"Like Ms. Ravenscroft; I follow where my Sheriff leads."
Under other circumstances Sookie would have laughed out loud to hear Bill say something like that. Instead she stifled her natural inclination and watched silently as Victor stood from his chair.
"Excellent. I will inform his Majesty and leave you to attend to what needs looking after. I too have much that still needs doing before dawn. I will meet with you at first dark tomorrow night at Fangtasia so we can begin acclimating you to his Majesty's requirements." With that Victor stood, striding gracefully to the armchair where Frannie was still sitting and hauled the girl out of her seat roughly, by her elbow.
Sookie made a move to get up as well, not wanting to see Frannie treated so harshly, no matter how much of a pill she'd been, but Eric's hand came down on her thigh like an iron clamp. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him shake his head infinitesimally.
"She's Quinn's concern." He whispered.
There was a split second when Sookie wanted to argue, but beyond the fact Eric was right, the starker truth was they were in no position to demand anything from Victor Madden. They kept their own lives tonight at his whim, there was no way they could bargain for anyone else's.
Instead of say anything, Sookie just watched as Madden escorted the still glamoured girl out the door and down the porch steps to where her agitated brother waited. She doubted it was accidental that they were all able to hear Victor hiss his next statement to the huge Siberian tiger cowering like a timid house cat at his feet.
"We will discuss this," Victor shook Frannie roughly, "later."
As soon as the door closed behind Victor, everyone seemed to shake off the crippling air of terror which had hung over the living room like a fog.
"Pam, contact the Area Vampires. Call them back and have them gather at Fangtasia at three thirty, we need to inform them of the change in management before anyone breaks rank and causes trouble." Eric instructed as he stood from the couch and walked over to the window, still wary even as he took in the welcome emptiness outside.
Pam's response was a solemn nod before pulling out her phone. As she talked and texted Ameila and Octavia took the opportunity to flee upstairs. Sookie was sure they wanted to be as far away from any Vampire as they could while still remaining safely inside the house's wards. As for Bill, he began quietly collecting the weapons he'd brought so he could return them to his house before going to Fangtasia.
Thinking she should probably make herself useful too, Sookie tried to rise from her side of the couch only to feel her legs unexpectedly give out. She was almost shocked when she found herself crashing back to the sofa.
It had all be so surreal, realizing their lives hung in the balance while watching Victor and Eric dance around each other, pretending they were doing nothing more than catching up with an old buddy. A part of her still couldn't believe they were all alive and, at least for the moment, safe. She truly couldn't remember the last time Vampire trouble hadn't gotten her shot, beaten, or practically blown up.
Before she could give into the desire to start laughing hysterically though, Bill was in front of her, concern lighting his dark eyes.
"Darling, you're overcome." Bill pronounced, matter-of-factly.
"I guess. it's been a rough night." Sookie answered staring down at her hands instead of returning Bill's intense gaze. It had been a rough night, too rough for one of Bill's 'declarative moments'.
"Surely you know you were never in any danger." Bill said, confidence lacing his voice. "You know I wouldn't have let Victor hurt you. I would have died willingly to prevent it. That's why I chose to stay instead of fleeing like the other Vampires of the Area, to make sure you were protected."
The urge to laugh was back and stronger than ever. Only this time that laughter would have been specifically aimed at Bill. It was nice, she supposed, that he wanted to protect her, but it was downright terrifying that he might be delusional enough to believe he'd had any power in the situation that just played out. At no point in the last two hours had any of them been in anything but mortal danger.
She noticed then, though his words were impassioned, he was clearly making an effort not to touch her. This speech then was obviously a ploy for brownie points. Either Bill really was suffering a severe mental glitch, or he believed that by offering to die for her he would prove he was a superior mate to Eric.
Already emotionally drained, Sookie decided it wasn't worth the effort to amend his thinking yet again tonight. Bill couldn't know that Eric had already proved there was no one more worthy of her love by living for her, and frankly he didn't deserve to. What was between her and Eric was too sacred to be spouted off in the hopes of correcting the delusions of a person like Bill, or Sam for that matter. Instead Sookie just lifted her eyes to Bill's and patted his hand gently.
"That's sweet of you Bill. But I'm Eric's and you don't have an ice cube's chance in hell of changing that. You need to find something worth living for," turning to look at Eric who had taken his attention away from the window and was calmly watching her handle her ex, "just like I have." She could feel the pride and the love coursing to her from her Viking, and it was the only thing that could bring a smile to her face at this point.
Looking hurt Bill stood away from her. It seemed as though he wanted to say something more, but instead he merely nodded his head and finished gathering his things to leave. He was barely out the door when Pam declared she would head out to Shreveport right away to prepare for their meeting. Once she was gone, it took Sookie a moment to realize she and Eric were finally alone again.
Without words, Eric walked around the couch, taking her hand in his and leading her gently, careful of her shaky legs, to her bedroom.
