I told you at the beginning of this story that it was going to be much darker than Back and Forth. And we are to the darkness. First, I want to comment on the acts that Eric does to himself in the previous chapter. He is effectively hurting himself on purpose there. The issue of self-mutilation/cutting is a very personal one to me. I have had friends and family who have suffered from it. I am not advocating it as a solution for emotional pain. The fact that someone like Eric would feel the need to do it shows that anyone can become a victim to the practice.
That all said, I want to give you a WARNING about the upcoming chapter. If you will read regardless, you can stop reading here and just go on to the chapter so that it doesn’t get spoiled for you. Okay—if you are still reading, then I need to tell you what is coming up so that you can decide if you want to read the next two chapters. You will hear in this chapter about how Hadley has been raped, but it is not described in detail. You will also see Sookie suffering a “mental rape” at Ivan’s hands. You will get very disturbing details of Bartlett’s molestation of Sookie when she was a little girl. You will also get disturbing images of Ivan’s intentions for Sookie. However, these details are NOT going to be graphic. None of this was easy for me to write, but it was the direction the story took me into. And in dealing with these important issues, I hope to honor my mother, who was herself the victim of rape and is one of the strongest people I have ever known. If you would prefer to read an “alternative” of this chapter — one that skips over the more disturbing aspects, click here.
Chapter 69: Our Biggest Fears
Sookie was thankful, very thankful, when Claude used some kind of magic to transport them to Queen Mab’s palace walls faster than they could have walked there. She knew that every single minute was crucially important—for her, for Eric, and for Hadley.
“This is as far as I can go without being felt by those inside,” Claude whispered.
“Thanks,” Sookie said.
Claude nodded. “I have brought you to a side gate of the complex. After you enter the courtyard, you will see an entrance about twenty yards away. There will be a hallway to the left when you enter. My guess is that Hadley is in one of the rooms along that hall.”
“Won’t there be guards and stuff?” Sookie asked.
“No,” Claude shook his head. “Their magic is their guard. Good luck, Sookie.”
Sookie gave him a little smile and then went inside the gates, trying to focus on Claude’s directions and on what Niall had told her. She needed to use her telepathy to find Hadley, but he had cautioned her to try to block all others from hearing her. Sookie raised her shields but then lowered just one―as if she were trying to tune into just one radio channel.
As Claude had said, there were no fairy guards in the courtyard or at the door, so Sookie progressed quickly into the building, which was reminiscent of a medieval castle. She entered into a large foyer, and several hallways led to different parts of the dwelling. She took a deep breath, steadied her nerves, and went down the left hallway. She heard Hadley’s thoughts as soon as she was about halfway down the hallway. And what she heard in her cousin’s head made Sookie throw caution to the wind and start running to the door she knew Hadley would be behind.
Sookie tried the door, but there was some kind of locking mechanism in place. She trained her power onto it and was able to break the lock. She burst into the door; what she saw in the room made her want to retch. A naked male fairy was lying languidly in the bed, looking extremely pleased with himself. Hadley―also naked―was curled into a little ball as far away from the male fairy as the bed would allow. She was sobbing silently, and one of her eyes was blackened. Sookie could also see a plethora of bruises on Hadley’s legs, arms, and ribs.
“You fuckin’ bastard!” Sookie yelled as she shot the fairy with her light. He was pummeled into the wall and lay unconscious on the floor. Sookie ran over to Hadley, trying to gather a blanket around her cousin’s body as she sat her up. Hadley’s clothing lay in tatters next to the bed.
Hadley was rocking herself, “I fought him, Sook. I fought him. I fought him.”
“I know, Hadley,” Sookie said, embracing her cousin and noticing even more bruises on her body. Sookie also saw blood in the bed.
“No!” Hadley cried out, still rocking. “I couldn’t help myself, and I fought, and now they are gonna kill Hunter. I fought, and they are gonna kill Hunter. I fought, and they are gonna kill Hunter.” She rocked even more frenziedly. “I wasn’t supposed to fight, and now they are gonna kill my beautiful little boy. I’ve failed him again, Sook. I’ve failed him again. I’ve failed him again,” she chanted.
