FLASHBACK: JANUARY 5, 2005 (THE NIGHT OF THE WITCH WAR)
“So nice of you to join us for the fight,” I intoned, looking at Bill through narrowed eyes. He looked better that way; in fact, the less I could see of him, the better.
“I saw Eric and Sookie drive away,” he said guardedly.
“What they do isn’t any of your business,” I replied.
“Is it true what Chow said?” Bill asked.
“I don’t know what Chow said to you, but I’m sure I will take pleasure in punishing him for his indiscretion,” I smirked.
“Has Eric lost his memories?” Bill pushed.
My fangs swept downward and I pushed him against the wall in my hallway, my hand at his throat.
“You will keep that confidential—won’t you, Billy boy?” I asked with a snarl.
He looked like he was ready to shit himself; of course, he was incapable of doing so.
All the pity—especially for him. He looked rather constipated—as always.
“He’s not going to take back his memories—is he?” Bill asked rather nervously.
“That is none of your business either,” I said sternly, gripping his throat tighter.
“It is the queen’s,” Bill returned, his voice croaking.
“You let me worry about that,” I returned.
“I can’t,” he said, his expression contrite.
That gave me pause.
“You will tell me all you know after this battle,” I told him, my tone brooking no argument.
“Yes,” he said with a nod. “I will.”
Three vampires had been lost during the Witch War: Chow, whose propensity for gossip had pissed me off anyway; Charles Twining, a brand new vampire to Area 5 who had been trying to ingratiate himself to Eric (fucking pirate wannabe!); and Mickey, a brutal mother fucker I’d never liked.
All-in-all, I couldn’t have picked three better vampires to die, though Chow’s death made for more work for me. I figured that Clancy would make a lovely partner, however. And he’d proven to be a draw for the fangbangers at Fangtasia too. He was not as popular as Eric, of course, but numbers were solid when he took the throne.
The Were-pack had also lost three members during the war. And the evenness of loss actually made things easier all around for Supernatural relations in Area 5. Colonel Flood had been injured but not killed, and I got the impression that he’d be open to working together in the future too.
We’d even managed to spare many of the innocent humans.
Thanks to a lovely little witch I’d hired from New Orleans to help out—and I mean lovely in the “biblical sense”—Hallow wasn’t able to cast any of her spells at me as I questioned her. Indeed, Amelia would be getting a bonus for her work after I met with Bill.
A bonus in the form of orgasms from the master—me.
The only thing that had pissed me off had been the ease at which Hallow and her brother had given up their information. Of course, Hallow wanted to see the spell completed, so she’d offered up those instructions immediately.
So I’d pressed and found out the true nature of the curse.
I was a sadistic bitch, but Hallow’s spell was more evil that even I might have fathomed.
I needed to up my game.
The witches had been questioned and then killed in my favorite place in the whole wide world, Fangtasia’s basement.
Bill was waiting for me as I left it.
“Eric’s office,” I said simply, knowing that was the only place other than the basement that I could guarantee hadn’t been bugged. There were devices in place preventing that. And magic to back those up.
I sat behind Eric’s desk, while Bill took a seat in front of it.
“I ask only that you hear me out—before you decide whether or not you will kill me,” he opened.
I nodded in agreement.
Having kept all of the annoying habits of his human days, Bill sighed and then cleared his throat.
I rolled my eyes.
“I didn’t choose to be turned,” he began. “And after I was, I became a monster.” He shook his head. “I don’t know if it was always in me or if Lorena brought it out of me, but I was a nightmare—even to myself.” He sighed again. “It was also the war—I think, though I don’t like making excuses for my sins.” He looked agonized, and I almost felt compassion for him—just almost.
“The Civil War was a hell that I cannot compare to any other hell I have witnessed,” he said matter-of-factly. “Some romanticize it, but the war itself had little romance—beyond the clean uniforms the officers first put on. But those soon became stained with blood and filth.” He cringed. “In trenches in Vicksburg, I slaughtered with bayonets and rocks—when I ran out of bullets. I killed so that I would not die. And I lost my humanity then—even before Lorena took it.”
I was tempted to tell him that he could keep his sob story to himself, but I got the distinct impression that the vampire in front of me wasn’t telling me his story in order for me to feel compassion for him. He was telling me because it was needed context for what was coming.