When they were finally there, he sat down on the bed and pulled her into his lap, burying his face in her neck and inhaling her scent deeply.
"Are we really safe?" Sookie asked, winding her arms around Eric's neck and resting her cheek on the top of his head, rubbing it into his hair.
"I believe so. If Victor was sent to kill us, he wouldn't have bothered with such an elaborate charade. It seems we've all made ourselves just useful enough to earn a reprieve. It will likely be touch and go for a while though. Any hint of suspicion could have DeCastro and Madden changing their minds." He said it all without once raising his head from the cocoon he'd made of her hair and neck.
"Will you tell me now what happened before, when you grabbed your head? You seemed as though you were in pain, but I didn't feel anything."
Her question made him laugh softly against the crook of her shoulder, before he finally lifted his head to look her in the eye.
"I would have thought you'd forgotten all about that with everything else that's happened tonight."
"I love you. I was terrified for you the whole night. Victor, some mysterious ailment, it doesn't matter." Sookie couldn't help but feel her fear for him all over again as she spoke and it was impossible to keep the tears from slipping down her cheeks.
"You have the worst survival instincts of anyone I've ever met, Lover." Eric laughed warmly, even as he used his thumbs to wipe away her tears. "Most people would have been scared for their own lives, and quite rightly."
Sookie could only raise an eyebrow at Eric's words.
"So I take it you're only concern tonight was your own life then and nothing else? You weren't in the least bit worried for me." Sookie nodded as though she were in complete agreement. "Which ya know, completely explains that kiss you pulled me into right before we opened the door and how you all but fell over in relief when you realized Victor wouldn't kill me." Sookie was proud to see the scowl line form between Eric's brows as she called him on his hypocrisy. When he didn't answer her after a long moment she gave him a smile of her own. "You were just as worried for me as you were for yourself, and I was more worried for you because I knew he wouldn't kill me. My fear was the exact opposite. That I'd be forced to live after they ended you. So shut up. We love each other. Being scared for the person you love more than anything is perfectly normal. Now stop stalling and tell me what happened before."
Eric would have laughed again, but Sookie pinned him with a warning glare that had him taking his hands off her long enough to hold them up in surrender.
"I remember." He said simply. "I remember everything. I don't know what triggered it or why, but…." Eric didn't get the chance to finish as Sookie's arms came around him again, this time strongly enough they would have choked a Human man.
"Oh Eric!" It was only a moment more before he felt the hot dampness of her tears soaking into his shirt.
Pulling Sookie back slightly he cupped her cheeks in his hands.
"It shouldn't surprise me how happy you made me or how much I loved you, but somehow it does." He bent down and kissed her lips softly.
"Why?" Sookie pulled back after only a moment, a look of genuine confusion on her face.
"Maybe because it's a reminder that what I feel for you, what I've always felt for you, is the truest thing I have ever known. Because it's proof undeniable that what's between us isn't the product of a thousand years of idolization. I knew nothing before running down that road, and yet my heart still led me to you. When there was nothing left of the man I was, you still remained, filling my emptiness with your light."
"If you're trying to get me to stop crying, you're failing big time…. I love you so damn much!" Was the only thing Sookie could say in response, as she squeezed him harder.
"And I you." Eric whispered back, folding Sookie back into his arms and holding her as tightly as he dared. "I have to go to Fangtasia soon. Will you come with me?" He asked after a moment.
"You have so much to do. I don't want to be a distraction." She said, shaking her head.
"You're not a distraction." Eric countered getting to his feet and taking her with him.
"Yes, I am." Sookie dug in her heels even though every fiber in her body wanted nothing more than to stay glued to Eric's side all night. "You need to meet with your Vampires and you need to get ready for your meeting with Victor tomorrow night. You said it yourself, one wrong move, one thing that tingles Victor' spidey sense, and he could decide to call the whole 'welcoming you into the fold' thing off. I'm not taking that kind of chance. I'd rather sleep without you for one night than risk losing you for good."
When Eric's unhappiness all but battered Sookie back down onto the bed, she smiled softly and wrapped her arms around him for one last hug.
"How bout if we compromise?" She said, her voice muffled in the folds of his shirt.
"What did you have in mind?" Eric's voice was slightly sour, but there was curiosity there.
"How bout if I stay here tonight but come and meet you at Fangtasia tomorrow evening, after your meeting?"
Eric's finger under her chin raised her eyes to meet his and she could see something blazing behind them.
"I'll agree to your terms with one caveat." When Sookie raised her eyebrow in question he continued. "You come to meet me at Fangtasia tomorrow with a packed bag and you agree to stay with me."
Sookie's first inclination was to ask for how long, to point out she had a job and responsibilities she couldn't just turn her back on, but something made her stop. Hadn't she asked him earlier in this very endless seeming night to keep his promise, to bring her to his side? Wasn't that the only thing she'd wanted?
"You've got a deal." Was all she said instead.