[A/N: This begins with another dream. Remember, extended italics = dream.]
Sookie woke up in the dark; it was unimaginably dark. She was scared initially and then worked to calm herself and assess her surroundings. She felt around with her hands. She was sitting on the ground outside. She felt dirt and patches of brittle grass beneath her fingers.
She tried to blink a few times to get her eyes adjusted to the night around her, but she was unable to see anything no matter what she tried to do. It was like a dark curtain had been drawn all the way around her.
She’d been sitting, but now she began to crawl forward, feeling her way along. Ahead of her, she saw a faint object, something a bit lighter than the rest of her surroundings, and she began to crawl toward it. She reached out to put her hands on it. It was stone, cool and smooth to the touch. Her hands felt along the edges, and she realized that it was a gravestone. She brought her fingers to the front of the stone to try to feel engraved letters that might at least tell her whose grave it was, but she felt none, so she crawled to the other side of the stone to see if that was actually the front. It was. Her fingers hit the indentations on the gravestone. She found the first word and started to trace, closing her eyes to concentrate. She felt a “W” and then an “i.” By the time she’d reached the second “l,” she knew that she was sitting on William Compton’s empty grave.
She shook in both fear and arousal as she remembered the last time she’d been there. She had thought that Bill was dead, burned along with Malcolm and his other creepy nest mates. Sookie shuttered as she remembered them.
She had come to the grave to mourn Bill, and he’d literally come out of the ground. They’d had sex right on this spot. Sookie remembered it as both passionate and a bit rough for her tastes. Bill had seemed out of control that night. He’d apologized after it was over, but she’d told him that she’d liked it. She shook her head, wondering why she’d told him that, why she hadn’t said what she really felt to the man she loved at the time. In truth, she had liked it a bit―the joy of finding him alive and the intensity of his desire for her―but he’d also scared her that night. A particular look on his face right after his climax had been something she couldn’t quite place, but it had disturbed her a bit. It was a look that seemed to crave possession of her very soul, a romantic notion in a way, but also a troubling one to Sookie. At the time, she’d chosen to disregard that look, thinking it was just a moment when his vampire nature was coming through. Now, thinking about that whole night again frightened her.
She pushed herself to her feet, using the grave as support. She looked around, hoping to use other markers as a kind of guide to lead her home, but she saw no others in the suffocating blackness. Suddenly, she heard a noise behind her. Then she felt a pair of cold hands on her shoulders. She cringed into them.
“Darling,” came Bill’s smooth voice from the dark, “relax. I am here now.”
Bill’s voice, even though it did arouse Sookie a bit, did little to relax her. She shivered as he began to stroke her arms―both afraid and stimulated by his touch.
She closed her eyes tightly. Truth be told, it seemed less dark with her eyes closed than it did with her eyes opened at the moment. She felt so out of control, as if she could not escape from the overwhelming dark around her. She tried to settle back into Bill, to enjoy his presence and his touch, but she couldn’t. There was no comfort in it for her.
She moved away from him a bit, craving something that would take away all the anxiety she was currently feeling. She thought about Gran’s final resting spot nearby. Then she tried to concentrate on a comforting memory that she had of waking up one morning and hearing Gran puttering in the kitchen. Sookie opened her eyes. She was able to make out some other nearby grayish markers now. She closed her eyes again, trying to latch on to another reassuring thought. In her mind’s eye, she saw Eric making a fire for her when the night had become chilly. He’d done it without her asking him to do it. Again, she opened her eyes, and again her surroundings were more defined as she was able to make out the shapes of other grave markers even better, along with the trees in the old cemetery.
“Sookie,” Bill said seductively, “come to me.”
Sookie took a step toward Bill and then stopped. Part of her wanted to go to him, and the other part wanted to run like hell. She froze in her confusion for a few moments. She just wanted time and space to figure out her feelings. She tried to tell Bill this, but for some reason, she felt powerless to speak. He took a step toward her.
Suddenly, her need to run overwhelmed her, and she took off in the direction of Gran’s farmhouse, where she somehow knew she’d be safe. Before Bill could even react, she was sprinting through the dark away from him.