“Hadley,” Sookie said, shaking her cousin a little bit. “Hadley!” Sookie said louder, trying both to get her cousin to calm down and to hold back her own tears. “Listen to me. I know that you fought, and I know that you are worried about Hunter, but I need you to get up so that we can get out of here. Eric is taking care of Hunter―I swear―and he won’t let anything happen to him, okay?”
Hadley looked at Sookie as if really seeing her for the first time. “Your vampire is taking care of Hunter?”
“Yes―I saw him doing it myself, and Hunter was safe. Now we have to get the fuck out of here before someone finds us, or that son of a bitch wakes up,” Sookie said as she gestured toward the unconscious fairy on the floor.
Sookie ran to a closet and grabbed what looked to be some kind of ornate nightgown. “Here, Hadley, put this on.” She helped her cousin put on the garment, and then Hadley stood up on shaky legs. She was looking fearfully at Joren the whole time.
“Did you kill him?” Hadley asked in a whisper.
“No,” Sookie said, “I don’t think so―at least. I think I just stunned him real good. Now come on.”
The two went out the door and started down the hall. Cautiously, Sookie led her cousin in the direction she’d come in.
“Well―look what we have here!” Sookie heard Queen Mab’s taunting voice behind her.
Sookie whirled around to face Mab, trying to keep Hadley behind her. Sookie backed them into the foyer and toward the door.
“Not so fast,” a male voice said from behind her. Sookie turned again and saw that Hadley and she were surrounded by five fairies in the foyer area. Mab and another followed them into the foyer from the hallway, making it a total of seven fairies surrounding them.
“Did you decide to join us, after all, Sookie?” Queen Mab asked sarcastically. “Ivan here will be so glad to hear it. After all, you are meant to be his. He―by far―has put in the highest bid to breed with you.”
Sookie followed Mab’s gaze to the male fairy who had spoken. He was leering at her like a buzzard intent upon his kill. Sookie cringed at the sight of him.
Sookie kept Hadley behind her and raised one of her hands. “Y’all stay the fuck away from us!”
“Oh―I don’t think so,” Mab’s sinister voice said mockingly. “Soon, it will not matter that you didn’t eat the fruit before. Soon you will be filled with Ivan’s seed, and then you will be forced to eat the light fruit or to kill the child he implants into you. And once a hybrid has a child of the Fae, there is no leaving,” Mab taunted.
“The fuck you say!” Sookie yelled as she propped Hadley up against the wall so that both of her hands could be free. “I’ll fuckin’ die before that bastard lays a finger on me, and there’s no way in hell that I’ll stay here!”
Mab cackled gleefully, “It will be quite entertaining seeing you choose between your bond with the vampire and an innocent child, Miss Stackhouse. I only regret that I didn’t think of this before! I could have killed you and missed all the amusement you are certain to afford me.”
Sookie raised her hands, feeling the power gathering there.
Mab laughed. “There are seven of us, Sookie dear, and you are a hybrid. What do you hope to accomplish?”
“I’m gonna see all your fuckin’ asses on the floor before I’m done,” Sookie yelled. “That is what I’m gonna accomplish, bitch.”
Mab grinned and said casually, “Take her.”
All the fairies around her except for Mab began to step closer.
The one called Ivan moved closest to her, and Sookie blasted him with her light. He was sent flying. Another fairy tried to hit her with his light, but Sookie instinctually evaded it with her own. A frenzy of activity ensued as some fairies were trying to zap her and others were trying to grab her and Hadley.
Try as she might to stave off the fairies, Sookie was growing weak. She tried to take her magic from her bond with Eric, but in all the tumult, Sookie lost her concentration. And soon, she became lost to her fear and uncertainty. When that happened, her power immediately began to wane.
Ivan, who had recovered, grabbed her roughly. She kicked him and scratched at him, but he did not let her go. Her magic seemed to have dissipated completely as she tried futilely to zap Ivan with it. And though she once again tried to call it from the place Niall had told her to, she was unable to calm herself down enough to focus.
Mab laughed. “I think she will be quite docile for you now, Ivan.”