“I began to feel compassion again—no, it was guilt—after I drained a human that reminded me of my daughter. That was thirty years after I became a vampire.” He shook his head. “In fact, the girl I drained looked so like my daughter that I wept over her body. Lorena thought I’d gone crazy. But I think I became sane again—shocked into sanity by the horror of murdering a child.”
He paused for a moment.
“I did not become a saint, though I did begin resisting my maker after that—resisting the lifestyle of killing that both Lorena and I had embraced before then. Eventually, she let me strike out on my own when she became tired of my protests. I worked for a while as a procurer in Tennessee—for the king there. And when I proved good at my work, he traded me to Sophie-Anne to clear a debt.”
“Eric and I knew you’d been a part of her court,” I said, many theories coming into focus in my mind. “But we didn’t know in what capacity you’d served.”
“Sophie-Anne didn’t broadcast my skill, especially with the Great Revelation plans already in the works when I joined her. Almost fourteen months ago, I found her a particularly lovely human. That human turned out to know about a telepath in Area 5.”
“Sophie-Anne sent you here to poach from Eric’s area,” I growled.
“Yes. I was to confirm Sookie’s skill under the guise of moving back to Bon Temps to live in my human home,” Bill conveyed. “I killed my remaining relative myself. He was elderly, and my queen ordered it,” he added dispassionately.
I shook my head. “After you confirmed her skill, what were you to do?”
“Glamour her to accompany me to New Orleans. And when glamour didn’t work, I set out to get my blood inside of her—to make her feelings develop for me. The queen decided that seduction was better anyway—especially after Eric learned of Sookie and her skill. She counted on Eric’s innate honor.”
“She knew that he would not steal Sookie from you, even though you were an underling,” I commented.
He nodded in confirmation. “I was to win her, get her to marry me, and settle down with her. Then, after a few month, I was to get a job offer in New Orleans and move there with her. Eric would have never been the wiser that the Queen was behind it all. Thus, he would have never had reason to complain or to rebel. Sophie-Anne would have had her cake and been able to eat it too,” Bill seethed. “Quite literally—as she fully intended to feed from Sookie.”
“Obviously, something changed,” I observed.
“The monster I’d become had—as I said before—begun to remember what having a conscience was like. Sookie helped me to remember other things—good things. Love, compassion, and selflessness.
“I realized—soon after meeting Sookie—that I didn’t want Sophie-Anne to get ahold of her. To ruin her. That’s why—when Lorena called me—I gave Sookie to Eric,” he recounted.
He shook his head. “I do not deserve Sookie. I know that. So I pushed her away emotionally even before Lorena called. But then Sookie saved me from Lorena and killed her, freeing me forever. And I thanked her by doing the worst thing imaginable.”
I braced myself for his words.
“I raped her,” he continued, looking agonized. “Yet she has already forgiven me for that violation because I was suffering from intense blood loss at the time and didn’t realize it was her.
I found myself growling.
“By the time I came to myself, it was too late. And knowing what I did to her will haunt me even more than any of the other sins I have committed,” Bill added.
“Why are you telling me all this?” I asked him.
“I am putting myself at your service—just as I am at Sookie’s. From all accounts that I’ve heard since I got back from Peru, Sookie is happy. If it is Eric who makes her that way, then I will defend him, too.”
I let silence build in the room for several minutes as I studied him.
“Son of a bitch!” I cursed finally.
“I believe you,” I responded.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” I grinned evilly. “You haven’t heard how I’m going to use you yet.”
His smirk dropped, only to be replaced by a look of sincerity. “I’m ready,” he said.
“Start by calling in Bubba,” I instructed. “I’ll call Thalia. Both are loyal to Eric, and both will be needed.”
Bill nodded and pulled out his phone even as I pulled out mine.
Necessity—and love—truly did lead to strange bedfellows.
FEBRUARY 9, 2005 (FIVE WEEKS AFTER THE PREVIOUS SCENE)
The news had come to me the week before that Sookie and Eric had married in a human ceremony in Vermont. And—though I was pissed off that my Sheriff had not sought my permission—there was no rule that indicated he had to in order to take a human as a pet or even as a bonded. And human marriage was, of course, unprecedented.
Bill Compton had turned out to be somewhat inept, though I still held out some hope that he might succeed. He had been clumsy at courting the telepath and useless at bringing me my prize thus far. Still, I was prepared to be patient. After all, Bill had never failed in his procurement work before. And Bill assured me that the Viking would eventually “cheat” on Sookie, thus alienating her from him.