Her bare feet scratched on twigs and rocks on the ground, but she felt she had to keep running, so she ran even harder. Compelled by something from deep inside her body, she finally found her voice and yelled, “Eric! Eric! Help me! Find me!”
Eric was sitting on his throne. It was just past 11:00 p.m., and the throng of Fangtasia patrons had grown so that the bar was near capacity for the first time since Russell Edgington’s television debut.
As another fangbanger approached him, he growled menacingly. It had been more than a year since he’d had one, yet they still attempted to entice him. Of course, he’d had human blood during that time, often bagged or from donors that he’d paid. He’d even given into his carnal desires a few times, but he had found thoughts of anyone but Sookie to be foul for quite a while, and now that he’d been with her, he could not imagine either having sex or taking blood from another.
In the previous year, Pam had often teased him about his lack of desire to grab a quick feed and fuck as he had done in the past, and she had also tried to entice him several times by hiring particularly beautiful dancers. She’d even offered to track down Yvetta once but had never brought up that subjects again when he’d threatened to take away her credit cards if she did.
Tonight, however, Pam was on her best behavior, and Eric was able to handle being on display with relative tolerance since he was continually tapping into his link with Sookie and enjoying the strength of her presence in him. For the last hour and four minutes, he’d simply been enjoying the feeling of Sookie sleeping. He’d not had much of a chance to feel her sleep since they’d formed the bond, simply because the action of the last few days had kept her up throughout the nights and most of the days.
The only time he’d really felt her sleep was after her gunshot wound, but the bond had been muted by Marnie’s magic over him. Now, he was enjoying the gentle rhythms of her mind as she rested. He wondered if she would be able to feel him through the bond, and the thought warmed him to the point that he almost couldn’t hold in his smile. When he looked up at the fangbanger in his eye line, he was very glad that he’d contained his contentment, however. She looked too hopeful as it was, so he gave her a threatening growl, which caused her to flee to the other side of the bar.
Suddenly, Eric felt distress from Sookie, and he quickly went back to his office. He pulled out his phone to call her, but then he stopped himself. He felt the bond again. Sookie was still asleep. She must have been having a nightmare, and from the feel of it, she was anxious. He thought again about calling, but he stopped himself yet again. Then he thought about calling Lafayette so that he could check on Sookie. But with every thought, he stopped himself.
For the first time since Dallas, Eric wished that he could send Sookie a dream, send her one that would transport her from the nightmare that was apparently gripping her. He sat at his desk and waited for the nightmare to end for her. She experienced a mixture of fear, anxiety, and arousal, and Eric threw his fist into his desk, knowing that, with this mixture of emotions, the nightmare was probably the result of Bill’s influence.
At that moment, Eric felt a strong pull from Sookie, almost like a vampire sire calling his or her child. Eric felt through the bond; Sookie was definitely still asleep, but she seemed to be calling him into her dream. He shook his head. “This isn’t possible,” he said out loud. “She cannot call you to her dream.”
But then he opened his desk drawer and looked at the picture there. “Anything is possible with Sookie Stackhouse,” he reminded himself out loud. He closed his eyes and touched the bond that was between them. It shouldn’t have been strong enough for him to transmit his feelings yet, but he visualized the cord that connected them. It was infused with his magic and their combined blood as well as some kind of white light. He focused his magic on that light and tried to literally push himself―his comfort―to her through the fledgling bond. He pushed the love that he felt for her. He tried to convey that she was not alone, that he would always be with her if she wanted him to be. He focused all of his power into these things until he felt the tiniest bit of ease coming from her end.
And then he redoubled his efforts. If all he could ever do for her was to protect her in her dreams, then by all the gods that he had ever learned about, he would do it! He’d defy all laws of science, logic, and magic to do it. If only he could feel Sookie’s peaceful sleeping again, he’d do anything.
Sookie continued to yell into the dark, “Eric!” She’d been running for what felt like miles, but she felt no closer to home. If only she could get to Eric, she thought, she would be safe.
“I’m here,” a voice came from in front of her.
Sookie stopped. She saw Eric in front of her, the glow from his vampire body illuminating the night at last. She ran to him and threw herself into his arms.