Sookie answered that remark with a kick to Ivan’s shin. The fairy, who was both slightly taller and broader than Eric, pushed her away and hit her soundly on the cheek, sending Sookie a couple of feet away and dazing her.
Mab laughed even louder, “Okay―maybe now she will be docile.”
“I would not want her too cooperative,” Ivan said sinisterly.
“Whatever you prefer,” Mab said indifferently with a wave of her hand. “But take her now regardless! I want her seeded and finished! Either she will accept your child and her new place here, or she can starve! And if her body rejects your seed because of the bond she has with the vampire, you have my permission to use her however you wish or to kill her.”
“Will I receive a refund if she cannot be impregnated?” Ivan asked as he yanked Sookie to her feet.
“Of course,” Mab smiled sweetly. “As you know, I always guarantee success with the hybrid breeders.”
Ivan pulled the still-dazed Sookie roughly to his side. She was still trying to regain her focus after Ivan’s strike; she saw that one of the other fairies had grabbed Hadley, who was too meek to resist at all. Despite the pain from Ivan’s hit and her own unsteadiness, Sookie again tried to struggle against the enormous fairy.
Sookie made the mistake of looking into Ivan’s eyes. There, she saw cruelty and lust. But even worse, he chose that moment to send his thoughts to her, as if directing them right through her shields. She shrank back in fear. She heard every cruel thing that he planned to do to her. But most of all, she heard that he was hoping that she would continue to struggle so that he could break her.
She also felt as if Ivan was probing into her mind, looking for her worst fears so that he could use them to increase her fear of him.
Thoughts of her Uncle Bartlett flooded into her mind, and she froze. She remembered his eyes looking just like Ivan’s did; she remembered the cruelty and sickness that had lit them up. She also remembered hearing all of the things he wanted to do to her tiny body. She remembered Uncle Barlett’s own hope that Sookie would struggle a little. She felt all the fear that she had experienced when she was seven years old—only now it felt doubled. And she felt—once again—like a small child, trying to fight against a much larger attacker. She felt exactly as that attacker wanted her to feel; she felt powerless.
And, of course, Ivan could hear everything in Sookie’s brain as her shields crumbled. He laughed maliciously as he began to drag her down another hallway, presumably to his room.
“So,” he spoke cruelly, “you once had an uncle who wished to do to you what I am going to do to you.” He laughed diabolically. “You were able to escape most of his plans for you―except for a few times when he touched you. But you heard all of his thoughts and plans. And you have been kind enough to preserve them all for me.”
He stopped their progress, and yanked Sookie’s body up against his. He thrust his hard erection into her thigh so that she could feel it. “You remember well feeling his hardness rubbing against your little leg―don’t you, sweet girl? That’s what he liked to call you, isn’t it? My sweet little girl.”
Then he took her breast roughly into one of his hands. “Your Uncle Bartlett used to touch you here, didn’t he? Of course, he did not find the bounty that I do now.” Ivan moved his hand down to Sookie’s crotch area even as his other strong hand gripped her so that she couldn’t move. “And he especially enjoyed touching you here through your thin little shorts!”
He only laughed when Sookie vomited uncontrollably all over herself.
Ivan continued taunting her. “He so badly wanted to touch you without your clothing on—and to do so much more with you. But do not worry. We will have so much time together that I will do every single one of those things to you, my sweet little girl.” He brought his hand up to lightly trail his fingers over her cheek. “Your uncle’s thoughts stored in your head have given me some wonderful ideas, sweet girl.” He laughed loudly as Sookie cringed in his arms and retched again.
Sookie heard all of Uncle Bartlett’s thoughts now echoing in Ivan’s brain. The fairy seemed to be amplifying her memory of her uncle’s cruelty as he added his own vicious plans for raping Sookie to the flood of thoughts he was sending into her brain.
In that moment, Sookie could think of only one thing—escape. But she knew with every fiber of her being that she was powerless―just as she’d been when she was a child. Her uncle had been too strong. Ivan was too strong. But she could escape to one place—to that part of her brain where she’d gone as a child: the part that would keep her safe.
She moved herself deeper and deeper into her own mind. Then she slammed and locked the door so that she would be safe.