I chuckled to myself, unable to believe that the human had actually asked for fidelity from the vampire.
I was broken from my thoughts as Rasul was led into my throne room by Sigebert. He bowed before me. “My queen, you have a visitor.”
“Who is it?” I asked.
“A were-fox named Debbie Pelt. She says that she has vital information from Area 5.”
I nodded that she be admitted, even as I narrowed my eyes at the obvious V-junkie before me. “You have information for me?” I asked after she’d bowed out of respect—and fear.
“Yes,” she said, her voice shaky. “But it’s going to cost you.”
I smirked. “If the information is good, I will give you all the V you wish, Ms. Pelt. Is that satisfactory?”
Her eyes widened. “Yes. Okay. Uh—things in Area 5 have been weird lately.”
“Weird?” I asked.
“It’s the Sheriff. At the beginning of the year, he was the victim of a spell that erased his memories.”
“What?” I demanded my fangs coming down in anger. Why hadn’t I been informed?!
“The witch’s name was Hallow, and we killed her almost a month ago, but the Sheriff hasn’t taken back his place,” Debbie reported, shaking in the wake of my anger. “Nor has he taken back his memories as far as I can tell.”
“How do you know this?” I asked.
“My fiancé—well ex-fiancé. The Sheriff works for him.”
“Eric works for a human?” I asked incredulously.
“No. Alcide’s a Were,” she returned, more haughtily than she should have.
“What else?” I asked, unimpressed by her attitude.
“Um—as far as I’ve been able to find out, Northman’s child is covering for him—pretending that all is well. The other vampires in Area 5 are going along with it, as are the Weres in the Longtooth pack.”
I contemplated for a moment. Eric had always inspired loyalty—maybe even too much loyalty. I’d not spoken to the Viking in many months, but that wasn’t unusual. Pam was almost always the go-between in Eric and my working relationship. We both preferred it that way.
Bill had told me that Northman had taken up residence with his “wife,” which was a tricky situation for me. Their marriage was public, which made it impossible to kidnap her without suspicion. That’s where Bill came in. He was supposed to continue to try to romance her. He was supposed to comfort her and win her back once Eric’s attentions strayed.
But what if Eric was not “Eric?”
Bill had said nothing about the memory charm. Then again, he’d been in Peru during the first of the year and might not have been informed about the situation. Obviously, Northman’s child was trying to cover things up.
“Is the Sheriff’s condition widely known?” I asked.
Debbie shook her head. “No. I think some of the people that fought the witches knew, but I didn’t know—not until I saw the Sheriff with Alcide at a work site two weeks ago.”
I nodded. “Is there any more that you can tell me?”
“Just that Sookie, the Sheriff’s wife, is a thieving whore,” Debbie said bitterly.
“How so?” I asked.
“Alcide’s hung up on her—has been for months,” The were-fox seethed.
“And is she hung up on him, too?” I asked with amusement.
“No! She fawns over her fucking vampire!” the bitch said.
“So your ex is hung up on Sookie, but she gives him no encouragement. Yet she is the whore?” I questioned, shaking my head at the curiousness of the unquestioning female mind.
I looked at my child, Andre. He deserved a treat. “Make sure that Ms. Pelt has spilled her guts completely before literally spilling her guts—will you?” I asked offhandedly.
“Wait!” the bitch yelled. She followed that up with a variety of colorful expletives.
I ignored her continued cursing and ranting as Andre took her from the throne-room. The world wouldn’t miss her.
I seethed. I hated being outmaneuvered. I despised feeling beaten.
Eric Northman had come to me decades before, offering his brawn—and brains—to my Queendom. He was slightly younger than I, though he was known to be very strong; however, his child didn’t match up to the strength of my own children. Thus, I wasn’t threatened by the Viking. I had even agreed to his “rules.”
Of course, I’d never expected for there to be a telepath in Area 5. They were so rare, after all.
“You know all she knows,” Andre said when he returned to the throne-room an hour later. “And I think it is safe to say that Compton is not going to succeed with the telepath.”
“No worries,” I said, smiling at the idea that had been forming in my head for the past hour. “Compton won’t be needed. I know someone who can succeed with the Viking.”
A/N: I hope that you are following the time-line of this story. Like I said before, I am doing some experimentation with flashback; it’s fun for me to mix things up a bit.
Thanks to everyone who’s already been reading/commenting/favoriting/following. And thanks to Kleannhouse for the beta work!
Hope y’all like this!