“Sookie,” he said as he held her tightly, comfortingly, “you are safe. I swear it. Please, tell me what is the matter. I will destroy anything that threatens you.”
“You will kill all the sea monsters,” she stated quietly, marveling at the passion and sincerity she’d just heard in Eric’s voice.
“Yes,” Eric declared just as sincerely.
She held him closer. “It’s nothing. It was just so dark, and then Bill was there.”
“Compton,” Eric said the name angrily. “Did he hurt you?”
Sookie thought for a moment, “No. I just―well, I just didn’t feel safe with him in the graveyard, and I just wanted to be home, and I knew you would take me there, so I called for you.”
“And I am here, Sookie.” He picked Sookie up bridal style and took her at vampire speed into her home. “Revoke his invitation,” he said as he set her on the couch and turned on a lamp next to her.
Sookie shook her head, “But I don’t own the house; you do.”
Eric winked. “It will work. Trust me.”
Sookie shook her head again, “I can’t believe that I believe you after everything, but,” she took a long breath. “Bill Compton, I rescind your invitation.”
Sookie felt better immediately. “How did that work?” she asked.
Eric looked mischievous. “It is a surprise, one that you will find out about soon enough. Meanwhile, you can think of it as the magic in this dream.”
“So I can revoke your invitation too?” she asked playfully.
“Yes,” Eric answered suddenly serious. “But if you wish me to leave, I assure you that I will go freely.”
Sookie watched as Eric’s eyes lightened as they had in her previous dream. “What’s wrong, Eric?” she asked him, echoing a question from that dream too.
“It is just that,” he paused, “I do not want you to order me away from your side, yet I fear that you will.”
“I don’t want to,” Sookie said quietly.
“I am glad of that, Sookie,” he answered. However, he started for the door anyway.
“Wait,” Sookie said. “Where are you going?”
“You are safe now―safe here to rest. Stay here, and the house will be a barrier from any danger that your dreams could bring. I know it.”
“But,” Sookie said weakly, “I don’t want you to go yet. Please, stay for a little while, at least until I fall asleep.”
“Sookie,” Eric whispered playfully, drawing near to her again, “you are already asleep.”
She glared at him just as playfully, “None of that teasing, Viking. I know I’m asleep. And you know what I mean. Please stay until the dream is over, okay? Maybe it’ll end if I can go to sleep here.”
Eric smiled. “Of course. I will stay as long as I can, Sookie. He looked around the room. Would you like me to make a fire.”
“Oh yes!” Sookie exclaimed. “I’d like the light. It was just so dark outside.”
Eric smiled even wider at her exuberance and then silently began to build the fire. As soon as it was going, he zipped into the kitchen. A minute later, he returned with a large bowl filled with warm water, a washcloth, and a towel.
“I believe it is my turn to do this,” he said, looking down at her scratched feet.
He put the bowl down in front of her and gently folded up her pant legs a few inches. Then, he pulled her feet into the water. He bathed them with a light touch and then grinned up at her, “Not ticklish here?”
Sookie shook her head and then spoke, “You know, you don’t have to do that. My feet are just fine in real life―well except for my big toe.”
Eric looked at Sookie solemnly, “When you did this for me, it was a great comfort.”
“It is to me too,” Sookie said quietly.
Eric smiled, “I’m glad. Now, what did you do to your big toe?”
Sookie smiled back, “I got drunk as a skunk tonight, tripped over my own feet, and stubbed my toe on Lafayette’s coffee table.”
Eric chuckled and then dramatically added with mock seriousness, “Oh the blight of the stubbed toe! I see it in my bar all the time. It is especially prevalent among those whose dance partners are also inebriated! Should I, perhaps, arrange for an orthopedic specialist to come by to see to your affliction tomorrow?”
Sookie punched his arm, causing the water to slosh a bit. “Hey, mister, it hurt!” She couldn’t help but laugh, and Eric joined her.
“I should like to see you drunk one day, Sookie. I imagine you are quite funny.”
“Well, I don’t get that way often,” she said, “and never when I’m in a public place or around too many people.”
“Why not?” he began, before answering his own question. “Oh, I imagine it becomes difficult to control your telepathy if you are inebriated.”
Sookie nodded as Eric used the towel to dry her feel.
After he took the used water and linens back to the kitchen, he sat down on the couch opposite her, and they looked at the flames together in silence for a while.
“Why does your presence comfort me?” Sookie asked suddenly. “Is it the bond?”
Eric looked at her surprised. “You know of the bond? How?”
“Jesus and some of Marnie’s magic books.”
“Oh,” Eric said. “You will learn what I know tomorrow as well. I have already written you a note explaining what I have learned of them. Someone is bringing it here in the day tomorrow.”
“Oh, or you could just tell me now,” Sookie observed as she moved to the floor in front of the fire.
Eric chuckled. “Of course. If that is what you want.” He got up and took an afghan from the back of the couch and wrapped it around Sookie’s body, careful not to spook her.
Noticing his reticence, Sookie chided, “I won’t break, you know. It’s just that I was scared out in the dark, and something was off about the way Bill was acting. And your presence does comfort me for some odd reason.” Sookie patted the floor beside her, and Eric sat down.
She held a hand out for his, and he took it gratefully. Then she laid her head onto his shoulder.
“Is it bad? The stuff about the bond?” she asked.
“I won’t lie to you,” Eric said. “I do not think it is bad, but you might. I’m afraid you may hate me for it.”
“Why? What does it mean?”
Eric took an unnecessary breath. “It means that we are connected more fully than just by a tie, which is what we had before. A bond is made by a free exchange of blood, like what we did the other night. If we were to exchange three times, you would be able to feel me as much as I can feel you. If you tried hard enough, you could probably feel me a bit now, though I may be too far away from you for that.”
“Feel your emotions?”
“Yes,” Eric said quietly. “And my location.”
“You can’t influence me more, can you?” Sookie asked.
Eric chuckled, “No more than you can influence me, Sookie. And for the record, I cannot influence you now.”
“But you are here in my dream.”
“It is true. You somehow called me to you tonight. I have never heard of this kind of thing being possible before, even with people who have exchanged blood three times, but here I am.”
“But you have caused my dreams before.”
“I tried once in Dallas,” he confirmed cautiously.
“Yes―wait, you said you ‘tried’? But I had a dream about you in Dallas and then you’ve been in other dreams I’ve had too.”
Eric looked at her surprised and then smiled at her. “Well, those are on you, Miss Stackhouse. I never tried to inhabit your dreams after that first night. Perhaps I will tell you why one day.” There was a sparkle in his eyes and she rolled hers.
“Fine―what else should I know about this bond.”
“Well, other than the fact that the power works both ways and that if we were to exchange three times it would become permanent, there’s not much about it that’s different than a blood tie.
“But I must tell you that I feel a connection to you now that is much stronger than the small tie that we had before. I could feel your emotions as you dreamed earlier, and I wanted to come to you, but I had promised to stay away. And then you called me to your dream, and I had to answer you as if I were compelled. It was almost what it felt like to get a call from Godric when he was still alive.” Eric grew silent for a moment as he thought about his maker.
“Where are you now?” Sookie asked after letting Eric alone with his thoughts for a few minutes.
“Fangtasia―in my office.”
They were silent for a few more moments, and then Sookie asked abruptly, “What did you mean that you would stay for as long as you could? Am I keeping you from work?”
“No. Pam is handling things in the club, but connecting through the bond like this is,” he paused, “challenging. I have to concentrate my magic on the bond and extend much energy.”
“Is it hurting you?” Sookie asked suddenly concerned.
“I don’t feel pain,” Eric said, “but I can feel myself tiring. Like I said though. I will stay as long as I can. And then I have some bagged blood at Fangtasia, so I will be able to replenish myself. Do not worry. Trust me; I will be fine.”
Sookie yawned and then answered. “It’s funny, but I do―trust you, that is. It’s probably dumb, but my Gran always told me to trust my instincts.”
“It is probably dumb,” Eric chuckled.
“Have you really never sent me any other dreams?” Sookie asked.
“I sent one the night you took my blood for the first time, but no others.”
“Do you think you will remember this one?”
Eric shrugged, though he was careful not to disturb Sookie on his shoulder. “I have never heard of another vampire having this kind of experience, nor have I ever had one. But I think that I will remember.”
Sookie yawned again and sunk into Eric’s shoulder even more as he put an arm around her to tuck her into him. “Will you tell me if you remember?”
“I will,” he answered. Within minutes she was asleep. He picked her up gently and laid her on the couch, covering her with the afghan. He stoked the fire and added another log to it.
He could feel himself weakening and knew that he’d soon lose his hold on the dream, so he quickly finished his work with the fire and turned to his beloved for one last look. “Do not fear, min kära,” he said. “The fire is strong, and the light will last throughout your dreams. Whatever was out in the dark that made you afraid will not harm you here. I would light the whole world on fire to keep you safe.”
Eric felt his head hit his desk at Fangtasia as he lost hold of Sookie’s dream. He was weak, even weaker than after he’d spent a day in silver. He called Pam to him through their maker-child bond.
She was there in moments, and taking in her master, she went on full alert.
Eric whispered. “Bring me a bag of blood, Pam.”
She was gone and back quickly, a bag of warmed blood in her hands. She gave it to her master, who began drinking it greedily.
“What happened?” Pam asked.
Eric didn’t answer for a few moments. Instead, he reached out to his bond with Sookie. She was sleeping peacefully again; feeling her peacefulness was one of the most beautiful experiences of his long life.
Recovered from the drain on his energy, Eric smiled as he continued to feel the tranquil emotions of his bonded. “My bonded has given me more new experiences this evening,” he said enigmatically before dismissing Pam.
He sent Sookie a text, and then, feeling recovered and content, went back into the bar.
In her dream, Sookie had awoken slightly to find Eric gone. She had registered a moment of disappointment before she realized that he must have placed her on the couch and wrapped the blanket around her to keep her warm. She had glanced through sleepy eyes to see that the fire was burning strong and bright. “A light in the dark,” she had whispered as she fell back to sleep in the dream.
Lafayette had just decided to leave Sookie to sleep on his couch and was covering her up with his old afghan when he heard her words. He shook his head and tucked her in.
“All right, Sook,” he said. “I’ll leave the hall light on so you’s can see.” He stepped over Jason, who’d passed out on the floor, and chuckled about the lack of tolerance for hard liquor by both Stackhouses. He couldn’t help but hope that when they woke up, they wouldn’t want to go through with the spell. He didn’t want either of them hurt.
Bill was sated and content. After sending the dream to Sookie, he’d asked for a third donor. With such petite women, he didn’t want to too take much from any one of them, and sending the dream was tiring. He hoped that this was the last one he’d need to send, for a while at least.
Of course, three human women was a better fit sexually for one vampire anyway, and he’d just finished enjoying the last of his donors. Bill reached out to feel Sookie’s emotions through the tie. She was in a deep sleep and no longer dreaming as far as he could tell. He’d been very pleased by the effect of the dream on her emotions earlier. It had begun with the perfect mix of lust and fear, the epitome of what he’d learned such dreams should produce in a human. Then, Sookie had grown very content in the dream, no doubt due to being sated herself in it.
Now he needed to get back to the problem of finding replacement sheriffs. The difficulty was that his years with Lorena and then mainstreaming had left him with few close allies in the vampire community. No one in Sophie Ann’s old court would be appropriate since most of them blamed him for her death. And, ironically, many who were not fans of Sophie Ann’s still didn’t care for him because he’d been a procurer, which is not a particularly well-liked profession among vampires.
In fact, the only vampire that he knew he could trust would be occupied soon with another task he had for her. He’d thought briefly of appointing Pam as sheriff of Area 1, just to separate her and Eric, but he didn’t want those two to potentially have more power. Already, most vampires left in the state looked more to Eric than Bill for leadership. Once again, Northman was proving to be a thorn in his side.
Perhaps, a call to Nan was in order. He hated the bitch, but she could still help him fill the vacancies left around him. He decided to wait a few days, however, to see if he could come up with anything else. He’d look through the vampire database he’d been secretly putting together to see if anyone there would be good for the task.